Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Well, I really didn’t intend to be away for two months. I suppose I could give you a bunch of lame excuses, but what does it matter. There were muffins. Muffins are good.

I made these so long ago that I can’t remember for sure why I chose to put oatmeal in blueberry muffins. I think I wanted oatmeal muffins, but I also wanted simple blueberry muffins. Sometimes compromise is so good, I wonder why everybody in the world doesn’t do it all the time!

These muffins are moist and dense without being heavy. The blueberries give what they always give to muffins: a burst of juicy fruitiness. The oatmeal tastes hearty and wholesome, and gives the muffins a less cake-like texture than they would have with flour alone. The muffins really were like portable breakfast, and a halfway healthy one at that.

I’d like to promise that I’ll be here more often in the months to come. I’ve promised myself that very thing, and if I can put together some recipes that are as simple and delicious as this one, it should be easy to keep that promise. Wish me luck with that!

Coming soon: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Cheesy Spring Vegetable and Noodle Casserole

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
Based on a recipe in The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

1 ¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup regular rolled oats
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with cupcake liners. Set aside.

2.  In a small bowl, combine the 1 tablespoon flour and blueberries. Toss to coat. Set aside.

3. Combine the 1 ¼ cup flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.

4. In another medium-size bowl, combine the egg and the melted butter. Whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the yogurt, milk and vanilla extract.

5. Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Gently stir in the flour-coated blueberries.

6. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin pan. Bake at 400 F about 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.

7. Cool the muffins in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let stand until cool enough to eat. Keep leftovers in an airtight container or wrap well and freeze.

Makes 12 muffins

Another recipe like this one: Blueberry Coconut Muffins

Monday, March 28, 2016

Chocolate Pie

The pies may be few and far between, but they’re still coming! (Way back last fall, I decided to make more pies.) And this one, with its milk chocolate filling, graham cracker crust and fluffy white, marshmallowy topping, might just have the right flavors to hold you over until s’mores season.

The first time I tried this pie, which is adapted from Food Network Magazine, I messed up the crust. The original recipe had a chocolate crust, but I wanted more of a s’mores flavor to my pie. I made a graham cracker crust, but I went about it all wrong and it turned out barely edible and not at all shareable. The filling was wonderfully delicious, however, so I wanted to give it another shot. I consulted a trusted source (The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum), and fixed my crust problem.

The delightful chocolate filling has a wonderful texture, more like fudge, not quite gooey, but not cakey either, and definitely not creamy like a pudding (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I loved that fudgy texture, but I loved the smooth milk chocolate flavor even more.

I found the topping surprisingly exciting, too. It’s a mixture of whipped cream and marshmallow cream with just a bit more sugar. It’s not as sweet as straight-up marshmallow, but it holds up better than whipped cream, without getting deflated, weepy and watery. In fact, I liked this topping trick so much that I hope to use it on other cream pies again.

Of course using that topping for a pie again means making pie again. Pies may be less frequently on my dessert table than I’d like, but if they’re as special as this one, they would be worth the wait.

Chocolate Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Marshmallow Topping
Adapted from The Pie and Pastry Bible and Food Network Magazine

For the crust:
5 ounces graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
8 ounces milk chocolate
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup marshmallow cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Additional graham crackers for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. To make the crust, process the graham crackers and sugar in the food processor to fine crumbs. Pour the 5 tablespoons melted butter into the processor and pulse until the crumbs are well moistened. Firmly press the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

2. To make the filling: in a medium-size saucepan, combine the stick of butter and chocolate. Heat over low heat to melt, stirring frequently, until the mixture is very smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

3. Whisk in the ½ cup sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Continue whisking until smooth. Whisk in the flour.

4. Pour the filling mixture into the crust and smooth it out. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is firm and set, and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Cool completely.

5. To make the topping, combine the heavy cream, marshmallow cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until thick, fluffy and smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.

6. Spread the topping evenly over the top of the cooled pie. Crumble additional graham cracker over the top of the pie if desired.

Makes about 8 servings. Refrigerate leftovers for a few days. The pie keeps rather well.

Another recipe like this one: Peppermint Brownie Pie

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Menu from the Archives: Easter Brunch

I suppose, if you are having Easter Brunch this weekend, you should have it planned by now. If you’re like me, however, well, maybe a few details need some ironing out (to say the least). Here’s a suggested menu from the archives for Easter, or any spring brunch.

A sweet starter: Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting. You can get up crazy early and start these rolls from scratch, but you can start them the day before and save yourself some time. Make the dough and prepare the rolls up to the point where they are snuggled in the pan. Cover well with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The rolls will slowly proof overnight and you can bake them the next morning. Make the frosting while they bake.

As an alternative morning sweet, you could make Cappuccino Coffee Cake with Mocha Crumb Topping or Blueberry Coconut Muffins.

A baked egg main course: start with this southwest flavored egg bake and replace the seasonings and chile peppers with fresh herbs.

Alternatively, you could make Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon or Ricotta Tart with Peppers and Onions if you have more time.

A side dish: you could always serve toast or Buttermilk Biscuits, but a nice spring salad like Brown and Wild Rice Salad with Asparagus and Peas or a green salad with Maple Walnut Vinaigrette would be great.

A fruit salad and some jelly beans can round out your Easter brunch menu. If you’re in one of the places newly blanketed in snow just in time for Easter, perk up your spring holiday with brunch. It just screams “Spring!” even if Mother Nature isn’t quite ready to do so. Have a happy Easter and think spring!