Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I have a love/hate relationship with blueberries that falls directly on the low bush/high bush divide. I’ll admit it, before I moved to Maine I didn’t know there were different kinds, but boy is there a big difference. The low-bush or wild blueberry is a thing of beauty, small, tart and delicious. The high bush blueberry on the other hand, I feel is gritty, heavy, and lacking in flavor. In short  – I am not a fan.

I wish I could say the berries in the recipe came from wild blueberries we hand picked somewhere in a distant field (and if you know a good place to pick wild blueberries in Southern Maine, let me know – please!!), but they didn’t – but they are wild Maine blueberries, and those are tasty enough for me.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

(adapted from Whipped’s Cranberry Orange Muffins)

Makes 12-16 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • zest
 of one washed lemon
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice)
  • 1  to 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°F.

If making buttermilk, mix milk and lemon juice and set aside until needed.

Grease  or line muffin cups. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.

Whisk together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and buttermilk in a separate mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Toss blueberries in a small amount of flour until coated and fold into batter. Fill each muffin cup about three-quarters full. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean (20-24 minutes). Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes and eat warm with butter.

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Some things I’ve been making lately:

Andersonville Socks

Basil Rosemary, Mint and Camomille

New Lunchbag
Granola!

Maple Walnut Granola:

  • 3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (or nut of your choice)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or dried fruit of your choosing)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbl warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 250°F.

In a large bowl, mix together syrup, sugar, oil, water and salt until throughly combined. Add in oats and nuts and and mix until coated.  Pour oat mixture unto a  lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet or pan.

Bake from 1½ to 2 hours or until oats are dry and brown. Remove from oven and cool. Stir in fruit and place in a sealed container.

S'more Pie - Perfected

Back on May 14th, 2008 I posted a pie without a recipe or a link to a recipe – it was an attempt that didn’t quite work out and I hadn’t gotten another chance to test out a new version.  My brother has not let me live this down. He pretty much brings it up every time we talk.

S'more Pie - Perfected

In general, I just wasn’t all that inspired to give it another try, but then I had the Snicker’s Pie at the Great Lost Bear and found my chocolate filling. That, along with  having my company holiday potluck today, gave me enough reason to make a second go. (Oh  – and can I say my company’s Christmas potluck includes a fresh raw oyster shucking station and a pound of local shrimp is the parting gift? I love Maine. )

The tart was a big hit at the party –  it turned out exactly how I wanted, chocolately without being too much like cake or pudding and a perfect balance of flavors.  And so after a year and a half of waiting,  here it is.

Merry Christmas, Big Brother.

S'more Pie - Perfected

S’more Pie

Makes 8 to 10 servings

For crust:
8 to 9 graham crackers,  finely ground (about 1 cup)
5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

For filling:
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) heavy cream
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (not more than 65% cacao if marked)(as always, I prefer Ghirardelli’s)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For Topping:
Half a bag of mini-marshmallows

Equipment:
a 9-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep) or 9-inch pie pan

Make crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Shift together graham crackers and sugar. Stir in melted butter and press evenly onto bottom and up sides of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes

Make filling:

Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl until frothy, then fold into melted chocolate.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.

Add topping:
Distribute about half a bag of mini marshmallows on the tart, until the top of tart is evenly covered and place under broiler until marshmallows are golden brown (about 1-2 minutes, but watch carefully and rotate as needed).

Best served when marshmallows are warm and gooey! (If you don’t eat it all in one sitting – and I’d be amazed if you do – it’s seriously rich, store in the fridge. Let sit out until room temperature before eating and if desired, microwave for a few seconds to re-gooify the marshmallows).

In other news, last weekend I made my annual batch of peanut brittle and this photo op was too good to skip, even if my hair is a little crazy and I’m wearing one of John’s flannel shirts.

Peanut BrittleCHOMP!

Peanut Brittle

In other, other news. I’m off to my hometown of Napa, California for a week come Sunday. I haven’t been back since before I was married! I may not have internet while I’m gone, but I’ll let you know all about it on my return. If you’re a Napa-based reader, send me a email/comment before Sunday – I’d love to meet up!

When Mr. Cleaver and  I went apple picking a few weeks back, we came home with 21 pounds of apples. For two people.

What did we do with them all?

2 Quarts Apple Sauce and 1.5 Pints Apple Butter;
Applesauce

3 Fat Apple Pies;
Three Fat Pies

3 apples for my mother-in-law and 3 apples for my lunch.

All in all not a bad haul! It took one day to do all the canning and another day for the pies. It was a lot of work, but I’ll happily be eating apples until next September!

Though this is my fourth year making apple pies, this is the first year I worked out a recipe that I was totally happy with. In the past, my pies had ended up too watery, but with a few tweaks to some recipes from family and friends, I think we’ve ended up with something delicious!

Slice of Fall

Streusel Apple Pie

Crust:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 6 full Tbl cold water

Filling:

  • 6 apples of choice ( I love jonagolds and rome beauties best – but any firm and tart apple will do).
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup flour

Streusel

  • 3 Tbl butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F

Make crust by mixing together flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or some forks.  Add cold water until dough holds together. Form dough into two flattened balls, wrap in plastic wrap and store in fridge until filling is prepared.

Peel, core, and slice apples. In a large bowl, mix apples, lemon juice, sugar and spices. Add flour until a thin sauce is formed from the juices. Set filling aside.

Removed chilled dough from fridge and roll out into a top and bottom crust.

Place bottom crust in  9 inch round pie pan (metal or glass) and fill with apples, heaping up in center. Cover apples with top crust. Top can be latticed or vented with several cuts through the top.

For streusel, cut together softened butter, flour and brown sugar with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle streusel over top of pie.

Bake pie at for 40-50 or until filling bubbles and top is brown.

Cool, slice and enjoy!

Okay, so this weekend was so chock-full of wonderfullness, that I’m going to have to break it down into several posts over the next couple of days. We’ll do it chronologically, starting with Thursday.

Birthday Cake

July 3 :

Mr. Cleaver’s birthday.

The day dawned and I did NOT want to get out of bed, I was so groggy that I was the worst wife ever and forgot to say Happy Birthday to Mr.Cleaver – who after about 10 minutes decided to jog my memory. Oops!That said, as embarrassed as I was, this ended up low on the totem pole of things to go wrong that day.

As I headed off to work, Mr. Cleaver was hunkering down to watch Wimbleton on the laptop, only to discover that our internet wasn’t worked, only to call our service provider and discover that the phone wasn’t working wither (same company). Mr. Cleaver is probably the first to admit that he’s not the world’s most techno-savvy guy, and was quickly frustrated, especially when it looked like neither phone nor DSL would be repaired for a few days.

Fortunately, I was able to come home a little early from work, due to a co-worker’s going-away party. So I stopped at the grocery store and picked up some ingredients for the birthday cake and the manliest looking flowers I could find for my guy.

Birthday Flowers

Well, the flowers perked him up and so did my present. We also decided to go to our favorite fancy restaurant to dinner, so things were looking up. I started working on the cake, and frosting so it could cool while we were out to eat.

The cake fell a little in the center, but otherwise, seemed to be fine. We walked up the street to the restaurant only to find it boarded up and smelling of smoke. Yes, our favorite restaurant had burned down. At this point, really, we just had to laugh. And eat Chinese, which was nearby and also very good.

When we got home the internet seemed to be momentarily working and we discovered that the restaurant had caught fire in May and didn’t look to be re-opening anytime soon.

I set to assembling the cake and it seemed – well -dry. I did a quick check of the reviews on epicurious and discovered I had forgotten to include 1 cup of water.

How Many Candles?

How Many Candles?

Well, this was just perfect. Again, we could do nothing but laugh, and despite the dryness, enjoy the cake. I can’t say anything about the cake itself, having not made it right, but Mr.Cleaver and I both think the frosting is to die for, so it came out all right. (It also didn’t stop us from finishing off the whole thing by the end of the weekend – fresh raspberries help cover a multitude of sins).

Birthday Cake

 

In the eveing we headed down to the lakefront to try and see if we could catch any of the City of Chicago fireworks (they always do them on the 3rd, more on that in the next post).

Not exactly what I would have wished for my husband’s birthday, but you can’t say it wasn’t memorable.

My New Go-To Chocolate Frosting from Nana Edie’s Devil’s Food Cake

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar and cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate, butter, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill frosting, stirring frequently, until thickened and spreadable.

 

 

Coffee Cake Cooling

One of my goals in life is to win a blue ribbon at a county fair. Dead serious.

I have no experience with State Fairs aside from the Rogers and Hamerstein movie, so they don’t particularly interest me. But as a kid I lived in the county seat – so I had to go to the fair a lot. I’m sure this isn’t actually the case, but it seemed as though we had three or so major fairs at the Napa Valley Expo center a year and I was at pretty much every one.

First there were the educational fairs. There was the one my modeling clay mission was displayed at amoungst the hundreds of other missions of the pasta, cardboard, and/or lego varieties. There was the fair that they had the city-wide science fair at: my experiment on the water purifying abilities of the sun didn’t even place. There was the year I volunteered to do an anti-drug puppet show at, only to find upon arrival that the “booth” contained no puppet stage and I spent several hours sitting under a table teaching kids to “Just Say No,” while the woman at the next table urged people to vote no on proposition 9.

And then there was the Town and Country fair where the 4-H kids strutted their hogs and the quilts and jams were on proud display. There were games: a friend once won a guppie and then passed it off on a happy little girl and her less than happy parents; there was food: corn dogs and funnel galore! There were the rides that only one year I was allowed to ride, which included a fun house/maze that I raced though only to be incredibly disappointed when I came out the other side that I hadn’t spent more time.

But missions and guppies aside, the real reason I went to fair after fair was to dance.

Anything Goes

Not at the Fair, but you get the idea. (That’s me in the far right, front row)

From approximately 1988 to 2001 I was made to put on my tutu and blue eye shadow and dance with my classes in tap, jazz or ballet. The stage was unforgiving concrete and it was always devilishly hot. One year my teacher told us not to bother with wearing foundation, it’d just melt it off. I love dancing, but I hated dancing at the fair, it was uncomfortable and there was a good chance someone I did not want seeing me in a leotard would stroll by during my performance (and several have).

Spandex and sequin trauma aside, I always like the craft, food, and animal displays and I still hope to win a ribbon of my own some day.

Coffee Cake and Sausage

This particular recipe won a ribbon for my family once upon a time (though the recipe card always said “prize” so I have no idea which prize it won – but if anyone in the family wants to clarify that’d be great) and so after that long introduction, I give you:

Prize Coffee Cake:

 

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter or shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk

Topping:

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbl melted butter
  • 2 Tbl flour
  • 2 TBl cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a 9″x9″ pan. 

Mix together sugar, butter, and egg to make butter cream. It may look good, but do not sample – it tastes terrible as a college roommate of mine discovered. Add milk and mix.

In a separate bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mix to butter cream. Pour into pan.

Mix together topping ingredients. If necessary add a little more melted butter until it clumps, but we wary- too much butter will cause the topping to turn molten and sink into the batter instead of staying nice and crispy on top.  Sprinkle topping on top of the batter.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Recipe doubles well, just add 5-10 minutes cooking time for a 9″x18″ pan. 

Breakfast Aftermath

Surprise sleepy folks with coffee cake, eat all the crumbs.

Mac 'n' Cheese

So good, if we weren’t already married, my husband would marry me for it.

Like pretty much all of America, I grew up on the Kraft “Blue Box” Mac ‘n’ Cheese. My first taste of the homemade stuff was when my brother attempted to make some while I was in high school. I not sure what happened, but it was notthe best, shall we say. I retrospect, I think it needed salt. 

Years later, I came across this recipe in Real Simple Magazine and thought I’d give it ago, but I was a little put off by the called for 6 cups (!) of milk, and using the full quarter cup of oil on the bread make my crackers waaaay too greasy, so I did a few mild changes, as listed below.

And its really good. This is maybe one of Mr. Cleaver’s favorite things I cook, and every so often (as with the Cherry Pie), he’ll just “happen” to the buy the ingredients and if I just “happen” to want to make it, it would “happen” to be swell. I love it too, so it’s not too hard to convince me.  

Mac 'n' Cheese Ingredients

Mac ‘n’ Cheese, adapted from Real Simple, Nov. 200. 

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (plus some to grease dish)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 cups whole or low-fat milk (I use 1% it turns out plenty rich and creamy)
  • 14 oz.-16oz.  cheese of choice (I like cheddar or you could do a mix.)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt 

Herbed-Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup or about ½ a sleeve of your favorite butter crackers (Ritz, Keebler Club) smashed
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • oregano and thyme to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Heat oven to 400°F and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
 
Cook the macaroni for slightly less time than the package says, so it’s still a little firm. Drain and rinse.
 
While the mac is boiling, combine cracker crumbs, oil, herbs, salt and pepper. The oil should be just enough to coat and make the crumbs slightly stick together. 
 
In a saucepan, melt butter. While whisking constantly, add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes. The mixture will clump. Still stirring, add the milk and cook for another 7 minutes, the mixture will start to get thick.  Add the cheese and salt and stir until all the cheese is evenly melted.
 
Mix together the mac and the cheese, pour into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the crumbs.
 
Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and delicious.
 
It’ll sit like the brick of cheese and pasta it is in your stomach, but it’ll be so worth it. 
 
Reheats really well in the oven too!