Monday gets a bad wrap. It’s the day after Sunday, which is the day most people relax and slow down. So, to get back on track, a lot of us stop to get caffeine and the carbohydrate of our choice to start the day.
In addition to an endless combination of coffees, teas, and drinks, both hot and cold, Starbucks has a blueberry streusel muffin that blueberry lovers can’t resist. if you’re one of them, this recipe by the Copycat blog delivers. Best of all, you can make it the day before, and just bake it off in the morning for a delicious warm treat with your beverage of choice.
This recipe has been adapted for the following dietary lifestyles:
Copycat Starbucks Blueberry Streusel Muffins adapted by me
3 tablespoons sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit granulated sweetener, golden sugar, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar, pulsed finely)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
2 eggs (1/4 cup Aquafaba, ½ cup silken tofu plus ¼ teaspoon baking soda, 2 flaxseed or chia seed eggs, egg replacer, or vegan egg replacer)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour, 1 to 1 gluten-free baking blend, sorghum, millet, sweet rice, or brown rice flour)
1 cup sugar (Swerve sweetener, Splenda granulated, monk fruit granulated sweetener, golden sugar, coconut, turbinado, or raw cane sugar, pulsed finely)
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk or buttermilk (dairy milk whole, 2%, or 1%) (low-fat buttermilk, light buttermilk, full-fat buttermilk) (non-dairy: almond, soy, almond, or light coconut milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar mix and let sit for at least five minutes)
Mix melted butter, sugar, lemon zest, and flour in a small bowl. Set aside.
Blueberry muffin preparation
Whisk the melted butter, vegetable oil, eggs, and milk (or buttermilk) in a bowl. Whisk until the mixture is uniform.
In another bowl add 2 1/2 cups of flour that you have sifted, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and stir to combine.
Combine the whisked egg mixture and the dry ingredients in a bowl, stir to combine.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the blueberries, then add the blueberries to the muffin batter, stir only until they are mixed. If you overmix the batter after you add the blueberries the blueberries will burst and turn the batter purple.
Grease muffin tin with non-stick spray.
Fill the muffin tins 2/3 full of batter. Top with streusel mixture.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 375 and bake for another 10 or 15 minutes. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. Don’t overbake. Cool over a wire rack for ten minutes before inverting the muffins onto the rack.
Make-Ahead Instructions: Mix the batter and make the streusel. Refrigerate both, covered overnight. Follow the instructions to bake, but lower the temperature to 350 and bake for 20- 25 minutes, depending on your oven. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. Do not overbake.
The muffins will keep at room temperature lightly covered for up to three days
It’s long been said that with age comes wisdom. For the majority of us who are north of forty and fifty-plus, that is the case. We understand the value of an education and the need for equality in matters of race, gender, and politics. Moreover, we have the benefit of hindsight to use the lessons learned from making mistakes to better our lives in the long run. There is an area that many of us still have issues with and it’s an area that has to do with our emotional lives and relationships.
All families have eccentricities and idiosyncrasies. Some of us have colorful uncles and aunts, outspoken sisters, cool brothers, fun dads, and moms who don’t take any guff from anyone. While we can’t choose our families, we can choose our friends. We migrate towards personalities that jibe with ours from the moment we enter school. Lifelong friendships are made in the halls of elementary school right on up through college.
However, as time goes on, people change. These changes happen within our families and friend groups, and it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Outside factors contribute and shape people over time. Some of the changes are for the better, while others are not. Sometimes friends and family members become toxic. A toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life. Many times, people who are toxic are dealing with their own stresses and traumas, which should be kept in mind up to a point. Therefore, we need to educate ourselves to recognize the signs of toxic behavior, so that we can respond to it accordingly.
What Are the Signs of Toxicity?
The Talk Safe Blog lists six behaviors of highly toxic people:
Blaming. Toxic people endlessly blame others and seem completely unable to “own” their own contribution to any problem. They never see themselves as a part of the problem.
Passive aggression. Toxic people don’t fight, they jab. In other words, they throw punches, then pull back, and repeat it.
Criticism. Toxic people are highly critical. They critique your looks, wardrobe, work, food, etc. in a very nitpicky way that keeps you on edge when they’re around.
Negativity. They never see the good side of anything. They’re perennially glass half-empty people or Debbie/DeWayne Downers
In 3 signs a person with Toxic Qualities is Manipulating You (greatist.com) by Kari Langslet and reviewed by Janet Brio, Ph.D., LCSW, CST lists the signs as:
Being judgmental: The person may constantly pass judgment on you and others.
Obsessive neediness: They place huge strains on your time and energy.
Denialist: They refuse to take responsibility or apologize for their actions.
Not only will a number of us recognize these qualities in friends, we see it in spouses, girlfriends/boyfriends, and family members. So, what can we do to mitigate the toxicity they bring to our lives? According to Shannon Thomas, who was interviewed for the article in Greatist, start with detached contact, which means you still have occasional interactions but from a new emotional state.
“Getting a toxic person out of your life is all about setting boundaries, “For example, you may not return a toxic person’s call right away and, instead, wait 30 minutes to call back.” This can help you work through the anxiety of not jumping when they tell you to jump. Most importantly, the best way to remove a toxic person is by implementing no contact. All of it is wonderful advice, but what do you do when it’s a family member whose the toxic one?
According to When Family Becomes Toxic in Healthline, if you’ve experienced a toxic family dynamic, your feelings may go beyond frustration or annoyance. Instead, interacting with or even thinking about your family might cause significant emotional distress. Katherine Fabrizio MA, LPC, specializes in working with daughters of toxic mothers. She offers this general rule of thumb:
“If you end up feeling bad about yourself after most encounters with a family member, there’s probably a good reason for that, one worth looking into.” In other words, look back at your childhood, if you felt controlled, unloved, and criticized, you may want to examine how those feelings still affect you as an adult. You may have experienced some type of abuse that goes beyond physical to mental and verbal abuse. It’s important to seek professional help from a psychologist, therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist to help deal with these issues.
The best thing to do is to have no contact. If that’s not entirely possible, try to take steps to build yourself up to maintain your emotional well-being so you can handle being around that person. Beyond that, set limits. If you can share jokes and keep to topics that don’t elicit or trigger arguments, then do that. You are allowed to detach yourself from topics like religion, your dating life, relationships, or family history. Don’t allow yourself to be baited or drawn back into anything messy.
It’s okay to say No!
You have the right to decide on what you want to share and what you don’t. Set boundaries and don’t let them be crossed. Ultimately, if a toxic family member stays on that path and always wants to engage, then you may have to withdraw. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them, but you have to love yourself as well. That means not sticking your finger in the socket. The old saying is “hurt people, hurt people.” It’s also been said, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” Leopards don’t change their spots and zebras don’t change their stripes, until a toxic family member recognizes their toxicity, they won’t change. Therefore, you have to change your response in order to have peace within your spirit.
If toxic family and friends don’t respect your boundaries and aren’t bringing anything positive to your life, they don’t have to be a part of your everyday life. Surround yourself with the people in your life who are uplifting, encouraging, loving, and accepting. They are the ones who love you and want you to be happy. Like you want for them.
For more information check out The Talk Safe blog for more articles and to connect with mental health professionals.
For more about toxic relationships check out Healthline
One of the best things about being a north of forty-plus woman, is still having choices when it comes to the second act of our lives. If you’re a woman who doesn’t have dreams of being an entrepreneur, but you’re not ready for a rocking chair, there are still many options that are just as fulfilling.
If you’ve worked in a traditionally male-dominated field, such as engineering, architecture, telecommunications, and internet technology development, to name a few, you can begin mentoring young women who have an interest in these fields. You can help them learn how to navigate their careers from an educational standpoint to real-life advice on how to deal with working in a mostly male workplace. Moreover, mentorship isn’t limited to careers, if you are a part of the LGBTQ community or an ally, you can assist young people who may be struggling with their sexual or gender identity. Helping them come to terms with their reality and helping them find the right words to share this news with their families can be a godsend. You can tutor them through high school, help prep for the SATs, and advise them when it’s time to go to college or a trade school. Moreover, if you have a background in karate, judo, or boxing you can teach self-defense and life skills to be safe. Members of the LGBTQ community are often at a greater risk for violence, knowing how to defend themselves in a smart and effective way can be the difference between getting hurt or worse.
If you’re a painter, writer, or dancer, you might want to get into teaching your art. You could be the next female Bob Ross of art instruction. Many communities offer adult education at local high schools or libraries. You can help someone bring out their inner Picasso or Monet. Dancers can do the same thing. Teach ballet to kids or head a fun tap dancing class at a senior’s home or assisted living. Writers can start workshops to help budding authors find and fine-tune their literary voice. This is a great way to teach others what you know, and it’s a way to keep your creative juices flowing.
Whether it’s a hospital, school, church, or community center, they all welcome volunteers. Volunteers are the life’s blood of organizations like food banks and homeless shelters, that have to raise money in order to keep their doors open and pantries stocked. More importantly, it will help to stay connected to the community and perhaps see a side of it you weren’t aware of. It’s also an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride.
There are health benefits derived from volunteering. According to the Mayo Clinic there are six main benefits to volunteering:
Decreases the risk of depression.
Gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills
Helps people stay physically and mentally active
May reduce stress levels
May help you live longer
Helps you meet others and develop new relationship
Pursue Hobbies For Fun
If you don’t want to get into mentorship, teaching, or volunteering full-time, you don’t have to. You are allowed me-time. If you enjoy scrapbooking, knitting, sewing, painting, woodworking, cooking, or baking for fun, there’s nothing wrong with that. Spending time on activities that you enjoy can also improve your mental health and wellbeing. Studies and research have shown that people with hobbies are less likely to suffer from stress, low mood, and depression. Activities that get you out and about can make you feel happier and more relaxed. It’s a total win-win.
The point again is that you have options for your second act. If you’re still working full-time, pursuing another degree, or maybe you’re on the road as a singer with a band, enjoy it to the fullest. Working on becoming the next Martha Stewart, keep going for it. There is no right or wrong way. All you have to do is remember to make like Nike and just do it.
When the temps begin to rise, it’s time to move the cooking outside. There is something about a grill that turns people who don’t normally cook inside into grill masters. Steaks, burgers, chicken, fish, and pizza are made more delicious under the watchful eye of the king or queen of the barbecue. What about dessert? Well, you can grill stone fruit like nectarines and peaches with a little sugar, then serve it with ice cream or frozen yogurt. Smores are always a hit with the crowd and the kids love it.
As someone who loves to bake, even I won’t turn on the oven with the mercury rises. Okay, that’s not completely true, I get up super early to bake during the coolest part of the day. If you don’t want to lose any sleep and you don’t feel like heading out for ice cream after a long day at work, no-bake desserts are the way to go. Mix it, pour it, put it in the fridge to chill. That’s it.
This recipe comes to us from Martha Stewart. It takes about 25 minutes to make, and even less time if you decide to buy a ready-made graham cracker, Oreo, or a chocolate cookie crust.
This recipe include adaptations for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, low-sugar, and no sugar added diets.
No Bake Cheesecake- Martha Stewart adapted by Chamein Canton
2 packages (20 sheets) graham crackers (gluten-free graham crackers or chocolate wafers)
** It’s important to use light cream cheese and not Neufchatel. Although Neufchatel is slightly lower in calories, it’s a bit more watery than light cream cheese, which can affect how it sets once the cheesecake is chilled. If this recipe used agar-agar or gelatin, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Put graham crackers in a large resealable plastic bag, and crush them with a rolling pin until very fine crumbs form.
Pour crumbs into a medium bowl; stir in sugar. Add butter, and stir until well combined.
Press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, spreading it 1 1/2 to 2 inches up the side; press flat. Chill crust in freezer at least 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Using an electric mixer set at medium-high speed, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. Beat in the condensed milk a little at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl, as necessary. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla.
Pour the filling into the crust; smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Unclasp sides of pan, and remove cheesecake.
Skip the crust: use cheesecake filling in a parfait and invent a whole new “layer cake.” Mix the filling, then put some in a glass. Top with broken-up cookies (such as chocolate or vanilla wafers) or graham crackers, and add fresh fruit (such as raspberries or blueberries). Alternate layers. Refrigerate parfait for 30 minutes, and serve.
Don’t have time to make a crust? Use a ready-made graham cracker, Oreo, Nilla Wafer, or chocolate wafer pie crust. They also have gluten-free graham crackers and chocolate wafer crusts.
Chocolate cheesecake: make the crust with chocolate wafer cookies (10 ounces, or about 50 cookies) instead of graham crackers. Once you’ve mixed the filling, gently stir in 1 cup mini chocolate chips, and then fill the crust. Sprinkle more chips on top of the chilled cake.
June is the month to celebrate, dads, grads, and the end of the school year. It’s also Pride month when gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer celebrate who they are. According to Webster’s Dictionary, pride is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired. Pride month is a celebration of the sacrifices made by others in the past that made it possible for the LGBTQ community to make strides in society for acceptance and to have the right to live in their truth.
The LGBTQ community and women have had to fight for civil rights to have a voice when it comes to the issues that directly affect them. Healthcare is the biggest issue. When AIDS first began to surface in the early eighties, it was called a gay man’s cancer, and as long as it just affected homosexuals the world seemed ready to ignore it. That wasn’t acceptable. These dying men were fathers, sons, nephews, grandsons, and uncles. These men weren’t extras or throwaways, they were family members, lovers, and partners who needed the world to take AIDS seriously. Activists and organizations staged protests, went to Washington, and held events to make the face of AIDS real. Since then there have been incredible advancements AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence. People are continuing to live, love, and thrive in spite of it. The community rallied to save and educate its own, and the world is better because of it.
As women, we have a plethora of issues stemming from the times when women were property used by men to move their agenda forward. After the 19th Amendment passed, there was still work to be done, which included the enfranchisement of black women as voters too. Women have gone from being a silent majority to holding the second-highest office in America. Women have organized to run both female and male candidates that speak to the issues of their constituents. Women are owning their power in politics.
Unfortunately, women are still fighting for body autonomy. Although women bear the children and the pain of pregnancy, tubal ligations required a husband’s signature to be performed. Conversely, men can have vasectomies without their wives’ consent. Although the majority of forty and fifty-plus women don’t have to deal with issues regarding pregnancy, they have daughters, nieces, and sisters. They want them to have the right to make decisions about their bodies that will affect their future.
To go a little further into other commonalities, the LGBTQ community wasn’t the only ones in a closet not being their real selves. Or looking in a mirror trying to figure out how to feel good about the image staring back at them. Women have looked to have a placid life of peace on the surface. Meanwhile, there was a riptide pulling underneath it all. Fighting truth is very much like fighting a riptide. The more you struggle, the more likely it is you will drown. However, if you swim parallel to the shore (your truth), you survive with all your strength and a newfound sense of purpose.
As the LGBTQ community and women of a certain age begin to be seen as themselves and not stereotypes, people see the things all of us have in common. We want to be loved, cared for, respected and treated as an equal. That’s just one of the things Pride is all about.
However, Pride is more than just marching in parades. Take the time to learn more. Be kind to everyone. Try to be a place of respite in the storm and a voice for the voiceless. Champion causes that go beyond your backyard. Keep in mind the aphorism ‘a rising tide lifts all boats. When we lift ourselves, others are lifted up as well. follow. So, let’s just remember to live each and every day with pride and no prejudice.
Summer is a great time to throw everything on the grill, but on for the days when mother nature raises her voice with a thunderstorm, this is a great recipe you can get on the table in about thirty minutes.
Never fear vegans, there are plant-based substitutions listed. Make it your own with the flavor profiles you love.
Enjoy and be well.
Bourbon Chicken recipe from Simply Recipes adapted by Chamein Canton
2/3 cup brown sugar (Swerve brown sugar substitute, organic light brown sugar)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Chives, thinly sliced, for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Cook the rice: Place the rice in a wire mesh sieve or strainer and rinse under cold water for about a minute. In a medium saucepan add the rice and 1 3/4 cups of water. Cover the rice and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, 4-5 minutes, reduce the heat to medium low and let the rice cook for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes remove from heat and keep the lid on for 10 additional minutes. When ready fluff it with a fork.
Cut, season, and coat the chicken: Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. In a large bowl add cubed chicken and season with salt. Toss with the cornstarch to fully coat all of the chicken pieces. Cook the chicken: In a large non-stick skillet set over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is starting to brown and is mostly cooked through, about 8 minutes. It’s okay if it’s not entirely cooked through at this point because it will continue to cook in the sauce. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside on a plate. Cook the sauce: In a medium bowl combine the garlic, ginger, chicken stock, bourbon, soy sauce, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Add the sauce to the same skillet where you cooked the chicken and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, 2-3 minutes. Coat the chicken in sauce and finish cooking: Once the sauce is simmering, add the chicken back into the skillet with sauce and bring to a boil. At this point, you can increase the heat slightly to speed up the process but be careful as the sauce can burn if you raise the heat too much. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce until it has thickened and coats the chicken well, 6 to 8 minutes. The finished sauce should glaze the chicken well and coat the back of a spoon. 1
Garnish and serve: Serve the bourbon chicken immediately over rice. Garnish with chives and sesame seeds. You can add steamed veggies for more fiber and nutrition.
Storage and reheating instructions: If you have leftovers, you can store the chicken in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 3 months. Reheat bourbon chicken in the microwave with a splash of water or gently in a pot or skillet with a splash of water
Firm and Extra-Firm Tofu
You can follow the same recipe directions to make this dish vegan.
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