Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring Pretty

Ahh, spring. Of course, today it's SNOWING, but you know. Winter is trying to stick its tongue out one last time or something.

Anyway, I'm busy working hard on my thesis, but I thought I would share some pretty pictures of my tulips. They had some gorgeous ones at the Winter Market (the last week!), so Lance bought me some. He's just that sweet.

Enjoy the pics--I'm back to work!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Muffin Break

I'm in the throes of my writing. Well, sorta...I'm taking a blogging break. I promised my adviser he'd see three chapters and two syllabi by Monday. Right now, I have not quite one finished chapter, a hefty start on another, and the inklings of a third (i.e. notes on scratch paper). I do, however, have a full syllabus. I have to say that I'm pretty proud of my work on it. I put a lot of time into it, and the feedback so far has been very positive. I already sent the syllabus off to my adviser and to one of my readers to get their feedback. All in all, I'm making a lot of progress, and I feel confident that in a week or so, I'll have a full draft turned in*. Then on to defense!

Meanwhile, I baked muffins last night, and I thought I'd share the recipe with you all. I do have to warn you all that this is a rough approximation of a recipe, since I just threw what I had lying around in it. I'll try to hone it soon, since I have vats of pumpkin puree in my freezer. I think this will get you close enough, however, so feel free to play around with it. But I can vouch that the results are delicious. Not too sweet, flavorful and filling, and perfect for a nutritious breakfast.

Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
  • 1-1/2 cup oat flour
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut**
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • blueberries (I just dumped in about a cup)
  • spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves
  • ~1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • some hazelnut oil--2 tbsp?
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare two muffin tins (24 muffin cups)--either lining with papers or spraying in a bit of oil. I use a Misto and it works perfectly, but my tins are also non-stick. I also have silicone muffin liners, which work pretty well and are reusable.

In a medium bowl, mix together flours, oats, coconut, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt, pecans, and blueberries. If using frozen blueberries, we've noticed that just mixing in solid berries works, but it might cook better if they are somewhat thawed.

In a large bowl, mix everything else. Mix dry into wet and stir thoroughly. Normally recipes have you mix the wet into the dry, but I always find flour on the bottom when I'm part way through filling the cups, so I prefer this way. Don't overmix or you'll kill all the good bubbles. Scoop into muffin cups and bake until golden brown and done--a toothpick will come out cleanly.***

*Cue crushing chest anxiety. Oh my.
**The only place I have been able to find unsweetened coconut is the natural foods store in the bulk bins. Believe me, it's far better than the sweetened crap.
***Though not if you stick it in the middle of a blueberry. Also, if you have an inconsistent oven like mine, some might be done before others, so rotate the tins around occasionally. I'm really not sure how long it took to bake since I just let them go until they smell, look, and feel right.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Special Friday Pancakes

I've been off work all week, but this morning I decided to make Lance breakfast. Joy the Baker asked that we make ourselves breakfast on her behalf--and provided many tasty recipes. So I decided to pretend that today was the weekend (since Lance will be gone tomorrow anyway, and maybe part of Sunday too), and I made him breakfast.

I'm a huge fan of the pancake. You have infinite variations with toppings, with flavors, with whatever you like. Don't like syrup? (I don't). Use applesauce, cream cheese and honey, jelly, cream cheese and jelly instead! Done!

So looking over Joy's list of breakfast treats, I was drawn to her Carrot Cake Pancakes. Ahh, I thought to myself, this would be the ones that I will make for Lance--no syrup, but a cream cheese topping that will make you almost feel a little bad for eating it for breakfast.

Of course I would have to modify it slightly. I decided that from her comments that the carrot was almost a little overpowering, so I grated half an apple to make up for about 3/4 cup of grated carrot. I also used 1/2 cup of oat flour to not make them a little healthier (though these pancakes are not about being healthy--they do have carrots in them, though! That's a vegetable!), added more nuts, and reduced the sugar by a smidgen, since apples are pretty sweet. I added a bit more spice, because I love ginger and cinnamon. What came out was delightful.

Smothered in a slightly sweet cinnamon cream cheese topping, these pancakes were quite tasty. I could see myself making them again, for sure. Enjoy!

Carrot Apple Pancakes
(adapted from Joy the Baker who adapted them from the Food Network)

Makes 8-10 pancakes
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour*
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1-1/4 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/2 large apple, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe Cream Cheese Spread (found on Joy's original post)
In large bowl, mix together flours, nuts, baking powder, spices, and sugar. In a smaller bowl, combine the egg, milk, carrot and apple, and vanilla.

Get a skillet heating. Put a splash of oil in the bottom to make sure your pancakes won't stick. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing well with a spoon to make sure you get all the flour off the bottom (always a problem with me). I always use one of my dirty measuring cups (the 1/4 cup works fantastically) to measure out the batter onto the skillet--I like smaller pancakes because they're easier to flip. And cuter.

Try not to cook the pancakes too hot, or your carrots will be very raw. I have a gas stove, so a nice medium-low flame works great. Let the pancakes cool for a minute, then stack 'em and slather the layers with the cream cheese spread. Enjoy!

*You can use whole wheat pastry, or just all purpose, if that's what you've got.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bits of This n' That

  • In a correction to my prior post, there are apparently faculty who live in my complex. Or something. But I'm right about the other stuff...
  • Meyer lemons are tasty, especially when baked into a pie, or combined with goat cheese, asparagus, and nuts*. Yum. I'm a fan of these tasty little citrus.
  • I'm plodding along on my thesis. A little work here and there, which was derailed by having a stomach bug Tuesday and residually on Wednesday. Yuck. But today--much work will be accomplished. And tomorrow. And Saturday (well, maybe not all day Saturday). And a bit on Sunday too.
  • I expect to hear good news from a great friend today.
  • The Decemberists released The Hazards of Love on iTunes yesterday. I'm very tempted to buy it, even though I like to purchase actual CDs from bands I like--that way I can take it in the car, etc. I guess I'm old fashioned like that.
  • Google Reader (which has changed my blog-reading life) now lets you comment on other peoples' shared items. How cool is that?
All right, folks, back to work!

*It makes a good breakfast too. Mmm...

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Media and the Fire

It's funny to realize how much the media has gotten wrong about our fire on Wednesday. It's really small stuff, but it's still amusing. And it really makes me wonder how much else they get wrong with other stories.

I'm not going to link to any stories in particular (though this one is probably the most accurate), but the general errors include the timeline of events, how much was damaged, who was affected, and what happened. They all claim that swift action on the part of the police department was responsible for getting everyone out safely, when really it was the swift action on the part of residents that got everyone out. And the fact that when you hear a giant explosion and see flames, you're likely to leave the building that's on fire as quickly as possible. Also, a few UA staff members were affected but no faculty. Details, people, details.

Anyway, hopefully our friends in the affected building will be able to go home soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Never Shout "FIRE"

I've occasionally been asked the question: if your house is on fire, what would you save? Personally, I'd save Rory, Lance (if he needed saving), and my grandmother's poetry book and our mutual correspondence. Everything else is pretty replaceable.

Of course, the question was purely theoretical...until it wasn't. Tonight, my apartment complex caught fire
There are two buildings in my complex. I'm on my porch, so my building was fine--but the other building lost several apartments on the end, and everyone in that building had to be evacuated. They cannot return to their homes until tomorrow, and who knows when their power and gas will be turned on, or if they'll even be able to live there.

What caused this splendid display of pyrotechnics? Well, the university hired a contractor to dig out the pond in front of the apartment building above because their recent construction had caused a great deal of sediment to be dumped into our pond. Through a series of mishaps, the big backhoe ended up in the drained pond, sunk into the loose mud and sediment. Then they broke the gas line. The gas company came out and was presumably taking care of the situation.

Lance and I were sitting in my apartment when an explosion rattled our windows. "That's a gas line blowing," said Lance. We dashed out the door--to see what was going on, to rescue our friends in the building, something--and we saw smoke. Then little flames. Then MASSIVE FLAMES. The people in the two apartments that were on fire got out (including our landlord's mother), so no one was hurt, and all the residents and area citizens watched as the firetrucks came screaming from down the road (the advantages of living downtown, two blocks from a fire station).

Since it was a gas fire, it took a good half hour to contain. Meanwhile, we bounced from outside to a friends' apartment across the street. It is cold, after all. I offered floor space to my now homeless friends (two of whom are now staying here). Everyone's okay, though it was pretty frightening.

So what would you save if your home caught fire?