Strawberry Oat Bran Muffins

Because I can’t follow a recipe without making substitutions… The original recipe here is for Banana & Oat Bran Muffins from Cornerstones Cupcakes & Muffins. It’s one of those books it’s impossible to keep open without a weight of some sort.

Original Recipe:

makes 12

6 Tbsp (90g) butter, softened

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour

1 3/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 (115g) cup mashed ripe banana

3/4 cup (70g) oat bran

1/2 cup (125 ml) buttermilk

 

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line standard muffin pan with paper liners or spray with oil.

Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in egg until combined.

Add flour and baking powder and mix. Add buttermilk, oat bran and banana and stir until just combined.

Spoon mixture into prepared muffin pan*.

Bake 20-25 minutes etc.

My version was quite different. I happen to have a lot of strawberries in my fridge right now. They needed to be used, so instead of banana I decided on strawberries. The cookbook only had cupcake recipes for strawberries so I decided to adapt one of the muffins to use strawberries instead. I chopped the strawberries small enough that they released a lot of liquid and were a bit mushy, but I did not mash the berries. Instead of doing half a cup I simply used all the overripe berries I had – chopped it came to about a cup.

If you are a seasoned baker you know that to make a baking soda and buttermilk recipe without buttermilk you need to replace the acidity of the buttermilk somehow. Interestingly, this recipe called for baking powder instead of soda, so no additional acid is required even if you cut out the buttermilk. Despite that I thought the recipe could do with some acid, and, as usual, I had no buttermilk. I decided to replace the buttermilk with something else – half milk and half orange juice (1/4 cup of each). I added the two separately because the idea of mixing them prior to adding them to the batter kind of makes me want to puke even knowing they’d mix in the batter.

Those are the extent of my substitutions. It doesn’t seem like much, but it changed the results considerably (I have actually followed the recipe before… more or less). I was happy with the results. You may need to err on the longer side of the 20-25 minutes (or go over slightly). The recipe says muffins are done when a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, but I prefer the spring test. Lightly press on the top of a muffin and release – if the top springs back the muffin is done and if not the muffin is not completely cooked.

I love making fruit and bran muffins. While still not the healthiest breakfast in the world I feel better about the added fiber (from the bran) and the added vitamins from the fruit. This recipe is not perfected yet, so if you have any tips feel free to share.

Enjoy!

Roasted Mini Bell Pepper and Feta Tartlets

These were the light and delicious result of my first experiment with savory tarts.

image

I made two versions – one with feta cheese and one with boring cheese (alpine style combined with parmesan) for the boyfriend since he’s not a feta lover. I actually don’t recommend the substitution – feta mellows when baked so stick with it even for selective eaters.
I made the recipe with baby or mini peppers, but I’m sure regular would do. Just adjust the roasting time. I like the mini peppers because they stay fresh longer and they’re the perfect size if you only want a little bit of pepper. Basically perfect for a 1 or 2 person household.

image

Ingredients:
6-8 mini bell peppers, variety of colors (or 1 or 2 regular)
Feta cheese
Parmesan cheese, grated
Olive oil

3.4 oz all purpose flour
2.25 oz butter
pinch of salt
2 tbs ice water

Recipe:
makes 6 tartlets

1. Turn your broiler on high and arrange the peppers on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Place sheet on middle oven rack or approximately 9 inches from the heating element. Turn the peppers when the skin begins to blister, after about five minutes. Remove from oven when the second side begins to blister, another 5-8 minutes.
2. Place peppers immediately in a brown paper bag and close. This will steam the peppers and loosen the skin. Leave in the bag for 8 minutes, them remove and use your fingers to pull the skins off (discard skin). Slice peppers into thin strips then toss lightly with olive oil. 
3. While the peppers are roasting, combine the flour, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse until mixture looks course like pebbles. Add water and pulse until dough starts top form.
4. Move dough to lightly floured surface and form into a ball. If the dough is cool enough, you can begin rolling it out. If it is too sticky, refrigerate it for up to 1 hour.
5. Roll dough into large rectangle to desired thickness, roughly 1/8 inch. Using tartlet pans as a guide, cut circles to fit the pans. Gently lift and drape dough over each pan and form to sides. To trim excess dough roll a rolling pin over the top of the pan. Repeat until all pans are full. You may need to re-roll the dough to finish. Prick with a fork or toothpick. Cover each pan with foil (should touch the dough).
6. Place pans on a baking sheet and freeze for up to 30 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 425 F. You can use pie weights (or uncooked dried beans) to weigh down the shells as you bake them. Bake for 9-15 minutes until dough begins to set, then remove foil (and weights) and bake for 6-8 minutes longer, until dough looks dry and begins to brown lightly. Remove from oven.
8. Place strips of peppers in the tart shells, distributing evenly. Crumble feta over the peppers and sprinkle parmesan on top. Use your judgement – do you like a lot of cheese or a little?
9. Bake 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately.

Enjoy! Inspiration for this recipe came from here and here.

Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins

As ever I’m a terrible food blogger and forgot to take photos of these muffins. Instead of photos, I’ll just tell you what my co-workers said about them. Jenny said they were delicious. Michelle said I should quit my job and open a bakery. I don’t think that last one is quite deserved, but the muffins were tasty.

I use oat bran in muffins because I think it tastes better than wheat bran and has a far better texture. You could swap out all or some of the oat bran for wheat bran if you were so inclined, but I doubt the muffins would taste as good.

Finally, this is a much-adjusted version of the basic muffin recipes in a little muffin cookbook I own (can’t recall the name, I’ll update later).

 

Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins

Makes 12

Prep time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 20-25 minutes

1 c. all purpose flour

1 1/4 c. oat bran

1/2 c. sugar, divided in half

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 egg

2/3 c. milk

1/3 c. yogurt

1 stick (1/2 c.) of butter, melted and cooled (1/2 c.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tin or prepare with paper or silicone muffin cups.

It’s important to have room temperature (or warmer) ingredients. If your egg is cold, run it under hot water before cracking. If your milk and yogurt are cold, mix them together and microwave for 30 seconds or until warm.

In large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, oat bran, cinnamon and 1/4 c. of the sugar.

In a second bowl lightly whisk the butter with the remaining sugar. Add the egg and beat lightly until the mixture is uniform in appearance and consistency. Add the milk and yogurt and beat until mixture is uniform in consistency.

Pour the wet ingredients into a well in the center of the dry ingredients, then mix until combined. (As with all muffins, do not over-mix).

Divide evenly among muffin cups. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tops of muffins spring back when lightly pressed.

The Information Problem & Interviews (Or, Maybe We Should Just Go Home)

The information problem is a concept taught in introductory economics (and perhaps in other guises in other disciplines). The information problem is the situation in which the parties involved in a transaction do not have equal information.

I have always framed job interviews as an attempted solution to the information problem. Interestingly, most guides to hacking an interview consist of tips on how to best the other party in the transaction – that is, most guides tell us exactly how to answer exactly which questions. If the idea of the interview is to find accurate information for both parties, then guides telling you to “never say you are a perfectionist” are actually just making the whole situation worse.

As a solution to the information problem, the job interview leaves much to be desired. It suffers from a number of serious problems – probably too many for me to list so I will focus on a few that strike me.

If the main goal of an interview is to get to the bottom of the interviewee’s disposition and qualifications and for the interviewee to figure out if they actually want the job, then asking your interviewee canned questions cannot be a particularly good method, can it? We say the interviewers want to learn more about a candidate, and yet they simply present one half of a semi-improvisational script and wait for the interviewee to provide the other half. There is little to induce a candidate to answer the question, “How do you deal with failure?” with anything other than a carefully planned answer based on all the expert advise one can muster, perhaps with a little personality thrown in to make it believable. Essentially, the canned questions (even the infamous Google, “How many ping pong balls can fit on a plane?”) test only one’s knowledge of “acceptable” responses.

The power dynamic in an interview has always seemed wrong to me. Perhaps that is because I am in a perpetual state of I-Have-To-Pay-My-Student-Loans. How can you expect to figure out a candidate when you force them to dress up in clothing that most people rarely wear, put them in a room with people who have virtually nothing on the line (while the candidate on the other hand likely has a fair amount on the line), and play at interrogating them? I am sure you have heard of stories where police garnered confessions from suspects after questionable interrogation techniques only to later discover indisputable evidence that the suspect was innocent. Popular knowledge has that it’s the suspect’s desire to rest or be left alone that results in them telling the police what they want to hear. I cannot help but be reminded of this. Interviews make the interviewee desperate to please – at what cost to the truth?

The power dynamic is related, though perhaps not the same as, one more issue I take with interviews. Do you remember the kids in high school that told you they didn’t do well on standardized test? Maybe they got test anxiety or the form of a standardized test boggled their brain, but you knew without a doubt they were intelligent, capable students? I think the same thing goes for interviews. Not everyone performs well or displays their attributes well at an interview, even if they are the perfect candidate for the job. Like over-weighting of test scores in a college admissions process will result in rejecting many students with tremendous potential, so does over-use and over-emphasis of the job interview result in rejecting potentially great job candidates.

At last we come to my favorite – the “networking” problem. I have had my fair share of interviews in my rather short life. I have rarely seen a candidate get the job who didn’t already have a connection with the hiring managers or interviewers. From networking with alumni to networking with past co-workers and so on, we are unduly impressed by interviewees knowing people we know. Worse, those interviewees have ridiculous advantages – Ms. Doe will be impressed if you mention having read this book or Mr. Xue will be impressed if you mention that you love Malcolm Gladwell. People call this “research,” but I think that is unfair to the word research as it seems to imply anyone can find out that information. Frankly, the fact that we give jobs to people because they know people we like is disheartening at best.

You can tell me it’s all about “fit” if you’d like, but as far as I can tell the job interview is simply a return to the popularity contest that new college students think they are leaving behind in high school. The difference seems to be the level of ease – try to become more popular in high school and one might stand a chance, try to get a foot in the white collar door with a network of blue collar acquaintances and perhaps one should just go home.

Random Thoughts Because I Miss Writing But Can’t Manage a Full Post

I miss writing on this blog, but I find every time I start to read about topics I’d like to post on I get angry. And then I quit. Who likes to be angry? Not me, I assure you. Instead of a full length post, I’m just going to throw a few things out there:

1. Not wanting to be pregnant is not a reason to not have sex. That’s ridiculous. Sex can be wonderful, and can generally be considered a healthy part of life including when there are no procreative intentions. This goes doubly for straight cis men who say women shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to get pregnant. I don’t like to be all, “you don’t get an opinion,” but you cannot possibly understand what it means when you say that.

2. A human growing inside a uterus is not a baby. It isn’t. It’s an embryo and then a fetus (at one point it’s a zygote, but we’re not usually aware of it at that time). 

3. Try to become more aware of your own privileges. I’m not saying put yourself on a scale of privilege, but when you start to respond to someone’s story with, “Well I…” stop. Think. Are you trying to negate their experiences with your own? What might differ between you two? Are you adding to the discussion or are you simply trying to overwrite it? 

4. Today I volunteered at a women and children’s shelter for people in abusive relationships. The women I met there are amazingly strong. I feel lucky to have been able to spend 2 hours with them, and I hope my time there did something positive, even if it was just to give someone a chance to talk about whatever they wanted.

5. I am damn lucky that if I ever need to, I can stay with my mom. And if I ever need it, I have many people I can borrow $ from.

Apparently breaking a bone has something to do with preventive or primary care… or not.

However you feel about the ACA, arguments like this are not doing supporters any favors:

healthcare

You cannot ask a 20-something, “What happens if you break your leg?” Hear her response of, “I intend to take personal responsibility for that.” Start in on the emergency-rooms-must-treat laws, then throw out, “The. . . ACA is designed to reduce that most expensive kind of treatment by incentivizing primary and preventive care, because emergency room bills add up fast, and certainly not all of those charges incurred . . . would or could be paid.”

True: ERs cannot refuse you because you are uninsured or cannot pay.

True: The young person that breaks their leg may not be able to pay their bills out of pocket.

False: Primary and/or preventive care has something to do with this example.

False: The ACA will somehow reduce “that most expensive kind of treatment” when someone suddenly breaks a bone.

The emergency room thing is true, and had the journalist presented the idea that paying for insurance will prevent unpaid bills from effectively being foisted on taxpayers outright, that’d be fine. Instead, we are introduced with, “ERs cannot refuse care” and led into incentivizing primary and preventive care… Sorry, is there a vaccine to prevent us from breaking bones? Because if so, I’d like that, please.

The only way this works is if we’re not talking about “young invincibles” and are instead talking about the elderly population prone to osteoporosis.

Obama: Snowden Is No Patriot

Originally posted on JONATHAN TURLEY:

President_Barack_Obama228px-Picture_of_Edward_SnowdenPresident Barack Obama on Friday seemed to acknowledge that the determined effort by the White House and Congress to demonize Edward Snowden has not exactly worked. The White House has put pressure on many people in this town to make clear that Snowden is not to be praised in the media or by members of Congress. Various reporters and new organizations have held the line in mocking Snowden or refusing to call him a “whistleblower” rather than a “leaker.”  After all, the fear seems to be that Snowden has to be a traitor or Obama would look like a tyrant. Even high-ranking members have been frog walked back before cameras for uttering a work of praise for Snowden. The problem is that it has convinced few people, even with alteration of Wikipedia and other sites to maintain the party line. Now Obama has come forward to assure people that Snowden…

View original 876 more words