Monday, July 25, 2011

savory spinach and cheese muffins

I've been on a savory muffin kick ever since this friend posted this recipe for cheddar and leek muffins on her blog.

I started craving these muffins again, except I didn't have cheddar cheese and I didn't have leeks. And I didn't have buttermilk. I didn't even have milk to make my own buttermilk. But, I did have 2 different kinds of cheeses and sour cream. And I almost always have a variety of at least 4 kinds of flour (wheat, corn, spelt, bread flour, etc). Hmmm.

These are the moments I love. The Italians have a phrase for it: l'arte d'arrangiarsi = the art of making something out of nothing. I love that.

Well, I didn't quite start with nothing. I had some things, obviously. As a result of improvisation, I made another kind of savory muffin.

Spinach and Cheese Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup fine corn flour*
1 1/2 cup coarse corn flour*
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups sour cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed out and excess water squeezed
1 1/2 cup grated sharp cheese (sharp cheddar would have been great, but I only had parrano and pecorino, so I used a combination of both)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper muffin cups or cut-out parchment paper.

Sift all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream, butter, and honey.

Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in the cheese and the spinach. Do not overmix - overmixing makes the gluten develop in the batter, resulting in a tough dough. You don't want that in muffins!

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups. I was actually able to extend the recipe and make 18 smaller muffins instead of 12 regular-size ones.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a tiny bit of flaky sea salt (not the fine one). Just to make them pretty :)
*You could use just fine corn flour instead of a combination of fine and coarse like I did. I just thought the coarse corn flour would add some texture. I didn't want to use all coarse corn flour though, because I wasn't sure if it would make the muffins heavy. I think this combination and proportion was just right.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

seed of potential

There is a place deep in your soul where a little seed rests. This seed is your amazing potential. Each time you push yourself, each time you breathe a true deep breath, each time you reach your hands to the stars, you nourish that little seed and feed your soul. 

- Karen Tye

Feeling a little victorious - well, more relieved than victorious, actually - about some positive feedback from my professors on my recent work. Yes, I pushed myself but I'm nourishing that little seed. Even a little at a time. 

Whatever that seed is for you, I hope you are nourishing yours, as well. :)

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Monday, July 11, 2011

dreaming up my ideal life

I've been in a strange mood lately.

This might be one of those "neither here nor there" posts but I just need to put onto (cyber)paper some thoughts/emotions that have been circling in my head. Writing is a thinking tool, after all.

I know I get into these phases every now and then, when I question what I am doing. I can't help but shake the fact that I am not living my ideal life. I have a refrigerator magnet that reads: "Now is the time to live your ideal life." It's made me think about my ideal life and whether what I am doing now will get me there. It's a scary thought, considering how much I've invested into this PhD program. I thought this was what I truly wanted. Wasn't I just thinking about how restless I was in my previous situation 2 years ago when I was deciding to quit my job and go back to grad school?

I've heard other people in the same situation (in a doctorate degree program) that almost everyone has wanted to quit at some point. No one ever said it was going to be easy. I knew that coming in to this. So why am I questioning it so much?

Am I fickle, flighty, indecisive? Or is it that every decision I make brings me closer to realizing what I truly want?

What do I truly want? I want a more sustainable lifestyle. And no, I'm not just talking about sustainable in the sense of being conscious about the earth's resources (although that is part of it). I want a sustainable lifestyle in the sense that I can truly bring to life my gifts, carry out my purpose with energy and passion, and sustain a sense of balance in body, mind, and spirit so that I can give more to others - whether that is my family, or my community. A non-sustainable lifestyle, in my opinion, is one in which I would get so completely burned out that I would lose motivation, inspiration, and/or energy to give back to others.

I just went on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education, which lists open positions in higher education. Every time I check the website, I get scared and intimidated. Because I don't see where I truly fit in. At the same time, I don't see myself in a full-time faculty position in a big research university. Sometimes I think that kind of position is like being in the doctoral program all over again - except it's with higher pay but maybe 10x the stress. And am I not continuing my education to have a better quality of life and to be able to contribute something (or many "things") to someone (or to many), somehow?

Anyway. I recently was asked by a colleague to present to a graduate class on the topic of infant-toddler development and early intervention services for young children and families. I covered early brain development, early caregiver-child relationships, social-emotional development and the impact of early experiences on later school readiness. I also talked about services for young children with disabilities and families. I was so energized! I loved talking about these topics and I felt like I could talk more - especially since the class was engaged and interested. I loved doing this.

But I also love doing other things. Many other things. Which is probably evident in this blog because I talk about so many different things. Sometimes I feel as though they conflict with my work, as these other interests take time as well. I often feel I am being pulled in so many different directions. Must be the Gemini in me, I don't know. I am constantly trying to strike a balance between all my interests. Sometimes I think I would be just as content being a "happy homemaker" and pursuing my creative outlets. As scary as that is for me to admit. But I don't want to give up my work either. Because it does energize me and challenge me. And when I feel energized by my work, as in the example above, it reaffirms for me that I am where I need to be. But the work does take its toll. I can't tell you how many times I've had a meltdown due to stress. And I have realized, as written in a previous post, that I sometimes feel that I live in this almost constant state of stress that I have conditioned myself to feel the stress even before the stressor is actually there. As hard as that is for me to admit as well, being a yogini and all. But I can't live like that, in this almost constant state of alarm - either experiencing the stress or bracing myself for the next big storm. Because I am not good to myself and to others in that situation.

I read somewhere, that if you want a better answer, ask a better question.

So perhaps the question is not where do I fit in, but how can I create my own ideal life? Perhaps the question is not how I can do all of these things so that they are not in conflict with each other, but how can I forge my own unique path which will allow me to do all these things in a balanced way?

So. In dreaming up my ideal life, I listed down the things that are important to me. I am a listmaker, after all.

I would love a life in which I can:

- be the best person I can be to my family and those around me -- live in health in mind, body, and spirit so that I can live generously with my time and energy
- work to improve the quality of life: to work as a means to an end, not an end in itself
- provide independent consulting to early care and education agencies in infant-toddler services/ early intervention
- train future early childhood professionals, whether at the preservice or inservice level. I love working with practicum students (preservice). I also have discovered how energized I felt after presenting to professionals at state and national conferences (inservice).
- pursue my other interests - cooking, baking, photography, yoga - in a way that is balanced and sustainable (understanding that these interests take time and may cost $)

My big deadline looms closer (in 2 days). Another rite of passage. And after having crying about it for a while, I am trying to reset my thinking to see it not so much as an obstacle or hurdle but as a place for uncovering my potential and a step closer to being able to create my own unique path.

In the meantime, maybe I should practice writing those three letters "Ph.D" next to my name... ;-) It won't be for another year or so, but hey I could use all the motivation I can get.

This photo was taken by my brother Carlo on a trip to California. Here I am looking over the vineyards of Sonoma Valley. I don't usually like photos of myself - my comfort zone is behind the camera, after all - but in this one I look like I'm dreaming of my ideal life.

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