Monday, June 18, 2012
Are you as shocked as I am that summer is really here? The weeks and months tick by with or without my approval. I mark the passage of time with the arrival of weekends and the denial of the restart of the work week. Holidays, birthdays and anniversarys pass. I fill up my 7 day medication dispenser with vitamins and such each Sunday evening (dang I feel like an old lady saying that). (I thought about erasing that last bit about the medication dispenser by the way.) And once a month I participate in Secret Recipe Club. Something I look forward to. It's a fun group to be a part of, but it also means another month has zipped by when I wasn't looking.
The best thing about the monthly arrival of SRC is trying out a new recipe. This month I was assigned Denise's blog, Creative Kitchen. I always have a blast browsing through a new blog, and Denise's was no exception. She has been blogging since 2009, she's busy with a family of five and focuses on making meals made with "real" whole foods. Creative Kitchen has a variety of sweet and savory dishes, all made with love and as few processed foods as possible. I admire Denise's committment to feeding her family real food, but keeping it in balance with the reality of our modern processed food society. It's a concept I'd like to incorporate more into my little family of two. Reading Denise's blog made me smile. She has an enthusiastic spirit that is evident in the stories she shares as well as the dishes she creates. Creative Kitchen definitely has a new follower!
Choosing just one recipe is always a challenge. I was drawn to several, but ultimately decided it was time to tackle the donut muffin. I am a fan of donuts. I am a fan of muffins. And a baked donut sure beats frying.
This recipe is easy to throw together on a Saturday morning as most of the ingredients can be found in a well stocked pantry. I thought my pantry was pretty well stocked, but as the donut muffins were baking, I realized I was completely out of butter. That almost never happens. I always have butter stashed away in the freezer.
Not this time.
The donut muffins require the top of the baked donuts to be dipped in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar. What to do? Go to the store at 7:30 am on Saturday morning in my yoga pants and bed head? Nope. Send Hubby to the store for me? Um, he was still sleeping.
Time to improvise.
I had some fresh blueberries in the fridge and I had already been thinking about making a blueberry sauce to drizzle over the donut muffins. Why not use that in place of butter? It was one of those happy accidents that turned out really well.
The donut muffins have the texture of a cake donut. Add in fresh blueberry preserves and a cinnamon sugar crunch on top and you have a tasty breakfast treat on your hands. I enjoyed one or three with a cup of early grey tea. Now that's the way I like to start my weekend. Denise recommends doubling the recipe, and I see why. These little babies go fast! Thanks for the recipe Denise!
Now, let's see how quickly July arrives. In the meantime...
Blueberry Donut Muffins
adapted from Creative Kitchen
1/3 cup of shortening (CK used coconut oil)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (CK used whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup blueberry preserves (see recipe below or if using store bought, heat preserves in microwave about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until loose)
1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 and spray muffin tin with cooking spray, or line with paper liners. I used my mini muffin pan (which is a medium sized mini--as opposed to a small mini) and it yielded 12 muffins (I would plan on 6-8 full size muffins).
In a medium bowl whisk shortening, sugar and egg until fully combined. In another medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg together. Stir flour mixture into shortening mixture in thirds alternating with milk until just combined.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake for 18-20 minutes for mini's or 25 minutes for full size, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow muffins to cool and dip tops in the blueberry preserves and then dip in cinnamon sugar mixture.
from The Ginger Snap Girl
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on medium high heat. Boil mixture for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened. It will continue to thicken upon cooling.
Friday, June 15, 2012
I do a lot of stuff in my mind. Like accomplishing way more tasks in a day than humanly possible. In my mind, every night I plan to get up early the next day to start conquering the to do list. The list is all checked off at the end of the day and I beam with satisfaction.
I also exercise a lot (still in my mind). I envision myself running and sweating and feeling so accomplished by the fact I can actually run. It's like I'm running a 5K everyday. And I see my jeans slipping on and buttoning with ease because of all this running I'm doing.
Since I'm exercising it's only natural that I'm also eating really really healthy (yet tasty) foods. Again, we are still in my mind. And I feel all energized and clean from eating such nutritionally rich super foods. I'm practically glowing from all this healthiness.
And of course I still have time to check a few more things off my to do list before I turn in for the night. Then I get up and do it all over again.
I'm sure you can guess where this is going.
Reality. Why does reality always come along and ruin everything?
In real life I'm lucky if I get through 1/3 of my to do list on most days. Even if I actually set my alarm to rise early and tackle a few more projects in my day...I pretty much always snooze. At least 3 times, sometimes more. And I rarely exercise. If I do, it certainly doesn't involve running. Best case scenario it involves a swift walk, occasionally up a hill if I'm feeling really adventurous. It's so much more fun to run in my head I guess! Food is the one area where sometimes I accomplish the lofty goals my mind has in store. I try to eat healthy-ish. But I also do more than my fair share of indulging in cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream....more cookies.
Cookies live in my mind. And thankfully they are a pretty regular reality around here. They are my indulgence of choice. I'm always looking to try new cookie flavor combos. These cookies were completely experimental. I was looking for something different to send for Operation Baking GALS this month. I was very happy with the finished product and hope they made it through 7 days of travel overseas.
I took a white chocolate chip macadamia nut recipe and pretty much went to town. It started with plump dried blueberries (I'm pretty certain blueberries are a super food! Right? Right??) and almonds (good for you too!), along with butter and plenty of brown sugar. Okay, those last two are questionable in the health department, but they make these oh so chewy and caramelly delicious. Don't forget about the sweet, creamy, white chocolate chips. All the flavors work really well together...blueberry pie, meets cheesecake, meets cookie. Good stuff.
I better go back to exercising in my head.
White Chocolate Blueberry Almond Cookies
from The Ginger Snap Girl
Yields 36 cookies
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups dried blueberries
1 3/4 cups chopped almonds
Preheat oven to 375 and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium whisk flour, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand mixer) cream butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer to low and add eggs one at time, until incorporated. Mix in vanilla. Add in flour mixture in three batches and mix on low until just incorporated. Add white chocolate chips, blueberries and almonds and mix on low until evenly distributed.
Using a medium cookie scoop (about 2 tablespoons) scoop out 12 cookies per baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes until lightly golden brown, rotating sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through cooking. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
My risotto always turns out crunchy. Every time. Well all 5 or 6 times I've made it. No matter how much broth I stir in or slowly I incorporate it, it comes out much more al dente than I prefer. I think risotto is some kind of art that the right side of my brain has never been able to master. Lucky for me the brilliant testers at Cook's Illustrated created a paint by numbers version. Don't assume because it's "no-fuss," that it is any less fabulous than risotto made via the traditional method (I've had some excellent ones in restaurants). This unique method of cooking the risotto covered in a dutch oven produces a creamy, velvety rice perfumed with wine and Parmesan cheese. Ahhhhh! And it's just right. Not crunchy in the slightest (and also not mushy).
This is cause for serious celebration! Okay, maybe not that serious. But I was a little impressed with myself for making a risotto that I would be proud to serve to guests. Finally!
Oh, see that bread in the background? That's Hubby's handiwork on his quest to master the baguette. :) Go Hubby! This is one of his early works where he forgot to score the bread...but that didn't deter us from gobbling it all up. He's gotten quite good at it and can whip out a baguette in no time these days.
To the folks at Cooks Illustrated: I'm fairly certain you guys and gals are cooking geniuses.
The only comment I have on the risotto, other than the heavenly heartwarming thoughts I have when thinking about it, is the teaspoon of lemon juice called for in the recipe was unnecessary in my opinion. Hubby agreed as well...it's tasted too lemony. If you want a lemony risotto, keep it in. The recipe calls for a cup of white wine so there is already a fair amount of acid to balance the rich, creamy, Parmesan cheesy goodness.
Risotto is comfort food akin to a good homemade macaroni cheese. The variations and flavor profiles are vast. And I'll be trying several of them out now that I've been introduced to this no-fuss method.
Here's to easy (non crunchy) risotto!
from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (I will omit next time)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat broth and water in a large saucepan on high until it reaches a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
In a dutch oven over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add in onions and 3/4 teaspoon of salt and cook until the onion is soft about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in Arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, stirring continually, and cook until fully absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in 5 cups of broth/water mixture and reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 16 to 19 minutes, until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring twice during that time. Add 3/4 cup of broth/water mixture and stir gently and continuously about 3 minutes until the risotto is creamy. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
Remove from heat and cover. Allow the risotto to stand for 5 minutes. To finish, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, parsley, chives and lemon juice. If you want a looser consistency, add additional remaining broth/water mixture. Season with salt and pepper and serve.