Browsed by
Tag: Baking

FUN WITH FOOD: SCATTERING OATS ON PUMPKIN MUFFINS

FUN WITH FOOD: SCATTERING OATS ON PUMPKIN MUFFINS

Last week I made pumpkin muffins. (I know it’s a little early, but I grew up in Florida where there are no seasons, so it’s all fair game year round. Besides, the grocery stores are selling pumpkins, so it’s fall now 🙂 )

I love muffins, but I don’t love when you buy them at a store and they become a dessert. I want my muffins to be healthy enough to replace a complete breakfast on a busy morning. Sweetened mostly with maple syrup or fruits, using whole wheat or another whole grain instead of all-purpose flour.

These kinds of recipes exist all over the internet. On this day, I landed on Cookie and Kate’s Healthy Pumpkin Muffins.

I had my kids help me. I really do believe that kids can help in the kitchen. Even my 18 month-old girl loves to be near when we cook. It’s never easy to involve small children, but for me it’s easier to bake with my kids than cook with them. Maybe because baking is usually something extra. If it fails, we don’t have to scrounge for dinner.

These muffins looked great in the original recipe. When we made them, they were a little dense but I’m sure that’s just because we didn’t follow the recipe exactly. At some point, we probably added extra flour or not enough oil or we stirred too long or something. But they were fun to make and they tasted pretty good. The best part came at the very end, when we sprinkled oats and cinnamon on top of the raw muffin batter.

img_8145
I actually had the brilliant idea to put the oats and cinnamon in two tiny bowls. I instructed my kids to “pinch” the oat mixture and sprinkle. It’s almost like I got that idea from Pinterest. But I didn’t. I made it up myself.

img_8144
When my little girl (18 months) saw this, she grabbed a chair from the table, scooted it to our island, and climbed up so she could participate. Then she did this:

img_8147
Scooping oats from their canister and into the nearest other container. Something else Pinteresty that my 18 month old discovered on her own. That’s called natural.

I love when my kids entertain themselves. She actually didn’t make a giant mess or anything, either. I figured, even if she did, they’re just oats. Pretty easy clean up. Once I put the muffins in the oven, I moved my daughter to the table because she was having so much fun. As I was cleaning up from baking, this happened:

img_8150

It’s okay though. “Amazing Grace” was playing on YouTube, so we were all reminded to just take it easy (okay, I was a little frantic, but we figured it out quickly).

img_8148

What a beautiful song, right? Perfect for those frantic moments of motherhood when we have lots to do but our babies are yanking on our shirttails, drawing us near. My kids just got out their little “set” as they call it (a mini dustpan and brush) and swept up. Then, the kids went to bed and the next morning we ate pumpkin muffins. Win. Win. Win.

Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here

Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here

I know that how-to blogs are really popular. We love to be told what to do. We especially love instruction when we are moms and homemakers, when we are women who home school and cook every day. We want to know the best way to do laundry and how to clean our oven in 30 seconds. We want to know how to keep our children from screaming and how to pamper ourselves while also being the best mom ever.

We want to have everything: the pretty red washing machine and the energy-saving clothes line out back, where it never rains and bugs don’t crawl. We want to know how to make the best chocolate chip cookies, but also how to keep our bellies from rolling over our jeans.

So when my husband gave me a website for Mother’s Day this year, I was excited. Then I was really nervous. I thought, I can’t have a blog. I don’t know how to do anything, and as for the things I do know, there is no constant.

It’s true. I don’t separate my laundry. Instead, I mostly just shove pieces of dirty cloth into the machine until it’s full. Then I pour in a cap full of soap, and push the ON button. I only clean our oven when it starts smoking up the kitchen. My children aggravate each other and they aggravate me, and though we share a lot of amazing moments, they are almost always unplanned, a result of something I didn’t do and can’t recreate. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t blow dry my hair. My idea of getting pampered is doing anything alone, and that’s not a plea for martyrdom. It’s really the truth. All I need in order to feel refreshed is a good few minutes with myself, where everything is quiet and I can process the world that is spinning and leaping and shouting around me. Every cookie I bake is different from the ones before it because I love to try new things, even if they aren’t as good as the last ones, and though I try to exercise a few times a week, I often end up just doing some combination of push ups/squats/jumping jacks/high knees while my children try to crawl under my legs exclaiming, “Mom’s a tunnel!”

The bottom line is that I’m only sometimes a tunnel. Other times, I look more like a crazy person, my double jointed elbows flailing around in the air, seemingly free from my shoulders, and sometimes my children get kicked in the head. I don’t have the answers.

Instead of trying to figure out how I could maintain a blog, I sat around for days wondering about it. Well, I have three children, so actually I barely sat at all, but that sentence is metaphorical. You know I love metaphors, right? I have been waiting for an idea, for a spark of lightening, for a muse, for a vision, for a mission statement of some kind that speaks of my life, and explains what I can offer.

Here it is: This is not a how-to blog. You will not find tutorials, and you will not find advice.

You want to know why not, right? Of course you do. If I’m not going to tell you how to do things, you at least want me to tell you why I’m not going to write tutorials.

Well, it’s not them, it’s me. And that’s the actual truth. It’s because I am not a directional person. I mean this in all senses: I get lost all the time, even when I have been to a place before, and though I admit that it would be nice to always be on the right road (and thus avoid almost all the marital arguments that ensue around my home), creativity begs for a journey. Since I know that I am a creative person, I have to be okay with the journey, and more than that, I have to enjoy the journey. I have to love the journey. I have to find joy and contentment while I am lost among orange cones and detour signs. Though there are a lot of people out there who hate being the passenger in my minivan, I simply cannot allow myself to always be focused on the quickest way to get from my home to whichever grocery store I decide to shop at that day.

My hope is that my journey speaks to you, and encourages you. My hope is that you find joy and rest and mercy as I reveal pieces of my journey here. You have to know that my journey, though it may sound beautiful and humorous, is a mess just like yours. Any beauty or humor found here is only a result of time. And time, though not all-powerful, does often allow healing and provide perspective for circumstances which may have once been really difficult.

Now, I invite you to join me, here, in this place, where the laundry is clean but not best, and where the cookies surprise and the bread is fresh, where I look for rest but only find it when I stop and realize that I can’t create it. Rest, it seems, is always here, if we invite it.

On a Lightly Floured Surface: Relief on the Journey of Motherhood

On a Lightly Floured Surface: Relief on the Journey of Motherhood

When I was pregnant with my first son, I had a lot of mixed emotions, a lot of jumbled up thoughts. It’s okay though. I’m pretty sure that’s normal. Having a life of one’s own provokes a lot of emotion, so it makes sense that having a second life forming in one’s belly would provoke a lot more thought and emotion, right?

I’m the baby of my family, six and a half years behind my closest sibling, and until my cousin started having babies when I was 12, I was the youngest of my entire, extended family. I was never around babies. Not ever. Most of my friends loved babies. They babysat, they volunteered to work in the nursery at their churches, they even took the “early childhood education” class at our high school (a class which might have been created out of a need to provide childcare for all of the teen moms that we had as classmates). But babies really kind of scared me.

I thought little kids were pretty cute, but to be left alone with one? Terror. My husband and I never really decided to have kids. We just decided to stop preventing it. We had a mutual dislike for all forms of birth control and a recognition that children enrich lives. I still believe they do, but in a way that I never would have imagined. It’s in a repetitive, yet somehow surprising, never-stopping, never sitting down, always go-go-go, kind of way that makes you peer inside your own heart and figure out why the constant jumping around and throwing of tantrums bothers you so much. (The answer, I think has something to do with the fact that I have a bunch of emotions and desires that I have not yet laid aside for the greater good of my children’s lives.)

In our case, removing birth control meant that I was pregnant within just a few months. I was somewhat thrust into motherhood, with few ideas of what it would really be like. I found that, when you’re pregnant, most people will tell you about their pregnancies, yet no one knows what it’s like to be you or to have your children or your spouse.

There is a piece of motherhood that is solitary. I wrote a lot about my thoughts on child-rearing, including a list called “Advice to Future Me” where I said, “My belly is like bread and now it is rising.”

It’s true. Bread-making and pregnancy are similar. In both, there is a growing specimen that forms itself and produces unseen things to make its boundaries expand, to make itself rise. When I was pregnant with my first son, I hadn’t made much bread. I think basic white and multi grain are all that I had tackled. Now, after three children and nine years of marriage, I have made bread with carrots cooked inside, with marjoram and chives. I’ve made baguettes, brioche, hamburger buns, hearty oatmeal bread, bagels, soft pretzels, focaccia, ciabatta, pita, and all kinds of pizza dough. Now I mostly make sourdough bread, from a starter that I created with only flour and water.

Two ingredients. Like my children were created from only my husband and me. But it’s not just ingredients that make. There are directions to follow. There is stirring and kneading to do. There is a feeling to knowing when the bread is right. There is waiting to be done, waiting until just the right moment when the oven is hot and the bread has been shaped, and it has risen again. There is an art to making bread, but there is also a chemistry. In my opinion, you have to have the desire for artistry first.

Today I am making brioche for our Saturday night hamburger dinner. This is actually the first time I’ve made brioche (though I did add it to my repertoire above), and it hit me, the line that almost every bread recipe gives: on a lightly floured surface…. 

IMG_7688

On a surface that has been sprinkled with a little extra of that one main ingredient. A surface that has been sprinkled with flour ensures that the bread does not stick to the surface as you form it. A surface that has been sprinkled with flour eases the transition from rising to proofing, from bowl to pan.

Aren’t you thankful that, even though parenting is hard work, we can lay down our parenting fears and trials, all our insecurities and hardships, on a surface lightly floured with wisdom from ages of mothers and fathers who have gone before us, a surface lightly floured with the knowledge that motherhood has been around for centuries, that babies have lived in dirt piles and grassy fields, without television and the internet, without air conditioning, without frozen meals, without Tulas and Ergos.

As we lay our parenting down on a surface lightly floured, our transitions become easier. While we are discovering our true form, we will remain intact.