Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Judy Benjamin Taught Me

One of my favorite movies of all time is Private Benjamin. I first saw it when I was 17, and it resonated with me for reasons I didn’t really understand.  As an adult I understand the liberating journey on which Judy Benjamin (brilliantly played by Goldie Hawn) embarks that brings her to the realization that she doesn’t need a man to be complete.

I have watched this movie probably 30 times, and it always makes me laugh out loud. There are so many great lines in Private Benjamin, but the one that is most vivid to me even now is said during the scene where Judy’s failed attempt to escape from basic training has brought punishment upon her entire platoon. As they march in a circle in the pouring rain weighted down with gear, Judy is whining about wanting to go out to lunch and wear sandals again. One of the girls snaps and turns to Judy and says she’s never met anyone as insensitive as her. Judy is aghast at this charge and denies it by saying, “I never go to someone’s home empty-handed!” I remember thinking, That’s a pretty good rule. I try to live by these words.

Whenever I visit anyone, I always make sure I have some kind of something with me—usually something I’ve baked. If baked goods aren’t appropriate (the only instance I can think of is when someone is on a diet), flowers suffice. Barring this anomaly, I usually show up with cookies, cupcakes or muffins in hand.

I sometimes use girlfriend gatherings to try out a recipe I’ve been mulling over but haven’t yet written or attempted. I made these carrot-coconut muffins to bring to a friend’s one day. We had not seen each other in a long time, and I wanted to bring her something sweet. I also wanted to see what she thought of a gluten-free muffin, since I was pretty sure she had not had many of them. She—and her kids—dug the muffins, so it was a swell visit on all levels.

Judy Benjamin also realized the importance of having girlfriends, and the relationships she develops with the other girls in basic are probably the only true female friendships she’s ever had. While I can guess she probably never made anyone homemade muffins, I know she put a lot of thought into choosing just the right gift to bring to a friend’s house.  And if Judy did wind up bringing something sweet, it would definitely be from the bakery—and be fat-free. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Carrot-Coconut Muffins
Makes a dozen muffins

These are excellent at breakfast or tea time. I prefer unsweetened coconut, but if you have sweetened in the cupboard, go ahead and use that. Blanched almond flour makes for a more cakey muffin, so I really recommend using blanched rather than regular old almond meal.

Canola oil spray (if not using baking cups)
1 cup blanched almond flour
⅔ cup GF Classical Blend flour, sifted, or your favorite gluten-free flour or flour blend
⅓ cup coconut flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup sugar
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained
⅓ cup canola oil
¼ cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups peeled, grated carrot (about 3 medium carrots)
⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare muffin pan by lining with baking cups or lightly spraying with canola oil.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum and nutmeg. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, pineapple, oil, coconut milk, and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients into wet. Stir in grated carrot and coconut.
3. Spoon batter into muffin cups until ¾ full and bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool in the pan for 5 minutes or until you can comfortably handle them. Transfer muffins to wire rack to cool completely. These will keep in an airtight container for 2 or 3 days.