March 2nd, 2012
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve barely read any books in about, oh, five years. And, yes, you guessed it: the Hungry Boy is 5-years-old. I’m making my way back, though, from Perez Hilton to the print version of US Weekly, from Vanity Fair to the New Yorker, from the Tommy Lee biography (sadly, I’m not joking) to *real* books. It’s been a long journey, but I’ve arrived and am reading again—slowly, but reading—and loving it.
My latest read is Julia’s Child by Sarah Pinneo, a hilariously witty story that’s right up my alley. Like, really, truly, up my alley. See, while researching her novel about a Brooklyn-based mom and organic toddler food entrepreneur, Sarah spoke with my former ChowBaby foods business partner. The story grapples with a lot of stuff that my business partner and I grappled with: Can we be profitable and do good in the world? Can we grow into a successful company and still be the moms we want to be, the moms who can still focus on the very things that inspired us to start a food company in the first place?
Circumstance (i.e., a little something called the financial crisis) came between me and ChowBaby, leading me instead to a place where I could write about food, family and good health and hopefully inspire folks to cook—instead of buying prepared—healthful foods. I feel great about it. Lucky, even. The financial crisis that stripped me and my business partner of our ChowBaby financing was, for me, a blessing in disguise. Today I get to work from home, see my kids often, cook all the time and offer information and inspiration to parents without asking them to buy food (even good, healthy food) in a box or pouch. Where does Julia land? You’ll have to read the book to find out!!
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an organic food entrepreneur to relate to this book. Sarah’s heartwarming story is an honest exploration of motherhood. Food may be the vehicle for her narrative, but the story is universal. Any mom struggling with work-life balance will love this fun, fast, engaging read.
Plus—hello!—my food brand was part of the research. (Okay, I’m kind of loving that!)
Sarah was kind enough to write a guest post for us today and, even better, share a recipe! In the book, Julia’s food company makes a signature low-sugar quick bread called a “muffet.” You’ll wish that muffets were really on the market (really you will, just check out the comments on Amazon!). As it turns out, even though you cannot buy them, muffets are real. Well, at least they are for you since Sarah has kindly shared the recipe for her Squash Carrot Raisin Muffet Bread here.
And don’t think this is a gimmick. Sarah is also a food writer and cookbook author. This woman knows what she’s talking about and, more importantly, knows how to cook. So order your copy of Julia’s Child and, while you wait for it to arrive, make your muffets (and eat ‘em, too).
Thank you Sarah, for allowing ChowBaby to be a part of your experience, for writing a honest and warm story about motherhood and, best of all, for sharing more of your story and muffet recipe here on One Hungry Mama! Take it away…
I wrote Julia’s Child because I was fascinated by the new culture of “mompreneurs,” these fabulous women who, dissatisfied with grocery store offerings, leap in and go it alone. In the book, mom Julia Bailey struggles to decide whether the ensuing financial risks and family stress are worth it.
Researching this project was half the fun. I spoke to over a dozen moms (and dads!) who started food companies in their basements, in borrowed kitchen spaces, and with infants strapped to their chests. Some of these companies are still small, and some of them have gone national. Their misadventures fueled the drama—and the comedy—in my novel. It was a fun story to write.
When I finished the text, I realized that I wanted to include some of Julia’s recipes. Since I’m a food writer and a recipe developer, I believed this would be a simple undertaking.
I was wrong.
The trouble was Julia’s terribly high standards. Her chief (fictional!) product is a tasty baked good called the “muffet.” In the book, Julia is very proud of the fact that muffets contain very little added sugar. But when it came time to write the recipes for the book, it was harder than I thought to create low sugar recipes that were tasty and special.
I learned the hard way why sugar is such an important ingredient in quick breads. While a muffin or quickbread batter bakes, sugar acts as a moistening agent as well as a sweetener—it traps liquid which would otherwise escape as steam into your oven. If you leave out the sugar, you risk a bland, dry product. I scoured low sugar baking books for clues, but every one of them made compromises that were unappealing to me. (Instead of sugar, add lots of apple juice concentrate instead! No thanks.)
After quite a few flops, I finally succeeded with Squash Carrot Raisin Bread. To pull off this recipe, I added a half cup of honey. That’s about a third as much added sweetener as most quick breads have, yet the result was delicious.
In baking—as in life—there are moments when the right solution is something less pristine than we’d hoped, but better than nearly every alternative. The recipe works because the raisins and squash also contribute to their own natural moisture and sweetness. The result is a naturally tasty, moist cake-like snack bread. Enjoy!
Squash Carrot Raisin “Muffet” Bread
Excerpted from Julia’s Child by Sarah Pinneo, page 173
(OHM says that this can be shared with kids 8+ mos managing soft finger foods)
⅞ cup white flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ stick butter, softened
½ cup honey
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup golden (or regular) raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup finely grated yellow summer squash or zucchini
¼ cup finely grated carrot
⅓ cup sunflower seeds
1. Grease and flour a 9 × 9 square baking pan. Preheat oven to 325°F. Grate the vegetables if you haven’t already.
2. In a bowl combine the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, and baking soda.
3. In a food processor fitted with a blade, cream the butter and honey together until well combined. Add the oil and raisins, and process until the raisins are well distributed. Add the eggs and vanilla, and process again until combined. (Alternatively, use a mixer, in which case you should chop the raisins first.)
4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, and then stir in the squash, carrots, and sunflower seeds. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Muffet bread will be a beautiful golden color on top. Cool for ten minutes in the pan, and then turn out the loaf onto a rack and cool completely, or cut squares from the pan.
Sarah Pinneo is the author of Julia’s Child (Plume 2012) and co-author of The Ski House Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2007). She lives in Hanover, NH with her family. You can find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter and on her site.
Sarah’s publisher gifted me a copy of Julia’s Child as a thank you for being part of Sarah’s research for the book. I didn’t not receive anything else in return for this review, nor was I paid. While I don’t usually post promotional content on One Hungry Mama that is not part of a paid sponsorship, I enjoyed this book—and my teeny tiny party in it—too much not to share it with you.