Here’s the deal

In my last post, I promised to explain how MuffinEgg is going to change. This is a really rough, stream-of-consciousness-style list that I’ve been building in my head for months now. You see, I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do things differently here. I just needed a little nudge!

First, here are some things I like (starting with the blog-related):

  • Writing
  • Cooking
  • Eating
  • Reading about other people’s cooking, eating, life, etc.
  • Looking at those people’s incredible pictures
  • Being involved in the blogging “community”

and the rest:

  • Being active (see below)
  • Being the slowest person on the masters’ swim team
  • Triathlons!
  • Sailing, especially with my husband
  • Being outdoors, preferably as far from civilization as possible
  • Getting to the top of the literal and figurative mountain and making it back in one piece
  • Thinking, reading, and talking about interesting stuff
  • Museums!

 

You may have noticed that neither of these lists includes photography – food or otherwise. That’s because I am always frustrated with my photography skills and therefore rarely satisfied with my pictures. I have this fancy camera that I barely know how to use! I think I would enjoy photography a lot more if I knew what I was doing and could actually take decent pictures (other than by accident and thanks only to my camera’s mysterious abilities).  Add that to the list of things to work on.

There are a few other things that need to change in order for blogging to work for me. First, I need to loosen up. That goes for my own perfectionism that prevents me from posting when something isn’t perfect, as well as this blog’s content. I often find myself wanting to write – needing to share – but don’t do so because I wouldn’t be posting a recipe or pretty food pictures. I feel stuck in the cook, eat, photograph, post rubric. It just doesn’t work for my current lifestyle and interests.

I guess that’s really number two: I want – need – to write about different things! I don’t think blogging about every little detail of my entire life is right for me but I don’t want to be confined to the food realm. There is so much more to life than cooking and eating, as wonderful as it is. Personally, I started reading blogs for the food but I connect to people and keep reading for the other things. I think of it like a conversation over dinner: we’re enjoying a wonderful meal that has brought us together to have an equally wonderful conversation.

Now I’ve lost my train of thought…perhaps because it’s now a different day and a different lunch break at work. I’m going to go against what I think I should do and end this post without any cohesive final thought.

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Dear Blog,

pimiento de padron peppers – so good but gone now

I am going through a blogging identity crisis. Scratch that, call it a real-life identity crisis. I have this job that I like. It’s only part-time but I was just bumped up from 2.5 to 3 days a week. This week I also start a temporary job in the same museum that will bring me to 5 full days of work per week! This is going to sound lame, but this will be my first ever full-time employment. I haven’t done anything five days a week since college (even then, each days classes were different).

Starting a full-time job gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel so, so lucky to finally be employed after almost a year of searching and several years of vagrant ocean wandering. However, I tend to feel pretty overwhelmed by life without working 9-5. I know it’s my perfectionist, controlling tendencies that make time management a high-anxiety issue for me. If I could just chill out and go with the flow for a while then things would likely get easier.

I made this delicious carrot-apple cake for my birthday and never posted it!

What does all this have to do with the blog? Well, I have mixed feelings about blogging right now too. This blog is one of many sources of stress in my life right now. I feel guilty for not posting and frustrated that MuffinEgg is falling into neglect after failing to become as “successful” as I hoped it would. Those thought start me wondering about the point of writing a blog. Do I do this for me? Am I just looking for attention (not that there’s really anything wrong with that)? What am I really gaining from the cook>photograph>write (oh yeah, and eat) process nowadays?

The answers? blogging just isn’t as fulfilling as it once was. Yes, I like attention. I wish it didn’t matter but I think I’d enjoy the validation of more readership and involvement in the blogging community. Most importantly, I’m not getting much out of writing this blog right now.

Yuck. I sound like a self-help book. I’ll get to the point: I’m at a crossroads with two choices that I can see. 1) Quit; 2) Change things. I’m choosing option #2. Yay!

Remember when I used to bake bread? I miss my soudough starter : (

So as not to overwhelm anyone who might read this and keep things simple for myself, I’ll leave it at that for now. I have a whole slough of exciting ideas for the new-and-improved MuffinEgg but I’ll save those for another post. Here’s a fun and philosophical bit of dialogue I overheard today.

Someone’s response to the question “How you been?”:  “I would say living the dream, but, I’d be lying.”

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A plate full of good food

Seeing as my last post was September’s Recipe Swap, my blogging frequency is clearly suffering. I’ve been busy blah blah blah…I’ve still been cooking blah blah blah…I’m done making excuses. More on that later.

Apples: One of the many ingredients in Russian Salad.

 Christianna dished out a doozy of a recipe for everyone, as usual. On my first read, I didn’t catch the veal or herring part of the Russian Salad. Potatoes, apples, beets, eggs, good vinegar – everything sounded good to me! I’ve never made a raw egg dressing before but considered giving it a try. According to Wikipedia, the dressing recipe for the original Russian Salad was closely guarded by its creator, chef Lucien Olivier, back in 1860’s Moscow.

Lee, Doc (the dog), and I have been on vacation for the past week. We drove the 15 or so hours (I’m a Californian, I measure distance in hours, not miles) to Jackson Hole, Wyoming over the course of a day and a half. Then we spent one glorious week alternately relaxing, and, as Lee says, “power hiking” the trails of Teton National Park. To say it was beautiful would be an understatement. Between the fall-colored Aspens and Cottonwoods and the spectacular peaks I was barely paying enough attention to see all the wildlife. There were bears, moose, elk, deer, and bison. Until last week, I’d never seen a moose or a bear in the wild! Now I can say that my 15 pound dog has chased a bear (Don’t worry, the bear was oblivious and Doc just wanted to play!). The only downside to all this wildlife was watching people do stupid things to get a closer look. People disappoint me.

Do you see the moose?

I missed good food on our trip. We had some nice meals in Jackson and I got to cook with my mom in the condo, so that was nice. Driving through northern Nevada and Idaho, though, was rather trying for a non meat-eater. There were lots of potatoes, mostly in french-fried or mashed with butter in a 1-1 ratio. We ate breakfast at a roadside restaurant whose special was the “Giant Chicken Fried Steak Breakfast”. It was large enough to startle the (relative) locals next to us even when split between two plates.

As you might guess, I was in serious need of some vegetables by the time we got home on Saturday. Thankfully there was a bag of Red Norland Potatoes left in the fridge from our last CSA box. A thawed block of tofu and bag of Brussels sprouts later, I had exactly what I needed: a plate full of good food. That’s how I imagine the original Russian Salad: a heap of good food that works well together, especially in this transition to comforting Fall dishes full of root vegetables and apples. I may just start calling all my potato-based, weirdly delicious, concoctions Russian Salads.

 A Simple Plate of Good Food

10-12 small red potatoes, halved or quartered

1 block extra firm tofu, frozen and thawed if you like it extra crispy

Lots of Brussels sprouts

olive oil, S&P, dill

hot sauce/ketchup

Roast the potatoes and tofu with olive oil and seasonings for 20-25 minutes at 375 F, stirring half way through. With 15 minutes left, add the Brussels sprouts to the oven, halved with cut side down on a separate baking sheet. Once everything is done, toss a little of everything on your plate. Don’t forget the hot sauce and ketchup, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I apologize for this sad excuse for a recipe. I’m sure my fellow Recipe Swappers have much, much more polished interpretations of Russian Salad for you.



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Oddities in Context

What fruit cake?! Pork…in a fruit cake. Okay, people, here’s the thing. I don’t do pork. Sure, I loved a crisp slice of bacon or a juicy BBQ tenderloin back in the day but the thought of “one pound of pork” in a cake – baked slowly and then kept around for a while to make it even tastier – that’s nasty.

Christianna sure dished out a doosey for this month’s Recipe Swap. She even dug up a new (to us) vintage cookbook, the Nebraska Pioneer Cookbook. You gotta love the wood stove and the plaid table-cloth on the cover.

I have to admit, as a pioneer braving the wild Nebraskan plains, a pork fruit cake would probably be the most delicious thing I could ever dream of eating. Think of it as the wild west version of the energy bar: you’d get your protein, carbohydrates, and fat all in one stick-to-your-ribs hunk of food! Just slather on some butter and you’d be ready to ride all day!

Hand a Nebraskan cowboy a Powerbar and he’d probably spit it right back at you. Now, hand that same cowboy one of these muffins and I doubt you’d get so much as a questioning glance. Just don’t say anything about the tofu.

My thought process leading to these muffins went something like this:

Yuck! Pork Fruit Cake! -> What odd ingredient would a vegetarian put in fruit cake -> Tofu! -> I’ve got all these tomatoes and I really want to bake with them -> There’s that classic spice cake recipe with a can of tomato soup -> I’ll use tomatoes and tofu!

Slow-roasted tomatoes were the perfect sweet, smokey (dare I say meaty) addition to a block of silken tofu. Blended smooth, the tofu-tomato mixture was delicious on its own (thinned-out it would make an awesome tomato soup) and an adequately odd ingredient for muffins. Here’s where I screwed up: I decided to throw in the last tablespoon of blackstrap molasses at the bottom of the jar. Have you ever taken a recipe experiment just one ingredient too far and blacked-out other flavors in the process? Well, I lost all trace of the tomato-tofu puree when I added that little bit of molasses. I’m sure it still added moisture and protein of course but the muffins I ended up with were very good…molasses muffins! Argh!

Some day soon I’ll make these muffins again without the molasses. Until then. I’m going to enjoy my apple-studded pork-free snacks. The spices remind me that Fall is almost here and these are sweet enough to keep me away from the ice cream carton after dinner.



Molasses Tomato Muffins

Cook Time: PT25-30M

Yield: 16-18 muffins

If you're in the mood for a traditional Mystery Cake (aka. Tomato Soup Cake) this recipe from King Arthur Flour is the one on which I based my muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 palm sugar (or whatever sweetener you like to use)
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 12oz silken tofu (plain yogurt, sour cream, or pumpkin puree would be good too)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup slow roasted tomatoes. I used this recipe minus the spices.
  • 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses diluted with 1/4 cup warm coffee to get it out of the jar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or your preferred flour)
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • About two cups chopped apple

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare a muffin tin with some kind of liner or oil.
  3. In a food processor or in a large bowl, using a hand blender, thoroughly blend tofu and tomatoes. The mixture should be smooth with no lumps.
  4. If using a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl at this point.
  5. Add remaining wet ingredients plus sugar to tofu, mixing completely.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  7. Stir dry ingredients into wet and fold in apples, avoiding over-stirring.
  8. Spoon batter into muffin cups. These don't rise excessively high so you can fill the cups to the top.
  9. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
  10. Cool on a wire rack and store in the fridge for longer shelf-life.

Notes

I used leftover coffee to get the last bit of molasses out of the jar on a whim. It worked great but feel free to substitute water, juice, or milk.

If you don't have roasted tomatoes leave them out. It'll work without them. You could also get crazy and add some sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil or re-hydrated).

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Filed under muffins, Recipe Swaps