our messy table

Category: Whole Grain

morning glories

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Our son is recovering from a spell of influenza, an ear infection, and with our luck, probably a few other things. However, the little guy seems to be in the home stretch. His night-coughing has eased. He has regained the energy to do more than doze off at any given moment. And I am no expert. but you would think that the flu shot should count for something?

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Anywaay… I was scheduled to start my first week of work on Monday, the morning after my son started showing symptoms of being sick.

Time, this week, seemed to be on our side. Due to early-outs and late-starts and school cancellations, I was able to guiltlessly spend time at home with my sick baby. On the days school was not canceled, my sister, in her last week of Christmas vacation before returning to college, was able to play nanny in my house. It was wonderfully lucky. My husband and I were spared the misery of hulling an un-well child outside in the negative 60 degree wind-chill. And after work, I was able to come home to healing child in a mismatched outfit with watercolor running out of his nose.

Thanks, little sister.

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You would think with all the unanticipated time-off, I would have been a picture of productivity. I had a to-do list the length of my freezer mounted in plain sight along with additional preparations for school. And yet, there is something about a snow-day, something about unanticipated time off that depletes my sense of urgency. For instance, on Thursday (a full snow-day), after I put sick baby down for nap, I took a bath while nibbling bittersweet chocolate. I took a second bath the following morning (a late start and baby still asleep) while drinking two cups of very hot coffee and finishing a book. From where I now sit, the thought of this is shocking. This is something I can never bring myself to do on a Saturday… mind you… anticipated time-off. Halfway through these bath-taking processes I wondered, “…. Who am I ?!”

Now that my son is on the mend, and the winter weather is supposed to regulate, I am both excited for and leery of a promised routine.

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I mean, I really enjoyed those baths. There was even one night where my husband and I got lost in Netflix like we used to. It felt like summer in January… in negative 60 degree wind-chill…

I want to wish my Midwest readers well as we all re-enter the time of routine. I hope you all are warm and safe and healthy. And since the weekend is upon us, I though a recipe for a hearty breakfast cookie would be a great way to start.

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. . .

I picked up on this recipe after a friend served them to us while we stayed with them for a weekend. This friend also introduced me to Sarah’s blog, My New Roots, from where the recipe originated.  I put my own spin on things when I make these cookies, omitting the anise and grating in orange zest, sometimes adding a splash of vanilla, sometimes not. At first I was puzzled by the ingredient list. Why pureed beans and an egg? Can we swap the brown sugar for honey or maple syrup? How about gluten-free flour? I have tried all of these options, all yielding very different results. I would trust Sarah on the original. The listed recipe is a reliably good one. But feel free to tinker around.

Like Sarah, we affectionately call these breakfast cookies “Morning Glories”. They go very well with a cup of coffee or earl gray tea. If you are a toddler, yogurt-dunking is mandatory. Yogurt dunking, and also your new favorite fox cup filled to the brim with water.

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Morning Glories

Adapted from: My New Roots

Yield 1 to 1 ½ dozen breakfast cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour (we use spelt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. taking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 15-oz. can white kidney beans, great northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and darined
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
  • 1 large egg**
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 2/3 cups sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Add dates and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. With a tablespoon, scoop out some dough about the size of a golf ball, then roll it into a rough log shape. (Yes, the dough at this point is very wet, but it becomes very easy to handle once coated in sesame seeds.)

Roll the log of dough into the sesame seeds, remembering to dip the ends too. Set each log on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit, into a bar shape. You want the bar to be the same thickness all the way through – do not make the ends flatter than the middle. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each bar – they’ll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Store in an airtight container for a week, if they keep that long!

Notes:

*Swapping brown sugar for a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey has yielded, for me, a very messy and wet batter I didn’t like working with. Give it a try if you want!

** I have swapped out the egg for a vegetarian binder such as pumpkin or apple sauce with success.

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maple popcorn

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It seems impossible to even think… but after all that comes with school and life, I might be creeping toward some sort of finish line.

I am a person who finds validation in finish lines. I love the feeling that comes with finishing a long and tedious race. But as I said… to even think about it seems a little delusional. I don’t want to get too comfortable in the triumph. Because if there is anything I have learned, it is that the triumph of finishing is fleeting. And finishing one long and tedious race often promises another. And another. And another…

. . .

My husband and I had to make an out-of-town trip on my son’s second birthday. We packed him a little over-night bag and left him with my parents. And while we were gone for just a 24 hour period, it seemed like he grew up a little. When we came to pick up his wired little body from my parent’s house, and he didn’t seem to have missed us in the least, the stunning realization hit: he turned 2 without us.

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. . .

There is this illustrated bedtime book we often read about a baby girl with tussley black hair whose parents are going about the bedtime routine. The little girl is putty in their hands… through clean-up time and bath-time and snuggle-time and book-time and finally, sleep-time. And the whole dang time the parents are smiling at their toddler. They seem totally engaged – as if nothing more is on their minds than giving her tender loving care. And, I know it’s dumb, but I often feel very envious of those illustrated people. I want so badly to align with the idealistic image of a contented and controlled parent. I want so badly to arrive at the end of each day and have nothing more on my mind than enjoying the company of my family.

And I can’t stop feeling in awe of my 2 year old son. That he didn’t need me there to hold his warm little hand for the transition.

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. . .

To celebrate our son’s birthday, the three of us went out last night for cheap spring rolls. To follow, we went to see the downtown lights display.

Today, after his nap, my son and I are making a little birthday cake. There will be finely ground graham crackers, cinnamon and lots of brown sugar. There will probably also be some confusion and spilt buttermilk and broken eggs. Either way, I am going to try and breathe easily about it. Because whether or not I am exhausting an old race or beginning a new one, whether I am thinking about a million things at once or able to zero-in, I am going to breathe. Because my son is healthy, and loving, and 2. And there is a lot to be thankful for in that.

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. . .

I thought you could all use a recipe for a little something for a holiday party. I love this recipe because there is a) no butter, b) no corn syrup, c) no refined sugar and d) is still perfectly addicting and delicious. Also, I often detect a funny artificial flavor with many homemade caramel corn recipes, and I really don’t know why that is. But let it be known, this recipe is perfect. It is quite sweet given the amount of maple syrup. Yet, with its hint of natural peanut butter and sea salt it tastes like real food – not just candy. You could easily play-up this recipe by adding ¾ a cup of peanuts, toasted almonds, coconut or a combination of all three.  Due to the lack of corn syrup as a preservative, I would recommend keeping this popcorn refrigerated until serving-time. This keeps it fresh and crisp.

Maple Popcorn

Once again, from Cookie and Kate

Popped popcorn, yields about 6 cups

  • ⅓ cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

Maple caramel corn

  • 6 cups popped popcorn
  • ½ cup real maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons natural peanut butter or nut butter of choice
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

To pop the popcorn, place a large mixing bowl near the stove. Pour the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid. Turn the heat up to medium, add 2 kernels of corn, and cover. Once the kernels pop, remove the lid and pour in the remaining popcorn kernels. Cover the pot and give the pot a little shimmy to distribute the kernels evenly.

Cook over medium heat, shaking the pot occasionally. Crack the lid just a bit so the popcorn stays crisp, and cook until the popping sound slows to about one pop per every few seconds. Remove the pan from heat and dump the popcorn your bowl, taking care not to pour in any unpopped kernels at the bottom of the pot. If necessary, pick out any unpopped kernels that made it into the bowl with a spoon.

To make the caramel sauce, in a small, heavy bottomed pot, bring the maple syrup to a boil over medium heat. Keep a watchful eye on the syrup and continue boiling for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, reducing heat only if necessary to prevent overflow. Remove the pot from heat.

Add the nut butter, vanilla extract, salt and cinnamon to the pot of maple syrup. Whisk until well blended. Drizzle the mixture over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula or big spoon until well mixed. Pour the popcorn on the parchment-covered baking sheet and arrange it in a single layer.

Bake the popcorn for 6 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional cinnamon and salt, to taste. The popcorn will continue to crisp up as it cools. Once it’s cool, break the popcorn into pieces and serve.

 

on baby books… and cornbread

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Last night, I took my son out in the snow for the first time this year. When I set his booted feet down in a freshly fallen blanket, he stood there, frozen, with a worried look on his face. “I stuuuuuck…” He said nervously, raising his arms to be carried out of what he possibly assumed would cement him there forever.

Once I gently eased him into walking in the snow himself, he reminded me much of Bambi. He raised his feet high with each step. He looked around, memorized by the glistening trail of footprints as we made our way through the yard.

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Suddenly, he pulled off his mittens, stuck his hands directly into the fluff and threw it in the air. A look of exuberance lifted from his small, rosy face. And then, as I imagined, he panicked. He held his hands out to me and said, “hot!”.

I quickly came to his rescue. Cupping my hands around his, I breathed until the snow melted.

It was a simple moment. But one I wanted to remember it.

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I decided to record the endeavor in my son’s baby book.  That night, after my son went to bed, I slid his baby book out from the book shelf, brushed off the dust with a few good swipes and opened it in search of a page to record something like “reactions to new discoveries”.

Much to my horror, bleak pages with blank lines danced before my eyes. It turns out that I was supposed to be recording a lot of what has been going on in the past 6 months…

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Milestones such as getting his last tooth is a date that has been forgotten. There have been funny translations (“poot” for “poop”, “lelele” for “elephant”), first sentences (“That’s a mama whale! That’s a baby whale!” or… “Iroh eat the apple”) cute grammatical errors (“It’s a pink” instead of “It’s pink”), first time counting (“2…..4….”), color matching and singing his ABC’s (“A,C,D,D,D,”) have come and gone without being recorded.

I could no longer tell you how old my son was when he first tried to put his shirt on by himself. The exact date he decided that he was capable of brushing his own teeth (he decided, meaning, I still wish he would let us do it… but that ship has long sailed). I can’t remember if it was last week for the month before when he started noticing when my fingers covered the pictures of his books (and pushing them out of the way in annoyance). I don’t even know how tall he was at his 18 month doctor’s appointment.

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Upon realizing this frightful reality – this act of pure negligence – I spent the next lamenting hour tossing and turning in bed. What kind of mother with only one child forgets to record the first time her toddler brushed the dogs teeth with Daddy’s toothbrush?

Today, I am trying to sort through these forgotten milestones and rekindle the hope to ever becoming an adequate parent. I am referring to my digital albums (which I might say are very organized, month by month) for guidance. And in doing so, I stumbled across pictures from a weekend not long ago when we made this amazing cornbread.

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It only seems appropriate to dig out a cornbread recipe on a day like this – when the snow has collected in thick blankets over the trees and is illuminating your whole house with the brightest of light.

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This recipe has all kinds of good things in it: chia seeds, corn flour, quinoa and parsley… Its tastes amazing as a side to any warm soup or on its own with a slice of sharp cheddar for a snack. We personally recommend it with my husband’s wildly spicy chili after a night of being “stuck” in the snow.

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Quinoa Cornbread with Parsley

Yield 12 muffins

Adapted from My New Roots

Remember to rinse your quinoa. Without this step, your quinoa will taste very bitter. I simply drain mine over a fine mesh strainer with a coffee filter inside. I run waster over it until the water runs through clear, swirling it around ever so often (picture above shows this). Also, if you do not have corn flour, spelt or whole wheat flour will substitute nicely. However, it will no longer be gluten-free.

  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup milk, dairy free works fine
  • 3 Tablespoons chia seeds + 9 Tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Put 12 muffin liners in a cupcake pan.

Mix chia seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Add the cooked quinoa.

Check the chia gel to make sure it is thick a gloppy (it should take 15 minutes or so to obtain the right consistency). In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients together, including the chia gel.

Add the wet to the dry and combine in as few strokes as possible. Fold in the parlsley.

Spoon batter in to muffins cups and bake until the edges are golden brown and they pass the toothpick test, about 15-20 minutes

walnut banana baked oatmeal

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Hello people! I tell you. I sat down to write this post a handful of times over the past month. And if I learned anything from that stream of failure, it is that sitting down to write after baby is bathed and wrestled into pajamas and read about 50 books (a mild exaggeration) then tucked sweetly into bed… after the dishes have been washed and dried and put away and all the odds and ends dispersed randomly throughout the day are set back in their places…. after my evening jog and shower and my cup of tea found its way warmly into my hands… sitting down to write put me to sleep. And I tell you, those were some very good nights of sleep.

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Today is Saturday. And baby is napping. And I probably should be doing other things. But I feel like being here.

That being said, this past month of blogging failures has taught me something quite valuable I wanted to share.

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Before my last post, I was beginning to feel increasingly strained in my day-to-day life. I felt distracted and mildly chaotic all the time, which can be stressful when you are trying to help a 22-month-old down a ladder or into his winter clothes. So I made a choice.

I wanted to allow myself the grace to be in-the-moment. I decided that if I had the time and energy to post a recipe, I would post. And if not, then I wouldn’t feel bad about it. Overall, I wanted to be more conscious of my time spent looking into a screen.

I didn’t cut myself off from staring into a screen. That didn’t seem very realistic. I just tried to be more conscious of that time. More disciplined.

This may seem like a no-brainer. But it was difficult for me to not feel that pull toward facebook in every free moment.

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While following through, something very nice happened.

I didn’t feel the rush to get here and record a proud moment. I tied my kid’s shoes calmly and watched his facial expressions as he examined a caterpillar and looked into his eyes when he talked to me. I made dinner more slowly. Spent more time outside with the three of us. Made new friends.

The crunch of leaves under feet seemed more clear and crisp. My dog seemed like less of a nuisance…

I felt at peace with myself.

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And overall, I learned that I do not need your attention to feel that my life experiences are meaningful.

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Understand that I am so grateful for your reading eyes. I love to write and hear your feedback, especially when you try our recipes. But my separation from this space, and even from social media and pinterest and other media-things I will forever love, made me feel more… I don’t know… mentally stable. Less anxious and strained. More observant of my family and the precious time we have.

I don’t want to contribute to the mass of eyes fixed on glowing screens. I want to encourage everyone to do much less of that. I want our eyes to be on our little ones… even if they are just playing or sleeping. I want our eyes looking into the faces of our friends while talking over coffee. I want them staring out the window, finding all the fall colors in one tree.

That is not to say that writing here is futile. Or that I am old-fashioned (well, maybe a little). All I am asking is that we pay better attention to what is around us. Talk to your neighbor. Make a connection with someone new. I promise… it’s more interesting, more clear, more beautiful than whatever is happening here.

But, you, know. With a grain of salt. The recipe I am about to share is pretty kick-butt.

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My son and I are all about oatmeal. I pack oatmeal with yogurt and honey every morning for his day care breakfast. And on Saturday mornings, after my husband has left for work, my son routinely pushes a chair to the counter and we get busy with some kind of baked oatmeal. Last Saturday, our breakfast involved toasted walnuts and bananas. It filled our house with the smell of warm cinnamon and honey. Each mouthful tasted like amazingly textured banana bread. The recipe made quite a lot for two, so we were able to store it for future breakfasts and served it with yogurt for quick snacks. We hope you love it as much as we did.

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Banana Walnut Baked Oatmeal

Yield 6-8 servings

• 2 cups rolled oats
• ½ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and cooled
• 1 cup walnuts, toasted, cooled and coarsely chopped
• 3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
• 1 ½ cups whole milk
• ½ cup buttermilk
• ½ cup applesauce
• 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup, plus more for serving
• 1 large egg, beaten
• 1 Tablespoon vanilla
• 3 ripe bananas cut into ½-inch slices
• 3 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter melted, plus more for greasing pan
• Flaky sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square or pie dish with a little coconut oil or butter. Fully coat the bottom and sides.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flaxseed, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of milk and the buttermilk, applesauce, maple syrup or honey, egg and vanilla. Add to the dry mixture and fold quickly until just combined. You don’t want to stir too vigorously because you will break up the oats and they will become mushing when baked.

In the prepared dish, spread an even layer of sliced bananas (about 2 bananas). Then evenly spoon half the mixture on top of bananas. Top with remaining bananas and then the rest of the oat mixture. Pour remaining ½ cup milk on top and drizzle with coconut oil. The mixture will seem really wet at this point. Don’t worry. The oats will soak it up.

Bake until oatmeal is bubbly and has a golden top, about 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the oatmeal to set. Serve warm and drizzle with honey or maple syrup and falky sea salt. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for 4 to 5 days,

20 months

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I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 20 months of my son’s life, which is his whole life, if you were wondering.

Next week he embarks to day-care full time while I begin my semester of student teaching. I will spend 7 weeks at a high school, then 7 more weeks at an elementary school, thus completely my long drawn-out education endorsement.

When I decided to finish my teaching license, I imagined that by the end of the summer I would be  ready. I imagined that I would be ready to drop my son off at the babysitter everyday so that he can play with kids his age. That I would be eager for educational stimulation in areas not involving toddler tantrums.

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Nonetheless, my heart has been throbbing with all kinds of sentiment this final week. Our mornings have been consumed by long, cozy cuddle sessions and book reading. Our afternoons have been filled with sweet, impromptu kisses and grasshopper chasing. And the truth is, I love being home with my son.

I find great pleasure in spending long hours organizing my kitchen. I love wondering around outside with my toddler’s hands grasping mine and tugging me here and there. I love looking at ant hills and feeding leftover crackers to the bunnies and pushing swings and making lunch for two. I cherish our afternoon trips to the library and quick stops to the grocery store where my son has to stop and smell the petunias by the entry way every. single. time.

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Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that my 20-month-old and I are best friends and have great conversations all day (you know.. one word conversations..). I want to allow him all the grace he needs to be a little kid. I don’t want my messy adult world to squeak into his toddler world. So our worlds are very defined here. Meaning, I am his mom and decide what is best and he is the little boy who plays with sticks in the mud. I clean him off, give him kisses and tuck him in for a nap. And this is a relationship my introverted nature is so content with.

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But this little boy of mine is ready. He is ready to sharpen his independent nature in a new environment.  Ready to play with other kids in the mud. And I am confident that he will do extremely well without me.

And though I do feel ready, I fear the loss of time with him. The loss of our familiar and comfortable routine. I fear the changes that will inevitably take place. And I fear the guilt I will feel every day for the first few weeks away, then the guilt that will come when I don’t feel so guilty anymore.

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There really is no knowing in this situation. We are welcoming a force of changes that will make up our learning experiences, and therefore, our lives. There is no way to know at this point whether I will be sobbing in bed every night or anxiously awaiting a new day with my students. And likewise, there is no way of knowing if my son will be the sweet daycare peacemaker I have built him up to be in my head or the kid that pushes down the kids smaller than him….

I guess we just have to have faith in each other. And cherish this last week, this beautiful end to 20 precious months. And eat this lunch at least twice more.

. . .

I have long thought about posting on our typical lunch menu for two. And this seems to be an appropriate time (cue the sentimental tears*).

My son and I love sweet potatoes, and this lunch is a hearty, protein-filled staple that can fuel a busy afternoon. It reheats well. But if I want to reheat it for tomorrow’s lunch, I usually stick with the sweet potatoes and farro and leave out (or eat the rest of) the eggs before refrigerating. A reheated scrambled egg is always an overcooked scrambled egg. The sweet potatoes and farro can be easily reheated over the stove in a small knob of olive oil and still be delicious the next day.

We have served this with a bit of salt and black pepper, fresh mozzarella, a slice of avocado and a squeeze of lime or lemon, chopped cilantro or spinach… there is definitely room to get create with this dish. Let me know how it goes for you!

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Sweet Potatoe, Farro and Egg Scramble

Serves one mama and one baby

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into ½” cubes
  • 1-2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup semi-pearled farro, cooked
  • 1-2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the prepared sweet potatoes with olive oil and salt. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, tossing halfway, until the sweet potatoes are tender and caramelizing at the edges. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm a knob of olive oil. Add cooked sweet potatoes and cooked farro. Gently scramble them together to coat.

Crack the egg(s) over the mixture, then with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula, push around the sweet potatoes, farro and eggs until the eggs are fully cooked and scrambled. Remove from heat.

Allow to cool enough for baby before serving.

 

 

what i have learned

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Is that on really bad days, days that seem to be popping up more frequently as of late, is that it is possible for everything I touch to turn to shit.

A good night’s sleep will testify against this. But I don’t want to write about perspective today. I am focusing on that boiling point of “in the moment”.  Because in those moment, those moments when I feel my pursuits are so positive, so innocent, and then a flaming obstacle hurls itself in my face, I sometimes get upset. And discouraged. And the thing about being a mom is, there is no time to feel sorry for poor me. Until… well… here is a minor example:

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My husband recently downloaded a “mixology” app onto his phone and has been obsessed with the idea of making cocktails ever since. We will have sat down for dinner and I will be talking about, oh, I don’t know, the situation with Chilean mining and he will turn to me midsentence and say, “How do you think whipped milk and bitters would taste with melon and cachaça?”. Cue my flat faced expression.

We don’t even have any liquor, except for a very cheap bottle of gin collecting dust bunnies from last summer when I was briefly experimenting with basil gimlets. Without a single ounce of his enthusiasm or support, I might add.

And yet, there he was in our kitchen last night, the cheap gin drawn out from its dusty grave, simple syrup on the stove while he squeezed limes and stewed strawberries and basil. I was mystified. And because I like cocktails very much, I wanted to be excited. But all I had was a dim feeling of annoyance.  Where has this cocktail enthusiast been all my life?

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The boiling point came when I burned the chocolate. Someone wanted brownies. And by golly, what is more innocent than after-baby-goes-to-bed brownies?

Yet, the burning cocoa and sugar flooded the kitchen with the scorched smell of failure. Which reminded me of all the other little failures I had made in previous days which had bottled up and bottled up until the chocolate. The scorching, smelly, last-straw.

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Then, the interrogation. Why now with the cocktails? Why now the interest when last summer I couldn’t get you to so much as look at coconut rum in the liquor isle. Is it because it wasn’t your idea? Is it because you wanted to distract me while I made brownies so I would fail for the 12th time today and have absolutely no self-esteem?

. . .

Remember? I am not discussing perspective. I am talking about the boiling point. The non-existent pressure valve. Because, regardless of perspective, and especially for me, it comes like death and taxes.

And after the chocolate is burned and cooled and scraped from its small pan, there is still quinoa crunch hiding in you cabinet. There is yogurt in your fridge. And there simply isn’t enough for anyone but you.

. . .

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This is another recipe from Megan Gordan’s Whole Grain Mornings. It is a simple play off a quick granola recipe, but made up of the popular grain, quinoa, instead of oats. You will want to be sure to either purchase pre-rinsed quinoa or rinse and dry the quinoa yourself to remove the sharp, bitter taste of the saponin coating on un-rinsed quinoa.

Here is a quick tip for rinsing quinoa yourself: The seeds are very small, and can escape even a fine-mesh sieve. You can easily rinse the quinoa in a bowl. Put the quinoa in a bowl and fill with cold water. Stir it around a little, then let the seeds settle. Pour the water off the top and add more, until the water doesn’t look foamy. Hold your hand or a plate against the bowl to pour off the remaining water. When finished, you will want to spread out the rinsed quinoa over a dry towel to dry. Use immediately after. Storing even dried rinsed grains can cause them to mold.

Once everything is baked, you will have a high-protien, vegan snack that is a nice addition to yogurt, fruit parfaits, or even green salads.

Quinoa Crunch

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained well
  • 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons raw sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon virgin coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix all ingredients together and spread them evenly over prepared baking sheet. Bake until toasty and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

skinny

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I suppose this blog is due for a summer salad recipe… something green and fresh from my garden, toppled with fresh herbs, dried fruit or sharp cheese and some tangy, inventive dressing. But to be honest, I have not seen or heard from my garden in two weeks. The carpet in our house is getting washed today, so I plan to visit my mom’s for a bit of garden-time while they dry.

I feel ready to tackle the massive bed of weeds that has most surly made its home there. But before I hack away hopeful heads of leafy greens, I will write once more about breakfast. For my purposes, the non-green kind.

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I am not shy about that fact that, when it comes to using dairy products in cooking, baking or straight up drinking from the carton, we don’t fear fat. That’s not to say we frequent McDonald’s for Oreo Blizzards (and that’s not to say I would turn down an Oreo Blizzard if you offered me one… right now…). But when it comes to stocking our fridge, we welcome the whole milk yogurt and cheese, the sour cream and butter. We don’t deprive ourselves because, lets me honest, everything is better about these products. The flavor, the texture. The minimal processing. The way they function in a recipe.

Aside from the groceries we used for baking, we didn’t start buying a lot of dairy until our son was old enough to drink cow’s milk and eat solid food. As you probably know, it is recommended that you start offering babies whole milk because the calorie content is good for them. And after a bit of research, I learned that the same applies to yogurt and cheese. Babies need that healthy fat for their brains and bodies to develop. And after sampling all the full-fat dairy we were buying, we learned that it straight-up tasted way, way better than the skimmed versions we knew so well.

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This wasn’t terrible news for us. Whole milk, especially organic milk since the cows eat grass and not grain, has many unique fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Research has found that people with high levels of these fats have lower rates of obesity and diabetes. Also, the fat in whole milk is proven to help the body to absorb fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin A and D.

Some researchers suggest there may be bioactive substances in milk fat that alter our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies.

((On another note, whole-milk dairy products are relatively high in saturated fat. And eating too much saturated fat can increase the risk of heart disease. So many experts would agree that adults with high cholesterol should continue to limit dairy fat.))

I personally suspect that I may be bit lactose intolerant. But I find that full-fat dairy products agree with me better than 0% fat Greek yogurt, for example. When we can afford it (and when I can even find it here in the Midwest), I like to buy goat or sheep milk yogurt because it is easier for me and my son to digest. A little more information on that here.

http://www.mtcapra.com/benefits-of-goat-milk-vs-cow-milk/.

And of course, there are healthier fats, like virgin coconut or grape seed oil, which frequent our shelves as well. I am not recommending you bask in cream-based gravy every night (though I don’t think my husband would be opposed). But in moderation, we believe whole-milk is our delicious, satiable friend.

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I am also convinced that calories are not my enemy. And that I would rather model a healthy life after my most admired cookbooks authors than the dull-faced, skeletal “6 hour workout!” diet models I see every. dingle. day. on pinterest.

a few sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/12/275376259/the-full-fat-paradox-whole-milk-may-keep-us-lean

http://www.pccnaturalmarkets.com/sc/1301/whole_milk_dairy.html

Ok. Enough of that soap box. I promised a recipe.

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This quick jam comes straight from Megan Gordon’s beautiful book, Whole Grain Mornings. We have been through three separate batches of this and I plan on making another later this week. The classic strawberry-rhubarb combo pairs wonderfully with tangy yogurt, mellow vanilla ice cream, and spread over scones, waffles, crepes and pancakes. This week, we have loved spooning it over yogurt or ricotta along with these oat-based, toasty little cardamom biscuits, found on My New Roots. I know the amount looks to be a lot. But with how addictive and healthy these are, I don’t recommend halving this recipe. You will surly regret it.

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Lemon Cardamom Biscuits

Makes about 80-90 biscuits

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup natural cane sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • rice flour for dusting (any flour will work)

In a food processor pulse the oats until you have a rough flour. Add the baking powder, cardamom, salt, lemon zest and coconut sugar. Blend for a few seconds to combine.
In a measuring cup, measure out the applesauce, then add the coconut oil and vanilla, whisk to combine. Pour the wet ingredients into the food processor and pulse until fully incorporated. The dough should be sticky and wet, but not pasty. If it is too wet to work with, add a little more oats or oat flour. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Dust a large, clean working surface with flour. Empty dough out on to the floured surface and gather into a rough ball shape. Divide dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time, roll dough into a log, approximately 10”/25cm long. Then slice log into ½” / 1¼ cm rounds. Place on a lined baking sheet.

Bake biscuits for 10-12 minutes until just turning golden on the bottom, then turn the oven off and let the cookies sit in there until the oven is cool. Once cool, store biscuits in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Quick Jam

Sadly, I have almost no desire to make real jam. Like Megan, all the fuss with sterilizing isn’t appealing to me. Maybe I will change my tune one day. Until then, we love this quick jam.

• 2 cups chopped rhubarb (approximately 4 medium stalks)
• 1 pound fresh strawberries hulled and chopped (about 3 cups)
• 1 ¼ cups natural cane sugar
• Pinch salt
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, stir rhubarb, strawberries and sugar together. Let them until macerate until the sugar has begun to dissolve into the fruit, about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a heavy bottom pot. Bring to a moil at medium heat. Stir in salt, lemon juice and zest and decrease heat to medium-low.

Gently simmer the fruit until it breaks down and the mixture starts to cook down, 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. If the fruit isn’t breaking down on its own, you can use the back of a fork or a potato masher to help it out.

Ideally, when the jam is close to done, the mixture will still be loose. Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl to fully stop the cooking process. Let cool completely and transfer into clean, glass jars. This jam should keep easily for up to 3 weeks, and in the freezer, up to 6 month.

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To Serve

Spoon whole milk yogurt, honeyed ricotta or cream into bowls and drizzle with cooled quick jam. Sprinkle a few biscuits on top and enjoy!

Baked Oatmeal

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I am very happy to say that we are settling into summer. We found a wild raspberry bush in our backyard the other day, and spent a good chunk of the afternoon thumbing around its thorns for the ripest berries, staining our lips and fingers.

Between our evenings at the pool and luxurious days outside, throwing sticks around, feeding bunnies grass and searching desperately for a kitten, we eat a lot of popsicles.

Now, though I am quite interested in the trend of homemade popsicles, I am also very lazy. Therefore, the bright, fruity, store-bought popsicles have been our treat of choice. Which brings me to my current dilemma:

Before summer came floating into our lives, we had established a very good routine in which my son ate food, nearly any kind of food, like a pack of wild dogs. There were some mornings I feared he would burst from drinking down bowl after bowl of yogurt. I can still feel that beam of pride and he stuffed his face with rice and cabbage and other sautéed vegetables as if there was nothing more delicious in the world.

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But these past few weeks, there has been only one food group in his mental food pyramid. A food group so important to him that I am starting to believe he will nearly starve himself waiting for the next opportunity to eat one…

Can you guess what that food group might be??

Earlier this week, I was becoming concerned with the popsicle obsession. I would have given anything to see my little ham spoon down bowl after bowl of homemade applesauce again; pull apart an oily roast like there was no tomorrow. Because now, he just waits. He sits in his high chair with an irritated stare, throwing his peanut butter toast at the wall, demanding that his single food group appear. Sugar water and artificial flavor. The end.

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Before I give in and purchase the little popsicle molds in attempts to bring more nutrition to this food phase, I decided to mix things up in our kitchen. With moving and the go-go mentality of summer, I have fallen into a bit of a breakfast-lunch-dinner rut. Meaning, I have run out of new tricks, and was trying to feed my son the same things over and over again without luck.

I truly am comfortable with food ruts. I am a stickler for routine and could happily eat the same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  But I realized this was probably getting a little boring and all-too predictable for the rest of my family, namely my toddler. I decided maybe if we tried my breakfast staple oatmeal a different way, he might be interested.

So I revisited my favorite food bloggers for inspiration and stumbled upon an old favorite from last summer. Back when my son was too young to eat solid food, and therefore, too young to know the wonder of baked oatmeal.

And guess what? After a nice long cuddle session while waiting for the oatmeal to bake, my son settled down in his highchair and ate his whole helping! He didn’t ravage it like I hoped, but he ate it, which is good enough for me. I felt very triumphant, but held my poker face. As soon as he knows how much I love him eating the same things I love to eat, he is bound to refuse eating them. In that case, maybe I should start acting very excited whenever he eats popsicles….

. . .

Though I have been through quite a few recipes for baked oatmeal, this is my favorite. It is graciously simple while still being delicious and hearty. If you are feeling organized, you can mix the dry ingredients the night before. Then, while the oven preheats, simply pour the wet ingredients and berries over the oats in the morning. This oatmeal will fill your house with the smell of warm maple syrup and cinnamon, should you chose to include it. Also, if you want to swap out the whole milk and butter for coconut products, the results are still very yummy. Although I find the full-fat dairy version to be the richest. I have also substituted the egg for a mashed banana in the past with great success.

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Baked Oatmeal

Yield: about 6 servings

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped walnut or pecan halves, coconut, or more oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ to 1 ½ cups blueberries
  • 2 cups whole milk or coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 large egg (or mashed banana for vegan)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut milk, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven.

In an 8-inch square baking dish, mix together the oats, the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Scatter the berries evenly over the oat mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup, egg, about half of the butter or oil, and vanilla. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the baking dish a couple of thwacks on the countertop to make sure the liquid moves down through the oats.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes. If the remaining butter or oil has solidified, rewarm it slightly; then drizzle it over the top of the oatmeal. Serve.

“healthy”

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Adding the word “healthy” in front of a dessert recipe has become quite the popular marketing strategy. I mean, who doesn’t want to feel less guilty about eating dessert? I spend a lot of time scanning the internet for these recipes… healthy cookies, healthy muffins, healthy tiramisu… what? It is out there. It doesn’t taste very good. But it’s out there. Shameless in its grossness.

Fortunately, there are a lot of tasty, “healthy” cookie recipes, many of which source from one of my favorite online recipe journals.

My husband is often dismayed by the amount of time I spend scouring this site for new healthy baking ideas.

“What’s the point of eating a cookie,” he wails, “if they taste healthy?”

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It’s easy for him to say. The guy could swim open-mouthed through a river of gravy twice a day without gaining a pound.

Lucky for me, I have an open mind about these kinds of things. Obviously I would never turn down a blessedly butter-rich, crispy and gooey chocolate chip cookie. But if you ask me, there is something very rewarding about eating a cookie that tastes a little more interesting. A little more… yeah, healthy.

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This cookie recipe calls for carrots. I know what you are probably thinking… but stay with me. These cookies have that pleasantly crispy edge from the coconut oil, a nice chew from the carrots, oats and raisins, and will fill your house with the sweet fragrance of maple syrup baking into whole wheat flour.

My toddler son, I should note, loves these. Especially if yogurt-dunking is involved. I love them with coffee or tea.

Also, when it comes to dessert, I tend to make small batches. The recipe I have posted below yields a batch of roughly 12 little cookies. Feel free to double it or triple for a crowd.

Wishing you all a happy long weekend!

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Yields: about 1 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil, warmed until just melted

Preheat oven to 375F degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats. Add the raisins and carrots. In a separate smaller bowl use a whisk to combine the maple syrup, and coconut oil. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Drop onto prepared baking sheets, one level tablespoonful at a time, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake in the top 1/3 of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden on top and bottom.

despite ourselves

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My husband is really good with mechanical processes. He can take apart a car and put it back together. He can read music. Understand the rules of an organized game. Build sturdy, functional things. He writes and reads with purpose. He can meticulously follow a recipe and yield pleasing, expected results.

1 plus 1 equals 2.

If he stepped up to a blank canvas, freshly stretched over its wooden frame, he would think for a while before picking up the brush. He would need a plan. He would need to know each brush’s function. How much water combined with black would make which shade of gray. His planned image would likely be symbolic and a very literal sense.

I have spent a large portion of our relationship marveling at his particularities. At how completely talented he is. How confident that 1 plus 1 will always equal 2. Because I have spent a large portion of my own life around organized games, football and basketball in particular. I am almost 26, and in the stands, I daydream. I still don’t understand what is going on.

If I took a car apart, it would be toast. I would set out to build a chair and end up just hammering random chunks of wood together and call it therapy.

I can’t read music. When I write, instead of having a specific story to tell, I wade around in the whiteness of this space and see what happens.

My recipes are sometimes very, very felt out. Sometimes I guess measurements.

1 plus 1 equals… I forget.

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If I stepped up to the blank canvas, I would pick up a brush in seconds. I would splash it in some water and mix two colors together. Two colors I was drawn to without explanation. I would have just feel it. Those two colors.

My brush would sail around the canvas to the rhythm of something very innate that I have never fully understood.

Don’t get me wrong. I like plans. I like control over people and situations. But when it comes to being mechanical, to creating something functional, I am pretty useless. Because of how I paint. Because of how I am.

Sometimes my husband and I do not understand each other, and I have a hunch that we never fully will. He can’t take me apart and put me back together. He can’t anticipate what I am going to say or why I feel the way I do.

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I have recently decided that the people I am closest to, the people I think I know so well, are all too specific to be fully understood. Sometimes, to say I do understand is a bit demeaning. Sometimes, all I can do is confess that I don’t. And appreciate them anyway.

. . .

What I love about my own parents is that they seem to have come to terms with this. That they are different and complex. Yet in some way, probably some way that comes with time, they have grown into each other. Despite the mystery of each other.

. . .

I confess that being a parent has not made this easier. Caring for and raising a small person while trying to purposely grow together as a married couple has felt more difficult and puzzling than my 6th grade math homework.

And yet, there we both are, tucked away inside our 17-month-old. In the lines of his face. In his eyes. In the way he runs around outside with wild, free-spirited abandon. In the way he meticulously screws and unscrews caps onto recycled bottles, trying to figure out how they work. In the way he loves barbeque sauce, like daddy. And like me, totally digs a homemade breakfast cookie.

So I try to visualize my husband and myself at the same canvas. Working through our painting together. Disagreeing a lot. Finding harmony here and there. And creating something beautiful despite ourselves.

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Fudgy Chocolate Rye Muffins

From A Sweet Spoonful

Yield 12 muffins

  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60%), broken into bits
  • 1 cup whole-grain rye flour (or spelt or whole-wheat if you prefer)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cane sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tray with paper liners (or butter well).

Place the cornstarch, cocoa, brown sugar and water into a saucepan and whisk together constantly over medium heat until boiling and quite thick. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and chocolate until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Add the oil, vanilla and eggs to the chocolate mixture and stir well. Fold in the sugar and continue stirring until mixture is smooth and thick. Fold in the flour mixture and stir until no clumps remain.

Spoon the batter into muffin liners. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops have puffed and are dry to the touch — yet still a touch jiggly in the center . Let cool on a wire rack before serving.