Ginger Oat Bran Muffins


What do you get when you cross a ginger snap with an oat bran muffin?  You get a great muffin with all the health benefits of a fiber filled muffin and all the yummy taste of a ginger cookie.  It’s a win -win that is perfect for the fall season.   This ginger oat bran muffin is great to enjoy for breakfast, your morning coffee break or when you need a little something-something to get you through the day.   This muffin recipe makes 12 muffins.  Molasses is a unique ingredient in this recipe.  It is what adds that special flavor in ginger snaps, ginger cookies and gingerbread.  There are several varieties, a fancy molasses, a cooking molasses and a black strap molasses.  The black strap variety has the most nutrients, with the fancy molasses having the least.  I use the cooking molasses which still has lots of nutrients and minerals.  It is a good source of available iron and calcium. The cooking molasses also contains magnesium, potassium and selenium.  As you may already know from my other articles, oats contain a special fiber called beta-glucan, which has been proven to have the beneficial effect of removing cholesterol from the digestive track, before it can enter the blood stream.  The oats, oat bran, ground flax seed and cinnamon are great sources of fiber and help to stabilize blood sugar, which may be beneficial for people with diabetes, insulin resistant metabolic syndrome and obesity.    I like using unbleached flour instead of white bleached wheat flour because then the immune system in our gut does not have to deal with the bleaching agents in the flour.   You can enjoy the fall season with these guilt free treats and reap all their benefits from their nutritious ingredients.  The fresh ginger and orange zest, add an interesting layer of flavor. 

Ginger Oat Bran Muffins

1 cup unbleached flour

1/2 cup oat bran

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup ground oat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger

1 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/3 cup molasses (fancy)

1 ripe banana mashed

1 egg

1/3 cup olive oil or real butter

3/4 cup water or milk

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line 12 muffin tins with papers, or grease well.  In a mixing bowl add all the dry ingredients including the spices.  In a second bowl mix together the wet ingredients including the mashed banana, eggs, butter, water and stir well.  Add the wet ingredient mixture to the dry and stir until just mixed, do not over stir or your muffins will be tough.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Mocha Pudding Cake

This is a crazy cake for crazy times.  While this dish is baking an amazing thing happens.  The thin sauce you poured on the top forms into a pudding at the bottom of the baking dish and the cake batter you placed on the bottom rises to the top.  It is a chocolate cake with chocolate pudding on the bottom all in one pan.  This is an old-fashioned desert recipe that is a throwback to simpler times.   Dessert is a great comfort food and for chocolate lovers, this one is a real treat.  It required only basis ingredients and is quick and easy to make.      It is a cake recipe that does not use eggs, maybe that is part of the secret, of how it does the flip in the oven.  Cocoa powder is a good source of magnesium and an excellent source of anti-oxidants.  Cocoa it is known to reduce blood pressure and to be heart healthy. Researchers at Harvard Medical School, the Brigham and the Women's Hospital in Boston found that regular consumption of a standardized cocoa beverage improved blood vessel function, especially with the aged.  You might want to add a cup of cocoa with your Mocha Pudding Cake.  For some of us, you can never have too much chocolate.  Just remember, dark chocolate, without the excessive sugar, is the best choice over milk chocolate for health reasons.  Don’t like coffee?  Not problem, just use hot water instead.

Mocha Pudding Cake

1 cup all purpose flour

4 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons coco powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil, or butter

3/4 cup milk

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons butter

1 3/4 cups strong coffee, can be decaffeinated, or instant

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease your casserole baking dish, I use butter.  Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Stir in the olive oil and milk.  It will be a very thick batter.   Spread the batter in the bottom of a casserole dish.  You can use a  9” round or a 8” square.  In a separate bowl or 4 cup glass measuring cup add and mix together the sugar, butter, cocoa powder and hot water.  Pour this mixture over the batter, leaving it to float on top of the batter.    Do not stir.   Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  You can serve it hot with cream or ice cream.  It can also be served cold, with the chocolate sauce spooned on top of whipped cream or ice cream.  The brown sugar can be increased to 1 cup depending on how sweet you like to live or how dark you like your chocolate to be.   



Creating Your Home Spa

Taking time to relax promotes health and can help undo the harmful effect of stress. We know exercise and eating healthy food are good for us, but so is relaxation, as it provides the body time to repair, heal and rejuvenate. Relaxation also provides you with the opportunity to connect with yourself, hear your own thoughts better, restore you creativity and maybe even find eureka. You can turn your bathroom into your own personal home spa area to promote relaxation. Water is part of your home spa treatment. It can help wash away the stress and cares of the day. While you are in the shower, water molecule bonds are being split apart, thus releasing beneficial negative ions. Abundant negative ions are found at waterfalls, by large bodies of water, steam showers, mountains and heavily forested areas. They promote health by allowing our body to use oxygen more effectively, repair damaged cells and improve immunity.

Baths also use water therapy. The water running which fills the tub produces beneficial negative ions. Soaking in the the warm water of your bath tub causes your body temp to rise which increases your immunity. Bath salts pull toxins out of the body, while the skin absorbs the healing minerals found in the salts. Bath salt can be Epson salts which contain 2 minerals, Dead Sea salt which contain 21 minerals or the salt from the Himalayan mountain region which contain 84 minerals.  all of these bath salts pull out toxins and provide healing minerals for your body. Add a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender into the bath water, dim the lights and bathe by candle light to add to the relaxation experience. For the spa experience float a few flower petals on the water. If you don’t have a soaker tub, then consider adding a bath pillow or just roll up a towel for use pillow for your head. You can also lather up with soaps made of natural ingredients that are beautifully scented with essential oils. Further the serenity of your experience by listening to peaceful music or just have silence. A soft and absorbent bath robe and comfy slippers will help to nurture your body and your senses. After a mineral bath it is recommended to hydrate yourself by drinking pure water and then to relax for a full 20-30 minutes.

Other home spa treatments include using home recipes of natural ingredients for various facials treatments and deep hair conditioning. There are now natural shampoos and conditioners that you can use to reduce the chemical load we are often exposed to.  One of my favorite brands is the Koji with tea tree.  Tea tree is an essential oil that is known to kill eyebrow mites, which can burrow into the hair follicle on your head and cause hair loss.  Using a shampoo such as the Koji Tea Tree can help promote a healthy scalp.   You can give yourself a lovely manicure and pedicure complete with a nice foot soak and nurturing lotion. A super nice lotion is Bee by the Sea.  It is made with honey and sea buckthorn oil.  I love it because it soaks into my skin so nice and it never feels greasy.  If you have cracked heels, all natural foot butters such as the one by the Rocky Mountain Soap Co. work by providing healing vitamins and nutrients which are absorbed through the skin.   I have found that they work best when applied and then covered with cotton socks.  Healing water, aromatherapy, gentle music, candlelight and relaxation all contribute to your health in a positive way.  What a great way to awaken the beauty of living!

Summer Decorating

Summer is a time for get-togethers with family and friends.  Weddings, bridal showers, school and family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries, pot luck suppers, bon fires and back yard barbeques are part of our summer celebrations.  Food, beverages and decorating make these special events enjoyable and memorable.    I recently attended a school reunion with my husband.  I admired the creative use of old school textbooks used as centerpieces for the table.  There were also simple flower arrangements that looked like you might have picked a small bouquet of local wild flowers on your way home from school.   The decorators wrapped the pots of cedar trees in brown craft paper which was tied with large green raffia bows, while white mini lights in the cedars added sparkle to the room.  These decorations along with the fabulous meal and beverages added so much to the enjoyment of old friends and classmates reuniting.

To decorate is to celebrate. When you walk into a room or outdoor space and see the decorations, you know that someone has put a lot of thought, time and care into the event.  You don’t have to break the bank to have a fun event.  There are lots of low cost ways and creative ways to decorate and add presence to a summer event.  The use of mason jars is a fun way to make a party both trendy and cost effective.  Quart size mason jars can be used as vases and look lovely with garden flowers.   The smaller jam type mason jars are great to hold votive candles or tea lights.  The jars can be tied around with burlap twine, lace or ribbon.  In fact any type of jar can be wrapped with snare wire at the top and made to be able to hang in trees with tea lights.  Battery operated candles are now available in both pillars and tea lights.  There are floating candles, which can be floated in water with flowers or petals to have a stunning centerpiece. 

Bunting is another decoration that is currently trending.  Fortunately you can make your own.  I have made bunting out of both fabric and paper.  Bunting can be used both indoors and outside.  To make bunting I purchased several packages of bias tape at a sewing supply shop and cut pennant triangles out of fabric, felt or paper.  The cut triangles are inserted inside the bias tape, with a 1” space between each one.   Sew across the bias tape to secure the pennants inside the bias tape.  If you use matching thread, no one will be able to judge how straight a sewer you are.  I saw a photo of many strings of white bunting used in a wedding and it was gorgeous. For a local art show of world photography paper bunting was made out of the pages of an old world atlas.   I have made several strings of bunting in seasonal colors, out of decorator fabrics to use on my shop window. You can get creative and up cycle what you have, old blue jeans, and flowered sheets etc. for bunting or purchase specific colored materials for your project.  Bunting is a big trend in England where it is often used for outdoor garden tea parties and other celebrations.  

Last year I made the mistake of having an outdoor party in mid July without citronella candles or citronella tiki torches and lots of uninvited mosquitoes crashed the party for an hour at sundown.  I did have lots of bug spray for my guests, but having no mosquitoes would have been so much better.   There are now fire pots which burn a citronella gel alcohol to also help keep mosquitoes away and add cozy warmth.   Strings of outdoor lights will create a romantic and festive atmosphere.   Votive candles in jars can be placed in a row on the ground to light a walk way.  Even the ice cubes can be decorated with edible flower petals, fruit such as raspberries, sliced strawberries or blueberries frozen right in, ready to add cool pizzazz to summer beverages.  Summer parties are fabulous and the best part is taking time to enjoy yourself, and have a fun time with your family and friends.