'Tis the Season...

What a year 2013 has been. The end of the year always sets me into a bit of a panic (that I hadn't accomplished everything I wanted within the walls of 365 days), mixed with lots of excitement (for a clean slate and fresh start in the new year to come). 'Tis the season for reflection and excitement for a new beginning. This time last year, I was feverishly reapplying as a cottage food vendor in DuPage County, having already been approved in Cook prior to my move home (my parents are saints for letting my reclaim their kitchen for this small business pipe dream). I was determined to make it into this farmers market season as a CFO (cottage food operator). Someway, somehow. And I did. Also during this time last year, I began on my journey transitioning into a plant strong lifestyle. Looking back, this year provided me with a lot of perspective. Throughout the course of this year, I reinforced my passion to make a difference, however small, with my farmers market business by adapting recipes and continuing to educate myself on more healthful approaches to baking. Being surrounded by food and culture and people who care about those things too was all I ever really wanted. And by doing the farmers markets, I was able to do that - in meeting countless vendors and customers that live their lives on similar wavelengths. Now, in the coming year, I plan to continue my "food" education, and possibly even enroll in a plant-based nutrition certificate program. I hope to continue to be able to speak even more intelligently to the needs of my customer base along with furthering my education on my own personal nutrition choices (as a plant-strong eater) as well. In the coming months, I also hope to become re-approved as a CFO for next seasons farmers markets and be able to offer a wider selection of products that are safe for everyone to eat by introducing more soy free and naturally sweetened products, along with adapting whatever I can to be gluten free. (Trust me, I have been busy adapting and experimenting with new recipes whenever possible. I even made flax meal sugar cookies for the holidays - and would you believe it, they were more delicious than the originals?!) I was speaking to someone about my business recently, and I recall saying, "All I really want to do is help people." Which is the complete truth. I want you to have your cake and eat it too. Sure, sweets are still an indulgence no matter how they are made, but if you are fully educated about what is in them, and can pronounce all of the ingredients, they definitely become more of a beneficial splurge than not. Especially if they still accomplish the nostalgia of a home baked treat fresh from a loved one's oven. At least in my book. Which is why I am so grateful the cottage food law exists, because if it didn't I wouldn't have the same opportunities to put my passion into production. And if we can all continue to learn and grow from each other, the transfer of information will continue to evolve and nourish the importance of the movement for food advocacy and education. What greater gift can we give ourselves than knowledge? So, as you gear up for the last remaining days of the year to enter into the clean slate of 2014, what will you be hoping to accomplish? We here at Smashed Muffin will be hoping for your most "smashing" year yet. Along with continuing to maintain an appreciation for the sweet things in life (food related and otherwise). So, from our kitchen to yours, happy holidays. We can't wait to see what the new year brings...!


Summer Reading and Summer Sippin'

Summer Reading

This summer, I seem to have had the "eyes being bigger than my stomach" syndrome when it comes to checking out food related books at the library. I recently finished Mika Brzezinkisi's book, Obsessed and ever since, I can't seem to get enough. Ok, I'll admit, I have become prone to skimming, but it's just 'cuz I'm so excited to take it all in... all at once! The list of books I want to read is long, and ever growing, and likely not accomplishable in the short time we have left this summer, but I thought today I could summarize some of the goodies I've come across so far. Some I've read, some I've skimmed, and all of them I hope to come back to.

SMG's Summer Reading Shortlist : 
To Read and Be Read
-Obsessed: America's Food Addiction -- And My Own (Mika Brzezinski)
I just finished this one a week or two ago, which I already mentioned, but trust me, this one is worth mentioning again. It's a super quick read, chock full of valuable information about our nation's obsession with food. And overwhelming, the wrong kinds of foods at that. We are facing nothing short of an epidemic in this country and it's time we take some action for the health and safety of future generations to come - that is, if we want there to be future generations. Mika (with the help of many prestigious experts - some famous and some common), covers everything from fad diets to the obesity epidemic to the possibility of being addicted to junk food or sugar. If you're feeling uncertain about the quality of your relationship with food, this book will be a great eye opener - for the good and the bad.
-Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Michael Pollan)
My mom picked this one up at good old Costco not long after we were lucky enough to see him speak at Elmhurst College. Feeling inspired, I got a good 50 pages through, and then had to take a break. The concept overall fascinates me, but I think it's going to be one of those books that I read in bits and pieces. His concept is simple. Cooking goes way back. And it may just be the one thing that makes us the more "civilized" social species of the bunch. Using the earth, it wind and the discovery of fire, we discovered the main techniques that establish cooking. (And no, we're not talking about the band.) It's not about putting women back in the kitchen. It's about putting YOU back in the kitchen. Yes, you. You don't have to be (or even want to be) a housewife (or even a female) to realize that if we cook our own food (as opposed to a corporation cooking it for us), our health and food relationships will instantly be nurtured. And no, microwaving a pizza in your pizza oven does not count as cooking. Sorry. If we all got back to the basics, (i.e. having a hand in all of the food that goes into our mouths), my what a world it could be.
-Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People (Linda Civitello)
This was actually one of my textbooks from this summer. I have a feeling it will be helpful having read this book in it's entirety prior to coming back to Pollan's Cooked (above), as there seems to be a lot of discussion of the historical evolution of food and culture throughout book texts. I usually struggle to read non-fiction or historical books, however Linda makes it a breeze. It's fascinating to discover where some of what we consider to be "staples" today, came from and how they became of cultural significance.
-Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating (Mark Bittman)
This is another one I got through part of but haven't quite finished yet. However, Mark's philosophy pretty closely mirrors where I'm at with my personal relationship to food as of late. What you put in your mouth and it's affects, matters. Oftentimes more than just to you (to your environment and the other living organisms in your environment). Sometimes I have difficulty understanding why people don't get this concept. But Mark does a great job of making it easy to "digest". And there's even recipes! Any book that ends in recipes is a friend of mine.
-Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters (Gordon M. Shepherd)
I haven't touched this one yet - but my gosh - that title alone...! I have a feeling the science heavy nature might make it a trying read - but how intriguing. Whenever any kind of scientist (in this case a neuroscientist), dips their toes into the culinary world - I find it makes for quite the surprising combo. I can't wait to dive right in!
-Gluten Free Girl and the Chef  and Gluten Free Girl Everyday (Shauna James)
As I attempt to expand my gluten free product offerings this summer at the farmers market, I'm always looking for resources to expand my knowledge and understanding of gluten free cooking and baking. GF girl has certainly widened my eyes. The more I learn, the more easily I can create better goods for the rest of you - and Shauna's cook books have given me an understanding of a gluten free lifestyle that I hope has made me an even more conscious and careful baker. Her "Everyday" cookbook I found most helpful with it's detailed product explanations and recommendations on substitutions. Her "whole wheat" flour mix is now something I stock regularly in my pantry (and which I have also been having fun experimenting with).
-Bake and Destroy : Good Food for Bad Vegans (Natalie Slater)
Ok, so this is more than anything a book I am excited for, though haven't quite gotten my mittens on yet. I have been a B&D fan for a while now and Natalie's site has been an incredible resource for me, introducing me to many of the authors of cookbooks which are now my go-to for inspiration as a mostly vegan baker. And to have the opportunity to have Natalie's originals as a mostly vegan herself - all in one real-life book and not just on a screen? Well it's this girl's old fashioned dream come true.

Summer Sippin'

Another thing I wanted to mention (ok you caught me - brag about), is an event I attended yesterday at Mindy's Hot Chocolate. You all know Mindy Segal, right? Well if you don't, you're missing out. Start obsessing over her. Like, now. I was lucky enough to get invited to a coffee lab hosted at her restaurant by the heads of the beverage program there, with some help from their friends over at Mandarine Napoleon. One of my good friends, Alex McDaniel, is what I like to call, the "coffee chemist" at Mindy's, and boy is he right at home not only at this restaurant, but also in an event like this. I've never meet someone with more passion or plain old knowledge about coffee. Pair with that a bar manager who is just as passionate about his cocktails, and it's a match made in chocolate dipped heaven. And while we're going with this analogy, we'll say the Mandarine Napoleon is like the "cherry" on top. Except in this land of caffeinated mixology, appropriately citrus flavored. Profiling three of their specialty cocktails (all featuring MN) - guests, decked out in black aprons, got to put their mad scientist hats on and join the two Alex's down the rabbit hole of specialty, coffee laced cocktails. Using a cold press coffee immensely alters it's taste profile, just as cooking or baking at different temperatures will drastically alter your results. My favorite thing we mixed was a cocktail solution of muddled blackberries (although any farm fresh berries will do), a balsamic reduction, Mandarine Napoleon, Pimm's and Gin that was mixed, shaken and strained over an unfiltered jumbo coffee ice cube. It's one of those drinks that gets better with time, with the coffee intensity staying perfectly matched to the cocktail throughout as it slowly melts. My only complaint would be that we didn't go home with pre-filled recipe cards. I was so fascinated, that I didn't write the demonstrated recipes down fast enough...! However, I understand a magician can't give away all his tricks.

Sweet Links

Lastly, as is my new practice, I wanted to take a quick minute before closing to share a few links to some of the fascinating food for thought I've come across this week so far. I know it's only Monday, so what am I talking about? Well, you'll be surprised - it might only be a few links, but Monday did not disappoint.

Happy Herbivore shared on facebook this link to the profile on Bill Clinton's choice to go vegan.

The NYTimes features a burger grown from cow muscle. Someday, hamburgers just may grow on trees. Jk.

What "sweet" food for thought did you discover this week?


Another Reason

I've been doing a lot of online research lately on all things food/nutrition, and have been coming across a lot insightful youtube videos. The internet is a fascinating (and sometimes dangerous time suck) thing. Videos like the one I'm going to share with you tend to take the "scare tactic" approach, but I still thought I was worth sharing. There are so many problems with the "big food" system that contributed to my decision to go plant strong. Staying away from dairy was something I never thought I'd do, but knowing the eco benefits of choosing plant versus animal/animal byproduct helped push me over the edge. It became just another reason why I was certain going plant strong was the right choice for me. Sure I have days where I "cheat" and rely a little too heavily on substitutes (soy cheese, meat alternatives, etc) or carbs, but I still feel better as a whole about the things I am choosing to put into my body. And thus, why I am sharing this video with you. Hopefully you haven't seen it. And if you have, it might serve as a good reminder to continue to be more conscious about what you choose to put into your body on a day to day basis.

One other thing I wanted to share, was this op-ed article about food nutrition in schools (see link below). I posted it on twitter and my facebook page as well, however in case you missed it, I thought it was worth sharing again. If the children are the future, isn't it obvious that we need to invest in the health and wellness of our futures? I think so... hopefully you can agree on the importance of this issue.

Just some added food for thought for your Monday. (As if you needed anything else on your plate, it is Monday after all... But just in case you are feeling uber ambitious this week, take a biiiiig bite!)

Huffington Post : Ending Food Ignorance, Education is too Important to Leave to Big Food


Food for Thought

Hello Blogland! I have missed you! Have you missed me?

Ok. So. Update time, real quick.
We made it farmers market season. And the best part? We're debuting as a vendor this farmers market season. I cannot even begin to explain how rewarding this has been. I've only done a few markets yet, but it has been amazing to see people responding so positively. For updates on where I'll be and when, you can check the schedule on my new fangled website : smashedmuffingoods.weebly.com/. I try to post updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well. (Social media info below).
Twitter (@SmashedMuffin)
Instagram (@SmashedMuffinGoods)

Plug time.
I'll be at the Downtown Downers Grove market this weekend 7/6 Sa from 7am-1230pm and the Villa Park market 7/7 Su from 8am-1pm. Hope you can stop by!

Some things I've been thinking about...
I feel like I am constantly bookmarking pages and taking screen shots of this or that, but never sharing. So I'm pledging right now, to share more. Here's just a few of the things I've come across recently...

Surprisingly enough, I came across this from a facebook ad. (Do you think they can tell I'm a foodie?) I was wondering what others think of this. With today's world of "no time" to be healthy - is a program like this worth it? It seems like the market is becoming overly saturated with more healthful products and companies. Which is a GREAT "problem" to have. However, with so many, how do you find the one that's right for you, that you can trust?

With a personal interest in food allergies, and many of my current customers very aware of developments in food allergies, I found this article to be a very interesting read. If you could potentially get your child (or even you yourself) back to drinking dairy milk after avoiding it, would you? Especially with so many new advocates for a solely plant-based diet avoiding dairy altogether?
Experimental Treatment for Milk Allergy

Also in light of common allergies, last week, I read an article in the NYTimes about a company (Solazyme) venturing into the field of nutrition, using flours made from algae to make a substance that can be used as a replacement for eggs in common cooking recipes (such as brioche, alfredo pasta and baked goods). Do we live in an exciting time or what? However, when I went to look up the link to post the article for you, I discovered a follow up article - stating that the partnership between Solazyme has since dissolved. Regardless, it's fascinating to me that we live in a time that is moving in this direction. Both articles are posted below.
For Solazyme, a Side Trip on the way to Clean Fuel
Algae-Engineering Joint Venture Disbands

Speaking of the New York Times... I recently poured over this fascinating manifest, compliments of Michael Pollen, who I recently got to see at a local college discussing his new book "Cooked." (Which I am also currently in the middle of.) When I was lucky enough to see him in the flesh, he spoke briefly of the fact that we are actually less than half human (actually only 10% I believe is the actual figure). We are actually MOSTLY made up of microbes. While many advancements have been made, there is still lots of research to be done in grasping microbial health. Maybe I've been living under a rock, but man. This stuff is fascinating! Right? (I know I've used that word like a million times this post, but seriously - there's no other word for it. It's just. Wow.)
Some of My Best Friends Are Germs

I know I'm posing a lot of questions and I don't necessarily expect anyone to answer them. However, I think there are a lot of exciting advancements in how we feed ourselves (literally and figuratively) and decide what to put in our mouths and bodies. Some good. Some bad. And some where the jury may still be out and we need to educate ourselves more. The more I can share what I come across with you, the more we can continue to think about how we choose to put as much "good" in to get more "good" out. If we accurately feed our mind, body and souls - I truly believe the more that fact will be reflected in our health and happiness in life overall. And you know what they say... So, here's your daily dose of "food for thought". And quite a bit of it. But hey, I had to make up for some lost time. ;)


Ketchup, Get It?

Dear long lost friends. Sorry I've been a long lost blogger. Life happens though, which is a good thing, a great thing actually - so I'm not too sorry, only a little. 

A lot has happened since my Hawaiian adventure to start off the new year. I'm giving new meaning to new year, new me. Well, more so than I ever have before. Here's a top ten to get you up to speed, cliff notes style. Well, as close to cliff notes as the writer in me is capable of. So plan on still reading for a while. (Sorry, I can't help it. I at least kept it to a "top 10".)

1. This one's a given, but here it is anyways. I went to Hawaii!!! It was an amazing, once in a life time experience. I had a magical two week vacation with my bestest friend who has been working out there on a cruise ship. But, magic comes with a price....
2. The price being that my life changed rather drastically right before I left the mainland (see 3) and I ended up missing 2 weeks of ... dun dun duh nunnn : school. Yup. I traded the working life to be a poor college kid again, full time. Which partially explains my overall absence from society these days - I have been a studying crazed hermit crab all winter. Starting the semester off 2 weeks behind didn't help, but it was a price I was more than willing to pay to be able to have a taste of paradise. That's not something that happens every day. Back in the real world - adjusting to being a student again has been a challenge, but if I've learned anything in the last few years, it's that I can more than handle a challenge.
3. Oh yeah, by the way, I quit my job. It wasn't a throw your computer out the window on your way out kind of "I quit". But more, I need to be more fulfilled, kind of quit. Anytime you make the choice to improve upon yourself, I see it as a good thing. While I loved what I was doing, some other factors of the environment started to take their toll on me. Don't worry, I have a pretty legit reason for bailing (see 4) and I don't in a million years regret the experience I gained or the people I met along the way. Don't, worry, I'll be back soon enough (well, kinda - see 5).
4. Why 2 and 3? Well, because I have finally decided what I want to be when I grow up. Possibly. Maybe. While it is not a hairdresser, nor an official commercial maker lady, like I previously thought when I was in kindergarden, it's not far off from my history as a worker bee drone so far. Instead of a 180, I'd call it more of a slight right. I have decided to pursue masters programs in nutrition so I can sit for the RD (registered dietitian) exam. I figured, if I'm already breathing and sleeping all things "food", why not focus it into an area where I might be able to help people at the same time, yano? Plus, I've always wanted to get a masters degree. I was just too scared to spend the money. But now, the gloves are off!
5. Still, it's going to be a loooong haul. Programs are typically 3-3.5 years. I don't apply for programs until January (2014), for admission in the fall. And up until my (fingers crossed) admission to a program somewhere somehow, I have a full schedule of science prerequisites to take - math and bio and loads of chemistry, oh my! My brain has been crammed with the stages of cell division and the periodic table as of late. Luckily, this week was my spring break so I have been doing an excellent job of turning my brain to mushy mush by catching up on all of the tv watching I have missed the last few months. 
6. Speaking of tv - since I recently moved back in with the 'rents, can I just say that "on demand" is the best thing since sliced bread? It has completely enabled me to become a complete couch potato to make up for the past few months of almost forgetting what a tv was. Ok so maybe that's not a gold star kind of thing, but can you blame me for wanting to watch creativity unfold? That's the beauty of entertainment, right? Plus, I finally quit being a shutout granny and figured out what this "Girls" hype was all about. And renewed my Carrie Brownstein obsession (see link 10d) at that.
7. No longer a city girl, but still fortunate enough to have my parents put me up for a undefined while as I try my "sciencey" hand at community college - this means I had to reapply for my Cottage Food business application. I had already been approved by the city (Cook County) - "yay!" But since I will now be using my parents super swanky soapstone counter-topped oasis in the suburbs as my kitchen, I had to reapply to DuPage County. Three months later and the "verdict is still out", which is uber frustrating as (1) I already applied and got approved in a neighboring county and (2) most of the market application deadlines are either now closed or will be in the very near future. How was I to know it would be a multi-month process to approve my business? Tick.Tock. Hopefully I can still eek into a market or two for at least a few weeks out of the summer. I want to share all of the baked good-ness I have learned with the world! So sue me! Anyways, keep your fingers crossed for me! (Pwease?!) Hold on hope!
8. Long story short, you should also know that I'm going vegan. (It's got that "look ma, no hands kind of effect, doesn't it?) My mom recently read the China Study. Which lead to us watching the documentary "Forks Over Knives." (It's on Netflix, if you have access, I would definitely recommend giving it a watch.) This lead to the whole family committing to going "plant strong." In college I wrote a research paper on a very similar subject matter - how changes to one's diet can drastically reduce, if not eliminate symptoms of common ailments and even sometimes symptoms of certain diseases. Last weekend I made vegan donuts after a TJMaxx donut pan guilty splurge and I swear to you - donuts have never tasted so good. Trust me, not eating meat or dairy is nowhere near the end of the world. I thought it would be a lot harder than it is. The biggest challenge has been eating out. But, baby steps. 
9. The blog page got a facelift. Did you notice? What do you think? I also updated the facebook pace a bit - if you haven't already, please take a minute to "like me". Wait, that came out wrong. That made it sound like I'm singing Carly Simon's "You're so vain" to myself right now as I ask this of you. It's just always nice to know that someone else besides me is engaged. It's how we connect in this here technological age after all, isn't it?
10. And now I leave you with some food for thought. (Ba dum ching.) A random smattering of links that caught my eye as of late. Let me know what you think!

(a) What does 2,000 calories look like?
(b) Thank goodness gracious coffee is vegan. Tattly gets it.
(c) Our favoritest vegan recipe to make around the house these days (although it's frequency might fade a bit in the coming, hopefully warmer months) - is vegetarian chili. One of my fellow bloggers, who I am lucky enough to call my friend, has the blue star recipe in this household (shout out to Amanda, onna the coolest chickadees I know!). Make it. Now. (Click here for the recipe.) 

(d) Click this link to watch a video clip of Portlandia's take on communal dining. Have you dined communally at a restaurant? What was your experience? Hopefully and most likely not quite as painful as this. ;)

(e) Mark your calendars, Fete Market debut's next month (April 4th). And one of the Fete founders (Heather Sperling of Tasting Table) will be at the Hideout's Interview Show next week (April 5th) to tell you all about it!

(f) Finally, I leave you with one of my new favorite cookie recipes, brought to you by my obsession with the Lucky Peach tumblr. Watch and learn. Making life sweeter is quite the workout!



This should be an epically long post about all the sweet occurrences and random learnings since October. But, dear reader (yes you are picking up the right warning signs - I am preparing you for disappointment upfront), it isn't.

You see, while we have much to catch up on, I have to postpone our catch up sesh just a little longer. I know. Patience. It really is a flipping virtue, ain't it?

This delay is due to the fact that I will be otherwise detained for a couple of weeks in.... (Dun da na naaaa) .... HAWAII! While I wish you all could be in paradise with me, you can't. But in the meantime, know that y'all have A LOT comin at ya upon my return. Trust me - so much so that you'll be wishing I left things short and super sweet like this more often. Thanks for sticking with me (or "Mahalo" rather), especially through these more sporadic months of late. And stay tuned for a super long update.

Hope you're all surviving the onslaught of "flumagedon" and the impending (or maybe not) "breaking of the resolutions". And if not, remember - just keep swimming! - and 2013 will prove to treat you well, I promise.