Archives for category: Other

Yesterday, I had a craving like no other for a blueberry muffin.  Warm from the oven, spread with a little lemon curd or butter – I thought I might cry if I didn’t get to eat a muffin.  Sadly, I had no blueberries and the stores were closed.  So I decided to be patient (ha!) and nicely asked Martin to buy me some blueberries on the way home from work today.  He did (ain’t I lucky?) and YESOMG:


I used these snack cups, which I love for their plain style and that they’re sturdy enough for free standing baking.  The mini size (shown here) make these adorable muffins an awesome two-bite snack.

Unrelatedly, one of my oldest friends, Megan, had a theory about muffins, which is to say that the kind of muffin you like directly correlates to the kind of sex you like.  Oatmeal bran muffins?  Boring, unimaginative (healthy?) sex.  Banana espresso chocolate muffin?  Spicy, possibly risque sex.  I think you get the picture.  I wonder what she would say about blueberry.

This recipe is one I mashed together from a bunch of different ones so I’ll post it below.  The sugar topping adds a great caramelized crunch to the muffins.  The only thing missing, in my opinion, was a stronger hint of cinnamon so I’ll add a good pinch of that to the batter next time.  Otherwise, guys, it’s love for these little muffins.  And I hope you love them too.

Blueberry Muffins

90 g all purpose flour
90 g white whole wheat flour
150 g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup fresh blueberries
65 g brown sugar
15 g all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp melted butter

1-  Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together in a medium sized bowl.

2-  Put vegetable oil in a measuring cup and add the egg.  Fill the remaining cup measure with buttermilk (will be approx 1/2 cup).

3-  Drizzle liquid onto flour mixture and gently fold.  Before the liquid is completely incorporated, add blueberries and fold gently until all dry ingredients are absorbed.  Be careful not to overwork the batter.

4-  Fill cupcake tins about half full.  For mini sized muffin cups, use a heaping cookie scoop full (approx. 2 tbsp or 1/8 cup).

5-  Melt butter.  Mix together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Drizzle in melted butter and whisk together until melted.

6-  Sprinkle on top of the muffins.

7-  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

Servings:  17 mini muffins


Why hello there, meyer lemons.

These little guys have been showing up in the stores lately and I cannot wait to make something fantastic with them!  I already have a meyer lemon curd planned for tomorrow to use up a couple of leftover egg yolks, which I plan to eat by the spoon like yogurt.  Hey, no judgement allowed!

But I’m kind of at a loss for other ideas so if you have any favorite lemon-y recipes, please share.  🙂

By the way, I wanted to say a quick shout out to our super talented and creative friend Lily who made the bowl that our lemons are in, made it with her own two hands!  Isn’t it amazing?

If there’s one thing you know about me, it’s that I love ice cream.  Actually, it’s probably the fact that my favorite color is yellow but a close runner up (or if you only knew two things about me), it’s that I love ice cream.  Seriously love it.  My one regret for our wedding reception was that I didn’t bring Goodberry’s (an amazing frozen custard chain with locations only in North Carolina)  in to cater dessert.  If I’d known … well, woulda coulda shoulda.

Currently, there are no less than three different ice cream flavors in my freezer.  One of them is Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry, which was one of the major reasons I wanted David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop.  I kept thinking I’d make it and a year later, finally got around to it.  And to do that, I had to make this:

Basically, you pit a whole bunch o’ cherries and then boil them in a sugar solution until a thick sauce had formed.  I got this from a recipe in the book and it makes enough for two portions of ice cream.  I quickly used half to make one batch of ice cream, then promptly (and foolishly) tucked the other one in my pantry.  I think we can all see where this is going.  When I went to get it the other day to use the syrup, it had a nice layer of mold on top.

I think I might have thought the sugar would keep the mold away.  I was wrong.

I’ve had a 1 pound slab of chocolate in my fridge for awhile and it’s been ear-marked all this time for just one thing:  making brownies using Tartine’s recipe.  Seriously, dude.  Tartine means business with this brownie.

It always seems like people who like brownies are divided into two distinct camps:  those who love cake-y brownies and those who love fudge-y brownies.  I am not into super fudge-y brownies, I actually love them to be super chewy.  But if I did have to choose, I’d choose fudge-y, every time.  My thoughts: if you wanted cake-y brownies, why not just eat cake?

These are some seriously decadent brownies and when you see the ingredients list, you’ll know why:  1 pound chocolate.  2 cups brown sugar.  5 eggs.  Almost half a pound of butter.  And barely enough flour to bind it all together.

I used a double broiler to melt the chocolate and butter together.  If you use that method, make sure no water touches the chocolate or else the chocolate will seize and everyone will be sad because you won’t be able to make them any delicious brownies.

Mmm, crackly top brownies.  How I love you.

The insides are so moist that you can’t really use the traditional toothpick test to determine done-ness.  Instead, you just look for a crackled top.

The insides part were really rich, almost goo-y, but the edges were chewy, just the way I like them.  I could barely eat two bites in a row, so these go great with milk or a cup of tea or under a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. These are so soft that I don’t think they would cut well in the pan, so lining the pan with overhanging parchment paper to help lift them out will result in neater slices and a pan that needs no cleaning afterwards, win win!  I also read that these freeze well, so I plan on saving some of them that way, for when my next chocolate craving strikes.  The recipe states that this makes 12 servings, which is mind boggling to me.  Really, just twelve?!

Tartine Bakery Brownies

Recipe By: Tartine
Serving Size: 12
Yield: 12 brownies

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1- Preheat oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x13″ pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper and dust with cocoa powder.

2- In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from heat and add the chocolate to melt. Stir until fully melted and set aside to cool.

3- Sift the flour into a small bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat on high until the mixture becomes pale and thick, about 4-5 minutes. With a spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and chocolate chips (if using) and fold it in gently so that you don’t deflate the air that’s been incorporated into the eggs.

4- Pour the batter into the prepared dish and smooth out the top. Bake until the top looks slightly cracked and feels soft to the touch, about 25-28 minutes. Remove and cool completely in the pan. Refrigerate overnight. With a sharp knife the next day, cut into 12 squares.

For Christmas last year, Michelle made this divine caramel popcorn.  We got a big bag of it, then I proceeded to eat about 50% of it in one sitting.  I felt immediately guilty for not sharing with Martin, so I put the rest of it away for him … but by the time he got to it, maybe only 33-ish% was left.  Sorry, Martin!  It was too delicious.

Michelle gave me the recipe but I’ve never made it, mostly because I’ve never had a big enough pan to bake 15 cups of popcorn in one sitting.  But I finally got a sheet pan and decided to go all-out for Emily’s Halloween party!  And it was seriously a thrill for me, I finally got to break open the bottle of Karo’s corn syrup that I bought specifically for this recipe (oh and pecan pie) and yet have never used.  And I may or may not have owned this bottle for 6+ months.  So yay caramel popcorn and using up corn syrup!

What can I say?  It’s the little things in life that make my day.

Ch-ch-check it out:

Pop! goes the … popcorn.

Mixing it up was easy enough … the problem came because of proportions.  The recipe calls for 15 cups POPPED popcorn (and yes, my copy of the recipe really emphasizes that popped part!).  A single bag of the microwave popcorn I bought made 11 cups, so I made 2 bags and increased the caramel part of the recipe by 50%.

(May I take a moment to say WOWZA.  I have never been much of a popcorn gal, so I never realized how limiting your options are for popcorn when you DON’T want popcorn with butter, EXTRA butter or MOVIE STYLE ZOMG butter.  I spent a good 5 minutes analyzing the popcorn selection at the grocery store and came up with exactly 2 options for unbuttered popcorn, one of which was organic.)

And now returning to the recipe at hand:  Instead of increasing by 50%, I think that I should have just increased it by 25%.  I can’t believe I am about to say this but: I think there was TOO MUCH caramel topping!  I apparently like lightly coated caramel popcorn and not super sugary caramel popcorn – who would have ever guessed?

Also, I learned the accidental-oops way that throwing in the baking soda with everything else and not after everything is boiling will not adversely affect it too much.  I don’t know what adding the baking soda last would normally have done, though.  Maybe make it foam up?  When I make it right the next time, I will be sure to let you know!

If you are unable to spread the popcorn in a single layer in the pan (I wasn’t because I’d made so much!) be sure to mix it up real well and test popcorn from the bottom of the pack for done-ness.  I just tested the top and the bottom pieces were still a bit chewy.  I think super crispy is the way to go (there is a pleasant crunching sound that comes when you bite into a piece!) so I would definitely check a bit more carefully next time.

Caramel Popcorn
by Michelle

15 cups POPPED plain popcorn (salted is okay)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1.  Preheat oven to 200-degrees F.

2.  Mix together all ingredients BUT baking soda.  Bring to a boil.  Add baking soda and remove from heat.

3.  Pour over popcorn, carefully tossing to coat.  Spread onto sheet pan and bake in oven for minimum 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until popcorn is crisp.

Servings:  Lots of yumminess!

(Another photo-less post.  Sorry, guys.  I know they’re boring and my writing doesn’t necessarily shine.)

Black-bottomed caramel pudding was basically caramel pudding.  The black part came from mixing the caramel pudding with chocolate. The bottom part comes from layering the chocolate’d part on the bottom of the glass.

I was really excited about making this, because, frankly, I love pudding.  LOVE it.  Whole Foods sells this TO-DIE-FOR chocolate pudding made with Scharffen Berger chocolate and my secret is that I will buy some and then hide it in the back of the fridge and not tell Martin.  Over the course of a week, I will eat it in tiny spoonful portions, all while still NOT SHARING WITH MARTIN.  I’m evil, but I also know I can get away with telling you this secret because Martin unsupportively does not read this blog.

So.  Back to pudding and not the state of my relationship with Martin.  I felt like pudding one night, saw this recipe in my cookbook and loved the idea, so I gathered together all the ingredients and started going to town.

The first step to making caramel pudding is, of course, making a caramel-y base.  I am pretty much terrified of boiling sugar, so I stuck a candy thermometer in my pot and did not move for the 15 minutes it took to turn a “deep amber caramel.”  That may or may not have involved not-blinking.  I also believe I kept the heat a bit on the low side since it took longer than stated, but I’d prefer standing there for a bit longer than freaking out as I watch my “deep amber caramel” turn into an “inedible black.”  Which I’ve done before.

Other than that, it was pretty easy.  I added the heavy cream in and I was a bit concerned that my caramel immediately chunked up, but returning it to heat and stirring dissolved it again.  It was basically a lot of putting it on heat / taking it off heat / stirring like no one’s business.  I think my result came out pretty well.  As a pudding-lover, I was pleased and ate a portion (they’re heavy so though I wanted more, I couldn’t).  Martin thought it was best when when the bottom mixed with the top, but I preferred keeping my layers separate.

Would I make this again?  Yes, but I want to try other pudding flavors first!

Black-Bottomed Caramel Pudding

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups whole milk, separated into 1/2 and 2-1/2 cup portions
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate (this is about 1/3 cup chocolate chips)

1-  Gently bring sugar and water to a boil.  Mix with whisk until combined.  When sugar-water is boiling (over medium heat), watch over it carefully as it changes from a light brown to a dark brown.  (Most cookbooks that discuss making caramel talk about swirling and washing the sides down with a pastry brush.  I do the pastry brush part but generally do not swirl once my sugar has dissolved into the water).

2-  When the sugar is a dark brown, immediately remove from heat and slowly add heavy cream in a steady stream.  Mixture will bubble and also sort of solidify.  Return to low heat and stir with whisk until blended again.

3-  In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1/2 cup milk.  In another small bowl, beat together eggs, vanilla and salt (you will be adding about 1 cup of custard to this later for tempering purposes, so make sure it can fit).  In another bowl, put the chopped chocolate (you will add about 1/2 cup of the caramel custard to this, so make sure it can fit).

4-  Stir remaining 2-1/2 cups milk into the caramel mixture and bring to a simmer.  When a simmer has been achieved, stir together cornstarch mixture (to make sure the cornstarch hasn’t settled out of the milk) and pour it into the caramel mixture.  Stir constantly for 2 minutes at a simmer.

5-  Remove mixture from heat (for the last time!) and slowly add about 1 cup of hot mixture into eggs to prevent the eggs from solidifying, stirring the whole time.  Add this mixture back into the hot mixture and stir to combine, about a minute, off heat.

6-  Take about 1/2 cup of hot mixture and pour over the chocolate chips.  Let sit for a minute to melt the chocolate, then stir to combine.

7-  The best tactic is to pour the mixtures into measuring cups with a pour spout of some sort to pour into glasses or bowls, for cleaner results.  Let chill for 3 hours, then serve garnished or ungarnished.

Servings:  6 four-ounce portions

For my birthday this year, I got not one but TWO sets of ice cream molds, from two very different (but very loved) friends.  Amazing!  One had a cowboy theme and the other was pastel colored farm animals.  I truly hit the jackpot this year.

I had never thought about buying ice cream molds before but the minute I got them, I knew I had to try them out.  I chose speed over everything this time around and baked up a pan of brownies (from a mix, no less!) and took out some Breyers Natural Vanilla ice cream.  Then I created my sticky-sweet assembly line of love. ( Yeah, you like how complicated I made that last sentence?)

First, I thought to myself, “Maybe it is time to get a good, sturdy, 9×13 baking pan that isn’t a one trick pony, although its one trick DOES make me spasm with joy whenever I bite into an extra-edgy brownie.”  Because it made cutting out brownie slices a bit difficult:

As an engineer, though, I persevered:

Cut, cut, and now ice cream time!!!

What time?  Vanilla bean ice cream time!  Heya!  Heya!

Okay, please forgive me for my sugar-induced high, and for peanut butter jelly time being SUCH a catchy song.

Top with another brownie and now it’s time to squish:

And squish … and squish some more.  And woah, will you take a look at that:

Here is my opinion on ice cream sandwich molds.  They do their work well.  But then the insides squish out if you bite into them.  Maybe I should have put in less ice cream.  But ice cream = WIN.  So I put them onto a plate and into the freezer to firm up, where they promptly froze out of shape.  Then I put them in the freezer to firm up, STILL IN THE MOLDS.  These did just fine.  But then I can only make 6 ice cream sandwiches at a time.  So I can only have me and five other friends over to partake in ice cream sandwich-ness.  Is this a life I want to lead?  Is it so bad to want your ice cream and eat it too?  Did this last paragraph make any sense?  Only you can decide!

I have lately been on a tea binge.  Thanks to Jordan’s birthday present, I have been drinking tons of tea.  My new favorite is called “Birthday Tea” and it tastes just like cake.  Non-caloric, super-yummy cake.  WIN.

My renewed interest in tea has caused me to sort through the boxes of tea I have already and resolve to try to use them all.  One tea I’ve had for awhile but hadn’t even opened is passion tea, from Tazo.  Some of you may recognize this tea, as Starbucks generally sells it as an iced drink mixed with lemonade in the summer.  Very tasty.  I had bought the tea with high hopes, thinking I’d magically start liking it hot.  I have a bad habit of doing that.  🙂  As inevitably happens, I did not magically start liking it and it just sat in our cupboard.  I don’t know why it never occurred to me to try to make my own iced tea out of it, but it didn’t.

Serendipitiously, I came upon the box of tea while in the process of boiling water for some sweet tea.  Since 4 – 6 small tea bags are needed per half-gallon of sweet tea, I decided to try it.  I made sweet tea, substituting passion tea for orange pekoe.

And the results?  It tasted like juice.  And awesome.  It tasted like juicy awesome.  Definitely more juice than tea, too.

Martin opened our refrigerator this morning to see a deep pink liquid inside a glass pitcher.  I think the bright pink color slightly frightened him, as he didn’t try it (I thought he might).  I poured some up for dinner and he took a sip, not knowing what it was.  Only when he realized he liked it did he stop to ask what it was.  He didn’t believe it was tea (3/4 a cup of sugar can help with that.  Is sweet tea REALLY tea?)!  He kept insisting it was juice.  I had to show him the box of tea before he finally believed me.

I think I might have gotten sidetracked from the whole point of this post which is, sweet tea made with passion tea from Tazo makes tasty tasty juice.  Now that I’ve made it this way, I realize I can make a homemade version of the Starbucks drink for a fraction of the cost.  Truly sweet!

As a side note, passion tea is supposed to have rose hip, passionfruit, mango, orange peel and hibiscus flower notes.  It will also turn a rich pink color.  I’ve seen a lot of “fruit blend” teas and wonder if they will have a similar effect.  I have a blueberry tea I bought in Texas and I might try that next!

Last night, Martin and I had a couple of co-workers over for dinner. I tried out a few new things on willing bellies but failed to do any prep work the night before. So, consequently, on the day of the dinner, I was cooking a lot and efficiently freaking out. That’s why I failed to take any pictures. Food posts without pictures are sad, but sad food pictures are perhaps even worse. I guess you can’t win them all.

I thought I would devote today’s entry to sweet tea, which I made to go with our “barbecue” theme. For many, this beverage needs no introduction. But for others, like our co-workers, sweet tea is a drink served at McDonald’s and true southerners know that just ain’t right. I took a quick poll from all my friends who have experienced real sweet tea and happened to be available online and here are the results:

I asked, When you think of sweet tea, what do you think of?

Manveer: I think of Bojangles sweet tea!

Not quite what I was looking for but let’s go on:

Martin: Bojangles.

Okay … still not quite. I’ll cross my fingers with this next person:

Stuart: Bojangles.

Did I miss something?

Arun: Bojangles. Then the Rockford.

Obviously, yes.

Who knew Bojangles and sweet tea were so irrevocably tied in people’s minds? I was hoping for awesome adjectives like “amazingly awesome” or “summer” or “end-all be-all” of drinks, but these could also describe Bojangles biscuits so that’s good enough for me.

There is a lot of debate on the proper way to make sweet tea. Everyone has a different trick to getting that ever-important crystal-clear amber color.  I’ve heard a variety of techniques, from steeping the tea in a saucepan and pouring it into the pitcher for a natural cool down to not adding any cold water to the mixture. I do subscribe to the “don’t shock the tea” superstition and abstain from pouring cold water onto it, but that’s about it. Of course, everyone is different.

This is the recipe I use to make my sweet tea. I don’t think it compares to the Bojangles version (can anything?) but at least mine doesn’t come with a gross wedge of lemon. I always forget it and sometimes don’t follow the ratios (which I’ve learned one too many times is VERY VERY BAD) so now I’m writing it down where I’ll always know to look.

Sweet Tea

2 family-size or 6 normal-sized Lipton tea bags
2 cups hot (not boiling) water
3/4 cup sugar
6 cups lukewarm water

1- Add sugar to bottom of a pitcher. Place tea bags on top. Pour hot water over mixture and stir to dissolve.

2- Let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

3- Add remaining water and let chill in the refrigerator until cold.

4- Serve in tall glasses over a lot of ice.

Servings: 4

Recently, I tried making butter. This was mostly prompted by the fact that I had half a gallon of heavy cream in my refrigerator that expired the day before our three-day trip to Santa Barbara. There was no way that stuff was going to be used in time. So … butter, anyone?

I’ve never made butter before and this was a real adventure for me. I stuck all that heavy cream in my KitchenAid and set the whisk a-spinning. At first, I left it on about 4 or 6, worried it would splatter everywhere. Then I realized that this really only jiggled the heavy cream and we needed to get this party started.

So I turned up the heat. And got a lovely mound of soft-peaks whipped cream:

It looks like billowy clouds. I couldn’t resist taking a taste. Without vanilla and sugar, whipped cream is surprisingly disappointing.

All the blogs I read about homemade butter included rapturous sentences about tastiness and also about how the whipped cream will just “seize.” I had no clue what that meant so I kept whipping.

This looks curdly and not so appetizing. I was not tempted into taking a taste.

Finally, I heard what I thought was a seize. But I was confused. Stuff at the bottom looked mealy. Stuff along the sides looked like whipped cream. Could this be right?

I can’t believe it’s not butter! Oh, wait, yes, I can. What is that?

I let it drain for a few minutes and the amount of buttermilk generated was weak-sauce. I slid it back into the mixer bowl and set it a-churning again. I repeated this step twice because I was unsure of what my final result should be. Then, suddenly, I got this:

They weren’t kidding about the seizing. Or even the EXPLOSION of buttermilk you will suddenly see.

And now I know. And I am passing this on to you so you know, too. And knowing is half the battle.

Note: Whenever food blogs talk about making butter, they never bring up washing the butter to remove it of all buttermilk, which will turn it rancid. I had to read a recipe for that. I think that’s an important, unsaid step. Because I totally would have stuck my butter in a bowl and put it in the fridge and wondered why my butter tasted like “gross.”

I mixed it with some honey and now I have lots of honey butter. Anyone want to come over for biscuits?

I understand if you don’t. 🙂