As humans, we are constantly on the lookout for reasons to celebrate – and it seems to matter little if the occasion is mournful or joyous (If you doubt this, you’ve never been to an Irish wake, or a New Orleans funeral) – if it breaks the norm, it is reason to celebrate.
And so it is as Sandee returns home from her traumatic, but very successful day at the hospital Short Term Stay Center. In response, I feel compelled to find ways to reward her for having endured what most certainly included pain and the discomfort of all those modern pain meds, if not just for enduring 11 hours of what turned out mostly to be ‘waiting’.
We were asked to arrive at 6:30 am, which actually is not difficult for us – I’m up before 5 each day, and Sandee refuses to be late for anything – We arrived at 6:15, and were cheerfully shown to our own personal cubical – the curtain was then pulled shut, San changed into her beautiful hospital robe, and we waited for nearly an hour before we saw another human being.
Then, over the next hour, three or four individuals came and went with their charts, each asking the same questions – we dutifully assisted by responding consistently with the same answers, although I was tempted at the end to begin inventing a few new, more novel responses, just for the fun of it. In retrospect, I’m kinda glad I didn’t, because it only would have kept us there even longer. At 4 pm, it was really very hard to watch the day shift saying ‘Good-bye’ and leaving.
But this all is an opportunity to celebrate the success of her procedure, although we all know that time will be the final arbiter of that fact – still, for everything we know now, it was a raging success – and we shall celebrate.
This morning I decided to make some Blueberry Muffins for Sandee using some simply wonderful dried blueberries we picked up at Costco – I do a lot of fruit drying myself, and have done some blueberries, but none of mine ever turned out as luscious as these. They are soft and chewy, with a wonderful, full and fruity taste – if the label can be believed, there were no chemicals used in their production – this leaves me with only one thought; either their equipment or process is different than mine, or … they lie.
I use the Granny approach to making muffins – I know from memory what they basically need, and there are hundreds of variables beyond that. So I put a batch together, and they turned out so well, I thought I’d share them with you.
As a diabetic, I’m already a bit sugar-shy. But I recently read a NY Times article that simply scared me into thoughts of trying to eliminate even more sugar from my diet. And so I made these blueberry muffins sugar free – instead I used Splenda, but Splenda suggests a one-on-one substitute, and I used far less than that. My own experience with Splenda is that if you use their recommended levels, it is simply too sweet, and that there is a bitter aftertaste that stays with you long after you’ve finished the food – at reduced amounts, there is far less bitter aftertaste.
But there’s another positive characteristic about Splenda use, and I’m not sure if it has much to do with Splenda itself, or is entirely a reflection of our body’s wonderful adaptability – I speak of the fact that if you begin using less and less Splenda -as I have done- your taste sensitivity requires less and less Splenda to retain the same sense of sweetness. Of course, it may be that if you simply began cutting back on sugar itself, you’d encounter the same effect. So, it actually could be our body itself doing all the work – or both!
Whatever – these were very good muffins, and neither of us noticed anything that suggested that they weren’t made with sugar – in fact, they were quite delicious, and therefore, worthy rewards for having endured the pain of surgery and the ‘waiting’ of a long day at The Short Term Stay Center. Or, a celebration of a very successful and scary surgery. Whatever!
Hope you too enjoy them – but you’ll have to invent your own celebration.
My Blueberry Muffins
(any fruits, fresh or dried, may be subbed)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
Put the dry ingredients together:
2.5 cups of sifted cake flour
1/2 cup Splenda (or less, if your taste has sensitized to Splenda)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda (if using buttermilk)
1-2 tsp salt
and any spices you choose (1-2 tsps total) I like, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cardamom, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg
Also add your fruit now (see notes below)
Stir and set aside.
Put the wet ingredients together:
1 cup buttermilk or milk
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup melted butter (if your milk and eggs are cold, mix them with dry ingreds before adding melted butter)
Once the oven is ready, grease a muffin pan (or use those muffin papers that I dislike!) – once your pan is ready, you can put your wet and dry ingredients together (do not do this too early, or you risk losing a good deal of your muffins’ rise) – Immediately, put the batter into the muffin pan – now, quickly make sure the batter is evenly distributed and get the pan into the hot oven.
Bake for 22–25 minutes and test with a toothpick or a pointed knife for doneness – remove if done to a cooling rack. As soon as you can, it’s a good idea to loosen and tilt the muffins in their pan to allow them to quickly cool without the steam destroying the crisp shell of the freshly baked muffin.
You may certainly immediately tuck into a just baked muffin, but they do tend to break open a little nicer if given 10-15 minutes resting time.
If using dried fruit, you may want to chop it into smaller pieces – and this may be easier to do after pre-soaking the fruit overnight. Also, chop fresh fruit before adding.
When using Splenda, know that your baked things will not brown as nicely as when you’re using sugar. If you’d like a browner surface, spray or paint the tops of your muffins with a warm water/sugar mixture (1 tsp sugar mixed with 1/4 cup of warm water) – additionally, a tiny bit of granulated sugar sprinkled over the tops of your muffins will add to their visual appeal and assist in browning as well.
Additional Splenda thoughts – I’m not a Splenda lover, especially its price, but a characteristic I do love is that the use of Splenda teaches your body to be more sensitive to a sweet taste (and if you use too much Splenda, you will notice a bitter aftertaste that lingers long after you’ve finished your muffin) – these facts allow you to continually cut back on the amount of Splenda you’re using, even to the point of allowing only the natural sweetness of the other ingredients themselves to provide whatever sweetness the muffins will have. In all honesty, there’s no reason why these muffins need any sugar at all to be delicious!
If you’re anything like me, you’ll play with these ingredients and their proportions, to your own liking. For instance, you might make these healthier by subbing whole wheat flour – adding ground flax or oats or seeds or nuts – using thinned yogurt instead of buttermilk, etc.