As you may or may not know, I am in the process of a big transition. I’m getting ready to move from NYC to Boston to go to graduate school at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science Policy at Tufts University! I will be pursuing a Masters of Science in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program. I’m so excited! This has been my plan since graduating Cornell in 2010, but I wanted to get a few years of working experience under my belt and make sure I was still passionate about this field of study before I committed lots of $$$ and time to graduate school. Obviously, I still love writing, talking, and learning about nutrition, sustainable agriculture, urban farms, community gardens, farmers’ markets, food policy, and of course, fitness. So, here I am, taking these first few steps toward yet another BIG dream of mine.
I will miss all my friends and clients in NYC. To those of you who believed in me, supported me, inspired me, taught me, sweated with me, cried with me, celebrated with me and everything else in between, thank you so much. Please keep in touch. This blog is for you, to help you keep those chaotic lives balanced with food, fitness, work, play, and relaxation no matter where I am and no matter where you are.
I plan on continuing my career as a personal trainer while in Boston. I also plan to keep up this blog! I’m sorry my posts have been somewhat nonexistent these past few weeks. Recently, I’ve been packing and cleaning out my pantry and fridge to get ready for the move. Gotta try and use up all those frozen fruits and veggies! Here’s a fun recipe and lesson in spontaneous baking to tide you over until more hours of my days can be spent on the debate over dairy products and more fascinating health and nutrition topics.
Recipes as Guidelines
Let me preface this with an overview of how I think about cooking and baking. I do not like to follow recipes. I don’t like to follow directions in general. Ok, that’s not true, at all. But I follow directions most of the day, most of my life, at work, at school, in building IKEA furniture… why should I have to read and follow each step perfectly when it comes to my down-time in cooking, baking, sewing, etc.? I like to figure things out. Creativity is important, and how can you utilize your creativity if you follow each step (in life) from 1 to 10 without improvising a bit? I use recipes as more of a guideline for spices and flavors and general ratios or amounts. I love substituting things. Or, more accurately, I hate grocery shopping for specific items that a recipe calls for, only to put it up on my shelf and never use it again.
When thinking about preparing a meal for myself, I like looking in my fridge and getting inspired by the ingredients in there, rather than thinking about the infinite (and overwhelming) choices that await me at the grocery store. I rarely go grocery shopping when I have a very specific recipe in mind. I certainly have my list of staples to buy. I might go to the farmers’ market and think, “I want to make tacos this week,” or “Oh, I’m out of eggs,” but generally, I let the fresh produce and meat/fish inspire me. (“Those artichokes look delicious. Maybe I’ll roast one up this week.” “The fisherman says the porgy is amazing this week. I’ll cook that with the squash I just bought.”) I also rarely go to the store for one or two ingredients simply because the recipe calls for that specific item. I can usually find a substitute. Of course, this requires that you have an adequately stocked fridge and pantry in the first place. I’ll write a post soon about my method of grocery shopping.
Corn Grits Berry Muffins topped with Crystallized Ginger (or whatever you got)
My recipe was inspired by this Blueberry Banana Bread (with Grits) recipe, but as you can see, I changed A LOT. My thought process: I knew that I had some flour. I knew that I had corn grits. I knew that I had 2 overripe bananas frozen in the freezer. And I knew that I had a bag of frozen berries. I searched “banana bread with grits” and this recipe was the first thing I saw. Perfect! I just needed the general ratio of flour, grits, baking soda/powder and wet ingredients. Also, if you didn’t know, most any recipe that calls for a bread pan (such as banana bread, zucchini bread, carrot cake) can always be transformed into muffins with no change to the recipe.
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (it was all we had! I’m usually a whole-wheat-flour-kind-of-girl!)
- 3/4 cup uncooked corn grits (Polenta)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup mashed bananas
- 3/4 cup mixed frozen berries
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 cup white chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup crystallized ginger
Combine flour, grits, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, mix up the mashed bananas with the frozen berries.
Pour the molasses into the wet ingredient banana-berry mixture (if you don’t want to measure, just pour straight from the jar. You can always add a bit more later if it’s not sweet enough for you. Measuring out molasses, honey, etc. is a pain!).
Add the beaten egg to your wet ingredients. I really thing this step is optional. My general rule in baking is, if it has bananas in it, it doesn’t necessarily need an egg, since bananas are an egg substitute in vegan baking anyway. But if you don’t use the egg, you might need that extra tablespoon of oil to keep the recipe moist… Which is healthier? I chose the egg. Or you might try a bit more banana if you want to keep this recipe egg-less. Isn’t substituting fun?
Soften the coconut oil and pour it into the wet ingredients. My kitchen is practically a furnace all-year-round, so my coconut oil was already liquified.
Pour the wet ingredient mixture into your dry ingredients. Stir for however long it takes you to mix it up. Be diligent, the mixture is pretty thick! If you really, really need to you can add another tablespoon of oil or another egg/banana. But seriously, try to save that egg for another breakfast, reduce the fat in these muffins, and use those muscles!
Add the chips (or nuts, whatever you have), and mix it up again.
Set your oven temperature to 350 F. I also don’t preheat. Damn guys, it’s summer time. Why would I want my kitchen sweltering hot this entire time I’m putting my recipe together?!
Spray the muffin tin with cooking oil. Or coconut oil… Trader Joe’s makes a coconut oil spray, which my awesome roommate bought. I don’t buy cooking spray (it’s a rip-off and food in a spray-can weirds me out), but I did use it because I was feeling lazy, and my purpose for baking in the first place was to use up things in our pantry). You can also rub oil into the tins using a paper towel (or your fingers!) if you don’t own cooking spray (that’s me, usually).
Generously spoon the mixture into your muffin tins. Recipe makes about 12 muffins.
Add one chunk of crystallized ginger into the center of each muffin. Chop up the rest of the crystallized ginger and sprinkle generously over each muffin. This step is obviously optional, but the topping is REALLY good. You could try topping with granola or big sugar crystals, if you have it.
Bake the muffins for 17-19 minutes. You can test by sticking a fork in the center if you don’t think they’re ready yet. It’ll probably come out gooey either way, since everything but the kitchen sink is in these muffins. ;) Remove from the oven and let set for 5-10 minutes before popping them out of the tin with a knife.
Enjoy! Share with friends! No food guilt!