Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not Muffins

I confess, I eat breakfast in the car. Most mornings you'll find me wiping peanut butter toast off my seatbelt or hoping the chocolate chips stay in my granola bar instead of melting on the heated seats. When I try to eat better, assuming I have some extra time in the morning, I'll make a smoothie. They're healthier and much neater. But let's be real, usually I spend any extra morning time on Facebook.

Kim, my Amazon warrior princess friend, follows a meal plan from her trainer that includes portable oatmeal for breakfast. She cracks 2 or 3 egg whites into a cup of dry oatmeal, mixes it up and throws it in the microwave. It cooks into a spongy bland cake that she can eat on her commute. Just the thought of this was enough to make me gag, although Kim swears you get used to it and I should try them. I decided not to risk it.

Then one day I came across a recipe from Roni at Green Lite Bites for a portable baked oatmeal that sounded tasty but wasn't full of sugar, and my life was changed. Or at least my breakfast was changed. They're super easy to make - you just dump everything in a bowl, mix it up, and scoop it into a muffin tin - and they're packed with nutrients and fiber to keep me full until lunch. They freeze great, which means I can make a pan, seal it up in the freezer, and then just pop one or two in the microwave before heading out the door. Breakfast is a no-brainer all week.

The first time I made these they came out golden brown with a slight crown, and looked like tasty sugary-lardy muffins. However, they tasted like... well, like someone took a bowl of morning oatmeal and cooked it in a muffin tin. *I* thought it was pretty darn good. My oatmeal-shunning family was not amused. They are now forever known in our house as Not-Muffins. I still bake them frequently but now I include full disclosure: These Are Not Muffins! They are baked oatmeal! Eat at your own risk!

I've spent a few months trying and tweaking various recipes to suit my taste, and these little gems have become my go-to car meal. My version tries to strike a balance between the ones that are glorified dessert and the ones that are completely vegan, gluten-free and organic.

[Side note: I do sometimes use organic ingredients in my Not-Muffins. Then when the container is empty, I put it in a prominent location at the top of our recycle bin, camouflaging the empty wine bottles and Toaster Strudel boxes, so on garbage day my neighbors will think we always eat healthy like that.] 

The base recipe for my Not-Muffins is always the same.  What changes in each version is a "mushy" component to replace the oil (like mashed ripe bananas or unsweetened applesauce), and a small amount of complimentary add-ins to make it interesting (chocolate chips!).  I've linked some of my favorite combinations bleow, or you can use the base recipe with your own amalgamations to make a custom recipe. Baked oatmeal is pretty versatile.  Go ahead and use almond milk instead of skim milk, add a spoonful of peanut butter, substitute chia seeds for the flaxseed or drizzle a little maple syrup in the batter.  It's a new adventure every time.

Banana Chocolate Chip Not Muffins

Pumpkin Pie Not Muffins

Apple Berry Not Muffins

Morning Glory Not Muffins (pictured above)

Zucchini Nut Not Muffins

Seriously, check out Roni's blog.  She has amazing recipes and a great story!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Intruder

Temperatures had barely climbed above zero all week, and since I'd just returned from vacation at a Florida beach, I was struggling to stay out of hibernation mode. I was very grateful that Senior had installed a remote start on my Buick as a Christmas present.  At the end of a long work day I hit the button and let the car warm up as I wrangled myself into gloves, boots and coat. It was late, and most of my co-workers had already left for the day. I was distracted as I picked my way across the icy parking lot, repeating my usual winter mantra of “don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall”, but I did notice that I’d left my wipers on intermittent mode. I said a mild curse under my breath and hoped they hadn’t been iced up, afraid I would find a strip of rubber left behind as they skimmed over the windshield. By the time I got to the car I was cold and cranky. I reached out and yanked open the door handle. What happened next scared me to the point that I nearly wet my pants. 


It’s amazing how quickly our brains can process high stress situations. In rapid fire succession I realized:

 a)     I knew this guy

 b)     This WASN’T MY CAR

 c)     This didn’t even look like my car

 d)     The driver had noticed my approach and even lowered the window to see what I wanted (a fact that totally escaped me as I opened the door)

 e)     I was about to die from embarrassment

I stammered out an apology while, thankfully, he just laughed. I’m pretty sure I made an uncomfortable joke about it being a good thing I didn’t try to sit on his lap, then my brain kicked into escape mode and I slinked off to find my (real) car. It was parked a couple spots further away. I got in and slumped down to try and disappear, peeking in the side mirror until I was sure he had left before getting my act together and driving home.

I really need to get back to the beach.