Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Glorious Mornings, Guaranteed

When I was in middle school, a restaurant called the Garden Cafe opened up across from my house.  The food was sort of upscale diner.  I don't really remember much about it except that they served breakfast all day and no matter what you ordered it came with your choice of muffin.  Chicken parmesan? Blueberry muffin.  Chop Salad? Bran muffin.  Pancakes? You must like carbs, why not have an apple muffin?

I always favored the Chicken Salad with a Morning Glory muffin.  I think it has been a decade since I had one, so when I was cleaning out the pantry and came across some desiccated raisins, soy flour, and wheat germ, I combined several recipes to create this one.  The soy flour adds protein and the wheat germ adds fiber - both of which help this muffin keep you full until lunchtime.  I used apple butter from last fall's canning, but feel free to substitute applesauce instead!

While the muffins, were cooking, I made a list of the remaining ingredients sitting purposeless in my pantry/refrigerator door/freezer. I'm usually good about only buying things I need that week at the grocery store, so I don't tend to accumulate much, but every six months or so, I try to do a clean out of all the half-empty containers. My happiness project goal was a good excuse, and now we have the next two weeks of dinners set:

Bulgur à loaded tabbouleh with cucumber, tomatoes, and black olives

Rye Flour à pizza with caramelized onion, ham, and swiss (increase proportion of rye)

Ginger Pickle, Chickpea Flour, and Fenugreek Powder à Indian spiced grilled chicken skewers, paranthas, yogurt, and ginger pickle

Chow Mein Noodles and Peanuts à Thai-ish cabbage salad

Rice Paper Wrappers and Sweet Chili Sauce à vegan summer rolls with peanut and sweet chili sauce (I like them with tofu better than seitan)

Homemade Pickles, Buttermilk Ranch Mix, and Panko Breadcrumbs à “fried”pickles with ranch dip

Quinoa and Chia Seeds à energy bars

Green Curry Paste à summer vegetable curry

Buffalo Wing Sauce à buffalo chicken pizza 

Pickled Pepper Rings àroasted cherry tomatoes, toss with basil, goat cheese, and pasta

Tamarind Concentrate and Peanuts à simple vegetarian pad thai

Morning Glory Muffins
Makes 12

1 cup AP flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup soy flour (or more whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
8oz can crushed pineapple in juice, do not drain
1/2 cup apple butter or applesauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. vanilla

4 medium carrots, coarsly grated
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat over to 375 degrees.
2. Mix dry ingredients well.  In a separate bowl (or realistically, in a well in the middle of dry ingredients to avoid having to clean to bowls, mix the wet ingredients.  Stir to combine, the dough will be thick.
3. Fold in carrots, raisins, coconut, and walnuts.
4. Line 12 muffin tins with parchment liners (these are amazing - nothing will stick to them) and fill each liner with a full 1/4 cup of batter.
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Happiness Project: Money

Yikes, summer is nearly over! I dawdled, but I finally finished my Happiness Project goal of reviewing all of my finances.  I've been meaning to set up budgeting on and I'm loving it. It let's me set budget items for all of our expenditures (including monthly date nights and individual discretionary spending). It took me an evening to get it all set up, but the learning curve is minimal and I love seeing exactly where the money goes each month. It brings me peace of mind which is so important to my overall happiness.  I also set up a few investments so that I can track them with Mint, which is great because I mostly ignored them before. They are long term investments (like my Roth IRA) but I do at least look at them more than once a year now. Mint also encourages you set goals for paying off debt, increasing emergency savings, and putting money away for travel (honeymoon fund!).  It's nice to know that money will be there when we want it.

Secondly, I reduced AT&T cell phone bill by adding the "Fan Number" for my work.  Penn State had one as well, so I recommend asking your cell phone carrier about it.  It can't hurt and it might save a few bucks a month.  We save enough to offset our roadside assistance.  I also finally set up autopay through my bank to mail my rent check for me every month - my last bill that wasn't on autopay - and met with my insurance agent to review my policy.  Each of these took a bit of time, but I'm glad they are done, I've been putting them off for much longer than the inconvenience warranted.  It's given me a huge boost to have this taken care of and I'm feeling inspired for my next goal!

For the rest of August and September, I'll be focusing on clearing out physical and mental clutter. While I'm not a hoarder, I do have a problem with saving things for a special occasion, holding on to supplies I bought for projects that were never finished, and letting work projects languish as I focus on new and exciting projects. So for the next two months, I'm focusing on identifying all that clutter and using it up or throwing it out! First up, the bag of Penn State pasta I was given at graduation two and a half years ago - it made a frighteningly colored, but tasty Greek-influenced pasta salad.
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