Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Early Bird Gets The Lemon Poppy-Seed Muffin


When I think back on my years in college, I invariably start craving lemon poppy-seed muffins. They played a big part in refueling my academically exercised brain cells on an almost daily basis back then.

Across from the art department was this little place that sold hot dogs and burgers, chips and sodas, candy bars, ice cream treats... and lemon poppy-seed muffins. They had other muffins too. I think blueberry, and maybe some other kind. The blueberry ones were a little too sweet and cake-y for me, and considering the enormous size of these things, they were just too too much. The lemon & poppy-seed ones on the other hand, were perfect. And they always sold out of those first. Clearly I wasn't alone in my devotion. Scented with lemon throughout and not too sweet, the subtle crunch of the poppy-seeds, and then of course... there was the sweet cap of sugary glaze over the top. Sigh. 

Looking back, I'm sure they were massively unhealthy on many levels and probably were made from a mix, but I don't want to think about that now. My ignorance of such things was nothing short of lemon & poppy-seed bliss. Now I am on a quest. A quest to recapture the flavor and texture of those lemon & poppy-seed muffins.  To recreate in my kitchen with real eggs and real lemons (and without all the junk that I don't want anymore) the lemon poppy-seed goodness that sustained me at college. If nothing else, it should be tasty fun trying some of these recipes out to see if I can come close...

Lemon & Poppy-Seed Muffins
If you have a tried-and-true Lemon Poppy-Seed muffin recipe... I'd love to hear from you! (I'd love to hear from you even if you don't)...

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    While You Were Steeping

    Cold-Brewed Iced Tea
    Ordering iced tea in a restaurant shouldn't be a complicated matter. But somehow it is. "Do you remember if we liked the iced tea here?", Hubs and I furtively whisper to each other as soon as we sit down. We love iced tea you see, and there's nothing worse than taking that first sip and finding something stale and old (or even worse, from a mix) at the other end of the straw. 

    Rare is the restaurant that takes as much care with their iced (or hot) tea as they do with their coffee. We tea drinkers are partly to blame. We're just not as bold, robust, and vociferous a group as our coffee counterparts. The differences between us are much the same as how these two drinks act upon my brain: coffee is like jumping out of an airplane, while tea is more like jumping out of an airplane with a parachute... I'm going to hit the ground either way, it's all just a matter of how soon and how hard. This may explain why tea lovers are often mellow, easy-going types who as a group get overlooked by most restaurants and chains.

    There are exceptions of course. One of my favorite deli/caf├ęs delivers the ultimate order of iced tea: a tall glass filled to the brim with ice and a small pot of strong hot tea on the side. As soon as the tea has steeped to satisfaction, you pour it over the ice and have the perfect glass of fresh brewed iced tea. This is precisely how I used to make it at home, and still do, when a single perfect glass of the stuff is all I want.

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    An Open Letter To My Summer Houseguests


    Dearest Friends (and family),

    Please accept my apology for not making this Spinach Strata from Super Natural Every Day  for you while you were here visiting.
    I was remiss. It would have been the perfect thing to make for you and I dropped the ball.
    My only excuse is that I didn't know how easy and delicious it was at the time. But now I do. So when you return for another visit, this is what we'll have in the morning. Unless you don't like feta cheese, in which case... more for me!

    Strata-fyingly yours,
    Stephanie

    Notes: I used week-old homemade sourdough bread in this, substituted cream for the milk, used all of a 4 oz. package of Feta, Meyer lemon zest, and homemade Guinness Mustard instead of Dijon. I baked it in an 8" square glass dish for 1 hour and 5 minutes (rotating it half-way).

    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Soup Happens (and sometimes it doesn't)

    This has been the summer of food fails. Some of them I've written about, (the Farro Fiasco) and some I haven't... like the beautiful Plum Crisp, redolent of ripe summer days... yet tasting like bitter  betrayal. Then there were the Blueberry-Lemon-Oat Scones that never could hold it together). I can attribute all these fails (and more) to what I like to refer to as "user error". Entirely my fault, each and every time. I know what went wrong in each, and I'll make adjustments next time I try them.

    Recently I made a big pot of soup. I know it's summer and I should be writing about sno-cones and sprinklers, but what the hey, we still have chilly evenings more often than not. If it's going to feel like March, I'm going to cook like it's March. The soup I made was unusual. Unusual because we didn't like it. At all.