Thursday, July 30, 2009

Variations On A Cherry Muffin

Yep. Using up the fruit before it goes bad. There are a bunch of desserts that I would love to try, but honestly, how many desserts can two people eat? I don't think I want to know the answer to that.

Enter the muffin. It's handy for breakfast (or a snack). It may not be exactly "healthy", but it's probably healthier than a cupcake. You can put almost anything in them. Like fruit no longer at its peak. This base recipe is really easy and goes together really fast.

The finished product is not your average gargantu-cakey-café-muffin, but a modest-sized old-school muffin. The kind Mom might have made, had she made muffins. These particular muffins are headed straight for the freezer. It seems kind of sad (and also irresponsible) to send them off without trying one first. At its best. Warm from the oven. With butter.

Adapted from the Best-Ever Muffins variations on page 87 of the BH&G Homemade Bread Book, 1973. If you don't have it, here's a link to a very similar recipe of theirs online: Better Homes and Gardens Basic Muffin Recipe

Cherry-Blueberry Muffins
Notes: Start with the Blueberry-Lemon Muffin variation. I added a half cup or so of chopped cherries to the cup of blueberries already going in. I didn't really measure either. I didn't measure the lemon zest (I almost never do), just zested a whole small lemon; so there's probably about 1 tablespoon in there. 

The recipe says to dip the tops of the warm muffins in melted butter and then in sugar. Wow. That sounds so good, but since they're going into the freezer I decided to skip that bit. Instead, I just sprinkled some sugar over the top of them before I put them in the oven.

Cherry-Orange-Walnut Muffins
Notes: Combining the Banana-Nut Muffins and the Date-Orange-Nut Muffins recipes, I replaced the banana with a cup or so of chopped cherries. I used about a half cup of chopped walnuts, and I substituted orange juice for the milk.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cherry Berry Sour Cream Scones

Cherry season is nearing an end and I'm noticing the prices coming down. Time to do some baking. These are the first scones I've ever made using fresh fruit. I usually make scones in the winter when dried fruit is the norm. But when in summer, do as the summer does and make these berry studded treats. The best scones are worked very quickly and baked hot. If you notice that you're taking too long or have them ready to go only to find that you've forgotten to turn on the oven (yep)... pop them into the fridge for 15-20 minutes and then resume.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bumbleberry Jam

What else can you do with a whole bunch of fruit? Make jam! Sometime in the next week or so, I will make my first batch (ever) of jam. I like the idea of making an entire year's worth of something in one afternoon. Sweet!

This recipe I found on gardenopolis looks like the front-runner so far... Blueberry-Strawberry-Raspberry No-Pectin Jam. We're starting to see blackberries ripening on the roadside, so I may use those instead of the raspberries (free is always the most cost-effective option afterall). And then I can call it "Brambleberry Jam"!

Blueberry Banana Pancakes

Blueberry Banana Pancakes with Strawberries On Top
What do you do when you have an excess of fresh blueberries, strawberries and bananas that won't keep forever? You make blueberry banana pancakes with strawberries on top! The mashed banana in the batter lends a nice subtle note of flavor to each bite. I also like this recipe because it doesn't call for buttermilk. I know it's great in pancakes, but how often do I have buttermilk on hand? Never. And I'm just not the sort to plan my breakfast the day before. For guests or a holiday, yes. Otherwise, I make a variation of these...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Linguine With Raw Sauce

I first came across this recipe for pasta with raw sauce last summer while looking for tomato recipes in anticipation of our bountiful crop of heirloom beauties. The idea of an uncooked "sauce" was a revelation to me. I had to try it. After all, who wants to babysit a big pot of marinara in the middle of summer? I know I don't. This turned out to be so fresh tasting and easy to put together. Perfect for a summer meal and just the thing to highlight the flavor of our homegrown tomatoes.

I only had a chance to make this a few times though; we moved a couple of months later. It just killed me that it was right at the height of tomato season. We picked whatever was ripe at the time and gave the plants to friends. Our new home doesn't have room or sun enough for tomato growing on the scale we had at the old place. It makes me kind of sad to see the photos of our old garden again. I miss it. Don't get me wrong, the house was a slum and we're grateful to be away from there. The garden however... was an oasis.

Linguine With Raw Sauce 
Adapted from: this recipe at

Serves: 4

1 lb linguine
10-12 small tomatoes, or 5-6 large ones
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Enough olive oil to cover
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated or diced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds. Remove tomatoes, drain and let cool slightly. Slit the skins with a sharp knife and peel them off. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the pulp and seeds. Chop the tomatoes into a coarse dice.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let mixture stand and marinate for an hour (longer if possible).

3. Cook the pasta until al dente in salted water. Drain, then add the cooked pasta to the tomato mixture and toss. Add the mozzarella and toss again. Serve immediately.

My Notes (7/18/08): Added lots more tomatoes (cherry toms didn't work well, too labor intensive) and marinated them for well over an hour. 1 clove of garlic was MORE than plenty! Yowza. Added lots more of our own fresh basil and more black pepper. Cut up half a container of mini mozzarella balls (happened to have them in the fridge). Next time use the whole container of mini mozzarella balls or just get a regular mozzarella ball. A cheap Zin from Trader Joe's (don't remember which) went pretty well with it. The Hubs snarfed it down and even had seconds... said it "was o.k." when asked to comment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Banana Bread (Whole Wheat)

We're in the middle of a heatwave and I've been loath to do any baking whatsoever. Sometimes you have no choice in the matter though. Hot summer days make for overripe bananas; I already have 6 of them in the freezer and another bunch are well on their way to becoming "ingredients". Time to bake some bread!

I wanted to try a different recipe since I'm still rather new at banana bread and don't have a favorite yet. Rather than go to the internet for a recipe, I thought I should utilize my little arsenal of cookbooks instead. I picked up the first book on the shelf and looked in the index... bingo! There's no photo (eek!) and no heartwarming story or imagery-rich description, just the recipe. It met all the requirements though: sounded tasty, looked easy, and we have all the ingredients on hand. What really caught my eye was that it called for whole-wheat flour (whole-wheat flour makes things healthy and takes away any residual guilt you might have after eating more than one serving). I went for it.

One word of warning if you own this book: 
The recipe is on a page-turn. Ingredients are listed on the bottom of 305, flip the page, the instructions are at the top of 306. I recommend that when making this recipe in future, employ the process known as mise-en-place. I kept flipping the page back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And that is nothing short of a recipe for disaster in my book. It is not unheard of for "someone" to start on one recipe and finish on quite another. A page turn mid-recipe only facilitates that scenario. Yes, I can be that absent-minded sometimes. Thankfully this wasn't one of those times.
  • Banana Bread (Whole Wheat) Pages 305 - 306 of The Silver Palate Cookbook, Anniversary Edition, 2007
  • If you don't have the book, try here: Silver Palate Banana Bread at Epicurious 
My Notes: I thawed 3 of my frozen bananas on the counter and when the time came, picked the gooey things up in order to assess the best way to proceed. Though kind of gross and on the very brink of sliminess, I pulled one strip of the black peel halfway back and squeezed gently from the opposite end; the banana guts slipped right out. I guess it wasn't really that gross (it is just fruit after all). The dough was quite thick until the mashed bananas were added, and then it reached a typical batter consistency. Even without the mise-en-place, the batter went together easily and fast. It needed the full 60 minutes to bake. Released from the pan like a champ. Now, the smell of it is driving me crazy. It's that time between lunch and dinner when I typically feel "snacky". Probably not a good time to bake treats. Or maybe the perfect time. This is a dark, rich and delicious loaf of banana bread with a fine, dense (but not heavy) crumb. Familiar where it should be, yet subtly different everywhere else. It could use more walnuts (of course), but the banana goop didn't sink to the bottom, so who's complaining? If "needs more walnuts" is the only critique, then I'd say this recipe is an instant winner!

Mise en place: A French cooking term meaning to put everything in place. In the kitchen, it means that all ingredients for a recipe have been pre-measured; the recipe can be made without stopping. Seen on every t.v. cooking show for a reason: it's fast and efficient. A good habit to get into and a good excuse to buy all those cute little bowls! Pronounced meez on ploss.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Egg Bagels

Egg Bagels a la Sunset
Egg Bagels from Page 30-31 of the Sunset Cookbook Of Breads, 1975

My Notes (7/8/09): I wanted to try this recipe because it makes 32 bagels rather than just 12 like most other recipes. I didn't have "potato water" as called for in the recipe, so I dissolved 1 tsp of potato starch in 2 cups of water. Tried to use my Kitchen Aid mixer to do the kneading on this but I think it had a mild coronary. The dough was extremely stiff. Don't ask me how, but I managed to only make 16 bagels. Sixteen REALLY BIG bagels. (Well, the Hubs was complaining that we couldn't make decent Egg-A-Bagels* with the diminutive bagels I made before. He should be happy now... these things are monsters!) I think the problem is that I am excessively hungry right now, having missed lunch. Blood sugar is crashing. I think it affects my higher brain functions (like math). This could explain any poor grades I got in school: I was just hungry!

Anyhow, back to the gargantu-bagels. I did not do the rope-coil-attach method as called for in the recipe. I stuck to the poke-a-hole-in-the-middle-of-the-ball-of-dough method. I think it's easier. Next time make the egg wash with just one yolk and one tblsp of water. I ended up with lots left over and hate to have to waste it.

My Notes (7/15/09): After all was said and done (and after eating these for the past week), I can't say that I will make these again. They went together and baked up just fine and they certainly looked great, they just didn't taste great to me. They didn't taste bad, they just weren't wonderful. If you like egg bagels, then this recipe rocks. Otherwise, skip it and stick to the "regular" bagel recipes.

*Egg-A-Bagel:A homemade bagel sandwich consisting of: a split and toasted bagel with mayo and "fancy" mustard, a fried egg (whisked first with a touch of milk), a pinch of sea salt, black pepper and oregano, your choice of cheese, and any meat that is in the fridge (especially if it's pepperoni). The Hubs' specialty.

Friday, July 3, 2009

S'mores at Sunset

Beyond yummy: grown-up variations on a campfire classic! I'm especially intrigued with the one using a caramel-filled chocolate square...  And the one made with a peanut butter cup... brilliant!  And then there's that one they did with ginger snaps... Drool over those (and more) at: 15 Delicious S'mores and other Camping Desserts at

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

In Season: Blueberries

A bushel of recipes featuring blueberries...