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    Entries in autumn (9)

    Tuesday
    Oct162012

    Pair of Pear Muffins

    It's been much too long since I made muffins.

    I broke my blender a couple days ago, which means no more smoothies for breakfast. Until I buy a new one. Which I'm not looking forward to. I'm supposed to be packing because I'm moving at the end of the month. The last thing I should be doing is shopping for more stuff. I'm only going to have to put it back in the box in a couple weeks anyway.

    Three days with no smoothies and I'm totally lost for breakfast in the morning.

    I'm really not fond of eating on an empty stomach, but I'm okay with drinking. Chewing before I've had 2 cups of coffee is just weird. This is why I need smoothies. The rest of breakfast has to go into my backpack and get eaten during calculus lectures.

    And what better to put in a backpack than a muffin.

    Pear Pear Muffins

    What you need:

    • 1 c oatmeal, the quick cooking kind
    • 1 1/2 c plain yogurt with a high fat content
    • 1/4 c milk or pear juice (apple will do)
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 c grated pear
    •  1/4 c melted butter
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 2 c flour
    • 1/2 c sugar
    • 4 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp cardamom
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 4 or 5 dried pears, diced small

    What you gotta do:

    Preheat the oven to 375.

    So far so good.

    In a medium bowl, mix the oatmeal and the yogurt. It will be lumpy. Once it's combined, let it sit for a few minutes while you do the next few steps.

    If you have a coffee grinder, you can grind your own cinnamon and cardamom.

    Yes, that is cinnamon. Real cinnamon. Those scroll-like sticks are actually a similar spice called cassia. But that will work too. It's always tough to estimate how much of a whole spice you need to get a ground spice, but I got about 1 and a half teaspoons of powder out of this so, I'm calling it close.

    In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spice.

    By now, your oatmeal - yogurt mixture will be resembling some kind of masonry mortar.

    Add the grated pear, eggs, milk, vanilla, and melted butter. Make sure the butter isn't too warm; you don't want it to cook the eggs!

    Mix this into a nice wet goop, and then dump it on top of the dry stuff in the big bowl.

    If you can't find dried pears, try dried apples, or dried apricots.

    Add those to the bowl too.

    Now, muffin mixing instructions always say to barely stir until just combined and that lumps are okay... I don't like that. I like to make sure everything is combined, especially with this recipe because the "wet" component is really quite dry.

    Stir until everything is combined. It will take quite a few turns of the spoon, but be gentle as you do it. You are stirring, now whipping or beating.

    This makes a few more than 12 muffins. I overfilled my muffin cups (lined with papers since the quiche issue), and still had a bunch of batter left.

    If you have a second muffin tray, you'll probably get about 16 if you fill them 2/3 full.

    If you don't have a second muffin tray, you'll get 12 over-filled muffin cups and enough to make a giant muffin in an oven proof bowl.

    Makes me think these would also work as a quick bread.

    Bake the muffins at 375 (yup, preheated the oven) for about 20 minutes.

    These are delicately spicey, which is good because pear can be a very subtle flavour, and too much spice will just overpower it.

    They're also just barely sweet. Which makes it totally justified to cover that giant muffin with dulce de leche. What? I'm trying to clear out the fridge!

    What food do you like to use more than once in the same recipe?

     

    Friday
    Nov112011

    Undressed Stuffing... Unstuffed Dressing?

    So, my Thanksgiving theme continues.  I’m trying to be helpful.  Plus, it gives me an excuse to enjoy all of my favorite sides on the lead up to the big day.  Besides, who decided we can only partake of stuffing (or is it dressing… since it’s not actually stuffed into anything?)  on turkey day?  I happen to know I’m not the only one with a fondness for the stuff.  Let me show you how I make mine. 

     

    Here’s what you’ll need:

    White bread
    Cornbread
    Sausage
    1 medium onion
    1 ½ cups diced celery
    Sage
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    ½ cup butter
    1 cup chicken stock
    1 egg
    Cranberries (optional)
    Salt & pepper

     

     

    The first thing you need to do is get the white bread cubed and dried out.  I like to do that in the oven, especially with the humidity the way it is here.  Spread the cubes out on a baking sheet and bake them at 250° for about 20 minutes.

    The bread should be crispy on the outside, but not browned.  Can you use already dried bread cubes from the store?  Sure!  I think it’s worth the effort, though, so that I can choose what kind of bread it is.  While those are cooling, we’ll move to the cornbread.  My local grocery store had these fabulous corn muffins, so I just used those.  If you want to make your own cornbread, knock yourself out.  Either way, just cut it into cubes.  It’s going to crumble somewhat in the process, but that’s fine.

    Place the cooled white bread and the cornbread into a bowl with plenty of room for adding more ingredients and stirring them all together.  In my case, I had to use a pan because I didn’t have a bowl big enough. 

    Next comes the sausage.  I use Beeler’s breakfast sausage.  In my book, there’s nothing better.  Not to mention, it’s all natural and they take good care of their pigs, and their customers.  If you can’t find it locally, you can order from them directly here.  (and if you do, be sure to get some of their Li’l Bites smoked sausages.  OMG they’re good!)

    I had already used a third of the package for biscuits and gravy, so I had about ⅔ of a pound, which was perfect.  Go ahead and cook the sausage, breaking it up into smallish pieces in the process.

    When it’s done, remove it from the pan and put in your onions and celery. 

     

    Cook them until they are soft and translucent, then add the garlic.

    Just stir it in and cook it for about a minute or so before returning the sausage to the pan.  Stir that in, and then turn off the heat.   

    Now comes the most important part.  The thing that makes stuffing stuffing.  (or dressing dressing, if that’s what you call it)  Either way, you need sage.  It is what gives this dish its distinct flavor. 

    Sage is a pretty potent herb, though, so you want little, tiny pieces distributed throughout.  Cut the leaves in half along the spine, then stack them up and slice very thinly. 

    Separating the pieces with your fingers, sprinkle them over the sausage mixture. 

    Now, smell your fingers.  Oh, don’t even go there.  Trust me, in this case, it’s a very good thing.  As you stir the sage into the hot mixture, your kitchen will suddenly begin to fill with the aroma of stuffing, rather than just sausage and onions.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those.  Ok, I got off track.  Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes or so.  I had leftover cranberries from making cranberry sauce last week, so I threw some in.  It added a beautiful color and a bit of tang, which was nice. 

    Once everything is cooled and stirred together, melt the butter and mix it with the chicken stock.  The mixture should end up being right around room temperature so you can whisk in the egg without cooking it.  Pour the whole thing over the sausage mixture. 

    Stir everything together, and pour that over the bread. 

    Toss until everything is evenly coated and distributed, then walk away.  Give the bread at least five minutes to absorb the liquid before pouring it into a 9x13 pan.  Press gently to even out the top and get rid of air pockets. 

    Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes.  Yes, I know I forgot to tell you to preheat your oven.  It should be pretty obvious by now that Seeley and I are horrible at remembering to mention that step and completely incapable of getting all the ingredients into the “ingredients” picture.  Oh well, no one’s perfect, right?  So, back to the stuffing.  After 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  It should be browning around the edges and lightly golden on top. 

    Give it 5 minutes or so to cool and set, and then dig in. 

    Me?  I had it in a bowl, for dinner.  No turkey, no mashed potatoes, just stuffing.  Who says it can’t be a main course? 

    So, dressing or stuffing?  Which is it in your house?