Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dissertation quality, gluten free banana-pecan muffins

As I put the finishing touches on my dissertation proposal, I am struck by how long I have been in Portland and in graduate school. It has only been 4 years, but in some ways it doesn't seem that long at all, and in other ways, it feels like I've been here a long time.

I think the feeling of having been here a long time comes from feeling well-seasoned in regards to the ins and outs of Portland and my school. When I think back to my first year of graduate school, forcing myself to remember those shaky first months, I remember mostly feeling frustrated over learning a new campus, new operations, and a new city.

I entered graduate school knowing full well it would take at least 4 years before I was done and that it would be a grueling, stressful 4 years. Other than that, I thought I would grow just as much as I had in the four years I was an undergraduate student.

Boy was I wrong. Well, partly wrong. I think I changed just as much magnitude-wise, but in a totally different direction.

College was all about textbooks and tests and focusing on learning the notions and the ideas of those who have come before you, with little thought as to what you agreed with or didn't. This was peppered with an ebbing and flowing anxiety over who I was and where I was going (needless worrying, as I look back now). I remember stressing far too much over the idea that, “what I do now affects the rest of my life.” Sure, each step leads to another, but you can always go back in some regards and study hieroglyphics if that's what you later find you are totally passionate about!

Graduate school was all about developing as a professional and understanding the larger picture (you can always look up the details) and choosing a philosophical orientation that will guide your professional work. Graduate school taught me far more difficult life lessons than book lessons. I learned a couple of painful lessons on how I was willing to let people treat me. I learned that I am far more stubborn than I ever thought I was. I learned that I am far stronger, both mentally and physically, than I previously gave myself credit for. And, to my detriment, I have a hard time asking for help or feeling incapable.

Mostly, though, I learned that last lesson as a result of my gluten intolerance. Interestingly enough, the most frustrating thing about feeling sick this past year was not really figuring out how to eat gluten free. I was most frustrated with feeling like I was incapable. I hated feeling physically unable to do the things I was used to; too tired to run, too tired to row, too tired to do many of my usually favorite activities. Social situations became a nightmare as I didn't want to draw attention to myself by not eating anything or “harassing” the server with questions about the menu and food preparation practices. I just didn't want to be “different.” I didn't want to be a “pain.” I didn't want to explain what was going on with me. I'm going to have to get over all of that if I want to move forward.

Right now, I'm making the transition out of graduate school. It's big and scary and different. But, I know that I should and will ask for help if I need it.

On a much lighter note, I also learned that graduate school is also full of unspoken, sometimes funny, protocol. For example, when a student proposes his or her thesis or dissertation, it is the student's responsibility to also bring refreshments to the meeting (e.g., water, coffee, food). This morning, I baked what I would call the best batch of banana muffins I have ever baked and I will bring them tomorrow morning for my dissertation proposal.

Did you really think I would serve my committee gluten??

Since these are more of a “treat” and not meant to be healthy in any regard, I used straight-up sugar (inherited from Ben) and the left-over sugared pecans from Ben's birthday cake. If you want to make yours a bit healthier, use ¼ cup agave nectar or honey instead of the sugar and use raw pecans in place of the sugared ones. You can also make it even better with some ground flax. And if you don't like to bake with gums, just leave it out; I don't think it will affect this recipe too much.

Tip: When your bananas start to grow old on the counter, throw them in the freezer as they are. Take them out when you are ready to bake something with them and peel them using a knife.

These came out soooo perfect, just like bakery muffins. I think that if this whole career in health research thing doesn't work out, I'll always have a future in baking ;)

Banana-pecan muffins:

¾ cup sorghum flour

¾ cup brown rice flour

½ cup tapioca flour

½ cup millet flour

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon xanthan gum

½ teaspoon cinnamon

dash salt

Mix the dry ingredients listed above in a large bowl.

2 bananas

1/3 cup grapeseed oil

2 eggs

about 1/3 cup water (I added an additional splash once everything was mixed and the batter looked a bit thick)

Mash the bananas in a small bowl and add remaining wet ingredients. Stir well.

Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into this well. Stir until mostly mixed, adding about ½ cup pecan pieces. Mix just until all ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins (however you like them – with papers, greased and floured, etc) and gently smoosh a couple of whole pecans on top of each muffin.

Bake at 350F for about 20 minutes.


1 comment:

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

They look so fluffy and good - love the pecans on top!