Earlier this week, our pillow talk included a how-long-can-you-hold-you-breath contest. I lost, Hugh capable of cutting off oxygen about twice as long as I could. I likely could have gone longer but I was afraid of passing out. This has less to do with my lung capacity, more to do with fear of pain, but that's another issue. This tumbled into looking into the world record for breath holding. You guys. TWENTY TWO MINUTES. I can do a lot of things in twenty two minutes, surviving under water is not one of them. What is so fascinating is that this Dutchman's method for dropping his resting heart rate is meditation by recalling childhood memories and imprinted mental imagery. Stig! You breath-holding genius. So I played the game myself, except I included breathing, as I tried to fall asleep. This is usually a process for me, falling asleep that is - going to the bathroom a dozen times, tossing and smushing my pillow for optimum head elevation and trying not to think about my list for tomorrow. I also gave it a go as I was having a cavity filled. Novocaine shots! They make my hands clammy. I need major calming and to mentally go to a happy place.
I got thinking about past family vacations from when we were kids. We never did anything extravagant, but they are some of the most vivid memories I have of childhood. We had yearly trips with other families to San Clemente (yes, 15 minutes south) for beach camping. I remember my dad cursing every time while putting up the tent, orchestrating those long poles in a mangled X over the top, dirt sticking everywhere, we came of age when he offered to pay the teenage boys in the group to do it for him. The kids made the rounds on bikes as the parents unloaded for the weekend. It was here that I timidly rollerbladed, not completely grasping how to use the brake on the heal. Never the athletic one. Always cautious. The Costco size bag of powdered donuts we chipped away at for breakfast, the ones with so much powdered sugar they made your mouth dry or the tuna salad with Ritz crackers my sister and I ate under the bridge that the Amtrak train went over. Us and our favorite girlfriends put our backs up against the wall to feel the heavy vibration of the train rumble through our bodies as it went right over our heads. It was at this campground that we all sat around a campfire with the radio playing through a car stereo the evening Princess Diana died, and where I learned to shave my legs in those public showers that cost a quarter for five minutes of warm water. None of these memories euphoric in nature, but I can see them, like pictures, in my memory, and they are calming for the mere fact that these moments existed. Days, weeks, they're always in motion, but I can think back and time stands still. Maybe that is what is so peaceful about good childhood memories. They never include a hustle, weighty emotions pushed to the periphery of our memory, but they can be recalled as fine, almost delicate snapshots of our own story.
We have no camping plans coming up, but if I were to replace those powdered donuts today, I would bring along these muffins. They're barely adapted from Rebecca Katz' cookbook. It's a naturally gluten and dairy free recipe, which most of her book is composed of. What I love most is all the great nutritional information in the beginning and how she promotes eating to enhance life, longevity and good health. I swapped out blueberries for some roasted strawberries, but any small pieces of fruit will do here. Maybe a peach with cinnamon? With mini muffs, you want to be certain the pieces of fruit are small or they take up too much space in the muffin, not leaving enough room for the batter that holds it all together. Take that and run with it, the base recipe is just lovely and simple. The season of the super sweet, gorgeous strawberries is fading, so I roasted some down to stir into the almondy batter. Even if you do use another fruit, promise me you'll roast some strawberries before the summer is over just so you can soak in that smell. Sweet heavens, that smell is going on the list of my happy places next time I get a shot. "I know when to add chocolate chips to a backed good. Always." Thank you, chez Hugh. The chocolate takes them into the perfect afternoon snack category when you need a little something special. Glad to have these in the rotation.
MINI ROASTED STRAWBERRY ALMOND MEAL MUFFINS // Makes 24 mini muffins
Recipe adapted from The Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz
The original recipe calls for two cups almond meal. I subbed in a bit of cornmeal because I love how it pairs with berries, the occasional bit of crunch, and wanted to see if I could just barely pull the flavor through. Either way should work. I am new to playing with coconut sugar and really love the sandy texture and almost smoky, caramely smell. It turns the end result a bit more murky brown but I'm not too concerned with that. A maple sugar, muscavado or natural cane sugar would work fine here as well.
If using a standard muffin tin, I am guessing you'll want to add about 5-7 minutes to the baking time. Haven't tried it yet, so just keep an eye on them.
- 1 1/2 cups almond meal
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup roasted strawberries*
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips, optional
Preheat the oven to 375'. Prepare a mini muffin tin with paper liners, or coat the pan generously with coconut oil.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, cornmeal, baking soda, coconut sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil, honey, almond and vanilla extracts together. Whisk it up real well until fully combined and even in color. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir to mix. The batter will be fairly thick. Fold in the strawberries and chocolate chips. Fill the muffin liners to the top, they don't poof too much.
Bake on the middle rack for 16-18 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean. Turn the muffins on their sides in the pan, or remove to a wire rack to cool.
*Roasted Strawberries: Oven to 350'. Toss 4 cups quartered strawberries with a pinch of salt and 2 tsp. melted coconut oil (or olive oil works too). This will do for ripe, juicy berries. If yours are dry or lacking flavor, add a splash of maple or honey to sweeten. Spread them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until juicy and reduced in size. Set aside to cool. This may yield more than you need for the recipe. Mix the extras in plain yogurt or in your morning oatmeal.