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morning glorious muffins

Getting out of a deliciously warm bed and stepping onto a cold bare floor with the windows revealing nothing of the day but drear and dark –

not to whine – but it’s hard on us humans. Do you like to think we deserve something special for our heroic efforts? On a rainy morning when the only reason we rise is because we must, these, and a mug of steaming hot something, make it one fraction easier to leave our warm comfy beds.

This recipe reads a bit like a carrot cake. Like the cake, and unlike many muffins, it’s chock full of good things our mothers would approve of.  It’s deliciously moist, surprisingly light and un-dense.  It keeps very well, and  it re-heats nicely (if you’re looking around for something to melt your butter on.) But let’s do better for breakfast than carrot cake. We won’t frost them; instead we’ll top with a liberal scattering of healthy walnuts. We’ll only use whole-wheat flour, and we’ll do one better by adding extra wheat-germ. We’ll grate 2 whole cups of  carrots, newly-pulled from the good earth, and add a grated tart apple, a handful of shredded coconut, some warming spices and some strewn bits of candied ginger. And after a few warm bites, we can raise what’s left and call it a glorious morning, because what we call it matters maybe even more than how we start it.

morning glorious muffins

(makes 12 muffins)

  • ½ cup raisins —  (or substitute chopped dried apricots, or dried cranberries, if you’re not a raisin fan)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour — (either the traditional or white whole wheat – same nutritional content)
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups peeled and grated carrots
  • 1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts – divided — (or substitute pecans, or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened wheat germ
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease your muffin tin or line with papers and coat with a non-stick spray.

(Excuse me while I digress. I have this muffin “tin” that’s not a tin, but made of silicone instead and I love it. Here’s why: Muffins release easily from it without the addition of oil.  They cook beautifully in it – as brown as you like. Washing is easy – you can simply turn the cups inside out and give a little scrub. When not in use, roll it up and stuff it into cramped places. I’ll include a picture of it at the bottom of the post. All that being said, obviously, any muffin pan will do! )

Put the raisins (or the dried fruit of your choice) into a small bowl and cover with hot water to plump. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, and salt together, until thoroughly combined. Stir in the shredded carrots and apple, the coconut, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, finely chopped candied ginger and wheat germ.

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, orange juice and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and stir until evenly blended. Drain the raisins well, and add them now.

Divide the batter between 12 muffin cups – they’ll be nearly full, but they won’t overflow. They’ll just dome up beautifully. Scatter with approximately ¼ cup chopped walnuts (or your choice of nut or sunflower seeds.) Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, or until a tooth pick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan, on a rack, for 5 minutes only. Then remove the muffins to the rack to continue cooling.

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(Or of course, you may eat them steamy warm, and I highly recommend you do.)

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My silicone pan is actually one made for brioche but I use it for muffins because I love the shape. Here ’tis: Read more

Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream with Grilled Peaches

It seemed like such a good idea. The organic peaches had just arrived at the market and were irresistibly beautiful! Plump and fuzzy little things in colors of  the summer sun, deep coral, and bright, flushed cheeks. Gently going through dozens, I found six or seven that were perfectly ripe.
I held a notion that peach galette and vanilla-cardamom ice-cream would be a heavenly combination. With the taste already in my mind, I was anxious to get started. I set the bags of groceries on the counter and began making the dough for the galette. I prepared the beautiful peaches, assembled that rustic little pie and popped it in the oven. In the meantime, I made the ice-cream. When everything was done, it all looked quite pretty so I snapped some photos. Then I plated it and took that much-anticipated bite. Everything about it was lovely…except the taste. The ice-cream was fragrant-like-a-flower delicious! But the galette – I don’t mean to be rude – but she was boring! It really didn’t matter how pretty she was…once you got past her looks, there was nothing there.

I knew it wasn’t the fault of the peaches. (Naturally, as I was slicing them I’d slipped a few into my mouth.) I’d sweetened them some and spiced them nicely. Maybe somebody out there has a better idea, but I concluded that peaches and galettes, no matter how good they are on their own, don’t make a good pair. I haven’t had much experience cooking peaches…I love them fresh and bright and dripping juice.  My thoughts then went to, Well, how do I cook them in a way that all those lovable things about peaches are preserved? How about if I grill them?!  Of course this could be another good idea gone bad, but I had to find out.

I headed back to the store, found a few ripe peaches I’d missed before, brought them home, and fired up the grill. Just a few short minutes later, I was sitting in the sun with my bare feet up, eating heavenly mouthfuls of cold ice-cream and warm peaches!

Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream

The very first recipe I posted for this blog was an apple crisp. Here’s the ice-cream I’d promised to go with it. It’s almost indescribably good. Its speckled with black bits of vanilla bean and its flavor is carried on a cloud that touches your nose before the spoon meets your mouth. And if you try it, you’ll know what I mean when I say you’ll never be in a rush to swallow it. Its one of those things you’ll want to savor until the very last, melted spoonful.

  • 2 cups milk or light cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 8 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (see NOTE 2)

Preparation

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Strawberry & Rhubarb Galette

I had a bunch of fresh strawberries sitting on an old plate in a north window this morning as the sun came up. Dawnberries, I thought. And of course I had to bring my camera to where they sat. I can rarely leave anything this beautiful alone. The joy for me in cooking starts here, with beautiful fruit and vegetable shapes and colors. How shadows accentuate their plumpness. How water  makes their washed surfaces glisten.  How creases and dimples and stems and seeds tell the story of how they grew. What beauty crosses our paths in the ordinary, everyday act of putting a meal on the table!

(In the preceding post you’ll see how I came to choose this particular dish to share.)

Strawberry & Rhubarb Galette

For the dough, enough to make two 8-inch galettes:

(using a food processor)

  • 3 T. sour cream (or yogurt or buttermilk)
  • 1/3 cup (approximately) ice water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 7 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 to 8 pieces

Stir the sour cream and 1/3 cup ice water together in a small bowl. Put the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to blend. Drop the butter pieces into the processor bowl and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until you have a consistency ranging from bread crumbs to pea-size pieces. With the machine running, pour the sour cream and water mixture through the feed tube and combine until the dough forms soft curds. (This will take just a short moment. You don’t want to over-mix, but you probably already knew that.)

Remove the dough from the processor and, separating it into two pieces, quickly shape each into a ball and then flatten to a disc. Wrap each separately in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours. (Alternately, put in the freezer for about 15 minutes.)

Remove from the refrigerator and with a light dusting of flour on your work surface, roll the disc into an 11-inch circle. (You may need to lift and add several light dustings of flour since the dough is very soft, and will roll out very thin.)

Storage of galette dough:  If you decide to only make one galette at a time, the remaining dough can stay in the refrigerator for a couple days; or, with parchment paper between them and wrapped air-tight, they can stay in the freezer for up to a month.

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Ani’s Apple Crisp –

Ingredients Topping  

  • 3 T. unsalted butter, broken into several pieces  
  • 3 T. walnut oil  
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour  
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats (not quick-cooking)  
  • 1 handful of walnuts, chopped  
  • 1/2 t. salt  
  • 1/2 t. freshly grated nutmeg  
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Ingredients –  Filling

  • Approximately 2 pounds of apples (see note)
  • 1/2 cup or so of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I prefer brown, but granulated is fine)
  • ground cinnamon (1 t. or to taste)

NOTE:  A combination of Fuji, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and maybe one other of your choice makes for the most interesting and tasty apple dessert.  About 4 medium apples should do.  Though there’s lots of leeway here, it’s essential to have one tart apple (such as the Granny Smith) for flavor.


Preparing the Topping:  Using your fingers, work the butter with the sugar, flour, oats and spices so that each piece is coated and you have a coarse, crumbly mixture.  Stir in the walnut oil and add chopped walnuts, incorporating well.  (Variation made with all butter: if you haven’t any walnut oil and the urge strikes you to make this dessert with what’s on hand, you can substitute 6 T. butter.  But walnut oil is delicious in certain salad dressings too and really nice to have around.  Keep refrigerated.)

The Filling:  Peel and core the apples and cut into bite-size pieces.  Mix with cranberries, flour, sugar and spices.  Pour into a 2-inch high baking dish, and cover with the crisp topping.

Baking: Bake at 375° F until the fruit is bubbly and thickened around the edges and the crisp topping is browned.  (Depending on your baking dish and the variability of ovens, this may take up to an hour, but check sooner.  If it begins to brown too much before its edges get bubbly, cover with aluminum foil for the duration.)

Served warm is best.  But even cold for breakfast, with plain or vanilla yogurt, is good!  (In a future installment, I’ll share my recipe for Vanilla Cardamom Ice-Cream, a rather divine accompaniment to a simple, homey dessert.)

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