The inspiration for this blog came to me on my run this morning. I do a lot of my best thinking when I’m running, but the circumstances for this somewhat manic sprint were a bit different this time.
A few days ago, I found this post on baby bran muffins over at 101 Cookbooks, one of my favorite places to visit when I’m dreaming of the culinary abilities that I’m sure I have somewhere underneath a thick layer of inexperience. The recipe, which was adapted from The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt, uses only two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of sugar, and the rest of the moistness comes from yogurt. I was intrigued: Muffins are just one example of a long list of special breakfast foods that I adore, so I drooled at the thought of a recipe that might actually not contain a million calories per serving.
Let me back up for just a second: I just moved to D.C. four weeks ago after graduating college last spring and moving back in with my parents. My mother is a fantastic cook, and while I was home, we spent many an hour in the kitchen, cooking with wine (yes, some actually made it into the food) and holding informal lessons on some of her favorite recipes. Now that I’m spreading my wings, so to speak, my cooking hobby has developed into somewhat of an obsession. I’ve been addicted to cooking blogs and websites and I’ve been making a long list of kitchen items that I’ll need to acquire to make a fully functional supply.
My grocery excursions, thus far, have generally revolved around how much I can carry the mile back to my house, as I am currently carless. Yesterday, I carefully crafted a list that reflected the recipes I wanted to spend my Easter Sunday testing out. For the first time, I have the time and resources to really nourish this interest and test my abilities beyond the Ramen noodles and sandwiches that nourished me during my college years. And boy, am I excited.
This morning, I literally popped out of bed at 7 a.m., ready to start the holiday that always signifies the beginning of spring for me. I got halfway through the muffin recipe, coffee in hand, when disaster struck–I was short half a cup of yogurt.
The issue was, I didn’t know how to make up for it. I had already been scraping by as far as following the recipe. It called for wheat bran, which the store didn’t have, so I substituted oat bran and hoped for the best. The store didn’t carry full-fat yogurt, either, so I was substituting low-fat. And to top it all off, I discovered that the girl who moved out of my house when I moved in took the only dry measuring cups, so I had to eyeball the dry ingredients using the wet measuring cup, but I had no real idea of whether I was on the mark or not.
So I did the only thing I could think to do–I put plastic wrap over all my mixing bowls, stopped the oven from preheating, stuck everything on the top shelf so my roommates wouldn’t think I had been eaten by bears or something when they came down and found my stuff everywhere but no sign of me, and took off for a jog to the grocery store.
I realize how manic it sounds. I saw exactly one other person crazy enough to be out of her pajamas and on the street at that hour on a holiday, and it was probably only because of the dog she was walking, who gave me a quizzical look as though he knew just how out of my mind I was acting just then.
So that’s how I found myself jogging–nay, sprinting–to my local Safeway in the wee hours of the day. I thought of how most people my age probably wouldn’t be up for at least another couple of hours, and if they were awake, they certainly wouldn’t be running to the store to get the last ingredients to make bran muffins. But there I was.
I’m happy to report that my debacle did turn out to be a success, at least in my mind. The first batch, I added raisins, and although they were fluffy and tasty just out of the oven, I thought they needed something more. The inspiration fairy hit me over the head once more–I spotted a bag of coconut in my pantry and figured I’d give it a shot.
I like coconut in pretty much everything, but it was exquisite in these muffins. It gave them a fabulous texture and a bit more sweetness and flavor than the solo raisin variety.
And best of all, I had a great feeling of accomplishment by the time the first of my roommates rolled out of bed at 10:30 a.m. I knew that I needed to pursue this path and embrace cooking, because hey, if I’m going to have a hobby, what more productive one could I choose?
So this blog will be an exploration of my journey to becoming a true “foodie,” through all the bad substitutions and great triumphs and new tastes along the way. I can’t wait to get started.