Muffins with a kick

After  a morning run, I love to spend my weekend whipping up some muffins.  I try to pick recipes that are a little different but don’t involve buying lots of extra ingredients, with an emphasis on things that are good to freeze and warm up over the following weeks.

Today’s muffins were inspired by my favorite fruit, granny smith apples.  I know people usually use softer apples for baking, but granny smiths work just fine and are a healthy snack if you don’t get around to baking.  The ginger in this recipe gives you a final product that’s tasty but not traditional.

Apple-Cinnamon- Ginger Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups quick oats (or rolled oats, just run them through a blender quickly to chop them down to size)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar*
  • 1 tsp vanilla*
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp ginger, fresh, peeled, and grated (buy a jar and save yourself a ton of time – and it lasts forever!)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large apple, peeled and cut into small cubes Continue reading

Music Monday: You are here

Last night, I skipped over to the Somerville Theater to see the Wailin’ Jennys in concert.  I’ve only barely heard their music before, but I knew they had beautiful voices and played some rockin’ acoustic guitar.  What I didn’t expect was how touching their songs would be, including this one called “You are here.”

Along with thinking about optimism, I’ve been spending time lately mulling over how to live in the moment.  Especially with all the multitasking I do at work, I find my brain flitting around after hours, thinking about what’s next, what else needs to be done, what else I could be doing instead of just being. This concert, and this song, reminded me to breathe, live, and embrace the moment.

Cooking Adventures: Classic Quiche

Quiche qualifies as my favorite meal for three important reasons:

  1. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  2. It’s a full meal in itself, no need for a side of veggies, etc.
  3. It’s easy to mix up the ingredients to suit your current mood or pantry.

Classic Quiche

Ingredients:

  • premade pie crust, thawed
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Italian mix works well, but a mix of cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan is also tasty)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

The fillings below can be swapped out for whatever else you have on hand, though onions and garlic are a good base.

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, three slices set aside, the rest chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach
  • 1/4 lb ham cut into small cubes
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Press the pie crust into a pie plate, crimping the edges with a fork, and let sit while you make the rest.
  2. Chop up those veggies.  Warm up some oil in a frying pan and brown the garlic and onion with half of each of the spices.
  3. When the onion and garlic is almost browned, throw the spinach in just for a few seconds until slightly wilted.   Remove the mixture from heat and add in the ham and tomatoes, keeping a few slices of tomato out.
  4. Mix together the eggs, milk, 1 cup of cheese, and the remaining spices. Don’t over-mix the eggs, just mix lightly until all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Spoon the veggie mixture into the pie crust.  Pour the egg/cheese mix on top, stirring together slightly to blend the layers.
  6. Arrange the remaining slices of tomato on top, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
  7. Cook for 35 minutes, or until the egg/cheese mixture has firmed up.
  8. Let rest for five minutes (or you will burn yourself – trust me on this one).

Now slice up that pie, share it with your roommate, and enjoy! C’est delish!

Really any mixture of fillings can work here, but I recommend trying these ones:

  • Onion, garlic, and broccoli – add some Dijon mustard to the egg mixture for an extra kick
  • Red pepper, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomato with a dash of curry powder
  • Prosciutto and asparagus
  • Egg whites and extra veggies for a healthier mix

Do you have any special combinations you use when making a quiche?

Accentuate the Positive

When the skies are brighter canary yellow
I forget ev’ry cloud I’ve ever seen,
So they called me a cockeyed optimist
Immature and incurably green.

I have heard people rant and rave and bellow
That we’re done and we might as well be dead,
But I’m only a cockeyed optimist
And I can’t get it into my head.

– South Pacific

I have often been told that I’m “too positive”.  That I can’t see the negatives in situations, and I focus “too much” on what good can come from something rather than giving time for the unwelcome consequences to set in.

My response, out loud or just in my head, is that life is too short to dwell on the negative, and especially on negative things that are irreversible.  I’ve been through enough in the last 25 years to realize that instead of spending energy worrying about the past, our lives will be much more effective – and almost always much happier – if we move forward and make the best with what we have.

That doesn’t mean pretending bad things don’t happen.  Whether it’s spilling coffee on yourself (luckily, mine was iced this morning as it trickled down my arm) or regretting a mistake at work that takes time and effort to undo, or mourning the loss of a dear friend, crappy stuff happens to all of us.  But from this, we should find ways to let unhappiness sink in, and then transform it into something that is actually meaningful.  Double-check those lids from now on or just be glad it wasn’t not.  Proof your work with a friend before sending it off to a client.  And write letters and spend time with the other loved ones in your life because there are tons of people who will still benefit from your company, and the best you can do is to have no regrets next time.  And now tell me – what would be gained from lamenting the past instead of learning new lessons?

I just read this article by Shawn Achor.  He asks “Are happy people dumb?” and the short answer is “Nope, their happiness makes them more effective and more successful.”  His article goes into the scientific reasons that happier people get more out of life, and his links offer tips on how to be happier.  Check it out – the proof is there!

In closing, I want to draw your attention to the serenity prayer.  When I was a kid, I had a fake stained glass representation of this prayer, and my aunt Lava taught me a tune to go with the words.  Now, it pops into my head when I find myself getting stuck worrying about things I have no power over, and it reminds me to refocus.  Here’s the version I think of:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Right there is my secret to happiness.  My way to live each day and make it count, and the calculations I make when I determine that life is better as an optimist.

Things I love right now

  • The James Taylor station on Pandora
  • Days when the weather never drops below 32 degrees
  • My new sweater that makes me think of spring
  • Baking and cooking things that make my whole house smell amazing (bacon this weekend, scones on Pi day!)
  • Not looking for a new apartment – I am so excited about staying put!
  • Being able to see the ground again and walking down sidewalks that are not covered in snow
  • The ice cream sundae I had for dinner last night – that one was for you, Grandma!
  • My awesome job where I work like a maniac but it pays off in the end
  • The fabulous people in my life who make every day an adventure

Here’s to another day – what’s making your life great right now?

Say cheese!

Our recent Oscar party was especially cheesy thanks to my successful attempt to make baked Brie with my lovely assistant Sara.  I knew I could throw a good party before, but now I know the secret to celebratory bliss involves a giant melted pile of cheese.  One less secret of life to search for.

This recipe is based on the Sweet Baked Brie in Rachael Ray’s Big Orange Book – thanks for another stellar idea!

Baked Brie (aka Instant Popularity)

  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted (a little expensive, but you get two sheets and it’s the metaphorical icing on the cake)
  • 1 wheel of Brie cheese, about a pound (go for the wheel, not a wedge)
  • 2 tbsp jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 or so (our oven likes to live like a “Choose your own adventure” book) and make sure the puff pastry is defrosted.
  2. Cut the cheese (yeah, I know) into two disks.  Spread jam on one half, and put the second half back on top.  I used apricot which was amazing, but RR recommends raspberry and also adds almond slices in this layer.  You can also use fig, or just skip this step entirely if you’re so inclined.
  3. Wrap the puff pastry around the cheese.  Decorate the outside with extra pieces of puff pastry, if you’re feelin’ artsy.  Bake on a cookie sheet or in another metal pan.  I baked mine seams up, but RR recommends it down, as you could really do it either way.
  4. Bake!  Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden brown.

This is my new party staple, especially since I already have a sheet of puff pastry waiting in my freezer!  What’s your go-to party treat?

For the record, gummy bears wrapped in puff pastry will not be as successful as this, and will stick to your pan.