Practice Makes Perfect: The Muffin Strategy

website muffins

“Finally!  I’m a girl!”

High school drama clubs are known for their shortage of boys, and as such, time after time I was cast in male roles for the plays I auditioned for at my high school.

For the most part, I actually enjoyed the roles I played.  Not every high school girl gets a chance to be a maniacal Captain of Inquisition (Man of LaMancha) or a foul-mouthed military pilot (South Pacific).  (My father wasn’t too thrilled by this latter role!)

What was difficult about those roles, though, was that it didn’t come naturally to me to be a boy.  While others simply had to become their characters, I had to take on a persona AND remember to walk, talk, and gesture like a boy, too.  I’d be saying a line, and the director would yell, “Stop walking like a girl!”

“But I am a girl!” I’d wail, and he’d reply, “No, you’re a crazy inquisitor!  Now walk like one.”

And in time, I did.

With time and practice and a lot of thought, I learned how to become the male characters and eventually any character I needed to be — so much so that a couple of years ago I was showing several children how I wanted them to act in a scene I was directing, and one of my assistants said, “You know, you could do this as a one-woman show!  You’re switching roles without even thinking!”

Becoming any character, whether it was male or female, had become second nature to me.  That didn’t mean I wasn’t thrilled when I was finally given a female role as Bess, the wife of Scrooge’s nephew, in A Christmas Carol, but it does mean that something I initially thought too difficult to ever do actually wasn’t.

Cooking with Non-Traditional Ingredients

In the same way, it can seem awkward and uncomfortable when people suddenly have to cook or bake in non-traditional ways.  It can seem “unnatural” to cook without wheat, dairy, sugar, or eggs.  Figuring out how to adjust dry and wet ingredients for a “substitute” ingredient can be frustrating.  You’re being told to stop cooking the only way you’ve known how to in favor of a method you’ve never tried before.

As with my acting, practice is important for learning how to cook with non-traditional ingredients, but it can be a pain to practice. Practice takes time, money and energy, and you may invest all three and have a disaster which is completely inedible and a waste.  It’s helpful that these days you can find many cookbooks and online sites with recipes and tips from people, but sometimes, you try a recipe, and it doesn’t work for you or it’s not to your liking.

I remember when I first learned I had a dairy allergy.  I went to a bunch of vegan sites to get recipes, and I was disappointed by the taste of the food.  I asked a vegan friend whether being vegan meant having no taste buds, which obviously could have been very offensive to her, but knowing me, she simply laughed and told me that it wasn’t them but that I was a food snob, which in many ways I am. She did follow up her comment, though, with some advice.   “Learn what you can about vegan cooking, but create your own recipes using the tips you learn.”

Muffins for Practice

It was great advice, but you still have the problem of needing to practice in order to create those recipes. And here’s my tip for you:  Start with something like muffins and work your way to other foods.  Muffins are great for practice, because they don’t require a lot of ingredients that you wouldn’t already be using or have in your house, which saves on money. They’re quick to make up, which saves you time; and you don’t have to make a large batch of them, so they’re not wasted if they don’t come out the best. In addition, who doesn’t like a good muffin?  Even if you have to practice almost daily for a week, your children will still be willing to eat them again and again.

Years ago I found a basic muffin recipe in a cookbook which I have simply modified over time as the number of foods I’m allergic to has increased. The recipe is:  2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 beaten egg, 4 tbsp sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 tbsp melted butter.  The original recipe explained that you could add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of any chopped or mashed fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc… to the batter. Then you bake them for 20-25 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

You can use that recipe or another recipe that you find in a favorite cookbook to practice for whichever ingredients you need to substitute, and you can go the earlier posts on this site about substituting for dairy, eggs, sugar, wheat or nuts to help you.

Meanwhile, a favorite recipe of my children’s is posted below.

Blueberry Banana Chip Muffins


2 1/2 cups 100% whole wheat flour or 2 cups Authentic Food Gluten Free Flour Blend

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Enjoy Life Allergen Free mini chocolate chips

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

1/2 cup egg whites

2 tbsp Agave

1 tbsp safflower oil

3/4 cup soy milk

1 cup frozen wild blueberries

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line 18 muffin cups with liners.  (I use “If You Care” ones.)

2.  Combine the flour, powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

3.  Mix the bananas, egg whites, Agave, oil, and milk.  Add the blueberries.

4.  Quickly stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing only until the dry ingredients are moistened.

5.  Evenly divide the batter among the muffin cups.

6.  Bake for abut 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


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