Banana Oatmeal Bran Muffins

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I’m not a huge fan of bran muffins, to tell the truth. I mean, the older I get the more I appreciate their functionality in my diet, but they’re still not a favourite. The Pie absolutely LOVES them, though. I swear he’s actually seventy. So I thought I’d play around with the mixture a bit and see if I could come up with something that still had all the benefits of bran with a bit more of a flavour, and these not-too-sweet muffins did the trick.

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These can also be frozen in their unbaked form for cooking up later, which is handy for me as I am yet again filling up friends’ freezers in anticipation of future little ones. All you do is scoop the mixed batter into cupcake liners, freeze them, and then add five minutes to the baking time when you bake them from frozen. Easy peasy.

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But of course you want to try some of these puppies right away. So preheat your oven to 350°F and line some muffin tins with liners (or give them a good spraying or buttering, whatever suits). I doubled this recipe (so I could freeze some) so don’t be alarmed at the massive amounts in the pictures. Deep breaths.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour, 1 cup oats (rolled, not steel cut), 1 cup bran, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. That’s your dry bowl.

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For your liquids you’ll likely need a bit more preparation. First, I had some bananas in the freezer that needed thawing out, but when they were good and squishy I went ahead and mushed up 3 ripe bananas.

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You’ll also need some buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk you can simply sour regular milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice or vinegar to every cup of milk you use and letting that sit for about 5 minutes. For this recipe you’ll need 2 cups buttermilk/soured milk. I also opted to switch out the traditional molasses used in bran muffins for 1/2 cup honey. In addition to that in your liquid bowl you’ll need 1 large egg and 4 tablespoons melted butter.

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Mix both the liquids and the dry stuff well, but SEPARATELY. The whole trick with muffins is not mixing them too much. I think in this case with me trying to incorporate the bananas I ended up overmixing but you should try not to do that.

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Your batter should still be pretty lumpy when you tip in 1 cup raisins or nuts (optional).

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Scoop your batter into your prepared tins and either freeze them or bake them for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre muffin comes out clean.

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Let those cool in the pan about 5 minutes before scooping out to a wire rack to cool completely.

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I like eating them still-hot with a wee bit of butter. So good!

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Fast-Tip Friday: The Salad Roll

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If you haven’t seen this little trick before then I’m super pleased to be able to be the one to show it to you. One of our issues when we make salads or deal with fresh greens is that we always have way too many and they get all gross after just a few days. So one of the tricks we picked up in Newfoundland (the land of rotten vegetables) is this: the salad roll.

So you take your greens, spinach, lettuce, whatever, and you give it a good wash and a bit of a shake (so that there’s still some water on the leaves).

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Then you lay it out in a thin layer along the length of a clean dish towel.

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And you roll it up. Not too tightly. But tight enough that the leaves aren’t sliding around in there.

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Then you can toss this in the fridge and your greens will last so much longer!

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Weird Fruit Wednesday

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When I’m allowed to go to the grocery store by myself and I have the time to poke around I tend to come back with things that we’ve never tried before, and I especially like doing that with weird and wonderful fruits. On this day I brought back a quince (with which I was somewhat familiar), two tamarillos, and a horned melon (otherwise known as a kiwano).

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Sometimes my experiments with new fruit end poorly (remember the cherimoya incident?).  And of course I didn’t do any research before I cracked these babies open (hindsight is 20/20).

In this case, though, I didn’t need to prepare ahead of time and just dove right in. I should have realized the quince was completely unripe just by touching it. Similar to an apple or pear, it was so hard and sour that I’ve put it in the fridge in the hopes that I can stew it into something less objectionable with a lot of sugar.

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I think I liked the tamarillos best of the whole thing. The skin tastes terrible, so don’t eat it, but you can scoop out the seeds and a bit of the inner flesh and to me it tastes like a combination of passion fruit and persimmon.

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The kiwano was harder to get into but I went with my instincts and I’d picked a nice ripe one. The seeds squeeze out and taste kind of like a cucumber mixed with a banana.

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What new foods have you tried recently?

Chipotle Beans (and Rice!)

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This probably should be a Wingin’ it Wednesday kind of post but it’s so good I simply can’t wait that long. This came out of the fact that I had been remiss in cleaning our refrigerator and there were some sad looking contents that really needed to be dealt with.

It also makes for a super quick dinner because most of the ingredients just need to be heated up and then you’re set.

Start by cooking up (or heating up) some rice. I’m using brown rice here because that’s the sum total of rice I had in my house but you can use whatever you want.

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Then I chopped some stuff: onions, green onions

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Some cold Italian sausages we’d barbecued the night before …

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And some very sorry-looking tomatoes.

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Then I drained and rinsed a can of black beans. You can use any kind of bean you like – just make sure they’re not dried or that would taste bad.

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Then I heated up some oil and butter in my big cast iron skillet and cooked the onions until they were translucent and smelled amazing.

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Added in some garlic and the beans and gave that a stir.

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Then I chucked in the rest of the stuff.

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Added a wee sprinkling of ground chipotle.

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And a few dollops of sweet salsa (this stuff has mangos in it and I love it).

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Then I stirred it all around until everything was soft and amazing.

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And then served it over rice with a dollop of sour cream.

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The cilantro garnish is growing on my table. I hope it will flourish in the backyard once it gets warmer.

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This was so good I don’t want to wait until I clean the fridge again to make it once more!

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Spring Not Sprung

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Before I begin with our regular post today I want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to each and every one of you who wrote in with your support this past week. The Pie and I really appreciate all your positive comments and we’re really grateful for the fantastic crowd that shows up on the Ali Does It site.

Now enough with the mushy stuff.

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Whoever said that April showers bring May flowers clearly never visited my neck of the woods. What April showers bring is a giant swamp at the bottom of my yard and pretty much nothing else. While the bulbs and perennials are just starting to think about poking shoots out of the soil, and while the grass is starting to shade itself just this side of brown, we still have a long way to go.

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So I figured if I couldn’t bring spring inside with me, I’d bring some form of nature in instead.

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I’ve been staring at these seed pods on my daily dog walks since the fall and I absolutely love them. I figured that they’ve long since dropped whatever seeds were in them so it wouldn’t be a bad thing to haul a few with me back to the house.

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Not exactly a harbinger of spring but pretty nonetheless.

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And there’s a wee bit of spring showing there, too.

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Eggless Chocolate Egg Cookies

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Necessity is the mother of invention. These cookies were a necessity. They were made under less-than-happy circumstances. We’d just come to the realization that Indy was no longer safe living in our house and we had to take him back to the breeder as soon as possible in order to avoid compromising his physical and mental health and to start the hard road of Gren’s anti-anxiety conditioning right away. To say we were abjectly miserable would be a gross understatement.

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So I made these cookies as a bit of cold comfort for the situation. I’d already braved the supermarket with sunglasses and a hat to hide my red eyes in order to take advantage of half-price Cadbury Mini Eggs, but when I got back I discovered I was completely out of eggs, and I just didn’t have it in me to go back. So I simply went without. And here’s the recipe for it.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.

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In another, larger bowl, cream together 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

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You can do this with a mixer but I did it by hand so as not to wake up my sleeping dogs. We were all having a spectacularly bad day.

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Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup milk or cream.

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Now gradually add in your flour mixture and stir until everything is uniform.

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Grab about 1 cup chocolate eggs (Cadbury’s are the best) and smash them up a bit (or don’t smash them, that’s up to you). Chuck them into the dough and mix it around. Now I don’t usually have the patience to chill dough but this stuff is much easier to manipulate if you chuck it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

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When you’re ready to bake, set your oven to 325°F and line some baking sheets with parchment paper.

Form the dough into little balls and press them onto the baking sheets. These don’t expand very much so you can make them whatever size you want.

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Bake for about 10-12 minutes and remove from the oven to let cool completely on the sheet, on a rack. I don’t recommend moving these until they’re more or less cool as they’re a little unstable when hot.

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Indy News

Unfortunately it’s sad news, everyone.

Gren’s aggression to Indy has been escalating in the past week, not de-escalating, and we brought in an experienced dog handler, Lynn Hyndman of Dogs in Harmony (thanks for the recommendation Danger K) to see if anything could be done.

Unfortunately, what she saw only confirmed the growing suspicion I’ve had in the past couple days that things were not going to get any better – that in fact they were simply going to get much, much worse.

Gren is an anxious dog, always has been. With our limited knowledge we tried to mitigate it as best we could over the past four years. We thought that getting him a companion would be a welcome distraction for him and help to calm him down a bit. Instead, the opposite happened. And if we let it continue it would only lead to a dangerous safety situation for Indy with damaging psychological effects in the future, and would make Gren even weirder than he already is.

So yesterday the Pie and I drove Indy away and gave him back to the breeders, who promised to find him a good home where he’ll get the training and affection he needs.

I am by no means an advocate of giving up on pets for the sake of convenience – that’s why animal shelters worldwide are over-capacity. The Pie and I were willing to do whatever it took to make sure we had two happy and healthy dogs. In this particular case it means that we had to give one to someone else and embark on a rigorous rehabilitation program for the other in order for that to happen.

Lynn will be working with us for the next while to help combat Gren’s near constant level of anxiety in the hopes that we can make him a more chill and happier dog who maybe one day will be able to welcome a new dog into the home. Maybe.

So we are not giving up, though it sure feels like it right now. We hope Indy finds a great home somewhere and grows up happy and healthy and we already miss him so very much.

Flower Easter Eggs

adventures in grown-up living

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