Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thinking Inside Of The Box...

 Friedrich Nietzche once said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." While I recognize the wisdom in that saying, I'm finding it harder and harder to feel strong.  This has been one hell of a week. When I said that things couldn't possibly get any worse I meant it as a statement, not a challenge.

 In order to deal with all that is going on in my life I turned to my salvation - emotional baking. This time however, I wasn't in the mind set to bake from scratch. Sometimes baking from a box works just as well.  I'm not too proud to admit that I rely on convenience baking when need be.  As I've said before, I find baking therapeutic. The simple act of following the directions of a recipe occupies my mind (even one found on the back of a box). Experts say that if you find something that you enjoy doing that occupies 100% of your attention while you are engaged in it, it will make you more motivated and focused. Both of these feelings are said to promote happiness. Baking = Happiness. This, I already knew. The bonus for me is that my baking doesn't just make me happy, it also makes my friends and loved ones happy. Cheers to that ~ I could use a little more happy.

Thinking Inside Of The Box Cinnamon Streusel Muffins

You will need:

1 box of Betty Crocker Cinnabon Cinnamon Streusel Muffin Mix
3/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place paper baking cups in 12 regular size muffin cups, or grease (or spray with cooking spray) bottoms of muffin cups.
  • Stir muffin mix, milk, oil and eggs in medium bowl just until blended (batter will be lumpy).
  • Divide batter among muffin cups (each about 2/3 full).
  • Sprinkle streusel over batter in each cup and press down lightly.
  • Bake 16-21 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.
  • Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.
  • Cool completely before storing.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An apple for the teacher...

School is now in full swing and I must say that on a good day it leaves me feeling very fulfilled, albeit a little overwhelmed.  One of my professors said that this year will be the equivalent of trying to drink water from a fire hydrant. So far, I can see the wisdom in that analogy.  Suffice it to say, this is going to be a very busy year.

I have been fortunate enough to have met some wonderful people and even though I didn't set out to do so, I have made some new friends.  With all that is going on in my life besides school, I feel very fortunate to have met them. They may not realize it yet, but their support is going to carry me through this troublesome year that lies ahead.

Emotional baking has seen me through some tough times.  This past weekend, my baking took on yet another purpose ~ homework avoidance.  With assignments looming in the not too far distance and chapter upon chapter of readings to complete, I turned not to my books, but to my apron and mixing bowl.  Being that it is apple season, and the fact that I was baking with new teachers in mind I decided to find a recipe that would incorporate the two.

These muffins were a hit at our first unofficial study group. I'm sure it will be the first of many.  I'll be sure to keep my apron handy!

An apple for the teacher muffins:
You will need:
2 cups granulated sugar (or 1 1/2 if you prefer them to be less sweet)
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tbsp vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3 cups peeled & diced apples ( about 3 medium apples)
1/2 cup brown sugar for topping
To make:
~ pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
~ line muffin tin with paper liners.
~ cream together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla.
~ in a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
~ add dry ingredients to creamed ingredients and mix until just combined.
*note: the batter will be thick!
~ add diced apples and stir until incorporated.
~ fill paper liners 3/4 full
~ sprinkle with brown sugar
~ bake for 20-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Back to School Blues

This week marked the beginning of a new school year at our house. What's different about this back to school season is that for the first time in a long time I too am going back to school.  After much soul searching (and emotional baking) I decided to apply to the Faculty of Education at our local University.  Throwing my hat in the ring was one thing, being accepted was another!

Many sleepless nights were spent trying to decide if this was to be my next chapter. Should we invest all of that money in tuition? Can we afford for me to take yet another year off of work? What if I can't find a job in this dire market at the end of all of this? How am I going to manage being in school with 3 busy kids and a household to run?  Suffice it to say, many of these questions were pondered while sifting, mixing and wearing an apron. The thought did cross my mind at one point to abandon the idea of going back to school altogether. Instead of spending all of that money on books and tuition I had the notion to throw caution to the wind and open up my own bakery. 

While the bake shop is still in the back of my mind, I made the decision to go back to school.  For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be a teacher. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work in an elementary school and that solidified what I already knew; I love working with kids in a learning environment.  Despite what my practical, overwrought brain told me, I knew in my heart that going back to school was the right decision for me.

That said, this is going to be a tough year; one spent juggling my duties as a wife, mom and student. Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband, great kids and wonderful friends to see me through this. One of my professors said that this year will be the equivalent of trying to drink from a fire hydrant. With all the information that was given to us in the first week, I think that is a sound analogy.  Let's hope that I can be a sponge and soak it all up while still finding time to bake. I also hope that my new found student colleagues will enjoy my baked goods as much as my family does!

Back to School Banana Muffins
3 bananas, mashed
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

To make:

Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the egg and all other ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Line your muffin pan with paper liners or spray them with cooking spray. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way and sprinkle the tops with some extra cinnamon if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the muffins.
*You may also add chocolate chips to this recipe.  Once you have incorporated all ingredients add as many as you like and stir until combined.