Let’s face it: food is sensual, and lest you think that the kids can’t read this column, get a grip on the word “sensual” — we’re talking about appealing to our senses of taste, sight, smell, touch, and hearing. Sexy, Brooding, Dark Chocolate Muffins turn breakfast — or dinner! I like breakfast foods at dinner — into a time to lean back, close your eyes, and say,
“Mmmmm! These are warm and soft and complex and deep. I like the crunch of the salted almonds set against the soft cakey texture of the muffin itself.”
Considering that we eat three times a day, we can really derive more enjoyment out of the experience than as if we were filling the gas tank of the SUV. And indeed, if your life is blessed enough that you don’t wonder where your next meal is coming from, then acknowledge that blessedness by taking time to focus on the food, thank the person who made it, and interact with the people sharing the meal with you.
Food is a gift, and regardless of whether or not you acknowledge the universal Giver, be thankful every time you eat.
Let’s make muffins!
Sexy, Brooding, Dark Chocolate Muffins — Makes 12-15 regular sized muffins
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature (although it seems like an oxymoron, coconut oil is not liquid at room temperature, but more like butter. If you don’t have coconut oil, then go ahead and use butter)
3/4 cup sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners Fair Trade Organicis my favorite, and I get it at Costco. I like the chunkier texture, in addition to the lack of chemical bleaching additives)
1 egg (I would really prefer to use two — but the chickens aren’t laying well right now. They’re all molting, and they look ridiculously funny)
1 Tablespoon vanilla (Yep. A tablespoon. I like this stuff. If you don’t have it, use water or milk)
1 1/2 cup flour — Kamut, Spelt, or other ancient grain, or whole wheat (for my take on ancient grains and why we use them instead of modern commercial wheat products, check out Ancient Wheat — a potential alternative to gluten free. I used half Kamut and half Spelt; if you don’t have these, use conventional whole wheat flour — and if you’ve got nothing else in the house but the white enriched stuff, go ahead and use it — just by cooking for yourself you’re doing oodles for your financial and physical health; just be aware that you may have to add more white flour to get the right texture)
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa (this is deeper and darker than the non-Dutch process, but use what you have)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar (the acid in the lemon juice or vinegar reacts chemically with the baking soda, resulting in a softer crumb in the baked product)
1/4 cup roasted and salted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup chocolate chips, chopped
Cream the coconut oil or butter together with the sugar until well blended. Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low until incorporated.
Put away the mixer and pull out the spoon, because once you add the flour to a muffin recipe, if you overmix, you’ll wind up with fallen (sinful! decadent!) muffins.
I dump the flour over the coconut oil/sugar mixture, pour the milk/lemon juice mixture atop, and stir gently just until mixed. You should have a stiff batter that isn’t dry. You don’t want it soupy, like cream, but you don’t want it thick, like cookie dough. Go for the just right that’s in between, and if it isn’t just right this time, don’t give up in despair; just make adjustments next time. That’s how you become a good cook — you keep trying, experimenting, and learning from both your failures and successes.
Stir in the almonds and chocolate chips.
Fill greased muffin tins 1/2 to 2/3 full. If you have any muffin spaces that don’t have batter, cover the bottom with water.
Bake at 350 degrees for 14-17 minutes, until the tops are brown and bounce back when you poke them lightly.
Those of you who regularly read me know that I’ve got a few theme songs that I keep singing, and one of them is — learn to cook for yourself. We live in a society of literal consumers, in that we buy stuff and use it up, and we are losing our independent roots of learning how to do things for ourselves and our families. Cooking is one of the first, and easiest, tasks we can take back into our lives. I write about food on Tuesdays, financial health on Fridays.
These are uncertain times — even people like me who assiduously avoid the talking heads on the news programs know that we’re living through a period of insecurity — in our economy, political climate, and society, and one way we battle insecurity is to grab whatever control we can in our own lives. My book, Live Happily on Less, walks you through the small, easy, and realistic lifestyle changes that you can incorporate into your life so that you don’t have to be so dependent upon somebody else to get from the morning tea to the evening Kombucha.
The digital edition is $5.99, the paperback retails for $12.99 but is usually on sale for $11 or so. As a person who has managed a minimalist amount of money and achieved a maximum amount of lifestyle satisfaction, I really recommend listening to me. I know that sounds bloated and vain, but how many people do you know who know how to manage their money without being weird about it?