Best muffins ever.

I love all morning pastries – scones, croissants, morning buns, donuts … you name it, I love it.  There’s just something about eating a sweet treat for breakfast and sipping strong coffee.

Muffins are by far my favorite.  But I find that most muffins are as heavy as a softball and just as greasy as a bacon & cheese egg sandwich.  You know the kind … the muffins that actually make donuts look healthy … over-sized muffins that are full of trans fat, sugar, and preservatives.  Just take a look at the ingredients list on your store-bought muffins.  Scary long list of words that you’d need a degree in Chemistry to figure out.  Friends, this is not how breakfast was meant to be.

This muffin, however, has it right.  Whole grains.  Lower fat.  Fresh fruit.  Lower sugar.  And yes, chocolate.  How is this possible you ask?  This muffin recipe is adapted from Veganomicon, and it works like a charm every time.  My friends and family go crazy over the rich flavor and can’t believe that not only is the recipe slightly healthy, but it’s vegan to boot.

Well, as healthy as a muffin can get, right?  Enjoy the recipe, and be prepared to never look at a muffin the same way again.  You won’t want to go back to those other muffins.  Trust me.

The Best Banana Muffins Ever

adapted from Veganomicon

3 very ripe bananas… way beyond the freckle stage

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sugar – I prefer raw sugar in this recipe

2 tablespoons molasses

1.75 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup oat bran

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon (use less if using Penzey’s)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips, optional… but when is chocolate ever optional?

1/2 cup shredded coconut is also nice

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oat bran, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Use a whisk to combine, breaking up any lumps.  Set the flour mixture aside.

In a large bowl, mash the bananas really well.  Add the sugar, applesauce, oil, and molasses.  Whisk well to combine.  Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and mix with a wooden spoon  or rubber spatula until just combined.  If using chocolate chips and/or coconut, fold them in now.

Scoop into muffin tins.  This should come out to 12 even muffins, so don’t be shy about filling the muffin tins with a lot of batter.

Bake for about 18 – 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool for a few minutes in the muffin pan, and then remove the muffins and let cool on a wire rack.

These are best fresh from the oven and slightly warm.  They also keep well in an air-tight container for a few days.  The best way to eat leftover muffins is to slice and toast them in the toaster oven for a few minutes and then top them with some Smart Balance.

Deliciousness.

A view from my yoga mat

Hello everyone!  Today is day 3 of my 40 Days to Personal Revolution.  Just thought I would occasionally post pictures and thoughts about my experience with the program.  Here’s a view from my yoga mat:

I think it’s really important to carve out a space for meditation and yoga practice at home.   It really helps me get into a regular routine if there is a regular place where I unroll my yoga mat that is free from distraction – like the phone or computer.  We don’t use our formal dining room very often, so I moved the table against the wall and I practice meditation and yoga in this room.  It’s a quiet space in the house that has a large window, so the natural lighting is really nice.

I also like to set the mood for my home practice with incense, candles, and a little heat from the help of my small space heater.  While I am on my mat in this room I listen to music and podcasts.  My favorite podcasts are from Philip Urso; you can find his podcasts for free on iTunes.

I am also in the process of downloading some music from Antje Duvekot.  She’s a singer/songwriter I had the pleasure of seeing in concert a few years ago in Harvard Square at Club Passim.   She has a beautiful voice and the lyrics are sweet and meaningful, so her songs are great for deep stretches and savasana towards the end of a yoga class.

Those are just a few things I do at home to help me with my meditation and yoga practice – what do you do at home?  Please share!

Peace,

Chelsea

A Raisin in the Sub

Have you ever bitten into a cookie, thinking it was going to be a rich, chocolaty cookie … only to realize that it’s oatmeal raisin, instead?  I’ve done this before.  The first bite seems off. For a brief second, I am confused. If I am expecting chocolate, I want chocolate.

Sometimes those darn raisins disguise themselves as chocolate chips, and they get my hopes up.   Not that raisins are bad, they are just different.  I have to be in the mood for an oatmeal raisin cookie, but I am always game for a chocolate chip one. If you are like me though, you’ll take a second bite and realize it’s not bad after all.  It’s sweet, chewy, and has the right amount of cinnamon.  Did I mention that I love cookies?

I bring up this scenario because lately I have been substitute teaching for a few studios in the Tulsa area.  I notice that when I substitute teach, it’s as if the students are expecting chocolate chip cookies – their favorite instructor for their favorite class – and instead they are presented with oatmeal raisin, a substitute teacher.  Still good, just different.

The challenge to substitute teaching is that in most cases, the students and I don’t know each other.  And yet, we have expectations of each other.

The tricky thing is that these expectations will color how we experience the class.  But, we can’t control how others experience things.  We have to let others choose their experience.  As a teacher, this is a hard one – I want everyone to have the best experience ever.  And while that might be my intention, I know that ultimately the students choose their own experience.

Subbing yoga classes is a wonderful opportunity for me to practice letting go of these expectations, and to truly come from a place of emptiness.  What I mean by that is to drop what I think I know and to come from a place of “I don’t know.”  This helps me to truly be with the students in the room – not to compare them to other classes I have taught - but teach to who is actually in the room.

As I have subbed over the past few weeks and reflect on this, I realize that I also need to come from a place of not knowing when I teach my regular classes and my regular students.  We never really know how the other person is experiencing something.  We assume we know, we think that we can tell, and that we have all the information.  But, I really don’t know.

When I allow myself to teach from a place of “I don’t know,” my teaching is more powerful.  I allow the students to truly see me, and I allow myself to see my students.  Seeing and being seen is so powerful.  We don’t do it often enough and our society doesn’t really help us do this well.

Every time I get on my mat, or teach a class, is an opportunity to get empty.  To create something new, coming from a place of I don’t know.  It’s certainly not easy, it does take practice.  But it’s more difficult when we come into something already having our minds made up – it’s harder to like an oatmeal cookie when you’ve already decided that chocolate chip is all that you like.

So, I invite you to get on  your yoga mat and drop what you know and see what good can come from it.  You might just find a new love for oatmeal cookies or a new substitute teacher!

I’ve included my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe, and yes, it does have chocolate.  It’s the best of both worlds.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

First, get out all the yummy stuff:

1.75 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon – Penzey’s Vietnamese is the best!

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp Kosher salt

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup pure Grade B maple syrup  – Don’t skimp here, use the real stuff.  Trust me.

1 large egg at room temperature

2 tsps pure vanilla extract

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2 cups milk chocolate chips  – The very best are Guittard milk chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 325 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  In a small bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.  Set the flour mixture aside.

In the bowl of mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and brown sugar at medium speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the maple syrup and continue to beat until well combined.  Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is well combined.  This is why it’s best to use a room temperature egg; it will combine into the butter mixture more easily. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Then add the oatmeal and mix until just combined.  Be careful not to over beat.  Once the oatmeal is well incorporated, take the bowl off the mixer and add the chocolate chips; stir by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon until well combined.

Drop by 2 tablespoon mounds onto the cookie sheet – these will be large, chewy cookies, so be generous as you form the cookies.  Make sure they are about 2 inches apart from each other, and slightly flatten the top of each ball of dough so that they bake evenly.

Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes until the outside edges are golden brown and the tops are set and just starting to turn golden.  Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for about a minute or so, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

You may want to sample a few of them while they are warm; glass of milk is not optional but a must.

Peace,

Chelsea

And we’re back …

Hey there 2010 … where did you go?  If you are like me, suddenly the months of November and December flew by!  Sorry to be MIA for the past few weeks.  I have lots of great stuff in store for 2011, and I will be blogging about once a week.  Here’s a quick recap of November & December:

In November, my partner officiated a wedding in San Antonio for some of our friends.

I went to San Francisco for Thanksgiving to see my mom & sisters.  Josie took us to amazing restaurants,

I said hello to the Pacific Ocean and managed to not blow away,

and we went to Tartine.  It was worth the wait.

In December, I celebrated my 30th birthday in style,

and I started looking for spaces to lease so that I can open a yoga studio.  Stay tuned!

I think I spent most of December in the kitchen.  At times I was up to my elbows in butter! (in a good way!)

I made cookies,

cupcakes,

pies,

and I made a lot of Christmas baskets.

I went to Seattle for Christmas to hang out with these cool kids,

do a lot of yoga,

and spend some quality time with the fam.

I hope 2010 ended well for you!  I am looking forward to a big year in 2011!

Peace,

Chelsea