or: What a Drag It Is Getting Old

Hey, guys?  This whole maturity thing is a buzzkill.  (Side question: do the Who still sing about hoping they die before they get old?)  Gone are the days of drinking-as-a-competitive sport, all-nighters, and greasy food whenever you darned well felt like it.

Okay, so I exaggerate somewhat – I was never much of a drinker – but this is my pity party, and I’ll embellish if I want to.

Last week, I made margarita cupcakes, and did I pile them high with swirls of tequila-lime-salt icing?  I did not.  I made a ridiculously small batch of icing, and demurely spread an even layer on each cupcake.  They still tasted fine, but didn’t feel as fun.

The weekend before that debacle, I saw a commercial for Robin’s Donuts new summer blended drink: a s’mores mocha.  My inner five year-old shrieked joyously, and the next day, I managed to con my friend into making a detour while we were out.  They had signs for it posted in the windows, and those marshmallows looked good enough to eat (obviously), and then I saw the nutritional information right beside the picture: “starts at 560 calories”.  I hate when people misuse the word “literally”, so when I say I literally froze, I mean it.  I wanted that chocolate-marshmallow-graham concoction so badly, and (with apologies to V.N.) what d’ye know, folks – I just could not make myself do it.  Cringing, I ordered a black coffee (and a Ghostbuster; I’m just old, not dead).

In light of these involuntary displays of maturity, I was intrigued by the recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins on Sally’s Baking Addiction.  I like oatmeal.  I like blueberries.  And no refined sugar?  Sign me up!

Sure, they’re sweetened with honey, and sure, a surfeit of sugar isn’t great for you no matter how natural the source, but honey is a lower GI sweetener, so I figure, it’s a trade-off.

Blueberry Muffins 1

The batter turned out super-thick thanks to letting the oats soak in the milk for the prescribed time.  This recipe makes great use of time: in the 20 minutes of soaking time, I had everything else pulled together, ready to add the oats and milk.  How efficient!

Blueberry Muffins 2

Blueberry Muffins 3

They baked up so nice and tall.  The whole house smelled like blueberry-oat-cinnamon magic (I did increase the cinnamon to about 1 tsp), and it was divine!

Blueberry Muffins 4

I really think these are no-fail.  I followed the recipe to a “T” (cinnamon notwithstanding), and they baked up perfectly, no overbrowning or mushy middles.

Blueberry Muffins 5

Just wholesome, blueberry-studded goodness.

My test audience couldn’t keep their paws off these.  I’m told they’re wonderful with just a little smear of butter on each half, but are excellent naked, too.  If you haven’t already preheated your oven, do it now!

I’m sure my self-imposed health martyrdom – if you can really call less-frosted cupcakes healthy – will come to an end soon enough, but I’ve got this recipe in my back pocket the next time I need a healthy snack or dessert.

Thanks for looking! 🙂

 

Quick confession time: I tackled cherry jam again this year.  After last year’s attempt, I tried making proper freezer jam using the basic instructions from the Certo box, and wow.  Wowee wow.  This stuff is good.  Not nearly as sweet as last year’s, and actually (ta-daaa!) a proper, jam-like consistency.  No more holding my toast perfectly level!  I did not, however, document the process in photographs, since the hour and a half leading up to jam-making found the two of us with red, juicy hands and increasingly cranky temperaments as pits kept shooting onto the floor.  (There must be a market somewhere for pre-cleaned fruit.)  Ah, well.  Suffice it to say it was worth the struggle.  And now on to today’s adventure.

I had fully expected the cherry jam to be my swan song for the summer.  How much jam does one need in one’s freezer, anyway?  But then this happened:

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A big ol’ box of blueberries for $8.99 seemed too good to pass up.  And with the holiday weekend, well – that could have meant blueberry waffles, blueberry-oatmeal bar…did I mention waffles?  Unfortunately, the bathroom was being redone that weekend, and the neighbour’s cats were being baby-sat, and so it wasn’t quite the lazy weekend I had in mind.  By the time I rescued them from the basement fridge the following Saturday, they were still holding up really well, but I wanted to get them dealt with while that was still true.  Did you know they make pectin especially for freezer jam?

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Well, they do!  And look at how simple it is:

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So, I got to a-washin’, a-crushin’, and a-measurin’.  Note my extremely sophisticated berry-crushing station.  I bet Smuckers hasn’t got a set-up like I have.

After adding my crushed fruit to the sugar-and-pectin mix, and stirring for three minutes, I got this:

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I left the fruit fairly chunky on purpose, figuring that if the pectin didn’t gel up the way it was supposed to, the fruit would give it some body.  I just noticed now that there’s a lot of vintage Tupperware gracing my pictures here – this is what happens when you have two former dealers in the family.  (Dealers?  Representatives?  Oh, holy spirit of Brownie Wise, what do you call those ladies?!)

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My jars are Dollarama specials – at $3 for a pack of three-250 ml jars, they’re slightly more expensive than the flats you can find in all the grocery stores at this time of year – but darn it, check out those adorable gingham lids!

I wasn’t sure how non-Certo pectin would work, but this turned out really well!  Because the recipe uses less sugar, it tastes pretty much exactly like fresh blueberries – like summer (or Violet Beauregarde) in a jar.

As always, thanks for looking! 🙂

This is probably the kind of thing that could get my citizenship revoked, but I hate Tim Horton’s.  Oh, sure, they used to be good, back when their donuts were actually baked on-site, fresh, in each individual store, before these dark days of par-baked pastries that are frozen and sent to the stores to be “finished off”; back when they focused on being a half-decent coffee and donut shop instead of expanding their lunch menu to include sandwiches that probably taste better from Subway, salty-yet-flavourless soups, and institutional-sized vats of (shudder) beef lasagna casserole.  Unfortunately, flash-frozen donuts and subpar lunch items seem to be the order of the day, and I no longer have any interest in them.  Also, their coffee smells like cat pee (and I live with both cats and Tim’s drinkers, so trust me on this one).  But I digress.

I had some oat bran left in the cupboard from my last adventure with the Applesauce-Oat Bran muffins from Veganomicon, and thought I ought to bake some muffins this weekend.  Last time, I made them pretty much according to the recipe, and added raisins.  This time, I had planned to add some dried cranberries, when my mom reminded me that there were oodles of fresh blueberries in the fridge.  Lightbulb moment!  What about a cranberry-blueberry-bran muffin, much like the ones found at the above-mentioned national treasure of a coffee chain?

Ha!  Tim’s can suck it!  Not only did these come out beautifully, they have almost half the calories of one of those flash-frozen abominations (based on a rough calculation using calorie counts for my individual ingredients, divided by twelve muffins).  I followed the recipe for the most part, increasing the cinnamon by 1/2 tsp and swapping out the cardamom for 1/2 tsp ground ginger.  I also added just a touch of molasses to give them a deeper flavour, and then folded in 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup fresh blueberries.  Now that’s a satisfying 174 calories!

But don’t worry – I haven’t gone totally health-food on everyone.  It was my turn for Bake Day at work last week; check out the margarita cupcake redux:

The minis are so cute; the public loves them; I may well spend the rest of my days making margarita cupcakes to slake the desires of friends and co-workers.