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ABCZ Muffins

A few days ago we had a bunch of overripe bananas hanging out on the counter. So I got it into my head that banana muffins + carrot cake = banana carrot muffins, and went off to find the Ultimate Recipe on Pinterest.

Thing is, it was a little too ultimate. As in, I didn’t have enough carrots. So I improvised.

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This, a fairly straightforward muffin with banana, carrot, and zucchini, slowly transformed into a frankenmix of six different ingredients, all in an attempt to get the right amount of fruit/veg into the batter. As I waited for the muffins to cook, part of me wondered whether I’d invented something with so many flavors that we wouldn’t be able to eat them without making a face.

Fortunately, I was very wrong. These muffins are amazing. Even after reducing the sugar from 1 cup to 1/3 cup, replacing half the flour with oats, replacing most of the carrots with applesauce, and tossing in ingredients it didn’t even call for, these things stayed edible.

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Here’s the recipe. I almost titled these “Everything Muffins”, so don’t be afraid to experiment like I did. If you’re out of one fruit and have plenty of another, feel free to mix-and-match and let me know how it turns out.Speaking of titles, the ABCZ stands for Apple, Banana, Carrot, and Zucchini, since those are the main ingredients.

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ABCZ Muffins

Makes: 2 dozen

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup brown or white sugar (Can be increased by up to 1 cup, especially if you have more veggies than fruit in your muffin mix.)
2 cups apple sauce (I used homemade applesauce; it has chunks of apple in it that make for an interesting texture.)
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup zucchini, grated
1/2 cup peanut butter (I also added around 2 tbsp of plain yogurt, but that’s just because we didn’t quite have enough peanut butter to fill up the measuring cup.)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
4 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil; we never have vegetable oil at my house.)
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
  • In a larger bowl, stir together the sugar, apple sauce, banana, carrots, zucchini, peanut butter, shredded coconut, eggs, oil, and vanilla.
  • Stir the dry ingredients to the wet, making sure not to over-mix.
  • Pour the batter into lined or greased muffin tins. If you want nice, big muffins, fill them so that the batter comes up over the top a little. If you want smaller muffins, you could probably turn 2 dozen into 3 dozen by filling them up halfway instead.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.
    Note: 
    I recommend eating these with cream cheese lathered on top, but then again, maybe I just really like cream cheese. They do remind me of carrot cake a little bit when I spread cream cheese on top.

 

 

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Zoo From A Double Perspective

One of the things I like to do is walk around like a tourist with a big DSLR camera held up to my face. Time and time again, I come back to reflective surfaces. The double images that are reflected back at me for mere seconds can be pinned down like insects to the wall of a museum.

A couple years ago, my DSLR camera-hefting self made its way to a zoo. It occurred to me that for animals, the glass is going in the other direction. They get to view thousands of homo sapiens every day. Whether they’re as interested in us as we are in them, we can only guess… but it did give me some photography inspiration. In many zoo photographs, the goal is to immerse the viewer in the animal’s world. There should be no gates, no plaques, not even a hint of reflection on the glass, because that would break the “4th wall” of reminding us we’re still in our own world. For my photo series, however, the goal is exactly the opposite. Instead of photographing the animals, I attempted to photograph the people who watch the animals. Thus we can imagine the experience of a zoo from the eyes of an animal: looking through glass at strange animals with clothes and cameras.

This photo collection is in no way saying that animals feel trapped or unhappy in zoos. After reading The Life of Pi (which I highly recommend), I realize that zoos are a good place for many animals to be. I simply found the reflections on glass intriguing to explore.

(Hint: click on the images to see them full-sized.)

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Legendary New York Cheesecake

I’m not a cake person.

That said, the few cakes I do enjoy are all in the “Best Desserts Ever” category. Can you guess what’s at the very top? Cheesecake. Cheesecake is the best cake, food, and ice-cream flavor I’ve ever tasted. Seriously, if they came out with a Cheesecake GO app where you capture recipes like Pokemon, I’d be the first in line.

Anyways, a few years ago I visited my dad’s side of the family in the South. While there, and possibly on the way out of a chocolate shop, my great aunt told me about this cheesecake recipe.

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What, you don’t know the legend? Well, it’s not the story that makes this cheesecake exciting, I promise you. The story just emphasizes why this cheesecake is my favorite one.

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The topping is just some caramelized pears. I used them because pears are in season and I needed to cover up a big crack in the top of the cake. This cake tastes equally good without any topping though, don’t worry.

Once upon a time, one of my great aunt’s friends was eating at a fancy restaurant in a fancy city. Of course she tried a slice of cheesecake, and of course that cheesecake was delicious, so she asked for the recipe. On her way home, she looked at the receipt for her meal and realized the recipe had been added to her bill… for an extra couple hundred dollars. Ever since then, she’s been sharing that recipe with all her friends and relatives, because you don’t hoard Truth. That stuff needs to be shared.

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It’s a little shorter than it’s supposed to be here because I divided the recipe by 2/3. We didn’t have enough cream cheese for the full cheesecake. Totally not because I’m a cream cheese fiend. Why would you say that???

Ever since my great aunt wrote down this recipe in the margins of my sketch book, it has been the centerpiece of many a birthday. While my dad prefers the chocolate raspberry truffle variety of cheesecake, I prefer the plain and simple purity of this legendary recipe. So basically, I’m passing the world’s fanciest cheesecake recipe into your hands. Use it wisely.

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Legendary New York Cheesecake

Ingredients:*

6 packages of cream cheese at room temperature (8 oz each)
16 oz sour cream (around 2 cups)
2 cups sugar
6 eggs (room temperature is best)
2 tsp vanilla

*Note: You can use any graham cracker crust you want, but the one I used is here.

Instructions:

  • Prepare a spring form pan with graham cracker crust and well-oiled sides.
  • Preheat oven to 450*F.
  • Blend cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar thoroughly.
  • Add the eggs in two at a time, being careful not to over-whip.
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • Place spring form pan into a larger pan surrounded with one inch water.*
  • Pour cheesecake batter into the spring form pan and bake for 15 min.
  • Lower the temperature to 300*F, and bake for an additional 60 min.
  • Remove spring form pan from larger pan and return to oven. Turn oven off. Stuff hot pads in the oven door to create a small vent. Leave cheesecake in oven to cool as the oven cools. I’d recommend leaving it in overnight, but either way works.
  • Refrigerate for one day. (You could skip this step. Just make sure you have leftovers so you can appreciate its flavor the next day.)

*Note: If you don’t have a pan large enough, simply fill a pan with water and place it on the rack underneath the cheesecake.

 

 

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Graham Cracker Crust

The one and only purpose of this recipe is to create the crust for a certain legendary cheesecake, but you can use it for other things too. For example, it can make a tasty snack. Or you could stir it up with some cream cheese and sugar to make cheesecake dip. Or you could make cheesecake brownies in muffin cups. As always, let me know what you did with it, and share a picture or two!

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Graham Cracker Crust

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (you know how graham crackers come in boxes with three packages? I’ve found that one package is just the right amount for crushing inside a zip-lock bag with a rolling pin to make crumbs.)
2 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp butter

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 325*F.
  • Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt.
  • Melt the butter.
  • If making for cheesecake, brush the bottom of a spring form pan with some of the butter.
  • Stir the rest of the butter into the graham cracker mixture.
  • Press the crumb mixture over the bottom of the pan, making sure to get crust evenly into the edges.
  • Bake until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Let cool.