Do you save papers? I do. All kinds of papers. I think I come from the transitional generation whose formative years gave them the impression that paper (along with cursive writing and envelope addressing) was one of the pains of daily life and always would be. And then in the middle of our adolescence, it became necessary that we also know how to turn in all our assignments online (even when the website was made by dinosaurs from a millennium past), as well as have all the social media accounts in order to stay on top of last minute homework assigned at midnight (not to mention if we wanted to have any friends.) Typing was also an issue. So I save paper, and once or twice it has really saved me from a lot of grief, but other times it kind of weighs me down.
For instance, I still have a binder full of my “following a columnist” project in AP English in 10th grade. Four years later, it’s lying in a box on the floor of my room (a nice little nest for the cat, I guess, but little else.) I don’t really expect my teacher from high school, who moved to a different school district, to suddenly barge into my house and demand to see my columnist project. Teachers always warned us to save papers until the end of the term to help make up for their capricious tendencies to accidentally give students zeros on papers that were turned in, graded and returned. But I took that practice to heart in a big way. My accordion binder never gets opened, but it sits fatly on the floor looking all self-important and bulging with all my little quizzes and worksheets from years ago, from schools I already graduated from – just in case.
Sometimes the reason I keep the papers is sentimentality. I was so happy the first time I got an A+ 100% Wow! 🙂 on a sixth grade history test that I cherished the paper with the precious red pen marks on it like a sort of Rosetta Stone, a reminder that no matter how discouraging my teacher might be later, she had smiled and said Wow! to me once. I also tend to keep ticket stubs, pages of magazines I like and steal, even notes to myself from a different period of my life to help me remember what it was like to be inside my own brain at that time. For instance, I still have pages of emails I printed between myself, my mom, and my dietician when I was first re-learning to eat in the ninth grade. Questions about half-tablespoons of olive oil and how much lettuce was necessary to make that a feasible conquest, and whether I could take a week off running when my tooth was extracted. And tons of post-its from the years afterwards, covered with my obsessive calculations and kind of stern notes to self intended to make sure I did everything right. I don’t believe in those post-its or what’s on them anymore, but for some reason it felt wrong to just recycle them. Like maybe one day some researcher on eating disorders like the one I had will benefit from the documents. Again, though, I’m not expecting a researcher to break into my house, any more than I expect my tenth grade English teacher to do so.
So far I have mentioned papers that I keep because of superstition and those that I retain for sentimental reasons. There is a third and final class of papers that haunt my drawers, binders, shelves, and basically every corner of space in my physical life, and this is the category that ought to be the least consequential: papers I keep simply because I am too lazy to do anything else. I picked up an informational flyer about how to rescue a baby bird – and when not to interfere – the last time I was at the vet, and I think it is still in my drawer with the millions of golden safety pins and plastic bags I hide from my cat (who chews on plastic.) I could have scanned it, saved it on my computer, even shared it on social media to help spread the knowledge – but I never did. I also could have read it over, decided I was done with it, and recycled it – but I didn’t want to make that kind of irreversible commitment. Hence its perpetual purgatory in my desk drawer.
Most of these papers are just nuisances and really nothing too interesting in the context of this blog: the cut-up black and white model from an art school workshop that revealed to me the horrors of the fashion design business; a magazine full of advertisements that seemed like a really great free souvenir at the Oregon Symphony last fall; the program from a play I liked but really have never wondered since what was the last name of the person who played Matt. However, one such paper is the source of this post today: an idiosyncratically-folded notebook page where a certain recipe was jotted down, many weeks ago, the last time I was at home with a real oven. I wanted to share the recipe with my readers, but the desire was apparently not so burning that I was able to get the post finished within the week I had at home. So I stuffed the batter-blotted, pencil-smeared page into the back pocket of my music binder, along with a practice record from March 2015 and a failed start to a drawing of jellyfish fashion designs. Luckily for you all, I am not going to be blogging about practice records or my terrible drawing skills today. Instead, here is the recipe for some hearty, dense, and nuanced peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins featuring a lovely dark chocolate center. So here. Thanks for taking this piece of paper off my hands.
Fruity PB & Raisin Bran Muffins
Makes 12 regular-sized muffins
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 packet Quaker lower sugar oatmeal, Maple Brown Sugar flavor (or replace with your preferred instant oatmeal packet)
- 1 tbs baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2-1/2 cups Raisin Bran cereal (I used an off-brand)
- 1 egg
- 1 medium overripe banana, mashed
- 1/4 cup honey
- one 6-oz/single serve container of flavored yogurt of your choice (I used Yoplait low fat Strawberry Cheesecake flavor, but prefer other brands in general because Yoplait includes gelatin in their recipe and I really don’t like to use gelatin if I can avoid it)
- 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% fat dairy milk, but I imagine non-dairy milks might also work)
- 1/2 cup Reese’s peanut butter chips and/or semisweet chocolate chips (I used a mix in my odds-and-ends rendition, but you can use either or both according to your taste)
- 12 Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Kisses, unwrapped
Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Line a regular-sized muffin tin with 12 muffin papers or foil liners.
In a large bowl, combine cereal, mashed banana, honey, and yogurt. Let it sit for three minutes or so to soften cereal. Beat with a hand mixer on medium until all the cereal is crushed. Add egg and milk and beat until mixed.
In another large bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine.
Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and stir gently until combined, being sure not to over-mix. Add the small chocolate/pb chips and stir in gently.
Spoon the batter into each muffin liner, distributing as equally as possible. Cups will be close to full of batter.
Bake at 400 Fahrenheit for a total of 15-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with crumbs of baked muffin on it rather than wet batter (it will not be “clean” because the muffins are dense and gooey; this is a good thing.)
Somewhere in the middle of the baking, around 10 minutes through, remove the muffin tin carefully from the oven (but leave the oven on!) Press Hershey’s chocolate kisses gently into the top center of each partly-baked muffin, with the tip facing down. Return to oven for remaining time.
Allow to cool as long as the willpowers that be will permit, and dig in!
I think these taste best warm with the chocolate all melty, but they are also good from the fridge the next day.
Hi. I’ll spare you the long apology for why I haven’t blogged since (I’m afraid to check how long it’s been.) In brief, I’ve been stranded in a desolate place called college, where there is little to no opportunity for ventures into the unexplored world of baked, cooked, or blended nutriment. If you regret not seeing any fun recipes on this site for the past millennium or so, imagine how I must have felt having to eat the distinctively uncreative food available in my isolated confinement.
Overall, I actually had a pretty good first year of college, aside from estrangement from my blender. But that’s boring and I won’t get into it right now. Are you ready for an ice cold summer refreshment smooth as the most decadent of ice creams yet packed with hearty grains and splashed with the splendid kiss of tart berries? Here is your (5-ingredients only!) recipe.
Simple Chocolate Berry Oat Shake
- 8 fresh strawberries
- 1 Weight Watchers brand (or similar) chocolate fudge ice cream bar
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 tbs fruit preserves (I used Whole Foods 365 brand Fruits of the Forest flavor spread)
- 1 individual packet dry instant oatmeal (I used Quaker lower sugar maple and brown sugar)
Wash strawberries, remove stems and leaves, and chop each into three or four large pieces (to ease blending.) If desired, reserve one strawberry for decoration.
Combine strawberries, ice cream bar, water and fruit preserves in blender. Blend until smooth.
Open oatmeal packet and pour dry oatmeal into blender. Blend for 8-16 seconds (longer blending leads to smoother texture, but I like some grainy chunks in my shakes.)
Pour smoothie into glass and serve cold.
If you live in the US and ever shop at such supermarkets as Safeway or Albertson’s, you’ve probably been inundated recently with flimsy paper game boards and tiny tear-off tickets. The goal of the Monopoly grocery game, as you may or may not have cared to read in the instructions, is to keep shopping, wear your eyes to charcoal nubs and hunch your back into a hilltop while you pore over the game board, struggling to match a set of alphanumerical tickets to the prize that a certain combination allows you to win, “potentially.”
Meanwhile, the grocery store issues the same tickets over and over so you’d have to travel the US to find all the unique codes to win a prize. If this seems like too much work, there is also an online sweepstakes wherein you can enter codes on specially-marked tickets and get a message that your code is not a winner. In exchange, the site will collect your contact info for who knows what subliminal purpose, as if the great wide Internet didn’t already provide this information for anyone curious as long as the inquirer swore their conniving intentions.
If you by some cosmic accident earn all the tickets required for a certain prize, you can take your fragile ticket-game-board to a store and, providing no desperate rival tears it out of your grasp on the journey, show your “potential winning game board” to an employee, who will surely call over several others of increasingly intimidating stature within the company hierarchy, until one finally has the authority to convince you that you are not eligible to receive your prize after all.
Or, alternately, the employees may surrender and give you that $35,000 vehicle or $200 family picnic. Thinking you have triumphed, you will march through all the red tape to actually obtain your prize, no doubt to find that your Cinderella story is fleeting: the fairy godmother may give you a free car, but she’ll certainly not help you pay for gas or maintenance after that fender-bender resulting from your boundless road excitement upon having won against all odds. You may well receive a free jar of pickles for a family picnic, but there’s no guarantee your family will be willing to budge from the Superbowl commercials or eat their sandwiches without fighting over the Frisbee and making all the potato salad spill on your nice new checkered blanket. Is that heartwarming family experience really worth $200? Or your newly incurred blindness and hunchback?
For most of us, who will not “win” anything at all, the contest simply results in lifelong trauma from seeing this old geezer threatening us with the heavy hand of capitalism around every corner of the supermarket:
Regardless of the threat posed by this skulking symbol of human subjugation and dehumanization as hopeful middle-class citizens are reduced to statistics in an odds ratio, I have bravely continued to shop at my local grocery stores. After all, I had to buy ingredients for this fudgey, chocolatey breakfast cake for one with a touch of tropical tang that made my morning marvelous. Besides, I might as well collect the tickets while they’re available: I might win a prize!
You don’t have to win the lottery to taste this hearty, intriguing, and indulgent microwave cake. All you need is five minutes, a microwave, and a few commonplace ingredients you probably already have lying around (feel free to replace the brands/flavors I used with ones that suit you). Fuel up for the race to the top – but don’t get so strong and nourished you beat me to that $200 family picnic, or I’ll be so mad I just might have to sue you!
Chocolate Fudge Breakfast Cake with Peachy Mango Tang
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
- one single-serving packet bananas ‘n’ cream instant oatmeal
- dash ginger
- 1 egg
- one single-serve Jell-O brand sugar free crème brûlée rice pudding cup (103 grams)
- 1 tbs chocolate peanut butter blend (I used Reese’s Spreads)
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tbs semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle)
- one container nonfat peach Greek yogurt
- 1 tbs sweetened flaked coconut
- handful of dried mango (I used a 10 g pouch of Crispy Green brand dried mango)
- 1 tsp honey
In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine cocoa, oatmeal, and ginger. Mix.
Beat in egg. Add pudding, peanut butter, and honey. Mix to combine. Batter will be thick.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Microwave batter in microwave-safe bowl for about 2 minutes or until cooked through (I did 1-1/2 minutes but found my cake was just a little on the fudgey side).
Top with yogurt, coconut flakes, dried mango, and a drizzle of honey. Enjoy warm.
Lately I’ve been thinking up desserts to represent the major princess tales we all loved/hated as children: what type of cake would tell the story of The Little Mermaid? How to design a sticky bun fit for Cinderella? I like the idea of desserts based on fairytales because 1) it’s a fun idea for a kids’ party (and by kids I mean kids of ANY age), 2) desserts are a necessary part of life and abstaining from them will NOT yield an anatomically-impossible Disney-Princess figure, it will just turn girls into Grumpy of the Seven Dwarfs. All of today’s princesses should enjoy life and learn to accept their realistic figures. 3) I’m really into fantasy writing at the moment. Immersion in the genre through handmade food is a
procrastination technique method writing exercise.
Anyway, one of the dessert ideas that stuck in my head was a wake-up cake for Snow White, so she wouldn’t have to wait for a kiss from some wayward prince. Chocolate espresso fudge is a sweeter awakening than insistent lips anyway. Add some spiced Granny Smith apples and melty chocolate morsels and this dessert is a masterpiece fit for royalty! I also mixed in some Post Cocoa Pebbles cereal to go along with the breakfast theme, but unfortunately the cereal didn’t stay crunchy and so it doesn’t add much to the texture. I recommend replacing it with something flavorful, such as chocolate covered dried fruit mixed into the batter.
While it is a refreshing bite cold from the fridge, I find this fudge cake most tasty warm, with the chocolate morsels melting at the slightest brush of the fork and the aroma of tart baked apple permeating the deep, barely sweet chocolate.
For those who like their chocolate cake a bit sweeter, I might add some additional sweetener by substituting a sweeter liquid for the yogurt in this recipe. I also accidentally used twice as much salt as the 1/2 teaspoon I had intended, but I don’t think it affected the taste noticeably, so use however much or little salt you prefer.
Snow White Fudge Apple Pie
Adapted from recipe on Add a Pinch
Makes one 9″ round cake/pie/thing
Serves about 8
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
- 1 packet Starbucks Via Veranda Blend
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or use agave to increase sweet taste)
- 5.3 oz Greek 2% apple cinnamon flavored yogurt (or use regular yogurt for more sweetness)
- 7 fl. oz (one container) Früzinga brand honey vanilla drinkable yogurt (or use any other sweet liquid such as flavored milk, almond milk, etc.)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup cocoa pebbles cereal (I recommend replacing this with dried fruit, nuts, chocolate-covered fruit, etc. for more flavor/texture contrast)
- 1 medium Granny Smith apple
- dash of cinnamon
- dash of nutmeg
- pinch of ginger
- 1/4 cup cocoa pebbles (or other mix-in/topping of choice)
- 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle Toll House)
Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line a 9″ cake pan with aluminum foil. Apply nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, cocoa, instant coffee, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Beat in egg with a fork.
Add maple, yogurts, and vanilla extract. Use a hand mixer on a medium speed to blend the batter.
Reduce mixing speed to low as you slowly add the boiling water to the batter.
Mix for about one minute on high. Batter should be thin.
Stir in your mix-ins (Cocoa Pebbles, dried fruit, etc.)
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for a total of about 30-35 minutes or until set, removing from oven after about 20 minutes to add topping before baking is finished.
Chop Granny Smith apple into small chunks. Toss with the cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
After baking the cake at 350 Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, remove from oven and sprinkle on the spice-coated apple pieces evenly. Add chocolate chips and your dried fruit or other mix-in (I used Cocoa Pebbles.) Then bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Serve this cake hot. After all, it has to replace an unconscious kiss and awaken a very sleepy Snow White…
Today is New Year’s Eve, a sleepless night of lavish parties, overconsumption of hors-dœuvres, and potential substance abuse, for many celebrants.
Tomorrow is New Year’s Day, the first day of many people’s new health regimes for 2016. Far too many of us are unsatisfied with our physical bodies and resolve to alter them, often using drastic measures that compromise our personal qualities such as compassion and patience. (Anyone who has ever had a family member or friend go a week on only spinach and grapefruit can attest that they aren’t very fun to converse with at the breakfast table during that time.)
Far too many of these so-called health resolutions will fall by the wayside within a few months, as people slip back into old routines that may not provide optimal nourishment for their bodies. Rather than making a resolution I can’t keep, this year I hope to explore more ways to nourish all levels of my being while also treating myself to something that’s going to put me in a good mood for conversation! (Especially as one of my other hopes for the year is to make some new friends). With recipes such as this fueling, decadent smoothie, I can get the best balance of physical, emotional, mental, and gustatory health.
This satisfying smoothie is perfect for breakfast, an afternoon pick-me-up, or a secretly healthy dessert. A sophisticated blend of subtle mocha, rich chocolate, salty nut butter, juicy pear, and sweet banana, serve cold and savor (that is, if you happen to live in a place that’s warm enough for cold drinks in January!)
Nutty Mocha Almond Fudge Pear Smoothie
- 1/2 cup plain almond milk
- 1 single-serving container of dark chocolate pudding (I used Jell-O sugar free)
- 1 whole fresh pear, washed and cut into large chunks
- 1 frozen banana (or use a fresh banana and add more ice)
- 1 small ice cube
- 1 So Delicious brand Mocha Almond Fudge frozen almond milk bar
- 1 tbs nut butter (I only had crunchy peanut butter, but almond butter would match the theme of the smoothie better if you prefer.)
Place almond milk, pudding, pear, banana, and ice cubes in blender.
Carefully break off some of the chocolate coating on the frozen almond milk bar using a spoon. Reserve in a cool place for topping.
Spoon the rest of the frozen almond milk bar into the blender with the other ingredients.
Blend until completely smooth.
Pour into a tall glass. Top with a dollop of nut butter and a gaggle of chocolate-almond pieces. Go nuts over this addictive treat any time of day!
Note: this smoothie can easily be made vegan by using vegan pudding and making sure all other ingredients are certified vegan.
I come from a cereal breakfast family. Every morning when I was in elementary school, I took for granted that cereal with milk would be breakfast. It wasn’t until high school that I began to branch out with toast, eggs, and other more interesting creations. But I can’t say I’ve never looked back.
Over the years, various brands and flavors of cereal have taken on certain characters for me based on the memories I associate with them.
For instance, one of the Spiderman movies came out when my brother and I were both in a Froot-Loops phase. The cereal began advertising Spiderman trinket bobbleheads inside each box, so every time we opened a new box we’d discover a new plastic treasure to end up forgotten on the floor a few minutes later. Now every time I see a picture of Spiderman I smell the sugar and food coloring of Froot-Loops.
Image copyright Marvel Comics, found on https://craytoncomicblog.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/review-157-carnage-1-oktober-2010-marvel-comics/
When I was around twelve, in that awkward stage between unhealthy child muncher and unhealthy dieting tween, my family was on vacation in some So-Cal town. Because everyone was picky about breakfast, Dad took us kids to the local grocery store to get whatever we were willing to eat. I actually wanted to try something different, so I picked out Cinnabon cereal: basically tiny stale cinnamon buns in milk.
I was disappointed that the cereal wasn’t as amazing as a real cinnamon bun. My mom also noted that it was lower in nutritional value than the cereals I would usually eat at home (Special K, Honey Bunches of Oats, Post Selects, etc.) I renounced the cereal, teary-eyed and embarrassed.
The lowest calorie cereal I could find in the grocery store back home was Fiber One 80 calorie cardboard squares. My first year of high school, I would pour a few squares into a bowl that had once overflowed with Froot-Loops, add a few drops of skim milk, and slice up two strawberries to match the picture on the box.
Image found on http://www.mrbreakfast.com/cereal_detail.asp?id=1462
One time my mom was trying to convince me I wasn’t eating enough and insisted upon measuring my cereal. I was terrified I would discover I had poured more than a serving size into the bowl, but actually it was less than the stated 3/4 cup. My mom and I looked each other in the eye, both knowing I had a problem, both unsure whether to laugh or cry. I’ll always remember that moment as one of the painful sunbeams that has illuminated my long and ongoing path to healing.
This past summer, my mother, 14-year-old brother and I were on snack break at the Natural History Museum. I chose to grab a single-serving convenience cup of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds, an old favorite, and some Greek yogurt to mix into it.
Image credit: “NaturalHistoryMuseumOfLosAngelesCounty” by David Leigh Ellis – Self-photographed. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NaturalHistoryMuseumOfLosAngelesCounty.jpg#/media/File:NaturalHistoryMuseumOfLosAngelesCounty.jpg
My brother eyed my purchase suspiciously and remarked, “You know those cereal cups are for college students, right?” Since I was shipping off to my first year of college at the end of the month, I felt entitled to eat college convenience food. My brother just shook his head as I mixed the yogurt into the sweet granola clusters and flakes. Clearly I was a precocious one.
I haven’t seen any convenience cups of Honey Bunches of Oats at the 7-11 near my college. I’ve missed them, and I feel like I’m not getting the real college experience my brother promised. So now while home for winter break, I decided recently to pick up a full box at the grocery store, a better value than those individual cups anyway. As soon as I brought it home, my mind was whirring with ideas of recipes to use it in.
This one is pretty simple: a fueling, invigorating blueberry orange smoothie with a full serving of Post Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds for added crunch and a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter for added energy. Feel free to use almond butter or any other nut butter of your choosing.
Blueberry Orange Peanut Butter Crunch Smoothie
- one single-serving container Greek blueberry yogurt (I used Yoplait Greek 100)
- 1/2 cup plain almond milk
- 1 whole large navel orange
- 1 frozen banana (or use a fresh banana and add more ice)
- a couple ice cubes
- 3/4 cup Post Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal
- 1 tbs crunchy peanut butter
Peel orange and separate segments for easier blending. Place most of the orange segments in the blender, but reserve one or two for garnish.
Pour almond milk into blender. Add yogurt, frozen banana, and ice cubes.
Blend until smooth
Add cereal and blend for about five seconds, just to mix it in.
Pour smoothie into serving glass. Garnish with reserved orange slice(s) and a scoop of your favorite nut butter. Enjoy cold.
Up and at ’em!
No, I’m not saying goodbye to granola! That would be a tragedy, as it’s practically the reason I get up many mornings. But the reality is, I’m probably saying goodbye to making it myself for a while. In fact, most things I’ll be eating at the dining hall or buying at the grocery store, since I’m going to college next week. So as a way of saying goodbye to baking, as well as to my mom, who love peanut butter and granola, I made this granola today.
It contains chocolate chunks and dried raspberries, a combination that reminds me of Valentine’s Day. I almost coated the oats with cocoa powder, but my mom talked me out of it. And I’m glad she did – she and I both liked this granola just the way it is! Click here for the full recipe.