Friday, May 16, 2008

Two obsessions: competing or complementary?

I woke up this morning with an epiphany about one of the main characters in the book I'm writing. Perfect timing since today is my writing day!

But I also woke up with a craving for something special for breakfast--toast, even good toast with good jam, wasn't going to cut it. If I had a lackey, I would have sent them out for a really good pastry, maybe an almond croissant from The Croissant Shop (which Cafe Verde usually has).

But I do my best writing in the morning and heading out in search of good pastry meant that I'd be sacrificing the early morning writing energy for culinary satisfaction.

What to do when two obsessions are competing for your attention?

Muffins to the rescue.

Most muffins don't get me all that excited--they are ok, they serve a purpose, they are even enjoyable most of the time--but get me jazzed up? Not really. But they are wicked fast. So I tried to think what would transform something pedestrian into something a little special--not almond croissant special, but something that was nice enough to get my mind off of my stomach and back to my character.

I came up with Almond, Orange and Strawberry Muffins.
I put some almond meal in with the flour and a little almond extract in with the wet stuff since I can't seem to shake the almond craving (in retrospect, I should have also stirred some sliced almonds in at the end; next time I'll do that.) The strawberries and orange zest give the muffins a bright freshness that suit the spring season. Best of all, I could whip these babies up in the half hour before Fiona's carpool came to take her to preschool--time that I couldn't really devote to writing anyway since it could (and probably would) be interrupted by incessant beverage and read-to-me requests. But once the kiddo was out the door, I could take a warm muffin and a cup of black coffee to my computer and get my competing obsessions to complement each other.

A warm muffin, a cup of black coffee on my "Keep Calm and Carry On" coaster, and a (for now functional) computer, ready for writing.

Almond, Orange and Strawberry Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Dry stuff:
1 2/3 C flour
3 T ground almonds
1/2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/4 C sugar
zest of one orange

Wet stuff:
1/3 c canola oil
1/4 t almond extract
juice of one orange (1/4-1/3 C)
1/3 C buttermilk
1 egg

Chunky stuff:
about 8 strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into small pieces
1/4-1/2 C sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400. Prep your muffin pan (non-stick spray or muffin papers).

Mix up dry stuff in a medium bowl. Mix up wet stuff in a smaller bowl. Add wet to dry and mix until still kind of lumpy.

Put one spoonful of batter in each muffin cup. Dot the batter with some strawberries and sliced almonds. Put more batter on top (until muffin cups are about 3/4 full). Top with another strawberry piece or two and/or some more sliced almonds.

Pop into the oven for 20 minutes.

If you need a little more decadence split one open, slather with butter and a gob of strawberry jam.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

gettin' what I want

The day is not over yet, but it is almost dinner time and I have received for Mother's Day what I asked for: that the kids not yell at each other so I don't have to yell at them. Seriously, it's a rainy day, tailor made for small people to challenge the containment of the house and climb the walls, but they have done great and I have enjoyed being really uncharacteristically calm today.

Of course, I don't think they have been repressing their normal ways of annoying each other to please me; I think it has mostly been luck that today they are getting along well.

But I'll take that!

And though I am not Brian's mother, he has been fantastic this weekend and accomplished a "What I want list" (before going out of town for a week) that ranged from the relatively pedestrian tasks of adding more memory to my limping-along computer and taking out the storm windows and putting in the screens, to the much more involved (and kind of disgusting) task of redoing the plumbing from the tub so it will drain properly.

For dinner, I'm getting more of what I want--I'm making some old favorites: grilled flank steak with arugula salad, grilled asparagus, paesano bread and soft centered chocolate pudding cakes for dessert. And a decent bottle of red wine.

Hopefully, after dinner I will get the final thing I want: for the kids to go to bed relatively willingly and let Brian and I have a decent chunk of time in which we can watch a few episodes of our recent indulgence, the Battlestar Gallactica Season 3 DVDs.