A Tale of Two Muffins

A bit ago I was looking for an old recipe in an old seldom-used recipe box. I ran across a very old stained piece of paper, and discovered it was a copy of muffin recipes from the book The 8-Week Cholesterol Cure. Twenty-eight years ago I worked with a young woman whose very thin mother had very high cholesterol, and they were trying to lower their cholesterol with some of the recommendations in this book. She said the muffins were tasty and low calorie, so I made a copy and tried them out. They were good! So twenty-eight years later I made them again, and they are still very tasty. Only about 120 calories per muffin. This book is still in print, but the muffin recipe is all over the internet, so I thought it would be okay to share it with you. I made Banana Nut Bran Muffins, but the book has many versions of different flavors.

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Then, a few weeks ago, I picked up the box of Kodiak Power Cakes mix again and looked at it. Hmmm. 1/2 cup of mix with 1/2 cup of water, and you’ve got pancake mix. The list of ingredients is relatively short, its high in fiber and protein. I succumbed.

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Holy Moly, these are VERY good pancakes. 190 calories for three pancakes with 15 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. So far I’ve had them with a tsp of butter and SF syrup, and with walnuts cooked in and topped with my banana mash syrup.

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On the box they also have directions for using milk and/or eggs to make higher protein pancakes. And, they had a muffin recipe. One day I decided I could adjust that recipe a little bit, and tried it. These are also very good banana nut muffins! Very different than the previous muffins, which are very much a bran muffin with bananas. These taste more like commercial muffins, light and fluffy, and pretty sweet. These muffins come out to about 150 calories each. My Kodiak Banana Nut Muffin recipe is here.

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A Simple Special Dinner

Most of the time I am cooking for one. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person in the whole world who does this, so I thought I’d share how I made a special dinner for myself without breaking the calorie bank. Yes, I know its just one meal. But of course, you do end up making enough for several meals, and so for me, its just a good thing to lighten up some of my favorite foods, and also to limit the number of foods I prepare. Don’t feel bad, I did have more than my fair share of sweet treats this Christmas 🙂

So here’s the two recipes I adapted from old favorites. The first was an old recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. My copy is 40 years old! It still has a lot of great basic recipes and instructions, and I am very happy to have it. These are called Buffet Potatoes, and are kind of a simple version of potatoes au gratin. I looked at the recipe and there were a few simple obvious changes and substitutions to make, and still have a delicious side dish. I left out the butter (why do you need cheese AND butter,) and instead of half and half, I used whole milk. That made my version a very reasonable 130 calories per serving. I made a recipe that had 4 servings instead of the 8 in the original recipe.

Here’s how I did it:

I had an 8 oz block of cheese, so I just marked 1/4 of it with a knife, and then shredded that much of the block. I actually weighed out 12 oz of potatoes (I almost always use Yukon Gold because they have more natural flavor,) and I sliced 1/2 an onion as thinly as I could.

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Assembled them in layers with salt and pepper, per the recipe.

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Sprinkled the milk over all, and baked according to recipe, and here are my lightened up buffet potatoes. Perfect with ham!

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I used to make jello with frozen raspberries in heavy syrup, and I used that syrup to make regular jello, and then added the raspberries, cream cheese and plenty of walnuts. For my lightened up version, I used SF raspberry jello, laughing cow lite wedges, and walnuts. I forgot to buy some fresh raspberries, so I used pears this time, which are also delicious in this combination. I have compared, and laughing cow lite has less calories that light cream cheese, and I think its delicious in this kind of preparation. When I had it all combined, I was very happy that I came up with the idea of portioning it out into serving dishes, saving me one more step when it came time to eat! Each serving has about 100 calories.

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And here was my Christmas Eve dinner! The only thing that was missing was some kind of green vegetable. Just some broccoli or green beans would have been great.

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From the Garden

While checking out the garden before another predicted rainstorm, I found three incredible rose blooms. I decided to cut them down and bring them in to enjoy for a bit.

Look how well they match my bathroom! I love that color of pink 🙂

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And even 4 days later I was still enjoying their beauty.

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And one more note about the garden. I was so looking forward to a good year of fall color from the Japanese maples. Unfortunately, the warmer fall that we had (that gave me wonderful roses the last week of November) was not so good for the maples. They just didn’t get that cold shock that they need to turn colors. So I am enjoying bits and pieces of fall color, but so far, none spectacular enough to share on the blog.

In The Garden

Before I start on the garden news, I want to say thank you to those of you who left such encouraging comments on my last post about my knee. It really means a lot to me. I also reached out to a fellow nurse who had knee replacement surgery earlier this year, and in the conversation–where she was very enthusiastic about her experience with surgery–we realized that we had the same doctor! I already knew that I liked my doctor a great deal, but hearing that he was also good at the actual surgery was fantastic news.

I’ve now had two of the three gel shots, and they don’t seem to be doing a thing. But maybe the third shot will be the magic charm.

Well, yesterday I needed to stop at the nursery and ask a question about a pesky weed. Did you all know there’s something called pre-emergent treatment that you can put on plants to keep the weeds from ever appearing? The regular stuff is very toxic to dogs, so she is checking out some corn gluten stuff for me to try. Of course, while I was there, I had to check out the plants. I got a few more pansies and one more six-pack of elfin thyme to fill in the stone pathway spaces.

This is a “wave” pansy! Great for pots, and the pansies actually hang over the side.

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And this big pretty blue pansy. I think I told you–my plan was to plant so many pansies in the garden that Noah would tire of eating them 🙂

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This is the most this camellia has ever bloomed! I guess it is liking our bit of rain, and our longer than usual warm weather.

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And yes! One more rose.

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I took this picture–doesn’t it look out of place blooming with the fall foliage in the background?

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The red abutilon is still blooming away.

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I was standing next to this plant, and noticed a lovely pineapple smell wafting by. This is my pineapple sage–it goes crazy and has these bright red blooms in the fall. I have never used it for cooking. But the smell was so good, I’m thinking of using it on my turkey this year!

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So after I planted my little six-packs, I went over to help MLG who was here splitting more pine for me. Did I tell you about the bark beetles that have invaded our county (because of the drought) and are killing many of our pine trees? My neighbor took down a few pine trees, and had so much wood herself that she didn’t want them. So while MLG was splitting the logs, I threw the pieces into the back of his truck, and then he backed that up to the wood shed, where I started stacking it up. You can see we didn’t finish today. But there is a method to our madness. I have to be able to get to the dry wood. As soon as I make a dent in that, I’ll finish stacking the new wood in the shed.

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We are due for more rain and some colder weather this weekend, and I am ever hopeful that gardening will really be done for this winter!

We Got Rain!!

Has it been on the national news? Do you all know–California, at long last, is getting some significant rain! Except for it being a pain-in-the-butt to get delicate little doggies to do their business outside, I dare not complain!! Between rain today, I got a few pictures to provide photographic proof 🙂

I love how the long-dormant moss comes to life with a bit of moisture.

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The moss is everywhere–even on the rocks!

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I look at this tree out my kitchen window every day.

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And I almost missed this bloom! The tropical hibiscus is even appreciating the rain!

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A Little Garden News

I came home from my weekend trip last week to find this perfect rose waiting for me! This is the Everlasting Peace rose. It has a beautiful form and a wonderful fragrance. Plus, its my favorite color of pink 🙂

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I bought quite a few pansies and a few other plants to fill some spots in the garden. Its supposed to be the best time to plant pansies and snapdragons for strong spring blooms. This corner bed was a mess. The creeping jenny and the never-ending violets had invaded, plus its mostly shady, plus Noah still loves to run down here and bark at cars going by. So I worked on it for quite a while, and planted the pansies, and a new heuchera in there. And then I made my little prison for it, hopefully to remind Noah that I really don’t want him in there.  After looking at this picture, I decided I need one more heuchera to round it out. Oh, and then couple of days after I did all this work, I came out to find that I had planted some of the pansies a little too close to the fence–the deer had come and completely uprooted a few of them 😦

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This is one of the hydrangea. I didn’t prune it yet, and the flowers have turned a lovely shade of dusty pink. Nice!

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Okay. This next picture is proof that I have turned into an old lady. All week I was cleaning and prepping the house for a couple of ladies that I had invited to lunch. The last thing I did was go and pick a few little flowers for a table bouquet. When the agreed-upon arrival time came and went, I decided to give them a call. Sometimes people have a hard time finding my house. “Hello T., are you coming today?” “I thought we agreed on October 7.” oh…..yes, we did. I had even been looking at my calendar during the week to make sure I had everything right…. Well, I enjoyed my nice clean house and the bouquet anyways!

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The foxgloves that I have been diligently watering over the long hot summer so that I would have new blooms next spring decided to give me an early show! So excited to see the  pink shaded one!

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And, it took a LONG time, but look what finally bloomed the last week of September? The cleome that Lori sent me and that I started from seeds. One lone plant, but if Lori is right, it will re-seed itself, and maybe I’ll have a few more next year.

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I have more plants to get into the ground this week, and ummm, quite a few bulbs to find places for. Damn that Costco! 🙂

How about a Garden Post?

I saw this rose by chance when I let the dogs out this afternoon, and couldn’t resist–a picture was needed.

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Then I noticed that all the roses had decided to bloom today!

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MLG was here this morning, and commented that he had heard a local garden show on the radio say that at this time of year, you should let the rose hips develop. If you cut them back, they will grow new canes, but it will get too cold for them to bloom. Anyone ever heard this before?

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So…my favorite lantana… a couple of years ago a reader from Australia commented that they consider lantana invasive plants. I think the reason they aren’t invasive where I live is that they only last a year. This year I bought a larger lantana at a nursery, and I think it was  one that had wintered over. So it stopped blooming soon after I brought it home, and it just grew and grew all summer.

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See? It just took over the whole front of this bed. Just this week it has finally given me some blooms. And then it will be gone. Those plants with the heart-shaped leaves?–those are “money plants” that I grew from seed. They don’t bloom until the second year, so I am really looking forward to seeing them in the spring!

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The “giant zinnia” in front of the vanilla marigolds.

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Close-up:

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The dwarf red abutilon has done well, blooming all summer long.

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Close-up. Hmmm. I don’t know what those white specks are. I didn’t see them until I saw this photo.

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Sophie says, “oops. not pink.”

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MLG was trying to compliment me, and exclaimed, “wow! It looks like a forest.” Umm, yeah. But I live in the forest. This is supposed to look like a garden 🙂 I have a plan. It involves some aggressive pruning. Part of me is still pleased that I have plants growing so well after so many years of coaxing minimal growth in my pots.

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And some special visitors in the garden! I don’t really like bugs. But these guys move so slowly, and even though it looks like they don’t have eyes, they turn their head like they are really watching you or the water. I don’t know if there’s a whole herd of them, or just two that move from place to place, but I’ve enjoyed seeing them.

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And! something new. How and where to stack the firewood is always a problem. And then the stacks fall over or get messy. And then there’s the tarps. Anyway, MLG started suggesting some things we could do to make it better, and pretty soon I said, “it sounds like maybe I need to ask J. the contractor about doing this.” MLG shook his head enthusiastically in agreement. So here is my new fancy wood shed. J. the contractor mills his own wood, and the outside boards are actually made from a sugar pine that my neighbor had to take down–isn’t that fun?

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And that’s the garden report for this week.