Thoughts on muffins and quick breads

I have lately been making quick breads, the kind that bake in one loaf pan without yeast. According to Bittman in How to Cook Everything “The only real difference between muffins and other quick breads is the pan you bake them in.” Sure, this makes sense. We choose between corn bread and corn muffins, same batter. This means I cold make a loaf out of some of my favorite muffin recipes. Cool!

I have enjoyed making loaves. Recently I made the Blueberry Lemon Walnut Bread from the back of the walnut package. This had a bread-like texture and not cake-like in the chocolate walnut loaf made previously. I liked the cake-likeness; Hubby preferred the bread-likeness texture.

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So as I was looking at these recipes in a variety of books, I find that there is a range of sugar involved. Bittman’s muffins call for 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste),  whereas Betty Crocker’s muffins call for 1/3 cup but her nut breads call for 1 cup and pumpkin bread calls for 1 1/3 cup per loaf. What’s up with this?

And why are muffins in The Cookie and Biscuit Bible cookbook? This book also has my go-to popover recipe.

Looking through all these cookbooks to see the differing amounts of sugar tempts me with more and more things to bake. I’ll never lose weight this way!

Here are some thoughts, not all about bread and muffins:

  • What does it mean when an onion starts looking pithy between layers? Is this like celery meaning that it is a bit old? Can one still cook with it? Am I a bad cook if I dice it up anyway and saute it in a dish? Don’t tell anyone.
  • Why did I put the dog food dish under the butcher block table I use for chopping vegetables and rolling out pie dough? Or, why does the dog choose that time to chow down? This is rhetorical because we know the dog can’t talk.
  • I have to decide not to be obsessive over composting when I go camping on weekends. I am sure Hubby won’t want us to come home with a bowl full of food scraps stinking up the truck!
  • Syrian casseroles are what I need to look for so I can provide meals for a family in need. And there are children. What sweet treat would be wholesome for them?
  • Do other’s of you sneak spinach into sauces and casseroles so the family doesn’t know what they are eating? Is this dishonest? I confess if asked.
  • I am planting herbs. What is the difference between German thyme and English thyme? And what to do with lemon balm?

I could go on and on but that is enough for today. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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What’s new in my kitchen?

The first answer that comes to mind is “nothing much”. But there is a new green bucket for compost. I have subscribed to a composting service called blue earth. This is not a paid endorsement just my newest little way of saving the planet. And we earn dirt! I would post a picture but it just looks like food scraps.

Next, I found Keurig cups that are completely compostible: Chock Full O’ Nuts. Oh, and the Keurig is also new in my kitchen. Hubby and I were drinking less coffee even though brewing a pot full each morning. This way we control the amount of coffee used and drunk.

I have not been doing much baking or innovative cooking. My creative juices seem to have dried up. Cooking dinners of meat and vegetable and sometimes rice or potatoes. No recipes required. I see recipes that I think are interesting but have not gotten around to it.

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So tonight’s dinner is soup and bread. The soup is a mix from King Arthur Flour. In fact I got my purchases in the mail today. Contrary to my nature, I ordered several mixes from them. I do not usually buy mixes or from on-line but took a survey and got a coupon. My math skills being a little rusty had the idea that 10% would be $10 but is really only $5 on $50 worth of items. Oh well.

Soup is for supper even though I had thought about barbecue chicken pizza. On Facebook I saw a video on how to make a stuffed crust pizza in a cast iron skillet. I love my cast iron skillet and I have four pieces of barbecue chicken hanging about in my refrigerator. There’s also three pieces of Popeye’s chicken in there.  But there is a nice loaf of artisan bakery bread that needs to be eaten. The soup is farmhouse vegetable and I used chicken stock. Hubby will eat a couple pieces of chicken anyway. And this dreary New England day is a perfect one for soup. I will need to steer Hubby away from the BBQ chicken so I can make that pizza tomorrow night, or Saturday, or maybe someday in the future!

So here is my three ingredient supper!

 

Ginger Cake

We are expecting a blizzard. I’ve already been given a snow day from work. Hubby will work from home so he’ll be no fun at all!

My kitchen is a mess; I wish I had a housekeeper every other week to do the baths, the kitchen, and the floors. Would be nice; not going to happen! Meanwhile it is good that we are not allergic to dust or pet hair. We will do a super cleaning when the grand-kids are coming down.

Dog doesn’t like his standard dog food anymore. He used to like it just fine. We buy his dog food at the pet store. It is for the mature dog. We made the mistake once of buying a specialty human grade dog food. Now he’s trying to hold out for the good stuff!

So after taking our cable box back to the cable store and coming home with a new one (but less monthly cost!) we spent three hours setting this thing up. And we now only have 45 channels but we don’t miss many of the previous 300+ channels we had. So we found a few things to watch and are being careful not to binge watch too much because when all the episodes are gone, they’re gone. Then what will we watch?

But that is not what this essay is about.

There was plenty of time during the rest of the weekend to putter around the kitchen but I did not. It is cold out there, my kitchen, and I do have heat in my house. I heated water for tea, took a beautiful teacup down from the shelf above the sink, and poured in the water. Hubby heard the fine porcelain crack from across the room and then the water came pouring out. Oh no! So learning my lesson, today I have warmed the teacup before making the tea. And a nice cup of hot tea with lemon goes very nicely with ginger cake.

By the time dinner time on Sunday rolled around and Hubby was fixing twice baked potatoes and in charge of cooking the salmon, I needed something to do. I flipped through one of my UK published baking books and found this ginger cake that I had been wanting to bake. It is entitled Preserved Ginger Cake but I did not have a jar of preserved ginger. I have crystallized ginger and since that is for the garnish I figured it would be just fine.

This is baked in an 8 inch round pan, not a 7-inch square pan that the recipe called for. Be sure not to use a 9 inch pan or it will be as flat as a pancake. Prepare the pan with parchment paper and cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325 F.

  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour; make this by using 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder per 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; I used half-and-half.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in the mixer bowl. Soften the butter for 30 seconds in the microwave. Mix butter with the dry ingredients. Put the eggs, corn syrup, and milk in a separate bowl and whisk together. Mix everything together until smooth. Spread in the prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes. Let cool a little and then turn out onto plate.

For the topping I used 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice to make a small amount of glaze. I let the cake cool some but not completely. I poured on the glaze and then snipped a piece of crystallized ginger around the top. Warm ginger cake was a nice treat.

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Not as pretty as the picture in the book.

This weekend in my kitchen…

It snowed and snowed. 20 car pile up on a highway near me. Hubby has the electric cord running to the shed to start the snow-blower. It is cold and wintry. The dog romps around the yard to do his business and romps right back up the steps to the back door to come back inside.

To start the weekend we over bought the groceries. This is so easy to do at the discount grocery store. And we waited 30 minutes in the check out line because everyone was stocking up for the impending storm. Do we all forget that we live in New England and in the winter it snows? Heavy at times? With blowing wind? My excuse is that is the day and time that we usually go to the grocer.

I’m trying to get us to eat more fruits and vegetables and Hubby loves his animal protein. And the chicken breasts were $.99 per pound! I’ll be making this blogger’s recipe this week: whatsfordinnermoms slow cooker taco pasta. Sounds yummy!

With the many groceries filling up my pantry and fridge and freezer, I find that I need to use the bag of potatoes that have been languishing in the bottom of the pantry. Shepherd’s Pie for dinner. Now one can make Shepherd’s Pie all kinds of ways. I have never used minced lamb although I understand that is traditional. I use ground turkey. See, I’m trying to be healthy! Never mind that Hubby has put cheese and sour cream in the mashed potatoes!

The mire poix for the Pie is celery, onion, and red peppers (from a jar). I am using a garlic infused beef broth so I do not add any other seasonings. Saute the mire poix and then brown the ground meat. My standard ingredients for cooking include bags of frozen mixed vegetables, frozen chopped spinach, and red pepper flakes. The latter were not added to this dish but could have been. The amount of ingredients is variable depending on the amount of Pie you wish to make. I used 1 pound of ground turkey, 2 cups of mixed vegetables, 1 cup frozen spinach, 1/4 cup red peppers, 2 stalks celery, and half an onion. I add 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 1/2 cup broth and mix that in with the ingredients in the skillet. Put all of this in your baking dish. Make your standard mashed potatoes and pile on top. I baked this in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes. This is a 13 inch oval baking dish. This could feed hefty portions to a family of four or decent portions for six. It will feed Hubby and me for two meals and possibly one leftover for lunch for one.

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The beauty of this mixture is its versatility. Bake with biscuits or cornbread batter on top and it becomes Hungry Boy Casserole. Use it to fill pie crusts and it becomes Pot Pie. Add beans and chili powder and tomatoes and it becomes chili. I am certain there are numerous other dishes it could become. I’m thinking one could cook this up in advance and bag it up in freezer bags for “emergency meals” or take camping!

The next project in my kitchen this weekend was not as successful. Somewhere on FB someone posted a gluten free pancake recipe using just bananas, eggs, and cinnamon. I’m thinking pumpkin would be the same as mashed bananas and waffles can be made from pancake batter. So I give it a go. I had to add milk to thin the batter. I oiled my waffle iron and heated it according to manufacturer’s directions. Well, it did not cook up well. I had to peel it off the grid. It did not stick, it was too soft and did not crisp up. So I add 2/3 up flour, a little more milk, a 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and heat a pan to make pancakes. These were edible but mushy. I should have just made a normal waffle recipe and added the pumpkin. Live and learn.

I very much enjoy puttering around my kitchen on weekend mornings, and afternoons. I think about what ingredients I have on hand, what recipes I would like to try for both dinners and baking. I have made the seasoning mix for the slow cooker taco recipe that I will put in the crockpot Monday morning. I have several recipes I would like to try over the week and need to put those in order to enhance the possibility of follow through. I get all these great ideas but then when I come home from work during the week my motivation often lags.

What I hope to do: no bake energy bites from the King Arthur Flour website, practice making marshmallow roses to decorate a Christening cake, boil eggs to take for lunches along with salad, cut the cantaloupe so there is fruit to snack on instead of chips, and make something citrus-y out of the grapefruit, oranges, and lemons in my refrigerator.

Wish me luck and have a blessed week!

One year later…

I have been writing this blog for a year now. I am continually surprised at you all reading it. I am thrilled. I always thought I would be a writer of poetry (poems full of teen-aged angst filled my high school journals) but that did not come to pass.

What have I learned? Quite a bit and not yet enough!

  • I only recently learned how to insert links to other web pages and my previous blog pages.
  • I have too many meaningless categories. This is because I had no idea what categories and tags were when I started, so I made a new category for each blog as I went along. I don’t know if I can re-categorize or un-categorize past posts without them getting published again and that would just look stupid!
  • I have figured out a bit of blog etiquette on how to do commenting and liking of other bloggers’ posts. And replying or liking comments on mine. It was a few months into the experience before I knew how to see if there even were comments and I may have deleted early comments by blindly emptying the spam folder! Sorry!
  • I am inundated with email notifications of new blog postings and I don’t want to unfollow you wonderful readers so … what to do?
  • I have no idea how to print out my own blog pages. I don’t even know if my words are still mine or if they belong to WordPress or the ether, who knows?
  • I did eventually figure out pictures but don’t know if I can delete them from the media file without deleting them from the previously posted blogs. And then what happens when there’s no more room?
  • I am afraid of trying to change the theme/background/layout of the blog for fear of deleting the whole thing and having to start over!
  • Writing the blog has interfered with writing my memoirs. The thoughts shared on my blog even in the context of food and recipes are my experiences over the past year. And so much would seem repetitive if i tried to rewrite them in my memoir document.
  • I have very much enjoyed “meeting” all of you by reading your blogs. Some of you I can relate to on an emotional level, some on an interest level, some for shared experiences, and some to share different experiences, and probably in other ways as well.

Seems to me that I have learned a great deal of what I do not know yet!

Let the adventure continue!

Get the Dog Out of the Kitchen!

The subtitle of this blog is “Went to a dance, looking for romance.”  In honor of my wedding anniversary to the best and last husband I am posting 12 year old pictures of pictures!

My sister had offered to make my wedding cake.She decided not to “wing it” from the cookbooks when she arrived at my house half-way across the country, so she researched it and found this one on the internet. She and my daughter spent two days before the wedding baking and assembling this cake.

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Fondant covered wedding cake with chocolate and raspberries. I don’t have the recipe, just the pictures in my wedding scrapbook!

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My summer kitchen…

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Hoping that spring had finally arrived we had a camping weekend. As usual, it rained the Friday we arrived at the campground. We have set up camp, even in tents, in worse. We set up a screen house three times inside out one time in a major rain storm in the dark at a new to us State Park a few years back! And then just ask my kids about “the flat top tent adventure!” On Saturday the sun came out and it was a perfect day to sit outside and read and walk around a bit. I took very few pictures and we just enjoyed the moments.

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Here is our end of camping weekend breakfast. It is cooked in a cast iron skillet. We fry up the leftover onion, the leftover potatoes, a few peppers, the remaining breakfast sausage, add a few eggs and a handful of cheese. Serve with a slice of bread toasted on the grill. Usually we cook our breakfast outside on the grill also. But not this time. The big bad wolf of the wind huffed and puffed and tried its best to blow down our house which is vinyl sided and on wheels but the wolf was not successful and we came home safely in one piece!