Muffins, Muffins, and Muffins

I love breakfast food, just not at the traditional breakfast hour. Something in me simply can’t handle eggs and salty meat and syrupy pancakes early in the day. (Unless Joe takes me out to IHOP; then I find I can handle the waffle pretty well. With a side of fried ham. Maybe it’s just cooking that early in the day that I don’t like.)

Muffins are different, though. You can make them ahead of time, or just make the batter ahead of time and get them hot and fresh with no work in the morning. They’re sweet, but not too sweet. Filling, but not too heavy. Perfect with a cup of coffee, which is the only thing I really want in the morning.

BERRY SPECIAL MUFFINS

From my Mom’s recipe book, which says the recipe originally came from the Domino Sugar Package. I’ll be making these this week with frozen blackberries from the summer batch.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup vanilla or lemon yogurt
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup berries
Crumb Topping (see below)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In bowl, combine yogurt, milk, brown sugar, oil, and egg. In separate bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; fold in berries. Combine two mixtures, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon into well-greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Top with Crumb Topping. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan to cool.

Crumb Topping: Stir together 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, dash cinnamon and 2 teaspoons softened butter until crumbly.

For cranberry muffins, increase sugar to 1/2 cup.

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Also from my Mom’s recipe book, attributed to The Mississippi Cookbook, 1972 edition.

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 – 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup fresh blueberries, or 3/4 cup drained canned or frozen blueberries

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease bottom of muffin pans.
Sift flour and baking powder. Add sugar. Mix and set aside. Beat egg. Stir in milk, oil, and lemon juice. Stir briefly into pre-sifted dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Variation: Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoons salt.

MUFFIN BAKING TIPS:

  • Put your cold ingredients out and let them warm up to room temperature before mixing.
  • Don’t over mix. When you get to the step of adding dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stir just enough to mix the two groups together. It’s okay if things are a little lumpy.
  • Grease your muffin pans thoroughly, including a ring around the top of each muffin cup so that the puffed-up muffin top won’t stick and tear off.
  • Foil muffin cups hold up better – and peel off easier – than paper muffin cups.
  • Make your morning easier by doing everything but baking the muffins the night before. Make the batter, grease the pan, put the batter in the pan. Then wrap the muffin pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate. All you have to do in the morning is preheat the oven, remove the plastic wrap, and put those muffins in. Oh, and set the timer.
  • Be sure you let your butter soften to room temperature, if you want to have some to spread on the muffins, which are soft and fall to pieces when assaulted by insensitive butter cubes.

Mom’s Chicken and Dumplings

This is, for me, the ultimate comfort food: thick, creamy sauce covering soft, home made dumplings and juicy pieces of chicken. It beats mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fettuccine alfredo. It’s the best of come-on-home Southern cooking. This is the recipe from my Mom’s book, verbatim. I think she copied it from her Mom’s recipe card… also verbatim. It sounds just like my Memaw explaining a recipe.

Ingredients:
1/2 hen, boiled or pressure cooked
1 fryer
1 cup shortening
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
2 cups cold water
1 stick butter
Pepper, to taste
Milk

Instructions:

The night before, mix shortening, salt, flour and water. Add more flour if needed for the dough. Roll out on a floured board in small amounts, real thin, and cut in slices; lay strips on floured cookie sheets and cover with wax paper. Allow to stand overnight. The next day, boil or pressure cook the hen until tender. Cook fryer until tender; then remove the bones from broth, and set meat aside. Put the broth from both the fryer and hen in a large roaster or pot and bring to a boil. Add dumpling strips to boiling broth and cook until they are done, about 15 – 20 minutes. Add butter and pepper. Now add the meat and enough milk to make the whole real juicy.


Roasted Turkey with Herb-Garlic Butter

I don’t roast turkeys very often, and hardly ever in September. But last week my freezer, which contained a turkey, stopped working overnight, so in the morning I had a fully thawed turkey on my hands. What to do, what to do…?

Time to practice up for the holidays, turkey-lovers. After this, I’m thinking that I might start roasting turkey more often. The prep time is minimal, the cooking time is long but effortless, and the result is a huge amount of juicy, buttery, herb-and-garlic flavored turkey. Slice it and serve it with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and an autumn salad the first night; put it on thick slices of bread, top it with a slice of Swiss or Cheddar, and broil till bubbly the next day for lunch; then throw together an easy slow-cooker soup or, if you’re feeling handy with the bread-dough, make some Turkey Quesadilla Calzones.

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lower the rack to the lowest position. Get out a large roasting pan and toss a wee bit of oil in the bottom and swish it around.

Gather one head of garlic, minced; 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, at room temperature; and about 2/3 cup each of fresh oregano and parsley.

Rinse and mince the herbs. You can also substitute different herbs, add in more, use less, what-have-you. It’s your turkey, baby.

p9160029.JPG Smush up all that wonderful garlic and butter and the freshly minced herbs in a bowl until you have something that looks sort of like the picture.

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Now you’ll want to unwrap your turkey, remove the giblets, and rinse the whole thing in cold water. Transfer to your roasting pan, breast side down. If you have a turkey with one of the handy little “I’m-done-now” thermometers, it will be on the bottom at this point.

Get a sharp paring knife and make a few slits in the skin of the turkey. You don’t need a whole lot, just every few inches or so. Using a spoon or your fingers, stuff some of that herbed butter into each little slit. Salt and pepper well, then turn the bird so it is breast side up. Repeat the process, but rub any remaining butter over the outside of the turkey before you salt and pepper it. Season, add a 1/2 cup of water to the pan, and then slide it into the oven.

You’ll want to follow standard instructions for roasting the turkey. Most turkeys come with a chart on their packaging, but here is another one if yours is awol or got destroyed in the unwrapping process.

Check your turkey about halfway through the recommended cooking time. If the skin is browning too quickly, cover it with foil or the lid to the roasting pan.

Once the turkey is cooked through (and not a moment longer!), remove it from the oven and let it sit and rest for a few minutes. Just before serving, slice it open and ladle some of that amazing herb-butter juice from the pan right onto the meat.

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It’s Thanksgiving every day…


Leave the Figs Alone!

I just grabbed the latest issue of Domino while out shopping yesterday. It’s a great magazine, though I have to say their idea of “tight-budget decorating” and my idea of the same are, well, separated by several hundred dollars. I’ll let you guess which way the scale goes…

At the end of the magazine is the food feature, this month on Fall Fruits. Great, I think. Let’s see some yummy stuff, I think.

And there they are, again. The figs. The figs stuffed with something and wrapped in something else: in this case, stuffed with mozzarella and wrapped in prosciutto. Those figs come around in every single Fall-Food-Feature, every year, and I keep hoping one day, one year, someone will decide Enough with the figs already. Leave the figs alone!

But no one ever does. They just keep stuffing something in (date, anyone?) and wrapping something around (grape leaf?) and taking a picture and actually writing down a recipe for this 3-step process as if no one knows what they’re talking about.

figs.jpgJust for kicks, I did a little fig search on Epicurious. The fig disease is there, too. We’ve got them stuffed with Gorgonzola (wrapped in prosciutto), wrapped in Phyllo (stuffed with prosciutto),  dolloped with yogurt, or yogurt and honey, or yogurt and raspberry sauce. We really like stuffing and dolloping figs.

I really like eating figs, straight off the tree, sticky-sweet, with a quick dusting off and then the blissful juicy ripeness bursting in my mouth. I grew up eating figs because my Granddad had two dozen prolific fig trees and we could never eat enough to eat them all. We carried buckets of figs to neighbors and friends, made fig preserves, and ate figs till we couldn’t eat no more. We never stuffed them or wrapped them or dolloped them, though. Maybe we should have. If my grandparents were still alive and tending those fig trees, I would enjoy nothing more than setting a cheese-stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped, grilled fig before them. I would just love to see their response. Maybe they would declare it the best use of figs known to man.

I don’t think so… but that’s just me.

 Image Credit: yomi955.


Weekly Menu for 30 September 2008

I was a little late on getting this up: I shoot for Monday so I can link to Menu Plan Monday, because it’s always more fun to be part of a group. (Unless you’re in the shower, say, or getting a tooth pulled, or eating the last piece of dark chocolate. Then it’s more fun to be alone…)

Next week we’ll get in on Menu Plan Monday. This week I’ll just share what’s on the menu here:

Monday: Yesterday I made bread and pulled out lots of leftovers. Last week I roasted a turkey in herb butter, and I had a bunch of little dark meat pieces left. Not big enough to slice for pretty pieces,  and a bit fatty for sandwiches. But I had about 2 1/2 cups of perfectly good turkey meat, and there’s no way the dog is getting it. So I decided to make Turkey Quesadilla Calzones. I had no idea that’s what they were called at the time… But I think it has a nice ring to it, don’t you?

I minced the 2 1/2 cups of turkey, then added in 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (havarti and cheddar), 1/2 cup green chilies (the canned kind), a handful of fresh cilantro, minced, and about 3/4 cup salsa. I contemplated corn, too, but decided for simplicity. My most repeated mistake in the kitchen is adding too much stuff.

Now, something to put this turkey-mix into: voila, the bread dough. I stole a loaf-sized piece of dough after the first rise and rolled it out to a thin roughly rectangular shape, then sliced it into four pieces, which somehow turned out to be triangular. I don’t know… I’m into food, not geometry.

I bet you can figure out the rest yourself. 1/4 of the mixture into each piece of dough, fold over the dough, pinch the edges together, place onto buttered cookie sheet, slice a couple of steam vents on top of each calzone, place into 350 degree oven, bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden brown and the smell is driving you crazy. Remove from oven, slice open, burn fingers, do the little ouch-I-hurt-myself dance around the kitchen, blow on calzone, wait impatiently for it to cool enough to handle, eat.

Yum.

I’m only through Monday and this is already rather wordy. I’ll shoot for brevity for the remainder of the week.

Tuesday: This is, for me and Handsome Joe (my husband, yes), what those of us in the small-child-parenting world gleefully refer to as “date night.” Hence, there will be no cooking. There will be eating, oh yes, but there will be no cooking. At least not by me.

Wednesday:  I’m undecided on Wednesday night, because I’m not sure if we’ll be home or not. If we’re leaving for the meeting that we might be having at 7:00, we will just eat sandwiches of some kind. I have plenty of homemade bread, and some days there is nothing better than a thick peanut butter and jelly sandwich on fresh white bread with a big glass of cold milk and some fresh fruit. Mmmm. If we don’t have the meeting, salty, sizzling fried rice sounds good. Really good. My kids will get theirs all over the floor, my husband will eat his with chopsticks in an amazingly efficient way, and I will sprinkle mine with cilantro and soy sauce and use a fork.

Thursday:  Thursday is a good decadent food night, so we’re having mashed potatoes with cream cheese and garlic, crispy baked chicken, and something else I’ll decide on at the last minute. Pan-fried squash with a good sprinkle of brown sugar and butter, just like my Mama used to make. Or a fresh carrot and raisin salad with a splash of rice wine vinegar to give it a little kick. Or baked apples doused with cinnamon. Or corn on the cob, just barely steamed and salted and crispy, tender, sweet. (I am so hungry right now. Why isn’t it Thursday yet?)

Friday: After Thursday’s decadence, it’s time for something refreshing and light, yet warm and comforting. The weather is definitely into fall territory now. It’s the perfect time for fresh tomato soup with a drizzle of basil puree. A piece of buttered toast alongside, and for dessert a movie and a mug of hot spiced cider.

Saturday: If we’re home (you never know with a Saturday), we’ll grill some burgers out and have them with oven-baked potato wedges, peach salsa, and chips.  One last grilling session before it’s really too cold.

Sunday: We have a fellowship lunch/picnic after church this Sunday. My contribution will be a sweet, creamy corn casserole, Jiffy-style, maybe with a few additions; freshly baked rolls, and a dessert of some kind… I better figure that out before Saturday night.

Whew. I hope Handsome Joe gets here soon to take me out to dinner. I am famished now.

What’s on your menu this week? Do tell. (It’s not gossip, I promise.)


Leftovers: Pasta with Ham and Cheese

 Why do people hate leftovers? I love leftovers, especially when they are basic and waiting for some sort of creatively blissful union with the other leftovers. It becomes a completely new meal with almost no cooking effort. What, one little pan to wash up? For a hot, filling, “new” meal? Not bad at all. And eons better than that crust of bread with peanut butter you were contemplating…

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 Heat up a bit of butter or olive oil in a pan big enough to accommodate your left-over pasta.

 

Toss in your pasta once the butter or oil is heated; stir it around a bit and let it warm up over medium-low heat. While the flames are doing their work, visit your refrigerator for available goodness that will be the perfect pasta match. In my case, I found half a package of smoked ham, deli sliced. Perfect. A few slices and dices later, I was tossing it in on top of my pasta.

p9160011.JPG See? There it is. Obviously the ham is not a vegetarian option; but then, I’m not a vegetarian. If you are, you probably won’t have ham in your refrigerator… Other great options (off the top of my head) would be chopped onions and/or green peppers, some leftover steamed broccoli, a handful of Greek olives, or capers and pine nuts… I’m getting hungry again. I wish I had more leftover pasta.

 

Continuing with the ham: toss it (or whatever you are using) around with the pasta until both are heated through, then quickly dump it into a bowl and top it with some cheese shavings. Eat it quickly before others in the house smell what’s cooking and demand their own.

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Pasta with Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Creamy Herb Sauce

 I could eat pasta 5 nights a week. Maybe 6… And angel hair is one of my favorites. I love fresh angel hair tossed simply with butter and parmagiano, but this sauce is divine. I used with fresh tomatoes from a local farmer (my own tomato patch had succumbed to the bugs and other varmints), fresh herbs from my herb bed outside my kitchen door, raw milk, and Plugra butter. If you have great ingredients, you don’t have to do much with them.

Below the photo tutorial, you’ll find a simple list of the ingredients, as well as an “alternative” list in case you can’t find exactly what I used.

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IN a large pot, bring water to boil to cook 1 lb. of pasta (I used angel hair).

Put 2 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. While butter is melting, roughly chop 4 fresh tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the saute pan and stir gently.

img_5731.JPG Add 16 oz. sliced mushrooms (portabella or button) to the tomatoes in the saute pan. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper. Stir gently until mushrooms are tender and tomatoes are melting, about 5 minutes.

img_5737.JPG When the pasta is al dente, remove from the heat and drain.

Finely chop one good handful of parsley and one good handful of basil. (You can substitute 1 teaspoon each of dried, but the flavor will not be the same.)

img_5740.JPG Add the minced herbs to the tomato-mushroom mixture in the saute pan. Decrease the heat to low and let the whole thing bubble away for a few minutes.

img_5743.JPG  Pour in 1 1/2 cups whole milk or half-and-half and drop in 1 tablespoon of best-quality butter. Stir gently until the butter is melted. Remove from heat.

Dish the pasta into individual bowls, and top with a generous helping of the tomato-mushroom-herb sauce and shaved asiago or parmagiano cheese. Serve immediately.

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Ingredients (best):

  • 3 tablespoons Plugra or other European butter, divided
  • 1 lb. angel hair
  • 4 fresh tomatoes
  • 16 oz. portabella mushrooms
  • Fresh parsley (a good handful)
  • Fresh basil (a good handful)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk or half-and-half
  • Asiago or Parmagiano cheese

Ingredients (alternative):

  • 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 lb. pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, bowties)
  • 24 oz. canned tomatoes
  • 16 oz. button mushrooms or 2 small cans of mushroom pieces
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (any kind)
  • Shredded cheese

Recipe and Photos by Annie Mueller


Salad Days :: Wild Rice, Baby!

If you are feeling like you need to steer yourself away from the heavy/starchy foods of December, like me, then here’s a great recipe for you. It’s light. It’s bouncy and lively while still being wintery. It’s snowing outside my window and I’m thinking that this needs to be lunch tomorrow. You in?

WILD RICE SALAD

adapted from epicurious.com

1 lb wild rice

For vinaigrette
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped shallot
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup long-grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
1 1/4 cups chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Rinse wild rice in a sieve under cold water, then combine with cold water to cover by 2 inches in a 5-quart pot. Simmer, covered, until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Make vinaigrette while wild rice is simmering:
Whisk together juice, shallot, vinegar, mustard, and garlic. Gradually whisk in oil until emulsified and season with salt and pepper.

3. Cook white rice
After wild rice has been simmering 20 minutes, boil white rice and 1 1/2 cups water in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, uncovered and undisturbed, until steam holes appear on surface, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and cook, covered and undisturbed, 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

4. Assemble salad:
Rinse cooked wild rice in a sieve under cold water and drain.


Holiday Cookie Recipes :: Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles

We can all agree that chocolate is necessary for any holiday sweets spread, yeah?
Perhaps you have had the classic chocolate crinkle cookie. They are really popular around this house. They are fudgy and sweet, but not tooooooo sweet and best of all, kids love to help make them. They can roll the dough into balls and then roll them in the powdered sugar.

Today’s cookie recipe is a holiday variation. Check it out: Continue Reading


Holiday Cookie Recipes :: Coconut Macaroon Wreaths

Here is a recipe that is near and dear to my heart. Mom and I would make these every year and although I wasn’t a fan of eating them as a kid, I LOVED making them. And being in the kitchen with my mom working on holiday cookies was pretty sweet. On many levels.

So, here it is for you! Enjoy!

Coconut Macaroon Wreaths

2  8oz pkg. shredded coconut
1  15oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2  tsp. vanilla
Green food color
Red cinnamon candy

Stir together coconut, milk, vanilla & food color.  Drop by teaspoons, 2″ apart, onto well greased cookie sheet.  With tip of spoon and your fingers, shape into wreath.  Trim with candy (3 placed around the wreath or 3 in a clump).  Bake at 350 for 8 min.  Immediately remove to cooling rack.