Crumbly Blueberry Muffins

DSC01529

I started my adventures in the kitchen as a baker. Mostly because I loved the product. But as I have been cooking, I’m developing a love for the process. I love the steps it takes to create a meal. Not that there aren’t steps in baking, but a good portion is hands off.

This morning I woke up in a hands off kinda mood. So I threw some dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another, combined to make a batter, and baked up 12 delicious muffins. I define hands off as less time prepping than baking, you may define it differently. Tip for baking: Get all of your supplies together before you begin, it will take 2 minutes at the start and save you 5 to 10 during.

Brian loves the Starbucks blueberry muffins with the crumbly tops so I put a little streusel topping on before baking.

1 c. + 2 tbs. white sugar

2 tsp. vegetable oil

2 c. + 1 tbs. AP flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. butter (1 stick); softened or pop it in the micro for 15 seconds

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

1/4 c. half and half

1/4 c. skim milk

(if you have whole milk, use 1/2 c. instead of skim and half and half)

2 c. frozen wild blueberries (fresh would be amazing, also wouldn’t turn the batter purple)

Begin by preheating to 350.

DSC01491

Prep the pan by using cupcake liners or spraying the pan with nonstick spray. Make the streusel by tossing together 2 tbs. sugar, 1 tbs. flour, and 2 tsp. vegetable oil. Set these things aside.

DSC01492

In a small bowl (or not your largest) dump the 2 c. of flour. I like to whisk the clumps out, you don’t have to.

DSC01495

Add the baking powder and salt.

DSC01498

Whisk together and set aside.

DSC01501

Into a bigger bowl, add 1 c. of sugar.

DSC01503

And the stick of butter.

DSC01504

Beat together until creamy. My mixer makes little balls, that’s fine, too.

DSC01505

Beat in the eggs, one by one. Mix just until incorporated. If you mix too long you will over beat the eggs. If you don’t mix after each one you will over beat the eggs later when adding the flour trying to incorporate everything later. A good rule of thumb is to mix everything until it’s just incorporated. If you see flour or sugar later, you can always use a spatula and hand mix.

DSC01507

Add the vanilla and mix.

DSC01509

Then pour in the milk. This will make a very runny mixture.

DSC01510

Slowly add the flour while the mixer is running. I added it in three parts. Again, if you add it all at once you will over beat the mixture trying to get everything incorporated.

DSC01515

Pour in the blueberries! No need to defrost. In fact, if you defrost them they will turn your batter completely purple with their juices.

DSC01516

Mix together gently, less purple the prettier!

DSC01520

There is enough batter for 12 nice sized muffins. I skimped a little, leaving me with a couple small muffins and extra batter. I used heaping tablespoons to fill the cups.

DSC01521

Top each with the sugar mixture from earlier.

DSC01522

Bake on a rack positioned in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. At 20 minutes, I noticed my tops were not getting crispy so I turned on my weak ass broiler and let them brown for a couple minutes. You probably won’t need to do this. Check the muffins with a cake tester, it should come out clean.

DSC01525

See my raw sugar? It’s still delicious. But the ones where it caramelized were heaven!

DSC01533

Cool them in the pan for a couple minutes before moving to a wire rack.

DSC01528

I ate one before that last step. It was steamy. It was delicious. I ate two. 🙂

Zippy Corn & Zucchini Salad

DSC01089

My parents are off on a surprise trip to California, leaving me the benefactor of some fine vegetables. I scored big time: mixed greens, scallions, three ears of corn, four tomatoes, a hefty bag of green beans, and a lone zucchini. Since I’m all by my lonesome this eve it just made sense to eat the zucchini (and it was also on its last leg). Mom gave me a great recipe from Rachel Ray for inspiration.. or help.

1 tbs. olive oil

1 ear of corn

1 small zucchini

2 small tomatoes

1 scallion white

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c. of fresh parsley, loosely packed

1 c. spring greens/arugula/spinach

1 tbs. butter

S&P

Parmesan

Optional: Squeeze of lemon and 1/2 tsp. zest

This recipe takes more time to prep than to cook. At least in my case, I’m a very slow, methodical chopper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet while you prep, I set the heat to medium/high – your stove may not need to be as hot.

DSC01066

Begin by slicing the kernels off the cob. Be careful here, watch your fingertips!

DSC01069

Core the zucchini by slicing it in half lengthwise and cutting out the middle. It will look like a cute zucchini canoe. Cut each half into six rods and cube.

DSC01072

I used two small tomatoes that I got from my mom, but you could use grape tomatoes and leave them whole. Core and dice the tomatoes. Slice the white of a scallion, save the green for another meal.

DSC01073

Now we get cookin’! Add the corn to the skillet and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

DSC01080

Add the zucchini, sliced scallion white, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Season with kosher salt and a little pepper (beware of pepper here, the red pepper flakes already add a kick). Cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

DSC01083

Add 1 tbs of unsalted butter to the mix, stirring it in. Rachel Ray says stir until its creamy, but I don’t think that is the proper adjective. There is no cream to this mixture IMO. I let the butter stew for a couple minutes before removing the skillet from the heat.

DSC01086

Toss the salad with the diced tomatoes and a 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. Almost any herb will do here but I always have fresh parsley on hand, the same cannot be said for basil or tarragon. I added a nice squeeze of lemon juice and a little zest here.

DSC01089

Pour over a small amount of greens, about 1 c., and top with shredded parmesan.

*I couldn’t help using my new wooden bowl for this meal!

The corn and zucchini are the stars here. In fact, skip the greens, grab a paddle, and just shovel the salad into your mouth.

DSC01091

A perfect, healthy, irresistible meal for one. 🙂

Chicken Stock

Yesterday was another cooking marathon! I started out by making chicken stock. I always like to keep some in the freezer and fridge but this batch is especially for Thanksgiving. I know my mom uses stock for gravy and other dishes, so I thought lets amp them up with homemade stock!

Making stock is super easy and cheap. All I had to buy at the store was a whole chicken which was about $5. The other veggies I normally keep in the house.

Usually my brother is around to chop up my chicken, but he wasn’t so I had to learn how to save the breasts myself. You could save all of the chicken parts and only use the backbone for stock. I don’t have any use for the wings or dark meat – not enough mouths to eat all of that chicken! So I just saved the chicken breasts and plopped the rest of the chicken into my stock pan. Along with the chicken, I added a whole garlic chopped in half widthwise, about 10 baby carrots, 3 celery stalks cut into thirds, half of a yellow onion, whole black peppercorns, 10 sprigs of fresh thyme, a bay leaf, and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt.

There are many other herbs and veggies you could add to the pot, but these were what I had on hand. After you get all of your ingredients in, pour in about 4 quarts of water – whatever fits! Bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Leave simmering uncovered for 4 hours.

2013-11-23 16.19.27

The stock is simmering away on the right side of the picture. After 4 hours, remove it from the heat but leave it on the stove until it is cool enough to handle. This pot is big, heavy, and hot!

2013-11-23 17.53.03

Once its cooler – about an hour later – strain the liquid into bowls. I do this first with a big colander to get the chicken and veggies out. I let it cool in the bowls and then I strain it again through a mesh strainer to get any little bits and transfer to smaller containers. Put all of the stock containers into the fridge, even the ones you plan on freezing. The next morning, a layer of fat will need to be skimmed off the top. Then you can put the stock into the freezer for a few weeks or in the fridge for a week!

Parmesan Garlic Oven Baked Fries

Thursday night I made french fries. Potatoes are my absolute favorite food and french fries are probably my absolute favorite way of eating them (mashed is pretty good, too). Not owning a fryer and failing a few times at pan frying, I learned to make them in the oven. When I think of oven fries I imagine soggy Ore-Ida crinkle cuts (not entirely sure why), so the oven was a last ditch effort. But prepare to be amazed as I was, because its all about the preparation.

Here’s your ingredients (I only used two potatoes, you should probably double):2013-10-17 18.27.54

2 russet potatoes

3-4 tbs olive oil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/4-1/2 cup of grated parmesan

First thing, prep the potatoes. Wash them and get all of the dirt off of them, pick out any spuds (or as my mom tells me, the eyes). If you don’t want skin, peel them. I didn’t peel mine, I think it’s too much effort for a minor difference.

Then prep the pan and oven. I preheat to 400 or 425 depending on the severity of my hunger or impatience. Pull out two sheet pans, I crammed mine onto one, and cover them with aluminum foil, I have non-stick (which is AMAZING) if you don’t drizzle olive oil on the pan.

Now comes the part that took me many times to figure out, cutting the potatoes. Everyone has a preference on their fry size (shoestring, steak, thick, or McDonaldesque), but the initial cuts will be the same. Slice the potato lengthwise into four pieces, lay them flat and cut them into strips. If you like them thinner, lay them on their side again and cut each strip in half.

2013-10-17 18.37.18 2013-10-17 18.38.58 2013-10-17 18.40.07

Here are a few different fry sizes, you can’t go wrong with anyone you choose. Once they are all chopped up, put them in a bowl full of water. I learned this from watching Sandra Lee. Let them soak for at least 15 minutes, changing the water once. This pulls the starch out making a crispier fry. I let mine soak for a while, I’m usually making something else during this time, about half an hour changing the water at the 15 minute mark. Then drain the water and dry your potatoes on paper towels, get as much moisture out as you can (I learned this from making hash browns!), this will also help keep your oven fries crispy.

I work in batches, one potato equals a batch, pour about 2 tbs olive oil into the bowl along with 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and 1/8 cup or so of parmesan. Don’t be afraid to eyeball here, you really can’t go wrong UNLESS you don’t put enough.

2013-10-17 19.10.01

Drop in your potatoes and use a fork to distribute the goods. Coat them all! If you need to, add more olive oil and S&P.

2013-10-17 19.13.06

Use your fork to scoop them up and put them on the sheet pans, try not to let them touch each other (they WILL stick together). Use the same bowl for all batches, and for the initial soaking, to minimize your dish usage.

2013-10-17 19.17.57

Once all taters are on the pan put them into the oven. At 400 they will take about 45 minutes, flipping at the 15 minute and 30 minute mark. At 425 they will take about 35 minutes, flipping at the 10 and 25 minute mark. When you go to flip the fries for the final time, sprinkle them with more parmesan cheese. When you pull them out, sprinkle a little kosher salt on them and use a spatula to put them straight onto your plate. If you coated your sheet pans in olive oil, you may need to blot your fries on paper towels (OR paper bags if you happen to have excess).

2013-10-17 20.00.46

2013-10-17 20.02.28

EAT IMMEDIATELY. 🙂