In the midst of the corn husking (and much to my husband’s irritation), I got the urge to do a little cleaning of the freezers. I had to make room for all that corn, after all. Plus, it was a pretty cool place to hang out on such a hot day. (I’m so sneaky!)
Mostly though, I wanted to consolidate all the bags of grains that were banging around in the two big freezers and fridge freezer. I knew I had a lot of stuff, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. And how in the world is a person supposed to use anything up if she doesn’t know what that anything is?
So I did a quick reshuffle of the applesauce, spinach, and blueberries to make room on the top freezer shelf for the grains. As I shoved the bags into their new home, I jotted down each item. The upper shelf was quickly stuffed to the gills, so later when I got around to emptying out the kitchen freezer, I had to put all those little bags of grain into a brown bag and into the chest freezer. So I’m still not totally organized.
But it is much better.
Here’s what I found (most everything is under 5 pounds): hulled oats, nutritional yeast, hulled buckwheat, chickpea flour, semolina flour, cocoa, seven-grain wheat-free flour, spelt flour, rye flakes, maseca, dark rye flour, buckwheat flour, barley flour, yellow couscous, white couscous, millet, quinoa, ground flax, oat bran, pearl barley, amaranth, orzo, poppy seeds, cacao nibs, and ten pounds of wheat bran.
Clearly, it was time I made some bran muffins. So I made two kinds, both from Marion Cunningham’s breakfast book.
I am in love with that cookbook. I want to marry it. I’ve read the whole thing, and still I find myself picking it up and ruffling its pages in my spare time. I’m dreading the day when I have to return it to the library. Tears will be shed.
First I made the hardcore variety, bran muffins straight up—lots of bran, whole wheat, honey, molasses, buttermilk, and raisins. The batter was kind of dry and crumbly, like moist sand, and I was afraid they would taste like bran rocks and then I would have to fall out of love with Marion’s book and I really didn’t want to do that. So I was quite relieved to discover that the muffins were absolutely delicious—moist, sweet, dark, and deeply satisfying. I ate two (and a bite) for breakfast and was full till noon.
The kids, on the other hand, weren’t impressed. The boys each had one and mostly did not complain, and the girls each had part of one and complained a whole bunch, but none of them fussed about being hungry till the sun was high in the sky, thus proving that every cloud has a silver lining.
Which reminds me, I never heard what Mr. Handsome thought about them, so right now, this very minute, I am calling him at work to find out what he thought about the muffin I sent with him this morning.
It’s ringing…ringing…ri— “Hello?”
“What did you think of that muffin I gave you this morning?”
“It was good.”
“You liked it?” I fished.
“I think so. It didn’t strike me as dry or unpleasant to eat.”
“It was good.”
“I think I liked the other ones better, but then, you did, too.”
[Editor’s note: I never said I liked the other ones better.]
“What are you doing?”
“I’m writing it down.”
“You’re writing it down?”
“Yep, every single word. You want me to play it back to you?”
“No. I don’t want to know what I said.”
“Are you still writing it down?”
“Are you there?”
So see? It really is a good bran muffin recipe. The man who doesn’t like super-dense foods even said so.
The second recipe, one that I made that afternoon and we ate with our supper of fried potatoes and sausage and scrambled eggs, was a much lighter, kid-friendly recipe. The recipe involved bananas and cake flour and butter and white sugar. It’s like a glorified bran muffin, still plenty good for you, but not whack-you-over-the-head bran-y. Everyone was very happy with them.
Did you know that bran muffins crackle when you put them in the oven? The bran actually talks, goes all snap and pop as it dries out. Or does whatever it is that bran does in an oven. It’s quite entertaining. And with the amount of bran in my freezer, it looks like I’ll have a bit of cooking snap-and-pop entertainment to keep me happy for a good little while.
Now I just need to figure out some good muffin recipes that call for barley flour and amaranth. Ideas, anyone?
Classic Bran Muffins
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
2 ½ cups bran
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup neutral-tasting oil (I used canola)
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 cup raisins
Stir together the dry ingredients and then stir in the wet. Add the raisins.
Spoon the batter into 18 greased (or lined) muffin tins. Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
These are best fresh, but leftovers are good, too. They freeze well.
Banana Bran Muffins
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Marion suggests adding any or all of the following: walnuts, orange zest, and granola. I did none of that.
I made 12 muffins and two small loaves of banana bran bread which I topped with coconut and chocolate chips à la my favorite zucchini bread recipe.
12 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 ½ to 3 cups mashed bananas (about 4-5 ripe bananas)
2 cups cake flour
1 ½ cups bran
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and mashed bananas. Mix in the dry ingredients.
Spoon the batter into 24 greased (or lined) muffin tins and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
This same time, years previous: spicy Indian potatoes, blackberry cobbler
I'm rooting around for your buckwheat granola and found this for the first time. I have the Breakfast Book and LOVE it! Did you ever buy your own copy? I think you should.
Is it better to pop yourself rather than buy popped?
If you have dogs, you can use the grain flours and some grains to make dog biskets.
Thanks for the tip, Katie! I'm going to try it.
There is no better way to eat amaranth than popped. Hands down. It's more time consuming to do than popcorn, but easy and wonderful. Heat a 2-qt saucepan till it's quite hot (med-high or so?) Prepare a cereal bowl full of amaranth and a larger empty bowl. One heaping table spoon at a time, put the amaranth in the saucepan and quickly put the lid on. Move it around gently till most of the popping is done (this begins to happen very quickly) and quickly dump the popped grain into the empty bowl. Repeat. This stuff is awesome eaten like popcorn (olive oil, salt, nutritional yeast, with a spoon) or you can put it on salads or in pancakes or in soups. Or you can grind it and use it as flour from here — it's much tastier than amaranth any other way. The popped grain/popped grain flour has a slight thickening effect on soups or sauces.