Maple Apple Oat Muffins

This one is a new find for me, but I’ve made it twice now. This month. They are super simple, and seem to suffer no detriment to being reheated in the microwave. They are slightly sweet and yet don’t make you feel (completely) like you’re eating a naked cupcake for breakfast and calling it a muffin.  And they are good plain or with a generous dousing of butter. This one hales from Jo-Anna Rooney at A Pretty Life in the Suburbs, and I actually didn’t make that many alterations to it. In fact, I think I just upped the egg by one, actually, because I had been looking for a higher-protein muffin to take on a short road trip.

Preheat your oven to 400°. I always used to forget this and I suspect that having to wait around for the oven has a detrimental effect on anything that has a quick rising agent in it (like baking soda or powder). Of course, with yeast you’re supposed to wait, so it’s not always a perfect solution to start by heating the oven. But in this case, don’t forget to turn it on!

Alright, so, prep your ingredients! I like this one, because it doesn’t really have any fancy requirements for order or anything. Just put your dry ingredients in one bowl, your wet ones in another and, don’t forget to let your melted butter cool a little so as to not cook your whisked eggs! I feel like at this point I should probably assure you that while Mr. Charles and I make our own maple syrup, it is not going to feature in ALL the recipes….. although, probably in more than you would expect (“Even in the corned beef?” You ask. “Really?” “Yes, yes indeed, and it is soooo good!”).

While you are waiting for the butter to cool down, go ahead and peel, core, and chop your apples. Pictured here is really 1 and 5/8th of an apple because I dropped two sections on the floor and I don’t trust my kitchen floor (maybe I should mop more often?) but I don’t think the recipe is really that persnickety on the apples. Hey, the worst that can happen is you’ll have some extra batter, right?

Alright, now mix all of it together in the largest bowl you happen to have used (I always seem cursed to get the larger bowl for whichever set of ingredients (wet or dry) the instructions says to add to the other. But I really don’t see why it should make a difference. In this instance I used a small one for the wet and a large one for the dry. So dump the wet in on top, stir a bit, and then add the apples and stir some more. It should look, unsurprisingly, like muffin batter. Behold!

Now, spoon that batter (making sure that there is a moderate amount of apple pieces in all of them, rather than discovering that your last three muffins are all batter and no apple) into a muffin pan, or papers, or even into these handy silicone ones I have that make me so ridiculously happy (they don’t need to be greased and they’re dishwasher safe!).  

Now, the recipe says it makes 12 muffins, and it is sort of right in that it doesn’t make like three times that amount like some cookie recipes do (sorry, soapbox). But it always seems like people online must have bigger muffin cups than I do, or a different grasp of the laws of physics, because at this point I always have leftover batter. Enough leftover batter that there is no chance of squeeeeeezing it into the muffin cups.

It’s time for….. jumbo muffins! Or whatever other small container you happen to have on hand. It could be a coquette, or a mini loaf pan, or even just a glass Pyrex dish of smallish dimensions (do me a favor and take the plastic lid off for this use). The worst that can happen is it might need to be left in a bit longer to finish baking. Make sure to butter the extra-batter-container well as you can’t just turn it inside out to get the muffins out like you can with the silicone ones.

Now, your oven should be nice and hot by now, so just pop those muffins in and set the timer for 20 minutes. They should come out looking all lovely and golden brown, and an inserted knife should come out clean. Let them cool a bit ‘til you can touch them, and then set them on a rack to cool the rest of the way. If you are using the silicone cups, take them out as soon as you can, as I find they can leave a funny flavor if left too long.

Try not to eat them all!     

Maple Apple Muffins

By Jo-Anna Rooney at A Pretty Life in the Suburbs (alterations by S.E. Kocher)  

Time: About an Hour

1 1/3 cups flour
1 cup oats
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 medium apples, peeled and diced

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients.
  3. Mix together wet ingredients.
  4. Stir together.
  5. Add apples
  6. Put in muffin cups.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until knife comes out clean. 

It Will Probably Be Fine

Crispy, crunchy tastiness!

Today premiers the start of a new segment of this blog (don’t say anything about how I haven’t posted since forever… I know it, and I don’t need that kind of judgment) I’m going to try a cooking segment, understandably called It Will Probably Be Fine. Understandable, that is, to anyone who has ever seen me cook or bake, because my general outlook is that the recipe is more like suggestion than actual law, and if I change something up or substitute something it will probably be fine. *shrugs*

Now, all for the sake of transparency: I have not made up any of these recipes. I will be sure to add the name of the original creator and a link to the recipe that I started with at the beginning of each post. That being said, I will be doing these things my way. So, essentially, if you’re here, you’ve got to be here for the tasty end results and the sarcastic commentary along the way. All of these I have made and decided they are worthy of being placed in my cook-book, so they have been tested for tastiness (which would also be a great name for a cooking blog).

I shall also be rectifying things that I find annoying in most online recipes, things like them not telling you the oven temperature at the beginning of the recipe and MOST IMPORTANTLY, when they don’t bother to mention that the time it takes listed at the top doesn’t bother to include chilling it or letting it rise or something that makes it take 12 times longer!! *cough* Sorry, that last one doesn’t bother me at all!

I will also be taking a leaf out of Sarah Gailey’s blog (only with less profanity) and posting the full recipe at the bottom… so, if you’re here for the tastiness but NOT for the sarcasm, just scroll to the bottom. If I had an option for putting a “Jump to Recipe” button, I would, I assure you.

Also, I feel like I made vague promises at some point about this not turning into a cooking blog…. and for that I am sorry.

July 2nd

I have fortified myself with a cup of iced coffee, and a snack. I have waged war upon the zucchini, and made cookie dough for tomorrow. I’ve taken out the trash for the wonderful men who take away the things I do not want in my house to take away, and I have unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. I have continued on my masterful display of NOT folding the laundry, but I have managed to remember its damp state and get it all successfully through the dryer this time. These past few days have been just unsettled enough that damp things kept getting left in a state of dampness, and then they smelled musty and had to go back to the beginning.

I mentioned tomorrow. Tomorrow, by anyone normal family’s rubric is just the 2nd of July. Nothing special about it. Although some cursory research informs me that it is unique in several ways:

  1. In being the exact midpoint of the year 182 days into the year and with 182 to follow.
  2. Having the prodigious honor of being the birthday, in 1834, of a man I know nothing about but who has the truly unbeatable name of Hendrick Peter Godfried Quack. Also, of Hermann Hesse (1877) and Thurgood Marshall (1908), and the day the world lost people such as Nostradamus (1566), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1778), Vladimir Nabokov (1977), and Elie Wiesel (2016). All of their names are good, but none can truly surpass Hendrick Peter Godfried Quack.
  3. Also, incidentally, it’s the actual day on which it was decided America would split from England, although the later date of the 4th is more famous as the day the Declaration was actually…well, declared.

That last point brings me to why I am writing this at all. Due to scheduling hijinks – a sentence I feel like I shall use a lot more often since having married Mr. Charles – we will be celebrating the birth of our nation tomorrow instead of on the 4th (he works, and that gives my sister and brother-in-law and their tiny minions a chance to also visit his family. Two holidays in one! Which I call finessing to perfection.

It shall undoubtedly be loud and full of watermelon here tomorrow. With the addition of not being able to use the back deck (which I always somehow call the front porch) since a tree branch came gently down upon our roof on Saturday afternoon. It made a gentle scrunching noise and has been slowly lowering since then. We’ve got to wait for the insurance people to remove it, so the grilling will have to be temporarily relocated to the front porch (which always seems like the back porch to me. I have been mis-trained by always entering through the back door of my parents’ house, and now I’m spreading confusion to The Snuggery!).  

Photo courtesy of Mr. Charles

parts of other people’s stories

I am brewing a mug of tea at 1:00 in the morning.

And that would be the point at which I realize how strange it is that I should be doing that.

If I had a normal life, I might not be in this mundane little situation. But I have seen my fair share of midnight tea parties (almost always with actual teacups, although this particular time I am drinking it out of an oversized mug with the insignia of Mr. Charles’s fire-company on it.) Sometimes it’s after a long drive, and the need to mellow a bit before sleep. Sometimes it was had with tears over a paper or assignment that seemed impossible. Sometimes it’s just because we can’t bear to give up the time and fellowship of family, just to get some sleep.

But there are many things that lead to the way this particular cup of tea was brewed.

If my father hadn’t sacrificed his time and energy to work a job in a city three hours away from home just to provide for us growing up, my mother might not have had to forgo a decent bedtime for my sister and I in order for us to ever see him, thus establishing us as inveterate Night Owls – a habit I doubt either of us will ever be able to break.

If my mother had not found the time to enjoy her scarce quiet moments with a cup of Earl Gray Tea, moments snatched from the daily grind of parenting and educating – the Mater is a miracle-worker, I swear: she homeschooled us for all twelve years – and then shared the ceremony with my sister, brother-in-law, and myself, then I probably wouldn’t be as British as I am, and a cup of tea would not be the thing I think of to make, even at 1:00am.

If Mr. Charles had not gently persisted in coming calling, I might never have conditioned him into liking tea – pretty sure he actually likes it now, although the first couple cups were a stretch – and I might never have displayed my truly weird personality, and I might not have married him, and then I wouldn’t been in this charming little house in the woods to brew a cup of tea at 1:00 in the morning. He wouldn’t be texting me from work with gentle remainders that I should probably get to bed at a decent time (too late, my love, too late for that. Literally.)

There are so many little steps to anything. We don’t always stop to think what momentous things – parts of other people’s stories – are the foundations of ours.

This little fellow, who seemed to like our lights, was pointed out to me by Mr. Charles the other night.

Laughter

Now, to get the full effect of this post, you have to understand, that when fully fluffy the alpacas that inhabit the paddock across from my house are about the most menacing thing you will meet in an average day. They always look like they’re craning their necks over the garden fence to judge the neighbors (yours truly) like Petunia Dursley, and they have a demeanor that if they could, they’d murder you.

I have not been able to find – after an extensive search lasting all of about 2.5 minutes of my pictures – any photographic evidence of these terrifying creatures. But this picture I found on Google will give you the general idea. Apparently I do not tend to take pictures of things that unsettle me. Of course, now I wish I had.   

These are not the alpacas in question. These are stock alpacas.

However, not being well versed in country life (#citymouse), it didn’t really occur to me that anything was likely to change. These two alpacas (we shall dub them Kusco and Lunch….please tell me you get why???) live in the enclosure with three horses, two ponies, three out of the original four goats, and…..probably something else I’m forgetting. On Tuesday, I think, I was standing at my stove peacefully making fried rice when I noticed that the entire enclosure was hopping.

Craning my neck to see (two can play this game!) I take in this frantic sight. The smaller animals are running in circles, the painted horse is spooked by them and doing a full on buck and kick move like they do in the movies, and I think I can see Josh (the owner of said animals) at the far end, so all is in hand. But as I continued to cook, the chaos continued to reign.

So I turned down the rice and went to investigate (having learned nothing from Frank Bryce and his teapot).

I shall pause for a moment to assure you that I was not murdered by Voldemort at this time. See! Alive and well as of 1:54 this afternoon…

There was no sign of Josh, so I must have been seeing things. But by the time I arrived the ponies were still dashing about full force and there was an animal that I at first mistook for a deer. I thought fleetingly that perhaps it had gotten into the enclosure and the domestic animals were spooked by it.

And then I realized the truth: The alpacas had been shaved.

All I can say is, there is nothing quite as uniquely funny as a shaved alpaca.

It looks so affronted!
So smol!!

Flannery O’Connor and The Rabbit Room

I ran across a quote today that was so good, I decided it would work for this (late) Friday post. It came to my attention through a group called The Rabbit Room (which I encourage you all to go check out) which hosts a Facebook group for general discussions. Someone by the name of Rachel Wilhelm‎ was reading essays by Flannery O’Connor, and posted this gem.

Now, I have never been smart enough to understand O’Conner’s fiction. I like to think of her as the doppelganger of Emily Dickenson: just as creepy and incomprehensible, but good instead of Dickenson’s skulking sense of perversion. That being said, they both make my heard hurt and I don’t begin to understand their work.  

Yes, it’s a picture of a rabbit. Specifically the rabbit I stalked all over the verge to see how close I could get.

Here is O’Conner on Aquinas on art in life.  

“St. Thomas Aquinas says that art does not require rectitude of the appetite, that it is wholly concerned with the good of that which is made. He says that a work of art is a good in itself, and this is a truth that the modern world has largely forgotten. We are not content to stay within our limitations and make something that is simply a good in and of itself. Now we want also to make something that will have some utilitarian value. Yet what is good in itself glorifies God because it reflects God. The artist has his hands full and does his duty if he attends to his art. He can safely leave evangelizing to the evangelists. He must first of all be aware of his limitations as an artist—for art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.”  — Flannery O’Connor, “Catholic Novelists and Their Readers” in Mystery and Manners

“For art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.” Wow. That’s why a properly crafted sonnet or villanelle or pick-your-own-poem-form will almost always be more poignant and to the point than a thousand lines of free-verse.

Mundane

The May, Myself, and I word for the day is Mundane. I know I’ve only done 15% of the challenge so far, but if there is anything Carrie goes for it is doing something even if it’s not perfect. Which is ironic since, like me, she’s a little bit of a perfectionist. Maybe a lot bit of one. But she has a lot more grace for others than she does for herself. Like a particular slice of perfectionists do.

Anyway, mundane.  Some people, probably The Snuggery included, would not deem coffee to be a mundane topic. But the word “mundane” comes from the Latin mundus for “world” (thanks to MW for the reminder) and had the meaning of something that is rather “day-to-day”.

Now, if that’s not a good definition of coffee, I don’t know what is!

Well, even blogging today started with my making iced coffee for Mr. Charles to take to work this afternoon (he’s working the night shift today.) Now, he’s considered it to be iced coffee weather since about mid April. I am more cold-blooded (for some reason that has a more sinister ring to it than I really meant it to) and have still cherished a nice snug cup of coffee for this last month or so, occasionally ceding that iced would be a good option.

But today, walking barefoot and in a knee-length dress in my house and still a little on the warm side, I had to concede the argument, Mr. Charles: it’s time for iced coffee on the regular. The default. Hot should be the exception for the foreseeable future. You’re right.

So fluffy! The Hyper-fluffer is a necessity!

Now, that really sounded like a begrudging concession. I actually like Mr. Charles quite a lot (I did marry him, after all!) and I really don’t mind when he’s right.

The Library

Well, the team who was to pick up the mattress has been and gone again (it turned out to just be this guy and his 12 year old kid in a Subaru), the Rhubarb has been canned (jarred? Why DO we call it canning?) and I am now peacefully ensconced on the couch with a book, a strawberry/banana/chocolate smoothie, and my computer which is constantly threatening to die because its powercord looks like something that should have stopped carrying a current about a year ago. Perhaps it IS time for a new computer, Mr. Charles….you may have a point.

Anyway, ever since I graduated college (gosh, it’s 4 years now!) I have bemoaned the fact that I don’t read much any more.

This you will find surprising for a number of reasons:

  1. I attended Temple University as an English Literature Major (the Greek and Roman Classics Major was a late and unexpected and somewhat accidental addition…long story for a different blog post.), this means l literally read things like Middlemarch, Paradise Lost, The Way of the World, and Gulliver’s Travels day in a day out for the five years that I was there. And I even enjoyed most of it.
  2. I grew up in a literal personal library. The Mater raised me and my sister in a house in which the major means of decoration was bookshelves.
  3. I used to be that kid who left a book open on the arm of every chair and just read whichever one I felt like in the moment. I remember having 4 of 5 books going at once. And at least once I did not hear my mother calling me. How classic.
  4. I write books, for crying out loud. At least I did, until the last year and a half or so, when my creativity seems to have died. I trace it directly to not reading.  

I still love books. It’s like I burnt out and can’t focus on it any more. I am looking forward with intense glee to meshing my largely fiction library with Mr. Charles’s mostly non-fiction one, since my books are still languishing in my old room at my parent’s house.

The last but one arrangement of the collection….somehow there is another shelf or two since then.

And I am still being bugged by the story I was working on when I stopped writing, which means I don’t feel like I can move on to something else and leave Meridian St. Claire’s story untold. But I am also a very different person than I was when I stopped witting it, and I don’t know how to pick it up again.

Also, I had written two out of a trilogy, that’s an awful lot of effort to abandon.  

This all being said. I think I shall add a book list page to the blog, and add on whatever books I read this year as I complete them, as a sort of way of encouraging myself and keeping a record.

ScriptSaturday?

Well that’s two Fridays I’ve missed. Because I am a failure of a blogger. But today is Saturday, and I figured I’ll make it up to you by two posts. I am canning rhubarb (because this year’s CSA started on an ominous note with an entire pound of it…) because my sister-in-law fed (and then shared the recipe with us) a totally delicious Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, but she made it with canned rhubarb.

So now I’m canning rhubarb.

Go figure.

It was only going to rot on my counter if I didn’t.

While I am doing that I am waiting for the UPS man and the crew that is supposed to show up to exchange our mattress. What are we betting they can’t find us? We only have three house number signs and a prominent front porch that begs to have boxes put on it – you know rather than left in the dirt driveway to be RAINED ON!

Sorry. Distracted.

This excerpt is from one of my favorite books from my childhood: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. It is full of clever wordplay and math jokes (I even like those, which says something to Juster’s prowess, because math jokes are usually lost on me…)

This particular scene is just one of the unique characters that Milo and his companions meet on their journey from the city of Dictionopolis and its ruler King Azaz the Unabridged, to Digitopolis and its Mathemagician.  

“It looks like a wagon,” cried Milo excitedly.
“It is a wagon—a carnival wagon,” seconded Tock. And that’s exactly what is was—parked at the side of the road, painted bright red, and looking quite deserted. On its side in enormous white letters bordered in black was the inscription KAKOFONOUS A. DISCHORDE, and below in slightly smaller black letters bordered in white was DOCTOR OF DISSONANCE.
“Perhaps if someone is home he might tell us how far we have to go,” said Milo, parking next to the wagon.
He tiptoed timidly up the three wooden steps to the door, tapped lightly, and leaped back in fright, for the moment he knocked there was a terrible crash from inside the wagon that sounded as if a whole set of dishes had been dropped from the ceiling onto a hard stone floor. At the same time the door flew open, and from the dark interior a hoarse voice inquired, “Have you ever heard a whole set of dishes dropped from the ceiling onto a hard stone floor?”
Milo, who had tumbled back off the steps, sat up quickly, while Tock and the Humbug rushed from the car to see what had happened.
“Well, have you?” insisted the voice, which was so raspy that it made you want to clear your own throat.
“Not until just now,” replied Milo, getting to his feet.
“Ha! I thought not,” said the voice happily. “Have you ever heard an ant wearing fur slippers walk across a thick wool carpet?”

The dusty wagon was lined with shelves full of curious boxes and jar of a kind found in old apothecary shops. It looked as though it hadn’t been swept out in years. Bits and pieces of equipment lay strewn all over the floor, and at the rear was a heavy wooden table covered in books, bottles, and bric-a-brac.
“Have you ever heard a blindfolded octopus unwrap a cellophane-covered bathtub?” he inquired again as the air was filled with a loud, crinkling, snapping sound.  

“Are you a doctor?” asked Milo, trying to feel as well as possible.
“I am KAKOFONOUS A. DISCHORDE, DOCTOR OF DISSONANCE,” roared the man, and, as he spoke, several small explosions and a grinding crash were heard.
“What does the ‘A’ stand for?” stammered the nervous bug, too frightened to move.
“AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE,” bellowed the doctor, and two screeches and a bump accompanied his response. “Now, step a little closer and stick out your tongues.”  

Rosemary Garlic Olive Bread

First off, I promise and swear to you that this will unequivocally NOT become a cooking blog. Now, there is nothing wrong with cooking blogs, but I am not enough of a cook and none of my endeavors ever turn out pretty enough to warrant one. They are tasty, I will admit, lest anyone think I am being overly harsh on myself. Calm your righteous indignation.

But I’ve got nothing better to write about today between popping my Rosemary Garlic Olive Bread in the oven and waiting Mr. Charles to come home. So cooking it is. And maybe it will bring joy to some of you.

Because it is easy! Trust me, if it’s coming from my kitchen, I’ve probably shaved off any unnecessary niceties.  Upon reflection, that’s probably why nothing is ever as pretty as it could be. *shrug* That’s why the world has my sister. Honestly, have you SEEN her children’s birthday cakes?

But I digress. It’s my blog. I’ve got the right to meander.

Mr. Charles has been and gone again at this point. He’s over to the neighbor’s garden to plant radish seeds. They’ve graciously lent us a plot since our yard is approximately 97% shade and on a 60° slope*. We’ve planted herbs in the little plot at the top that seems to be in the 3% that gets some sun.

It had been neglected of late. But a Mantis and some effort soon made a difference

Anyway. Bread. *cough* Sorry.

This recipe was given to me by my Aunt in the Gettysburg area who got it from her daughter in Texas who got it from someone named Julie. At that time it was called Literally the Easiest French Bread You’ll Ever Make. Since then (New Years 2017/2018) I’ve made it a lot and now we’ve revolutionized it into……

*drum roll*

Rosemary Garlic Olive Bread

1 ½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast
4 cups flour
1 ½ tablespoons rosemary (dried or fresh)
4 tablespoons minced garlic (drained if out of a jar)
¼ – ½ cup halved Kalamata olives

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. I put this first because recipes never do and I always forget to do it and it bugs me.
  2. Wisk together water, honey/sugar, salt, and yeast. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until there is foam on the top.
  3. While you’re waiting, add rosemary and olives to flour and mix evenly (it won’t ever be even, who am I fooling? but it will all work out in the end).
  4. Mix garlic into liquid ingredients and then add liquid to flour.
  5. Knead until it’s no longer sticky.
  6. Form into loaf on a cookie sheet and let rise under a towel for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until it’s lightly browned and sounds hollow when you tap it.
  8. Try not to eat all of it fresh out of the oven with copious amounts of butter.   
  9. Good luck.

Not sure if the addition of spices and Greek olives makes it no longer French bread, but unless you’re entering it in a French Cooking Contest, I promise you no one will care in the slightest.    

Crusty, tasty goodness!

*I have actually no idea what the grade is, I just made it up