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greetings from the humid, sticky haven of my kitchen. detroit’s celebrating the holiday with wind gusts, momentary monsoons, and general unpredictability– yo-yoing from sunshine to thundercloud to sweltering haze and back again. the roses in our backyard are blooming. unbelievably rich and delicate, they are blooming like wild. smells like my nanny and poppy’s house, next to that rose-tree. fantastic.

today’s muffins of choice? plantain chocolate chip. this is a new one for me, as i’ve never cooked with plantains before. given this plantain a few weeks ago, i felt obligated to do something fun with it. and, per usual, muffin monday seemed to be the best bet. so i started with cutting off its ends and boiling it in salted water for 15 minutes.

after this, i peeled this baby and mashed her up. the smell instantly took me back to breakfast in el salvador. between junior and senior year of college, i traveled on a three-week excursion to el salvador, mostly to guarjila, a small campo in the mountains. the class focused on the role of the catholic church in the salvadoran civil war. the class, intense. the experience, life changing. truly. but plantains, mostly fried, greeted me for breakfast pretty much every day.

the thunder’s crackling and cackling above me as i now type. the trees dancing with frenzy. the kitchen, it’s cooling down (hooRAY!) thanks to the gusting wind. and in my stomach, a happy plantain chocolate chip muffin’s easing those pre-dinner hunger pains. enjoy.

i found these to be light and somewhat fluffy, i think due to the egg whites. also, the plantain’s flavor is a mild take on the usual banana– more subtle, but still warm and cheery.

plantain chocolate chip muffins

1/4 cup ground flaxseed and pumpkin seed
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons softened butter
1 plantain, boiled and mashed
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. preheat oven to 400. grease a muffin tin.
2. combine dry ingredients, flours through salt, in a large bowl.
3. whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks. then whisk in softened butter and milk.
4. make a well in the dry mix, and pour in egg combination. combine until just mixed. then fold in plantain and chocolate chips.
5. using a 1/3 cup as a scoop, evenly distribute batter among tins. bake for 10 minutes, then rotate, to ensure even baking. bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and they are golden brown. enjoy!

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happy memorial day weekend, dear friends!

i spent the better part of these past two days basking in sunshine and swimming in the lake. and what a delightful two days they were. it never ceases to amaze me how much blue water, bright sunshine, and an empty schedule can do for the soul. i didn’t even feel like cooking! (or baking, for that matter). i did feel like drinking beer (from shorts, perhaps my most loved microbrewery.) and reading books, though.

so, when i woke up this morning at a leisurely 11 am, i skipped breakfast and went for lunch. hungry, i had no desire to wait around for pasta to cook or for pizza dough to rise. i wanted something fast. and i felt a sudden burst of inspiration, from none other than my dad. padre. papa du-ane. mr. meyer. his repertoire in the kitchen includes eggs, mac & cheese (from the box), chili, and sandwiches. really lovely sandwiches, and some really weird ones. peanut butter and pickles, for instance. i think the weird struck me. and the cottage cheese pickled beet sandwich was born. it’s pretty typical to see cottage cheese and pickled beets on our lunch smorgasbord– the combination is just so good. but with some onions and on toasted wheat bread?! well, friends. this is a new one for you to try.

it’s messy. i wore a good deal of this sandwich on my skin. but the mess is worth it.

cottage cheese and pickled beet sandwich

about 1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted to desired toasted-ness
about 1 medium sized pickled beet, sliced
1-3 green onions, sliced
black pepper

toast bread. assemble sandwich, first with half of the cottage cheese, then sliced pickled beets, then onions, then more cottage cheese, then some cracked black pepper. eat! make sure you have a plate or a napkin, this one’ll get you nice and messy. enjoy!

happy monday and muffins to you!

it’s been a wild week of rain, sunshine, humidity, and fun. bed prep, planting, cultivating to boot at earthworks. meanwhile, the villages soccer team won our first victory (at our first game) a week ago: tonight we play again! at least today the sky is bright and dry. no rainy muck this week. (although, i did love how muddy i got at last game. i’ve always been a sucker for physically wearing whatever i’m doing. when i played soccer as a kid, i remember rubbing grass on my knees to be authentically dirty after practice. when baking, i poof-ed flour on my face, in my hair, etc to be a real baker.)

my parents came this weekend, their first extended stay unrelated to the detroit marathon. the meyer family adventures included trips to pewabic pottery, calder’s dairy farm (more on that to come!), and more. quite a riot, for sure.

today, happy for a day of sunshine, family, friends, and futbol. no morose monday for me. peanut butter banana muffins really sum up these feelings so perfectly. moist, nutty, and sweet. a perfect start to another week in lovely detroit.

peanut butter banana muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 egg
1/3 cup yogurt
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup bananas, mashed

1. preheat oven to 350. grease a muffin tin with butter.
2. whisk together dry ingredients together (flour through nutmeg) in a bowl.
3. mix wet ingredients through vanilla extract. mash in bananas and combine well. add dry flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
4. using a 1/3 cup as your measuring guide, scoop batter into the 12 muffin cups. bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan to ensure even baking, and continue for another 10-15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. cool for 5 minutes in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling process.

i think these would be great with chocolate chips. enjoy! and a happy monday to you!

today i feel like a blob of undercooked muffin batter. gloppy, sticky, a mess. the feeling kind of hit me with the force of a cleaver’s crush and crunch. morbid, i know, but i think that has to do with the chicken culling i attended last week. please see photo below for further information:

mr. rooster is currently in my freezer, plucked, butchered, and ready for the soup pot.

it is a gray day here. but it wasn’t gray all day. a sunshiney, albeit windy and atmospherically unstable (apparently now i am morose meteorologist gwen). the day started grand. a sleep in, a visit from a dear friend who’s moved to boston, a yummy lunch at russell street deli. but something’s gone awry. and i can’t put my finger on it, but my monday muffins are not as delightful or happy as previous weeks. okay, the rhubarb muffins are cute. they are really moist. and splendid to me. but i think i pulled them a minute too soon, and thus, they are just not quite what i want. and today’s improvise on last week’s vanilla java porter muffins: a disaster. they deflated. they aren’t the same lush, soft, suave texture of last week. but i totally changed the recipe, so who’s to blame but me?! i added sour cream icing to try to remedy their sad state, and while they look cheery, dark with light pillows of white, i am still very underwhelmed.

so, for what it’s worth, monday muffin continues. i think i may make some rhubarb crisp to make up for the mediocrity of today’s selections, though. nothing better than rhubarb crisp for a morose monday…

try the rhubarb muffins, though. i think there’s something special there. just don’t rush the baking part, it’s kind of important. also, i really wanted to use curry powder in these (i based this recipe off of the rhubarb bread i made for the dairy fermentation class) but didn’t have any (ALL OUT!). if i had, i would have used a tablespoon of that and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, i think. or maybe 1 tablespoon of curry to one teaspoon of cinnamon… something to think about! instead, i went with garam masala, not sure what that did. when i had my quality control sample, the slightly under-baked texture distracted me from such analysis. ha.

rhubarb muffins

2 tablespoons poppy seeds
zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups rhubarb
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg

1. preheat oven to 350. grease muffin tins.
2. combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl, set aside. combine rhubarb and 1/4 cup of sugar in bowl, mix, set aside.
3. in a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon).
4. beat butter and sugar till smooth. add egg, yogurt, and milk, mix well. stir in rhubarb.
5. combine dry ingredients and wet ingredients until just mixed. fold in nuts, lemon, and poppy seed mix.
6. using a 1/3 cup, scoop out batter in muffin tins. bake for 10 minutes, rotate to insure even baking. continue for 10-14 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. let sit for 5 minutes, then remove from tin and cool on racks.

hi, i’m gwen. and i love rhubarb.

i really love rhubarb. i come from a stock of rhubarb growing, eating, loving folk. growing up, our source for rhubarb was my nanny and poppy. i remember watching, transfixed, as those greenish blushing stalks transformed into rose-colored sauce, tart and sweet and a true springtime treat. we ate it straight out of the kitchen pot, steaming and lovely. not unlike homemade applesauce. if any of the sauce made it for leftovers, we ate it cold. but it rarely made it past the first serving.

for mother’s day, in honor of my mom and my nanny (and because of my love for rhubarb), i created two show stopping dishes featuring those greenish blushing stalks. rhubarb bars, recipe sent directly from my mom, and rhubarb sauce revised. the bars: a shortbread crust with a light custard and melty hunks of the tart pink goods. the sauce: a remake of my mom’s original (water + rhubarb + sugar), this is more decadent, more sophisticated, and most definitely worth it. white wine, sugar, vanilla bean, a grate of nutmeg and orange zest. my mouth’s still relishing in the memory. (good thing i made enough to have leftovers. great in oatmeal, on toast, or straight out of the fridge).

rhubarb bars

1/2 cup butter
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 cups rhubarb

1. preheat the oven to 350 and grease an 8×8 inch pan.
2. mix butter, flour, and sugar together and press into greased pan. cook for 15 minutes.
3. mix together the eggs, sugar, and second amount of flour until smooth. fold in rhubarb and top the hot crust. bake for 45 minutes.
4. let cool completely on a wire rack. ENJOY!

rhubarb sauce

2 lbs / 5 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
few grates fresh nutmeg
zest of half an orange

1. put all ingredients in a pot on stove top. over medium heat, stirring occasionally, let the rhubarb cook down until it reaches your desired texture/chunkiness. i cooked mine down for about thirty to forty-five minutes. eat plain, on ice cream, on toast, on oatmeal. all ways are AMAZING.

greetings, fine friends, on this sunny, cool detroit monday. what a lovely monday it’s been. so far, i’ve

  • slept in
  • laid around
  • made muffins
  • made some more muffins
  • ate the leftover batter
  • day dreamed while gazing out the window. things are so green! so bright! so spring!
  • imagined some ramp and green garlic pesto recipes

pretty much, today is just fantastic.

i know you’ve been waiting all week for this monday’s muffin extravaganza. i was originally thinking i’d make three varieties to celebrate the third week of muffin monday. but then, i made two, and feel content in these two. it’s probably also because lately, our house seems to explode baked goods. it’s kind of crazy. cookies, rhubarb bars, more cookies, muffins. every day, it’s another baked good. NOT THAT I’M COMPLAINING… clearly, a baking house is a happy house. we are very happy.

now, for the goods stuff. this week’s inspired muffins. friends, i give you gooseberry crisp muffins & vanilla java porter gingerbread muffins!

the gooseberry muffins feature detroit gooseberries from 2009. (still cleaning out the freezer! such a fun thing to do!) the batter was thicker, lumpier than most other muffins i’ve made. tara told me it looked like oatmeal as i scooped it into the muffin tin, and i couldn’t disagree. oatmeal with balls of red, tart loveliness. the end result? a dense, delightful muffin. crunchy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. kind of like baby gooseberry crisps. mmmm.

while these were cooling, i decided to commence muffin adventure numero dos. this time, my aim was to use up some vanilla java porter that’s been hanging out in our fridge for a while. i found this recipe on epicurious.com for stout gingerbread and decided this beer would be a lovely substitute for guinness or other such stout. the recipe comes from the gramercy tavern (looks pretty swanky to me!). the batter: velvety, a hushed brown. fragrant with spice, with porter, with a molasses-y warmth. the result? light, moist, smooth and satisfying. it’s probably more of a cake than a muffin. regardless, a happy treat for monday muffin.

i made this week’s muffins in honor of two exciting things. first, for my friends patrick and stacey on the acquisition of monday. i mean, it’s named monday! it seemed appropriate to welcome monday with monday muffins. second, for the villages soccer team. yes, i’m playing co-ed soccer and am loving it. i come home with grass-stained knees and feel like i’m back in bexley, ohio, playing in CESA U-10 league. ha. these muffins though, what better than beer infused muffins to get our game on?

gooseberry crisp muffins

3/4 cup graham flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 grates of fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup butter
1/3 c sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup whey (or buttermilk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups gooseberries, tipped and stemmed

1. preheat the oven to 350. grease muffin tin.
2. whisk dry ingredients in large bowl (flour through nutmeg).
3. in separate bowl, cream butter and sugar till smooth. add eggs, whey, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. fold in gooseberries.
4. add dry ingredients, combine until just mixed. using a 1/3 cup scoop, fill muffin tins and bake for 10 minutes. turn the pan to ensure even baking. continue baking for 10-15 more minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. enjoy!

vanilla java porter gingerbread muffins

check out the recipe from gramercy tavern. substitute the oat stout for vanilla java porter (for all you detroiters, or for all you with access to atwater beer) and follow the rest of the directions listed. the batter makes too much for 12 muffins. the muffins baked for about 25 minutes total. i used the leftover batter in a small bread pan, which baked for about 50 minutes.

YUM.

enjoy!

what better way to celebrate turning a quarter of a century than hosting a phenomenal extravaganza: a multi-dish meal for a table full of hungry people. clearly, my friend the great fermentor knew how to celebrate the big 2-5 right. bring on entertaining and hosting with the mosting. bring on delicious dinner served outdoors with friends, family, and even a dog named ginger (how appropriate!)

while the meal itself was amazing (za’atar, homemade labna, fried haloumi, pickled lemons, chickpea salad, greens with violets and raw rhubarb, sardines, wine-braised artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus…!), i must say that dessert really sealed the deal. any birthday girl knows that the key to a successful birthday is that finale of taste: the sweet completes the meal, the day, and welcomes in the new year with lovely smiles and an enthusiastic lick of the fingers. yes, i mean finger-licking goodness. and ms. blair had the package deal: (sp)ice cream sandwiches. by that, i mean her very own nutmeg orange-zest cashew milk ice cream sandwiched between chewy, soft, lovely spice cookies. what better way to beckon in numero veinte-cinco?!

i really can’t lie. i had been looking forward to this celebratory evening of gastronomic delight for a week. and, when i asked if there was anything i could do to help with the preparations, food or otherwise, i joyously accepted the role of birthday-cookie-baker. the birthday ice cream needed a sandwich. what a phenomenal honor for me, what a grand way to participate! amused, i set off to find (create) the perfect spice cookie: chewy, spicy, with bite and subtle sweetness. oh the glories of the cookie.

spice cookies

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon orange zest

1. pre-heat oven to 350. mix flour through salt with a whisk.

2. beat butter and brown sugar. then add egg, molasses, honey, and orange peel.
3. combine wet and dry ingredients until smooth, but do not over mix.
4. prepare a small bowl with sugar, scoop tablespoons of batter and roll them into balls. then roll in sugar and set on cookie sheet.

5. bake for 13 to 14 minutes, allow them to cool for one minute, then transfer onto wire rack. they will still be soft, so be gentle. this makes a more chewy and less crispy cookie.
6. find a friend to make some great ice cream, flavored with love and excitement to compliment your chewy spice cookies. make (sp)ice cream sandwiches. EAT!

i will link to blair’s ice cream recipe once it is up on her blog. i know, the anticipation will nearly kill you. but it will most definitely be worth the wait!

this week has been the week of the cookies here at la grande. between my roommates and i, already we’ve made a total of five varieties. chocolate chip, chocolate cranberry, molasses spice, weird monster, and the anzac biscuits.

it’s really hard for me to see all the remnants of this great cookie bake-off without bursting out in a rousing chorus of “c is for cookie, that’s good enough for me!” in that gruff, rough voice of cookie monster.

takes me back to the golden days of sesame street and popsicles. i remember seeing a sesame street live when i was three or so: i remember getting those fiber optic pom-poms and thinking it was SO AMAZING. i think my eyes have gone cookie-monster crazy with all the sugar and sweets in this house. i guess that’s why he now is a veggie monster? or at least through rumors i’ve heard…

tara and i made these on tuesday night. they’re very delightful, light, and soft. a distinctly cane-syrupy flavor sets these babies apart.

anzac biscuits
from the best of cooking light

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons golden cane syrup

1. preheat oven to 325. grease cookie sheets.
2. combine flour through baking soda in a bowl, mix.
3. add butter, water, and syrup, stir well.
4. drop dough by level tablespoons. bake for 12 minutes or until almost set. remove from oven, let stand 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. remove cookies from baking sheets and place onto wire racks to cool completely.

enjoy! stay posted for more on the spice and weird monster cookies. they’ll be debuting soon.

well, friends, i think i’ve found something that’s going to stick. muffin monday, back again, because last week’s happy mouth muffins were so fun.

this monday’s muffin of choice: molasses date muffins. and the verdict? overwhelmingly positive.

with whey in the fridge, the leftovers from the miraculous cheese making of friday, i sought out on a quest this morning. how to best use the whey? my research revealed that it can be used for lacto-fermentation (which i definitely hope to explore, once i get more fresh produce available and in the kitchen) and smoothies. then, i saw a few recipes calling for it in breads. OF COURSE! i exclaimed to myself. I CAN USE IT FOR BUTTERMILK! it is acidic, and will work just fine! i thought.

so the grand experiment commenced. i, with my bowls, my dates, my orange zest and flour, i pulled out the whey and gave it a good look over.

instead of using it for the full cup of buttermilk, used 1/3 cup traditional buttermilk (from my friend the great fermentor, who i hope will help me explore the whey-lacto-fermentation possibilities later this season), 1/3 buttermilk (leftover in the fridge, needs to get used up!), and 1/3 cup whey.

and what do i have to say? these muffins GO…ALL…the…WHEYYYYYY!!! really.

molasses date muffins
adapted from epicurious.com

1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk (i used 1/3 cup whey, 2/3 cup buttermilk)
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup graham flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
zest of one orange

1. preheat oven to 350. grease muffin tin.

2. mix first seven ingredients in a large bowl, through vanilla extract.

3. mix flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and orange zest in a another large bowl.

4. gently combine the flour with the wet mixture, be careful not to over stir.

5. fill the muffin cups with between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of batter, should make enough for 12 muffins. bake for 10 minutes, then rotate to insure even baking. then bake for another 8-10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. allow the muffins to sit for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove. ENJOY!

this morning, the sky woke up the cackling growl in her throat. a booming, cackling growl. this early morning thunderstorm, so rich and complex, demanded me to wake up while the patter of rain lulled me back to sleep. after a week of springtime sunshine, the rain came down to open, happy arms. the thunder did, too.

yesterday was a great day. a friday, sunshiney, 80 degrees, and i got to do my favorite things: keep bees and poke in the kitchen. stacey and made five splits in the earthworks apiaries. the hives, bursting with bustling, busy, boisterous girls, were all calm and gentle. this, like the rain this morning, came very welcome by beekeepers malasky and meyer.

they're wearing their leg warmers!

crazy busy!

oh so busy!

this time, i was suited up for my apiary photographic adventures. no more facial bee stings for this lady…

after such a lovely day of tending those nectar-loving, pollen-packing, crazy busy bees, i decided it was time to confront the MASSIVE glass container of goat’s milk that has been hanging out in our fridge since monday. by massive, i mean quite a lot of goat’s milk. as in 75 oz (or 4 lbs, 11 oz). with this much milk on hand, it was time to attempt the elusive fresh cheese-making.

and friends, it was an udder success (hahaha).

forewarning: i had no idea what i was doing. and, actually, what i made is pretty much amazing. light, moist, well-rounded flavor. i made two batches: one with lemon as my acid and one with apple cider vinegar as my acid. the acid works to separate the curd from the whey, as i understand it. the lemony one is a tad sweeter than the apple cider, which is great to know for future cheese making endeavors: for the sweet dishes, go lemon! for savory, apple cider! i am excited to try other acids (balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and the like) to see how their flavors work out.

fresh farmers cheese

milk
lemon juice/apple cider vinegar/yogurt (i used a combination of lemon juice/yogurt for batch one and apple cider vinegar/yogurt for the second)
cheesecloth

1. pour milk into a big pot on the stove (i used about half of the 75 ounces for batch one). heat the milk on medium-high heat until it boils, stirring frequently. add acid (about 2 tablespoons per 1/2 gallon, i think, is the ratio. i just poured in acids until the milk started to curdle, where the curd separates from the whey). look for separation of curd from whey. if it doesn’t separate, add more acid. stir for 2-3 minutes, then let sit for about 10 minutes, to let the whey and curd separate more.

2. pour the liquid through a cheese cloth, with a bowl underneath if you want to save the whey (otherwise, you can do this over the sink). i saved the whey (will let you know what i do with it!).

3. wrap up the curd snugly in cheesecloth and press it, setting it on a cutting board angled into a sink with a weight on top (see below). this squeezes more of the whey out.

4. after 20 minutes to however long you want to experiment this pressing, unwrap the curd and you’ve got farmers cheese! DELISH!