The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Category: Photography

Weekend in photos. Mount Norwottuck & Horse Caves

This weekend I tried something new. 

And I absolutely loved it.

 I’ve always felt at peace walking through the woods. Scavenging for rocks, acorns, brightly colored leaves and moss. A sort of treasure hunt without a real purpose. The woods seem to have a way with me. Kind of like the ocean but much, much different.

There are lots of wooded trails I can access just by traveling down the road from my own front door, but this weekend I was lucky enough to travel north into Mount Holyoke Range State Park.

Though the peak of fall foliage has passed and we continue full steam ahead into the holiday season, the woods continue to offer a unique and magnificent beauty. The sun speckles the forest floor as we haul ourselves over dips and peaks, at times the journey seemed to take us straight up to the heavens only to catapult us into a valley that would no doubt require yet another rocky climb. The views, at all times, breath taking.

“Hiker’s coming through” shouted one woman, a member of the trail works team. I’m a hiker. I turned this thought over and over again in my head. I didn’t feel like a hiker. Instead I felt awe and peace and excitement and exhaustion sometimes all at once and at other times, breathing deep, with trembling legs I bounded over unsteady rocks and up the next incline, like a highway’s trail for run away trucks.

 

The landscape changed as we wound our way 4 miles deep into the range. From white birch to pine, wet leaves to gravel trail. Sun lit warmth to chilled air that seemed to breathe off jagged edges of the horse caves.

 

Each face we passed, gleaming with sweat, smiled at us. Exchanges about the beauty of this November day were cultivated and shared.

 

8 miles, 4 hours and 1778 feet of elevation later, we emerged out of golden leaves to the parking area. A stillness from the busy life remained on the winding road and farm lands that dotted the perimeter of the park.

We traveled home. Achey and sore. Ready to embrace hot tea and a home cooked meal. As tired as my body told me it was, my mind felt renewed.

 

I’m hooked on hiking.

Hosting a Bridal Shower

It’s an exciting time of the year. I sit at traffic lights, windows down, sweet smells from the flowering trees above roll in, dancing beneath my nose, making a seemingly mundane task of running to the store for last minute dinner items seem like a treat.

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The sun sets later and later with each passing day, the first night I slept with the windows open, heavy fog blanketed the ships at the docks, the aroma of lilacs went untamed, the tones of Latimer point guiding boaters was amplified yet slightly subdued by the damp air, summer’s coming that low decibel whispered to me with each tone. Like waves rolling onto shore, a predictable familiar pattern, lulling me to sleep.

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Though Sunday afternoon was plagued by chilled rain drops, there was warmth just beyond the rain streaked windows inside the yacht club.

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Chatter and clinking glassware, sweet bowls of fruit alongside potted herbs brought friends and family together to honor a bride-to-be.

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If I wasn’t a dietitian, then I’d likely be a farmer or maybe a writer, but maybe I just might be a party planner.

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Through the gracious help of several of my mother’s friends we were able to host a lovely bridal shower down by the sea, on the albeit rainy shores of Noank. A celebration of new beginnings, at one of the most beautiful times of year if I do say so.

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SFG {Square Foot Garden} Update + We Have Radishes!

I feel that too often I start off my posts with a confession. It quickly brings on a fear that someone will think that I am so pretentious and self-touting that I need lay it all out there in this little corner of the internet that I reside in. There you go folks, I did it again, I confessed as a start to my post.

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I can’t say what imaginary rule led me to believe this confession nonsense wasn’t necessarily the most appropriate way to start off a post. So while I’m at it, here’s another confession for you, in case you haven’t already figured this out, when it comes to blogging, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I think that’s part of the reason I gain so much satisfaction from it. It’s a project and a challenge and after each post a mysterious wave of belonging, creativity and satisfaction comes over me.

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Sometimes I get to wandering from blog to blog, attempting to measure myself up to those that do this for a living, or those that have been so fortunate to have a professional design the layout of their blog, or those that just seem have the most beautiful pictures and words tied together with copious amounts of creativity. I fight off the urge to say, what am I doing here creating my own food blog? But the truth is (ah, another confession), I feel comforted by the fact that for once in my life, I am okay with not being “the best” at something and rather I am one of many, many fish in this large, crowded pond of food bloggers. To feel so small while being a part of something larger than yourself can be quite nice sometimes.

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Two years ago was the first year I really got into gardening. Sure, I’d always attempted a few potted plants, adopted a pansy or two in need from the wilted black thumb of my mother. This year I decided to “do it right.” For heaven’s sake, I bought a book. I knew I needed a book after last year’s exquisitely small broccoli florets turned wild yellow flowering bush – yikes we missed the harvest, debacle.

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So while there is no recipe to share today, I thought I’d just take the time to share a few pictures from the garden. I love the beauty in such small details.

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And I love that I was so excited to rip the first ripe radishes from the ground and get to slicing and munching that I completely forgot to have my camera ready and so instead I must share a snap shot courtesy of my iPhone.

 

This One’s For You, Boston.

An incoming text from a Bostonian friend of mine lights the screen of my phone early Monday morning. It reads everyone in Boston is off today but me. In my usual point-blank manner I replied, yes, it’s Patriot’s Day and Marathon Monday. You should have stayed home.

Little did I realize what kind of meaning those words would take on several hours later.

The tragedy seems unthinkable and unimaginable. A nation reeling in the aftermath of yet another instance of innocent lives being plucked from our earth far too soon. I feel uncomfortable talking about it, for I am so fortunate to not know anyone who was harmed or present on that catastrophic city block as the explosions went off.

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I flip on the news Tuesday, it’s five AM, I expect the usual stories of traffic and small town events, for a split second I forget what has happened. As I wipe the morning from my eyes the images from Monday flash like a horror film across the screen.

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I get into the car and drive up to Massachusetts for work, my Boston-based radio stations share stories of heroism and hope, fear and loss. I enter through the doors of work and words like amputation, explosion and terror plague the conversations I hear as I walk through a crowded lobby.

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But Tuesday morning brought the most lovely orange sunrise I’ve seen in quite awhile. I couldn’t help but recall the blazing hues of pink and orange that washed across the sky the morning following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Like clockwork, the sphere on the horizon shed light on a day filled with what if’s, how come’s and what’s next?

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I never have the chance to photograph the sunrise and soft light I witness as I race up Interstate 95 in the morning. But I am occasionally fortunate enough to be home in time to catch the other side of the sun and the way it sits on magnolia blooms and patches of daffodils.

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I vow to continue my efforts to find joy in the simplest of things. Stacking them against the reality of uncertainty and the fragile thing we know as life.

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Pumpkin Chick Pea Patties


So this past week didn’t exactly go as planned. I’m not complaining by any means but I must say, I realized how much I rely on my planning abilities in order to make interesting breakfasts, lunches, and dinners happen and thus, posts happen. It isn’t that I don’t have post-worthy meals while I’m not blogging but it’s more of a “what do I have time to make/what ingredients are in the kitchen” which often results in repeats of tried and true recipes.

Instead of cooking, I was able to spend some time playing with my new Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens, chasing sunsets and birds. In short, I now have some incredible zooming and macro capabilities! A few initial photos to follow…

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In other news, we were unable to visit the farmer’s market this weekend, I’m three weeks in and I’ve already broken my commitment to visit on a weekly basis. Can’t be perfect all the time right? I’m hoping to make it there next weekend, and I’m also hoping that the warmer weather and advancement into spring means more variety. For anyone who is interested in finding a farmer’s market within reach of where they reside – or perhaps looking for additional markets – I highly recommend clicking here.

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Though I couldn’t bring you many posts this past week, I thought I would share lunch, and a secret with you today. My secret: I’m a little bit of a veggie burger snob. I like a lot of texture, I need substance and I need flavor. Nothing in the supermarket freezer section has ever impressed me. And so, I turn to the internet, my food processor and a bit of creativity instead.

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You would think I would have exhausted my taste buds with all the pureed pumpkin I used from September to November this past year. But after a few months on hiatus, pumpkin enters its way back into my pantry. This time, in the form of pumpkin chick pea patties.

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Pumpkin Chick Pea Patties

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen’s Blog

Makes about 5 – 4oz patties 

Ingredients

2 cloves garlic

2 TBSP chopped, fresh parsley

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

2 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp chili powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 cup cooked and cooled wild rice blend (or plain brown rice)

2 cups cooked and cooled chick peas (garbanzo beans)

2 TBSP ground flax seeds

1/3 cup panko bread crumbs

1-2 TBSP olive oil for cooking

Start by mincing the garlic in a food processor by pulsing a few times. Then add the parsley, pumpkin, olive oil, chili powder, salt and cumin. Pulse about 4 times more, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add the rice and 1/2 of the chick peas (1 cup) and pulse 2-3 more times. Add in ground flax and panko, pulse once or twice. Add the remaining cup of chick peas and pulse a 2 to 3 times. Do not over pulse if you are like me and like a few larger chunks of chick pea in your patty.

Form mixture into 5 patties and heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once oil is shimmering hot, add patties, cooking as many as will comfortably fit at one time. Cook until a golden crust forms, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

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Add to salad or whole wheat bun. Today, I had mine over a bed of arugula and pea shoots that was tossed with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Arrik put his in a tortilla left over from last night’s dinner with a bit of wasabi goat cheese, arugula salad on the side. Another great addition would be the avocado mash, used in the Farmer’s Market Lunch Week 1 post.

Side Note: This recipe comes together very quickly when you keep things like rice and beans already prepared in your refrigerator. Ready at a moments notice for inclusion in your recipes.

Farewell Winter Chili

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Whether the snow came or not last evening, I still felt the need to cook up one more pot of chili for the season. A warm pot of goodbye. I have truly enjoyed this winter as I was able to explore through the eyes of a brand new camera. I’ve decided to share a few pictures I have yet to post.

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Yesterday, I thought we were going to luck out. The forecast threatened nearly 10 inches of snow and there wasn’t a single flurry flying yesterday. The skies looked like they could give way any minute, but they had not. And as I crawled into bed a few flakes drifted around but it was minimal.

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I didn’t have to work today so I wasn’t overly concerned with rechecking the forecast before bed. I assumed we had managed to escape the storm. The weekend was calling for temps steady in the 50’s and I was thrilled. We were springing ahead, a welcome change to the winter routine.

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However, I awoke to several inches with snow still coming down. I couldn’t be upset. It was too pretty and the only place I had to go was the hardware store. Ironically, today is the day I had planned to begin preparing for my spring and summer gardens. This year we’re going to try our hand at square foot gardening. I think I will incorporate some posts including updates along the way. Our garden last year was filled with some successes and some failures. This year I hope for more success.

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Whether you’re tying up snow boots or cursing at the snow outside your window, I encourage you to make up a pot of this two bean chili before another winter soup season has come and gone.

Farewell Winter Chili 

Adapted from Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish Blog

Serves about 6

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground beef

1 TBSP olive oil

1 – 15oz can black beans, preferably low sodium, rinsed and drained

1 – 15oz can pinto beans, preferably low sodium, rinsed and drained

1 – 28oz can, low sodium crushed tomatoes

About 1 cup shredded carrots

salt and pepper to taste

3 TBSP chili powder

1 TBSP ground cumin

1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2-3/4 cup water

Toppings like sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, avocado as desired.

Heat olive oil in a large stock pock over medium heat. Once hot, add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. Once beef has started to brown, add in chopped garlic and onion and cook until fragrant and beef is completely browned.

Add beans, carrots, tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add in water  to desired consistency and stir well.

 Cover and simmer for at least 15 minutes. I would recommend simmering for about 45 minutes to allow for flavors to adequately develop. Serve with desired toppings.

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We also served ours with corn bread, I used the recipe from the canister of Quaker Yellow Corn Meal, cooking in a large cast iron skillet.

 

 

 

 

Mashed Farmer’s Market Blues

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It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade. 

Charles Dickens



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Now that it is March I can truly bask in the signs of spring. They’re everywhere you look, so long as you are looking. Like green little fingers pushing up through a leaf covered ground, in a garden put to bed for winter. Like polka dots of emerald hope, scattered along the patches of tan, barren ground.

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Step inside my house and it absolutely looks like spring has sprung. Tulips in a pastel pot.

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A refurbished garden bench hosts an array of greenery, a different set than the evergreen that lay just a few short months ago. Succulents, though not necessarily a sign of spring, bring pale greens to bright windows.

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Step outside and a new hook allows for double the feeding frenzy, welcoming the birds from all around. Soon I will be able to share more dinnertime fare, with adequate natural light for photographing. It’s the little things, some in my control, others just a welcome change.

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I’m bringing color in. Into my house and into my life. Onto table tops and countertops, onto dinner plates as well.

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Courtesy of our local farmer’s market, we dined on blue potatoes along side mustard crusted chicken and roasted asparagus. Once mashed and mixed, the potatoes boasted a sweet pastel purple. The recipe may be called Mashed Farmer’s Market Blues but I can only feel rejuvenated and blissful as we begin the month of March.

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For the chicken recipe you can click here.

Mashed Farmer’s Market Blues (potatoes)

Serves about 6

About 2 pounds blue potatoes, scrubbed clean, skin left on

1/4 cup skim milk

1/4 stick of salted butter

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Fill a pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Place potatoes in the water once a rolling boil is achieved. Boil until fork tender.

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Drain and transfer potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Mash slightly with a fork. Add butter and parmesan cheese. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix at low-medium speed. Add in milk and continue to mix until desired consistency is achieved. Season with salt and pepper. Mix for about 30 more seconds on low speed until well combined. Serve!

 

Sea Glass Earrings

Beach Glass. Sea Glass. Mermaid’s Tears.

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I happen to think it is quite important to have a vast array of interests. As much as I love throwing on an apron and pouring over recipe after recipe, tweaking and molding them into the perfect science experiment of a muffin; I also find a great deal of satisfaction from nature. Sometimes it is the nature right outside my window, and other times it’s the way the sun filters through the pine tree on my walk to get coffee.

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And sometimes it’s the beach on vacation at the jersey shore. But one of my favorite places to travel to is the little sand spit across the state border in Rhode Island.

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Here, nature gives me a little piece of itself as a keepsake of summer days even on the coldest, darkest days of winter.

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I like to think of this little jewel-ridden piece of land as a secret. I like to think that it is only I who harvests its treasures, carted home to be stored and displayed.

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For years, I have placed my sea glass in jars and vases, shoe boxes and baskets, with no intention other than recalling the thrill of the hunt, when a green gem shines among a rocky tide line, a quick swooping action is needed to pluck the shard from the sand before the relentless tide comes and sweeps it away for another hunter. A sea glass hunter that is.

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It was about two years ago that I finally put my sea glass into something other than a display jar. I put it into a sponge and I drilled, and drilled, and prayed that I would not crack this coveted treasure of the sound.

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I then twisted sterling wire round it’s smooth edges and although I had no idea what I was doing and don’t exactly identify with artistry, I was overwhelmingly satisfied with the result.

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I could wear this memory of the sea whenever I wanted, displaying it for more than just those who happened to walk past my bookcase.

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For those of you who may wish to turn your sea glass collection into something more than home decor, here are some of the recommended supplies:

Dremel Tool fitted with a .084 to 1mm ball tipped Diamond drill, found at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

A small pyrex dish

A large kitchen sponge, cut to fit inside the pyrex dish

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 Top Tips:

Soak the sponge with enough water that when pressed, the sponge releases water but does not over flow the dish. This will keep the glass from overheating (and shattering) and also lubricates the drill bit.

Drill a hole about halfway through the glass, then flip it and drill on the opposite side, if you only drill from one side the hole is less likely to have clean edges.

Do not apply excess pressure to the dremel while drilling, let the weight of the tool dictate the pressure applied on the glass.

Press the sea glass into the sponge to release water to wash away any sludge from accumulating around the drilling site.

Should you be a bit hesitant, practice a few pieces of broke or less desirable see glass first to get the technique down.

Be patient while drilling! Applying too much pressure to the dremel may cause the glass to shatter.

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Roasted Veggie Wraps

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Though I walked a fine line of near misery this weekend, I am happy to report that I successfully survived the historical blizzard, in a house with no electricity and no heat for the better part of the weekend. This of course did not mean that there was any lack of cooking.

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I am tempted to glamorize this for you all, and tell you I dined on roasted veggie wraps, sipped on chilled white wine, a bottle freshly plucked from the snow pile, in front of a roaring fireplace.

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In fact, I will tell you this because this did really happen. But I must be honest and tell you I was adorned in a winter hat and wool socks at all times and I was usually muttering something about the cold that had settled quite suddenly over our home as the lights went out.

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It was not until late Sunday, when the electricity was restored, that I was truly able to see and marvel at the down comforter of snow that had coated most every viable surface as far as the eye could see.

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The roads looked like something out of an Alaskan landscape, the trees laid down to rest under ice and snow-ridden branches and the birds, oh the birds were just giddy with the sudden abundance of berries brought to the ground and the generosity of a certain someone who kept the black oiled sunflower seed flowing and suet aplenty.

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I was unable to adequately document most of my cooking endeavors as the glow of the hearth just does not do the trick and the temptation of a hot meal was too enticing to illicit a full photo session.

Quinoa cooking

I will leave you with this. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cannot cook quinoa tacos in the dark. A camping stove saved me and my sanity this weekend. I will post the recipe soon, when I am able to actually capture this meal under adequate lighting. For now, I will share my roasted veggie wrap.

Roasted Veggie Wraps

Serves 2

 2 whole wheat wraps of your choice

about 2 cups of spinach, washed and spun dry

2 cups of chopped vegetables, your pick (I chose carrots and broccoli because thats what we had on hand)

1 TBSP olive oil

1-2 TBSP goat cheese

For the glaze (this will make extra which can be easily stored in a jar for future use):

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1-2 TBSP light brown sugar

 I would recommend preheating and oven to 375F and tossing the chopped vegetables with the olive oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until for tender, about 20 minutes. However, given my resources, I used a cast iron skillet over medium heat to saute the vegetables about 10 minutes, until soft but still with a bit of crunchiness or to your liking.

In a small cast iron skillet over medium heat, heat the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, stirring frequently until the mixture has reduced in volume by about half. Remove from heat to a small bowl.

Assemble wrap with roasted vegetables, goat cheese and spinach. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and enjoy!

Cranberry Flax Muffins

DSC_0031In the past year, I’ve made some really big strides in the kitchen. I’m not sure why it was that I didn’t familiarize myself with the kitchen sooner, but I’m sure glad I have now. After years and years of watching food network, I have finally taken on some recipes of my own. And now, I rarely watch food network because I’d rather be in the kitchen, experimenting and executing meals, instead of sitting down, watching someone else cook.

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Unfortunately, I’ve been called a food snob, but I’d really call it more of a food skeptic. This is something I can be proud of. I know a big part of this comes from my education in dietetics. I know a great deal about food, the science of food, the misinformation on food, the benefits and preventative effects as well as the detrimental effects of food. And so I trust few others to prepare an equally satisfying, healthy meal, snack, dessert. But of course, I’ve identified a few.

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I wish I could say I don’t let the misconceptions about food get to me, but now and again I hear a remark from a family or friend (and sometimes a total stranger) and I cringe. I want to correct them, I want to inform and educate them. The misconceptions about dieting seem to get under my skin the most.

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 I know that for the rest of my life I will watch what I eat, and watch my weight, while thinking about and taking control of what I let past my lips. I also know that I really like to cook, and I also love to bake. Some people think that “being on a diet” means that they can’t have baked goods. In fact, a realistic, healthy diet, one that is meant to instill lifetime eating habits, improving a person’s relationship with food while maintaining (or losing) weight certainly can include sweet treats.

I want to feel good about the food I eat. I don’t want to feel deprived. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I know I’m not alone here.

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And so I bring you, cranberry flax muffins. These muffins provide the satisfaction of a baked good with sweetness, while sneaking in some beneficial fiber and quite frankly, they make for a nice accompaniment for my afternoon cup of tea.

Cranberry Flax Muffins

Adapted from The Pastry Affair.

Yields 12 muffins

3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (90 grams) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (53 grams) milled flax
1/3 cup (66 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1 cup (235 ml) 1% milk
1 cup (120 grams) dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit, think cherries, apricots or a mixture…)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flours, milled flax, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the egg, vegetable oil, and milk, mixing until combined. Gently stir in the dried fruit.

Pour the batter evenly between the baking cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.