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Archive for the ‘Using Up Leftovers’ Category

If you stock homemade granola in your kitchen, and you have small children with incredibly variable appetites, you are likely to have come across the leftover granola issue. After the cost of the high quality ingredients, and the time of mixing and baking each batch, to throw away even just a half cup of it just about kills me.

So, I save up the leftovers in a pint jar in the freezer. When it’s full, I make these puppies, and redeem my children’s otherwise wasteful habits.

This recipe is from an old post, full of all kinds of jumble. But since I myself have G**gle searched “apronstringz leftover granola muffins” at least half a dozen times since publishing it, it occurred to me today that maybe I had better give it it’s very own brand new post. They are really good!

Cinnamon Crumble Muffins (wink)

makes one dozen very tall muffins

  • 1 pint jar (2 cups) leftover granola and milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil (don’t be afraid of olive oil for baking btw, it works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose (plus 1/2 cup or more if necessary)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins (optional)

for the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats

Butter your muffin tin generously. I never used to use butter to grease pans, but have since realized that it does a much better job than oil and makes a delicious crust to boot.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat all the wet ingredients together, whisk the dry ingredients together, then fold the dry into the wet. Add the extra 1/2 cup or more of white flour until you have a thick batter. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon like soft ice cream. Fill the muffin cups to the brim, and then even a teeny bit more. This recipe fit (barely) into my tin, which I think has 1/2 cup sized cups.

Dump all the crumble ingredient together in the empty batter bowl and mash/stir until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle onto muffins. It will seem like way too much, but keep trying to pack it on there. As the muffins bake and expand, the tops will suck up the crumble and it will be perfect! Pat the tops so that the crumble stays put. If you really can’t fit all the crumble on, save it in your freezer for your next batch o’ muffs.

Pop into the oven. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350. Starting at a high heat like this helps make your muffins nicely domed. Bake another- oh hell I don’t know, I never time ‘em- 10 minutes? They’re done when the tops feel springy, stick a butter knife in if you’re not sure, there should be sticky crumbs but no batter clinging.

Cool on a wire rack, where the 3YO can’t reach if you want to have any crumble left for anyone else.

Post Script: Add chocolate chips to the batter, and top with frosting and sprinkles for some big mama points!

20121108-151534.jpg

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I know you have a glut of crudely dyed eggs in your fridge. I know you’re wondering how you are going to get them all eaten before they go bad.

Here’s one idea. I did this with the ones that got cracked during the dying process. Considering we have a 4yo and a 2yo, there were quite a few.

First make a batch of butter pie dough, here’s my recipe. The key to flaky, whole wheat, all butter crust is keep it cold (cold! cold! cold! cold!) The butter should feel solid and only slightly yielding while you are working it in, like stiff clay.

While the pie dough chills, peel your eggs and crush with a fork (I used 5 eggs and made 6 very overstuffed pockets.) Stir in some grated cheese, chopped garden spinach or arugula and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I also threw in some leftover cooked potatoes. Obviously, this recipe is quite flexible. Just use already cooked or very quick cooking items, and nothing juicy or wet.

Now, roll out your chilled dough into a rough rectangle. Cut into 6 or 8 pieces, depending on how big you want the pockets. Put a scoop of filling on each square of dough. If you’re new to filled dough pockets, use half as much filling as I did on each square, these were really challenging to seal.

Now carefully lift up, fold and pinch the edges together to seal. This is a bit trickier than it sounds, particularly if you’ve done as I did, not as I said, and way over-stuff them. But since these have no saucy element, it’s okay if the edges don’t seal 100%.

Bake in a preheated 400 F oven 15-25 minutes until nicely golden brown. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before you try to eat them, 20 before serving to children– they stay pretty burny inside.

These freeze beautifully. Reheat in the toaster oven.

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I never get too far away from this subject in my mind, apparently: the challenge of putting good food on the table day after day, after day, after day.

Though I have waxed poetic in the past, today’s revisit is purely practical.

Pasta. With lentils. Damn is that some fine food! Every time I eat beans and noodles together I promise myself I will remember how good the combination is. And every time, two days out, I forget again and think “Pasta? With beans? Wouldn’t that be weird?”

Last night’s incarnation involved leftover penne mixed with leftover lentil soup thawed from frozen two days ago (complete with potatoes and carrots) mixed with one leftover hamburger patty, crumbled up. Sounding crazy? Wait, there’s more! The soup was very thick, so I added a puck of frozen chopped tomatoes and a healthy glug of olive oil to the skillet. I had a small handful of peas from the garden too. I heated it all up over high heat so that the pasta got that little bit of a fried texture and all the flavors thoroughly infused.

How can something so humble, concocted of such seemingly random and incongruous items, taste so delicious! Leftovers or no, I encourage you to try lentils with pasta soon.

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I go to the farmer’s market every week, mostly for milk and meat. Because I like to make outings efficient, we often go somewhere else after the market, so I have a giant insulated cooler bag that I put all my groceries in to keep things cool for the few hours until we get home. Since I always buy frozen meat, it works pretty nicely. Except for the weeks when I buy a whole chicken and goat meat, and then take a long outing. Everything stays perfectly cold, that’s not the problem, but if we’re out very long the chicken and the goat are partly thawed by the time we get home and I don’t want to put either back into the freezer (freeze thaw freeze thaw=decreased quality). So I leave them both in the fridge and tell myself I will use them both before they go bad.

I do use them both before they get bad, but in case you have not had the good fortune to discover this, goat meat doesn’t age well. Even after just a few days in the fridge it starts to taste…. like a goat. This has happened a few times now. Am I going to learn a lesson here folks? Ever? Just put the burger back in the freezer, stupid, it will be fine. Better a little dry than tasting like a sweaty goat’s ass.

Last night I opened the package of goat burger which had been in the fridge for 4 days to make dinner. Oof. Dang. Well, there’s always spices, right? Lots of garlic, black pepper, thyme, a little sage. I fried it all up, added a pile of homegrown savoy cabbage and brown rice. Dinner! It smelled perfectly promising to me.

My Man took one sniff and said, non-commitaly, “What kind of meat is this?” I know I’ve left it in the fridge too long when he asks what kind of meat it is. Fresh goat meat has no goat smell or flavor at all, just a nice rich real meat flavor. But even I had trouble finishing my meat last night. It was the aftertaste that got you. A little too suggestive of it’s origin.

There I was, with a big pile of meat that nobody except the 4yo wanted to eat (she loved it!) At $8/lb, I was not going to throw it to the chickens. So I followed the lead of traditional food cultures around the world and spiced the shit out of that funky meat. I simmered it in enchilada sauce for 40 minutes. Then I layered it with beans, cheese and tortillas. Voila! Goat, rearranged.

 

Even if you don’t ever have the musky meat problem, this is a great way to make enchiladas. You can use any kind of leftover cooked meat– roast chicken, pot roast, burger, or fresh meat too of course. If you get stew chunks (usually a good price) you can simmer them in thinned down enchilada sauce for a couple of hours to get some super tender, rockin’ flavored meat. But I find these enchiladas an especially good way to use up the not-quite-full-meal’s-worth of meat we often have leftover.

My enchilada recipe is really more of a style. I don’t know how traditional it is, and I don’t care, it’s very easy. I always use canned sauce, I just have not mastered a homemade sauce that tastes right. I only make these once every few months anyway.

Enchilada Stack Up

Put whatever meat you have in a pot, cover with sauce, then add a little water if you are planning to cook it a long time, or no water if you are just doing a quick cook. Simmer for 10 minutes to 2 hours, depending on your meat.

Here’s the only real key (and the only real work) to these enchiladas: the tortillas must be fried. Use a good half inch of high temp oil, and fry each tortilla for 15-20 seconds on each side. They don’t need to brown, and you don’t want them to get crispy. Just lusciously soft and oily. Drain well over the pan before stacking on a rack. You will want 3-4 tortillas per person, or 9-12 total for a family of four (I used 11). Just to make sure we’re on the same page, they must be corn tortillas, flour tortillas just dissolve into grossness.

When your meat is ready, pour a little of the sauce off into a 7×9 inch baking dish. Layer 3-4 tortillas on the bottom. Check out that photo up there, there is actually four tortillas on top, I ripped one in half and set it ripped side to the edge of the pan. Can you see it under there? Makes for a more even distribution of corny-ness.

Now use a slotted spoon to dredge some meat out of the sauce. Spread half your meat out over the tortillas, add in some black beans if you have them, sprinkle your preferred quantity of cheese on top, then do the whole thing all over again for a total of two layers. Top with the last of the tortillas, then pour the remaining sauce from the meat pot over everything. Sprinkle with some more cheese, cover with foil or parchment, then into a 350F oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove cover and cook another 20 or so until bubbly and delicious looking.

Important! Serve with Mexican slaw– shredded cabbage and carrot with garlicky lime mayonnaise dressing– to cut the heavy protein-ness of this meal.

Maaaaa-aaa, maaaa-aaa.

 

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Am I a punk?

Hell no, not by any punk standard anyway. No tattoos, no piercings, I change my clothes almost every week, and I live in a house with just one family. My life looks purty damn square to the punk eye.

But, by housewife standards, I like to think I can edge into the punk category. Which is a relief to my mind.

I’ve been meaning to start a series of Punk Housewife Tips, and my most recent, most brilliant discovery yet simply begged me to finally get to it! Enter Tip #1: Turning stale homemade wheat bread into breakfast cereal!

Not sure what finally knocked it through my thick head, but at some point I realized that Grape Nuts (much loved by My Man, but rarely purchased ‘cuz I’m a DIYer doncha know, and we eat homemade granola round here) are just toasted wheat bread crumbs. It started as a suspicion that seemed to simple to be true. But then my suspicion turned into a hunch, and then my hunch turned into an experiment, and my experiment was a success!

I don’t know about you, but we actually don’t eat that much bread around here. Typical scenario: I make 2 loaves. We finish off half of the first loaf while it’s still hot, the other half over the next day or two. The second loaf, at three days old is starting to sound less desirable (homemade whole wheat doesn’t stand the test of time very well). We eat a slice here and there and a week later there’s 3/4 of a loaf going moldy. Sure I make french toast, bread pudding, stuffing, bread crumbs for gratins, breading, meatballs, etc, etc. But a good use for stale whole wheat bread is never amiss.

I’m still monkeying with the recipe, but here’s the basics:

Homemade Grape Nits

(that’s what we always called ‘em)

Take your half-eaten stale loaf of homemade whole wheat bread, cut the mold off around the corners, and crumble it with your hands into a big bowl. If it’s a regular recipe whole wheat and truly stale, it should crumble easily. (If it’s a long rise type recipe, with a gluey-er structure, you might have to throw the slices into a food processor). Crumble the pieces very small, grape nut sized. For every cup of crumbs mix in a spare 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon honey. This makes an authentically not sweet cereal. If you want it to be sweet, add another Tablespoon honey or sugar (I think the caramelly flavor of Rapadura sugar would be perfect, it sure makes good tasting granola). Stir thoroughly to ensure every crumb is moistened. Spread the Nits evenly onto a greased cookie sheet, not too thick in the event you are doing a large batch. Bake at 275 F for 20-60 minutes, however long it takes to turn a medium brown all over. If the edges are browning too fast, stir them toward the middle and spread the blondies to the edge.

The browning is important, don’t skimp. It took me years of granola making to discover just how important it is. Toasted grains have an entirely different flavor– richer, nuttier, caramelly, complex, more. When you throw sugar or honey into the mix, you’re making a little actual caramel, which also enhances the crunch. But do be careful, it goes from brown to black kind of fast, so watch closely toward the end.

When nicely browned turn the oven off, but leave the pan in to continue drying out. Allow to cool completely to room temperature, pour into a large jar or bag and keep well sealed so that the Nits stay crunchy.

Bonus Tip!!! Cut an old (clean) milk jug like so for a DIY granola/grape nit funnel! Otherwise your kitchen floor will feel like a pebbly beach. Trust me.

Like the real thing, you can’t just pour the milk on and eat straight away or you’ll get a headache. You have to give the milk a few minutes to begin absorbing, but not too long, lest it become sodden. There’s a magical sweet spot there.

Now if I were a real punk, I wouldn’t have a food processor, and the oven in our anarchy squat house wouldn’t work because the gas was turned off. I would feed my leftover bread to my housemate’s stray looking pit bull instead. But that would all be a moot point since I’d be eating dumpstered fruit loops for breakfast anyway.

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Today is my birthday. After breakfast, we’re going to drive to get our four new chickens. The coop is (almost) all ready. What a great birthday present! Tomorrow morning– eggs maybe!

In the meantime, I’d better use up the Goat Man’s eggs (from the farmer’s market). As I tucked her in last night, the 3YO requested “that big deyishious pancake that’s as hot as a fire and has apples on top” for breakfast. First time she’s ever pre-requested breakfast, or any other meal, for that matter. Shows a certain ability to grasp the future.

I know there’s lots of recipes out there for what most people call Dutch babies, or puff pancakes. But they all seem unnecessarily complicated or ridiculously rich. This is my whole wheat tweak on my mom’s recipe. It’s super easy, and just a little rich. She always called them German pancakes, and topped them with cooked apples.

If you’ve never had these before, they puff up gorgeously in the oven, and then fall back down as they cool. So plan on bringing that big beauty straight to the table, scalding hot, with everything else read to go. And keep little fingers away. Seriously.

Fiery Deyicious German Pancakes

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup white all purpose
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Maple Apple Topping

  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • a bunch of leftover, half-eaten apples, or 2 big virgins
  • maple syurp
  • cinnamon

Turn the oven to 375. Although the pancake itself is super easy, the order of doing all the other particulars is important, so that everything else is on the table and ready to go when the pancake comes out. Start by slicing up the apples. You can cook them while the cake’s in the oven, but get them sliced up now. I like to use all my kids’ half-eaten apples, which I keep in the fridge until I have a pile. Then I make this pancake, or this pie, or a big pot of applesauce.

Whisk together everything for the batter except the butter, or just throw into the blender and whiz away. Get out an 8 inch cast iron, oven proof skillet or pie pan and set the butter in it. When the oven reaches temperature, stick the pan in. As soon as the butter starts to spit (watch so it doesn’t burn), remove the pan and swirl to coat. Give the batter a stir in case it’s separated, then pour right into the hot pan, it will sizzle and make a big fuss. Pop it into the oven, and then DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN for at least 15 minutes.

Now get those apples cooking. Melt the butter in a large cast iron over medium-high heat, throw the apples in and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon. Cook five minutes or until about half done, then drizzle on maple syrup. It doesn’t take much, since the apples themselves are very sweet. I probably use 1/4 cup? Ish. Maybe less. Keep the heat high, keep stirring, and the syrup and apple juices will reduce into a lovely ambrosial goo. If the apples still aren’t softened enough, put a lid on and simmer on low until they are.

Meanwhile, if your oven has a window you can actually see through, turn the oven light on and let the kids watch– after ten minutes or so the pancake starts to puff. It puffs, and it puffs, and it puffs! It should look like a crazy crater. When it turns beautiful burnished brown on the upper edges and is set in the middle, it’s done.

Quick! Get everybody to the table, which you should have set while the pancake was baking and the apples were cooking! Present the glory! Cut while still “hot as a fire” and serve big wedges with apples piled on top.

Happy birthday to me!

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Forget the flowers. To get me weak in the knees, give me a luscious bunch of orange and fuschia chard.

Swiss chard (silverbeet for some of you) is good eating, don’t get me wrong. But damn is it fine to look at! Those Rubenesque stems in every color imaginable. Those enormous succulent dark green wrinkled velvet leaves. Oh my!

I like Orange Fantasia and Pink Lipstick. I mean, in varieties of chard. The only problem with chard is that the prettiest varieties are the ones with mammoth stems, and the 36-24-36 proportions that look so heady on the plant never seem quite right in the kitchen. So little leaf, so much stem. So few ideas how to use those stems…

And that chard, true to it’s lascivious proportions, keeps on putting out! Every trip to the garden lately finds me returning with a 10 pound bouquet.

Enter my latest, and possibly best to date, recipe brainchild. Unlike that last recipe for empanadas, this is easy! Quick! Nutritious! And extremely tasty! Dare I say, these muffins do a better housewife make….

Now, understand that I do not mean savory, cheesy chard muffins, which would be delicious in their own right. I mean sweet chard muffins. Like carrot cake or zucchini bread. I’m not the first person to think of vegetables going sweet, but I’ve never heard of a sweet greens recipes before. Have any of you?

I first got the fire under my kettle for Swiss chard muffins a few weeks ago. I don’t remember how or why, but suddenly I found myself thinking, ‘chard stems—rhubarb… chard greens—sorrel pudding (Icelandic)… zucchini bread… chard muffins!’ and I knew I had to try it.

I did almost chicken-out at the last minute and go the savory direction. But fortunately for all of us, and generations to come, I powered through the second-guessing and gave it a go. What’ve I got to lose anyway?

There is an ever so slightly mineral, beety flavor to these which could potentially put picky people off, but it’s very, very slight. I can almost guarantee that if you like zucchini bread you’ll like these. I personally found that the barely detectable mineral flavor gave the sweetness complexity.

If you wash your chard, be sure to dry it thoroughly before adding it, or it will make the batter too wet. You can use both stems and leaves, or just the stems. I’ve tried both and couldn’t really taste the difference. But if you have little people who might be offended by green specks, leave them out. Plus, isn’t it nice to have a way to use up all that extra stem?

Slice the stems very thinly, almost shredding them. If the ribs are very wide, cut in half lengthwise first.

This recipe makes one dozen. When I make muffins lately I like to bake off half in my little six cup tin in the toaster oven. Then I line another muffin tin with paper liners, fill and freeze the rest. Cook’s Illustrated turned me on to this. Muffin batter freezes great, and you can bake them off straight from the freezer! Who knew? Muffins, especially the whole grain variety, are so much better freshly baked. Now you don’t have to eat them any other way! The frozen muffins only take an extra 10 minutes or so to bake.

Unlike those pesky empanadas, this is a great recipe for cooks of any skill level!

CJ’s Best Brain Child

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup white all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking powder, baking soda, powdered ginger and cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon each nutmeg and allspice*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups firmly-packed shredded chard stems and leaves, or just stems
  • 1/2-1 cup walnuts, optional of course
  • apx 2 Tablespoons water

*If you don’t have all those particular spices, use whatever you have. Or use pumpkin pie spice, which is really a great mix. As long as your spices are reasonably fresh (I mean, less than 2 years old) it’ll be good.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Starting out at a high heat helps make the lovely domed tops that whole grain muffins often lack.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Crack in the eggs, pour in the fats, chard and nuts, and gently fold/stir the lot together. An advantage of whole wheat pastry flour is you really don’t have to worry about overworking the batter.

When everything is mostly incorporated, drizzle on the water and keep folding until you have a very thick but workable batter. You might not need both tablespoons of water.

Scoop into well buttered or paper lined tins. Fill each cup completely, the old advice of 2/3 full might work for white flour muffins, but it doesn’t work for wheat.

Put into your preheated oven and leave for ten minutes or so until the edges have set, then lower the temperature to 375 F. Leave another 5-15 minutes. Muffins are done when you can press your finger lightly into the top and feel the spring back of a squishy muffin, instead of the give of puffed raw batter. If you aren’t certain, stick a butter knife into the center muffin. It should come out clean, wet crumbs maybe, but no batter clinging.

Allow muffins to rest in pan for ten minutes, then carefully remove to a rack to cool.

Or bounce hot muffins back and forth between your fingers, jumping up and down yipping like a coyote. If you want to make your kidlets laugh.

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Okay, I’m done talking about cleaning. For now. Honest! I have lots of other interesting things to tell you. And I realize I’ve been text heavy lately, so let’s see some pictures, right?

Let’s start with my garden, which is a heap of righteous green glory. I can’t believe I am eating out of my garden in January, it’s divine. I have cabbages bigger than your head, a bit of broccoli left, snap peas barely surviving the frosts, salad greens if I could want to eat them, garlic and onions putting on heft (though not bulbing yet of course) and don’t forget collards, as always, pumping out the food in dark green form. If I had planned better, I could have had carrots, spinach, beets and chard right now too. It’s crazy. Winter is actually the favored growing season here, because the buggies are scarce. And it’s not like up north where a winter garden is just harvesting what grew in summer and fall. No, cold season crops really grow here in winter. In fact, my Lousiana planting guide says I can start planting my spring crop of all the above mentioned vegetables anytime, though I just can’t make myself do it quite yet. We have some very warm days, but still plenty of frigid days. I might plant a row or two when I head to the garden later today, but mostly I think I’ll wait another week. Then it’ll begin a whole new round of green yumminess.

Speaking of green, I feel compelled to tell you about my tomatoes. Before we left for our 3 week Christmas trip I called my Southern gardening guru to ask what I should do about my two huge healthy looking tomato plants, loaded with green fruit. It was really my first success with tomatoes down here, and I was heartbroken to be leaving them. I asked whether I could harvest the green tomatoes and leave them somewhere cool where they wouldn’t freeze in hopes that they would be ripening just as I got back. He said not so much, they’d ripen in a week or two and I’d come back to a rotting pile of gross. He said he’d just leave ‘em in the ground and pray. Having no particular anybody to pray to, and vaguely remembering the one time I tried growing tomatoes in Cordova (under plastic, but they still didn’t ripen before the freeze), I decided to buck his advice. How just like me.

But guess what? It worked! I think he was imagining tomatoes on the verge, you know, when they start turning white-ish? But mine were solid green rocks. Also he was probably imagining them in a warm room, but I left them in my neighbors shed (with the instruction to eat any that ripened). The first batch was just ripening when we got back, and they are still slowly ripening. Granted, these are not flavorful vine-ripened fabulousness. They actually taste about like supermarket tomatoes (for the same reason). But hell, it was that or nothing. I did by the way, fry my share of green tomatoes and experimented with them in general cooking. Green tomato salad? Pretty darn tasty with a good garlicky vinegrette. Green tomatoes in gumbo? They blend right in, almost okra-ey, but without the slime. I have a batch of green tomato jam in progress, but honestly it doesn’t smell that promising.

What does smell good are the muffins I made this morning! Cinnamon Crumble, we’ll call them, though what they really are is leftover granola muffins. I’ve mentioned before that I keep a jar in the freezer where I deposit half finished bowls of soggy granola. With a 3YO around, there’s quite a few of those. I worked hard to make the granola, and it ain’t free either, what with all the organic nuts, oils and high quality sugar. When the jar gets full I make bread, pancakes or muffins. I’ve been working on the recipe and this morning’s was perfect. They’re not overly sweet, but the sugary crumble gives it an extra decadent punch without turning it into cake for breakfast. Unless you’re 3, and manage to peck all the crumble off half the pan of muffins before yer mama catches you. Grrrr…

Cinnamon Crumble Muffins (wink)

makes one dozen very tall muffins

  • 1 pint jar (2 cups) leftover granola and milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil (don’t be afraid of olive oil for baking btw, it works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose (plus 1/2 cup or more if necessary)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins (optional)

for the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats

Butter your muffin tin generously. I never used to use butter to grease pans, but have since realized that it does a much better job than oil and makes a delicious crust to boot.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat all the wet ingredients together, whisk the dry ingredients together, then fold the dry into the wet. Add the extra 1/2 cup or more of white flour until you have a thick batter. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon like soft ice cream. Fill the muffin cups to the brim, and then even a teeny bit more. This recipe fit (barely) into my tin, which I think has 1/2 cup sized cups.

Dump all the crumble ingredient together in the empty batter bowl and mash/stir until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle onto muffins. It will seem like way too much, but keep trying to pack it on there. As the muffins bake and expand, the tops will suck up the crumble and it will be perfect! Pat the tops so that the crumble stays put. If you really can’t fit all the crumble on, save it in your freezer for your next batch o’ muffs.

Pop into the oven. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350. Starting at a high heat like this helps make your muffins nicely domed. Bake another- oh hell I don’t know, I never time ‘em- 10 minutes? They’re done when the tops feel springy, stick a butter knife in if you’re not sure, there should be sticky crumbs but no batter clinging.

Cool on a wire rack, where the 3YO can’t reach if you want to have any crumble left for anyone else.

While you’re munching, how about a few book reviews? I’ve kept up with my Mornings are for Books concept, partly by allowing myself to buy books. I interlibrary loan some, but don’t hesitate much to buy ones I think I’ll want to keep.

I bought and read Harriet Fasenfest‘s The Householder’s Guide to the Universe in November. Great choice. It is a lovely synthesis of practical things such as gardening advice and recipes, with her very personal and honest account of becoming a householder. Just the sort of writing I most adore to read in the AM hours. The link takes you to some of her articles for Culinate, which is also otherwise a great local/groovy food site.

After that I gorged on Forgotten Skills of Cooking by Dorina Allen which I got for Christmas, much to my amazement. It’s not like I asked for it. I hadn’t even heard of this book, which is so very, very right up my alley. It is pure old timey food porn. So full of gorgeous photos that the book itself weighs almost five pounds. The link up there is actually to Amaz*n, so you can get the “peek inside.”

 

 

Now I’m on Living with Goats by Margaret Hathaway (link is to her blog). When we were up north at my in-laws, I met a woman who kept Nigerian Dwarf goats and it really amped my goaty fantasies. It was at their otherwise fairly awkward neighborhood Christmas party, I was politely chit-chatting with people I didn’t know, and a woman across the table said, “Oh, didn’t you come out to see my goats once?”

My ears perked, did she say goats? “Umm, no, you must be confusing me with my sister-in-law. I would definitely remember that, I love goats!”

All of a sudden, a whirlwind swept up around us, separating us from the babbling crowd. All the “oh and what do you do? mmm, hmm, how interesting” disappeared and her eyes locked mine, “You love goats?” she said already coming around the table toward me. Goat people are hilarious.

“Oh yeah!” I said, “Goats are great, smart and friendly, more like dogs than other farm animals. I really want to have a couple of milking Nigerian Dwarves when we go back to Alaska. But don’t tell my husband that!”

“I have Nigerians!” she said, elated. And that was it, the deal was made. We spent the next half an hour in impenetrable goat-talk, and made a date for a goat visit a few days later.

She had a small flock of something like 8 Nigerians. She wasn’t milking at the time, but she does the once-daily milking that I had read about on Fiasco Farm. I am very intrigued by that idea, especially since it doesn’t require taking babies away from mamas, something I’m not sure I have the hutzpah for, but also because once a day is a lot less time commitment, and do we really need all that much milk anyway? She also gave me courage about the goats as “browsers” idea which I kind of relied on in my goat fantasies. Hay would be very expensive as the sole feed in Cordova, no one around grows it, I’d have to ship it all in from the more pastoral parts of Alaska. But weeds and brush we have! In spades. (I have since read in a paper on goats as land clearers that said a goat’s natural diet is 82% “browse” and only 18% grass…)

Talking to her got me started on a heavy duty scheming streak. I have done a bunch of research since, and I’m pretty fired up. I decided it was time to buy myself a book.

Living with Goats is definitely a beginner book. Really I’d have to say it’s more of a schemer book. If you were really getting goats, you’d need something a lot more thorough. But since I am just scheming, it’s perfect. I do wish I had just interlibrary loaned it though, I don’t suspect I’ll need it for reference much.

Whew! I had more things I wanted to tell you, about non-sewing projects, and homemade antlers for Bambi-obsessed 3YOs, but it’ll all have to wait. I’ve got to get out to my garden before it’s too late!

Happy Saturday!

 

 

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I don’t know about the rest of you homemade-granola-makers-with-kids, but we end up with a fair quantity of leftover, soggy granola. Never all at the same time, mind you. A bit here, and a bit there. But it adds up.

Where it adds up at our house is in a pint jar in my freezer.

The idea of re-purposing the stuff came to me last fall and is one of those small life changes inspired by Riana. ‘That stuff is still perfectly good, albeit soggy.’ I said to myself one day. ‘I worked hard for that granola. There’s quality foodstuffs in there. Not to mention the milk.’ When I had collected a jar full, I used it in some bread.

The first few loaves were just regular bread. The granola wasn’t enough to make it seem sweet, there was only an occasional raisin. But after a few loaves I figured why not capitalize on the granola?

So I started adding in extra raisins and nuts to make a delicious morning bread, perfect for those of us who can’t handle granola for breakfast (which is to say– me. Ironic isn’t it that the granola maker doesn’t eat it? Don’t know why, I wish I could feel good eating granola in the morning. It’s so quick and easy, and I never feel like cooking. But it makes my tummy feel bad. Partly the milk and partly the undercooked grains I think.)

Yesterday, I tried “baking” my first granola bread in Trixie. And it came out stellar! Best bread yet in the multi-cooker. I don’t know if that’s because of the way I baked it, or the fact that I added 2 eggs maybe? Who knows.

Since I used the slow cooker function, any of y’all with one of those could do this recipe. Although, since Trix has a “brown” setting, I started it out on that for 10 minutes, and got a delightfully brown crust. When the bread was mostly set, I flipped it over to brown the top, so the whole loaf had a nice crust. Not bakery quality, mind you, but something to work yer teeth on.

Anyway, you know I’m not much of a recipe cook, but here’s approximately what I put in my bread yesterday.

Leftover Granola Bread

  • 2 cups soggy leftover granola
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 Tablespoon yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sucanat
  • 1 cup white bread flour
  • 3 cups whole wheat
  • 1/4 cup gluten flour
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup dried currants, raisins or any kind of dried fruit (I recently discovered the dried currants at Whole Foods. They’re not organic, but they’re only $2.99/lb! That’s a steal! I like them even better than raisins, which I’ve always found too sweet really…)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • drizzle of molasses
  • good glug of oil
  • splash of vanilla

Add more flour as necessary, I think I used another 1/2 cup of wheat, or was it one and a half...? I usually make fairly soft doughs, but since I figured this slow cooker loaf didn’t need any extra help in the ‘moist’ department, I made it a bit on the stiff side. This did make it a slow riser, so next time I think I’ll use a full tablespoon of yeast.

Note: This made a very large loaf! Since Trixie’s got, as I said before, “back” she was capable of… “accommodating” …such…. “proportions.” As you all well know, size does matter, so those of you with the standard sized crock pots had probably better cut this recipe in half.

Proceed as usual with mixing the dough. Set in your well greased insert/pot for the second rising, then “bake” on high. I’m guessing on that last part. Trix doesn’t have a high and low (another unfortunate feature I forgot to mention) and the single “slow cook” function must be low, because it takes a loooong time to cook stuff. So, as I mentioned before, I started it out on brown for 10 minutes, then turned it down to slow cook. For oh… about an hour and a half? I think. ish. When the loaf was somewhat set on top, but still not truly done, I flipped it over and “brown”ed the other side for another 10. Then I turned the cooker off, but left the bread in for another half hour. Got that?

I forgot to mention that I used a silicone mat under the loaf, to make getting it out really easy. It worked great. I got a set of four different silicone baking things at a garage sale for $5. I cut a round the size of Trixie’s bottom out of the cake “pan,” and it’s perfect.

You can also just bake things in a souffle dish or anything else that will fit in your cooker (oven proof of course). My first loaf I did in a stainless steel bowl, set in a couple inches of water. But that sure wasn’t gonna get me any kind of crust, and seemed like an unnecessary extra dish. If there’s one thing I can’t abide, it’s an extra dish! Even now that I have a new fangled washer machine thingy.

There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but I’m pretty happy with this bread all things considered. It’s really hitting the spot for breakfast lately, slathered with butter. I usually need something more substantial than toast for breakfast, but now that it’s Hot here again, toast feels about right. Especially when it has plenty of yummy nuts and dried currants in it!

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I’ve been thinking lots about food scraps lately. Specifically how to use them up. This topic is one of about 46 I have stocked up in my brain for future posts. And given all the pontificating about housewifery lately, I figured I’d better deliver some real life housewifing, and quick.

So yesterday for dinner I made stuffing with old (homemade) bread and frozen-from-Thanksgiving turkey stock. For dessert I made the “special” apple pie I save up for and make once every few weeks out of old, abandoned, half finished toddler apples.

Does that gross you out? Too bad, suck it up. Go read smitten kitchen if you want pretty pictures.

The thing is, the Toddler doesn’t eat slices, she only wants to eat apples if she can gnaw the thing whole. But then of course, being only two, she can’t eat even half an apple. Sometimes I finish it for her. Sometimes I stick it in the fridge, in the cheese drawer. They stack up there till I have enough. Then I trim the darker spots and anything slimy or bad looking, and chop up the rest for pie.

How resourceful.

I love pie, and go to the trouble to roll out a crust relatively frequently, but it is an awful lot of work and clean up. Happily, I recently devised a super quick, no mess pie crust method that works surprisingly well. Don’t know why this took me so long. It’s a top crust only pie (that’s always the best part anyway, right?) and certainly not the prettiest I’ve ever made, also it would only work for apples or other firm fillings. But you can throw it together in about 10 minutes, and that friends is worth quite a bit.

does that look like compromise to you?

Lickety Split Leftover Apple Pie

Fill your pie pan with chopped up old half gnarly apples. Cover with 2 Tablespoons flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice blend and a generous pinch of salt, or whatever blows yer skirt up baby. Gently work the stuff in a little.

Now press down on the apples, hard, to make as flat a surface on top as you can. Then make the crust:

2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 white bread flour, or all-purpose

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 Tablespoons butter

Cut the butter in as usual, and add ice cold water till barely clumping. Dump the clumps out over the top of your apples, as evenly as you can. Sprinkle flour over to keep your fingers from sticking, then press the clumps out to form as cohesive a top crust as you can.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 till bubbly and browned.

Enjoy the family worship you’ll receive for making apple pie on a plain old Tuesday night.

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I hate to toot my own horn, but it’s true. I’m good at cooking a planned special meal, great at looking at what’s in the pantry and designing a meal, but my true genius is re-purposing leftovers. A good skill to have for thrifty eco-wifeys like us.

Consider this.

The other night I looked in the fridge to see what I should make for dinner. Here’s what I found:

one cooked sweet potato

one cooked weird little decorative squash (left over from post thanksgiving scrounging)

leftovers from the night before– baked potato with cauliflower and broc saute

half a package of thawed, frozen spinach

feta cheese that really needed to get used

scrap pie crust

I didn’t think to take a photo, so it’s understandable if you don’t believe me, but what I turned out from those ingredients could easily grace the menu of a fancy vegetarian restaurant, and is going straight onto my favorite quickie meals list. It’s part quiche, part gratin, part pot pie. And all yummeronies! It would work with just about any kind of leftovers. Granted, how often do you have leftover pie crust? But I think it would have been almost as fantastic with a breadcrumb and cheese top “crust.”

Layer your kitchen sink ingredients in a greased baking dish. Make sure there’s some kind of cheese in there. Whisk up 3 eggs with one cup of milk and a tablespoon of flour. Salt and pepper too, and any other spice that strikes yer fancy. (I used a small sized Pyrex,  I think it’s 5×7, it fits in our toaster oven. I’ve got two and use them constantly. They also have a rubber fitted lid, so when I’m not using them to bake in, I use them for non-plastic tupperware. Anyway, if you use a bigger pan, you’ll want to increase you’re egg/milk mixture.) Then pour over the top, shaking the dish a little to settle the liquid down into all the cracks and crannies. Of course, many ways would work, but I had the liquid just below the level of the ingredients. If you put in lots of liquid it would go more towards a quiche and less like a veggie pie. I wanted just enough egg to bind it all into one cohesive leftover ambrosia, not enough so’s it tasted like egg. Then I just set the crust on top and cut to fit. If you don’t have a pie crust, top with a layer of cheese, then a thick layer of breadcrumbs, with a little more cheese sprinkled on top.

Here’s the only drawback. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to put together, but then 40-60 minutes to bake. So, it’s not exactly in the quickest class. I nuked my layered ingredients, pre-egg mixture (that’s the other great thing about these small Pyrexes, they fit in the micro too!) to get a little jump on the baking time.

That’s it! Prepare to be delishified!

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