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!

 

 

Thoughts from my Kitchen

I had a fabulous baking weekend. Well, on Saturday I roasted a big chicken, with Mediterranean vegetables. Yum! I was so tired after winterizing the trailer which included arguing about how to drain all the plumbing properly and running off to the store to buy more RV/Marine antifreeze to be effective that I did not want to make anything else. Wow! That is a run-on sentence if I ever wrote one! As I write this we are waiting for all the little goblins and ghouls to show up to beg for the $20 worth of candies I bought. Then I will turn off the porch light and relax.

After a tiring first half of the weekend I set to work in the kitchen. First I did a bit of cleaning and then got out the sourdough starter to make rolls. I used a recipe that looked good and as luck would have it I had powdered milk and potato flour. If you don’t have these ingredients there are plenty of other sourdough bread and rolls recipes. I had fed the starter the day before so I figured it would be just fine. I let it set out for the entire morning of the day I made the dough: sourdough dinner rolls from King Arthur Flour. This makes two pans of eight. Here is the one for the future!

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I have found the chocolate cake recipe that bests the  Best Ever Chocolate Cake. I hang my head in shame as I write these words. I had to look again and again at the ingredient list to note the differences.Best Ever uses 1/2 cup more flour and twice the baking soda. I looked into the explanation of using baking soda in cakes in the book BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. She explains that 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is sufficient for each cup of flour. The new best chocolate cake recipe rises nicely and even has better body than Best Ever.

So what is this rogue recipe that has come to shake up my baking world? It is basically King Arthur Flour’s version of Texas Sheet Cake baked in a 9 x 13 pan. I found this in their sales catalog/flyer that arrives by the post ever so often: King Arthur Flours Favorite Fudge Cake. And its not just because of the fudge frosting, although that makes it awesome!

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I actually followed both of the recipes exactly although I don’t always use KAF products.

I am not advertising for them; I just recently got their flyer and was organizing recipes for my recipe notebooks. And these were two of the ones I had marked to try.

 

The herbal experiment…or Scarborough Fair Veg!

Sing along with me…parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme!

I was planning to steam some farm fresh green beans to have for dinner as the two girls would be home with us. I had some very thin baby carrots and thought those would work well in combination with the beans. Then I wondered how to add flavor. Fresh herbs! Why not, I have some growing right outside my kitchen door.

Looking at my herb garden I wonder what to use. I used basil with peas before so I want to use something else. Sage. I have no idea what to use fresh sage with so I’ll see if it works with beans and carrots. I select six nice sized sage leaves and cut them up and sprinkle them on top of the carrots in the steam basket. As I am preparing the green beans, I think to myself…parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme! I step out my back door and pluck some fresh herbs.Actually I snipped them with the kitchen shears.

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more green beans get piled into the pan than shown

I used a small bag (one pound?) of mini baby carrots and a batch of fresh green beans that when trimmed equaled about 2 cups. For the fresh herbs I used six sage leaves, a four inch sprig of thyme, a four inch sprig of rosemary, and a few snippets of parsley.

I steamed these for about 7 minutes. I did not keep good track of the time. I had not researched how to use sage and after preparing the pot for cooking I thought I should have kept the leaves whole like the additional herbs.But by that time they were buried beneath.

These get served with grilled pork loin chops seasoned with a Chicago steak seasoning that my son left here before going off to his Alaskan adventure. I put the jars of chimichurri,  A dog fight of flavors!, and plum sauce, Supper, on the table for people to pick for topping their pork. And didn’t Hubby do fabulous grill work on those chops?

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The herbs gave a very subtle flavor to the vegetables. I liked it; the others were indifferent.

Lo Mein

At a shopping trip a few weeks back I picked up a package of lo mein noodles and a package of soba noodles because they were on the clearance shelf. Yes, I occasionally buy foodstuffs from clearance. Hubby and I like “Clarence”! That’s often where we look first when shopping but not usually for food. But this was at one of those lot clearance warehouse type stores: Ocean State, Odd Lots, and when and where I was growing up it was Grandpa Pigeons!

I figured I would use some leftover cooked chicken that I had in the freezer. I read the recipe on the back of the package and it was BORING! It was a few vegetables and broth. So I substituted my own ingredients.

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  • one package lo mein noodles (upper right corner)
  •  4 cooked chicken thighs, bone removed
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • about a cup full of sliced carrots
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, sliced, green and white parts
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2-4 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce

Chop all the vegetables. I started off sauteing these in a bit of olive oil in a skillet but had to move them into the wok. I forgot about having a wok. We may have used it no more than two or three times. I cooked the noodles in water in a separate pot. Everything else went in the wok after the vegetables were cooked for about 5 minutes.

The noodles were drained and added to the wok. This gets stirred around until all is warmed. Sprinkle on a bit more soy sauce and it is done.

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I was pleasantly surprised that it actually tasted like the lo mein from a Chinese restaurant. Hubby thought it was delicious. And I had leftovers for lunch all that week. Now, what to do with the soba noodles?

Blondies have more fun!

 

Here’s a baby llama. The first picture is 30 minutes after birth and the second is one hour and a half. This little guy learned to walk in that time. Fun to see!

I was home waiting to go for a long camping weekend and had already packed the camper and made a list of other things to buy after we picked up our special camping companion, the granddaughter. We would need things like yogurt, cheerios, milk, etc. that we usually don’t take with us. By the way, I lost two pounds on that weekend mostly running after her and not sitting around eating cheese and crackers and glasses of wine!

More to the point…I suddenly had the urge to bake something to take with for a dessert. And Blondies occurred to me. Why not? Granddaughter might like these.

I have a favorite Blondie recipe from a coffee table size cookbook given to me as a gift by a dear friend that I have not been in touch with for a long time. Heritage of America Cookbook. It is a Better Homes and Gardens collection. This book puts these in The South and as served in South Carolina saying that the South has a partiality to brown sugar.

First, spray or grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350 F.

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all purpose flour (I used one cup whole wheat and one cup all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • no nuts as I was not sure about a toddler eating nuts

In a sauce pan melt the butter with the brown sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. Spread in prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut and eat. Super simple.

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Confession time!

  • I mixed up the baking soda and baking powder amounts but went ahead with the recipe.
  • I cut these when warm, as directed by the recipe, and ate one. I found it way too sweet! I’ve made these before and they were fabulous.
  • I froze half the pan and took half camping. The sweetness mellowed out over time.
  • They were not the chewy Blondies that the recipe produced before. They were crispier and would be good broken into chunks and served with ice cream.
  • I merely ate them one at a time for a bit of sweet crunch.
  • Next time I will be more careful about the ingredients and I will use only all-purpose flour.

Live and learn!

 

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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A dog fight of flavors!

Chimichurri. What is it? According to Wikipedia, chimichurri, it is loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order”. is that the best definition or what?! Anyway I came across a recipe from a magazine several years ago that I saved just because it was on a page with other interesting recipes to try. I am not sure which magazine this was. It was the sauce to serve with shrimp but with Hubby allergic to shrimp I did not think anything further about the recipe…until now!

20160621_222120506_iOSI have a thriving container garden of herbs hanging on the banister of my back porch. And I have all of the ones listed in this recipe! And I came across other recipes in my recent reading of food magazines while walking the treadmill that called for other combination of herbs. I thought it odd that mint was in here along with the others and the basil with dill. But I want to make this but with what? Steak? Pasta? Seafood?

I recently bought fish “burgers” at the store. Just for something different. Not Salmon burgers, but Alaskan Pollock. I don’t usually plan menus but I was writing a few ideas down and thought the chimichurri would compliment the fish. It would be different than the usual mayo with pickle relish tartar sauce.

Per usual I just go about harvesting the plants without really measuring. Then I chop everything into bits. I pour out a bit too much red pepper flakes but it works out well. A little after bite never hurt! I think I used about 3/4 cup of olive oil.

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Looks beautiful, even if I do say so myself! It really should be served in a small mason jar with a spoon, but it looks very nice in the cruet! Now to dinner…

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