Breaking the Silence with Muffins

When a blogger goes AWOL, it is hard to figure out how to return from nearly 50 days of silence.   What better way to start blogging again than to share my favorite muffin recipe!

Today is my oldest niece’s 16th birthday.  We were so excited when we found out that she would join us, and I still remember how proud I was before she was even born.  I told everyone who would listen that she was the cutest thing to grace this planet.  She still is!  

She is also a lover of peaches, and today I decided to forgo the normal Blakley breakfast (Mama’s light-as-air buttermilk biscuits and gravy) for something a bit easier.   Enter the best muffin recipe.

The best thing about this recipe is that the ingredient list is simple!  It is the kind of recipe that you can play with depending on your available fruits.  I’ve used blueberries, strawberries, and apples.  ‘Tis the season for peaches, so today I chopped about two peaches or a little over one cup.  The chunks of peaches cooked into delicious gooey bites–similar to a cobbler!  I added 1tsp of pumpkin pie spice, because for an unknown reason, Mama is lacking cinnamon.

This recipe is also delicious using whole wheat flour instead of white flour!  In fact, my favorite version of this muffin replaces the white flour with whole wheat flour.  In this banana nut creation, I use 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour, about 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 cup of mashed banana, 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, no oil, and 3/4 cup of milk.

Here are my favorite muffin secrets:  

  • Have a super hot oven.  400 degrees is perfect!
  • Use a little extra flour if the batter is too moist (that’s for you, Rachel…)
  • Everything tastes better with a little butter.  When the muffins are hot, add a little to the top or a sliver inside.
  • Make enough to share!  Everyone loves muffins!  (If they don’t, you should rethink your friends…)

The first two tips are important for creating cute muffin tops.  And let’s be honest, the world could use more cute muffin tops… 
Best Ever Muffin Recipe
Ingredients

  •  2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl or 2 cup measuring cup, beat egg with a fork. Stir in milk and oil. Pour all at once into the well in the flour mixture. Mix quickly and lightly with a fork until moistened, but do not beat. The batter will be lumpy. Pour the batter into paper lined muffin pan cups.  Original recipe makes 1 dozen

Variations: Blueberry Muffins: Add 1 cup fresh blueberries. Raisin Muffins: Add 1 cup finely chopped raisins. Date Muffins: Add 1 cup finely chopped dates. Cheese Muffins: Fold in 1 cup grated sharp yellow cheese. Bacon Muffins: Fold 1/4 cup crisp cooked bacon, broken into bits.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden.

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The Mamaw Series: Banana Puddin’

  This is the first of a series of blog posts I plan on writing over the course of the next few months.  My mamaw loved to cook, and she would clip recipes from the newspapers or copy them from her friends.  Her recipe book is one of the items that I have already laid claim on (sorry, sisters), and it is closely guarded by its current owner, my mama.  I went through it in my late teens, sitting under her watchful eye, copying the recipes that I really loved.  Her handwriting of recipes I copied on the copier brings tears to my eyes–the slanted purposeful writing of an aging woman.

Once we had the assignment in writing class to write about a place.  We were instructed to draw on our senses, the sounds, smells, the way it looked, etc.  I wrote my paper on my Mamaw’s Kitchen.  I have so many memories of being there, watching her cook, seldom getting to cook myself, and eating with her at the table.   I remember Mamaw letting me help layer the wafers and the bananas in her clear glass bowl.  Later she would cook the pudding on the stove, and then pour it hot and thick over the prepared bowl.  It was so hard to wait for the banana pudding to be cold, but it was well worth the wait!

Mama says this was a clue that Mamaw’s memory was failing: she didn’t remember the recipe.  It was never written down either, but Mama and I tried to recreate it a couple years ago with smashing success.

Mamaw’s Banana Pudding

1 box of Vanilla Wafers
1 bunch of bananas
Can of evaporated milk
1/2 cup white sugar (maybe a little less–with the bananas and cookies, this is sweet!)
1 egg, well beaten
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla

  1. In a medium sized bowl, begin to layer the vanilla wafers and bananas.
  2. In a sauce pan, add the remaining ingredients except the vanilla.
  3. On low heat, continually stir the pudding.  Make sure you break the lumps of flour up, so that your pudding doesn’t become lumpy.  Stir until it begins to thicken.
  4. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pour the hot pudding evenly over the bowl of prepared vanilla wafers and bananas.
  6. Cool on the counter-top before covering with plastic wrap and cooling further in the fridge.
  7. Enjoy with the people you love!

Banana pudding is delicious even a day or two old–if it lasts that long!

The First Thanksgiving

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You know, after you’ve been living in another country for almost two years there are few “firsts” left to experience. So I was surprised when I realized that this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. Then I promptly cried in front of my coworkers.

It’s Ale’s first Thanksgiving, so I made her an outfit that she will some day laugh at.

It’s our first Thanksgiving together as husband and wife (Last year I went home).

It’s the first time I’ve made turkey and dressing.

It’s our first Mexican Thanksgiving–so we had Mexican and Americans dining together in the true spirit of the day.

It’s the first time I’ve had to explain the significance of Thanksgiving to anyone.

Thanksgiving was always one of my favorite holidays. It isn’t the turkey–honestly, I could live without it. While I love pie, it isn’t that either. It’s the whole getting-together-with-family that makes it special!

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A couple years ago my mamaw’s Alzheimer’s won out over our favorite holiday. My mama admitted that the holiday wasn’t as much fun as it once had been. So, I made it my mission to have my own Thanksgiving with my mama. We made all the staples together: and even pulled out Mamaw’s recipe book to make her recipes.

Last night I flipped through my book looking for pumpkin pie, and my Mamaw’s handwriting popped out from one page. I looked on it with love and determination. Love for the amazing women who’ve labored on a day like this–and determination to pass on that same love by being a better mama and wife.

Victor said something that I think is really valid about today. He said, “In the United States, one woman cooks for everyone. She does it because her family is important. She just wants them there with her.” I had more than my family with me today–but I think about the moments leading up to that one meal. My baby crawling around singing a constant hum. My husband telling me stories and listening to me talk about my coworkers. The laughter we shared over something the baby did. Laying on the floor of the kitchen to nurse in between preparing the pie and turkey. Multiple trips to the store for supplies.

And now the baby and my husband are by my side. Our bellies are full of sweet potatoes and turkey. We are snuggled up and ready to beat the cold desert night together…

It’s my first Thanksgiving with my family, and we kept the family tradition alive. I’m thankful for my 28 Thanksgivings with my Mama and Mamaw–and for this, our first, as a Mama and daughter team. The Thanksgiving tradition will continue…

20131128-222529.jpgMamaw’s dressing–as dictated by my Mama and made by me.

My Big-Girl Panties

Today I put them on.

I decided that it had been long enough. I mean, twenty-eight is pretty old to still be harboring hesitation. So, I put aside my long-standing issues. I gathered my confidence. And I did it…

I ate fish.

See, this all started last weekend. I read in my Pregnancy Propaganda that my baby is drinking amniotic fluid. AND that studies show that the baby’s first introduction to different foods is now. What I eat can affect my kid’s tastes for life. Almost immediately we went to Sam’s. Victor and I stocked up on salad, frozen veggies, and tilapia. No way my baby is going to be addicted to junk food.

Since then, I’ve been figuring out how to do it. I mean, my knowledge of fish comes in two forms: tuna in a can and tuna in a pouch. I’ve been known to drown my fish in ketchup to mask the taste and not offend the cook (guessing he saw through that though…) I avoid the smell and various Mexican fishy dishes like nobody’s business. But all that changed today.

It happened today because yesterday I received my blood tests from the doctor telling me that I have some anemia. I am on this quest to have a healthy little Meximerican, and therefore–my big-girl pants are really Mama-pants. I will eat whatever necessary for my baby.

And…It wasn’t bad.

Granted, I used butter to cook it. I used garlic, salt and pepper. AND I made tartar sauce. But…it wasn’t bad.

I also scored MAJOR brownie points with my husband, who I think is getting tired of chicken, and chicken, and veggies, and chicken. “Thank you for cooking fish!” he said (too) enthusiastically. No problem, honey. After all, what I am cooking on the inside is my first concern. The fact that both members of my family seem happy (baby is doing a little dance of approval) is just an added bonus!

This girl is growing up. It has only taken twenty-eight years for that to happen…

Who’s Your Boss? (Family Vacation Day Three)

So, I am back at home in Tennessee.  I have faced the firing squad–I have answered the countless questions my family insists on asking about Victor (no surprise).  It isn’t hard to talk about someone who is so amazing though.  I just wish the family could actually meet him right now too.  Algun dia Someday…

Our house is an exciting place to be:

We have 12 children under the age of 13.  Five adults.  Two significant others.  One dog.  And the Mumsie and the Popsie of the family.  Ten children and six adults are all sleeping on four beds, one cot, one hammock, and two couches.

Ah, yes.  Family time in Tennessee.  Just as nutty as I expected it to be–but fun, none-the-less.

So, the kids are really getting along fabulously.  The adults are the only people who’ve threatened the peace (myself included).  We have entertained with a trip to the pool and yesterday the aquarium.  Today we are heading back to the pool–as that really seemed to be a hit.  I just don’t know if I have the energy.  I am exhausted already, and it is just day three.

Part of the exhaustion comes from the kids.  I have been waking up early and fixing breakfast.  My brother decreed tomorrow cereal day.  I am grateful.  Two days I have made biscuits and gravy.  This morning I made breakfast burritos.  My sweet Mama helped me yesterday, and my darlin’ cuñada sister-in-law helped be today.  I am tired.

Today a power struggle has begun, and I kinda can’t wait to watch it play out.  I know who is boss here.  WE ALL know who is boss here.  My Mama.  (Sorry, Daddy.)  And my nephew has tangled with the wrong jefa boss.  Unfortunately, he actually thinks he will win this one.  So amusing.  He doesn’t know how my Mama works.  Or just how stubborn she is.  Especially if you dare to lie.  But, he is finding out the hard way.

He has been separated from the other chamacos kids for a couple of hours.  And my Mama can keep a punishment going until you break.  It’s been a good example to the other kids who might think that they will get away with things the way they might with other adults.  Mama Blakley is not someone you tangle with.  Not unless you plan on sportin’ some nasty battle wounds (to your pride) as you crawl back begging to be accepted back into the Circle of Trust.  And you will crawl back.  Everyone does…

Silly boy.  This will be one family vacation you will never forget.

 

Something Good’s a Cookin’!

I have a friend from Knoxville. It’s interesting to tell people about him, because they always think that I met him before I came to Mexico. He’s a total sweetheart–and I also like to say that he is a male version of me. I really think it is because we are southern to the core.

We decided a couple of weeks ago that we should have a southern supper. Mainly because who doesn’t like some delicious home cooking when they are thousands of miles from home? Unfortunately, it didn’t work out due to my silly schedule/sickness. Finally, last night was the night.

I was surprised. I am so used to people not coming to gatherings, that I really forget who I have invited. We had a house full last night!! In addition to Robert and I, there were nine other people who came. My table seats six. We were squeezed together, sharing seats, swapping seats, and piling on nearby living room furniture.

I decided what better southern food then fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and sweet dinner rolls. yum! Now, here is the catch: Yes, I am from the south. Yes, I love to cook. Including last night, that was the second time I have ever made fried chicken. And I am twenty-eight years old! How does that happen?!?! I actually had to call Mama last week (the first time I made fried chicken) to see what I should do. It was really easier than I thought it would be.

Now, mashed potatoes I have down to a fine art–but the rolls were really a sensation. I also was able to tell people my baking/quarter-life crisis story. I don’t do it justice anymore. It’s one of the benefits of forgetting bad things: I can hardly remember why life was so tough. I mean, if I think about it, it all comes back, but why do that? I do know this: the best thing (or one of the best things) to come from freaking out and learning to live is when I decided to make bread. I am no longer scared of making bread, and more often than not–it really turns out amazing!

The highlight part of the night is when I tasted the tea. “Robert, I don’t know–it might need more sugar.” Grabbing the same ladle I used to take a sip, Robert says, “Yeah, it needs more sugar. I like my tea like Cracker Barrel syrup!” Gotta love a southerner…and his sweet tea.

My Mexico Diet

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I have a problem. Seriously. It’s called My-Jeans-Don’t-Fit. Of course I am happy to be on my Mexico diet, but this really is a problem! I want to have a pair of jeans–they are perfect to bum around in. But the women here have these tiny bird legs. It doesn’t seem to matter how chubby their stomachs are (I’m blaming all the meat they eat for that…), their legs are small.

I, on the other hand, do not have bird legs. Or bird anything–despite the fact that my jeans don’t fit.

It’s pretty great actually. I mean, I walk all over the place. I am sure that is what has done it. I really enjoy it too (most of the time). There are occasionally days like today. I’ve been trying to get a migraine all day. Note to self (and Jenny): get some migraine meds when I come home… I have walked on the loud streets cursing the existence of trucks and buses. I glare into the sun, cursing the fact that I forgot my sun glasses, all the while creating more wrinkles.

Then there are walks like this morning, where I stop and look at the glorious sky. How can anyone doubt a God with something that beautiful? Or tonight, when I saw the moon shining so bright–even while it was still day. I love these kinds of walks.

I’m even getting pretty good at texting and walking. The sidewalks here are treacherous. They seem to be built in pieces-perhaps by whatever business is there. So, you have constant ups and downs. I step up on curbs and over rocks telling myself that it is good for my legs. It’s my version step aerobics.

I’ve also found my new favorite snack: mangos. The smell of them makes my mouth water! This is how I like to eat them though: with hot sauce, chili pepper, lime and salt. They serve them like that on the street. I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask the lady for half an order–as one whole order is too much. Today, I just decided to make my own. It seemed easier.

Oh, Mexico! (You have to analyze the different ways I say “Oh Mexico.” Sometimes it is in exasperation–other times in adoration.)

My First Party

I love having people over.

When I was in Washington D.C., I had these parties with weird groups of people. See, I have figured out one of my problems perks. I like lots of people. Or maybe I should say lots of different kinds of people. This was a problem at my old school, because I heard everyones’s complaints.

My favorite thing to do is put groups of people together that don’t usually belong. For example, in Alexandria when I would invite my teacher friends to hang out with my non-teacher friends. Or my older friends to hang out with my young friends. Or my church friends to hang out with my party friends.

Here, I decided to shake things up by inviting my Mexican friends to hang out with my non-Mexican friends. It went better than I expected. Although to be quite honest, the white people left before long, and the fun Mexicans stayed. I kept telling them that I was Mexicana. That is why I can keep going. That is why I am not tired. That is why I like your music. That is why my beans taste delicious, and you can’t stop eating them (or maybe it is because beans are a staple in my diet at home too).

In any case, it went well! I spent too much money preparing for the party. I have bags upon bags of tortilla chips left over. And I am writing a blog at two in the morning… Ah, well. It is Mexico.

Oh! The other thing is I am thinking of adopting a dog. I am getting ready to move to my own place, and a dog sounds wonderful. It just so happens that my co-worker’s boyfriend is a veterinarian, and has a couple dogs that he needs a good home for. One is a Cocker Spaniel and is young, the other is a French Bulldog and is seven. Sigh. Monday I am hoping to see them both. Oh, what a sucker I am for things that will love me…