Monthly Archives: February 2015

Sitting on the counter, calling my name

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If my husband was forced to choose between maple syrup and bacon, he would probably choose to lie down on the floor and quietly, sadly expire. Beer should probably also be included. While I wouldn’t miss beer quite as much as he would, I can say that the maple and bacon conundrum would be an issue for me, too.

The combination of maple, bacon, and pecans is one that I try to work into our meals as often as is reasonably possible, though the three don’t always show up in the same recipe. One favorite is blueberry-pecan pancakes with maple syrup and bacon on the side for breakfast. You can imagine how intrigued I was when I read in the March issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray about their maple bacon muffin idea.

Unfortunately, the basic muffin mix in the magazine called for vegetable oil, and I don’t love vegetable oil in baked goods. Olive oil is the one exception, and then only in very particular applications (like a citrus loaf cake in Melissa Clark’s book In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite–in that application, it’s absolutely wonderful…or in Clothilde Dusoliers’ olive oil tart crust, also wonderful). But the idea of the muffins wouldn’t go away, so I looked online for a basic muffin recipe, and found it at King Arthur Flour. It’s very simple, with all-purpose flour, sugar, eggs, leavening, milk, and oil or butter–dealer’s choice.

To make myself feel less guilty about the maple and bacon, I decided to do some swapping on the flour front. I used a mix of white whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour, swapped some of the granulated sugar out for maple sugar, and used buttermilk instead of milk. I also upped the buttermilk and butter some, to add a little more moisture for the whole wheat flours. The resulting muffins didn’t dome much, but they’re moist, savory-sweet, and sitting on the counter calling my name. Two of them have mysteriously disappeared already.
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Maple-Bacon Muffins with Pecans
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray and the King Arthur Flour website

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp maple sugar, plus more for topping
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1 c + 2 tbsp buttermilk
1/4 c + 1/2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
1 tbsp maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
3 or 4 slices chopped cooked bacon

1. Preheat oven to 500. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners, or spray with cooking spray.

2. In a large mixing bowl, measure out the flours, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.

3. In a medium bowl (or 4 cup liquid measure, which makes one less dirty dish) measure out the buttermilk and then whisk in the butter, eggs, and maple syrup. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, and stir one or two times around the bowl.

4. Add the pecans and bacon and stir into the batter, stirring only until just combined. It’s okay to have some small streaks of flour still showing. You don’t want to over-stir, or the muffins can become tough.

5. Scoop batter into muffin tin, filling just below the rim of the liner or tin. Sprinkle maple sugar on the top of each muffin. Place in oven and reduce heat to 400 (the initial blast of heat helps give them some lift, according to the King Arthur Flour recipe). Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean. These took 16 minutes in my gas oven.

One of those people…

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True Confession: I’m one of those people who get really excited about holidays and birthdays. I know every day is beautiful blah, blah, blah…but holidays and birthdays are legit reasons to celebrate and be excessive and not have people look at you funny. Unfortunately, I’m also one of those people who get so excited about holidays and birthdays that I have a movie in my head for how I want them to go, and I work really hard to make sure that the decorations and food and…well, everything in my control…are wonderful.
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Only…I never share that movie in my head. Because really, who needs to ‘fess up to that kind of crazy, right? But what it means is that I put all this pressure on myself, and then the day inevitably winds up not matching my movie. And then I’m sad and irritated that it didn’t.

How many of you are collecting sympathy donations for my husband right now? Don’t feel too badly for him…he eats well. And I’m never annoyed at HIM (well, about that stuff, anyway) but I imagine that my end-of-the-day blues are not easy to ignore.

It happened again for Valentine’s Day. The morning started off well, with cards and silly gifts and breakfast, and then we walked the dogs and had lunch (I couldn’t help the cute–the beet soup and sandwich were our lunch). After lunch, we were invited to a 50th birthday celebration for a lovely woman we’ve met since moving to the North Country, and then we got home and snacked on melty brie with cranberry chutney…and here’s where my movie went awry.

I had planned a delicious, simple dinner (An awesome chicken ragu with bacon from The Kitchn, a salad, and a DIVINE Salted Caramel Creme Brulee from Fine Cooking. I’d even made the ragu and the custard in advance, so we could enjoy dinner without any pressure.
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But we weren’t hungry. Because we ate so much cheese.

And I was sad and annoyed. And then I was annoyed that I was sad and annoyed. So I decided enough, already. When I woke up on Sunday, I mentally hit the reset button and we went and had a Valentine’s Day Redux. We had a leisurely morning with breakfast and while Larry did a quick snow-plow of the drifting snow from the driveway, I packed us a light lunch to bring over to Vermont. We went to the Shelburne Museum to see the Kodachrome and jewelry exhibits, ran some quick errands, stopped into a bar for a beer and a snack, and headed home to finally have that dinner. Which was lovely.
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The moral of the story: I’m going to work on the whole birthday/holiday-movie-in-my-head thing. And I’ll be making that creme brulee a lot. I mean, A LOT, a lot. You should, too.
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Soup!

A gratuitous photo of the sandwich I wrote about the other day, because I really hope you’ll try it!
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It is eye-wateringly cold here. When I checked the temperature at about 8 a.m. today, it was at -9. Despite the cold, it was a good day to be outside because of the brilliantly blue sky. We took the dogs for a quick romp in the woods, and then made the rounds of a few farms in the area. (It had warmed up to about 13 degrees.)

One of my new favorite things is raw milk. I don’t ordinarily drink milk by the glass, saving it for cooking and baking, and for my coffee, but raw milk is absolutely delicious. It’s kind of cool to drive by the cows in the fields that you know are the ones that provided what you’re drinking. And in the case of the yogurt and cheese we can buy, what you’re eating. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to live near some amazing farms.

Taking new roads–today’s was Rte. 9 South from Rte. 22–always brings astonishing scenery, like sheer walls of rock covered in ice falls. It also gives me new chances to practice driving on country roads that haven’t been cleared as well as the main roads, which is good. I’d rather practice at 30 mph when no one is around than at 65 mph on a highway.

For lunch today, I made this soup that Luisa at The Wednesday Chef blogged about:
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http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_wednesday_chef/2015/02/amelia-morris-corn-chile-and-potato-soup.html
Larry and I don’t mind spicy, so we added the second chipotle in adobo, and the soup was just right for us. I didn’t have any shredded cheddar but I did have a Mexican string cheese, so I diced that up and sprinkled it over our bowls. Usually, when I read things like, “You won’t even miss the meat!” I have to admit to scoffing a little bit. But, um, you won’t even miss the meat. This is one of the most savory, delicious soups I’ve ever eaten, and it is simple to make. Even better, I was able to use my onions and potatoes, and corn that I’d frozen from what we bought from the local farms this summer. Eating what I’ve grown always seems to make things taste better, and it’s a satisfying feeling.

Ahem. Especially after two full bowls…

19 Carrots

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It’s been so long since I posted here, I didn’t know WordPress had added such a handy “new post” button to the tool bar. Bear with me as I creak back into the swing of things.

Grow:
Upon reflection, I’m thrilled with how the garden went last season. I still have a freezer full of vegetables, tons of tomatoes, Red Kuri squash, a single Butternut squash, and a few Blue Hubbard squash big enough to feed the town. The pickled collard greens recipe I used turned out to be outstanding, and I’ll be doubling what I preserve next year. The other recipes for canning turned out equally wonderful (Thanks, Food in Jars!) We finished the Yukon Gold and Red Norland potatoes, and still have a few pounds of Russets, along with a few pounds of onions. I think there are two bulbs of garlic left (I planted a ton more this fall–there can’t be too much garlic in this house).

On the “Hmm, that didn’t go so well” front: I grew 19 carrots and 23 beets. These do not a winter root cellar fill. Not that I got that built, mind you, so it’s a moot point. Nor did I get the portable green house built, though I have the materials. I also really need to figure out the watering situation, especially now that it looks like the town’s water bills will be going up considerably.

The sweet potatoes were mostly bust. I got about a pound of tiny roots to eat (and they were delicious!). I’ll be skipping them this year, since there are farms in the area growing them organically, and they take a lot of room in the garden. I’ll fill that space with other root vegetables (I hope).

I ran out of time to get the garden completely cleaned up…but that will give me something to do as I pace the rows in April, wishing I could plant things. I picked two bunches of escarole in mid-December, saving them from shivering under their row cover, and that was the end of fresh-from-my-garden food for the season, which makes for a looong haul until May. Though, it was a good run from June to December. I planted an indoor herb garden using a “kit” from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and an apple seed that had sprouted inside an apple I cut up to eat (it’s two inches tall!) and that’s been the extent of fingers-in-the-dirt-time for me. I’m starting to get a little angsty.

But I’ve made my seed-starting chart, ordered seeds and seedlings, (I am once again the definition of over-enthusiastic here) shrubs and trees. Because eventually this snow will melt, and the garden and I will be ready to go again.

Cook:
The picture above is evidence of a labor of love: squeezing key limes for their juice. My sister sends me a box of citrus for Christmas every year, and I asked for lots of key limes in the most recent one. She delivered, ’cause she’s awesome like that, and I have about two and a half cups of key lime juice in the freezer, waiting to be made into pie. I know there are other things I could do with it, but in this house, key limes=key lime pie.

Today, I made a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast that I could probably eat every day of my life. I sauteed a quarter cup of chopped onion, the greens from a grocery store bunch of beets (because I grew 23 of them, and we’ve already eaten the greens), half of a peeled, chopped Cortland apple, and some nutmeg in salted butter until the greens were wilted and the onion and apple were soft. I sandwiched some of that between two pieces of sharp cheddar cheese and slices of sourdough bread, and griddled it up. Starting the day with a kitchen that smells like melted butter is not a bad thing, let me tell you. And the sandwich was earthy and cheesy, with pops of sweetness from the apple and crunch from the bread…I think I’ve just talked myself into having it for dinner.

Read:
Oh! There have been so many fabulous books! Here’s a partial list:
The Sky is Everywhere and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Book 3 in The Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater
Tell Me by Joan Bauer
Our World by Mary Oliver, with photos from her deceased partner, Molly Malone Cook
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

There are more, but that’s all I can remember for now. In other news, today was the first meeting of my Battle of the Books team at our local library: two fifth graders, a sixth grader, and a seventh grader. We have to read six books chosen by the contest’s panel, and in May we’ll compete in a Jeopardy-style tournament with other teams from around the region. The kids are a lively, delightful group, and I enjoyed our 45 minutes together. I have missed–sometimes gut-wrenchingly so–working with kids, so today was really, really good.

Write:
Yeah. Well. Hmph.
Look at these really cute dogs!
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