Jam Muffins

photograph of muffins

I have so much on my mind, so many balls in the air, that muffin recipes seem positively silly at the moment. But sometimes baking is just the thing you need to halt chaos momentarily. My chaos is all good, mind you. It is back to school time. I’m getting to know teachers, helping decorate lockers, getting routines sorted out, and generally having my mind blown away by how serious life can be in the 3rd and 5th grade now. There are so many advantages to growing up in this day and age…so many opportunities and such incredible technology…such possibility. But there is a negative balancing dose of anxiety, pressure, yuck, and too much grown up responsibility and expectations for such young people. And I’m not really getting into the content of the academics involved, though that is stunning too.

In many ways I prefer the slower pace of my youth. Or rather, while the fast pace of childhood was the same, back then the background, the context of my childhood, wasn’t moving so quickly and changing so rapidly as it does now. The earth was firm underfoot. Now they fly. Some days I miss my World Book Encyclopedias and a phone that was attached to the wall with a curly cord. This is compounded by a huge computer change in my office and the tectonic ramifications of switching computers…no matter how simple companies may imply that it is. And, I’m combating my first world, spoiled-rotten angst with muffins.

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Tina’s Mexican Peanuts

Tina's Peanuts with BeerI’ve cooked some sumptuous meals in the last 2 weeks, but they have been for other publications and/or they were the recipes of other people. Sadly, therefore, I have left you guys out in the cold. And, in my real life, I have been eating garbage and repeats. By garbage, I mean wonderful fast food indulgences like Smashburger. It has been so long since I could be bothered to eat a “fast food” burger, but this one (86 the special sauce and tomatoes) is pretty great. I like tomatoes, mind you. I just don’t eat them on sandwiches. I know. Silly. But still…

We packed in one more trip for the summer, this time to CO to visit my dad and his wife, Melody. And we were so spoiled that I didn’t cook one thing, save to pass along the easiest appetizer in the world, Tomatoes with Sea Salt and Herbes de Provence. Repeat. You’ve seen that one. Shucks.

My computer hard drive is about 99% full. No more room at the inn. I am on the cusp of hooking up a new computer which might mean I never ever get email again starting tomorrow and I might just have a nervous breakdown. I’m pretty sure the nice folks at Dell, or Pitts, will save the day just in time. I just totally moved one kid room into the room which was our office…which means I have also moved an office. This turned into a re-carpeting project. And if you are going to put new carpet in a room, you HAVE to repaint before the new carpet comes in. Did I mention that my car went kaput on the top of a mountain in New Mexico? And, I just figured out that I need to recode and record every single one of my recipes to whip them into shape for the Google Search Bots. It is called “rich snippets”…don’t ask. Ford starts school TODAY. In other words, I have been a completely bad blogger, and a slightly bonkers mother. And I’ve been eating nothing but peanuts and drinking nothing but coffee. Can you tell I need to cut down on the coffee?

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Chocolate Cream Popsicles

Chocolate Cream Popsicles GOOD 2I bet you are hot and busy. I’m hot and busy. But, chocolate makes me happy. And, frozen treats make me happy. Therefore, chocolate popsicles make me happy, even when I’m hot and busy. They also, not surprisingly, make my kids very happy, too.

One of my earlier food memories is this…

When I was in kindergarten or first grade, I had a metal lunchbox with a pink and white gingham pattern. This was when my mom still got to pick out the lunchbox. My next was a far superior (in my mind only) Muppets lunchbox with Animal on one side and a very fancy Thermos on the inside. Now I know that the pink gingham lunchbox was the best lunchbox ever. And when I think of metal lunchboxes I think of that one.

We lived in Harker Heights outside of Killeen then. My dad was in the army and that was just one of our stops. It was a happy place and there were still woods behind the nearby houses and kids would rummage through there in the afternoons and capture Horned Toads. I had an early crush on John Denver. I actually remember how much one of my Shawn Cassidy loving neighbors made fun of me for that one.

But, back to my lunchbox. Some days, lucky days, my mom would tape a dime and a nickel to the inside of my lunchbox with clear tape. If I opened my lunchbox to find this unexpected wealth, I got to buy a treat in the cafeteria. The treat that I always chose was a chocolate popsicle. Every time. Without exception. How’s that for a happy food memory? And now, when I make these popsicles I always think of my mom, and the pink gingham metal lunchbox and the fact that while you cannot, perhaps, buy love…you can often buy big smiles for a few coins where kids are concerned.

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Sweet Mandarin Granita

Tangerine Crush In a Blue DishI love seedless mandarins. They are often sold by trade names like “cuties,” and they are cuties. They are easy to peel and they are incredibly sweet. My kids will eat them by the handful and they are a good sweet treat to keep me from, say, losing it and heading for the ice cream shop. I do that often enough as it is.

We have been drinking a lot of frozen fruit drinks in our home. At least, I have. I’ve had a orange and vitamin C craving that I just can’t quite kick, and why would I want to? This treat grew out of the profusion of oranges and tangerines on the counter. I wanted a frozen orange treat that wasn’t quite as naughty (not quite) as the Orange Julius pops. So, this is what we did. We froze mandarin sections and we whirled them into a slush with orange juice and a little bit of simple syrup. The slush goes directly into the freezer for 30 minutes. Then it is stirred and scraped away from the edges of the bowl. And, finally, it gets another half hour in the freezer. The result is something like a sherbet or a sorbet. I think it is technically a granita because it is stirred up by hand and not frozen in an ice cream maker…but semantics aside, it is a wonderful after dinner treat. If you blend it right before you start your dinner prep, it is ready just in time for dessert.

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Lori’s “I Wish I Were On the Beach” Smoothie

Or, you could just call it a Pineapple, Coconut, Almond Smoothie…but that isn’t much more efficient word-wise, is it? So why not name it after a person I like?

Let’s just say that this tastes quite like a piña colada, but it is slightly more virtuous. The first time I wrote down the precise ingredients was to give the formula to my friend, Lori, who is, well…not on the beach right now…mostly because getting sand in a cast would be gross. This is the Lori of my Italy…La Tavola Marche expedition. In the five carefully chosen words of my daughter, Lori is “kind, awesome, loving, caring and happy.” Even if this were not so, which it certainly is, she would be worth knowing simply for the food that happens around her (by her, for her, and merely near her). Lori’s predicament caused me to write this down, which caused me to finally take a few photos of it, and share it with you…so there. Good food things always happen around her, incidentally and otherwise. She has good food karma, if you will.

Onward.

This is not exactly health food. But, then again, it is pretty neat. There is a lot of sweet stuff in this drink, but there is also a lot of Vitamin C and a lot of protein, thanks to the almonds. This has become a morning snack for me. I’ve been running around like the proverbial beheaded chicken and sometimes I find myself not having eaten until din din. Not smart. But, my mother, also an angel of a human, gave me a VitaMix blender, because she is, again in the words of Lily, “smart, strong, smiley, happy, and super.” This has upped my smoothie game considerably. In this recipe, you first blend the almonds with the coconut water to essentially create almond and coconut milk. Then you add the other things and run it through the “smoothie” cycle twice. If you don’t have a VitaMix, just process it for a nice long time until it is smooth. You will not really know there are almonds in this. If there is still almond grit, blend a little bit longer.

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