Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins with Nutmeg Glaze

This is a recipe I clipped from the 1993 November/December issue of Eating Well Magazine. These are perfect to bake up this time of year.  They have more of a moist cake texture than a muffin.  

Get your muffin tins lined if you so desire. When I make these to enjoy at home I don't use cupcake liners.  I took these to Sunday school class and thought it better to have them in a liner.

Mix dates, raisins and candied ginger together with the brandy.  Give a toss and set aside.

Along with the fruits and ginger that is flavored by the brandy, these muffins are kissed with all of these great spices.

Sift them in with the flour along with the baking soda, salt & pepper.  Set this bowl aside.

In another small bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.  Set this aside.  I have no earthly idea why I did not take a photo of this mixture.  We'll all live.

Now we get to assemble everything else.

In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and egg yolks until they are frothy.

Mix in the brown sugar

and the the molasses

Add 1/2 the flour/spice mixture and stir until just mixed.

add the melted butter

and the oil

Add the remaining flour/spice mix

and stir until incorporated.

Add the bowl of the pumpkin mixture and combine well.

Fold in the dates, raisins and candied ginger that has absorbed some of the brandy.  Pour in all the brandy left in the bowl as well.  Can't leave out the good stuff!

Fill each muffin liner 2/3 full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the muffins to cool a bit in the pans while you mix together the glaze.

Transfer the muffins to a cooling wrack that has been set over some wax paper.  Drizzle with the glaze.  You can also dip the tops off the muffins directly in the glaze.

I had some extra batter so I made several mini-muffins to throw in the freezer.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Muffins with Nutmeg Glaze
Adapted from Eating Well Magazine
Yield 24 regular-sized muffins

for the muffins:
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates 
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3 Tbsp. rum, brandy, or apple cider (I used brandy)
2-1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached white flour
2 Tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup skim-milk buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1-1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

for the glaze
1-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1-1/2 Tbsp. rum, brandy, or apple cider
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Treat 24 muffin tins with vegetable spray, or line with muffin liners.
Prep and measure all of your ingredients.

In a small bowl, soak dates, raisins and crystallized ginger in the brandy, stirring from time to time while preparing the batter.

Sift flour, ginger, allspice, nutmeg cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl.  Set aside.  In a small bowl whisk together the pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer beat eggs and egg whites at medium speed until foamy.  Gradually add brown sugar and beat until light and frothy, about 1 minute.  Add molasses and beat well.

Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add butter and oil and beat until just mixed.  Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just mixed.  Add the pumpkin mixture and beat until just combined.  Stir in the dried fruit mixture and soaking liquid.

Fill the muffin tins with batter, 2/3 full.  Tap tins to get rid of air bubbles.  

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.  Cool the muffins briefly in the pan on a rack for 2 minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack.  (the muffins can be prepared ahead and store, well wrapped, in the freezer for up to 1 month.  To reheat wrap in aluminum foil and heat at 375° for 20 - 30 minutes.)

Nutmeg Glaze:
In a small bowl, stir together the confectioner's sugar, milk, brandy, & grated nutmeg until smooth.  Drizzle the glaze over the warm muffins, letting the glaze drip down the sides.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Best Way to Grill Corn on the Cob

 Lovey and I ate a ton of roasted corn this summer.

Home from the market I clean the ears up a bit.  I cut off any nasty, slimy silk that is hanging out the top.

 Then I trim all of the dark green, stiff things that are on the end of the outer husks

There now, they look nice and neat.  Also the husks are still snugly attached around the cob.
 I don't like opening up all the husks, pull out the silk, then close the husks back around the cob and secure them with a tie of some sort.  It's so hard wrestling to get all of the silk off.

Nope, I just leave the silk in there. It will come out flawlessly when you are ready to eat.

 Soak them for at least 30 minutes in cold water before putting on the grill.  Throw a handfull of salt in the water if you like.  We don't do that but if you are not worried about sodium content go for it.  Wrap them up in a towel and take them out to the grill.  You might want to turn them upside down to drain any water.

I heat the right side of our grill on medium for about 15 minutes before I lay the corn on the grill.  Turn every so often and when their husks are nicely marked and nave a nice brown coloring they will be done (about 15 minutes)

 Using a T-towel (the corn will be very hot) pull away the husks and you won't believe how the silk comes right off and out from in between the kernels.  No using a brush or fingernails here.  Place the cob on a platter and begin to doctor them up the way you like them.  

We like to have butter, flavored butter and a little Parmesan on hand along with salt and pepper.
Crunch, crunch!  Such a great way to eat corn!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chicken Pot Pie

It's a definition for comfort food; that's what this is.

When I was living in Midland, Texas during the early 1980's, a co-worker passed her CPP recipe on to me.  The original recipe had more vegetables, like mushrooms and corn kernels, but this was tailor made to Lovey's liking; and it hasn't changed since.  Oh, I've tried to slip things in there that I thought would make it even more superb, but Lovey always called me out on it.  So, this is our chicken pot pie.  You can, as with most any recipe, tweak it to make it your own.

Begin by cooking your chicken.  This will also be the beginning of your broth that will become the base for your sauce.

I use 3 or 4 large chicken breast halves.  You can use whatever pieces you prefer.  Thighs will actually give you broth that is a little more flavorful but, as I've said, this is Lovey's pot pie and white meat he'll get.

Make your broth with carrots, celery with leaves, an onion, bay leaf, garlic cloves, thyme  and whatever else you might have in your vegetable bin that would add a depth of flavor to your broth.

Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Skim off the foam then sprinkle some poultry seasoning over the top.  Add a Tablespoon of salt, cover and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking chop the onion, carrots, and potatoes

When the chicken is done remove from broth and allow to cool.  Strain the broth and discard the solids.  Pour the stock back into the pan and bring to a boil.  Add the chopped onion, carrots and potatoes and boil for about 3 to 4 minutes.  You don't want them (especially the potatoes) to cook through and be mushy; they'll finish cooking in the oven.

With a large slotted spoon remove the vegetables from the broth and set aside in a large mixing bowl.  Return the broth to the stove top and bring to a boil.  Reduce broth to 1 cup and reserve in a measuring cup.  It will be so nice and rich.

Bone the chicken and cut into bite-size pieces.  Add the chicken to the large mixing bowl with the vegetables.

Rinse the frozen peas and add them to the mixture in the large mixing bowl.

In the pot you reduced the broth in, melt butter and add flour to make a roux.  Cook for one minute.

Add the reduced broth and whisk.  Slowly add the half & half and stir until it begins to thicken.  Toss in some chopped fresh parsley.  Now taste your sauce to see if you want to add salt and pepper.

Gently fold the sauce in with the vegetable / chicken mixture.

Roll out bottom pastry and place in the pie plate.

Pour the filling into the pie plate and mound up towards the center.

Roll out top crust and place over filling and crimp the edges.  Cut an air vent in the middle of the crust.  I make a 'K' for our last name.  How cute. 

Bake for 30 - 45 minutes until the filling is hot and bubbly (you'll see it bubbling through the vent hole) and the crust is nice and brown.

After removing from oven allow the pie to rest for 10 - 15 minutes.

Serve a crisp green salad.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 6

for crust:
Use your preferred recipe for a 2 crust pie crust.  when I am short on time, I use the refrigerated Pillsbury crust that you simply unroll.  It's easy and makes for a very nice crust when you do not have time to make a dough from scratch.

for chicken & broth:
3 - 4 large chicken breast halves
1 carrot, scrubbed and halved
1 yellow onion, washed & halved (skin left on)
1 celery stalk halved, preferably with the leaves
5 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
1 large bay leaf
1 small bundle fresh rosemary sprigs (tied in a bundle)
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 Tbsp. salt

for the filling & sauce: 
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" slices
1 large onion, chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 - 10 ounce package/box of frozen peas
 2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup half and half
hand full of chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste 
1 tsp milk 

Roll out 1 pie crust and place in a 9" deep dish pie plate.  Put in refrigerator to chill.

Place chicken, carrot, onion, celery and garlic cloves in a 5-1/2 quart Dutch Oven.  NOTE:  you can add any other vegetables you want that will contribute to your broth.  \Cover with water.  Bring to boil.  Skim off the nasty-looking white foam.  Turn heat down to a simmer and season with the poultry seasoning.  Allow chicken to simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is done (about 20 minutes).

While chicken is cooking prepare  the potato, carrot and onion and set aside  in a mixing bowl.

When chicken is done, remove the breasts and vegetables from broth with a large slotted spoon, leaving the broth in the pot.  Throw vegetable solids away (unless you want to munch on them; especially the garlic, yum!) and set the breasts off to the side to cool.  Strain the broth and return to the pot.  Bring to a boil and add the bowl of cut up vegetables you had set aside.  Bring to a simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes. With a large slotted spoon remove the vegetables from the broth and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Return pot with the broth to the burner and turn to high.  Boil until the broth is reduced to 1 cup.  Strain into a measuring cup and set aside

While broth is reducing & chicken has cooled de-bone and cut into bite-size pieces.  Add the chicken to the bowl with the vegetables.

In a colander, rinse the frozen peas and add to the vegetable/chicken mixture.  NOTE:  At this time you can add other things that you might like such as fresh mushrooms, frozen corn, etc.).  Gently fold all of your vegetables and meat together.

In the same pot you have been using, melt the butter or medium heat.  Add the flour and whisk together to make a roux.  Whisking, allow to cook for a minute to remove the flour-y taste.  slowly add the broth and whisk until smooth.  Add the half and half and stir until slightly thickened. Add the parsley and taste.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside to slightly cool off.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables & chicken.  Gently fold until everything is thoroughly coated.

Remove pie plate from refrigerator and pour the filling into the bottom crust and mound in the center (if you do have filling that won't fit, just put it in small single-serving ramekins to eat in the future.

Roll out the top crust and drape over the filling.  Fold edges under the edges of the bottom crust and crimp all around.  Cut slits in the center of the pie crust for venting.  With a pastry brush, brush the top crust with a light coat of milk.  Place in refrigerator for about 10 minutes for the top crust to firm up a bit.

Preheat oven to 425°.  Place pie plate on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes.  After the 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350° and bake until the crust is a nice golden brown (anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes).

Allow pie to cool on a cooling rack for 10 - 15 minutes before cutting.

Serve with the tossed green salad for a nice complete dinner.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Putting up the Basil

I did some Fall clean-up in the garden yesterday.  Cleared out a small bed readying it for pansies and one of the plants I pulled out was my basil.  Before it was dug up I stripped it of every basil leaf I could.  

Now, what to do with all those verdant, fragrant little photosynthesis machines?

I have enough pesto in the fridge so here's what I did......
Basil Butter, Preserved Basil Leaves in Olive Oil and Basil Salt.

This year I planted a Cinnamon Basil plant.  I wasn't that crazy about it.  I didn't notice a big difference in the taste but I didn't like the feel and texture of the leaves.  They weren't big and smooth like I prefer.

they had harsh ribs on them and felt rough like an elm leaf.  But the important thing was that they had a good flavor.  Next year I'll plant a different variety.

 This was only a quarter of the leaves I picked.  The first thing I did with all of the cuttings was wash them thoroughly in cold water.  I washed them while they were still on the stems, picked them off, spun them around in a salad spinner then let them finish drying completely on a towel.

Basil Butter

Mmmm.  I love flavored butters

So simple.  1/2 cup butter, 2 Tbsp. finely minced basil leaves & 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice.  That's it.

 I find it easy to mince by rolling up a stack of leaves and slicing into thin ribbons

Now you have a nice chiffonade, which, in French, means little ribbons.

 mince your little ribbons until you have tiny little pieces

 put everything in the food processor and pulse until you have a smooth, well blended mixture

 plop your butter onto a piece of wax paper.

form into a log (about the size of a toilet paper tube), roll up, twist the ends, secure with twisties and put it in the fridge.  Done.

Flavored butters make nice gifts too.  You can tie the ends with cute twine, decorate the wax paper with washi tape, or whatever.  They freeze well too.  They're great to use on steamed vegetables, pasta or a little pat on your steak.

Preserved Basil Leaves in Olive Oil

You get a double treat with this.  You can pull out basil leaves to use in a recipe and you'll also have some nicely flavored olive oil.  

 Basil leaves, olive oil and a little salt.

I used a pint jar and used about 2 cups of whole basil leaves.  You can make as little or as much of this as you like.

 sprinkle a little salt in the bottom of the jar

 Add a layer of leaves

 pour on a little olive oil to cover the leaves.

 Repeat this process until your jar is as full as you want it.  Put a lid on it and stick it in the 'fridge.

 Basil Salt

This was the easiest of all

1/2 cup kosher salt

2 Tbsp. finely minced basil.   Mince the basil as described in the flavored butter above.  

NOTE:  Even though you are mincing up dried leaves, the mince will be very moist.  Let the minced leaves completely dry out; I let mine dry over night to make sure it was good and dry.

mix your salt and dried basil together in a small bowl then transfer to your container.