Cooking Therapy: Jam-Filled Muffins

Cooking TherapyY’all, do you ever just have one of those days?

Today was one for me. It started out with bad news and got even worse. What with work and the extra stuff going on in my life, I was stressed, frustrated, and beyond annoyed.

I needed something practical, something helpful for my hands and mind. So I got to baking!

Does anyone else use baking as therapy? Sometimes it is the only thing that will calm my mind and improve my mood. There’s just something about deciding on a recipe to make, gathering the ingredients, and then baking it all up.

Oh, and don’t forget surprising your family with something yummy!

Anyway, a few weeks back my husband bought some jam for us as a treat. It was a locally made wild blackberry jam. It has a tart yet sweet taste, just perfect to spread on toast. But what about baked in a muffin? A tiny bit of searching, and I found this recipe.

As I didn’t have much time to get the recipe mixed up before my next shift, I loved the fact that you could mix the batter by hand. And better yet, I had all of the ingredients in my pantry! So very frugal and easy for me.

Just a few (very minor) changes:

  1. I used coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil in the recipe.
  2. I filled each muffin tin about 1/3 with batter, put in the jam, and then topped it with more batter.
  3. Using only about 2 Tbsp of butter for the topping, I melted it in the microwave and poured it over the finished muffins. I then gave each muffin a generous sprinkling of the cinnamon sugar mixture. It was just easier (and quicker) for me to do it this way.

Although nothing in my life had changed by the time the muffins were out of the oven, my viewpoint had shifted a bit toward the positive. I had done something helpful and baked a treat that my husband would appreciate.

Cheap and frugal therapy, right?

 

Getting Back to Basics: Easy Bread

Getting Back to BasicsI must admit something. I’ve been distracted lately with various projects and family issues, and my domestic efforts have gone by the wayside.

Do you ever go through these times? Whether due to work or whatever, cooking and cleaning can occasionally take the back burner.

I’ve been trying to push myself out of this obviously un-frugal way of doing things, but doing my usual cooking seemed overwhelming. Attempting to look for recipes–or even simply cook familiar ones–was just too much. Honestly, it was just easier to order out for dinner.

So I decided to get back to basics, so to speak.

My husband had asked for some yummy baked goodies. And what’s easier than a good homemade bread, right? Well, he’ll be waking up tomorrow morning to coffee and toast with butter. Just good, old-fashioned cooking.

After a tiny bit of searching, I decided to try this recipe. As it’s just the two of us, I made the smaller loaf in my bread machine.

The result? We did have an issue with my bread machine, which caused some frustration, but the bread came out wonderful and was oh-so-easy. We have some tasty bread just waiting for a generous spread of butter.

And even better, I’m getting back to my frugal basics.

Cinnamon Bun Muffins

Cinnamon Bun MuffinsLast night, my husband was rummaging through our refrigerator. Frustrated with finding nothing of note, he asked, “Don’t we have anything sweet?”

No, we sure didn’t. My heart sank as I realized I hadn’t cooked any treats for us lately.

I decided to do something about that today during my break from work. I was excited to try to this recipe for Cinnamon Bun Muffins as I had recently purchased palm shortening. Although fairly common in paleo recipes, this particular type of shortening was new to me.

Unfortunately for the muffins, I was distracted. Thinking about everything under the sun–along with the muffins–I happily began gathering the flour, eggs, and such. Mixing it all up and filling the muffin tins, I was pretty proud of it all.

And then it hit me. I had forgotten to add the vanilla extract. Seriously.

I didn’t want to throw it all in the trash, so I put the topping on the muffins and set the pan in the oven. I just hoped it would be edible.

The smell while the muffins were cooking was just wonderful. And you know what? The muffins still taste yummy. I can only imagine how great they would taste if I hadn’t forgotten an ingredient.

The moral of the story is “Never bake when you’re tired or distracted.” And even if you make a mistake, sometimes everything will turn out OK.

Hi there! Are you on Twitter? I am. I’d love to see you there!

 

 

Cinnamon Brunch Cake

Cinnamon Brunch CakeSometimes it seems like my little efforts at home are worthless.

Baking and cooking and cleaning seem small things, easily forgotten as the world becomes more and more chaotic. We all grasp onto what we can, but often it seems like the center cannot hold. In the midst of all of the awful news and the prayers and the pleas for peace, it seems like these things at home have no meaning.

And yet…

I open my Bible and find the only One who can bring peace. He is the center that remains constant, the only Light for our lives.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33

And I get up and do what I can for my family, to bring some measure of pleasure to their day.

When my husband left for a meeting, I decided that I would bake a cake and greet him with some yummy smells. This cake recipe seemed pretty easy, so I set to work in the kitchen.

Here are the minor changes I made when mixing up the cake:

  • As I did not have non-stick spray, I just melted a big dab of coconut oil in the pan and spread it around. I did not bother to pour off any excess, which seemed to work just fine with this cake.
  • I added chopped pecans for a crunch.
  • I did not measure the topping ingredients or the melted butter. (I was generous with both.)

This made a wonderfully moist and simple cake for my husband to enjoy. And the house smelled delightful.

When all we have left are prayers and family and home and Jesus, then maybe that is when we truly find our riches. And maybe our little efforts at home still have meaning. At least I hope so.

Praying for Paris, Beirut, and so many other places…

Pumpkin Walnut Drop Scones

Pumpkin Walnut Drop SconesIf you’ve been looking through some of my posts, you might think my selection of recipes is a bit eclectic. Ranging from super-sweet treats to nutritious paleo delights, they can surely seem strange.

Why do I do it? It’s easy. Family.

Sure, some of the recipes are enjoyed by all, but some are just for me. I used to try to force my family to eat healthy, but it only led to fights and upset feelings. So now I try to find a balance between healthy and delicious, with some treats that only I enjoy. I figure that they can make the decision to eat healthier for themselves.

And, to be honest, I like making things that are sticky-good.

But for me, I make nutritious things that I can love. These scones certainly fit that bill.  They fulfilled all my autumnal wishes for flavor and still were healthy.

Plus they also utilized one ingredient that I had on hand from a failed project: xylitol. It had been hanging around my cupboards feeling forlorn after its rejection. It was good to give it a purpose.

These scones were super easy to make. The only problem I encountered was in sifting the dry ingredients; some of the xylitol grains wouldn’t make it through the sifter. Other than that, mixing and baking were a breeze.

And the taste? Good! They were soft in texture with a subtle flavor. Definitely a must for autumn mornings.

Cooking Disasters, or When Good Intentions Go Bad

CLast night, during a break from my online work, I had a bright idea. I would find a bread machine recipe and surprise my husband with some homemade sweet bread for snacking and breakfast. The machine would do all the work, and I would get all the credit. Sounds good, right?

Well, in theory, I suppose. After a bit of searching, I discovered a brown sugar and pecan bread that apparently worked well in one person’s bread machine. Excited, I threw the ingredients in our aged–and secondhand–bread machine and went back to work. I checked on the bread periodically and gradually became suspicious when there was no delicious bread smell. Still, I was optimistic.

When the machine beeped, I opened it up only to find that the outside of the bread was browned to perfection with the center soft and squishy. Great.

Tired after a day’s worth of work, I began to panic. Still, I was determined not to throw the disaster in the trash. I tossed the partially cooked loaf of bread in a large pan with some butter and stuck it all in the oven. I let the bread brown a bit and then cut it up as it cooked further. Realizing that there was no salvaging this as a regular bread, I decided to make a bread pudding for my husband.

After the bread bits were fully cooked and browned, I soaked it all in a mix of milk and half-and-half. After awhile, I poured a whisked mixture of eggs and sugar over it all. Everything got good and stirred, and then back in the oven it went for about an hour.

And you know what? It actually worked. My husband was pleasantly surprised with his treat. With a bit of ingenuity and desperation, I had managed to create something from a total cooking disaster. Frugal living can be a great thing!

 

Almond Flour Scones with Chocolate Chips

almondfloursconesPerhaps they don’t have this product available in your neck of the woods, but around here, the grocery stores carry Two-Bite Scones. Have you seen these little treats? My husband and I certainly have. We were hooked on these sweet little things for quite awhile, buying at least two containers per week. Obviously, this wasn’t a healthy (or frugal) habit.

What to do? Well, I decided to make our own two-bite scones!

After a bit of searching, I found this recipe for Almond Flour Scones with Chocolate Chips. It looked simple–always a plus for me–and only included ingredients that I already had on hand. Another big bonus was that it would use up some of the chocolate that I had purchased awhile back from Bulk Foods.

These mixed up really easily, in only about 5 minutes. When I don’t have to drag out the stand mixer, it’s a good baking experience! As we prefer the small scones, I shaped ours like “cookies” rather than the traditional pie shape. In the oven they went, taking only about 8-10 minutes to finish baking. (One tip for summer baking: do all of your cooking in the morning or late evening so that it doesn’t heat up the house too much.)

And the verdict? Delicious, light and fluffy little treats. They are lightly sweet and perfect with morning coffee. To be honest, I actually prefer these over the store variety as they are satisfying and still provide some nutrients. And with such a short mixing and baking time, there’s no reason to go out and buy the super-sweet and expensive scones.

Making your own can be overwhelming sometimes, but in the case of these beauties, there’s no reason not to. To the kitchen!

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Coconut Flour Donut Holes

coconut flour donut holesWith a short time this morning between shifts, I decided to mix up a special treat for the family’s breakfast. There was one recipe I’d been eyeing for quite awhile–Coconut Flour Donut Holes. I knew that this one could be completed quickly during the time available and would certainly satisfy my family’s longing for something sweet. To the kitchen!

Although I didn’t have all of the equipment listed in the recipe, I was certain that I could do without. I would love those baking cups and the pastry brush, but I just don’t have them currently. Still, I managed to get by, even without that fun stuff.

I was able to gather and combine all of the ingredients in about 10 minutes, all while the oven was warming up. There was a moment of frustration when I first looked at the batter; it looked initially to be much too wet to form balls. However, after a minute or so, the flour absorbed most of the liquid, and my fears were put to rest. I was able to make each by hand and place them in the muffin tin.

These baked up nicely and resulted in a very light texture. My main problem came with coating them with the topping. At first, I thought I could dip each one in the coconut oil and then roll in the sugar mixture. Huh-uh…this was a disaster. Do not try this as the “holes” broke apart in the oil. I finally poured the coconut oil onto each donut in the muffin pan and then sprinkled on the topping. This worked rather well and avoided the earlier mess. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

My family thoroughly enjoyed this tasty treat. These are not all that filling, and so I would certainly recommend eating this with something else, such as yogurt or fruit. However, if you want a special something for breakfast, these can’t be beat!

Simple Treats: Almond Meal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Coconut

almond meal cookiesI have to admit that lately I’m feeling a bit worn out. Although I actually enjoy cooking and baking, it just seemed too overwhelming in the midst of all of my work lately. I must confess that we’ve been eating out a lot. Not frugal, but sometimes necessary for sanity’s sake. Rising early and staying up late, I found that cooking can be simply too much when faced with such a schedule. I don’t think it’s bad to ask for help in such times, and seeking rest eventually will help with the soul as well as the mind.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” —Psalm 62:1-2

Luckily, I believe I’m at the end of the heavy work period and so will be able to dive into baking and cooking. To celebrate–a tiny bit, at least–I decided to bake a quick batch of Almond Meal Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Coconut. I had some time and all of the ingredients, so off I went to the kitchen.

For my cookies, I chose to use coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar, and I used chocolate from Bulk Foods. The batter was easy to mix up but resulted in a somewhat crumbly mixture. I was able to form the cookies, though, after the refrigeration period, and they cooked up nicely. One tip might be to do the smooshing of the cookies after a few minutes in the oven so that they don’t crumble into pieces. I also baked mine about 9 minutes, which seemed perfect for my oven.

The cookies were sweet, but in a natural way, with a light texture and taste. I would definitely make these again as they satisfied the tastebuds of both children and adults.

So here’s to simple pleasures and treats! Be sure and take some time for rest for your bodies and souls in the midst of heavy schedules. And don’t forget some nourishing treats as well.

 

Quick Sunday Breakfast: Almond Flour Muffins

almond muffinI had a bit of time this morning in between shifts, and so I decided to make us a hot breakfast. Although we don’t normally use the oven during the summer, sometimes I will cook in the mornings while it is still cool. Of course, I could have used the solar oven, but baking in it takes much more care and patience than I had this morning.

Having just bought some almond flour yesterday, I decided to make some muffins or scones. After a bit of searching, I found this recipe for Almond Flour Muffins. Other than looking super easy to make, the recipe only used ingredients that I already had on hand. Yay for almond muffins!

I was able to mix these up in about 5-10 minutes. Using the amounts in the recipe, I was only able to make about five muffins, so if you have a larger family, you may want to double the recipe. The muffins cooked up nicely and quickly before the kitchen became too hot.

And the verdict? The texture reminded me a bit of corn muffins; the almond muffins were a bit drier and coarser than the result when cooking with all-purpose flour. However, the taste was lightly sweet and was a wonderful complement to morning coffee. Add a little maple syrup to both, and you’re in business!

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.