It turns out that it is not especially difficult, as a person (admittedly self-diagnosed) of approximately reasonable levels of functional sanity, to become deeply paranoid and want to stay under the bed. "The Universe is trying to teach me a lesson" is the kind of thing I might be tempted to think. "Don't Tell The Universe I Am Under Here" might be scrawled on a sign propped up by the bed. Not that I have given the matter much thought.
Our community is reeling from the loss of a friend's 21 year old son over the weekend. As we are all learning and re-learning and learning some more, you really do see the best of a community at the worst of times. You really do wish you did not need to be reminded in this manner. You vow to remember it very well, so the Universe will stop feeling the compulsion to teach you again.
Here on the farm, reeling continues with the passing of one of the Founding Ewes of our little flock, one of the last of the inaugural class of sheep here on the hill. Rosie came to us in the family way and was the first ewe to birth under our bumbling care. We checked her constantly, and then came home one day to find her standing, quietly yet obviously pleased with herself, beside two beautiful, healthy white lambs. "Thank God we weren't home when she went into labor," I remember thinking. What a mess we might have made trying to help. To give you a sense of Rosie's presence of mind, here is a story about the time a friend brought his herding dog over to help round up our sheep, who had never been herded by a dog before. Sheep, as prey animals, are not prone to a lot of independent thinking in the presence of danger. One shared brain cell governs the main response, which is flight. The flock flew. After a spell, Rosie peeled off and came up to where my husband was standing. "Are you aware," she seemed to be asking, "that there is a dog chasing us all around here?" He reassured her. I swear she shrugged; it's possible that she sighed. She resumed her place among the flock. She was the first ewe I witnessed heading in front of me to the barn when her lambs were picked up in the field. "Meet you in there!" one could almost hear her say. "Just going to get off my feet for a sec while you have the babies!" We had a very fine teacher in Rosie, and we will miss her.
A few days after Rosie went, a weasel found its way into the chicken coop, and in the manner of such things, killed the best and most favorite hen (and two other victims, whose losses should not be overlooked). Mrs. F, though petite and profoundly ridiculous-looking, was by far the best mother hen we have hosted here in 11 years of chicken-keeping. We've known some monumental dingbat failures and we've known some good ones. Mrs. F was peerless.
We wish them peaceful rest.
I wish for fewer opportunities to feel this way. I know that I can't stay under the bed, and in my saner moments, I also know that the Universe is not trying to teach me a lesson. No special attention is granted from the Universe. It is just, in its grinding, relentless, gloriously dependable way, teaching all of us. Fleeting, babe. Even the dreariest & most endless-feeling Tuesday full of meetings and root canal is a blip. Reach, taste, savor, cherish. Repeat.
None of this has anything to do with muffins. But I have been stumbling a little through the kitchen motions lately, and then I needed to make muffins for a meeting, and one of the people attending that meeting had recently smoked me a carrot. Not a lot of people will smoke a carrot in order to make a relish that they will tuck into a basket of comforting treats they are bringing to you. Not because the world wants for generous souls--just because not a lot of people will ever smoke carrots. Go ahead and make stoned Easter Bunny jokes. I forgive you.
So when you are making muffins for a carrot-smoker, you aim high. When you are tired and sad, "aiming high" means toasting some coriander seeds, but the bang you get out of that little gesture is tremendous. I made these muffins once with cinnamon, and they were well-received. But for Julie, I toasted some coriander seeds (a few more than I needed, as it happened). You go ahead and steer your muffin ship as you please (replacing the coriander seeds with a teaspoon of cinnamon, for example), but the 90 seconds I invested in the seed-toasting and crushing elevated not only the baking enterprise, but a few other endeavors as well. Once you have a little dish of toasted & crushed coriander seeds on the counter, you begin to dance a little looser in the hips around the kitchen. Bonus ricotta mixture below the muffins. Still a teaspoon or so left of the seeds. Who knows what the weekend may bring. I'll be under the bed if you need me.
oat bran muffins with coconut & coriander
Heat the oven to 350, and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by lightly greasing or lining the cups with muffin papers.
In a small skillet over medium heat, toast a teaspoon of coriander seeds for a few seconds, until they smell wonderful. Dump them in a mortar or small dish, and lightly crush them.
In a medium bowl, combine:
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 t lemon juice
and let stand a minute or two.
Add, and mix well:
- 1 c unsweetened applesauce
- 1 egg
- 3T mild oil
- 1/2 c sugar
- 2T molasses
- 1 t finely grated fresh ginger
In a separate bowl, combine:
- 1 c all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c whole wheat flour
- 3/4 c oat bran
- 1/4 c golden flax meal
- 1/3 c finely shredded unsweetened dried coconut
- 2 t baking powder
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (generous)
- 1/2 t salt
Combine these two mixtures, then stir in:
- 1/2 c dried cherrries
Divide among the prepared cups (they will be full) and bake for about 25 minutes, until the tops are set and springy.
ricotta with coriander & lemon
- 3/4 c ricotta (home-made! c'mon! so easy!)
- 1 slice preserved lemon (about 1/4 of a lemon)
- 2-3T finely chopped parsley
- 1 -2 t harissa paste
- pinch of crushed toasted coriander seeds
Combine it all in a bowl and mash the seasonings into the cheese. Heaven on an egg sandwich, or anywhere else you might be tempted to spread it.