Learning Curve

Trying new things can be either an exciting and rewarding learning experience, or fraught with anxiety if, like me, you hate to get it wrong.

I was raised by a “failure is not an option,” father. No learning curve allowed. I was expected to do everything right, right off the bat. Many parents, and some grandparents, mistakenly think that this attitude presses kids to do their best. But, pressure stifles a sense of wonder and experimentation, and diminishes the self-confidence necessary to try something repeatedly until you succeed. Often  these feelings carry forward into adulthood.

These days I’m adhering to a new school of thought, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

Fifty years later, after some therapy, and online access about how to do anything, PLUS a global pandemic… heck,  “Time is on My Side.”  I not buying into  “can’t teach an old dog new tricks!”  That’s just an excuse, not a fact.  I have been trying lots of new things, straying from the comfort zone of the things I know how to do well, and having quite a few interesting outcomes!

Heavenly Blue morning glories.

First, I planted morning glories, and they took forever to sprout. Like a good Jewish Mother, I checked on them daily encouraging them to grow babies, grow. Only three out of the six seedlings made it, but they are strong and happy.  I also planted a Shishito Pepper and some Thyme and Oregano in a big pot in the sun. I talk to them too, and they are all thriving! We ate my first handful of peppers sautéed with shrimp for dinner  the other night.

Oregano, Thyme, Shishitos

Then, I had an applesauce cake FAIL.  A familiar recipe, except that this time I used French flour that I ordered from Amazon. I’d  heard that people who react badly to American wheat are able to tolerate this better.  What I didn’t know is that without adjustments, it would come out so dense.  How dense was it, Donna?  It was as dense as an apple-scented fire log.

In it’s favor, it was beautiful.

After lots of research on why this happened, I learned that this type of flour (t45) is usually reserved for pastry and cookies.  It’s lower gluten creates much less sponginess, and the fineness of the flour  soaks up much more liquid than I could have imagined. The Gremlins won that round as I threw it in the trash.

Still a little bummed-out, I decided to try a new recipe for cornbread, since I’ve  been making the same cornbread for 40 years. Although the recipe is from a cookbook I’ve enjoyed many things from, their cornbread was a disgusting failure. No idea why… absolutely none at all. Into the trash it went, too.  Another win for the Gremlins.

Reluctant to waste any more hard-to-come-by ingredients,  and trying to bolster my sagging ego, I pulled out a tattered Ina Garten corn muffin recipe that I’d scribbled on an envelope and carried around for years, but never baked. They were unequivocally the  most delicious corn muffins I have ever eaten! They were perfect with a pot of chili for dinner,  and still perfect when split, buttered,  and toasted the next morning with my coffee.

Of course they’re delicious, they’re by Ina Garten!

Ina is one of two or three people on my “People I’d Love to Meet” list. When I was very ill years ago and couldn’t eat, could barely get off the couch, she was the bright spot in my day as I’d watch her cooking for her darling husband and friends. I would reminisce about my 25 years living on Long Island, too, and even driving around the beautiful town where she lives. I fantasized about being  invited to her house to chat with her as she cooked, and afterward, eating a beautifully prepared meal with her .

(If any of you have connections to Ina, and can arrange it, I’m game!)

So, without any further ado, here is the recipe that gave me so much delight this week:

Ina’s Corn Muffins

Mix 3C flour, 1 C sugar, 1 C cornmeal, 2TBSP baking powder, 1.5 tsp. salt in large bowl.
Whisk 2 sticks butter, melted and cooled, 2 XL eggs, and 1.5 C milk together. Add wet to dry. Don’t overmix the batter, quick and easy does it.
Scoop into 12 lined muffin cups, bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 mins. Halves easily for 6 muffins.

8 thoughts on “Learning Curve

  1. Terry Cornelius Corley

    Donna, I use T55 for baking. Never had any issues. My functional med dr suggested it several years ago.

    • Thank you for writing Terry, I’m very excited to hear that!
      The t55 was what I learned was the flour for general baking. I’m going to order some, and use these bags for cookies and tarts. Darn the bad luck! 😘 XO Donna

  2. Denise Jones

    I discovered Ina’s cookbooks while visiting my sister-in-law and immediately ordered one. I have cooked so many things from this book in the last few months and everything is easy and delicious. I will give the muffins a try. Thanks for anther uplifting and helpful blog

    • Thank you Denise! It’s always nice to hear from you – which book of Ina’s do you have? If you love it (you’re such a great cook) it’s gotta be great!
      For now, it’ll be more corn muffins here.
      XO Donna 😍

  3. Janelle

    What a great post this morning, Donna. Had me laughing! I, too, have been trying new things during this stay at home order. After never buying cauliflower before in my life, I received a head in my last grocery order. I found a recipe for Cauliflower ‘mac’ and Cheese. It was delicious!

    • Good for you, Janelle!
      I love cauliflower – my Mom figured out early on that the way to get us kids to eat it was to smother it in creamy cheddar cheese sauce! Now you’ve got my mouth watering!
      XO Donna

  4. Donna, your comment, “It was as dense as an apple-scented fire log” gave me a giggle! I’ve definitely been there. I loved reading about your baking pursuits and those corn muffins looked divine. I believe you can definitely teach an old dog new tricks. We still need to see if we can get you, Brenda and myself on Zoom, I will drop you a line via email. Much love, Esther xo

    • by Donna O'Klock

      Glad I was able to make you giggle, Esther! Do try the corn muffins, they ARE divine.
      I may tackle a Rustic apple tart next – with that 2 kilos of French flour – stay tuned. 😉
      I would love to meet you and Brenda on Zoom, but not until after my haircut next Wednesday… my pixie cut has been growing-out for months and I look a sight!
      With love, and a touch of vanity –
      Donna

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