Lemon Candied-Ginger Muffins (V)

IMG_9716Exciting things are happening this week for Waltz of the Flours! The first is a much needed website facelift, which you hopefully already noticed (cheers to a URL you can actually memorize!) The next is something you’ll see if you just scroll down a little…yes, I made my first recipe video! Of course, with this being a new endeavour, I have a lot to learn and improve upon–but it’s certainly a start. I’m looking forward to creating more in the future and bringing you along for the learning process!

It’ll come as no surprise, then, that this week has led me to contemplate change–its role in practically every aspect of our lives, who it’s affecting around me currently, why it scares us so darn easily. While it’s arguably impossible to experience a time that’s purely static, I think you’ll agree that sometimes it just feels as though more things are shifting than are staying the same. I’ll waste no time and inform you that BOY am I in a place like that–so many of the things I’ve come to accept as givens, as the metaphorical controls from middle school science class, have decided to suddenly become variables. Naturally, this has resulted in plenty of emotional meltdowns. However, sprinkled between the moments of anxiety that I’ve experienced has been another, undoubtedly God-given sensation–an unexplainable peace, of sorts. Though I’m far from holding on firmly to this strange and fickle sense of calm, I had an epiphany of sorts last night, and I’d like to think it helped me get just a little better of a grip. IMG_9759

Some of you might know that I used to work at a Chinese Restaurant in Bloomfield–while still a student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, I waited tables sometimes five nights a week there. By the time three years had passed, it had become one of my many Pittsburgh homes, and the people there one of my many Pittsburgh families. Of all the 364 days per year that Wai Wai Chinese Cuisine was open, though (yes, we only closed on Thanksgiving), my absolute favorite was always Chinese New Year. My boss, Leo, would plan for weeks in advance; then when the holiday finally arrived, he’d disappear, laboring in the kitchen for the entire day. The restaurant closed early, and everyone would pull together six of our dining tables to create one massive family-style setup.

Then, the shining moment: with the swing of the kitchen door and a puff of hot steam, the dishes would begin to emerge from the kitchen. Trays of lobster, crab legs, fish, noodle dishes, soup, whole pineapples spilling with meat and fruit, vegetables, things that I’d never seen but couldn’t wait to try, all in a grand procession deserving of royal fanfare. Each year, I was certain he couldn’t possibly expand on the quantity of food from the last dinner, and each year I was wrong. Then, after we’d had a moment to regain our grasp on reality and survey the delicious myriad before us, Leo would finally make his entrance, greeting everyone happily and handing out decorative envelopes with fresh $20 bills to everyone at the table. Then, he’d enthusiastically toast the evening, and the celebration would commence.

Last night, I had the privilege of being invited back to this occasion as a former employee and forever friend. Around 9pm I walked up the very familiar rampway with my friend Nicole and a tray of these Lemon Candied-Ginger Muffins (V), eager to be back and participate in the beloved Chinese New Year Dinner. We talked, ate, watched the delivery drivers belt ballads on the karaoke machine across the dining room, and reminisced. At one point, I found myself especially adrift in memories I’d made in that very building. I looked around the restaurant between bites and started spewing a stream of old stories to Nicole as they came to me: I used to learn entire ballets from the video right on this floor while I worked the closing shift; my friend and I would watch Dr. Pimple Popper videos back there to pass the time on slow days; Monique is the one who trained me when I first started working here, and then she became my closest friend; that’s Leo’s daughter, Joyce–I can’t believe she remembers me! I became lost in the excitement of sharing the experiences I’d had when I worked there. IMG_9730 (1)

There’s a key detail in those sentences, though. They’re all past tense. I don’t work at Wai Wai’s Chinese Cuisine now. I’m not still doing all those things I explained to Nicole yesterday. The only reason that I’m able to look back on them fondly and reminisce is because, eventually, I stopped doing them. You can’t look back on experiences that you’re doing right now. I realized, as juvenile a revelation as it might seem, that the only things in our lives that become cherished memories are the things that change. Change is what transforms something from being standard into being something worth remembering; it’s what wraps up the letters of your life and allows you to fold them away safely until something sparks your heart to pull them out and ask your friend “Remember when…?”

Consistency and predictability and routine and all those wonderfully stagnant things sure can be comforting in the present. But who ever looks back and thanks God for keeping things the way they were? I don’t often encourage people to spend time contemplating the future or dwelling in the past, but thanks to the two of them I gotta say I sure am feeling better about my relationship with the unexpected.

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

 

Lemon Candied-Ginger Muffins (V)

Ingredients

STREUSEL TOPPING

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP melted vegan butter

MUFFIN BATTER

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP cold water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup candied ginger, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 12 cups of a muffin pan with cupcake liners.

STREUSEL

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt.
  2. Add melted butter, and mix in–first with the whisk, and then with your hands until mixture forms small crumbles. Set aside.

MUFFINS

  1. In a small bowl, mix together canola oil, sugar, lemon juice, and flax egg. Set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. Mix candied ginger into flour mixture.
  4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour the wet ingredients into it.
  5. Whisk just until combined–don’t worry about the batter being a bit lumpy.
  6. Distribute batter evenly between muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top of each one.
  7. Sprinkle streusel on top of each cup of batter.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool in the trays for five minutes; then transfer to a cooling rack if desired.
  10. Enjoy!

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