Thursday, January 19, 2006

Procrastination Muffins

I have a new favorite blueberry muffin recipe. I’ve adapted them from Simply Recipie’s blueberry muffin
recipe she adapted from a cookbook. Go to her site for more details – she’s got some great stuff. I’ve made them twice so far, the first time when I was procrastinating finishing a Major Essay that was overdue, the second time last night when I was avoiding reading my Hume. I think I shall call them my Procrastination Muffins. The first time I made them they came out better than any muffin I’ve made in my life. The top was well sized, the inside was light and fluffy without being too cake-like, the sides were well browned, and the whole outside was crispy. Last night they didn’t come out quite as well. For the first time in history, my oven has undercooked something. Well, not really undercooked, just under crisped. I left out the extra tablespoon of flour for using frozen blueberries, so I blame that. I also blame myself for over beating them – next time I’ll use an easier to deal with mixing bowl. After leaving them out last night, a bunch of condensation gathered on the plastic wrap thus getting rid of what little crispness there was. Oh well. They still taste divine. My main change from Elise’s recipe is cutting down the sugar even further and switching the lemon zest for orange. I’m not a big fan of lemon flavoring in baked goods, especially after a year of free day-olds from a coffee shop I worked at whose baker added lemon into everything she made except her pumpkin muffins. Anyhow. Here’s the recipe. I’ll post a picture when I upload it.

3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 Tbsp flour (if using defrosted frozen berries)

1 Adjust the oven rack to the middle-lower part of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2 Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

3 In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together, beating until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each one. Beat in the grated orange peel.

4 Beat in one half of the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Beat in one third of the yogurt. Beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients. Bean in a second third of the yogurt. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining yogurt. Again be careful to beat until just incorporated. Do not over beat. This is very important – it will determine the looks of your muffin tops. Fold in the berries. If you are using frozen berries, defrost them first, drain the excess liquid, and then coat them in a light dusting of flour.

5 Use a standard 12-muffin muffin pan. (I’m a big fan of silicone, and both times I’ve used it it’s worked well. The muffins slid right out and still managed to crisp.) Coat each muffin cup lightly with olive oil spray. Distribute the muffin dough equally among the cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a long toothpick to make sure the center of the muffins are done. Set on wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from the tin and serve slightly warm.

NYT Crusty Mac and Cheese

I made the New York Times’ Crusty Mac and Cheese recipe last night. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed. Now, granted, I didn’t add the full 2 cups of cheese on top, and I cooked it for slightly less time than it said, but it ended up kind of bland. I doubled the pepper it called for – next time I might double that. I ended up using all cheddar, Trader Joe’s Pre-shredded Sharp Cheddar, to be exact. Believe it or not it’s the cheapest cheese they have. The cheddar flavor was prominent which is really exactly what I was looking for. It’s mostly the ‘crusty’ topping I’m disappointed in. It ended up crusty, yes, but only because the noodles on the top were burned and the cheese had hardened. Once you get past the top, it was nice. Nothing amazing, but nice. Oh, I also substituted penne pasta for elbow macaroni – I had penne on hand. That substitution ended up working well, as did my decision to add some nutmeg. All in all, this is a decent mac and cheese that was made about 20 times better with the addition of Trader Joe’s Peach Salsa – that stuff is a godsend. Anyhow, here’s my (modified) recipe, based off of theirs. Would I make it again? Probably not like this, but I think what I look for in Mac and Cheese might be different than what they're drying to make.

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
3 tablespoons butter
24 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (minus two cups)
1 pound penne pasta, boiled in salted water until just tender, drained, and rinsed under cold water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup whole milk.
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Use one tablespoon butter to thickly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Set aside a handful of cheese.
2. In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, cheese, cayenne, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Place in prepared pan and evenly pour milk over surface. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top, dot with remaining butter and bake, uncovered, 45 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake 15 to 20 minutes more, until crusty on top and bottom.
Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Roast Chicken Update

The chicken is amazing. I didn't have time to eat much of it before my 8pm class, but it was perfect. I have a bunch of leftovers so I'm making soup with some of it.
First I made stock. I don't think I made enough stock, or, rather, I think the stock I ended up with was super concentrated. I covered the leftover chicken bones with water and boiled for two and a half hours. Then I got rid of all the bones and bits and refridgerated the stock so I could get rid of the fat.
As for the soup, I took my stock, added a bunch of boxed stock (Trader Joe's Organic Chicken Stock), added 1/2 box ear pasta (I forget the italian name, but I know it means ear), 1/2 bag lima beans, 1 can corn, 1/2 my chicken meat and a little bit of salt and pepper.
I cooked it for about twenty minutes, and voila!
I ended up with a large stuff to broth ratio which made it maybe more of a chicken stew, but it's great and it's definitely helping me lose this darned cold I have.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Late Night Latkes

Last night after my eleven straight hour day of my full course load of classes followed by auditions for the play I’m assistant directing I was in no mood to make dinner. I came home and ate three clementines, some potato chips, and some oatmeal leftover from breakfast. I curled up in my bed and finished the book I was reading. I looked at the clock and saw it was ten pm. I needed latkes. I don’t think I’ve actually had latkes in at least three years. I’m not sure where the craving came from, but it came. Luckily, my roommate was indulgent. “Hey A, I’m making latkes, wanna help?” “YAY! Sure!” Three large Yukon Gold potatoes, one egg, 1/4 cup flour, ½ onion, ½ apple and an hour later, I had wonderfully deep fried and tasty latkes. My friend R brought over some applesauce since I’d managed to forget we were out, but the piece de resistance was the impromptu topping I made. I took the other half an onion and apple, added a dash of cinnamon, some butter, and some maple syrup, and got a chunky sauce that was the perfect mixture of savory and sweet. Yum.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Taste Test: Adagio Holiday Teas, take 1

Here's my first batch of reviews for Adagio's Holiday Sampler pack. My computer has deleted three different Candy Apple reviews, so you'll have to wait a bit for that and for the Candy Cane. Enjoy.
Holiday pack:
When I decided to purchase the holiday pack, this was the one I was thinking I would take out when friends come over. You know, the tea that’s good enough but not the stuff you’d horde. I opened the tin and the first whiff was heavenly. The scent is very rich and very creamy. It smells of caramel, chocolate, nut (of course) and a little woody. I might not be the best person to review this tea as I have never tasted a chestnut, so I have no idea if this tastes like one. It does however taste heavenly. I made two teaspoons worth of tea for about 12 oz of water (my standard strength) and then filled it up with probably 2 oz of milk, and 2 tsp of sugar. The pre-milk color (yes, I do add milk last) was a nice rich…chestnut color. (Sorry, I hope that’s more descriptive than it seems.)It was very silky with nutty overtones and it maintained caramel undertones. All in all, wonderful. A definite purchase again.

Pumpkin Spice.
First off, let me tell you I love pumpkin. Love. Come ‘holiday’ time (by which I really mean when it’s cold enough that turning on my oven won’t overheat my apartment) I’m a big fan of pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie, pumpkin butter. You name it I like it. When I opened the container to smell this stuff I was very disappointed. It didn’t smell particularly pumpkin-y and it didn’t smell particularly spicey. It smelled oddly nutty, and kind of like dirt. I wasn’t excited. While it was brewing I noticed it did get a pleasantly orange color that stayed when I added my milk and sugar. For this, because I was anticipating not liking it, I added a total of 3 tsp/1tbsp sugar, a little over 2tsp tea, and probably 12 oz water. Let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. In many pumpkin pie there’s the overtones of clove before anything else and then maybe cinnamon and then sugar and, eventually, pumpkin. This tasted more like a good cooked pumpkin with a sprinkle of spice and maple syrup – it tasted like a squash! What smelled like dirt ended up tasting almost like an acorn squash – very nutty (as far as squash goes) and very rich. The ‘spice’ flavors came through as undertones and as complementing the emphasis on pumpkin. As much as I liked chestnut, I like this more. If you are a pumpkin pie fan, this might not have enough clove or cinnamon for you. If you are a fan of the squash itself, unadulterated, order now! I plan on, in the future, mixing this with a masala chai blend I love (not an adagio blend, one I’ve only been able to find at my local Hard Bean coffee/tea shop) for more of a ‘pumpkin pie’ tea. “
FYI: I tried this tea ½ and ½ with my favorite masala chai blend. I want to try this with oriental spice (after, that is, I try oriental spice) to see how they blend together. Anyhow, pumpkin spice + masala chai = pumpkin pie. Heavenly. I’m debating buying two tins of it, one to drink plain, and one to keep mixed as a ‘pumpkin pie’ blend. You should try it.

I was really excited about this one. I’m a big fan, as I said, of the spices that tend to go into ‘holiday’ baking. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger…I love them all. The scent is amazing. It smells very sweet, slightly fruity with a caramel undertone. It doesn’t smell gingery or spicy, but it smells nice. I again made a double batch of this, and, I must say, I was disappointed. The flavor tasted maybe a bit like molasys and a bit like old cookies, but nothing particularly gingerbread about it. The scent was much nicer than the smell. Now, mind you, this is a better rendition of gingerbread than Celestial Seasonings did a few years ago, and it is still a decent tea, but it’s not what I was looking for. While I will enjoy my sample of it, this is not something I would repurchase.

Taste Test: Water Buffalo Yogurt

woodstock water buffalo yogurt, vanilla
This stuff is amazing.
It’s like greek yogurt, except not as fatty(I think...I'm not positive on this one) and not as sour.
It’s like vanilla custard, except not eggy and not as sweet.
It’s like heaven in a plastic container.
A nice thick consistency, this retains spoon-scoops (like stonyfield farm , unlike brown cow) but the texture is less silky and more like a very fine ricotta cheese. If I could afford it, I think I would eat only water buffalo yogurt.
I gotta try the cheese!


test one two three...
(anything but that)