Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Muffin That Saved Me

My dog died last week. Tiny Bijou was a sweet, red-fawn colored greyhound that was retired from dog-racing after she had 5 lousy races at the age of 2.  She was an awesome dog. Loving, sweet, and loved stealing baked goods left on the counter. She was 8 years old when she died.  It was sudden, it was unexpected and it sucked.  I miss her terribly.  My house is incredibly empty during the day, despite the presence of my other greyhound, Flapjack.  I have been pouring over my recipes to keep busy.  My trainer put me on 2 weeks of (booooring) or pilates (yowza!) and walking (Gotta walk The Flap) only.  I'm losing my mind.  When I lost my mind in the past, I would turn to baking and eating as outlets.  After losing a bunch of weight, neither of those seems appealing.  I still love to bake, but after making a batch Rice Krispies treats for my kids yesterday and mowing down 3 in one sitting, I was forced to realize that I'm just too vulnerable to be making the 100 Grand Cake I was planning on baking this weekend.  Then my son Jasper asked me to make muffins.  AH HA!  THAT I could do...because the muffins he likes are my own safe recipe.  I need to keep busy, people and the precision of baking makes me feel in control of my out-of-control life.  I couldn't control Bijou's outcome, but I know how these muffins will turn out so I take some small comfort in that. 

If you think that a muffin you buy at Starbucks or any bakery for that matter, is a nutritious breakfast food, then you are most likely kidding yourself.  I'm not saying you shouldn't treat yourself to that crumb-topped blueberry beauty with your latte once in a while, I'm just saying that if you read a cake recipe and a muffin recipe side-by-side, you will realize they are the extremely similar...especially in the calorie department.  Same amounts of butter, white flour, eggs, sugar, etc.  Add a handful of blueberries and it magically makes it good for you?  Uhhhh NO.  You might as well just eat that leftover slice of birthday cake for breakfast.  The muffin "usually" isn't the better choice of breakfast breads. Sorry. 
I'll never forget when Trader Joe's tried to con us all with their "fiber muffins".  If you want to gag on one of THOSE fruity-cinnamon-fiber-bombs then you might as well eat one while sitting directly on the toilet.  Remember the Colon Blow skit from SNL?  Buyer beware.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  You'll also need a GIANT glass of water to wash that sucker down or you probably will choke. Uggh. 

Bottom line is, if you want a better muffin, you're going to have to bake it yourself.

When I became the overly-hyper mother of a picky toddler, I took a recipe I found online and modified it to better suit my child's nutritional needs.  He loves them.  There is one caveat:  the sugar.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not successfully cut the sugar.  I tried using Splenda, I tried using stevia (that was the grossest one yet). I tried using half sugar/half "sweetener". Oh well.  I'm over it.  Sugar wins this time. 
I did cut the amount of chocolate in HALF but switching to mini-chocolate chips because they distribute better in the batter so GO ME. Also, if you do use the applesauce instead of butter, they tend to stick to the cupcake paper a bit more than your average muffin, but my kids aren't opposed to scraping off those bits with their teeth. It's part of the experience really.

Without further ado, The Muffin Recipe that saved me this weekend:

Susanna's Hyper-Mom Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes 12 regular OR 48 mini muffins...or 24 minimuffins & 6 regular...because I don't have more than one mini-muffin tin.  Go figure.)

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour (or white all-purpose works fine too, it's just less nutritious but whatevs)
1/3 cup Ground Flaxseed
1/3 cup Wheat Germ (store the jar in the fridge once you open it)
1/2 cup Evil White Sugar
1/2 cup Evil packed Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs (I use the ones with Omega 3's for added benefit)
1 tsp.Vanilla
1 c. canned Pumpkin (loaded with Vitamin A and fiber!)
1/2 c. unsweetened Applesauce (You can use 1 stick of melted butter instead - if you dare)
1/2 c. Mini-Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line your muffin tins with papers. 
Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk eggs, pumpkin, applesauce & vanilla until blended.  Pour wet ingredients over the dry and fold them together until moistened.  Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop evenly into paper-lines muffin tins. 

Mini-muffin bake for about 12 minutes.  Large muffins bake for 18-20minutes.  Use a toothpick and when it comes out clean, they are done.  DO NOT overbake.  Cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

As you can see, a few are missing.  My family couldn't wait for me to take the pic.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New and Improved! Now With 30% Less Fat and Excuses!

A year ago, I ventured out into the word of blogging.  Overweight, newly relocated, bored, trapped in the house during the brutal Houston weather of summer and fall (AND spring, apparently!) with 2 young kids, I started doing this.  Baking and writing about it.  It did me good at first, but then it got me thinking.  How am I going to get all this weight off and bake all this delicious stuff with few people to unload it on?  Good question. The answer was to start AFTER Christmas.  I wrote an intallation called "Oh Fuuuuuudge" during the Holidays and I never posted it (at least I don't think I did) because I hired a trainer at the YMCA and decided getting my shit together was more important than telling it on the mountain about fudge.  The LAST thing I needed to be thinking about was fudge.  So I let my blog go for a while. 
It's now the end of August of 2013 and what do I have to show for myself?  Well, I'm 30 lbs lighter for starters.  Diet, exercise, lifesyle changes. That's how I did it.  The old fashioned way:  I EARRRRRRRNED IT.  No shakes, no pills, powders or magical frozen foods.  I stuck to the basic Weight Watchers plan, which I find to be quite healthy and reasonable, allowing for dining out and splurges from time to time while keeping me grounded.  I've been waiting a long time to be back at my "wedding weight".  It took some work.  The food was the hardest part. 

I know this is a food blog, and we'll talk about that in the future...but right now I want to get something off my chest.  People often ask me how lost weight.  The answer is: I've done this before.  I know exactly what it takes to do it.  Is this time different from the other times? Yes. Was it harder? Yes. WHY??? 
Because I'm older, have a slower metabolism, I have kids now, I'm more busy, more stressed, more lonely, more vulnerable, more bored,  blah blah blah.  These are all excuses. Excuses why I COULDN'T but DID ANYWAYS. 
I want to rant about EXCUSES.  Everyone has one when it comes to losing weight...or more than one.  I once was the QUEEN of them! Here's a little insight into that.

Everytime you set foot into Starbucks (or the like) and ordered a sugary bullshit coffee drink, or a "skinny latte" that made it "ok" for you to go ahead and eat that cake pop with it, you probably made 100 excuses in your head to reach your outcome.  I've been there.  I've done that. 
I was fat because of it.
You might be fat because of it. 
Maybe you aren't.
You know who you are.
The point I want to make is that successful weightloss begins with banishing excuses. 
You had a bad day. 
You already blew it earlier in the week/day/hour/minute.
You're hungry.
You're thirsty.
Everyone else is having something.
That skinny person is eating ___, so I can have it too.
The list goes one and on. 
Want to know what I did?  I said things to myself.  Things like NO. NOPE. LOOK AWAY.  And then I took my own advice.  Every candy bar at the grocery store. Every cookie, every bag of chips. NO. NOPE. LOOK AWAY.
I cried to my friends (thank GOD for unlimited long distance!) and my husband when I wanted to eat something I wasn't supposed to. I screamed. I cried. I went to bed early.  I went to the gym. I went for a walk.
I STOPPED MAKING EXCUSES.  When I made a mistake, I OWNED it and moved on.
Even during the Holidays, I KNEW it would be I signed up with the trainer right after Thanksgiving, so I wouldn't go off the deep end at Christmas and gain MORE weight.  I vowed to maintain.  I didn't make an excuse, I made a PACT.  It worked.  It motivated me. 
Can't afford a trainer?  That's an excuse.  I've done this WITHOUT a trainer. I just wanted more accountability this time because I don't have the workout buddies I once had. 
For the record, 30 minutes once a week cost me THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY I was spending on Starbucks, lunches out, cockails, WINE, frozen sugar OOPS I mean, yogurt, and other "treats" that were ruining my body.  Do I still sometimes have treats?  Oh yeah.  But I'm smarter about it.  And I don't make an excuse for it.  I plan for it, have a little, enjoy it and move on.
The Holidays are coming.  I love to bake.  I'm planning on doing quite a bit of it. 
I don't enjoy "diet" baked goods.  Who does? Yuck!  It's all or nothing for me.  I'm just going to be smarter about it.
I'm going to plan for it, have a LITTLE, enjoy it and move on.
Today I threw out 2 slices of HOMEMADE poundcake that a neighbor made for me.  I had some, it was AMAZING but I didn't need more.  It bummed me out to toss it at first but now I feel great because those last 2 slices aren't pasted on my ass.  I celebrated by buying myself a pair of size 8 jeans. I used to be a 16.  I'm not afraid to throw stuff out.
That poundcake didn't taste as good as thin feels. 

Join me as I bake my way through the fall and winter months.  I've met some of my neighbors and they will be gifted reasonable portions of my goods.  My husband's office also takes kindly to my baking endeavors.  I'm taking suggestions for things to bake for my blog so comment away!

Plan for it.  Have a little and enjoy it. Move on.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My American Pie

It's election day, people! I voted.  I'm not telling for whom, since it's none of your beeswax...but I'm American, you see, and it is my duty.  I got up, stuck my hair in a ponytail, slapped on a sports bra and some ill-fitting workout shorts, fed my kids some waffles, drove the boy to preschool and on the way home, decided to vote.  Margo was ready for a nap, but I'm an AMERICAN, and THAT is more important than naptime, people. 

Expecting to pop in and out, I wore not a sweatshirt, nor was my 15 month old wearing long sleaves or socks.  Baaaaad Mommy. It was about 59 degrees out.  We waited for 45 minutes...20 of which was indoors.  I've waited longer to get on Space Mountain so whatevs.  She lived. Texas has fancy-schmancy electronic voting!  It was quick once I got to my booth!  I needed a photo ID, which doesn't surprise me, although I suspect that could be illegal, but whatever.  It's a red state.  Gotta get used to stuff like this I guess. 
Margo was fairly cooperative and having gotten my duty out of the way so early in the morning, I decided it was an American Pie kind of day! 

Now, most people think American "apple" pie, but not me.  You see, I have not the patience to dick around with that little apple-corer-peeler jobbie that you clamp to your counter and crank away at.  I do not own one. I do not WANT one.  DON'T GET ME ONE.  By God, I'll send it straight to the Goodwill right after telling you how much I "love" it.  SO DON'T DO IT.  My good friend lent me hers once.  What a gigantic MESS that was.  Apple juice and pulp EVERYWHERE.  Sticky, sticky, sticky. Honestly, I could have done a faster, cleaner job over the sink with a Swiss peeler and some elbow grease.  But I digress...  When I think of American pie, I think of PUMPKIN PIE!
Who doesn't love a nice custardy slice of fresh pumpkin pie?  SO much easier to make.  Plus, with Thanksgiving on the way and Halloween a faint memory from a week ago, canned pumpkin is all over the grocery stores. 

My issues with pie crust continue however, in that lately, I've been feeling a bit chubby with my baking and eating practices...and with an upcoming and most certain to be indulgent trip to California on the calendar for Thanksgiving, I decided to lighten things up. 

Years ago, I was given a recipe by my Weight Watchers leader Mary Anne Benedetti, who has since moved on to greener pastures but still looks great.  She likes to cook and bake too, so there is no need to be skeptical.  This is the real deal, people.   It's a "Crustless" pumpkin pie.  It's also fat and cholesterol free and utterly AMAZING with a little fat free Cool Whip (I know, I know, BLASPHEMY!" on your slice.  It's always the SKINNY foodies that criticize things like fat free Cool Whip.  It has its place when you really need it.  I don't suggest you eat it as a meal replacement (DUH!), but when you're low on Points and want dessert, this makes a cracker-jack topping for few calories. 

I might also add that not needing to jimmy around with CRUST, makes this pie SO EASY!  You literally whisk everything in a bowl and dump it into a pie plate sprayed with cooking spray and bake it.  Not rocket science, people.  So go and make this.  It makes 6 generous servings.


1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground Ginger
1/4 tsp. Allspice
1/2 cup Egg Beaters (fat free egg substitute)
15 oz. can of Pumpkin Puree
12 oz. can of Fat Free Evaporated Milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a pie plate with PAM or other nonstick cooking spray.  Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Whisk in egg beaters, lightly beating it all together.  Whisk in pumpkin.  Lastly, whisk in evaporated milk until mixture looks uniform. 
Pour into prepared pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes @ 425 and THEN TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 350 degrees and continue baking for 40-50 minutes.  It should jiggle like jell-o when lightly shaken when it's done...NOT ripple like liquid.  Cool on a rack completely and then refrigerate it so it sets up. 

Here is the pie before baking.

Here is the pie AFTER baking.
Not too shabby, eh?  You'll never miss the crust or the fat.  It's just plain tasty.  I'm going to need something to nosh on anyways while my husband and I switch back and forth from channel to channel watching election coverage.  No matter what the outcome, at least I didn't have to worry about whether my crust was flaky enough!  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Easy as pie...crust.

Pie crust is a pastry that seems simple to make because so many people make chocolate chip cookies.  Well, I'm here to tell you it isn't.  There's an art to it, a certain "something".
Pie crust is something someone SHOWS you how to grandma, your auntie, your momma.  Not me. 
My mom showed me where the refrigerated Pillsbury section of the grocery store was. 
Then she showed me where the frozen Mrs.Smith's pies were in the freezer section and said, "No one can tell the difference". 
Ahhh!  Family Tradition!  Doesn't it warm your heart? HA!
SO I never learned to make a good crust.  I always overworked it or the ingredients weren't cold enough.  Sheeeeeesh!  Drama for yo' momma!  No wonder she never learned either!
The truth of the matter is, MOST people don't give a rat's ass about where the pie came from...especially at holidays where there is so much food that even though the attendance of the pie is "required", no one really CARES where it came from.  The pumpkin pie is HERE!  We can start Thanksgiving now!  Oh thank GOD!  Then it hardly gets eaten because everyone ate too much turkey.
The exception to this was last Thanksgiving.  I shudder to think about it.
You see, my attempts at pie crust had previously been heavy handed and unfortunate in their results.  SO, as a dutiful child, I bought my pie crust at the grocery store...PILLSBURY, baby!  We were visiting my husband's family in Louisiana and I was to have my FIRST Cajun Thanksgiving at my brother in law's house! Turducken! Boudin! Mmmmmm!  We were staying at my father-in-law's house, there was a kitchen so....I volunteered to make a couple of pies.  One was's the EASIEST pie to make.  Here I am, in a strange house, with minimal baking equipment, taking care of a 2 year old, and 3 month old infant, so HEY! I'll make pies too!  WHY NOT!?  Lack of sleep makes you delusional.
Fast forward to later that day, when we are at Thanksgiving.  The fellas are watching football, my son is playing with his cousin, the baby is getting passed around...and Southern women are eating my pie.
"Ohh! Did you make this crust!?", they say enthusiastically and expectantly, as it is common knowledge that I enjoy baking. 
"No", I said.  "I had to use Pillsbury". 

Oh. no. I. di'int.

I did NOT just tell these Southern woman the truth that I used a premade crust.  *sigh*.  Yes, I did.  STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!  DUMB! DUMB! DUMB! They smiled as if they understood, but then as we stood there "eating" the pie, I began to notice them eyeing it like there was a turd on the plate.  I excused myself to go "feed the baby", but I knew what they were going to do. 
THEY LEFT THE CRUST. They did.  I saw it.  They didn't eat it after I told them I hadn't made it myself.  I was humiliated.  I was.  I was mortified, humiliated, embarrassed.  I know a lot of people just don't eat the crust because A) it's caloric and B) isn't ever as good as the filling...but they had just ASKED ME about the level of deliciousness to expect.  I let them down.  I screwed their Thanksgiving pie up.  I RUINED Cajun Thanksgiving.  OK, maybe that's an over dramatization.  But I did feel bad.  I vowed to learn to make pie crust from scratch. 

So here we are, almost a year later. I had been pouring over the November issue of Martha Stewart Living and there it was: PIE CRUST 101.  The skies parted and the angels began to sing!!!  HERE was my answer!  So I made her crust.  It was an ALL BUTTER crust, made in the food processor (my kind of recipe!) with frozen butter!  Smart! Smart! Smart!  Oh Martha, how I love thee!  As I made the dough it looked EXACTLY like the pictures!  Maybe I CAN make crust after all! 
Then it all came crashing down...
My pie plate was too big.  It's a large, heavy, purple, ceramic Chantal pie plate that I just like the look of.  The crust was too small to reach the top!  I then downshifted and crimped it lower in the plate.  I blind baked it (covered it in foil with pie weights on top) and proceeded to make the filling. 
I chose a Honey Pecan Pie because ever since they mentioned it on an episode of Duck Dynasty, I just HAD to make it. You can find the recipe HERE
My second calamity of the day was that the filling of the pie left nearly 2 inches of crust above it!  So once again, my pie plate is just too damn big!  I just need a REGULAR pie plate, apparently.
I baked it off and served it at room temp with whipped cream.  It was REALLY delicious.  The filling was, that is.  The crust had a nice buttery flavor and wasn't the worst crust I had ever made, but it wasn't really flaky.  Next time, I think I'm going to go 50/50 butter and shortening and see how that turns out.  I like the taste of the butter but it's common knowledge that shortening makes a flakier crust.
So here's my pie. 

My sweet husband thought it was awesome and ate 2 huge slices.  The honey gives it a really nice and complex flavor.  I may never go back to other sugars for pecan pie again! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

We love our bread, we love our butter...but most of all, we love EACHOTHER

My son, Jasper, is 3 1/2.  He's a picky eater...always has been.  My friends have endured my meltdowns about his selective palate and it's been a long road for me since I love to cook and bake.  I have friends with worse problems...but when your child refuses your food it healthy, or unhealthy, delicious or marginal, it evokes this sensation of panic within your psyche of motherhood that I can't even begin to DESCRIBE.  As an epicurean, it's downright insulting! As his mother, it is my job to feed, to nourish, to provide.  When he does all but give you the finger in response to your offerings, it can seriously be maddening!  Three years of this.  Mixed in with that for fun, I had another kid...a daughter...who got jarred food instead of homemade because my self esteem couldn't take it anymore!  Well, more like I got a clue and I realized that my child needed to be held more than she needed me standing over my Cuisinart, swearing because I undercooked what was in there and it wouldn't get smooth enough.  She was higher maintenence and she just needed me in other capacities.  She is healthy and happy....Ohhhhhhh.....NOW I GET IT!
Feeding children isn't always sunshine, rainbows and effing YoBaby commercials! Food can evoke issues in a lot of people (me).  We are a nation of eaters.  I am an eater.  I've struggled with my weight for YEARS...not because I didn't know what I SHOULD be eating, but rather because what I SHOULDN'T tastes better in my most vulnerable hours.  Take a number, right?  Right.  We do our best with what we've got.  I've since learned to check my ego at the door when it comes to feeding my kids...for the most part.  Nobody's perfect.  Fortunately my son and I do share one thing in common..we both love dark chocolate...bittersweet preferably.  60-72% cacao is typically his favorite.  HE IS MINE AFTERALL! Oh wait, what did I say about checking my ego? Ha ha...oh yeah...back to the nobody's perfect line, people.
At the end of the day, it's all about the connections you make with one another.  I used to think it was about making organic, homemade babyfood concoctions to "expand his palate".  Now it's about making a mess in the kitchen together, or teaming up to make his baby sister laugh.  That's the stuff of love.  THAT'S what he'll remember and take with him to his own family.
Today, after an exhausting day of family fun at the pumpkin patch/hillbilly Disneyland, my husband and I decided to order a pizza instead of cook.  We all sat at the table together and I slid a slice of pepperoni pie onto Jasper's Lightening McQueen plate.  He then picked up his plastic cup of milk, holding it up as if he were toasting and recited his preschool mealtime mantra:
"We love our bread, we love our butter. But most of all, we love EACHOTHER. Bon we can eat".

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Quintessential Quince Tart: The Making!

Here are the pics of the process results. It was great and tremendous fun! It was sooooo delicious. It was orangey and spiced and quince-a-licious. The crust was...amazing. I'm pretty stoked with myself. What's next?

Quest for Quince 2012

Welcome to my first installation of "Sugar Coated".  I'm a mom that moved to Texas from California this summer and find myself home a lot with my children and I'm slowly losing my mind.  I had a lot of longtime friends back in CA and it's hard to start over.  You see, I never invisioned myself as a SAHM (stay at home mom).  I used to be a work-a-holic with a pastry certificate and a business degree now I wipe butts and sing "Wheels on the Bus".  I love my kids and my husband more than words can say, but I firmly believe that one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is showing them that YOU are a person with interests and dreams too so that they have the EXAMPLE and courage to pursue what makes them tick. 
I can do both. 
I can be a bomb-diggedy mom (BDM) and persue my other passions. 
SO here I am.  I've always loved to write.  I'm no Shakespeare or anything but hey, you don't have to read this if you don't want to.  It's a free country.  I love to bake.  I love my sometimes, I'll let them help.  Won't THAT be interesting!? lol  SO I'm gonna write about the WHOLE MESS OF IT ALL!!  Baking, cooking, mothering, sometimes all at the same time!
So let's get on with my latest project, shall we? 
Hang on to your hats and glasses, folks....

Now, those of you who know me, know that I recently read "Bread and Chocolate: My Food Life In and Around San Francisco" by Fran Gage, a well known baker, writer and foodie in the Bay Area.

Her chapter on the illusive quince fruit captivated me. I've had this book for 10 years and finally read it.  I was so curious about the quince tarts Fran made in her old San Francisco (it burned down) bakery, that I wrote her asking for the recipe.  Boy did she deliver!  I was tickled pink!  OMG, did I just say "tickled pink"? *sigh* whatever.  At any rate, I've never EATEN quince (to my  knowledge) nor did I know what it looked like or where to get one, despite my pastry schooling.  So I hit the local stores,ethnic and otherwise and wound up, after quite the calamity, at regular old stupid Kroger.  They had them.  So I bought 8.  Quite a commitment since i only needed three (1 1/2 lbs) for the tart.  If it works out, I'm gonna try my hand at making some marmalade methinks.  I was hung up on the fact that they were pineapple quince which supposedly don't taste as good as the Smyrna variety.  Good friggin' LUCK finding anything THAT exotic in Katy, TX. I was lucky to even find the pineapple ones.  Plus, the fruit is mixed with orange and spices in the filling which are domineering flavors.

SO began the baking process Sunday night.  I read through the recipe...which is TOTALLY unlike me and I used to get BUSTED nonstop in pastry school for not reading the recipe through and scrambling to get my shit together at the last minute.  People can change, right?  Right.
Come to find out that this tart is a SAHM's DREAM!!!! 
This tart can be made in steps that don't require a lot of time or attention!...which is awesomesauce because I have a 3 year old and 14 month old and I can never do any ONE thing for too long as I get pulled in various directions throughout the day!  IT WAS MEANT TO BE, PEOPLE!!! 

SO far, I've made the filling and the dough.  Now I have to motivate to combine the two into a tart and bake it off.  Stay tuned, folks, because I tasted the cooked filling and it is delish! Now I have to figure out how to upload phone pics on this bad boy so as to make this blog more interesting!
To be continued...