Of the many lessons learned over the past year-plus of the pandemic, was the importance of time. Some had their workplaces go from office buildings to their kitchen tables, others found themselves furloughed, while the rest were amongst the ranks of essential workers. Nevertheless, the pandemic presented all workers with the time to evaluate where they were in terms of their jobs and careers.
Many working women who are north of forty and fifty-plus had side hustles to supplement their income. Some worked part-time jobs, while others dabbled in entrepreneurship baking cakes, catering, organizational services, styling, painting, or decorating services to name a few, they decided to make money doing something they love that would add to the family income pot. The pandemic presented a unique opportunity to take the training wheels off to become a full-fledged business.
Going into any business full-time as a start-up is a risk. It’s the reason why most don’t quit their day job. There is a lot of uncertainty and if you’re over forty, it’s especially daunting. While it also requires the support of family, friends, and spouses, hearing from women who have been through it helps a great deal too.
Recently CNBC did a profile of Vera Wang for CNBC’s Make It. In it, the bridal and fashion titan discusses the journey she went on when she started her company at the age of 40.
Like many other entrepreneurs, her journey began out of necessity when she was getting married. She couldn’t find a gown she liked and as someone who worked at the mecca of fashion, Vogue, wearing just any dress was out of the question.
“If anyone had said, (I’d be) the girl who didn’t get married until she was 40 (and) would build a business based on wedding gowns, I would have laughed.” Vera Wang
It was her father who saw her dilemma as an opportunity, while Ms. Wang wasn’t sure of it. She thought it was too late in her life to take on such an immense proposition. Eventually, she did it with her father’s encouragement and seed money to open her flagship salon at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. That was in 1990 and the rest is fashion history.
“There have been a million days where I said to myself, ‘What was I thinking?’ or ‘Why did I do this?’” Wang says. “But there have been way more days where I felt extremely lucky to be doing something that I love so much and learning new lessons as not only (as a) designer but as an entrepreneur every day.”
Vera Wang, CNBC Make It
It’s important to note that even with immense success Vera Wang still had her moments. She had a successful career as an editor for Vogue and was in the running to become the editor in chief when Grace Mirabella left the magazine in 1988. Vera Wang was already doing something she loved, but she made the decision to do something new and she bet on herself.
While most working women aren’t doing something as glamorous as being a fashion editor, they are working and exceling in their chosen fields. Some are executives and higher ups at their companies, and others may not have titles, but they enjoy their work. Leaving to open a business isn’t something to take lightly. There are so many unknowns in play. However, there is one great big positive, the biggest asset is in the mirror.
As women north of forty and fifty-plus, we have enough life experience to approach going into business with more than a little savvy. After years of multitasking to juggle family and careers, we can handle it when a few more balls are tossed our way. Most importantly, there are more resources to help for those of us who don’t have a father who could fund us with a check. There are programs for women of color and women who want to start a business. The SBA offers counseling and mentorship through SCORE. They also have loans to assist small business for women and minorities. Most states have programs to assist women in business. You can go online to see what your state and municipality offers as well.
Although it seems very pie in the sky to believe we can have the same success as Vera Wang, it really isn’t. Many major names in business are of the rags to riches type. Spanx founder, Susan Blakely, Debbi Fields of Mrs. Field’s Cookies, and Lisa Price of Carol’s Daughter come to mind.
We are only as limited as our imaginations. The word dreams seem to fit here, and while dreams are limitless, imagination stems from reality. It’s what we used to entertain ourselves as children in the age before video games and virtual reality. We can use imagination to help flesh out the details and bring our vision into focus. It’s also important to live in the present. If we learned nothing else over the last unprecedented year, we should keep that at the forefront of our minds. If you have the desire to make this happen, take the leap and bet on yourself. Remember, there’s only one thing worse than failure and that’s not trying at all.
For a mid-week morning treat, these muffins come together in fifteen minutes, with only fifteen minutes in the oven (remember ovens vary so 15 minutes is an approximation, 14 to 18 minutes is the general range depending on your oven) This recipe is by Alison of Celebrating Sweets. We’ve adapted it for different dietary needs and also as a small batch recipe.
Banana nut muffins by Celebrating Sweets adapted by Chamein Canton
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (vegan unsalted butter)
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed (Swerve brown sugar substitute or organic light brown sugar)
2 large eggs (1/4 cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu pureed with ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, egg replace, vegan egg replacer)
2 cups mashed very ripe bananas about 3-4 bananas
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon optional
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or swap for macadamia nuts, pecans, or hazelnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar (Swerve brown sugar substitute or organic light brown sugar)
2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Small batch Banana nut muffinrecipe
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (vegan unsalted butter) 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed(Swerve brown sugar substitute or organic light brown sugar) 1 large egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, egg replacer, vegan egg replacer) 1 cups mashed very ripe bananas about 1-2 bananas 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 7/8 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, white rice, or brown rice flour) 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/8 -1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon optional 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/8 cup brown sugar (Swerve brown sugar substitute or organic light brown sugar) ▢2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Follow same instructions as stated.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, whisk melted butter and ⅔ cup brown sugar until well combined, about 1 full minute. Add eggs, mashed banana, and vanilla, whisking until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and use a rubber spatula to lightly stir the batter until almost combined. Add ½ cup walnuts and stir until no streaks of flour remain. Be careful not to over-mix.
Grease 15 standard-sized muffin cups and divide the batter evenly among the cups. Sprinkle the top of each cup with brown sugar and chopped walnuts (topping). Bake for 14-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center, comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool.
It was a dark, cold, grey, January day in Manhattan. The city’s holiday shine had long faded away. Gone from the modern contemporary office lobbies across New York County were the trees, lights, and holiday decorations that made them sparkle. Now, they were more like a rich man’s trophy wife or girlfriend, beautiful to behold, but soulless and cold. At least that’s what went through fifty-three-year-old Clarissa Berman’s mind as she walked through the lobby of her office building on Lexington Avenue.
At 5’8, Clarissa was too tall to be considered petite, but tall enough to be above average. A very curvy African American woman, she had big boobs, a generous butt, a smallish waist with a little more tummy than she’d like. Her long, curly, thick hair was a custom mix of Clairol light reddish and cedar red-brown, which played nicely off of the red undertones of her lightly brown complexion. To say Clarissa was a convert to the natural hair movement, was a bit of a stretch. She’d done so at the suggestion of Mary Ann, otherwise known as her mothership. A woman used to having her will be done, she now suggested things to her adult daughters who’d long been onto her act. Her mothership’s suggestions were the equivalent of mutton dressed as lamb, but it was still mutton.
From the moment Clarissa and younger sister Elena were able to understand their roles in the family, her mothership Mary Anne Stevenson made it clear that even when they became queens of their own domains, they’d always be the ladies in waiting to her. Growing up, the ‘I am the mother argument’ was the overriding element for almost everything. Everyone from her husband, friends, and most particularly, her daughters, were subject to her opinions, will, and advice.
Eventually, divorce freed their dad. The years hadn’t softened her mothership’s edges, but she appeared as a kinder, gentler person in her church. The congregation saw the well-kept silver-haired seventy-six-year-old woman as a kind grandmotherly type, with the exception of one who was both a congregation member and her friend.
Clarissa’s text notifications chimed as she got to the front entrance. She looked down. It’s mom.
I just picked Ingrid up from JFK. She went to North Carolina to see her grandchildren. Jimmy has the kids, but that ex-wife of his told Ingrid some sob story about being sick and Ingrid gave her $2,000. The girl wasn’t sick, she needed it for a boob job. Can you imagine that? I told Ingrid she’s too soft. A boob job at her age. Tiffany is damn near sixty and still dresses like she’s getting ready to climb a pole, any pole.
Ingrid and her mothership had been friends for nearly forty-plus years. Ingrid’s ex-husband had an office in the same building as the magazine her mothership worked for and they became friends.
Clarissa shook her head. That’s not nice Mom. She typed.
It’s not meant to be nice. Jimmy’s mad at her and I don’t blame him. I told her not to give that girl any money. The money she got from selling her house isn’t going to last forever.
Okay, Mom. So, you dropped her off at home?
No. We’re going to dinner.
Before or after your church meeting?
No meeting tonight. I’m going to talk some sense into this woman. She needs to be careful with her money. It’s foolishness.
Okay, so you’re not going to the meeting. Wait. Ingrid’s in the car with you. You have Bluetooth in the car. It’s reading your texts aloud, right?
Yeah. I don’t talk behind anyone’s back. I believe in being direct.
You’re telling me? I’m not exactly new to this Mom. Clarissa rubbed her forehead. I can’t stay on too long. I’m waiting for my uber.
So, you’re not taking the subway. Good. I don’t know how you do it nowadays. I took the subway back in the sixties, it was kinda nice then.
I am fully aware you haven’t taken the subway since 1971.
Are you running home to post food?
No, Mother, I’m going home to make dinner for my husband.
After which she would definitely post pictures and the recipe. Clarissa found it easier not to engage with anything her mothership didn’t understand. It was best to shut her down before it turned into a sermon, or worse, an abject lesson.
Good. Posting pictures of food for attention. Everyone wants to be a bigshot. Look what I made. It’s all such…
Foolishness. I’ve heard it before, Mom. Clarissa sighed sharply. Okay, Mom I’ve got to run now. Tell Ingrid I said hi. Better yet, hi Ingrid.
Enjoy dinner ladies. Try not to be too hard on Ingrid. Goodnight Mom.
Goodnight. Be careful. It’s dark.
Gotcha. Clarissa sighed softly as she stared out the car window. Good night.It’s a wonder Ingrid still talks to her mothership. She’s nearly brought the woman to tears, but she keeps doing things with her. I suppose that’s real friendship or Stockholm syndrome. Might be a little bit of both. Clarissa softly snickered. Her mothership is supposed to be a part of the Silent Generation. What a misnomer. Lord knows the woman is anything but silent.
Her mothership was born Mary Anne Stevenson in the early 1940s. She was a pretty girl who loved hair, fashion, and makeup in a small town in South Carolina. In addition to having deaf parents, Mary Anne had a blue and a brown eye, it made her look exotic, which was almost as misunderstood as her parent’s deafness.
It was the bad old days when deaf was often followed by two other adjectives, dumb, and mute. So, she and older brother Charles became their parents, or more specifically, their father, Landy’s protectors. Their mother’s family had the money to send her to the School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg. Not only did an education put Annette in good stead, it made her confident and self-assured enough to stand up for herself. If she wanted to make her displeasure known, she’d turn, stick her posterior out and blow a kiss. It meant kiss my ass in any language.
Dad Landy was a different story. A kind and gentle man with a trusting nature that made him a mark for passing gypsies and some of the less than scrupulous town residents. She and brother Charles would go toe-to -toe with anyone who’d duped him to get his hard-earned money back, and they defended his dignity fiercely.
These were the experiences that shaped her mothership and gave her the impetus to leave South Carolina after high school. She headed due east to Baltimore to stay with cousins. The move changed her life once she met Ernest Cannon, a native New Yorker and student at Morgan State College. They dated, got married after his graduation, and then settled on Long Island near Ernest’s mother Geneva. Her mothership used her innate sense of style to land an entry-level position at a women’s service magazine. It wasn’t Vogue, but she made the most of it.
Clarissa and Elena became her mothership’s models. She kept them in Martins, A & S, and Macy’s. Weekends were devoted to hair, hot combs, barrettes, and ribbons. The girls appearance was micromanaged from head to toe. It went swimmingly until her daughters went from girls to women with growing assets. At the age of twelve Clarissa realized her body imperfections were as much about how her mothership saw herself, as it was about the way the world saw her and Elena.
Whether it was in spite of or because of her mothership, Clarissa and Elena turned out to be attractive, shapely, and intelligent women. Both became mothers to sons. Everything was mostly quiet on the mothership front, until she decided to implement a new tactic. When Clarissa turned 40, her mother issued some sort of weird executive order about shorts worn by women forty. It was a don’t. No exceptions. Even J-Lo’s ageless shape didn’t get a pass. To her mothership, La Lopez needed to cover it up and put a pair of slacks on.
At fifty she decided that both daughters needed to let their hair go natural. It didn’t matter that she started the whole hair relaxer thing. Elena shut it down. Clarissa decided to go natural, but the hair color stayed. Clarissa wouldn’t go grey gracefully, but she also hadn’t worn a pair of shorts in fourteen years.
Clarissa kept watch for her Uber. A black Navigator pulled in front of the building. That’s it. Clarissa walked out and into the waiting car’s backseat.
“Good evening, Ma’am.”
“Good evening.” She closed the door, buckled up, and unconsciously twirled her hair when she saw her reflection. Again with the mirror. At least they have products to keep it looking shiny and like hair. I used to look like I had the tentacles of a Portuguese Man O War on my head. I suppose that’s progress.
Her cell rang. It was Clarissa’s best friend of over forty years, Melanie Vargas Hopkins. Their birthdays were separated by a mere few days. They graduated from the same high school and went onto Skidmore College together. The curvaceous Latina with lush brunette locks was divorced and dating a guy Clarissa set her up with a year earlier. But first, she had to give the driver her customary explanation for the use of the speakerphone. She was partially deaf.
Clarissa was born a healthy baby girl, but at three months old, her Grandma Cannon noticed that she turned her head to the right when spoken to. When she mentioned it to her son, it ticked her mothership off. No one pushed the issue again until a routine hearing test in elementary school led the audiologist to confirm she was deaf in her left ear. Fortunately, Clarissa’s right ear was at 99.1% and she read lips, However, conversations on the busy, noisy streets of Manhattan were another story.
Clarissa looked at her phone for the driver’s name. “Excuse me, Bernie?”
“I’d like to answer this call, but I have to put it on speaker. I’m partially deaf. If it bothers you, I’ll send her a text and call her back.”
“No, that’s not a problem. Thanks for asking.”
“No. Thank you. I appreciate your understanding.” She hit answer. “Hey, Girlie. How was Fiji?”
“It was fantastic. So beautiful, warm, sunny, and lovely all the time.”
“Aww, that sounds nice. Then you flew back to grey and cold reality. What a bummer.”
“Don’t I know it? I figured I’d buzz you before you went underground to get home.”
“I am ubering home now. I didn’t feel like descending into the arteries of the city today. The whole city is shrouded in a post-holiday funk, and it’s contagious.”
“You’re not kidding.”
“When do you have to get back to the hospital?”
“I’ve got another week or so off. I have a ton of accumulated time. I’m taking some of it. No need to rush. I have to give my body a little time to re-acclimate.”
“Good for you. Where’s Jordan?”
“He went to his place, but he’s coming back.”
Fifty-eight-year-old graphic art designer Jordan Chan was always in Clarissa’s orbit as an editor and an agent. Jordan was blissfully married for many years until a drunk driver ended his happy world. Clarissa knew that people who truly loved before were likely to find love again, it was always a matter of timing. Melanie’s marriage to Troy began as a dream but devolved into a nightmare after the kids were born. Troy was a serial cheater and lazy to boot. Melanie had the role of breadwinner for their twin daughters and son. After their divorce, relationships weren’t on her radar for a long time with good reason.
It all changed during the holidays year before when Jordan finally decided to attend Clarissa’s legendary Christmas holiday buffet. Melanie met Jordan, and the sparks flew. They were a bonafide couple in no time.
“My goodness, Girlie. All of this togetherness. Why don’t you two just move in together?”
“We were just laughing about that. It’s too soon.”
“On who’s watch? I’m not saying we’re old, but our even our shadows are shrinking.”
She laughed. You’re right about that.” Melanie paused. “Before it slips my mind, my esthetician can’t take me for a few days, and I need a little manicuring.”
“You need manicuring? How wild has it gotten?”
“It’s not wild. It’s grey as hell.”
“Oh, I understand that. Can you hold for a tick?”
“Um, excuse me Bernie.”
“Yes?” He looked into the rearview mirror.
“I’m still talking to my friend, and it might get a little bawdy. I don’t want to offend you.”
“Oh, please. You don’t know the stuff I’ve heard.” He laughed. “That’s not an issue. Go ahead.”
“Cool. Thanks. Okay, Melanie, I’m back. Isn’t it a bitch when south of the equator is greying faster than the hair on your head? Since, I don’t need a rug to match the drapes, the bare floor works for me.”
“Right? At least everything is still smooth down below.”
“Amen, girl. Knock on wood.”
“I love Jordan so much, but it’s a lot keeping up with all the stuff it takes to remain a soft and pretty woman. I was never bothered about it before we met, but you were a different story. You kept on it before you and Miles met.”
“I put dating and men on the shelf for so long, I was practically a reconstituted virgin. Nobody was on the streets of Brazil, but I was always ready if Carnivale came to town. The Boy Scouts didn’t corner the market on being prepared.”
Bernie began to howl with laughter. “I’m sorry. That was a good one.”
“Thanks.” Clarissa grinned.
“You’re talking like this in an uber?”
“I cleared it with Bernie. He’s cool with it. But getting back to you and Jordan, when are you two going to jump the broom? Seriously, have you checked our sundial lately? We have no business waiting around in this section of the pool. The water is receding. There’s no time to waste.”
This weekend many areas across the country got a taste of hot summer temperatures to come. With Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer just a week away, many of us are going to transition to healthier meals that don’t take too much time.
To that end, Simply Recipes had a wonderful salad that came together in no time at all.
Tex-Mex Chopped Chicken Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (2 medium ears) or frozen and thawed
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
12 corn tortilla chips
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
For the dressing
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Combine salad ingredients: Combine the lettuce, red pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, and scallions in a large serving bowl. Set aside.
Char the corn: Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium or large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the corn. Season corn with 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until blackened in spots and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Season the chicken: Sprinkle the taco seasoning and 1/2 teaspoon salt over the surface of the chicken, rubbing it in and coating so the chicken is fully seasoned.
Cook the chicken: In the same skillet used to cook the corn add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until deeply brown along the bottom and the flesh turns opaque about halfway up the side, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue cooking, until brown on the second side and fully cooked through another 3 to 5 minutes.
Cut the chicken: Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board. Once it is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Make the salad dressing: Place the lime juice, vinegar, honey, cumin, salt, pepper, cilantro, and olive oil into a blender and blend until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of water, if needed, to get the blender going. Alternatively, make this dressing by hand. Finely chop the cilantro and place in a medium bowl. Combine all salad dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Finish and serve the salad: Add the corn and chicken into the bowl with the salad ingredients. Crumble the tortilla chips over the top. Add about two-thirds of the dressing and toss to lightly coat. Add more dressing and toss again, if needed. Divide salad into 4 bowls, top with crumbled Cotija cheese, and serve.
If you can’t find Cotija cheese, feta cheese is a great substitute. I have people that aren’t fans of either cheese, so I used extra sharp cheddar
For vegans and vegetarians substitute extra-firm tofu for the chicken. Cut the tofu into cubes and let sit in a sieve lined with a paper towel or cheesecloth over a bowl for about 30 to 45 minutes to let some of the extra water drain away. This will help ensure that it will get a little char on it like the chicken.
If you are not a cilantro fan, use Italian parsley
4 1/2 cup cake flour (sifted) (for gluten-free cake flour, substitute 1 cup of gluten-free all-purpose or 1 to 1 baking blend, remove three tablespoons, then add three tablespoons of gluten-free cornstarch, for every cup. For a half-cup of gluten-free cake flour, remove 1 1/2 tablespoons, and sub in 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch)2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cups of granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar pulsed fine)
6 large eggs (room temperature) 3/4 cup Aqafaba, 1 1/2 cup silken tofu pureed with 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, egg replacer, or vegan egg replacer)
3 teaspoon vanilla extract2 1/4 cup buttermilk (room temperature) (2 1/4 cups rice, soy, almond, or light coconut milk with 2 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Mix and let stand for five minutes)
3/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
For the Chocolate Ganache:
9 ounces dark chocolate (finely chopped) (Vegan chocolate) (semisweet works too)
9 ounces heavy cream (full-fat coconut milk)For the Assembly:3 cup rainbow sprinkles
Make the Funfetti Cake:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat butter until smooth.
Add sugar and beat on med-high until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes).Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla extract.
Alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning, and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition. Do not overmix. Fold in sprinkles.
Spread batter evenly into prepared pans. Smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean
.Place cakes on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
This white chocolate buttercream has a nice white chocolate flavor, is smooth, creamy, and, pipes beautifully!
White Chocolate Buttercream
3 sticks (339g) unsalted butter, softened (do not soften in the microwave) (vegan unsalted butter)
8 ounces (227g) white baking chocolate (I used 2 Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bars) (vegan white chocolate)
1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract4 tablespoons (42 g) milk or cream (whole, half and half, light cream) (full-fat coconut milk)
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt – optional to cut the sweetness
Cut/chop the white chocolate into very small pieces, put into a microwave-safe bowl, and add 4 Tablespoons of milk or cream. Microwave for 15 seconds let sit for a minute or two, stir and microwave again 15 seconds letting it sit a minute to soften further, stir. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. The chocolate will continue to melt as it is stirred. Let the chocolate cool down before using.Beat the butter until softened and smooth, add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Add the white chocolate and milk mixture. Add vanilla. Add another Tablespoon of milk if needed. Beat on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes and it will become smooth and creamy.
Makes 5 cups of frosting. Makes enough to frost a 2 or 3 layer eight-inch cake. If you will be doing a lot of decorative piping, you will need additional frosting.
Make the Chocolate Ganache:Place chopped chocolate and cream into a microwave-safe bowl. Stir to combine. Microwave for 20 seconds, stir. Microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring in between until ganache is smooth and silky.Set aside to cool completely before using on the cake.
Assemble the Cake
Place one layer of cake onto a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 2/3 cup of buttercream. Repeat with remaining layers and crumb coat the cake.
Place cake in freezer and frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes.Frost the cake and smooth the sides and top. Place back in the fridge for 1-2 hours for frosting to set.
Place a bowl upside down on a baking sheet to catch excess sprinkles. Place the cake onto an inverted bowl. Gently, but firmly, press sprinkles into the sides and top of the cake. Letting excess fall onto the baking sheet.
Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Using a teaspoon, apply ganache near edges like so to create the drips. Pour some ganache on the top of the cake and spread with an offset spatula.
I used 6-inch round pansI doweled the cakes
I also melted the chocolate in a double-boiler.
Microwaves vary in power, so I prefer to do it this way, particularly if it’s a microwave I’m not familiar with.
Original recipe by the Cake Blog, adapted by Chamein Canton
In 2019, Amazon released the movie Otherhood starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman. The film explores the stage after motherhood, Otherhood, when you have to redefine your relationship with your children, friends, spouse, and most importantly, yourself.
The most important difference between being a mother-to-be and a father-to-be is a father-to-be attains dad status at birth. Naturally, men are involved with preparing for the baby to arrive. Most are hands-on getting the nursery ready, making changes to their health and life insurance and, saving money to provide for their little bundle’s well-being.
However, for women motherhood begins the moment the little plus sign appears in the pregnancy test. Once the OB/GYN confirms the happy news, we are in mommy mode. From prenatal vitamins, to eating properly for two during the nine months of gestation everything is centered around the baby.
After birth and the joy of bringing a healthy into the world, mothers are on duty. There is a real sense of the saying, a man works from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done. There’s the diaper changes, nursing, bottles, midnight feedings, fussiness, colic, and crying. The baby you love more than anything, is also your warden. It can feel like you will never sleep again. Then as quickly as it starts, it stops. The baby begins to sleep through the night, and you survived. Before you know it, they’re toddlers, and you’re coping with the terrible twos. Tantrums and little words like ‘no’ and ‘why’ lead to the battle of wills, which I am going to admit, feels like you have the short end of the stick.
It was then my father imparted some wisdom on me. He said to enjoy these times because little people have little problems that are easily solved. Big people have bigger problems that will feel like you went from an anthill to Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro in your living room. My dad was right. Like many other moms, I weathered the stages, and all the drama, tears, angst, and joy. One of my proudest moments was watching my sons graduate from high school, a moment I know all moms can relate with. Then even though we prepared to meet the goal of raising our children to be productive, self-sufficient, well-rounded happy adults, many of us aren’t prepared for what life will look like after that time comes and the kids aren’t kids anymore.
Mom, I’m an adult
Whether it’s mom, I’m grown, or mom, I’m a grown-ass man or woman. While the phrase is correct, it will annoy the hell out of you at times. When they begin to explain things you already know as if you walked in straight out a glacier. Nevertheless, we have to adjust, and as the person who has been on the job as a mom since they were in utero, it isn’t easy to take a step back. You are on the sidelines for all of their decisions. Sometimes, they will ask for your opinion or advice, but they will pick and choose what information they share. There are just some things our children just don’t want to hear us say.
Now, there are moms whose kids feel free to share everything about their lives. They will call or drop by to talk and get their mom’s advice or opinion on the things happening in their lives. While this is great, it’s also something moms need to be mindful of. Having children that come to you for everything can be detrimental too. It’s wonderful to feel like an oracle in your kids’ lives, but there will come a time when they will need to deal with issues without mom putting her two cents in. So, whether you fall in the former or latter category, or somewhere in between, what can you do to make the transition to a healthy relationship with your adult children in the otherhood years?
Get into me time.
To be clear, this isn’t about being selfish. To be selfish is to lack consideration for others; while being concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. This is about selfness, which is taking the time to do things for yourself to reconnect with the woman you are outside of being a mom. That means rediscovering things you were interested in but put on the shelf. It could mean getting back on the corporate track. Or reviving a career in the arts as a performer and/or teacher. Go back to school and take the classes you wanted to in college, but didn’t because they didn’t line up with your major. If physical activity and exercise are your things, get into yoga, Pilates, or join a gym. Don’t forget to pamper yourself a little. Update your wardrobe. Ditch the soccer mom look for cute activewear, jeans, dresses, and pants. Show off your figure. Buy new foundation wear, and add some cute and sexy things to your lingerie draw that will make you feel pretty. A lot of moms sacrifice trips to the salon to have their hair professionally colored, highlighted, blown-out, or cut to save money. Leave the shampoo and conditioner in your bathroom cabinet and make regular appointments. Get your makeup, or nails done. Hire a glam-squad for special occasions, and learn some tips to up your day-to-day makeup game. Remember that it’s okay to do something for yourself on a regular and not sporadic basis.
Don’t forget “we” time
If you’re married or in a relationship, starting dating each other again. Granted the Covid-19 pandemic had us spending more time with one another than we thought was possible, but take a step back to make it feel new again. Start with going to dinner alone. Get back to the kind of conversations that attracted you to each other in the first place. It’s easy to lose sight of that after years of being mom and dad. Add a little accelerant to the fire that brought you together in the first place. Do fun activities together. Take a day trip. Go on a road trip, or make plans to travel outside the country. Whatever it is, get back to being a part of a couple. Share thoughts, feelings, and goals. Reaffirm being each other’s first-mate for life.
You Gotta Have Friends
Never forget your other partners in crime, your friends. Good friendships can help guide you through this new period in life. Whether it’s through regular calls throughout the day or maybe a regular meetup for coffee, drinks, or lunch, spend time with your friends. Having good friends to talk, joke or cry with is healthy. We need the exchange of energy and it’s good for all of us.
What about the kids?
It’s important to note that childhood in all its phases only lasts for a short time. The fact is we’ll spend more time with our children as young adults and adults. This is a great time to get to know more about them as they go through other milestones such as going to and graduating from college, getting their first real job, moving into a first apartment, dating, getting married, and having a family of their own. It’s an exciting time in life to share with them. Take advantage of it.
It’s possible to redefine yourself and your life beyond motherhood. Take the time to get to know yourself and if you’re still in the trenches with younger children, be sure to carve out a little selfness time. The transition into the motherhood doesn’t have to be hard or something to fear. Embrace it as you have other challenges and changes in your life. You’ll feel happier and healthier emotionally and physically.
The weekend is usually the time when we spend a little more time in the kitchen to make a big breakfast. Whether it’s pancakes, waffles, or omelets, weekends and holiday mornings are made for something special to welcome the morning.
This recipe for sweet potato biscuits is quick and easy enough to make on a busy weekday morning. I found this recipe on Baking a Moment. Give it a whirl, you can even make the dough the night before, and just roll, cut, and bake in the morning.
I’ve adapted the recipe for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and low-sugar diets.
Sweet Potato biscuits Baking A Moment adapted by Chamein Canton
2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free banking blend, sorghum, sweet rice, and brown rice flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup mashed roasted sweet potato, cold
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold (unsalted vegan butter)
1/4 cup buttermilk (dairy: light or low-fat, or whole fat) (non-dairy buttermilk ¼ cup rice, soy, or almond milk mixed with ¼ teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, let stand 5 minutes before using)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Add the mashed sweet potato and butter, and cut in with a pastry blender.
Stir in the buttermilk until the dough gathers itself into a ball.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat it into a disk shape, about 1 1/2 inches thick.
Cut rounds with to about 2-inches with a cookie cutter or a large glass and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown on the bottom and around the edges.
Make sure the sweet potato is cold. It doesn’t matter if it’s been roasted or boiled. Mash it before putting it in the refrigerator.
Break up the sweet potato mash and add it by teaspoons to the flour mixture
You may need a little more than ¼ cup of buttermilk. If it seems too dry add a little more by the teaspoon. When the dough begins to come together, don’t add any more
When cutting the biscuit round, don’t twist the cutter. Cut straight down, this will ensure that your biscuits will rise. Turning the cutter sort of crimps the dough and will prevent it from getting the rise you want.
Welcome to the premier posting for Monday Meal Makeover. Here we will try to up your Monday meal game for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or snacks. All the recipes that can be adapted will include:
Gluten-Free, Celiac Disease
Low Sugar/ Low Carb
Lactose Intolerance/Egg Allergies
For what I hope will be the first of many, welcome to the first Monday Meal Makeover.
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Blueberry Muffins by Tastes Better From Scratch adapted by Chamein Canton
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet or brown rice flour)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest
1/3 cup oil (vegetable or canola oil)
1 large egg (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer)
1/3 cup buttermilk (dairy: full-fat, low-fat, or light) (non-dairy: almond, rice, soy, or light coconut milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, mixed. Let stand for at least five minutes before using)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon lemon or orange extract, optional
1 cup blueberries , fresh or frozen
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar pulsed fine)
2 Tablespoons light brown sugar (Swerve brown sugar substitute, organic light brown sugar)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet or brown rice flour)
2 Tablespoons cold unsalted or salted butter, chopped (vegan unsalted or salted butter)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a standard size muffin tin with liners, or grease well with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, orange or lemon zest, and baking powder.
Add oil, egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and orange or lemon extract (if using), and mix just until combined. Don’t over mix (the batter doesn’t need to be “smooth”)
Toss the blueberries in a spoonful of flour. This will help them not to sink to the bottom of the muffin. Gently fold blueberries into the batter.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.
If you are making the crumb topping:
Add all of the ingredients to a bowl. Use your fingers, pastry cutter, or a fork to work the butter into the mixture.
Sprinkle crumb mixture over the tops of muffins in the pan.
Bake for about 5 minutes at 400-degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375-degrees. Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs.
Remove muffins from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
The bake time may vary by ovens. It may take a little longer or a shorter time depending on your oven. I tend to err on the side of a toothpick coming out clean or with a few crumbs when inserted in the center of the muffins.
I don’t recommend using shortening or butter-flavor shortening. It makes the batter heavier and the muffins oily.
Cast Iron Roasted Chicken- Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen adapted by me
1 whole chicken. Fryer or young chicken
Canola or vegetable oil
This is the seasoning rub I use, adapt it to your likes and measure it out to the size of the chicken.
Paprika sweet or smoked
Remove the chicken back. Set aside to make stock
Combine the seasoning in a bowl
Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Season the chicken skin side down
Place into a cast iron skillet
Make sure the skin of the chicken is dry. Rub the skin with oil. Season liberally and tuck the wings underneath. Roast In hot oven 450-475. Make sure there’s about seven inches from the rack to the top of the oven.
Roast for about 1 hour. It could be more or less depending upon your oven. So keep a watchful eye. The temp of the chicken should be about 160-165 degrees from the thickest part of the chicken.
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 cup of ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup molasses * (sorghum syrup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon mustard powder
pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon chili powder
pinch of allspice
In a saucepan over medium heat, saute onions until tender, about four to five minutes. Add garlic, and stir for one minute. Add the tomato paste, and carmelize it stirring for two minutes. Add the ketchup, molasses, cider vinegar, and brown sugar. Stir for one minute. Add the chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, pinch of cayenne, and allspice. Stir. Add 1/4 cup water and cook stirring for four minutes until thickened. Take the sauce off the heat and let cool. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. You can also use a blender or food processor, but be sure it’s cool. It will make for quite the science lesson and a mess.
Spruce Eats list of molasses substitutes
If you don’t have molasses, you can make one of several quick substitutes. Replace one cup of molasses with one of the following: 1 cup dark corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup. 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/4 cup water
These substitutions may alter the taste of your recipe a bit. If the molasses flavor is vital to the success of your recipe, try the brown sugar substitute. Since brown sugar is granulated sugar and molasses it’ll be the closest flavor match. Maple syrup or dark corn syrup would be the next best choice.
If you have to use granulated sugar or honey as the substitute, consider increasing the spices in the recipe a bit to make up for the flavors that the molasses would have contributed.
You sat down, organized your thoughts, and got to work writing. Whether you wrote a novel or a how-to book, you should give yourself a pat on the back and take a breath. There are more things to do ahead.
After you’ve reached the end of the writing process, for now, what do you do next?
Once the book is edited, you must first consider if you want to publish it or not. This may seem like a non-sequitur, but not everyone is looking to give up their baby. It may be something you only want to be shared with your family. Or it could be one less thing to check off a bucket list. Just be sure you’re ready to move to the next step to getting your book (manuscript)published.
First, there are three basic ways to get your book published
Traditional book publishing is when a publisher offers the author a contract and, in turn, prints, publishes, and sells your book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher essentially buys the right to publish your book and pays you royalties from the sales. Traditional publishing is the dream scenario for most writers/authors.
Traditional publishers have the advantage of distribution, promotion, marketing, and name recognition. Most don’t allow author submissions. They only consider works represented by a literary agent. Some of the mid-size to smaller publishing companies have short open submissions periods during the year when they take the submissions of unagented writers. You can get more information through Writer’s Market, Reedsy, or other literary/writer focused publications and/or sites.
The Big Five and numerous imprints
Hachette Book Group.
Simon and Schuster.
Top Nine Independent Publishers (NY Book Editors 3/2020)
Sourcebooks (not on NY Book Editors list, but a large publishing house)
Best Independent Publishers (Reedsy 2021)
Akashic Books. Publisher of: Fiction and Nonfiction. …
Bellevue Literary Press. Publisher of: Fiction and Nonfiction
BOA Editions. Publisher of: Poetry and Short Fiction
C&R Press. Publisher of: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry
City Lights Publishers
Coffee House Press.
Enchanted Lion Books
Additional Publishing Models
A hybrid press or hybrid publisher is a publishing house that operates with a different revenue model than traditional publishing while keeping the rest of the practices of publishing the same. To be a hybrid publisher, a company must uphold longstanding publishing industry standards and best practices. This model usually requires the author to contribute financially.
Most offer packages to choose from with differing levels of author/marketing support and distribution. Do your research and talk to other writers that have gone this route for their feedback. Atmosphere Press is an established hybrid publisher.
Self-publishing is the publication of media by its author without the involvement of an established publisher. The term usually refers to written media, such as books and magazines, either as an e-book or as a physical copy using POD technology.
Self publishing has lost a bit of its negative stigma, but it’s still a cautionary tale. Authors retain all of their rights, and have total control of the book from cover design to marketing. To self-publish a book and have it wind up on book shelves is a hard proposition. Business people and public speakers do well with self-publishing as a result of back of the room sales at seminars or conferences. Self publishers have to pay for distribution, warehousing, shipping, editing, marketing, and public relations. So, it gets pricey.
Vanity press publishing, also called subsidy publishing, differs from self–publishing in that the author assumes all the risk and pays the publisher for everything. The editing, formatting, cover design, and even marketing the book are paid for by the author through the various packages offered when an author signs up.
With vanity publishing, authors pay to have their books published. Because authors are paying to have their book published, there is little to no editing. It results in books with grammatical and typographical errors to name a few. Some authors have been scammed out of thousands of dollars with little legal recourse.
Do your research.
With the exception of vanity or subsidy presses, decide which avenue you’d like to travel for your journey to publishing. Talk to fellow writers/authors who have been published traditionally, with a hybrid, or as a self-publisher. They will provide you with the pros and cons of each.
Follow Still A Chick-Lit
This post is a part of a series on publishing and writing. The next post will focus on literary agents, query letters, and representation.
Has anyone ever said, you’re so knowledgeable, you should write a book? Or maybe you were watching a movie or television show and thought, if I was the writer, I would have taken it in a different direction. Maybe it’s time to put your money where your pen is.
As an author and literary agent, I’ve heard something like this countless times. The only other question I hear more than that one is how do you start writing? As much as it pains me to say it like Nike, but it’s apropos, just do it.
Fiction or nonfiction, it’s up to you
The first thing to consider is what do you want to write about. If you’re a person who loves to read particular genres like mystery, romance, science fiction, and fantasy, to name a few, then you’re interested in fiction. Think about what kind of fictional story you’d write, then outline the characters, setting, and extrapolate what the overall story will be about in a paragraph. I know it sounds like a lot to do, but it will pay off big in the end.
Perhaps you’re in business, maybe you’re an educator or just someone with a hobby that you are passionate about. Nonfiction can open doors for you to grow your business, demonstrate and market your expertise, or share your love of knitting, cooking, restoring cars, etc.
You know what you’re going to write about. Now what?
This is when discipline is key. Recently PBS aired Hemingway, a documentary by Ken Burns. In addition to being perhaps America’s second literary treasure alongside Mark Twain, the documentary explored Hemingway’s talent and how disciplined he was when it came to writing. Now, he didn’t have to deal with a house full of children. His wife created a space for him to work. Find a way to create one for yourself.
Just as your body recalls movements through muscle memory, your mind will do the same once you develop a routine. Design the routine around the time of day or night that works for you. Don’t try to make a schedule that doesn’t jibe with your internal flow. That’s a recipe for failure.
Once you have figured out the particulars of when and where you’re going to write, comes the hard part. You have to get others to respect your space. If you are like most women who lead full lives with spouses, parents, children, grandchildren, coworkers, bosses, friends, boyfriends, and partners, this may prove to be tricky. Writing is a very solitary thing and writers may be islands in and of ourselves, but it will take diplomacy to carve the time you need without hurt feelings.
When do you need a professional editor
If I had a nickel for every time someone said they were good in English, or had a relative who is an English teacher, or someone who reads a lot edit their manuscript, I’d be wealthy. The fact is there’s a difference between editors readers who edit (proofreaders)
What is an editor, copy editor, or proofreader?
An editor focuses on the meaning of your content. They focus on your writing to be sure your ideas are being communicated clearly. Editors ask the questions authors might forget to think about. Conversely, the also keep writers from inundating themselves with unnecessary lines of dialogue or description. They are all about the meat of the project
A copy editor proofreads text and corrects spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. For nonfiction, they verify the factual correctness of the information, Additionally, they check text for style and readability.
Proofreading almost always happens for the final copy of the manuscript or proof. If you are still in the submission stage for agents or publishers, this is the person who makes sure the manuscript is clean. In every case, proofreaders do some light editing to be sure the final text is homogeneous.
I do encourage you to have people you trust read over your manuscript and give you some feedback. As writers, we are too close to the project. Therefore it’s hard for us to be objective. Another pair of trusted eyes is very helpful.
Ask yourself if you are one of the few, the brave, the non-onion skinned
A common anxiety dream is one where you walk into a public situation like work or a classroom naked. I don’t know anyone who would want to make that dream happen in waking life. However, writing is sharing a piece of yourself with others who may or may not understand. While it is true that everything is subjective, it doesn’t mean it won’t sting. Make sure you’re ready to hear criticism as well as compliments. Rejection and critiques are a part of any creative’s life. Some of today’s top selling writers faced their fair share of rejection and critical ire.
If you are ready to make your dream of writing the next great American novel, or a reference book that will launch you as an expert and raise your profile, then start writing. Good ideas are always welcome, but remember to try to strike a balance between persistence and patience. It will be worth it and I can tell you as an agent, it’s appreciated as well.
Want to learn more?
We’re beginning a series about writing on the Still A Chick-Lit podcast. A new episode will be available on May 3rd. Check back for updates. Email us with questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week’s bonus Baking, Blogging, and Writing recipe is Blueberry Streusel Muffins
Blueberry Muffins by Baking A Moment adapted by Chamein Canton
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (vegan butter) 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum flour, sweet or brown rice flour) 1/4 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine) 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum flour, sweet or brown rice flour)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, coconut, raw cane, or turbinado sugar, pulsed fine)
1/2 tablespoon baking powder 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (unsalted vegan butter) 1/2 cup sour cream (Greek yogurt or buttermilk* can be substituted) (dairy; light sour cream, plain low-fat yogurt, Plain Greek yogurt) (non-dairy: almond, coconut, and soy milk yogurt) 1/8 cup milk (dairy: whole, 2%, 1%) (non-dairy: almond, soy, rice, or light coconut milk) 1 large eggs (2 tablespoons Aquafaba, ¼ cup silken tofu pureed with 1/8 teaspoon baking soda, 1 flaxseed or chia seed egg, or egg replacer) 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cups fresh blueberries (or 1 1/2 cups frozen wild blueberries)
TO MAKE THE STREUSEL CRUMB TOPPING:
Toss the melted butter, flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest together with a fork, until crumbly.
TO MAKE THE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and lightly mist a muffin pan with non-stick spray.
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside.
Whisk the melted butter, Greek yogurt, milk, eggs, and vanilla together in a large liquid measure until well incorporated.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry, and stir together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, just until ALMOST combined (you should still see streaks of flour).
Add the berries, and fold carefully. (Overmixing will cause the berries to bleed and the muffins to be tough.)
Divide the batter equally between each well of the muffin tin, and top with the reserved streusel.
Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees F, then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F (without opening the oven door) and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of a muffin comes out clean.
Parenthesis- Ingredients are for substitutions to make the recipe gluten-free, sugar-free, no sugar, or vegan/dairy-free