What is a canola?

I feel like I barely cooked this week. I did cook, though, I just didn’t take pictures — not exactly the same thing.

First of all, have you seen this? It’s an inexplicably hilarious gallery of women laughing alone with salad. Here’s my housemate Rebecca doing so:

Salad is so funny! I suppose.

This week was my first week of student teaching, meaning that (among other things!) every day, I have had to pack a lunch. This means lots of sandwiches (I now have not 1 but THREE jars of jam in my fridge). To help with the sandwiches, I made some more bread. This time — unlike the last time I made bread, oops — I baked it all the way through. The problem was that I sliced it while it was still hot, thinking that would be helpful, but I just couldn’t get the slices to be thin enough. I made two loaves and one’s in the freezer, so I’ll do some experiments on the proper temperature to slice bread on that one.

Looks like bread! I love baking. I also made muffins. I’m trying to make a different kind of muffin each week. Back when I was too heartbroken to blog, I made some honey-cherry muffins, following the template in the New Moosewood Classics cookbook, which were amazing. Then this week I made some banana-raspberry jam muffins, and they were not delicious. They were OK, but they had this weird habit of sticking to the wrappers. I either gave them to my housemates, took one bite of the top and then threw them away, or ate the entire muffin along with some paper. Gross. Even though there were only 12 and this was almost a week ago, there are still two left. Do not want.

When making muffins, there are some basic things you can play with:

1. The flour. There are LOTS of different kinds of flour, but lately I’ve just been using whole wheat. I want to do some experimenting, and the availability of flour in bulk will make it possible for me to buy small quantities of quinoa flour, whole wheat pastry flour, etc.
2. The “egg.” Vegan with a Vengeance and Vegan Planet both have lovely lists of things to substitute for eggs. Flaxseed+water is a good one, but I’ve found it is a lot easier to use if you buy flaxseed meal rather than trying to grind flaxseeds, because they are quite small. Half a banana works, too, only when banana should be a prominent flavor in the baked good.
3. The “butter.” Generally, for every 1/2 cup of butter a recipe calls for, use 1/3 cup of canola oil. For recipes like the Moosewood one I’m using that call for 6 tablespoons or something, this means doing some fun proportions like I’m teaching my seventh graders. So much of cooking has to do with proportions and unit pricing and things — “when are we ever going to use this?” answered! For these muffins, I’ve been trying not to use oil, though, in an attempt to make them “healthier.” Also, I realized that I did not know what a “canola” was. According to Wikipedia, there is no such thing as a canola — canola oil is just a kind of rapeseed oil, whose name comes from Canadian Oil Low Acid. So that’s cool. Instead of using that, for the first ones I used applesauce, the amount that the recipe calls for of butter (so for these, 6 tablespoons). For the second ones, I used mashed banana, like twice as much as the recipe calls for. Apparently banana doesn’t work as well for the oil. Isa Chandra Moskowitz recommends then adding a tablespoon or two of oil to improve the texture, and I guess I should have done that, but I think I was stubbornly trying to prove that I could make successful muffins without the aid of oil. That was silly.
4. The “sugar.” I’m trying to not eat refined sugar nowadays. It’s not as hard-and-fast of a rule like no eggs and no dairy (ignorance is bliss but I’m pretty sure that I consumed some refined sugar in my sangria at the bar last night), but still, I’m not about to make muffins with white sugar anymore. The first time, I sweetened my muffins with honey, a dubiously vegan food that I justify to myself with the fact that a) I accidentally eat many insects at camp, so eating insect foods is fairly unavoidable and b) insects don’t experience pain, so I don’t view harvesting honey as cruelty, especially at the small farms I buy from at the farmers’ market. Other non-refined but common sugars include molasses and muscovado sugar (the only sugar my mom now uses for pecan pie). According to the Tassajara Bread Book, jam works as a sweetener. I used raspberry jam in the banana muffins, and I don’t think that contributed to their failures. I also bought some packets of Stevia recently, and I’ve been nervous to try them, but I don’t know why. It’s just a plant. I’ll let you know.
5. The milk. Soy, almond, and rice milk work of course. Juice works. Coffee works. Even water works in a pinch.

I’m going to keep playing around with the muffins each week, and hopefully develop something amazingly delicious yet simultaneously healthful and nutritious.

My housemates are doing dinners on Friday nights now — like on Gilmore Girls! — and this time we made enchilladas. I made the sweet potato black bean ones from Vegan Planet, using a chili and the chili powder I got in Arizona, and they were AMAZING. No pictures of those, just of this giant sweet potato:

See you next week. I’ll still be working on that thing.

This entry was posted in banana, breads, breakfast, coffee, salad, sandwiches, sweet potatoes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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