Photo by Lazy Dog Blog
We are off of school. Again. We are deep into day three of an unrelenting winter storm. Our daytime highs are now below zero, and it has now started bucketing snow. While bone-chilling temps and lots of snow are not unusual in our part of Pennsylvania, the combination of the two is.
The kiddo is getting restless and I honestly can’t blame her. It’s been three days without school or talking with friends, and she now has a nasty cold to boot. We’ve run out of eggs and are down to the last of the milk, which is my fault for not looking at the forecast until it was too late. Moby, my battle-scarred Suburban, is on injured reserve — the air suspension seems to have run aground this morning — the rear of the car is now sitting on the bump stops, and we’re not sure if it’s due to just the cold or something more nefarious.
It’s too cold and windy to even venture outside to diagnose the problem, so we’ll just huddle up inside and wait until the warmer weather arrives this weekend (in the teens).
Temporary Hibernation: Winter is a Time to Bake
I love the winter. There is something so cleansing, so peaceful, so relaxing about spending the day indoors watching the snow drift softly across the fields. It’s as if nature is renewing itself, blanketing the land in a cloak of pure white. The sounds are muffled, the dirty salt-encrusted snow disappears, and the world goes into hibernation if only for a day.
With this cabin fever, I am experiencing the sudden and inescapable urge to bake. I don’t know why, but whenever it snows I can only do a few things: bake, make soup, sew and read. I have an overwhelming need to create delicious smells and comforting nibbles for myself and the crew. But there are no eggs, and I’m not about to get between the kiddo and her morning cereal by using the last of the milk.
This is the moment where I wish I had a flock of chickens and a cow or two, but only briefly. The idea of wandering out in this weather to a bunch of cranky hens, then trying to take them off their nice warm roosts while being pecked in the hand is not something I’m interested in. Livestock is definitely not my thing.
Thankfully, having created a well-stocked pantry for just this situation is about to pay off. I keep boxed “milks” — oat, almond, coconut, rice on hand at all times. I have frozen strawberries leftover from the kiddo’s fixation with morning smoothies. I have flour and other miscellaneous baking staples always on hand, except milk. And eggs. I dig around on the shelves a bit, and find I still have some ground flaxseed in the pantry. Combined with some water (1:3 flax to water), you can make a dandy egg replacer. Since I have celiac disease, today’s baking adventure will be a batch of gluten-free strawberry muffins.
Dragging out my slightly modified ingredients, I line them up on the countertop, pour myself a cup of tea, and get started. Once everything is mixed, the oven preheated, and my tea cooling because baking takes too darn long in the prep phase, I slide those lovely little nuggets of deliciousness into the oven. I reheat my tea and head back to my fireplace and one of my favorite winter activities: reading the seed catalogs and dreaming of spring.
Gluten-free, Non-dairy Strawberry Muffin Recipe
• 2 cups all-purpose, gluten-free flour
• 2 Tbsp. ground flax seed + 6 Tablespoons of water combined
• 1/2 cup gluten-free oats
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• ¼ teaspoon fine salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/3 cup honey (or whatever sweetener you have on hand)
• 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used oat milk for this recipe)
• 1 3/4 cup dried strawberries
1. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a muffin tin by either using paper cups or oiling lightly.
2. Mix together the ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl. Allow 5 to 10 minutes for mixture to set up into an egg-white-like consistency. Mix all wet ingredients in a large bowl until combined.
3. Mix in the dry ingredients (except for strawberries) until well combined. Batter should be thick like a waffle batter. If not, add additional milk until desired thickness.
4. Gently fold in strawberries. Allow mixture to sit for 15 minutes.
5. Bake at 375 for 18 to 20 minutes in muffin tins. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the centers. It should come out clean. Muffins should be golden brown and spongy to touch. Then, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
Notes: This recipe can also be made with carrots (add 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg for a carrot cake flavor), blueberries or any other fruit. Adjust spices as desired. Nuts are a nice addition to the fruits, and chocolate can be used as well.
Dana Gnad is a freelance writer and photographer with over 20 years of experience in technology. She has spent most of her life living on various homesteads — off-grid, urban, and everywhere in between. Currently camped out on 30 acres in the suburbs, affectionately known as The Lazy Dog Farm, she is working on her first book and dreaming of a life on the sea. Connect with Dana on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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