Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

"If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself."
That's my philosophy. But so is, "Why do something today, when you can put it off until tomorrow." Along with, "Tomorrow never comes." Kind of an odd mix, I know. But after countless attempts at finding a decent muffin recipe, I finally decided that tomorrow does come after all, and that tomorrow would be the day that I would at least attempt to come up with a muffin recipe that I really like and will want to make again, and can recommend to other people. That was two days ago, and I actually followed through, so last night I tried my hand at making Lemon-Blueberry Muffins.
I like to bake, but I'm not a baker; meaning, I really can't come up with recipes of my own for baked stuff since I tend to just throw stuff together based on how it looks and tastes, and you really can't add things like baking powder according to taste. But I gave it a shot, and I think I hit a near bullseye. I say "near" bullseye, because the recipe that follows isn't quite perfect, but it's damn close. Still needs some slight tweaking, but even as is, especially when they first come out of the oven, they are excellent. Best muffins I've had in a very long time. I can't believe this was my first attempt.

Based on past experience with muffin recipes, most standard recipes I've used or seen call for 1 T baking powder to 2-3 c of flour, and a cup of some sort of dairy, so that's the template I used. Here's what I came up with:

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 c sour cream (For the love of Henry, not low-fat)
1/2 c mayo (See above)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of kosher salt
zest from 2 lemons
juice from 1 lemon
vanilla (optional)

mix together thoroughly flour, salt, and baking powder

In separate bowl, cream sugar and butter, then add egg and zest and beat some more. (Add vanilla if you're using it.)

In yet another bowl, mix sour cream and mayo with lemon juice, let sit for 5-10 minutes. Add to butter/egg/zest mix, then add to flour. Be careful not to over mix.

Add in blueberries. Bake on 350 until a toothpick comes out clean.


Notice I didn't say how much vanilla or blueberries to use. As for the vanilla, it's because I forgot to use it, so I really don't know. I'm not even sure if it would go well in these muffins or not, but I like vanilla in almost everything, so I plan to try it again and find out.
I'd say 1/2-1 teaspoon.
As for the blueberries, I used about 1/2 pint. I just add them in until it looks like a good amount.

This recipe also ends up with kind of an odd amount of muffins. I used one of those large muffin pans and got a scant 6. So realistically, you'd end up with 5 large or ?? regular size. I just didn't want an empty spot in my muffin tin so I filled them all, even though I couldn't fill them all.

As for the tweaking I mentioned earlier, I'm going to try cutting the mayo and sour down to 6 T (1/4 c + 2 T) and see how that works. And maybe not grease the muffin tin with butter this time. But, as I also mentioned earlier, even just like this, these muffins are the best I've had in a long time. I'm sure you'll love them too. (If you try them out, please post a comment with your thoughts and any suggestions/tweaks.) Enjoy!

(P.S. Sorry I don't have any photos to post- still waiting for my digital camera- but they look like, well, blueberry muffins.)

(Tonight I'm getting ready to try Cranberry-Lime! : )


I've tried, and can highly recommend, making these as Raspberry-Lime muffins! The recipe is the same with a couple slight changes- 86 the lime zest, and use the juice of 1 1/2 limes.
I suppose you could use the juice of two limes. But the way I've been doing it, with excellent results, is 1 1/2.
Also, I've tried it with the lime zest, and I think it's far better without.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Talkin' Dirty To Me" Crêpes

I tried and tried to think of a catchy and/or funny name for these crepes because they are sooooooo good and I wanted something appropriate for the title in order to get peoples' attention and have them at least read the post so they'll hopefully try the recipe. I'm not sure I've succeeded with the catchiness, but at least it's accurate. Remember that shampoo/conditioner commercial (I can't remember the brand) where the where the woman is in the shower washing her hair, but sounds like she's, well, doing something else? I had auditory visions of that in my head as I was eating these things.
I think you will too.
(Oh, and if you think crepes are difficult to do, or require a lot of prep, think again. The hardest part about these is refraining from eating most of the white chocolate mousse before the crepes are ready. I've only been marginally successful.)

A lot of foodies like to toss around the term "food porn"; my photos don't live up to that label, but since I've got the recipe, who cares? And trust me, once you get your lips around these things you'll feel like you're in the video.

The script is as follows:


1 1/4 c flour
pinch of salt
1/4 c sugar (superfine, if you have it)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 c milk
2 T melted butter


White chocolate mousse

3 T water
3/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
8 oz. white chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream, plus 1 c

Place 3/4 t gelatin in 3 T water- let stand 5 min. to soften

Place 8 oz. chopped white chocolate in medium mixing bowl

In small saucepan, bring 1/2 c heavy cream to boil, stirring constantly

Remove from heat, add gelatin. Stir for 30 seconds to dissolve, immediately pour over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate chocolate mix until cold and thick enough to fall from spoon in a heavy ribbon.

Beat 1 c cold heavy cream until it holds a firm shape, then fold into chocolate mixture.


Strawberry Sauce (or raspberry, or dark cherry, or a 3-way combo, if that's your thing)

This one I don't have a recipe for. I usually start off with about 1 c chopped fruit, 1 T sugar, and fresh lime juice, adding more of each to taste. Cook down in a small pan until it's to your desired consistency. Most recipes I've seen call for lemon juice, but I'm a huge fan of limes, and use them in place of lemons for almost everything that calls for lemons.

The Action:

Put flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl, making a well in the center. Pour the egg and some of the milk into the well. Whisk the liquid, gradually incorporating the flour to make a smooth paste. Whisk in the butter, then the remaining milk until smooth.

Add a few drops of oil to a hot frying pan or skillet (cast iron works well) - just enough to coat lightly. Pour a little batter into the pan, tilting until the base is coated with a light layer. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the underside begins to turn golden. Flip and cook for 30-45 seconds, or until golden.

This is how I made them the first time, because that's how they had been made the first time I tried them (except the fruit sauce was on the side). But I've since found out that they taste just as good, if not better, and are much easier to make if you don't try and fill them with the cream filling...


Some notes and thoughts-
I like sweet stuff, but not too sweet, so I usually cut the sugar in the batter down to 3 T, to help offset the sweetness of the white chocolate mousse. Also, even though the recipe calls for beating 1 c heavy cream, I usually do 1 1/2 cups; partly to cut down the sweetness of that too, but also because I usually buy the heavy cream by the pint, so I'd just end up with a half cup of cream left over, with nothing to use it for until I buy more for the next batch of crepes. In any case, I like the taste and texture of the extra half cup in the mix. It's a nice balance of creamy sweetness- not overly creamy or overly sweet. Also, with the white chocolate, you want to use something of halfway decent quality, not those artificially flavored baking chips. I used Baker's and it came out great.

You owe it to yourself to try these crepes. Even if you're on a diet of some sort- take a day off. Just make sure you've got the willpower to get back on it, because these things will fight hard against you.

After you've made these a few dozen times, you may want to experiment with different flavors of mousse- today I tried it with some Andes mints chunks instead of white chocolate, and sprinkled on top some of the fresh mint I've got growing. I think maybe it was a little too mint-heavy, and I really missed the fruit sauce, but I think maybe I'll try adding just a little of the Andes candy in with the white chocolate next time, or maybe just sprinkling some of the fresh mint on top. I also have plans to try it with a little dark chocolate.

P.S. I got the recipe, with permission, from Paula, who doesn't have a website or I'd link to it. I'm not sure if she's the originator of the recipe, but I'm going to assume she is.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Basil-Tomato Soup

Ok, first of all, I finally, finally got around to changing the "about me" section to something that I think sums this blog up better. And it's shorter too, which I think is usually better. I tried many times before to come up with something I liked, but never could. Until now.
Yay, me.

I'm actually a lot more excited about the photos in today's post than I am the soup. Don't get me wrong, I love the soup, and it's very good indeed, but lately it seems that every photo I take, no matter what it's of, has been just plain crappy. Most of the time they need heavy Photoshop treatment just to look somewhat presentable. But these photos of the basil and oregano came out beautiful! No editing required! (Other than to resize.) All of the basil and oregano used in today's soup came from my little container garden out on the front porch. I also planted about 4 dozen tomato plants this summer (slightly too much), so there's a few of my very first tomato, too. The photo quality on those isn't so great, but I put most of the blame on the ISO 400 film I used.

Ok, since the recipe is pretty short and sweet, let's do that first, then the lovely basil/oregano photos.


Canned tomatoes (crushed, filleted, diced, shaken, or stirred. Whatever floats your boat.)
Half and half
Unsalted butter
Fresh oregano
Fresh basil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Crushed red pepper
A lemon
Fish sauce

Now what I normally do is just throw it all in a pot and keep adding stuff according to taste (like most recipes tell you to do with salt/pepper, right? ). Well, except for the lemon- you're only going to need that for the zest. But tonight I actually came up with sort of a recipe for this one. As always, think of it more as just a list of ingredients to play around with, than an actual recipe to follow. But it goes like this:

1 28 oz can tomatoes (I like taking diced tomatoes, and partially whipping them up in the food processor. Some people like their basil-tomato soup chunky, others like it smooth. I'm in the middle.)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
Half and half (I don't have an amount on this one- not only did I forget to measure, but I didn't even have any half and half, so I used heavy cream and 2% milk. But it really doesn't matter, since you just add until you reach your desired lightness of color. Oh, and unless you really don't like dairy or whatever, I'd really recommend not skipping this part. Milk or cream isn't something I use in regular tomato soup [i.e. canned], but it works quite nicely in this.)
2 1/2 cups (pre-chop) fresh oregano
2-4 cups (pre-chop) fresh basil
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Crushed red pepper
Fish sauce
Zest of 1 lemon

Add the tomatoes, butter, and half and half to the pot, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. (I used about a teaspoon each), a few dashes of the fish sauce (I never measure that stuff), and all that wonderful oregano. It seems like a lot, I know, but I really did use that much for this. It might have even been closer to three cups. Fresh oregano is a beautiful thing. Dried will work for this soup too, if that's all you have, but whatever you do, don't used dried basil- it's just not the same. While that's simmering away, chop up the basil and zest that lemon. I tend to go very heavy on the basil, myself, which is why I call this Basil-Tomato soup, instead of the other way around, like most people. Add the basil about two minutes before you pull the soup from the stove, and the lemon zest just after. I have to say, the crushed red pepper and lemon zest were not originally my idea- I read about a marinara recipe on somebody else's food blog awhile back, (at least, I think it was a marinara recipe- I can't remember), and that's what she did. So I tried it with this soup, and have been making it this way ever since. If I could remember who's food blog it was, I'd surely name it here, but I can't. I'd probably remember if I heard the name, so if that person happens to be reading this, let me know and I'll give you proper credit.

On to the photos!

and my first tomato...

The final product...

I don't know exactly how much basil I used for that garnish, but I really do use that much- it wasn't just for the photo- and was it ever tasty! : )

P.S. I wish I had the photos I took of the oregano when it first sprouted- you wouldn't believe how small those things are! (I took several pics, but for the life of me, can't find them anywhere.) Makes it challenging to water them, as the water tends to flatten the tiny sprouts- even using a spray bottle on fine mist. Normally I'd have watered them from the bottom, but I planted them in a self-watering pot that was about 7 inches deep, and I found it easier just to top-water them. The seeds themselves are so tiny you almost need a magnifying glass to see them. As I remember, they're about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.