Muffin Mornings

Sunday mornings are for muffins in our house.

(After a few weeks of a smiling toddler prying your eyes open, asking for a partner in crime to watch cartoons at 6am, you find yourself looking for ways to put your early morning waking hours to good use.)

We generally have a blueberry – banana chocolate chip – apple cinnamon – mom’s choice rotation in our muffin-making, but today… I was filled with muffin ennui.

So this happened:

1743485_10152632584474142_3122461702223150912_n

Double Chocolate Mini Muffins with Toasted Almonds and Dried Tart Cherries

(yields 48 mini muffins)

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Prep your mini-muffin tin by liberally coating it with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, measure out the following and mix until well combined:

  • 2 cups flour (I like to mix half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour, but only because I like to sneak whole grains in wherever my children cannot find them. Not obligatory.)
  • 1/2 cup dutch-process or dark cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt

Set the whole darn thing aside.

Grab a slightly smaller bowl, measure out the following and mix until thoroughly blended:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups plain, unflavored greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk (the extra egg white always goes to our dogs. this is their favorite day of the week, too.)
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (canola or the like)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Pour the liquid goodies into the dry goodies and fold until just moistened.

Add your chewy bits:

  • 3/4 cup dried Montmorency tart cherries
  • 3/4 cup miniature dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup toasted almond slivers (mine were blanched almonds, I just tossed them in the oven on a cookie sheet while the oven preheated.)

Fold the bits in with a rubber spatula til combined.

Using a Wee Scoop (there’s a technical/pastry chef term for that tool, but I didn’t go to pastry chef school, so in my house, it’s called The Wee Scoop), fill each mini muffin tin right up to the top with a scoop of muffin batter.

Bake @ 375 degrees F for 18 minutes. They should pop right out of the tin, and go great with a steaming cup of coffee and some Indie Singer/Songwriter. Just sayin’.

1782045_10152632584494142_5692690120187950666_n

Nom!

A Few of my Favorite Things: Gingersnaps edition

Gingersnaps: a harbinger of good things to come.

 

It’s officially cookie-baking season at our house, and with Christmas a mere 27 days away, I am anxiously anticipating batches of palm-sized deliciousness, getting through the 10 pounds of butter in the freezer, cookie baking and exchanging with friends, and a non-stop parade of amazing baked smells coming out of this kitchen.

Today, Paige and I kicked it all of with — you might have guessed it — gingersnaps. Now, at our house, gingersnaps aren’t reserved for the holidays, but the intermingling scents of clove, cinnamon, ginger, molasses, and orange zest conjure in me the very heart of the baking season. Man, I wish this was a scratch-and-sniff blog.

Anyway, this was the first batch of cookies Paige baked with supervision:

Raise your daughters up in the way they should go. Apron included.

She handled  herself with great aplomb. Made her old momma proud.

My secret weapon in our gingersnaps is orange, two ways: a little orange juice to keep things moist, and some orange zest to balance the deep spice of the cookie with something zingy.

Green Toews Gingersnaps

(makes about 4 dozen)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons dark molasses
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of 1 orange

Mix together in order shown. Chill for a half-hour or so. Roll into small balls and then in white sugar. press gently on cookie sheets with a glass.

Bake at 375 for about 8-10 minutes.

French Food for Families: Day 1 – Coq Au Vin

The Recipe:

Alton Brown’s Coq Au Vin (co-co-vah)

 

The Process:

It’s Alton Brown. I’m not going to pretend I can one-up his cooking prowess. Just follow the recipe (it’s fun to watch the episode as you cook, or before you cook. or both, really). The only thing we really changed is that we use frozen pearl onions instead of fresh. They stew for hours, and have you ever tried to peel those little buggers? No. thanks.

 

The Result:

Presentation:

It's like a more herbal, win-y, flavorful stroganoff. minus the dairy.

Grown-up Thoughts:

  • Ommnomnom.
  • But seriously, broken into two days of prep (one to prep chicken and refrigerate overnight, and another to slow cook in the oven), this dish was pretty simple and mostly a matter of waiting for things to cook. Who says French is a lot of fussy prep work and knife skills?

Kid Thoughts:

  • 8 year old — I liked the meat and noodles.
  • 3 year old — I liked everything we had tonight, but I would only like the noodles again.

Sigh. At least the only thing left on their plates were bones, an itty-bitty pile of mushrooms (paige) and an itty-bitty pile of pearl  onions (alice).

French Food for Families week(ish): starting… now.

The sudden change in weather (moving from early autumn into late autumn always feels like you’ve crossed some sort of invisible line into oktoberfest beers and dressing in layers) has provoked a longing in me for certain, lesser-publicized fall flavors: earthy mushroom, rich caramelized onion, the salty-sweet tang of slow-cooked meats.

As I was putting the meal plan together this week (including rabbit. Rabbit!), I was pleasantly surprised to notice myself instinctively hunting down farm dishes… coq au vin, pork provencale, boeuf bourgingnon.

These also happen to be French dishes. Weird, because I always think French Food is Fancy Food. Got me to thinking: could I pull off an entire week of French dishes? I work full-time, have a family to feed. Would my children starve to death? Would my self-proclaimed Frog Disdainer ™ of a husband allow me to sleep in the house (because, BRR, it gets cold at night these days)?

I think the answers here are: yes, no, and no. Honestly. I think you can cook traditional cuisine with minimal adaptations over the course of a normal, typical fall week, and live to tell the tale.

We start with the coq au vin, and go from there, including:

10/20: coq au vin with garden-fresh broccoli and cauliflower (yep, we’re still pulling produce out of our dirt. Neat, huh?)
10/22: Rabbit with mustard
10/23: Pork Provencale with sage dressing and roasted sweet potato
10/24: lentil soup
10/26: Grilled Chicken with Mustard and Red Pepper, pan roasted potatoes and spinach salad
10/27: Boeuf Bourguignon
10/28: Seared scallops with tarragon and beurre blanc, cous cous, and fall harvest salad

Allons-y… think we can do it? Please follow us as we attempt to feed our family seven french meals over the next week.


Everyone Loves a Bundt

I’ve gotten in the habit of baking on weekends. We have a slice or two of whatever I’ve created, but with just two grown ups and two kids, it’s hard (and probably not the healthiest) to make easy work of a pie, or cake, or… fill in the blank, really.

I declared Sunday Bundt day. I normally reserve a good Bundt for book club (or some other equally important occasion), but I found this recipe for a fall Pumpkin Pecan Pie Cake tucked in amongst my pans, and I couldn’t help myself. There’s BOURBON in it, for God’s sake. A girl can only be so strong.

Anyway, it seemed to be a hit in the office. I think I had three people asking for the recipe before lunch. Small victories there, I guess. At least I know the baking won’t go to waste. Well, that, and I love my job and colleagues enough to say this: my colleagues are worth a Bundt.
Yah. I like them that much.

Everyone loves a Bundt.

Pumpkin Pecan Pie Cake | From  a sampling of recipes I found with my Nordic Ware pan

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 cup molasses (it says light; I used dark)
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 14 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin

Pecan Layer

  • 1 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Icing

  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp water
  • 3 tsp apple cider
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

Preheat to 350. Grease and flour pan.
In a small bowl, stir together all pecan layer ingredients and set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together all dry ingredients — flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together buttermilk, bourbon, vanilla extract, and molasses.
In a large bowl (preferably the bowl of your stand mixer), beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition. Add 1/2 of the dry goods, then half of the wet goods, then half of the pumpkin, then mix well. Repeat.
Spoon half the pumpkin batter into the pan. Sprinkle the pecan layer on top first half of batter. Add the remaining batter.
Bake for 35-45 minutes until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a plate or cooling rake to cool completely.

When completely cool, mix ingredients for icing together and drizzle on top of Bundt. Serve and enjoy!

The keys to our (coffee) hearts.

You know, we live in Northeast Minneapolis: land of Greenies, <a title="Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge. Tiki drinks, Nye’s jumbo cocktails… are you noticing a theme here?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m the #1 fan of our uniquely NE bar scene, but what about when you get up in the morning and are nursing that dull ache that comes after one too many ______ (fill in your favorite Northeast adult beverage here)?

I mean, if the ibuprofen and Gatorade aren’t cutting it for you, you need a cuppa.

Java, Joe, coffee, kids.

When I lived in Linden Hills, I could wander over to Rustica/Java Jacks. If I happened to land in Uptown, Muddy Waters was right there (OK, it’s not in the same place anymore, but it still EXISTS).

Here? Eh, not so much.  We’ve taken to making coffee at home anyhow, being grown up, frugal, and whatnot… so my search has turned from, “Where can I get a double to-go?” to, “Where can I get beans that blow my mind at 7am when I hop in the car for my commute?”

Let me tell you: we lack serious beans in this corner of town.

I’m a big fan of Bull Run. And by big fan, I mean I’ve considered setting up a restaraunt LLC just to be able to buy their beans wholesale. I beg my uptown-dwelling friends to bring me coffee when they come up my way. It’s the Official Bean of Girls Weekend. God, I love that stuff.

Also: I will beg, borrow, and steal for Dogwood beans. Perhaps I’m driven to Dogwood because they are embedded within Rustica (and honestly, the chocolate/pistachio pastry and a latte? This is clearly what God will put on my breakfast table daily when I get to heaven). They also have their roots deeply embedded with Bull Run. Anyway, I love how seriously their baristas take their coffee. If you are going to drink something, you may as well be an expert about it, and these guys are the experts.

Both of these options, however, are inconvenient. My convenient options include picking up beans at the grocery store (ick), chain coffee shops (double ick), or a couple of indie coffee shops that don’t do their own roasting (mostly, meh).

So, imagine my delight when our lovely local corner restaurant, Hazel’s, offered to sell us a bag of True Stone roasted Costa Rican beans.

I brewed up a pot this morning, with a sweet tension headache brewing, and to my surprise, I actually had to pull the package out of the cupboard to ensure Dave hadn’t, in fact, purchased Bull Run beans. Yum! And walkable! Be still my Northeast heart, there is caffeinated salvation to be had in my neighborhood.

If you haven’t yet visited Hazel’s, especially for brunch, get it on your docket. It’s so good: warm, friendly, casual, delicious food served simply and without pretense. Have a couple of cups of coffee when you’re there, and take home a bag of beans to try for yourself.

I raise my travel mug to better-tasting caffeination. Cheers!