Friday, August 22, 2014

Apropos of Nothing: A Hearty Winter Breakfast

As the title says...this is apropos of nothing. I just thought this hearty breakfast from last winter looked so delicious that I wanted to share. It's a bit "do you want any breakfast with that bacon" but hey...it's bacon!

oh, yum!


Bye for now...
 

Blueberry Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping

If it's the end of the summer in New England, then it's the season for Maine blueberries! Boston Organics - which delivers organic fruit and veggies to my door - was offering a 5-lb box of fresh, organic Maine blueberries...and of course I couldn't resist. I love blueberries. However...what was I to do with so many blueberries?

To start, I made the most delicious blueberry muffins with a cinnamon crumb topping!

just add coffee for a delicious breakfast

a light and tender crumb but bursting with flavor

I adapted my blueberry muffins recipe from this Food & Wine recipe. Their recipe seemed a little bland for me, so I added spices and some citrus zest...and the muffins were flavorful and with a very tender crumb.

The recipe has two parts: the cinnamon crumb topping and the muffins themselves. Both recipes are below.

Cinnamon Crumb Topping
1 c all-purpose flour
3 T light brown sugar
2 T granulated sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t cinnamon
pinch salt
6 T unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl, mix well with a fork or small whisk. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until the butter is mixed throughout and the topping forms small clumps. Set aside while you make the muffin batter.

mise en place for the cinnamon crumb topping

melted butter is added

and the topping is mixed until small clumps form

Blueberry Muffins
2 (to 2 1/2) c blueberries, rinsed and set aside to drain
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
2 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t freshly grated nutmeg
pinch cardamom (cardamom is very strong, so I recommend only using a pinch or no more than 1/8 t or you'll taste it too strongly in the finished muffins)
2 T citrus zest (I used grapefruit because that happened to be the only citrus fruit I had. I'd recommend using lemon or orange zest.)
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted then added to the canola oil
3/4 c whole milk
1 t pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line (or butter well, if not using liners) 18 muffin cups.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the white and brown sugars, and the citrus zest. Mix to combine. Add the eggs, and the canola oil and butter mixture. Mix well. Add in the milk and vanilla and whisk well (or use a rubber spatula) until everything is combined.

Add the dry ingredients to the sugar-egg-milk mixture and stir (use a large spoon) until just combined. Do NOT overmix and don't worry about the lumps (there will be lots of lumps...but seriously, don't worry at all). Overmixing will lead to tough and dense muffins. Finally, gently fold in the blueberries.

Using a large ice cream scooper or measuring cup, fill the 18 prepared cups. Fill each muffin cup to about 3/4 full; I used slightly more than 1/4 c of batter per muffin cup.

Spoon the cinnamon crumb topping evenly over the batter in each of the muffin cups. You don't want the topping to be in huge clumps, so break up the clumps with your fingers, if need be.

Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate your pans. Bake an additional 12-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few crumbs attached. Transfer the pans to a cooling rack for about 8 minutes. Then carefully remove each muffin and let cool completely on the cooling rack...although you may need to try one warm (just to be sure)!

The muffins are best the day they are made. However, I found that you can also freeze them in a plastic zipper baggie for about 1 week (that's as long as mine lasted!). Thaw overnight in the fridge and then let them return to room temperature before serving. Yum!

wow...5 lbs of blueberries!

hmmm...that is a LOT of berries! What was I thinking?

one of the changes I made to the original recipe was to use 1/2 canola oil and 1/2 butter

I also added some grapefruit zest

mixing the flour and spices

I added brown sugar for depth of flavor

and zest, which I thought would go well with blueberries

after the eggs and milk are added to the sugars, the dry ingredients are added
don't overmix the batter at this point!

...and don't mind the lumps! Look how lumpy my batter is. Trust me though, it won't matter.

fill with the batter and then add some of the crumb topping to each

golden brown fresh out of the oven...smells amazing

yippee...muffins for everyone!


Bye for now...
 

Summer salads: cucumber salad & avacado salad on crostini

A couple of light and delicious salads that I've made multiple times this summer: cucumber and dill salad and avocado "salad."

delicious and refreshing cucumber and dill salad

I've made the cucumber salad a couple of times - trying to replicate what my mom made when I was little. And the avocado salad was really just an excuse to eat a perfectly ripe avocado in a simple, but delicious, way. Both can be made to your particular taste - they are perfect for just winging it.

Cucumber Salad with Dill (all of my measurements are approximates)
2 English cucumbers, sliced very thinly (if you only have regular cucumbers, slice them lengthwise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon)
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
2 T. fresh dill, finely chopped
squeeze of lemon juice
drizzle of olive oil (optional)

I used an awesome Benriner mandoline from Japan to slice my cucumbers. If you don't have a mandoline, just slice them very thinly with a sharp knife.

Put the cucumber slices into a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Stir well.

Chill for several hours or overnight to let the cucumbers pickle a bit. (I don't bother to drain my cucumbers until right before serving. If you prefer to drain your cucumbers, slice and add the salt, let sit for 30 minutes, then drain; add the remaining ingredients.) Enjoy!

ingredients for the cucumber salad - simple and delicious

my awesome Benriner mandoline

it slices the cucumber so thin you can almost see through it!

the mandoline made quick work of 2 cucumbers

add in the remaining ingredients and stir well

so refreshing on a hot summer day!

Another delicious "salad" I made several times this summer is this avocado salad. It's so easy.

Avocado Salad
1-2-3 ripe avocados (or however many you plan to serve)
squeeze of lemon (or lime) juice
drizzle of olive oil
sprinkle of flaky sea salt (I used my fancy sea salt I bought this spring in Iceland...perfect!)

Cut each avocado in half, lengthwise; remove pit.

With the avocado half still in the skin, slice into 1/4" slices (or however thick you prefer). Using a large spoon, slide it between the avocado flesh and skin to easily lift your slices out.

Gently fan the slices on a plate or platter and squeeze the lemon (or lime) juice over the slices. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the avocado and finish with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Serve with a loaf of fresh bread or crostini. Just looking at these pictures is making me hungry!

perfectly ripe avocado slices

so delicious (and healthy)!

Bye for now...
 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In the Garden: what's blooming in mid-July 2014

My garden is looking lovely this summer. Many of the flowers I planted last summer have grown in and look amazing! I love coming home after work and looking over everything that's growing and blooming. There were a few casualties, as there every summer, but most of what I've planted has survived. I planted a few new flowers this summer -  a few more daisies and some 3' high garden phlox for height.

Here's a bouquet of flowers from my garden. It's so wonderful to be able to go snip a few flowers from the garden to bring inside. Makes me happy!

a home grown bouquet


Here is what's blooming this year, in mid-July. (See last year's garden pictures here, and 2012 pictures here.)

My Clematis 'Roguchi' is HUGE this year. I highly recommend this clematis.

an amazing profusion of blooms...


and the seed heads are adorable!!

cute sedum in a pot

bzzz bzzz bzzz

Liatris spicata Kobold in full bloom


Hakonechloa macra 'Naomi' (Japanese Fountain Grass) in the forefront

Geranium Rozanne blooming away

a close up of the Geranium Rozanne


my Echinacea purpurea 'Virgin' looks great this year! So many blooms...



the little fern in the back is growing nicely

Phlox paniculata David, newly planted last month. It's about 3 1/2 feet tall!

a close up of the garden Phlox

the seed heads of my peony ('Festiva Maxima')

bleeding heart foliage (Dicentra spectabilis)

Platycodon grandiflorus 'Sentimental Blue' (dwarf balloon flower)

Astilbe chinensis 'Visions in White' with a stem of Liatris in the front

Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster,' Feather Reed Grass...
the brown seed heads are really pretty against the tall green grass


Bye for now...