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Mumsy’s Muffins

Are you laughing? This is not a parody, like that infamous episode of Saturday Night Live with Betty White. (If you’re looking for a naughty giggle, go ahead and click. Otherwise, keep reading with a clean mind.)

My mom is not as old as Betty White, but she did spend lots of time in the kitchen and so I always thought she was an expert cook. She made cookies, cakes, pies, and even cream puffs, in addition to all the savoury dishes she prepared. But she only ever made one kind of muffin – bran muffins. In her defense, this was before the days of coffee shops that sold muffins in multiple flavours right beside donuts, and certainly before the trendy “muffin top” was developed. Muffins were meant to be a healthy snack when I was a kid. Bran muffins may have been overkill, but served warm with butter I thought they were okay with the raisins or dates she made sure to include. (Now that I think of it, Mom may have liked muffins more as a vehicle for butter than for the muffin itself, but no matter.)

Perhaps it was a subconscious twinge of nostalgia amidst the grey days of early spring, or maybe just a craving for more fibre, but I found myself searching the grocery aisles for bran this past week. It took me 4 stores to find wheat bran – is this a backlash to the gluten-free trend? I didn’t want to use processed bran cereal, just the plain old bran.

I made them this afternoon, and I plan to warm one up for breakfast tomorrow. I will watch the butter melt, and maybe add a wee bit more for the last bite the way I remember my mom doing. There is something so very “homemade” about the taste of these little morsels… the bran is excessively healthy, but the moist chewy sweetness of the dates always made for the perfect contrast. It was that special juxtaposition that made me feel like my mom really loved us – she didn’t punish us with super-healthy, yucky-tasting stuff, she made it yummy. (Childhood logic can be so blunt.)

My mom’s bran muffin recipe is simple enough, and I’m sure you can find something similar if not identical on the web. But I am including it in my list nonetheless, since this is a taste from my childhood. I did add one small Rabbit Hollow touch this time, using dried greengage plums instead of dates. I think my mom would be proud.

 

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Peanuts or pretzels?

The glory days of air travel are gone; it seems all that is left of the in-flight service from a foodie perspective is the insipid cry of “peanuts, pretzels!” As the flight attendants wander down the aisle. 

Granted, airline food (at least in economy class where I’ve been eating it) has not been any great shakes for a long while. But nowadays you might as well bring your own, since it’s all our packaged snack items anyway. 

Travelling by air used to be a grand experience in itself, with cocktails and full meals on platters with silverware. It was a full service, but now you purchase the service in pieces – buy a snack, buy a drink, buy your space for your luggage… 

Don’t get me wrong, I know air crews still work hard. I am just the kind of person who enjoys a smooth ride as opposed to feeling the speed bumps created by breaking things up into little pieces. Isn’t the journey supposed to be as much fun as the destination?


We are on our way to the Mayan Riviera so I look forward to posting some more worthy edibles in the next two weeks. 

You will also see a few guest posts from my worldly mom, Nancy, who is wintering in San Carlos, Mexico and has spent the last few summers “on the continent”, touring Europe. She has graciously offered to fill in since my ability to post might be hampered on vacation (whether by intermittent wifi or too many margaritas!)

Here’s to enjoying whatever you find on your plate and in your glass! 

To Mumsy

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Today is my mom’s 70th birthday. This is the lady who first got me cooking in the kitchen and digging in the garden. I am proud to say that she is now enjoying her own adventures, having raised a family and made a career and created beautiful artistic environments in her many homes and gardens. She has travelled through much of Europe now, and the west coast of  America and Mexico. I’d like to go back to particular culinary memory though, that may have started it all.

Many years ago, my brother and I created a dessert for her birthday dinner. We wanted something that represented how elegant and classy we thought she was. It took more than a few magazines and cookbooks to find the right recipe (this is well before the internet, you see). Finally we decided on a Decadent Chocolate Mousse. My dad whisked her away for the day so that we could prepare. It took us many hours and almost every bowl and utensil she had, but we did it. The special glasses were filled with this wonderful concoction and we awaited the time to present dessert to the birthday girl.

My dad had made a lovely dinner, and after the dishes were cleared it was time. With as much pomp and ceremony as we could muster, we carried the glasses to the table and presented the mousse. I think there may have even been a sparkler. She oohed and aahed – we were pleased. So far, so good. Then came the tasting…. she took a bite and tasted, and I could see her thinking. She smiled at us and said it was delicious. Then she took another bite and began to chew. Chewing? Yes… “What are the crunchy bits in it?,” she said. “They’re really good,” she added (the sign of a great mom). I answered with utter confidence: “Oh, those are the coffee grounds. I’m glad you like it!” My dad chuckled. coffee and beans

It wasn’t until much later that it dawned on me – the recipe called for “2 tbsp strong coffee” but they meant brewed coffee, not coffee grounds. Well, I was only 12 years old, I didn’t drink coffee. My dad wasn’t home so my brother and I figured that “strong” meant heaping tablespoons. (Remember, there was no such thing as a Google search back then.) My mother, bless her heart, was not discouraging but rather adventurous even then. She appreciated our efforts and soldiered on to enjoy the dessert. She has said in later years that she really did enjoy it, and in fact has never had a mousse that she remembers as being as good. I love you, Mom.

The recipe we used has long since been lost in the many moves and purges of cooking magazines, but I have found a chocolate moussesuitable replacement which does still include the coffee: Decadent Chocolate Mousse. Both Julia Child and David Lebovitz have apparently used this recipe. Feel free to think outside the box and add something crunchy if you like! I’m going to make it for my mom the next time she comes to visit, as a belated birthday present.

 

Happy Birthday to me!

I wrote this in the movie theatre while waiting for my popcorn on my birthday a few days ago. There was no wifi to get it to post. I hope you will still enjoy the sentiment 🙂

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Today is my birthday. I enjoy birthdays and in some years I have made a big deal about birthday meals. When I was a kid the cake was always important of course and I was lucky enough that my Mom was at home and liked baking. She made angel food, chocolate fudge, and any other whim I came up with. She wrapped nickels inside Saran Wrap and made sure there was one for every piece, for every kid. A few times we went out or restaurants and then there were always sparklers and singing and much fanfare.

Once I got older I did my own thing. I once made a checkerboard chocolate and orange cake I saw in a food magazine. It took half the day to cut out the checkerboard pieces of sponge and then put in the filling but it did taste amazing.
I’ve never had a surprise birthday party but my husband has surprised me with beautiful birthday treats. His chocolate Baileys ganache cake is one of the reasons I married him 😉
We celebrate lots of occasions together; our life is full of fun. Like Tuesdays for example. They have been our date nights since before we were married. We go to a movie almost every Tuesday. Many of our inside jokes are linked to some of our screen favourites. So this year having a birthday on a Tuesday is just about perfect. I get to be spoiled, and have quality time with my guy while having popcorn. Maybe he’ll surprise me with a piece of birthday cake when we get home 🙂

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