Strawberry Muffins

Why yes, it is strawberry season in the great Pacific NW.  We are lucky enough to grow the most beautiful strawberries.  When I was a kid you could be hired to pick them.  Your mom or dad would drop you off up at Safeway and the buses would pick you up and take you out near Monroe to pick berries.  The pay was horrible, but the camaraderie was excellent.

The biggest difference in the strawberries now versus then is the size.  I really don’t like the huge berries.  I know they look cool and they ship ever so well, but they’ve gotten woody.

This is a new recipe for me.  I find strawberries bland even though they can be quite acidic.  If I had to give you a quick fix for these muffins, up the salt to 1 teaspoon and don’t forget the lemon juice.  Yes, I was disappointed.

2/3 cup chopped strawberries

3/4 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup milk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Make the muffins: Toss the strawberries in a small bowl with 2 tablespoon granulated sugar; set aside. Whisk the flour, remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl; make a well in the center. Add the eggs to the well and gently whisk. Stir in the milk, melted butter and lemon juice until just combined with small bits of flour remaining. Stir in the strawberry mixture.
  3. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them most of the way.  I keep about a teaspoon or 2 of diced strawberries to put on top.  Bake until the muffins are lightly browned  and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let the muffins cool 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.

* From the Recipe Box:

Next time I’m making cheddar and jalapeno muffins.  I need more oomph in my muffins.

and remember:  Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  Big kiss, Lynn

Tapioca Pudding

I’m a pudding girl.  Oh-oh, we’re back to white food as well.  Both Grandma O and my mom were big pudding makers and tapioca was an all time favorite.  They would make 2 kinds of Tapioca:  minute and bubble.  The best part about the minute is squishing it through your teeth.  You can’t do that with the bubble, but it’s fun to try,

The recipe they used was originally in Betty Crocker’s cookbook.  There’s a recipe on the side of the Minute Tapioca box, but we just never used it.  I’m sure it’s wonderful, but I can’t mess with tradition.  This was not a company dessert; this was just for the family.  In retrospect, I realize mom would whip these desserts up in mere moments and they were my favorites.  It’s what farmer’s wives and daughters did; they fed people, no questions asked.

This pudding is light and fluffy.  It says it serves 6, but that is such a lie.  I eat 2 servings just checking to see if it’s cool enough to eat.  What’s wrong with these people?  You will so enjoy this.  Sometimes we don’t need fancy.  We need comforting, especially now.  I just like a bowl of it.  G loves his with whipped cream; but then what doesn’t he like whipped cream on?  I didn’t get that whipped cream gene.  Give this a try and let me know what you think.

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils.  Remove from heat.  Cool.  Stir In:

1 teaspoon vanilla

Fold in a meringue made with :

2 egg whites

4 tablespoons sugar

Spoon into serving glasses.  Serve with whipped cream.  If desired, fold in fresh or drained canned fruit;  or pour over fruit in serving glass.

 * From the Recipe Box:

Tapioca is the thickening agent mom and Grandma used in Cherry Pie as well.

I made both Grandma’s and the tapioca box recipes today so we could have a side-by-side comparison.  The clear winner was Grandma’s.  G didn’t think he was a tapioca fan, but he was totally impressed.

The fluffy pudding on the left is Grandma’s.

I don’t use fruit in my tapioca.  I want to taste the purity of the pudding.  And, I’ve got to keep it white.  May 17th is Norwegian Constitution Day and I must be ready.

and remember:  This too shall pass.  It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.  Big kiss, Lynn

Raspberry Muffins

I do love a good muffin.  C the MP was up yesterday with a “Care” package that included raspberries, blueberries and rhubarb.  He knows how much I love my fruit.  After eating almost all of the raspberries plain, I thought it would be nice if I shared a few with G via a muffin.  I’m so good about sharing.

I remember this recipe from when I was a kid.  My mom’s mom and my dad’s mom lived together in this big old house in Portland.  I had many a grand adventure going to stay with them.  They would make wonderful delicacies for “us girls”.  I had cantaloupe filled with ice cream, ribbon candy, baked cheese and more.  Things that have forever stayed in my memory.

The bread basket was my favorite.  There would be Flat Bread, different muffins, Rye bread (still my favorite), lefse, krumkake.  The woman knew how to bake.  She had a tiny little kitchen and still managed to bake everyday and everybody stopped by to share in the bounty.

1 1/2 cups flour (2 cups)

1/2 sup sugar (1/4 cup)

2 teaspoons baking powder (3 teaspoons)

1/4 cup shortening

1 egg

1/2 cup milk (1 cup)

Mix together the dry ingredients with a blending fork or a pastry blender.  Then stir in the wet ingredients  just until the ingredients are blended.  At the last, blend in 1 cup raspberries.  Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.   Bake until golden brown.

This is Grandma’s sweet version.  In the parentheses are the changes she would make for “plain”.  A plain muffin would have Wheaties or whole wheat in it.  I always loved the pop of color the raspberries provided.  She rarely added a streusel topping.  Occasionally there would be a sprinkle of sugar, but she was a firm believer in the beauty of the raspberry.  I may have gotten my love of raspberries from her.

* From the Recipe Box:
Grandma also had this wooden handled pastry cutter that I was lucky enough to grab.  I don’t care how bent and disfigured it gets.  Closing it in the drawer simply adds to the cutting ability.
and remember:  If you boil a funny bone, does it become a laughing stock?  Big kiss, Lynn

 

Custard Pie

It must be pie week.  When I was a kid, my mom’s favorite dessert was custard pie.  I thought she was such a maroon.  What I’ve since discovered is the joy of simplicity.  It will never be my favorite dessert, but when I want something smooth, something refreshing, something light, I often turn to Custard Pie.  The old broad was pretty smart after all.

Of course, I think it helps to really love eggs.  Basically, this is an egg pudding.  And as I told you, Norwegians love white food and it doesn’t get much whiter than custard.

Beat slightly with a rotary beater ….. 4 eggs

Then beat in ………………………………………. 2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 2/3 cup milk (with part cream if you want it really rich)

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour into a pastry-lined pie pan.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Bake pie for 15 minutes.  Then turn oven down to 350 degrees to finish baking.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes total.  It can be baked at 425 degrees for the same amount of time.

Bake just until a silver knife inserted into side of filling comes out clean.  The center may still look a bit soft but it will set later.

The crust on this pie can stay almost raw.  One way around that is to bake the crust and the filling separately.  Pour the filling directly into a well greased pie pan the same size as the one in which the crust is baked.  Set the pan in a shallow pan of hot water.  Bake just like the other pie instructions.  When lukewarm, slip the baked filling into the cooled baked pie shell.  Allow to settle a few minutes before serving.  It will look like it was baked in the shell only the bottom will be well cooked.

 * From the Recipe Box:

I actually like baking it in a pie pan without the crust.  I do that with pumpkin pie filling as well.  I don’t need a crust; it’s not my favorite.

I’ll bake it in custard cups or ramekins as well.

I also think the filling needs a strain before baking.

Too long baking makes the custard “watery”.

Thinking of you this Mother’s Day mom.  Until I was 12, I had strep throats at least monthly and custard saved my life.  Thank god for mom’s custard and pear baby food.  It’s a long story for another day.

Sorry about the picture quality, but the pie was gone before retakes were possible.

and remember:   Yes, you are the fairest of them all.  Big kiss, Lynn

Date Bars

Grandma Olson used to make these a hundred years or so ago.  I loved them as a little girl.  I didn’t know that dates were an acquired taste.  I just thought if Grandma made them, they must be good.  And I was right.  Well, a caveat.  That didn’t hold true for lutefisk however.  Some things just never improve no matter who made them.

These are a very soft bar cookie.  The filling is cooked before baking, but remains tender.  I don’t find them very sweet, but I wouldn’t add any extra sugar or sweetener of any kind.  Dates are amazingly sweet if you allow them to filter through your taste buds.  I usually add a bit more salt than called for, which adds to the illusion of sweetness.  I like these a lot and hope you will enjoy them as well.

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Mix together thoroughly:

3/4 cup soft shortening (part butter)

1 cup brown sugar

Sift together and stir in:

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon salt

Stir in:  1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Mix thoroughly. Place one-half of this crumb mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.  Press and flatten with hands to cover bottom of pan. Spread with cooled filling (see below).  Cover with remaining crumb mixture, patting lightly.  Bake until lightly browned, approximately 25 to 30 minutes.  While warm, cut into bars and remove from pan.

Filling:

Mix together in saucepan:

3 cups cut-up dates

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (about 10 minutes).  Cool.

and remember this conversation between Mrs. Darling and Michael, in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: 

There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before ones self. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams.”

Where did he put them?”

“He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”

I was 11 when I first read this book up at Aunty Kay’s cabin at Warm Beach.  It had an amazing impact on me then and I treasure the memories to this day.  I don’t know if I still feel the same way about everything.  Time to read it again.  Big kiss, Lynn

Grandma Olson’s Bread Pudding

I do love bread pudding.  I know I’m constantly telling you how much I love sweets, but ultimately I’m not sure it’s true.  I love “sweetish”.  Not Swedish, but marginally sweet.  This is not a sweet dessert.  It’s more of a custard and you know how we Norwegians love custard.  I think my mom’s favorite pie was custard.  I’m not going that far, but I do love a good custard.

This is Grandma Olson’s bread pudding.  As you can see, it is totally unfancy.  With basically 6 ingredients, you can make this with ingredients on-hand.  I doubt if Grandma specifically called for an Italian boule, but it’s the closest thing I could find to the bread she would use.

The other thing you’ll notice is the lack of a sauce.  Grandma never made a sauce for the bread pudding when she served it.  So often you will see vanilla or rum sauce to serve alongside the pudding, but Grandma always served it with whip cream and a sprinkling of sugar.  Not whipped cream, but straight out of the milk jug cream.  She might froth is up with a fork, but truly this is a simple dessert.

3 cups cubed Italian boule, allowed to stale overnight in a bowl

2 cups granulated sugar

5 beaten eggs

2 cups whole milk or half and half

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup raisins soaked in bourbon for 10 minutes or so

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8 x 8 inch pan.

Combine the sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half in a bowl.  Pour over the cubed bread and let it sit for 10 minutes, so the bread can absorb the liquid.  Add the raisins.

Pour into the greased 8 x 8 inch pan.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set.

There’s not much to this recipe.  I’ve even fancied it up a bit from the way Grandma did it.  I do not remember her soaking the raisins.  I’d eat it right after it comes out of the oven.  You’ll like it; I promise.

*  from the Recipe Box:

A boule is basically a round, fairly dense loaf of white bread.  It is much thicker than a French loaf or baguette.

You’re on your own if you want a sauce, but they are all over the Internet.

and remember:  Tell the truth or someone will tell it for you.  Big kiss, Lynn

Rhubarb Cobbler

You are in for a treat if you make Grandma Olson’s Rhubarb Cobbler.  If you love the Rhubarb Slump at Anthony’s, this is better.  I know what you’re thinking.  You think I’m over doing it on the bragging, but I’m not.

I’ve been making this recipe for years and years.  It’s not cobbler like you are expecting.  There are no biscuits on top, no crumbly topping.  This is a layer of flavorful rhubarb topped with a layer of moist cake.  It is not incredibly sweet.  See, here I go again with my minimally sweet desserts.  This is refreshing and tastes of spring.  And the color, wow, the color.

The cake gets crunchy edges, my favorite part.  You are in control of the quantity of the rhubarb.  If you want the ratio of fruit to cake different, you go for it.  The rhubarb does cook down considerably so keep that in mind.  It will not get juicy.  Rhubarb doesn’t have the moisture in it you might be expecting.

According to the Hunka-hunka, this tastes absolutely perfect with a scoop of ice cream on it and he could eat the whole pan, not that I would let him.  Enjoy.

Cover the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish 2 inches deep with rhubarb, cut into approximately 1 inch slices.  Sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the rhubarb.  Cover with the batter.

Batter:

1 cup sugar

½ cup softened butter

1 egg

¾ cup milk

1 ¾ cups flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar.  Add egg.  Add the milk alternately with the flour and baking powder.  Spread over rhubarb (it’s very thick) and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Best rhubarb recipe ever, even better than Anthony’s Slump!  Buttery, cake-like layer on top instead of the typical crispy cobbler topping.

This was Grandma Olson’s recipe.

Yes, I can eat the whole pan.

I don’t care how often you try and tell me it’s a vegetable,  I will always think of it as a fruit.  So there.

I like having a pan ready to go in the freezer when you can’t get rhubarb to save your soul, say for Thanksgiving.  My Hero!

Do not ever, I repeat never ever, put strawberries with the rhubarb.  I will hurt you!

and remember what Ferris Bueller said:  Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.  Big kiss, Lynn

The Tale of 2 Cranberry Relishes

This is a tale of woe as well as a cranberry tale.  I used to own my Grandma Olson’s meat grinder.  When my brother and I were little, it was the outboard motor on the end of my bed or whatever adventure we were playing that day.  It was just the perfect implement for imagination.  Every holiday it became a kitchen tool.  Mom would let us take turns grinding the cranberries.  Cranberries went in the top, juice went out the bottom and ground cranberries came out the front.  This is a close likeness, but not quite.

After owning it for years and years, it was misplaced some where between our old house and our new house.  I’m verklempt.  Nothing works quite as well.  This year, I bought a new food processor thinking that might do the trick, but no.  Since there is no bottom drainage, the relish stays too juicy.  I also like my relish a little coarser and that is so hard to control with a machine.  This is how my grandma and mom made relish:

  • Rinse and sort 1 or 2 bags of fresh cranberries
  • Grind to a pickle relish consistency
  • Grind 1 or 2 oranges depending on size to a matching consistency
  • Grind a tart apple if available, like a Jonathan
  • Combine in a bowl
  • Add sugar to taste

I can’t even see the orange pieces due to the lack of coarseness in my processed relish.  Sigh.  Even this way, it is still so much fresher tasting than canned.  But, not everyone likes cranberries.  I know, WTF!  So for them, let’s address canned sauce.  If you were told to bring cranberry sauce to the party and didn’t want the mess, I have a solution for you.  Open your can of sauce, place it in a bowl, get out your microplaner, wash off an orange, grate the zest of that orange into the sauce and add a squeeze or 2 of orange juice.  You will not believe it’s not fresh.  Magic!  People will ask for your recipe and you will modestly look away and say it’s an old family recipe and you aren’t allowed to share it.  Everyone is happy and you are a hero.

and remember:  Just because today might be a terrible day does not mean tomorrow won’t be the best day of your like.  You just gotta get there.  Big kiss, Lynn

Lefse and the Norwegian love of white food

This is the very first entry of my very first blog.  I’ve been writing in journals forever.  They are a mixture of my daily routine, a monthly news round-up, the excitement of Christmas, trip plans and the occasional recipe.  I decided the recipes needed to be released and the perfect one to start with was lefse.  It brings us together and keeps us family.  I do have a theory about white food and Norwegians.  I think it’s the snow.  We love potatoes, bread, almond paste, pickled herring (well, that’s not true of us all), and on, and on.  Remind me soon and I’ll tell you the story of getting a bowl of rommegrot for my mom when she was sick.  So the recipe for lefse……

Once a year, the cousins get together at Paul and Linda’s house to make lefse.  We aim for the last Saturday of October.  It’s an incredible amount of work made fun by the company, the champagne and the nibbles.  Paul, Linda, Greg and I get together on the Thursday night before to cook and rice the potatoes.  We usually do about 40 pounds.  The potatoes need to be thoroughly cooled before we can proceed.  We start the process at 10 a.m.  Saturday morning.  Everyone brings a bottle of champagne, a nibble and an apron.  We roll until the potatoes are gone, usually making about 12 dozen pieces.  Everyone takes lefse home, but I don’t think anyone enjoys eating it more than Hillary.

Everyone must pass the lefse test before marrying into the family.

Lefse Recipe

6 cups riced potatoes

1 ¼ cups flour

1/3 cup evaporated milk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Place the riced potatoes into a large bowl.  Thoroughly rub the dry ingredients into the potatoes. Add the milk.  Combine.  Place dough on a well-floured pastry cloth and form into a log.  Cut into 16 slices.  Roll out into an approximately 12 to 14 inch circle.  Bake on lefse grill heated to max.  Flip once.  Cool between several layers of towels to allow it to cool as slowly as possible and avoid crisping up.  As it cools, fold in fourths and overlap edges to keep soft.  Freezes well with waxed paper between each slice.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Typically, we boil 30 to 40 pounds of potatoes.  A few years ago I had an epiphany and decided to try baking them to keep them dryer and fluffier.  Eureka!  It worked like a dream.  Millions of Norwegians are rolling in their graves.  We also quit ricing and started using the Kitchen Aid shredder.  Easy squeezy.  As a purist, I prefer the ricer but this gets the job done so fast.  Paul, Linda, Greg and I do potatoes on a Thursday so they are well chilled by Saturday, Lefse Day.

The key to properly made lefse lies in tradition.  You must have lots of Champagne, hors d’ouevres, and your favorite cousins to help.

One year, a friend of Chris’ asked to participate.  We don’t normally allow outsiders, but she was a fun friend.  We told her the rules:  bring Champagne, an apron and an hors d’ouevre and that’s all.  She arrives wearing this beautiful long, red wool coat and we’re all going WTF!  She looks around, asks if there are any guys here and then drops her coat.  All she’s wearing is an apron and she’s holding a bottle of Champagne.  What a hoot!  The amount of Champagne consumed is directly related to the quality of the lefse.  40 pounds of potatoes makes approximately 12 dozen pieces of lefse.

And remember:  From quiet homes and first beginnings out to undiscovered ends, there’s nothing worth the wear of winning but laughter and the love of friends.  Big Kiss, Lynn