Muffin Variations

Monday, May 31, 2021

Before I get into this muffins recipe, I recommend you check out the amazing pine pollen benefits for women at Lost Empire Herbs. I really love these guys! As always, I'm on the lookout for great recipes and culinary techniques from Home&Fabulous!

Elise’s Lemon Poppy Seed muffin recipe has remained my absolute go to muffin recipe, three years and counting.

Some fun variations/substitutions I use in my weekly muffin making:
whole orange with blackberry muffin

I think you’ll like these as much as I do!

Culinary Challenges

Thursday, March 11, 2021

I just finished listening to a stockpile of old podcasts that got me thinking of my next learning project…

I’ve never made a soufflé.
Homemade hot dogs could be interesting in my kitchen (I’m thinking studded with jalapenos, or a shrimp hot dog).
I have dandelion greens in my yard I should stir fry one of these days.
And I really need to get off my butt and make bacon.

What’s tickling your noggin?

I’ve admitted to not being much of a jam eater. This can make the process of putting up jars and jars of jam in the summer a bit silly feeling.

That is until these cold crisp sunny wintry mornings when one of those jars gets snapped open.

chocolate raspberry jamOr until they are handed out as Christmas or winter birthday presents.

Or until the lid is pried off and you discover a layer of chocolate to crack through like the sugar hat of a creme brulee.

Lets chalk this chocolate jam trick up to one of the many lessons learned from >Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures. Stirring in 250g of chocolate to a 1 kg fruit batch of jam is mentioned in several of her chocolate jam recipes. My experiments indicate that doubling this amount of chocolate is all good too, especially as the chocolate seems to visually disappear as it is added to your hot fruit mixture. Additionally, I added a layer of finely grated chocolate to the top of the hot jam after it had been spooned into the jam jar. This helps visually cue the jar opener to the presence of something special in this jam.

Adding chocolate to your jam recipe will not adversely affect the preservation of your jam. As usual in jam making considerations- keep your chocolate clean to prevent mold contamination in your jars. Do this by keeping your chocolate covered, use only clean sterilized tools and wash your hands before touching.

chocolate jam recap

more uses for jam

My favorite flavor: charred tomatoes

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Every year of eating tomatoes (only three years now), I seem to learn something new about them.

This summer I have a new obsession thanks to the cookbook Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, by Francis Mallmann: charred tomatoes. Several of Mallmann’s listed appetizers call for burning the featured vegetable (cherry tomatoes or carrots) or cheese and then platting the singed goodness on bread or a salad. With a slightly skeptical mind I tested it out on a hot cast iron skillet with halved cherry tomatoes, and now I can’t stop eating my tomatoes this way.

Charred or burnt tomatoes with cheese on bread has become my breakfast and after work snack in this glorious time of bountiful tomatoes. And since this is a weekend, you can guess what I’m eating three times a day…

Charred tomatoes and cheese on bread

delicious burned tomatoesPreheat a cast iron skillet on med-high heat. You’ll want the surface to be hot: judge by being able to hold your hand above the surface of the skillet for no more than 2 seconds.

Slice a small handful of cherry tomatoes in half, or cut 1/4 inch slices off of a large tomato. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the cut sides.

Assemble 1 oz of cheese (any type will work) in small thumb sized chunks and 2 small slices of bread to be close to your hot skillet.

Place the cut tomatoes, cut side down on the hot skillet. Make sure to obey the 1st commandment of food making contact with a heated surface “Don’t Touch”.

After 1 minute, place the cheese chunks down on the skillet in the space remaining around the tomato slices. Place the pieces of bread along side to toast lightly.

Leave the cheese and tomatoes on the hot skillet for approximately 4 minutes at which time they will be burnt on the cooking surface.

Place the toasted bread slices on a plate, and with a nice sharp edged metal spatula, scrape/lift the charred tomato slices and cheese on to the bread, burnt side up (so it won’t get all steamy soggy).

Allow to cool slightly and dust with another slight sprinkle of salt and enjoy.

Storage experiments: jalapeños

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

These jalapeños have been sitting in my refrigerator a week now. It’s a shame to ignore them as I have- so I threw in the towel today. Well sort of. My current storage experiment: submerging them in rice and tucking them into the freezer, with the future plan to cook up the scented rice.

I’m excited to see how long it takes the rice to suck up some of that pepper power.

jarred rice with jalapenos

More ideas for making use of jalapeños

Spoils of summer: fruit popsicles

Sunday, August 2, 2020

With the height of summer’s ripe-wave, I find myself often failing to keep up with the super juicy berries in my kitchen.

When its too darn hot outside, do I want to fire up the stove top to turn these fruity gems into jam? No.

To deal with over-ripening fruit super quick, my answer is to make popsicles. It’s a great answer for when your fruit is a ticking time bomb, developing a pool of juice love at the bottom of its storage container.

And when made with a judicious hand, these treats are perfectly allowable as guilt-free breakfast treats, (I say typing one handed with a cantaloupe black pepper pop). I like to think of them as summer’s answer to homemade poptarts, but even better.

Summer fruit popsicles

You don’t really need to be told how to make popsicles, but here’s a break down to help stir up your creative juices.

strawberry-blueberry popsicles in a mason jar

  • First step: is to clear a bit of space in the freezer.
    A two-birds-with-one-stone approach to this process is to find some frozen fruit from last season you need to clear out and make this the target of your popsicle fixation.

  • Second step: is to build the body of your pop up with your target fruit.
    Either stick your fruit in a blender (melons) or mash them up with a fork or potato masher (strawberries) to get a good sludge going.

  • Third step: consider your options for popsicle body additions. Do you want these to be no-nonsense popsicles, or adventurous, creamy, chunky, caffeinated popsicles?

    • salt: I always add a touch of salt when making my popsicles. It helps get the juices flowing and always makes them taste even better.

    • extra sweetness: honey, agave nectar, rice syrup, jam, maple syrup, molasses, dissolved sugar (white granulated, brown, or palm).

    • chocolate: if I want chocolatey popsicles I like to mix up 2 Tbs of cocoa powder with ~2 Tbs boiling water. Add enough additional water to make this into a pudding like consistency.

    • liquid: water, juice, dairy, coconut milk, coffee, tea, vinegar.

    • dairy: keifer, yogurt, sour cream, milk, half and half, cottage cheese, custard or pudding.

    • toothsome bits: more fruit left whole or chunky, cocoa nibs, coffee grounds, bits of nuts, cookie crumbs, soaked cake cubes, vanilla bean specks.

    • spices and flavors: cinnamon, peppers (black pepper or chili), saffron, curry, cilantro, nutmeg, vanilla, mint, lemon, fresh garden herbs.

  • Fourth step: pour your popsicle concoction into the mold of your choice.
    My favorite is my 1/2 cup Food Cuber.

  • Fifth step: stick consideration.
    Add your popsicle sticks immediately if your mold is designed for such, or just pop them into your popsicles about 1 hour after freezing.

    The popsicle sticks can be many things: spoons, cinnamon sticks, flat skewers (I use wide flat bamboo skewers cut down to an appropriate size- as seen on amazon or your local cooking supply stores), chopsticks, or good ole clean recycled popsicle sticks.

  • Sixth step: finishing touches to fancy-up your popsicles.
    Homemade magic shell is divine on strawberry popsicles. White chocolate magic shell on lemon pudding popsicles? You could even sprinkle ground nuts or sprinkles onto the magic shell right before it hardens, (but then you’d have clown popsicles).

  • Storage: most popsicles can just be left in their popsicle molds, in the freezer. However, if mold space is at a premium because you have more popsicles screaming to be made, just pop your finished popsicles out into an air tight container. I use either large ziplock bags or large mason jars. As flavors can sometimes migrate, its best to keep different flavors separate, unless you want that chipotle banana mocha popsicle to mingle with your mango yogurt pop.
  • Enjoy!

The jams I ought to make

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The best way to preserve foods is to take what you have in abundance, especially if it’s seemingly free. Buying lots of fruit to jam is just not as economical efficient as using what is found in your yard or neighborhood.

collected rose petalsBeing one with very little food yard, I’m guilty of buying my jamming fruits from the market. However, if I open my eyes I can see the potential fruits in my vicinity that could be creatively used:

Do you have nontraditional plants in your yard that you harvest? Help widen my sense of vision on what is useful…

Strawberry on strawberry action

Sunday, June 21, 2020

I’ve only recently come to love strawberries.

Yeah- I know how odd that is… I had some silly convictions I carried with me through childhood as a picky eater. Strawberries use to be in that category of untouchable foods -like tomatoes. But now that I’m enjoying foods in season, strawberries have revealed themselves to be the nirvana that I had always heard about.

glazed strawberriesThis summer has given me practice in my favorite way to prepare my sliced strawberries. This makes strawberries taste restaurant Grandma quality good, and is better than sprinkling strawberries with sugar. Your strawberry shortcake will thank you!

For a pint of juicy strawberries with amplified flavor:

Not only are these extra juiced up berries good on ice cream and cake, but they’re wonderful spooned over yogurt.

Grilled cheese grown up

Friday, June 12, 2020

I’m in the midst of a simple bliss- enjoying a new favorite cheese.

Not only that, it’s nestled in between slices of the grainiest bread I know and melted to oblivion. Half-n-half grilled cheese style: horseradish chive havarti and pepperdew havarti.

How do you like to make your grilled cheese grown up?

havarti grilled cheese sandwich

Weekend Update

New favorite grilled cheese- grainy bread, horseradish chive havarti, and thin sliced pear.