Friday, August 28, 2009

Bag Lady Muffins

I'm alive! And I'm baking! In the new kitchen, of all places.

(Go ahead and note the storage containers to the right... my kitchen, like the rest of the place, is still largely packed.)

But I think you and I both know that won't keep me from baking. So let's do this thing.

The actual descriptive name for these muffins got ridiculously long, so I'm calling them Bag Lady Muffins. There are several reasons that these muffins scream "Bag Lady!" to me.

1. There are oats.

2. Assembling the ingredients requires several bags just to get from the cabinets to the counter.

3. Spice and tea are involved. I'm told those are old and stuffy ingredients.

4. My plan is to bake these muffins and freeze a good portion of them for later breakfasts. This is, by far, the most spinstery thing I have ever done with baked goods. And I'm doing it on purpose.

Ah, well. There is nothing wrong with being a bag lady. Or a spinster!

So go ahead and embrace your inner spinster and try out these Bag Lady Muffins if you dare. Heck... freeze them and I'll love you forever.

Bag Lady Muffins (I started with the Applesauce Oatmeal Muffin recipe I found here and made a bunch of changes)

Here's what you'll need:

1 c. old fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 c. Tazo chai latte concentrate
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. applesauce (mine was Cranberry Raspberry Plus! Fiber, but I won't hold you to that)
2 egg whites

1 c. whole wheat flour (!!)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

dark chocolate chips

Here's what you'll do:

1. Soak oats for one hour in milk/chai mixture.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3. Combine oat mixture with applesauce and egg whites. Mix.
4. Measure and mix dry ingredients in separate bowl.
5. Add wet to dry and stir just until mixed. Add dark chocolate chips. I added about 1/3 cup but next time I'll add more.
6. Bake in greased and floured (all in one can, I recommend) muffin tin for 15-20 minutes. One recipe made exactly 12 muffins for me.

So how, you might ask, did my sophisticated palate find these muffins?

Well... honestly, I was hoping for a little bit stronger chai flavor. I only used 3/4 cup of the concentrate because I was concerned that the spiced chai flavor would steamroll the poor muffins and outspice me. However, the flavor was really really light. Perhaps even undiscernable. Next time I'll up the chai concentrate to a full cup, nix the milk, and see what happens.

And... just as in other applesauce cakes, the applesauce disappears when baked so I didn't get any sort of kickback from the apple/cran/ras combo. What brought this otherwise pretty plain muffin home for me was the chocolate. The oatmealy muffin may be basic, but the chocolate chips make it intriguing.

Overall, these muffins get a thumbs up from me. They aren't as schizo-crazy flavor-wise as I was hoping they would be, but I think that just makes their Bag Lady name even more appropriate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boarding House Dinner

(Disclaimer: Sad cell phone pictures of food to follow. If that upsets you, feel free to miss out on the wonder that is my review of Southern dining.)

While my mom was here last week, she and I ventured out to a little ramshackle inn for dinner. Now this particular inn isn't much to look at from the outside. The wooden porch is warped and slanted, the white paint is cracked and peeling on all inn surfaces, and there is an intimidatingly large swarm of... something... buzzing about the top one of the roof support columns. The windows are cleanish, but the drapes hanging in them are awkwardly hung, partially missing, and - around the back especially - probably not drapes at all.

The first time we rolled up to this inn, we were about 35 minutes early. They keep interesting hours.

We went back the next night when we were sure they would be open, and it was well worth it.

We were quickly introduced to Boarding House style dining. At the inn, this means they serve up two meats, six sides, and biscuits, the amount of all of these things based on the number of people eating.

They also had a "low country boil" option and a full menu, but my mom and I threw caution to the wind and went boarding house all the way.

We ended up with fried chicken, roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes and gravy, squash, rice, green beans, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese, and a biscuit each.

And it was all fantastic.

Just to push their Southern hospitality over the edge, the good folks at the inn encourage you to have seconds of whatever you want. According to their menu board, they "consider it a complement."

So... you know... we might have complemented them on their fried chicken. :)

And the whole boarding house buy in? $8.99 a person. Seriously.

At that price, I felt good about splurging on iced tea and the best peach cobbler I've ever ever tasted.

My mom and I shared this piece of peach cobbler, but on a rough day, I can totally see going back for this cobbler and some coffee.

The interior of this inn is so charming, let me tell you. It was, at one point, a boarding house, I'm sure. But it's now broken up into a bunch of dining rooms, second floor included. My mom and I sat in a little room with a fireplace and a few tables. That room was lousy with tea sets and full place settings. It was just all too cute.

So my first experience of true Southern food (I am reluctant to count Subway and Quiznos) was a smashing success. Amanda approves. In a big way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I Learned Today, Aug. 17, 2009

Today was the first day of school, so I started off on the right foot by... well... learning things. So please enjoy What I Learned Today.

1. The perfect costume for today can be confidence in textiles.

However... the picture of said textile confidence can be oh-so-disappointing when you realize that you haven't gotten to the "wash mirror" portion of the VA -> GA move. Ugh.

2. There is no accounting for taste.

This painting is the only thing in my office at the moment. It needs to come down yesterday. I mean... I really love it and the wall color. And the purple door trim. (0_o)

3. There are faculty perks.

Some universities (read: mine) have bathrooms designated for faculty. Those bathrooms are supplied with various creams and lotions. Drawback: You will run into a faculty member in the bathroom.

4. When the interwebs are against her, a girl has to keep herself busy.

I lugged my laptop to campus today because I was promised (by a giant banner that proclaims "WIRELESS INSIDE") wireless. How-ev-er, my computer was rejected because of missing Microsoft updates. Boo.

So... without interwebs again, I read. Turns out young adult lit was also the perfect costume for today.

5. In Georgia, fruits behave differently.

Apples, for instance, brown before you finish cutting them. I'm not even kidding. Blanche Devareaux once said that people mature faster in the South, and I now believe her.

6. Just because they are a must for this season's fashion, doesn't mean they'll be nice to your feet for an entire 8 hour and 20 minute day.

Yep. Nothing witty to say about that.

I also learned things that I didn't take pictures of. For example, even if one makes it through an entire day of teaching 5 classes without breaking a sweat, that same one will sweat it out in the 6 minute ride home in the preheated oven-hot car. You are happy I didn't photograph this.

Finally (for now), I learned that when one enters five classes with the same tattoos and piercings, 2 students in 2 different classes will point them out in an attempt at solidarity. Goodness gracious.

I'm curious. What did you learn today?!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Peach Redemption

Boys and girls, I could not let yesterday's peach cupcake disaster go. As soon as those cupcakes flopped, I got on the information super highway and tried to find another peach cupcake recipe.

And voila, I did. I found this amazing recipe for Mini Vanilla-Almond Peach cupcakes on a California fruit website.

As you can see, this cake is beautiful and smooth. The vanilla and almond flavors are really light, so they work excellently beside the peach bits. (Almond is one of my favorite flavors, so I can't wait to try this cupcake sans peaches.) The icing is runnier than I prefer, but since mashed peaches are the only source of liquid, the flavor is terrific.

When I was staging these triumphant pictures, my mom came through and asked, "Are you going to take pictures on that nasty old pan?"

With a smirk, I responded, "Sure I am. It's Southern. Be charmed by it."

My instructions to you are exactly the same. :D

Vanilla-Almond Peach Cupcakes c/o

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 fresh California peach, pitted and diced

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.
3. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy.
4. Add eggs and extracts, beating well after each addition.
5. Add dry ingredients and milk in alternating halves until mixed.
6. Fold in peaches.
7. Distribute batter into cupcake tins. Batter will make 36 minis (as directed) or 12 regular cupcakes (as I did). My 12 regulars were perfectly baked at 24 minutes.

Fresh Peach Frosting

1 fresh California peach, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Tiny mint leaves (optional garnish)

1. Puree half the peach. Reserve other half.
2. Cream butter and add 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Mix until fluffy.
3. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of peach puree and vanilla extract and mix.
4. Add remaining 3/4 cup powdered sugar and beat until you reach proper icing consistency. If icing is too stiff, add more puree.
5. Optional garnish: Chop remaining peach half and top cupcakes with peach cubes and mint leaves.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Peaches (and an Announcement)

Here are the peaches:

and here is the announcement:

My attempt at Peach Cupcakes was an EPIC FAIL.

(There is another announcement coming, but bear with me for the moment, k?)

I don't even understand what went so wrong with this cupcake.

I split the recipe in half, but I do that all the time so I don't blame that. I even rechecked my maths when things went south. I cross-checked the recipe on a couple of different blogs to make sure all the measurements agreed. They did.

But I knew something was not right when my batter was looking more peach soup than batter-with-peaches-folded-in.

Still I had faith... until I pulled those suckers out of the oven.

They were kind of bubbly and very much not cake.

Nevertheless, I dressed homegirl up like a true Southern Lady, and she really doesn't look half bad.

As far as taste goes, the verdict is still out for me. What I seem to have made is more of an eggy custard than a cake. Is it tasty? It is... if you like peach custards. However, a true cupcake, it is not. I would love to hear from anyone who has successfully made this cupcake in the form that God intended.

Now... for the real announcement...

I'm moving again.

I've accepted a position teaching writing at a school in Georgia, y'all.

(I want to leave the "y'all" for all the Southern reasons, but I shuddered a bit just typing it. If you ever notice the dreaded "y'all" showing up in my normal speech, please feel free to slap me. Even in public.)

So that's that. I'm moving very soon so there may or may not be posts happening over the next few weeks. But know that when I do get settled, I'll continue to bring you all the ridiculousness you've come to expect from this blog, but this time the posts will just come to you from Georgia.

And you better believe I'll be hunting down Paula Deen to guest blog.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dressing Room Diva

Maine is a land of many treasures. There are mountains, and mooses, and students, and movies, and... yes... several bars. But really... Maine is not a hub of cultural diversity or diversion. So my roommate and I got pretty creative when we needed to get out of the apartment and have some fun. One of our favorite things to do was hit the Ross, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls circuit and try on ridiculous dresses.

So... feeling precocious and in need of fun times, I resurrected the activity and did some dressing room dramatics. Please enjoy. (Or just stop reading. Either way... I won't know.)

I'd like to start by showing you just a few of the ways that Ross can hurt an LBD.

Now... the flowers are bad... yes... let's just look at the shape that this dress creates. I feel like there are two very important accessories that are not being given the proper respect. I'll also take this chance to apologize for my over-expressive facial contortions. The girl can't help it.

This little number reminds me of something one of the Golden Girls would wear if she were in her twenties on the show. It's got all the "NO"s: a bubble, some rick rack, and a really awkwardly blunted deep-V. Thank you for being a friend, but really... no thanks.

Here we have a little black dress complete with two extra bolts of fabric, just in cases. You never, ever know...

I have mixed feelings about this dress. I love paisely but this dress is just a little too champagne glass with chocolate handles. And if you didn't get that reference, then you need to pay more attention to Prince.

Okay... there is nothing wrong with this dress. It's classy. And shiny. And if I were 18, the role of girl-who-can't-stop-pulling-up-her-dress-at-prom would be played (really well) by me. In this dress.

Cute overload. This dress screams "Coffee, Tea, or Me?" Of all the dresses I tried on, this is the one I debated buying. Didn't. But I debated.

Let's throw some color into this dressing room!

I'm thinking Austin Powers girl #3 or maybe even Foxy Brown before she gets into the really violent parts of the film that demand the one-piece jumpsuits. Holla if you've seen a Foxy flick!

I was hoping this dress would make me look a lot tanner than it did. As it turns out, it's more Pebbles Flintstone than Portia de Rossi.

This burgundy ensemble is the perfect choice for the elegant linebacker out for a nice evening of ribs and brew with the boys.

My apologies for the disturbing headlessness of this pic: you're not missing anything. Anyway... this dress is my nod to the Mad Men epidemic that seems to be sweeping Facebook.

And... finally... this dress reminded me of an Easter dress. I used to get a fancy Easter dress every year (at Easter, did I mention?) and towards the end there, it was really a dreaded activity. Though my sister loved the dresses, I was decidedly not a fan for a while there. The random yet horrible clumping of white flowers on this emerald green dress resulted in a dress that should only be seen from the back.

Ah... doesn't it always feel a little bit like Christmas when you put your own clothes back on after a bout of dressing room dramatics? Everything just seems to fit so much better.

So there you have it. A day in the dressing room with Amanda. What do you like to do on a slow Tuesday in an even slower town? Fellow dressing room divas should also feel free to out themselves. We're all friends here.