Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blueberry Whole Wheat Muffins

Muffins continue to be high on the request list at our house. And, after our whole wheat banana muffin and corn muffin success, I have continued to try to create moist, healthy muffins. Frozen blueberries are great to keep in the freezer, as they are so much less expensive than fresh ones. And, my kids still love them. I also always have buttermilk since pancakes are common here, too. And the buttermilk is the secret to keeping these tasty and low in fat. Eat these muffins fresh or freeze them, as they don't keep as well due to the low fat content. A friend also suggested throwing in a mashed banana, too.

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

Blueberry Buttermilk Whole Wheat Muffins
1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white flour, mixed together
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries (no need to defrost!)

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease your muffin tins. Mix the dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients together, along with the lemon zest. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Gently fold in the blueberries so your batter doesn't take on a grey tinge. Bake about 20 minutes. Cool in the tins for a few minutes, and then take out of the tins and cool on racks.

12 muffins

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Bread Worth Seeking Out: When Pigs Fly, Brookline

Excuse me, but is that hummos IN your bread? Is that loaf so redolent of chocolate that it is almost pitch black? And are those slices of candied ginger AND mango AND pineapple baked into the sesame filled crumb? I see. Yes, these are all examples of the delicious loaves that you will find in a completely unassuming small store on Beacon Street in Coolidge Corner, Brookline.
When Pigs Fly is based out of a kitchen in York, Maine. I first encountered their bread this summer at the small bakery that is attached to that kitchen. I walked in and intended to buy one loaf. I bought 5. And now, to my great joy, there is an outpost just a few miles away.
Their bread is hard to resist for a few reasons. First the ingredients are so pure and come in such unusual combinations that it is hard to refuse. How can you say, "No" to yeasted breads stuffed with cranberries, huge chunks of pistachio nuts and orange? Is it possible to skip over the version with bananas, pecans and maple that is crusted in a layer of caramelized sugar?
Second, you can try a slice of any bread which means you are guaranteed to be happy with any loaf you buy. Finally, they freeze beautifully. You can eat any of them toasted for breakfast, but they also suggest making, say, the chocolate bread into French Toast (!) or using the Mango, Pineapple, Ginger, Sesame for turkey sandwiches. These aren't cheap at about $6.00 a loaf, but they are so dense and full of good things that it seems worth it. For the record, they also offer simpler styles such as sourdough and whole wheat, but I can never make it past the unique versions.

And, if you can't make it Brookline, they now sell their breads at a range of Farmer's Markets, such as the SOWA market.

When Pigs Fly, 1378A Beacon St, (Coolidge Corner) Brookline, MA, 617-232-1077

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Getting Ready for a Taste to Help the Greater Boston Food Bank

I don't typically blog about an event in advance. But since this one is in support of a fabulous organization, the Greater Boston Food Bank, I thought I would just spread the word. On Monday, November 1st, many of Boston's top chefs will offer tastes of their food, sponsored by Boston Magazine. (Full disclosure, they are kind enough to be treating me to a ticket.) We are talking Tim Cushman of O Ya (one of my most memorable meals!), my new favorite Chef Vittorio Ettore of Bistro 5 and Chef Colin Lynch of the acclaimed Menton. Tickets aren't cheap: $95.00/person, but it is for a good cause and will certainly be delicious.

For more information about the event, just click here.

Boston Magazine's Taste: Monday, November 1, from 7 to 9:30 at 1 Marina Park Drive at the Fan Pier.

For more information about the Greater Boston Food Bank, click here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two More Uses for a Jack-o-Lantern: Pumpkin Pancakes and Yeasted Pumpkin Chocolate Bread

Much to my children's chigrin, the day after Halloween, their pumpkins became our next meal. I cut the pumpkins in half, seeded them and roasted the halves skin side down for about 45 minutes for 450 minutes with about one inch of water. I then took the pumpkin and froze it in bags each filled with one cup each.

When we were hungry, I quickly defrosted the pumpkin in hot water. I then mixed it into some homemade pancake batter along with freshly grated nutmeg.

Then, inspired by the yeasted pumpkin bread at When Pigs Fly and a recipe on the King Arthur site for "Cinnamon-Swirl Pumpkin Rolls," I tried a new twist.

I used the King Arthur recipe for "Yeasted Pumpkin Bread" but made 3 significant changes. First, I substituted King Arthur's White Whole Wheat flour for half of the white flour to make it a bit healthier. Next, once the dough was ready, I put it in a bowl for an overnight rise in the refrigerator. The next morning, I took it out and rolled it on a floured countertop. I spread a mixture of cinnamon and sugar on top, rolled it up and cut it into rolls. I then let this rise for another hour. I popped it in the oven and cooked them at 375 for about 30 minutes. When I took them out, I spread them with a powdered sugar-milk glaze.

The verdict: my friend thought they were a bit dense, but the kids loved them spread with thick layers of cream cheese. I enjoyed them topped with sharp cheddar, though the cream cheese was deliciously decadent. I appreciated that they were relatively healthy and easy. While I am not of the "hide the vegetables" in the food sort, my kids were gobbling up squash and whole wheat flour. Yay.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chocolate is Good: Hotel Chocolat

The other day the doorbell rang. Neither a package of LEGOs for my kids, nor flowers for me, but something far more delicious: two chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. The company had e-mailed me to make me aware of their two stores in the Boston area. And, thus, arrived two chocolate gifts in a refrigerated delivery truck.
I received two things: the Dark Chocolate Vampire and the Dark Chocolate Truffle Tree. The verdict? First, the dark chocolate was very good. Not to sweet. Smooth. Fruity. I can't imagine any dark chocolate lover not being happy to receive it. The Tree was full of cranberries, almonds, and praline truffles. In other words, it was far richer and sweeter. Put it this way: it was a bit easier to refrain from devouring it, though the dark chocolate was still excellent. In fact, each time I tried the chocolate (you know, to make sure this blog was accurate), I was struck by how purely chocolately and delicious it was. The chocolate itself is grown at Rabot Estate in St. Lucia. What is interesting is that the company prides itself on creating and following an "Engaged Ethics Policy." You can read more details here, but essentially, the company tries to make sure that farmers get a good wage for their products.

Hotel Chocolat offers a wide range of chocolates and products. The best way to learn more? Check out their 2 locations in Massachusetts: On Newbury Street and at the Chestnut Hill Mall.
You can also check out their website. In the meantime, I will be busy sitting here. Eating chocolate.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Versatile Squash Soup

Despite the fact that I rarely make the same thing twice, I have made this soup 5 times in the last few weeks. It is ridiculously easy to make. It satisfies those cool fall cravings. It pleases people who are vegan, vegetarian, lactose-intolerant or just want a simple and healthy meal. But you can also gussy it up with curry powder or pasta or even slices of browned sausage. You can eat it cold, warm or hot. It even freezes beautifully.
Versatile Squash Soup

Olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small dice
2 shallots, chopped
2 apples, peeled and cut into small dice
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

Optional: extra virgin olive oil, curry powder, nutmeg, sausage, aleppo or red pepper

Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a large pot over medium heat. Saute the shallots for 4-5 minutes until they soften. Add the apples and saute for another few minutes. Then add the squash. Saute just to mix in with the shallots and apples. Pour the chicken stock over the mixture. When the soup boils, turn the heat down to low and simmer until the squash is tender. Carefully puree with an immersion blender.

Now, try the soup. You can keep it simple by adding salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on top. Add pasta to make it more substantial. I like slices of sausage that have been crisped in a skillet for protein. Curry powder changes the flavor completely, and would be perfect with any bread or a bowl of basmati rice. Last twist-make the same soup with pears.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Flour Cookbook is Here!

Flour Bakery in Cambridge was a celebratory place on Thursday night as fans of Joanne Chang gathered to check out the publication of her new book, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery and Cafe. It was a pleasure to see the book in print. I was excited realize that I can now recreate the focaccia that is central to Flour's incredible sandwiches. The book also includes the recipe for one of my unlikely favorites: the vegan chocolate cake. In fact, one glance at the book made laugh at the range of recipes (and Flour treats) that are revealed in this book. We are talking Pop Tarts, banana bread, the granola bars. And the event included a reminder about the quality of the final results: piles of cookies, cakes, sandwiches and even Flour's perfect homemade Oreos were scattered throughout Flour in Cambridge, while Joanne Chang signed books. The cookbook is available at Amazon, and at Flour, of course. And, don't worry, I will write about more soon once I start cooking my way through it!
Flour Bakery and Cafe: Fort Point Channel 12 Farnsworth St., Boston MA, 617.338.4333, South End 1595 Washington St., Boston , 617.267.4300, Central Square 190 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge MA 02139, 617.225.2525

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Easier than Homemade: Treats from King Arthur

A cupcake is a rare and special treat for my sons. Making them together is a treat for all of us. Until it is time to clean up and then I am the one faced with a mountain of dishes in addition to a flour-laden kitchen. But I just can't summon up the courage to use the mixes at the supermarket as so many are laden with chemicals that taste of metal.
I have frequently blogged about my love of King Arthur products, and especially their White Whole Wheat flour. I use it in equal substitute for white flour and have rarely sacrificed taste for whole grains. I rely heavily on their cookbook, the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion Cookbook, and have planned to buy the Whole Grain version for ever. Their blog is my go-to for any baking recipe, including my absolute favorite cinnamon rolls ever. And each time I get their catalogue in the mail I circle item after item that I want to buy.
Fellow food bloggers are just as aware that King Arthur, located in Vermont, is a great company that makes great products. In fact, Meghan of Delicious Dishings arranged a blogger trip to take a class up at King Arthur. You can read her series of posts about the event here. I wanted to go to buy nearly everything at their store, to learn from their baking experts and to just enjoy being with knowledgeable bakers. And I was so disappointed that I couldn't attend.
However, Alison Furbish, Media Coordinator at King Arthur kindly sent me a few samples to cook up with my kids. The best part? As you can see in the pictures, the Deliciously Simple Chocolate Cake Mix was easy to cook with the kids, and, better still, clean up was minimal!!! Best of all, everyone that ate them agreed that the cupcakes were moist, delicious, chocolatey and not too sweet. Honestly, I was most impressed by the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. I didn't even know that you could buy a mix of frosting, and was pleased with how good it was. My kids loved the Spider Greaseproof Cupcake papers that were festive for fall and Halloween.

So will I still head up to the King Arthur Flour Company to raid their store and take classes? Absolutely. But in the meantime, I am glad to know that I can purchase many of their items at local stores, and that their mixes can make my life just a bit easier!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Bite of Cake, Lexington

Cupcakes are just not something I crave. Cheese, YES! Dark Chocolate, YES, YES! Coffee? Every. Single. Morning. So often cupcakes are too sweet, too dry or too expensive. And, since this blog was always intended as a resource for recommendations, I don't think I have ever found a reasonably priced cupcake that I liked enough to blog about it. Recently, though, I may have changed my tune. I was in Lexington of all places and stumbled into the appropriately named, Cake. Started in August of 2009 by Michelle Ryan, she offers full sized cakes, regular cupcakes and, my favorite, bite-sized cupcakes that cost a mere 85 cents. Ms. Ryan reminded me to make sure the cupcakes came to room temperature to enjoy them at their best. I am not typically a frosting afficiando, as they often taste like a stick of butter. But I enjoyed each of the frostings on these cakes. And the cupcake itself was buttery and moist. For example, the red velvet had cream cheese frosting and was perfectly moist. I didn't expect the carrot cake to be one of my favorites, it was pretty perfect with pineapple cream cheese sitting on top. You can even have cup of complimentary coffee to balance the little bite sized morsels while sitting out on the porch. Or, to rationalize your calories, you can stop by after a jaunt on the Minuteman Bike Trail. No matter what, we all deserve a treat sometimes, yes?

Cake, 1628 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420, 781-674-2253

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jumping off the Canning Bridge: Making Jam

Canning has always been sort of scary to me. I worry about serving my friends botulism laden jam or seeing my kitchen covered in glass fragments as the canning jars exploded. However, I decided to take the plunge for a few reasons. First, I found myself spending way too much money on other people's jams. Also, my older child is in a "jam and cream cheese" on bread phase (thank you, Francis!) and eats it each morning. Finally, after our trip to Tougas Farms, I knew I couldn't eat all our lovely fruit before it turned rotten. I also felt soothed by a video from How To Heroes. I had previously tried Bonnie's Jams and knew they were delicious. I was soothed by Bonnie's comment that you can't get botulism from canned fruit. I also appreciated that her recipe kept sugar low (my children need nary a sugar high!) and doesn't use pectin, which can give an unpleasant taste. And the video made it all seem so easy.

My sons helped me to make the blueberry jam. (In other words, they mixed the blueberries and sugar on the table and I did the rest. Jam gets hot!) I then kept going, making a batch of raspberry and another of peach. I used Bonnie's formula of half as much sugar as fruit, adding a bit of lemon at the end to jump start the pectin in the fruit itself. And now? We can have fruit jam all winter. Or at least til we eat it all!