Thursday, September 1, 2011

Basic Muffin Recipe (you decide what to add...)

It's been a good day. I worked a 12 hour shift last night, so I came home and fell, exhausted, on the living room sofa. It was not my intention to stay there, but I woke up about 5 hours later. This is a blessing in itself because I--who never used to have trouble sleeping in the day--have not been able to sleep lately, so today was a blessing indeed. I woke up to the mailman stuffing freebies in my box, can't beat that.

I decided to use the new Samy FAT hair color that I got for 99 cents after a sale, +UP reward and internet coupon. The box said "dark blond." I think not. However, I am satisfied with the coverage; that is to say, my gray is invisible at the moment. Certainly worth the 99 cents and it saved me a trip to the salon, shoot, I even did my laundry during the process! I'll take practicality over pampering.

I've been thinking much about the costs of cooking vs. eating out. It is very tempting to lie to ourselves in this regard. I remember a lab tech who worked at our hospital quite a few years back. Anna (named changed to protect the guilty) loved to pick up her meal on the way to work, and generally speaking, it wasn't Mickey Ds. One day she was eating with us and I pulled out my tuna sandwich with an apple on the side. Anna looked me straight in the eye and said, "It's so much cheaper for me to eat out! I'm a single lady. Do you know how much it would cost me to buy all the ingredients for this shrimp dinner and cook it myself?" Now, I had a choice at this moment, and I decided I wasn't going to make much headway with Anna. I knew her too well. I wanted to explain that yes, her initial outlay for ingredients would most likely be more expensive, but she'd have enough for 5 meals! I might have told her that instead of  buying the $8 dinner...she could have packed a 50 cent dinner like mine. Less bucks, less calories, more nutrients. But I didn't say any of this; Anna wasn't ready for it, because Anna was lying to herself and she really didn't want to hear the truth.

Confession: I lie to myself about this also. I was all but convinced that my new fav fast food, Lil' Caesar's large pepperoni pizzas for 5 bucks, couldn't be made for less. I mean, with grocery costs being what they are these days, how could it not be so? Then I did the math. I pulled out my receipts and calculated the actual cost of ingredients: flour (even whole wheat purchased at Ollies for 20 cents a pound), yeast, oil, sauce, cheese, pepperoni, etc; I can still make a large pizza for around 3 bucks. Obviously, my version is healthier to boot. OK, so what's the lesson here? Never eat out? No! Just don't try to tell me (or yourself) that's it's cheaper.

Here's a recipe to get you started. Muffins are incredibly easy and versatile. I usually use half whole wheat flour in mine. When we have muffins, that's the meal. It's not muffins plus something else.

Basic Muffin Recipe
 2 cups flour (or sub 1 cup with oatmeal, cornmeal, whole wheat or other dry ingredients)
1/4 cup sugar (or sub splenda, honey  or leave out all together)
1 TBS baking powder (or 1 tsp each of baking soda and baking powder)
1/2 tsp salt (may be eliminated)
1 egg
1 cup milk (or buttermilk, cream, fruit juice of even water in a pinch)
1/4 cup oil (or use half oil and half fruit puree, like applesauce or pumpkin)

Serve plain or get creative! Add nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chips, get the idea.  If you are adding a lot of say, dried apricots, you may need to use a tad less flour. Play around until you get your favorite.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. I use cupcake liners and spray the bottom of the paper. Easy clean up and the muffins don't stick! And no, they aren't cheaper at your friendly neighborhood yuppie mart.

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