Making two different flavors of cupcakes at the same time on the same countertop is actually more challenging than it sounds, if you're at all paying attention to your kitchen chemistry. You can set up your wet and your dry ingredients for both, but once you've started to combine them, you're working against the clock. Ian helped me out, mixing one batch while I sifted and started mixing the other. He's very good at sifting, measuring, and mixing, and assigning one bowl to someone else, even I have to micro-manage, helps me keep my recipes straight.
Despite the snow day, and the fact that it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day after the snow was done deliberating between blizzard and flurry, I did actually get some real work done today, too: the kind that I get paid for. Technology makes it hard to escape the office these days, unless I'm in the middle of the woods without internet. Mercifully, I don't yet have a Crackberry or an iPhone. But honestly, making these were a lot more fun than doing the work I was paid to be doing. There's no bowl to lick when you're done putting together a presentation, or when you've finished making small grants to applicants, or when you're editing student papers.
The other day, Ian and I were looking through my old portfolio. It made me remember that once upon a time, I was a pretty talented artist. With less time to spend on artwork and writing, I seem to have channeled my creativity into food. Nothing wrong with that, right?
These are adapted, again, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. While I'm not vegan, and probably will never be as long as I'm married to Steve (who asked me plaintively today, as I was making the grocery list, if we could "maybe please have some meat?"), I love the fact that they whip up so quickly, that they're so reliable, and that they don't require a lot of fuss (aside from some soy milk and soy yogurt) or even heavy machinery. Sure, you ought to have a piping bag on hand ... but that would be true even if all you ever made was Betty Crocker from a box and frosting from a can.
Go make these little pick-me-ups for someone you love.
1/3 c. oil (mild olive is fine; use something less processed)
3/4 c. granulated natural sugar (Sucanat is best)
1/2 c. vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 c. soy or rice milk (unsweetened, unflavored)
1 t. vanilla extract
2-3 T. instant espresso powder (you can use instant coffee if you must)
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
Preheat oven to 350 and line muffin pan with 12 liners.
In a large bowl, whisk ingredients through espresso powder until smooth. Sift in the rest of the ingredients all together, and mix until combined and smooth.
Fill liners 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20-22 minutes. Be careful; if you don't bake these long enough, or open the oven to peek inside, letting precious hot air escape, they will sink and become little dormant volcanoes. On the other hand, you don't want to overbake them, either. When they're done, transfer to cooling racks and cool completely before filling.
Cafe Au Lait Frosting
1/2 c. unsalted butter or vegan spread
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. soymilk with
1/2 t. instant espresso mixed into it
Beat butter until light and fluffy, using a stand mixed if you have one. VERY slowly, beat in powdered sugar. Add vanilla and soymilk; beat again until fluffy. Pipe on and bask in the appreciative comments!
Chai Latte Cupcakes
1 cup soy or rice milk
4 black teabags or 2 tablespoons loose black tea
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup plain or vanilla soy yogurt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground white or black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 and line tin with cupcake liners. In a small saucepan heat soymilk till almost boiling, add tea bags, cover and remove from heat. Let sit for 10 minutes.When ready to use stir teabags and thoroughly squeeze to insure as much tea is dissolved in milk as possible.
In a large bowl wisk together oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and tea mixture until all yogurt lumps disappear. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and pepper into wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are okay. Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted comes out clean.
In the meantime, I decided to do what I guess we always end up doing on snow days: bake.
(Thank goodness, since there's been more soup and shopping on this blog lately than you might hope from something calling itself "half baked.") Storm or no storm, it's going to be a busy weekend: a friend placed an "order" for two dozen cupcakes for Sunday morning delivery (no, I haven't started a business ... it's something I offered up as a charity auction item), and then there's the Acorn open house I'm baking cookies for on Sunday afternoon, and somewhere in there I have to grocery shop, and Ian has a party to attend, and we have a dinner scheduled in Princeton for Saturday night. As you can probably guess, I'm not very good at staying in the Waiting Place.
The other night I went with a friend to see Elizabeth Gilbert speak. She was smart, funny, down-to-earth--exactly what you'd think she'd be. And she said all sorts of wise things, like how important it is to say "no" sometimes, to find time for the care of the soul, to allow yourself to be wherever you are. But thinking about it now, I was most taken with her description of waiting. When she finished the first draft of her newest book, she printed it out, read it, and realized that it was ... awful. She didn't know what to do; she had accepted the publisher's advance, the book was due ... and she became increasingly horrified by the prospect of turning in what she knew to be a piece of ... well, you know what I mean. So she did the hardest thing she'd ever done: she wrote to the publisher, told them the truth. And when they wrote back and said that they'd wait, she took refuge in her garden, spent every hour of daylight weeding and growing things, and waited, too, until the first sentence came "blowing across the grass" with the first autumn leaves.
All of this seems to apply to me on so many dimensions these days. I ought to be more patient; to welcome the moments when the clouds just hang in the sky, confident that the next thing will come, rather than trying to hasten it along.
The snow has finally started to fall. I'm not sure how much we'll actually get. I'm not sure whether Ian will have school tomorrow or not. The street is covered in an inch or two of pristine crystals, and I don't know when the plow will come by. But perhaps tonight I should just listen to the wind, and the chorus of chimes from the porches on our block, and chew, very slowly, on an oatmeal raisin cookie, just waiting.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
This recipe is a somewhat healthier take on the original, and vegan, so useful to have on hand when you're baking a bunch of cookies for, say, an open house where you haven't the foggiest idea who will come. Adapted from Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar.
1/3 c. soymilk
2 T. ground flax seeds
2/3 c. turbinado sugar
1/3 c. oil (mild olive is fine)
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. oats (any combination of quick cooking and regular rolled)
1/2 c. raisins
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl, whish soy milk and flax seeds. Add sugar and oil; mix well, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla.
Sift in the dry ingredients, mixing as you add them. Fold in the oatmeal nad raisins.
Drop dough in heaping tablespoons onto the parchments, leaving about 2" between the cookies. Flatten them a bit with a wet hand (so they don't stick to you). Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are just beginning to turn golden around the edges. Cool 5 minutes on the pans and transfer to cooling racks to finish cooling.
That is, if you can make your family wait that long. ;)
Do you ever have those errands that are easy enough to check off your list but that take you forever in getting around to doing?
After SIX YEARS, I finally checked getting my watch fixed off of my list.
Yes, six years.
I have a lovely watch, pictured above, that broke the day I arrived in Hawaii in 2004. A pin attaching the face to the band fell out, leaving the watch in two pieces, unwearable. I almost saw it as a sign -- I had moved to Hawaii, where everything is on "Hawaiian time," i.e. very slow-moving, laid back and unconcerned with punctuality. This was a welcome stage in my life, and I went with the flow, putting the broken watch in a drawer and embracing the freedom from chronology. At any rate, I always had a cell phone in my pocket if I needed to know the time.
This worked fine for me until my job of the last year and a half. Punctuality is critical and I don't usually have my cell phone on me. I needed a watch. Neil took the watch to a watch repair place in B.A., but they couldn't fix it. He bought me a clever little white Casio that I love, but it's way too sporty to wear with a suit -- although I did anyway for lack of a dressy watch and hoped I was pulling off a sporty look, like I just went running ;) But who am I kidding?
I have been carrying the broken watch in a Ziploc baggie in my purse for a few months, with the intention of taking it to a watch place to have it fixed.
Just the other day I was at the mall, and I thought, "Hey! I should see about getting my watch fixed here!" I went to a jeweler, and they said they couldn't fix it, but recommended that I go to Sears, where there is a lady with a little shop who does watch repair. So to Sears I went.
I handed the two pieces of the watch to the lady, and asked if she could fix the band. She said, "Oh yeah, give me five minutes."
I think it cost $5 or something. Funny it took so long to finally get around to doing it!
Before baby no.1 = Mother has full load of energy
After baby no.1 = mother only has half as much energy as BC (before children)
After baby no.2 = mother only has one quarter as much energy as BC
After baby no.3 = mother only has one eighth as much energy as BC
Despite this, the child (whether it be no.1 or no.15) will be born with a full load of energy and will accumulate energy at an alarming rate as it sleeps, eats, plays or simply does nothing at all.
A child can run around like crazy at the park and their activity will generate more energy whereas a mother can chase after her child at the park and become instantly exhausted. Similarly, watching TV will give a child endless amounts of energy, yet if the mother watches TV she will just become even more lethargic or even fall asleep.
So anyway, after having 6 babies I now only have one sixty-fourth the amount of energy I originally had BC. This amount of energy only covers the basics, such as breathing, heart beating, digesting and a very minimal amount of brain activity.
All my extra energy comes from external sources, in this order ...
3) Listening to hungry children complain about their grumbling tummies and how they are going to die of starvation right now unless I start cooking dinner immediately.
4) The humiliation I perceive I will have to endure if my children wear dirty uniforms to school.
5) The rare occasions I actually get to sleep through the night without any disturbances.
The rate of 'patience evaporation' increases one-thousand-fold when the mother is under any amount of stress.
Patience storage can be boosted by good behaviour, peace and quiet, a decent night's sleep and large boxes of chocolate.....
.....yet a whining child can cause even a massive amount of a mother's accumulated patience to evaporate instantly.
To summarize what I am trying to say ....
And then a large majority of what she did put in her mouth would come back out again, accompanied by a loud "Yuck!"
These days dinner time is always a struggle for Mousie. Most nights she will declare she doesn't like her dinner, often before even trying it and frequently while it is still cooking.
Surprisingly, Mousie is still very well nourished and growing normally. (Although we do tease her a little bit about being a 'shorty' and tell her if she ate her vegetables she would grow taller.)
There are very few dinners Mousie actually looks forward to eating. Pizza, pancakes and party pies are favourites as is spaghetti with garlic bread.
One evening HB was cooking spaghetti while I collected Ducky from ballet class. HB is a good cook, except perhaps for his propensity to add
Mousie came running to the dinner table that evening eagerly anticipating one meal she knew she would enjoy. Unfortunately the chunky onions and hot/spicy flavour did not meet her expectations.
As she opened her mouth to complain I quickly said, "Didn't Daddy do a great job cooking dinner tonight?"
So instead of a complaint, this little gem came from Mousie's lips ....
"Good try Daddy! But next time I think you should let Mummy cook the spaghetti sauce."
Pattern: Fountain Pen Shawl, by Susan Lawrence, Interweave Knits Spring 2009
Yarn: Handspun 80% merino, 20% silk (worsted spun, 2-ply)
Needles: 4.5mm Addi Turbo Lace (120cm length)
Cast On: June 2009
Bound Off: February 20, 2010
Finished length at centre: preblocked - 34.5" / blocked - 50"
Ths pattern calls for 11 repeats in total. I didn't have enough yarn for 11 repeats, so I ended up with 9 plus the border.
I love the pretty pointies.
Blocking wires make this all so much easier. My friend and my mum and I made a set a few years ago for, practically, tuppence. Just a few stainless welding wires and a poster tube. How many hours has this saved us? Innumerable.
Colour not quite true, in any of these pictures. Darker than the sunlit shots, and lighter than the blocking shot.
Getting all arty with my crocii.
I usually do this thing with the trees and the grass and the points of lace, and I don't see any reason to stop now. In the absence of a good camera and a keen-eyed photographer, we have to settle for nature's spartan glories.
See? The grass, the tree, the shadow of winter sunlight....now you're all meant to sigh "how beautiful! How understated!".
From the wheel it was born, and to the wheel it has returned.*
When I realize the gravity of the change I am making in my life, it is ASTOUNDING. It is SO much more than shedding pounds to me. I made a goal this year to put the past behind me and truly move on. That is really my greatest challenge. I have been struggling the last TWO years over a very painful situation. My heart has truly been broken and I have been left with no real closure or understanding. It’s been the most painful experience of my life so far. I have struggled my way to “move on” and feel better. Yet often I have been caught up again in feelings of sorrow, confusion and loss. I decided a while ago to put this situation in the Lord’s hands and just trust Him.
So, for my own emotional well-being, and that of my family – I made an official goal to put this painful event behind me and ALL other past events that have been hurtful to me and LET IT ALL GO. If I trust the Lord than I need to believe that the future is brighter than the past. My goal to lose my weight is also “LETTING GO” of my weight. I have been carrying around extra weight for 25 years and with it I’ve been carrying around all my sorrows and heartaches. It has been a struggle to feel happy and I am a very cheerful, fun –loving person inside! I have made myself a victim and a martyr (not consciously), and it’s all changing this year.
I was reading today in a book called “Finding the Angel Within” which is a sequel to the book “Running with Angels” written by Pamela H. Hansen who was obese and writes about her journey to become healthy again. I loved her first book so I had to get her second one. Anyway, she was talking about repentance. We usually associate repentance with needing to repent when we’ve sinned or done something really bad. But the definition of repentance (from the Bible Dictionary) refers to “a change of mind, ie, a fresh view about God and about oneself, and about the world… a turning of the heart and will to God.” She goes on to say, “As we turn our hearts and will to God, we are then able to change the way we feel about ourselves, and we are on the road of repentance.”
I guess I could call my journey, a journey of repentance! I am changing my mind to no longer be self-loathing. I am changing my ways to take care of my body and myself. I am worth that! I am choosing to forgive others – even when I feel bitterly betrayed. I will let it go. I have only been hurting myself by continually remembering and analyzing all the injustices I’ve experienced in my past… and I’ve only been hurting myself by overeating and holding on to my weight! This is all hard to admit openly, I am usually a private person, but I wanted to write it down to show myself that I know I need to repent and make these changes so that I can BE happier and BE there for those who need me and love me.
I know reaching these goals won’t be easy, BUT I can feel the Lord helping me, and I already feel so much lighter and freer! And when I get thinner, I will never forget how I felt being obese and the struggle I’ve gone through! It will make it so much sweeter to have reached my goal… BOTH goals, physically and emotionally!
This has been one of Ian's favorite books, on and off during the past year, and he really does seem to appreciate the lesson. Just recently, he's wanted me to read the recipe (which I used to skip because there are an awful lot of words on that page for a little person, even a very patient little person). He likes the litany of ingredients and directions, though. The other night, after we finished, Ian asked if we could make stone soup ourselves.
Sure! I said, promising that I'd put the ingredients on the grocery list for the week.
Now, of course, this is not really the way stone soup gets made. One is supposed to have friends each bring some small ingredient to contribute to the pot, so that it seems you've made something out of nothing. And perhaps some day we'll do it the right way. But for this week, it was enough of an adventure to go looking through Ian's treasures for a suitable stone (yes, we really did put a stone in my soup pot), to take out all of the other ingredients, to put a real (small) sharp knife in Ian's hand so that he could cut celery, and let him ladle all of the ingredients in himself so he wouldn't get too close to the hot pot.
But as the three of us sat down to dinner with steaming bowls of what was essentially vegetable soup, Ian said, "but mom, we forgot about the sharing! We have to share the soup."
"You're right," I said, proud of him for remembering this key ingredient. And we ladled some into a container to bring to my neighbor.
This recipe does make quite a bit, and while it's nothing fancy, it's much more fun if you share it, even if you don't make it with a friend.
1 quart tomato juice
2 quarts water
a few carrots, peeled and chopped
a few stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
a few potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
small pieces of cauliflower
small pieces of broccoli
a handful of green beans, trimmed and cut
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup peas
1 cup small pasta shapes
handfuls of baby spinach
herbs of your choice: thyme, parsley, dill, etc.
salt and pepper to taste
a loaf of bread
Simmer the stone in tomato juice and water in a large pot until bubbling. Add carrots, celery, onion, and potatoes. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Add tomato, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, corn, peas. Simmer another 15 minutes or so. Add the pasta and spinach, along with any herbs of your choice, and simmer for 7 minutes, until pasta is cooked.
While the soup is cooking, sing songs and tell stories. When it's done, salt and pepper to taste, ladle it into bowls, break the bread so that everyone has a piece, and enjoy the meal together.
Then I realised something.
I never did get around to telling you that I had begun the Fountain Pen Shawl from IK Spring 2009.
Or that I was using my purple laceweight handspun yarn...
or that I was half way done...
or that I took a chance on 11 repeats, and ran out of yarn...
that I ripped it back to 10 repeats, began the border, and ran out of yarn...
that I ripped it back to 9 repeats, began the border, and did NOT run out of yarn...
that I was almost done, that I was enjoying the border pattern, and that I'd likely finish by the weekend.
But now you know, right? And the shawl will be dry by tomorrow afternoon, and if it's sunny you will see pictures. So, really, hardly any waiting at all! Yay!
The air has been warmer these past few days; though the temperature still barely creeps over 40, you can sense that change is coming. Last night I went for a long walk, running part of the way, stopping now and then simply to notice the cool air against my warm cheeks, to drink it in, to taste it.
And it even tastes different; and while the crocuses are not yet peeking through the snowbanks, I can tell that the seasons are shifting, beginning to wake like we do from savasana.
Around here, the first signs of spring also involve seed catalogues. The ones that sit in our bathroom basket all winter, dog-eared pages and black marker circles, finally make their way out to the living room, and sit on Steve's computer until the orders are done. Though we dry seeds from last years' heirloom tomatoes and herbs, we get some fresh seeds for the old standbys: beans, peas, mixed baby greens, arugula. There are always a few experiments: amaranth has taken over our garden for two years now (I'm going to stage a protest against that one this year), and I've been lobbying for butternut squash and kale. I love wandering out to the garden in the evening, picking a few raspberries off of the bushes, still warm from the sun, and gathering a small harvest for dinner.
This year, we also decided to put our names on the waiting list for the CSA at Honeybrook Organic Farm. I've been waiting impatiently to hear back from them since December, when the applications first became available, knowing that their continuing members had until January 31 to renew, and today, not a day after the seed orders went in, the postcard arrived! We're in!
I can't wait for the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, for the challenge of cooking what surprises us in our share each week. And if that weren't enough, there are even pick-your-own privileges that come with membership, so we can drive out to the farm for things like berries and beans!
It's enough to make a girl throw down her snow shovel and jump for joy. Bring on the tomatoes!
(Our tea set is a large storage container filled with plastic and wooden food, kitchen toys, table settings as well as a few traditional tea sets.)
Seeing as it was nearly bedtime, and the rumpus room had already been tidied for the evening, I told her she couldn't have the big tea set but could play with the old picnic set which our neighbour had given us. (This happens a lot - people see we have a large family and kindly donate all sorts of things to the Half-dozen: from clothes to toys to bicycles and even food.)
So Kitcat went off to play, only to come back a little while later saying, "But I don't have any food for my dolly. I am cooking dinner for Dollywings." I told her she would just have to pretend she had food because it was almost time for bed.
Kitcat improvised, and after another little while HB and I were summoned to view the feast she had prepared for Dollywings.
She had improvised and used the toy animals for the 'food'. Dollywings was served duck and pork for hors d'oeuvres . The remaining courses, from top left; a safari flavoured appetiser, a mostly equine selection for the main course, a random concoction of giraffe, kangaroo and warthog as a side dish, and a blue-block infused sloth for dessert.Dollywings was so very full after her banquet that HB and I were asked to finish it off for her. which we did.
I still have bits of tusk stuck in my teeth.
Back to AZ in the next post!
Home again, home again.