22 April, 2009

Hit the Carrot Trail Muffins for Earth Day

Are they muffins or cupcakes? These days it's hard to tell the difference. Muffins in the popular chains have turned extraordinarily sweet and rich and many of them are large enough to fuel a charging lion. If lions were vegetarians maybe they would eat muffins. Makes sense to me.

I know my family likes little cakes, by any name. My daughter has a special fondness for sweets. Though she could certainly gain a few pounds, she eats small mountains of chocolate. Loves cakes, squares, cookies, breads whether sweet or savoury. I brought her up right.

These days with the stress high in this house, homemade sweets have been a little scarce. Not that we couldn't use the lift, just that the kitchen is in various states of renovation and clutter, as the house is readied for sale. And that we also are in various states of distress with some mental clutter to be cleared out, so baking sessions have been rare. But a day or so ago I felt the need of a little sweet medicine, so I went to the kitchen to whip up a remedy.

I came up with some pretty good muffins. They are a bit like carrot cake, which is what the recipe started out as. Carrot cake cupcakes from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook. I thought they neded a bit more punch as I was going to convert them from glutened to gluten-free and sometimes that conversion produces baked goods that are so light they are more like parentheses around puffs of air than earthly delights.

I added pineapple, whch is a fundamental ingredient in carrot cakes I have been used to making. And because these needed some bite, and something to keep them from levitating off the table, I added some hearty store-bought trail mix. And an egg, but you vegans could make them without. They were nice and comforting. My daughter kept eating them and said they were as good as real muffins. I thought to share them with you.

Thanks to the Earth for all good root vegetables. If you make these at home you will save all the wrappings they would normally come in and spend a little time doing something healthy for yourself and maybe friends or family. You could even take them on a hike. So hit the Carrot Trail and have a happy Earth Day!

Hit the Carrot Trail Muffins (or cupcakes)

1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar ( I use a natural organic sugar)
1/3 cup rice milk
1 egg (optional)
3/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 tapioca flour
3 Tb kinako (roasted soybean flour) if you have it
1/4 tsp salt

1/4 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
1 tsp good vanilla
1/2 cup or so pineapple and juice (canned). I crush it in a blender.
1/4 tsp, rounded, baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup pulsed carrots (I do them very small in a food processor)
1/3-1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup or so trail mix, pulsed to crumbs in a blender (Nice if it's the kind with dried fruit)

Put the sugar, oil, and rice milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl and combine with a fork. Add the flours, baking powder and soda, spices, and mix together. Add the carrots and pineapple and stir them in. Put papers in a 12-cup muffin pan and fill carefully with the mixture. I add a tablespoon at a time to them all and then another spoon, going around in turn so the batter is distributed evenly among the papers. Because there's oil in the mix you don't need to oil the papers. Put the pan into a 350 degree oven and watch them fairly closely. They won't take too long to cook, probably between 15-20 minutes. I have a fast oven, but there are no hard and fast rules about this; watch them and rotate the pan after 10 minutes front to back so they can cook evenly. When they look a gingery light brown and seem firm, test them by sticking a sharp thin-bladed knife or a cake pick into the centre of a few. When it comes out almost clean and dry you can take them out because some cooking will continue out of the oven. Let them sit in the pan to solidify, especially if they are the vegan, without eggs version, which are a bit more delicate but taste just as good.

Eat them naked or sprinkle the tops with icing sugar and enjoy. If you are actually taking them on the trail, they should be light in the pack and light on your stomach.

16 April, 2009

Married with the Heart:

The Music of Loudon Wainright III and Kate McGarrigle

Recently I've been listening to songs from this irreverent, funny, earthy, and sometimes just plain touching American singer and prolific songwriter. Since it's spring, it's time for a little housecleaning of taste, a little exploration, a little sharing. This man's songs touch all parts available for touching; his music ranges all over the gamut of human feeling and goes where most are afraid to. I just listened to his History album and found it very tasty. I'm offering one song from that which I especially like called Handful of Dust, but you could do a lot worse than listen to Loudon's complete oeuvre. The funny faces he performs with are a bonus and if you want to see them go to youtube and do a search. You'll find plenty of choice there, both for songs and faces.

A Handful Of Dust - Loudon Wainwright III

Coincidentally, Loudon was married to one of my favourite singer-songwriters of all time, Kate McGarrigle, who with her sister Anna, wrote the ascendant Heartbeats Accelerating album (Private Music 1990), maybe my favourite album of all time. French-Canadian influenced melodies, pure voices, musicianship of the first order, and lyrics that spring tender and true from two knowing hearts. One of my favourites from that album is the touching and sad I Eat Dinner about the end of love. Leonard Cohen wrote, "Dance me to the end of love". With Kate it's more of a sweet, sad, last waltz.

14 April, 2009

Young Talent: Matt McKeown

Young talent from Halifax, Nova Scotia, with a family connection. Matt wrote this song and performed it with his band in his last few years of high school. He's 19 now, 17 in this video, performing with his former band October Game, home to some very talented musicians. This year he's a working musician with his own jazz-influenced trio while he studies music at university. I think we may be hearing more from him.

Four Reasons