Rhubarb Muffins

I love rhubarb.  I’ve also discovered Norwegians in general love rhubarb. It’s one of the first signs of spring in Moorhead, Minnesota.  People in Norway greet it with cheers and festivals.  There’s something about the sweet and tart aspect of rhubarb that totally appeals to everyone in Scandinavia.

So, why do we love rhubarb so much?  Because we’re smart, we have great taste, it’s good for you, it’s very versatile, it’s a hardy plant that comes back year after year.  My mom always canned rhubarb sauce each spring.  You never see it anymore, but that would be dessert.  It was fabulous.

The first book I ever bought written by Martha Stewart was Entertaining.  It was a glorious book with a fabulous idea on every page.  One of the recipes was for rhubarb bread.  I’ve loved that recipe since I first made it a zillion years ago.  These muffins are a riff on that recipe.  I’ll hunt up the bread recipe soon and share that with you as well.  You’ll love it.

4 tablespoons room temperature butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 to 8 ounces rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks, approximately 1 1/2 cups

1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  With an electric mixer, beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until smooth.  Beat in egg; add buttermilk and beat to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to butter mixture; beat until smooth.  Fold in rhubarb.

Spoon mixture into prepared muffin tin, dividing evenly among 12 paper lined cups.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Now, I freeze containers of rhubarb.  If you put 2 cup ziplocks filled with rhubarb in the freezer, you always have rhubarb when you feel the need for a hint of spring.

and remember:  I dream of a better world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.  Big kiss, Lynn

Pshaw on Scones

I give up.  I’m done with scones.  I’ve tried several more recipes and the hockey puck industry has filed a cease and desist order on me.  They say I’m interfering with their ability to have a monopoly on hockey pucks.  I truly don’t get it.  I follow the instructions, I use the perfect ingredients, I don’t over knead.  Frustrating!  This is the second thing I’ve given up on.  Remember the baked donuts.  Oy!

So, I’ve chosen to move on.  I’m still looking at scone recipes, but I change the ingredients into muffins.  I’m usually not a quitter, but the whole scone thing has defeated me.  The next scone I was going to try was dried cherry.  This makes a great muffin.  Since the muffin batter is mildly sweet, adding the tart dried cherries is the perfect counter balance.  I didn’t have a full cup of dried cherries so I added some craisins as well.  We’re big craisins fans and like them in sweet and savory items.  Dried blueberries would have worked as well, but there weren’t any.  We are big nibblers.  C’est la vie!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

topping:

14 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

14 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

muffins:

2 cups flour

12 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

12 teaspoon baking soda

12 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup sour cream

13 cup vegetable oil

12   cup milk

1 cup dried tart cherries

12 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

For the topping: Combine flour, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; mix well.  Set aside.

For the muffin:  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl.  In another bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, oil and milk; mix well. Add egg mixture, cherries and pecans to flour mixture; stir only until combined. Portion batter evenly into 12 paper-lined or lightly greased muffin cups (2 3/4 inches in diameter). Sprinkle reserved crumb topping evenly over batter.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

*  From the Recipe Box:

That incredible fruit distribution is from mixing the cherries and pecans into the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients.

and remember:  If you knew success was a certainty, what would you do?  Big kiss, Lynn

(I know I wouldn’t waste it on donuts or scones!)

Croque Madame

Did I ever mention that the Hunka-hunka and I have yearly Nancy Meyer film marathons?  I also can’t ignore one of her movies if I see it on TV.  For myself, her interior design is incredible, and except for the crying, her women are on the most part strong, and the food, yes, the food.  I still haven’t forgiven Diane Keaton for dumping Keanu Reeves for Jack Nicholson though; what a maroon.

But I digress, again.  The first time I saw a Croque Madame was in It’s Complicated.  So simple that it became elegant.  Good food done perfectly is the height of class to me.  Since then, I’ve seen Ina and Jeffery have them at a bistro in Paris while sharing a bottle of champagne.  When I grow up I’m going to be this classy.

They couldn’t be any easier to make.  You’ve basically been making them for years without the bechamel sauce.  The Croque Madam has an egg and the Croque Monsiuer does not, other than that they are identical.  They are incredibly rich, so I often cut down on the cheese.  To make 2 sandwiches assemble:

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour for a minute or 2.  Slowly add the milk until thickened.  Add the Parmesan.  Season and set aside.

For the Croque Monsiuer or Madame:

  • 4 Slices sandwich bread (good solid rustic white or sourdough bread)
  • 4 slices good quality ham
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (my favorite)

Grill the bread.  I can’t grill bread without butter, but it’s entirely up to you.  Place 2 slices of the grilled bread on a baking sheet.  Add a tablespoon or 2 of the bechamel sauce to each stack.  Top each pair with a couple slices of ham.  Mix together half of the Gruyere cheese and the bechamel sauce and spread on the ham.  Top with the remaining cheese and grill until toasty.

For the Croque Madame:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg per sandwich
  • freshly cracked pepper

Be frying your eggs in the meantime, low and slow.  Serve on top of bechamel sauce.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I usually serve these open face, so only 1 slice of bread each.

This is breakfast, lunch or dinner at my house.  I love an arugula salad with it.  Just arugula tossed with good olive oil and S & P.  Bon Appetit as Julia would say.

This is a composite of several different recipes.  They are all fairly similar.

and remember what Charles Bukowski said:  We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.   Big kiss, Lynn

Cranberry Orange Muffins

This recipe really takes me back.  Once upon a time, there were small 25 to 30 page cookbooks at every grocery check out.  I’m fairly sure Mom and Julie bought every one.  The cookbooks  would focus on a specific subject like all the Pillsbury Bake-off winners for that year.  This recipe came from one of those.  When I originally made it, the recipe called for a bundt pan.  The trouble with that is leftovers.  We don’t get the company we used to.  I find it much easier to freeze a muffin than 3/4 of a bundt pan.

This is from one of mom’s books.  She wrote ‘fantastic’ next to the recipe.  I have to agree with her.  The orange is subtle.  The cranberry is sharp.  The apple adds mellowness.  It’s refreshing and not at all heavy as muffins can be.  I wish I’d kept more of the books.  Like the mid-west church books, these come from a simpler past and have a wealth of good ideas in them.

Ingredients

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk the egg, milk, orange juice, oil and orange zest; stir into dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in the cranberries and apple.
  • Pour into two greased 8 x 4-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I did not peel my apple.  As if!!!!

I wanted a streusel top, so I mixed up 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons butter until crumbly and sprinkled it over the top.  I wish I’d added pecans as well.

I baked my dough in muffin pans.  Optimally, this would have made 14 or 15 muffins, but I only have one muffin pan.  Bummer.  Next time I’ll make 6 muffins and one loaf.

I didn’t use to be a messy cook, but this is my total prep space.  I do have a great view though.

And yes, that is one half of a Death Star bowl.  I’m cool, I own both halves.  Eat your heart out.

and remember:  I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

 

Polenta and Eggs

I think I’ve mentioned before how we sold our house and moved to our cabin a few years back.  The big house had bookcases for days and I kept them all filled.  Now I’m a regular library user.  Fortunately we do have the best library in the world here on the Island.  But there are some things I want for my very own and that’s cookbooks.  I have a rule now:  I check out the book twice and if I love it after two check-outs, it’s OK to buy it.  And trust me, it’s got to be good because the cabin is small and does not have a lot of bookcases.

Another digression, sorry.  This is all about Chrissy Teigen’s new cookbook:  Cravings: Hungry for More.  I loved her first book.  She cooks the way I do, easy squeezy.  Her new book came out this year and I’ve checked it out from the library the required two times and it’s so good, I bought it last week.  There’s some really good looking, laid back recipes that I can’t wait to try.  Gluten Free Girl was up today and I decided to feed her the Polenta, mushrooms and eggs.  Nummy!

I didn’t actually use Chrissy’s recipe; I have a polenta/cornmeal mush/grits recipe I really like that I shared last month.  Basically, I used her picture and that’s why I have to break down and buy cookbooks.  I would never have thought about using polenta as the base for my eggs.  It really did need a kick up though.  Just an egg would have been kind of boring.  The mushrooms were just the right addition.  Due to the amount of starch the cornmeal provided, no one needed toast or the like.

  1. cook your polenta
  2. saute the mushrooms
  3. fry eggs
  4. assemble

We all voted after eating them.  G was a little reluctant to try them at first; he was not convinced it would be something he would enjoy.  After he cleaned his plate, he offered to finish off mine.  What a nice guy.  Unfortunately, I got busy multitasking and my egg pictures aren’t as pretty as they should be, but that did not affect the taste at all.

Thanks, Chrissy

and remember:  Be a mess.  It’s fine.  The universe is a mess.  Galaxies are drifting all over the place.  To be tidy is to be out of tune with the cosmos.  Big kiss, Lynn 

Banana Bread/Muffins

I can’t remember a time when my mom did not make banana bread.  She always had a loaf or 2 hanging around.  As I write this, it happens to be her birthday so my thoughts are with her today.  While I rarely make banana bread, I did have a request for the pumpkin muffins made with chocolate chips instead of pecans.  That sounds totally ka-ka to me, so I’ve been thinking about alternatives.  Up popped mom’s birthday and the rest is history.

Chocolate chips do not ring my chimes, but I think I’m the only person who feels that way.   This is a truly fine banana bread recipe.  I just decided to add chocolate chips to make my little sous chef happy.  He’ll do anything for me, it seems only fair I do it for him.

If you choose to follow the recipe as originally intended, you will end up with 2 moist loaves with intense banana flavor, although a smear of butter makes it even better.  If you choose to make it into muffins, you will still get a moist muffin but with J’s requested chocolate chips.  You choose and let me know what you think.

½ cup butter

1 ¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

¼ sour cream

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons rum (or milk if you’d rather)

1 cup mashed bananas, very ripe

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon soda

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cup chopped nuts or mini-chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs and sour cream.  Mix in almond extract and rum.  Add dry ingredients alternately with bananas, beginning and ending with flour.  Stir in nuts.  Bake in 2 greased 8 x 4 loaf pans at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes.  Cool on racks.

To make the muffins, follow all the steps until “stir in nuts”.  Instead, add a cup or a cup and 1/2 of mini chocolate chips.  Using an ice cream scoop, portion into paper lined muffins cups.  This will make approximately 18.  Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

*  From the Recipe Box:

This is mom’s recipe.  The woman could bake!  I’ve tasted a lot of Banana Bread in my time, but none better than this.  Great flavor, moist, nummy and I don’t even like bananas.

One banana equals approximately 1/2 cup mashed banana.

and remember:  Never be cool.  Never try and be cool.  Never worry about what the cool people think.  Head for the warm people.  Life is warmth.  You’ll be cool when you’re dead.

Big kiss, Lynn

Polenta

If I gave you the choice between cornmeal mush, grits and polenta, which would you choose?  Polenta, or as my dad would call it, Cornmeal Mush or Grits, are the exact same thing.  Cornmeal made for mush is ground a little finer.  Do some things not translate?  Is it fancier to call something by a foreign name even though it’s the exact same thing you grew up with?  When I was a kid, my dad would request cornmeal mush for breakfast.  Am I guilty of a little snobbery here?  You noticed I labeled this post polenta, not cornmeal mush or grits, so I’m just as guilty.  I wanted you to look.

In this era of gluten-free everything, why aren’t we using cornmeal more often?  My dad grew up in Idaho.  Until the day he died, he said it was a good place to be from.  Mush was a part of his daily meals, if he was lucky.  Poverty was the norm in Depression era Idaho and yet dad had nothing but good memories of cornmeal mush.

This wasn’t a staple in my mom’s Minnesota home, so we all had to learn from dad.  He liked it formed into a loaf to firm and then sliced and fried.  He then liked it served with syrup.  And not maple syrup, but dark Karo syrup or molasses.  Or along side pork chops with gravy.  He liked it in a bowl with milk and sugar.  It’s a different taste if you aren’t used to it, but on a cold winter day, it might be worth a try.

3 cups water

1 cup milk

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese if you are using this as a side dish

Bring the water and the salt to a boil in a saucepan.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk and cornmeal to a smooth paste.  Slowly add the cornmeal to the boiling water.  Return to a boil and then reduce to low.  Stir almost constantly for about 15 minutes until it thickens to a consistency you find pleasing.  Serve it warm with a little more cheese sprinkled on top.

and remember what my super amazing Nina Simone had to say:  It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feelin’ good.  Big kiss, Lynn