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Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins

Yay for mainstream muffin recipes that actually work at high altitude!  I suspect this is because Everyday Food‘s Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins contain 1 cup of low-fat plain yogurt; in my experience, recipes with acidic batters tend to fare better here in Denver.  Regardless, I’m thrilled to have a new recipe I can throw together on the weekends or add to the brunch buffet when we’re entertaining.  Here it is if you want to try it (this one isn’t on the Everyday Food website just yet):

Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Active time: 15 min. | Total time: 35 min.
Makes 12

Ingredients:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest, plus 2 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/4 cups blueberries (7 ounces)
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt.  In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, butter, vanilla, and orange zest. Add the flour mixture, stirring until combined (do not overmix).

In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with 1 tablespoon flour to coat, then fold into batter.  Divide batter among muffin cups.  Bake until puffed and set, about 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.  Let muffins cool in pan on wire rack.

Stir together orange juice and confectioners’ sugar.  Drizzle over muffins and let glaze set, about 10 minutes, before serving.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 2 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, January/February 2012

My notes:

  • I did cut the baking powder to 2 1/2 teaspoons (from 1 tablespoon) out of high-altitude modification habit.  I’m not sure if the change was 100% necessary, but it worked for me.
  • I used Mountain High low-fat plain yogurt.
  • This batter is THICK.  Don’t be nervous.  I used an ice-cream scoop to portion it out.
  • I like a thinner glaze than what the recipe creates.  Just add more orange juice if you want to thin it out as well.
Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins
Blueberry-Orange Cornmeal Muffins Crumb

Look at that crumb!

Yum!  These muffins have a nice, moist crumb and a perfect blueberry-to-batter proportion.  They aren’t too sweet on their own, so the glaze complements the muffins nicely.  They come out of the muffin liners pretty cleanly too, which I always appreciate.  Bonus: Only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per muffin.  I usually have two, and Dr. O (with his unbelievable metabolism) usually has four, so we’re able to get two breakfasts out of the recipe.  They are best the day they’re made, but the “here’s breakfast, and I didn’t have to make a new mess” factor makes them almost as good on the second day.

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Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

I’m a big dessert person, but I don’t always want to make a big effort in order to have it.  When my friend Christopher came over for dinner recently, I was looking for something that would be fun, delicious, and easy.  The answer?  Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food.  I love Rice Krispies treats – they so remind me of my childhood – and the chocolate element of this recipe elevates the flavor to something adults can really appreciate. Plus, the treats came together in 10 minutes flat.  Perfection!

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats
Makes 16

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 bag (10.5 ounces) mini marshmallows
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa (spooned and leveled)
6 cups crisp rice cereal
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Method:
Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both sides.  Butter paper; set pan aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, marshmallows, and cocoa.  Cook over medium, stirring frequently, until melted, about 6 minutes; stir in rice cereal.  Press rice mixture into prepared pan; drizzle with melted chocolate.  Let cool to room temperature; cut into 16 bars.  (To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 5 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, October 2008

Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

These are so good!  I’ve never really been a chocolate Rice Krispies treat kind of girl (I love the original recipe), but I’ll totally make these again.  The texture is perfect, with just the right amount of butter and marshmallow, and I love, love, love the rich flavor of the chocolate drizzle on top.  This would be such a fun dessert for a dressed-up comfort food dinner party.

TIPS:  I was always under the impression that Rice Krispies treats got pretty stale if you didn’t eat them the day they were made, but these keep beautifully.

Recipe link: Crispy Chocolate-Marshmallow Treats

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Christopher actually visited my blog (instead of viewing it through Google Reader) and noticed that my header was in need of a face-lift.  (He created the previous one, so he’s allowed to say that!)  He came over recently and created the new one while I prepared today’s recipe as a thank-you dinner.  Many, many thanks to Christopher for my fresh new look.  I love it!

Anyway, both Christopher and I have a thing for pork, whether it’s shredded for tacos, part of a meatball, sauteed with sauce, or – for this meal – roasted with vegetables and drizzled with mustard gravy.  This recipe has an amazing end result and is impressive enough for company; it certainly earned the C.Go stamp of approval.

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 pound shallots, peeled and halved if large
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Method:
Preheat oven to 450°F.   On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, shallots, and 1 tablespoon rosemary with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, season pork with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium.  Add pork; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer pork to a plate, and reserve skillet.

Remove baking sheet from oven; push vegetables to sides.  Place pork in center; return sheet to oven.  Roast, tossing vegetables occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 145°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Loosely tent pork with foil.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While pork rests, pour off almost all of the fat from skillet.  Add wine, and cook over medium-high, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 30 seconds.  Gradually add 1 cup water, whisking constantly.  Add 1 tablespoon rosemary.  Bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat. Whisk in mustard, and season gravy with salt and pepper.  Serve pork with carrots and gravy.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2009

My notes:

  • The smallest pork loin I could find at my grocery store was 2.7 pounds, so I bought it.
  • Since my roast was large, I used the full 40 minutes of baking time.
  • When I tested the temperature of my pork, it was more like 138° or 139°.  I didn’t want to risk overcooking it, so I tented it then.  I’m glad I did, because the pork turned out tender and juicy, and just barely pink.
  • Peeling all those shallots was kind of a pain, though they are delicious. Christopher and I think it would be fine to use a small red onion (cut into wedges) or pearl onions as a substitute.

Roasted Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

I rounded out the meal with a simple side of green beans, and did we ever enjoy it all.  The pork was perfectly cooked, the vegetables were tender, and the blackened bits on the vegetable edges were over-the-top delicious.  We liked the rosemary in the vegetables but thought it was overkill in the gravy; next time, I’ll leave it out. Also, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, the meal would still be perfectly delicious if you skipped the gravy altogether.  I enjoyed the extra flavor boost, though.  This one’s definitely a keeper!

Recipe link: Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Those of you who are lucky enough to have spouses or partners who love to join you in the kitchen, I envy you.  Dr. O is wonderful (really!) and has many redeeming qualities, but he does not cook.  He does not slice, he does not chop, he does not stir.  He rarely even toasts.

So you can imagine how good Alton Brown’s soft pretzel recipe must be if it’s the one thing that gets him in the kitchen.  He asks for them again and again, knowing that I’ll only make them if he helps.  (These pretzels are so amazing that I might make them even if he didn’t help, but I’ll never tell.)

Here’s the recipe if you want to give them a try:

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Makes 8

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm (110° to 115°F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Method:
Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.  Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil.  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.  Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.  Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.  Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.  Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.  Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Source: Alton Brown, FoodNetwork.com

Soft Pretzels

This recipe produces absolutely amazing results.  This is the best soft pretzel I’ve ever had – at a stadium, a bakery, anywhere.  If you’re a pretzel person (and I am!), we’re talking ecstasy.

We tried honey mustard and spicy brown mustard as dipping sauces; the spicy brown won, hands down.  The pretzels would be fantastic with cheese as well.  We had a few leftover pretzels (hard to believe!); some were sliced horizontally for sandwiches, others were reheated in the microwave for 25 seconds on high.  The reheated pretzels weren’t quite as good as fresh out of the oven, but they still beat the heck out of a SuperPretzel.

TIPS: If you don’t quite get how to form the pretzels, watch Alton do it here.

Recipe link: Homemade Soft Pretzels

Vanilla Caramels

Here’s another edible holiday gift!

I love Bequet’s Celtic sea salt caramels, and I went through a phase back in March when I made several different recipes in an attempt to duplicate their amazing flavor and texture.  One recipe was a total failure, and one had pretty amazing textural results but tasted really strongly of brown sugar (good, but not what I was going for). I dropped my pursuit of perfect caramels until I came across Grace Parisi’s recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels last week; I’ve had so much luck with Food and Wine recipes that I figured I might as well give them a try.  These have the more delicate, sophisticated flavor I was looking for, and the texture is just fantastic. They’re not quite Bequets, but they’re close enough!

I skipped the chocolate part of Ms. Parisi’s recipe, so click the link to the original recipe at the bottom of the post if you want the whole thing.

Vanilla Caramels
Adapted from FoodandWine.com

Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I ran out of light, so I used 3/4 cup light and 1/4 cup dark)
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, crumbled

Method:
Line a 9-x-13-inch pan with foil; spray it with vegetable oil.  In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the sugar, corn syrup and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Add the vanilla seeds.  Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer, 1 hour.  Stir in the sea salt and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan.  Let cool and set completely overnight.

Invert the caramel onto a cutting board and peel off the foil.  Using a sharp, lightly oiled knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch wide strips and then into 1-inch squares. Wrap the individual caramel squares in wax paper.

My modifications:

  • I lined my 9-x-13-inch pan with parchment paper, not foil, since that’s what I used when I made all those caramels back in March.
  • I periodically washed down the sides of my pan with a silicone brush and water to make sure there weren’t any undissolved sugar grains.  A single unincorporated sugar crystal can crystallize the candy mixture and ruin your whole batch.  The corn syrup in the recipe helps prevent crystallization, but I figured it was better to be overly cautious.
  • The recipe is kind of ambiguous about how much stirring you should do.  I just stirred mine periodically and very carefully.  (Sloshing the mixture around, especially early in the recipe, can lead to crystallization.)
  • Since high altitude affects candy making temperatures, I cooked my mixture to 235°F instead of 245°F.  (At my house, water boils at 202°F instead of 212°F, which is why I subtracted 10 degrees.  If you don’t live at sea level, you can do the test yourself by sticking a candy thermometer in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil.)
  • Once the mixture hit 235°F, I removed it from the heat and waited 1 minute before stirring in the sea salt.  I think waiting a beat helps the salt maintain its crunch in the finished caramels.

Vanilla Caramels

Aren’t these absolutely adorable?  I cut my caramels much smaller and did the more traditional wax-paper-with-twisted-ends packaging in the spring, but bigger cuts with bows are so much better for gifting.

I’m so pleased with the results of this recipe!  The flavor is wonderful, and the sea salt maintained its crunch in the finished product (one of my favorite elements of the Bequet caramels).  Cooked to 235°F, the caramels are firm enough to hold their shape but definitely soft and chewy.  The Bequet caramels are softer (they might start to puddle ever so slightly if you unwrapped one and let it sit for a few minutes), so I might try taking these off the heat at 230°F next time to see if I can get even closer to a Bequet-like result.  This is definitely my new go-to caramel recipe.

Update 1/19/13: I made these for Christmas last month and lined my pan with non-stick foil without any vegetable oil or spray. The foil worked perfectly! I’m going to use this method from here on out to prevent the vegetable oil problems a few of you have mentioned.

Recipe link: Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels

I made candied orange peel for the first time last year and loved it.  This year, I decided to make a double batch and use it for Christmas stollen, today’s recipe (Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels), and general nibbling.

Today’s recipe has its own instructions for making candied orange peel, but I just went with the tried-and-true process from last year.  If you already have candied orange peel (homemade or store-bought, really), this recipe is a fast way to turn out a really elegant, edible holiday gift.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels
Adapted from FoodandWine.com

Ingredients:
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bars)
3/4 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup shelled, salted pistachios

Method:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a double boiler set over a pot of simmering water, heat the bittersweet chocolate until two-thirds melted.  Remove from the heat.  Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is completely melted and registers about 90°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Spread the warm chocolate on the parchment paper to a rough 9-x-13-inch rectangle.  Working quickly, so the chocolate doesn’t set, scatter the orange peels and pistachios evenly over the melted chocolate.  Gently tap the cookie sheet on the work surface to flatten the chocolate and allow the toppings to sink in slightly. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, just until firm.  Cut or break the bark into 2-inch pieces and serve.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels

Heavenly!  This bark is a chocolate-y, salty, and sweet treat.  The original recipe calls for unsalted pistachios, but the salt adds so much to the flavor profile.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Plus, the bark is just gorgeous for gift giving.  I didn’t think it would break very evenly since the orange peel is chewy, so I cut mine with a santoku knife.  I really like the look of the hard edges.  I’m making this one again!

TIPS:  I was worried that my chocolate wouldn’t melt completely (we’ve all been there, right?), so I think I let it melt a bit too long in the double boiler.  This didn’t hurt the chocolate, but it did get pretty warm (about 120°F) and took some time to come down in temperature.  After extended stirring and letting it fall in ribbons to cool it down, my patience ended when the chocolate hit 97°F.  I was afraid that it might be a bit too loose and spread too far, but everything turned out just fine.

Also, if you don’t know what a double boiler is or want to rig up your own at home, check out this post.

Recipe links: Candied Orange Peel and Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peel (the original)

Update: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Maybe I should search for recipes on my blog before I write them up…  I was convinced that I’d never posted this recipe (one of my all-time favorites), but I did (in August of 2008).  However, since it’s so good and since I have a much-improved photo, I think it’s worthy of a repeat.  I made it recently for Dr. O and my friend Christopher; subsequently, Christopher has been signing me up for meatball throwdowns with friends’ Italian mothers, convinced I’ll win.  It’s a pretty amazing recipe.

In Dallas, I would routinely make this dish, along with Penne with Vodka Sauce, when we’d have dinner guests.  I always appreciated that I could make the meatballs ahead and have them waiting in the refrigerator; sautéing them and making the sauce was easy enough, even in the presence of company.  If you’re like my family (not a drop of Italian blood in us, yet we have Italian food for Christmas dinner), this could be a great option for a holiday meal.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Serves 4 – 6
Prep time: 20 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:
1 large egg
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground dark-meat turkey
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
3/4 pound spaghetti

Method:
In a large bowl, whisk together egg, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Stir in half the onion and half the garlic.  Add breadcrumbs, cheese, pork, turkey, and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning.  Mix gently.  Form into 16 balls.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half the meatballs; brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes.  Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Cook remaining meatballs in remaining tablespoon oil; remove meatballs.

Add remaining onion; cook over medium-low until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add remaining garlic and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning; cook 30 seconds.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in tomatoes and 3/4 cup water.  Return meatballs; cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes.  Remove meatballs.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook spaghetti according to package directions until al dente.  Drain, return to pot.  Toss with sauce; serve meatballs on top, sprinkled with more cheese.

Note:  If you have time, chill the meatballs for about 30 minutes before cooking them; this will help them keep their shape and make them easier to handle.

Source: Everyday Food, April 2004

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Oh, these meatballs are soooo good.  They’re super flavorful (thank the seasoning and the beautiful browning!), and Christopher characterized them as “fluffy,” as opposed to the super-dense meatballs you get with some recipes.  The sauce is garlicky deliciousness; just make sure you taste and season it to your liking before serving the dish.

TIPS:  This is a repeat from the original post, but at most grocery stores, ground pork and turkey come in 16-ounce packages, not 8-ounce packages.  In the interest of efficiency, I always double the meatball part of the recipe (making 32 meatballs) and freeze half of them.  When I’m ready to cook them, I just thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and start with the second step of the recipe.

Recipe link: Spaghetti and Meatballs




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