butterscotchblastoff

Kick start your day with a good breakfast

When did cooking become a chore?

What happened to the DIY movement? The artisan preservers, the butchers, the seed-to-skillet crowd? I loved that back-to-the-kitchen, fill-your-own-larder, resurrecting-lost-skills trend. Well, I guess that was its fate… a trend has a finite life.

Nowadays, it’s meal-delivery kits and grab-and-go and ordering in. Makes me very sad. Cooking and baking are two of life’s most nourishing activities, in every sense of the word. (I know I’m preaching to the choir here.)

This weekend, we were invited to dinner with friends: a happy, relaxed, homemade sit-down meal outdoors around a beautiful platter of roast chicken and potatoes. We handed around not one (broccoli), not two (asperagus), but three vegetables (mashed sweet potatoes), and homemade bread (ok, the butter was store-bought). They were all made by hand by a lovely Australian mother of three, living in the States for her husband’s job. Their two daughters and son made lively conversation; we learned a bit about life in Australia; we were able to see America from a new perspective. The perfect evening!

On a blog called Life Currents, I found a recipe for dessert, an old-fashioned apple-walnut cake. 

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In my enthusiasm, I forgot to measure the apples, so I suspect I had an apple-to-cake ratio that wasn’t ideal. But I enjoyed every minute of making it, from paring the apples (and sharing nuggets with three hungry dogs) to beating the batter to watching it rise in the oven to enjoying the compliments from the kids and adults (and to this nice slice for breakfast!). It didn’t have to be perfect; it was a gesture of friendship. It wasn’t a chore; it was a gift both to myself and to my hosts.

Life should never be too hectic to push you out of the kitchen and away from handmade meals. Take the time today, tonight, tomorrow, next month, next year…. You’ll be so glad you did.

 

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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Not hard to guess what’s on the menu this morning: Irish Soda Bread from the Brooklyn Bread Lab in honor of the grit and talent of the Irish and Irish-Americans who made New York City such an energetic, productive city.

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And the end result: Light and sweet! The dough is very shaggy, so keep your hands well floured as you incorporate the raisins and shape the loaf.  I cut an X into the top to ensure it cooks through.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. fresh orange zest

1/2 tsp. baking soda

3 tbsp. butter (chilled, cubed)

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup raisings

Sugar in the raw to garnish

Preheat over to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, orange zest, and baking soda. Add butter and pinch into flour until pea-size pieces are formed. Add buttermilk and stir with a spoon until dough begins to form. Add raisins and word dough with hands until mixture is fully combined. Grease a lined sheet tray. Form round dough ball in tray center. Flatten dough ball until it’s 1 1/2 inches thick. Sprinkle loaf with raw sugar. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool before cutting.

So I’m off to the parade and a pint at my local. I’ve had many a raucous time at St. Paddy’s Day celebrations in my past, so this one can be quiet for a change. I saw a notice for a Sober St. Pat’s party and I thought, “Hey, maybe…” and then I said, “Nah.”

I’ll be thinking about Donegal, my favorite part of the Auld Country. You can see why.

 

 

 

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Kicking off the Leftover Season

Thanksgiving deserves its own moment and attention, and Chuck and I did it up big this year: 23-pound turkey with all the trimmings. Now… onto the leftovers!

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The breakfast of champions.

Martina McBride’s bacon-cheddar biscuits with Chuck’s homemade cranberry sauce! I need to be more generous with the cheddar next time; there’s plenty of bacon!

Martina

Oxmoore House $30 hardcover October 2018

Martina’s new cookbook is as pretty and warm as her gorgeous voice.

Martha Stewart’s cheddar-sage biscuit has been my go-to biscuit for a long time—long enough to need a rest, but so delicious nobody wants me to stray too far. Martina’s Cheddar Biscuits With Bacon do the trick. ‘The original recipe didn’t call for bacon,’ she says. ‘(That was my idea. You’re welcome!)’ Thank you, Martina, for your magical music and your culinary magic!

Cheddar Biscuits With Bacon

Serves 6         Hands On 30 Minutes          Total 45 Minutes

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted cold butter, cubed

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

6 pieces smoked bacon, cooked and chopped

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 450˚
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly coat with vegetable oil.
  3. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, or use two knives, until butter is the size of peas; stir in the cheese and bacon.
  4. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small bowl. Add to the flour mixture just until incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly flour surface, and pat or roll dough into ¾-inch thickness; cut with a 3-inch round cutter, and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

If you’re in a rush, these work great as drop biscuits. Using an ice cream scoop or ¼-cup measuring cup, drop the batter on the prepared pan.—(c) 2018 Martina McBride

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Heads up!

7 Sundays

Howard Books; $26 hardcover

On December 4, Alec Penix’s Seven Sundays: A Faith, Fitness and Food Plan for Lasting Spiritual and Physical Change hits bookstore shelves. I’m giving it a test drive and it is terrific!

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Alec Penix, celebrity trainer 

I’m on Day 11 of 43, so Alec and I are still in the honeymoon period (and I’ve already demurred a lot on the exercise part, though the Worship Walks are no problem for this long-time New Yorker who can do a mile in less than 20 minutes).

Every day, he and his co-author Myatt Murphy ask the reader to work on Alec’s Pillars of Promise, to “concede,” “honor,” “offer,” “sleep,” and “exercise.” That stands for CHOSEN. You do have to surrender to God in this program, but as I transition from my lifelong–so far–Catholic faith to Presbyterianism, I’m happy to think more about that relationship.

There are no recipes in this book, though there is a lot on nutrition and a whole process by which you toss out the processed junk foods in your diet and slowly but surely substitute them with whole foods.

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Wholly delicious! 

This recipe from Reader’s Digest’s Foods That Harm Foods That Heal certainly fits into the Seven Sundays plan! Bake. Share. Repeat! 

Carrot Ginger Yogurt Muffins

Makes 12

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes plus cooling

Healing Foods: flour, ginger, chia, oats, carrots, apples, yogurt

Ailments It Heals: arthritis, blood pressure, hives, interstitial cystitis

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp ground ginger

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup chia seeds or flaxseed

½ cup rolled oats, plus extra to sprinkle

2 packed cups finely grated carrots (2 medium carrots)

1 packed cup grated apple (1 medium apple)

1 egg

½ cup low-fat plain yogurt

½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ Coat 12 standard-size muffin cups with cooking spray or insert paper liners.
  2. In large bowl, sift flour, ginger and baking soda. Add sugar, chia seeds, and oats. Mix to combine, then mix in carrots and apples. Make a well in center of mixture.
  3. In small bowl, whisk together egg and yogurt. Stir in vanilla. Add to well in large bowl and stir together until mixture is just combined (do not overstir).
  4. Spoon evenly into muffin tin. Sprinkle each with extra oats.
  5. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

Per muffin: 118 calories, 4 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 3g  fiber, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 186 mg sodium

From the book FOODS THAT HARM FOODS THAT HEAL, reprinted with permission by Trusted Media Brands, Inc., Copyright © 2018. All rights reserved.

I’m sharing this recipe with my friends in the New York Walkers Club, a group of about 50 men and women of all ages who race-walk under the direction of an inspiring, funny, friendly, dedicated professional athlete named Lon Wilson:

“Baking is what I do on weekend mornings when I’m not race-walking around Central Park. It took me years to learn the patience successful baking requires, but now that I’m better than I was (I’m always impatient to taste the results)… Wow! What a contemplative, sensual experience it is. Using whole foods, enjoying how the kitchen smells as they come together In the oven, and best of all sharing the treats with friends and family make baking a healthy way to spend quality time.”

 

 

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Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Scones

scones

I missed Columbus Day by a few, but these savory scones from Ivy Manning’s Easy Soups From Scratch With Quick Breads to Match would be perfect for any Italian feast. They are so light and yet so filling. One was perfect and should be savored; I had to stop myself from gobbling it down in three bites. Buttermilk gives it more depth. Tastes like there’s Parmesan cheese in here, even though there isn’t. Perfect as is, but I’d recommend eating them fresh from the oven. Believe me, they’ll be gone in a flash if you have four or more people at the table any time of the day.

The prep work is simple and satisfying: chopping sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach; measuring flour and cutting in butter–Ivy promises easy and she delivers! 20 minutes in a 400° oven and they’re done–second promise delivered!

There is a lot in this Chronicle cookbook adapted from Ivy’s popular cooking class:

  • Egg and Lemon Soup With Toasted Orzo and Kale with Zucchini, Feta, and Dill Muffins
  • Lighter Broccoli and Cheese Soup with Beer and Cheese Bread (next up for me!)
  • Black Bean Soup With Roasted Red Pepper Cream which she recommends with these savory scones

And as always with Chronicle cookbooks, there’s some delightful design element.

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Two sewn-in grosgrain bookmarks!

If you can’t make your way to Portland for Ivy’s classes (or catch her on Facebook Live), this book will turn you into a top-of-the-class comfort food provider.

 

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Happy Oktoberfest!

Finally! The air is almost wrung out of all the humidity of late summer. The sunlight has taken on a softer golden glow and the leaves are drifting down from the trees. Turning on the oven to bake is not the torture it is in Manhattan in August/September. And with Oktoberfest upon us, pumpernickel is the flavor of the day.

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Made fresh this morning, these are easy and delicious. I made the batter last night; it rests in the fridge overnight. You pop the muffin tin into a cold oven, turn it on to 350 degrees and, in 20 minutes, you’re enjoying the hot, savory taste of pumpernickel.

The dark rye flour, molasses, and caraway seeds supply the traditional slightly sour flavor. The yeast (which rises as the oven warms) gives the crumb a texture more like bread than a muffin. Raisins and toasted walnuts give it even more savor. This goes into my rotation, for sure.\

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Heidi Gibson; Chronicle Books; $19.95 hardcover

 

Thank you, Heidi Gibson, for a healthy kick-start to this beautiful early-fall day. Next up from this charming cookbook, Cheddar-Bacon Biscuits!

 

 

 

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Sunday in New York

 

fruit stand

Best thing about this stand? It’s there at 6am every morning when I go out for the newspaper and need a nice, fresh apple or papaya for breakfast. 

We were supposed to get thunderstorms this afternoon, but luck was with us. Bobby Darin’s delicious rendition of “Sunday in New York” ran through my head as I shopped for blueberries at my local fruit and veggie stand ($1.50 for a dry pint; yes, there are still affordable things in Manhattan!)

Sunday’s become Muffin Day, prep for the work week. (Yes, there are five work days and six wells in my muffin tin, so I get to taste-test when they’re warm from the oven.) Martha Stewart’s simple, never-fail Better Than Basic Muffins is the starting point, and then I improvise.

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Today it’s Blueberry Bran Walnut. 

Makes six muffins

Preheat oven to 375° and prepare a six-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and flour.

Whisk together an egg, 1/4 plus 1/8 cup of vegetable oil, 1/4 cup milk, and 1/4 tsp of vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix together 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup bran, 1/4 plus 1/8 cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Pour in the liquid ingredients and mix lightly. Fold in 3/4 cup fresh blueberries and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts. Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Not only are these packed with goodness, but that 15 to 20 minutes? The perfect length of time for a lie-down on the couch. Sunday is a day of rest, after all.

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DIY Dog Treats

A friend whose father was a professional baker told me he makes his mini-dachshund Zelda her own dog biscuits. In that wonderful way the Universe has of listening in and offering just what you need at the right time, I was reviewing an upcoming cookbook by Julia Turshen called Small Victories, turned a page, and voila! Hope & Winky’s Dog Cookies! What’s good enough for Zellie is good enough for Grace, so I made a special trip to the supermarket for Peter Pan creamy peanut butter. Mixed with olive oil, chicken broth, rolled oats, cornmeal, and a dash of salt and baked until toasty with a crackly top,  I’m tempted to steal a couple of these for myself.

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Perfect snack: cookies and milk!

Grace would like to thank Zelda and her dad Ricky for waking me up–FINALLY!–to homebaked snacks.

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Sweet Revenge

vintage rolling pin

When I’m pissed off at the world (or maybe just one person in it), I bake. Baking instructions are delicious double-entendres: beat well; whip for two minutes; chop nuts.

By the time this batch of chocolate oatmeal cookies is cooling on the racks, I’ll be chill.

 

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Prune

It can be as sophisticated as Gabrielle Hamilton’s NYC restaurant and her new cookbook, both lauded by foodies everywhere.

54 East 1st Street, NYC

54 East 1st Street, NYC

prune

Or it can be as humble as a Reduced-fat Cocoa Muffin.

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Here’s the muffin recipe, but it’s up to you: sophisticated or simple. Why choose? There’s room in this life for both.

Reduced-fat Cocoa Muffins

Makes 6 muffins

nonstick cooking spray

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

3/8 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk or lowfat plain yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray

2. Place the prunes in a small saucepan and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the prunes to a food processor and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Transfer the prune puree to a small bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

3. Combine the flour , cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

4. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk or yogurt, and prune puree in a large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until all the ingredients are moistened.

5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.

These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

(adapted from Mom’s Big Book of Baking Copyright (c) by Lauren Chattman 2001)

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