Muffin Week: “Whole Wheat Blackberry Muffin with Fresh Mint” (Day 3)

I’m thinking to go steal a bag blueberries  we froze from our harvest this summer at my Gma’s house and try to make these with them. Blackberries aren’t the hardest thing to find around here during the year but it can be a tricky ingredient to use properly. Often they’re too sour or they’re just plain expensive.

Since we have our own little patch and spend hours in the blazing hot sun every summer (you can read more in previous posts about this) I think it only right to use the poor little berries in a variety of recipes. Usually they end up in some sour super healthy pie my Gma makes with them and it makes me so sad…

So blueberries it is!

Whole Wheat Blackberry Muffins with Fresh Mint

“Whole Wheat Blackberry Muffins with Fresh Mint” from Eat the Love

Advertisements

French Toast Heaven Has Been Found!

Founding Farmers - Rockville

Founding Farmers – Rockville: Also known fondly as, that place where the food is amazing and yes we can definitely go back there. (Follow link to restaurant website)

Ranting about good food is just a built in part of my nature at this point. And I’m sure I’ve ranted about Founding Farmers before because I’ve been there several times and taken people there from out of town because, well, it’s impressive and I like making sure that visitors to DC remember it fondly, especially as a foodie capitol (which it most definitely is in my book).

Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that my parents aren’t big fans of going out to eat. Why? Because they are sure to tell me every time I go out that they think it’s a waste. Although, usually it’s my dad saying that and my mom wonders out loud why she doesn’t ever get to go out somewhere nice… And I feel bad sometimes because they don’t do stuff like that mostly because they’re busy paying for our house and (yes we only have one) car. Oh, and have I mentioned that my little brother is rather expensive on the upkeep costs? He’s still young enough that being supported is acceptable but still. Children are expensive.

But with my dad gone and my mom pulling all-nighters to get this work done for Yemen she hasn’t been in much of a mood to cook so if we’re at home I’ve been doing it or we’ve been eating up leftovers. And on Sunday we had to do a bit of driving to get my brother to a competition and my mom decided that we would be eating out that day. So we arranged to stop at Founding Farmers at their Rockville location (near my Gma’s house) on the way back home.

Can I hear a “Best Idea EVER!”, please? I had, as of Sunday, never actually made it to any Founding Farmers (or sister restaurants) before  for brunch. I had tried twice before but due to some flooding–or inclement weather or some such nonsense out of their control–they had always ended up closing and so no brunch for me. Until Sunday…

Having been to their DC restaurant several times before I new the majority of the regular menu and was glad that one of the few times I’d managed to get a parent to one of my favorite restaurants that they had a really good vegetarian selection. We also had another friend with us for the weekend who happened to be vegetarian as well so that worked out nicely. And I don’t eat a lot of meat and if I do rarely for brunch because I like waffles and stuff and meat and waffles is a line I’m not really ready to cross and I doubt I ever will. Eggs, sure. But that’s about it. My brother on the other hand, has completely gone off the deep end and embraced his caveman roots and does eat rather a lot more meat than the rest of us.

We started with the basics, their lovely bread with various dips and “smears” and fried green tomatoes (because those are one of the key arguments I had used to get my mom to go there in the first place. If you think I like fried green tomatoes… Guess who taught me to like them…? Actually it was my Gpa but it’s my mom’s dad and it’s all flows down the generations nicely like that).

I’m not going to go into all sorts of details about what everyone ordered because that would be annoying. I am, however, going to discuss what I ordered because I’ve become hyper aware that I’ve just been eating sub-par french toast for an incredibly long time and now I feel the need to right this wrong.

I ordered this:

Stuffed New Orleans Style French Toast

Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • Original – 8
  • Lillian’s Blueberry Compote- 10 {<– with this}
  • Bananas Foster – 10

and I’m pretty sure I will never again be able to eat regular plain french toast ever again. For those of you who don’t know, vanilla pastry cream is very similar to what they fill eclairs with. In fact I think it is what they fill eclairs with in theory but this was even better. It was very similar to a homemade custard with vanilla bean (as opposed to that smooth gelatin-y stuff you find in a Boston Cream doughnut).

Now, I know I won’t be able to properly recreate this without some serious time and effort and possible some kitchen equipment that I don’t yet own. But progress is still possible. For instance I just looked up a compote recipe and this is the only one with a decent pictures. It is on pancakes which makes me sad because… well they are pancakes, but not sad enough to prevent me from sharing.

Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

“Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Compote” from KitchenDaily

And here’s a video for making a pastry cream that I think looks about right: Pastry Cream Recipe from Joy the Baker.

So we’re working towards something similar at least. Now to figure out how to make the bread (which is really more like fluffy cake) into the  right shape and get the cream inside…. That will take more work but I’m sure a combination in the right quantities and some creative eating can get me close enough to say that I’m on the right track.

 

On Throwing a Grazing Party and Staying Sexy

From Monica Eisenman

So, as some of you might have remembered, I had a party this weekend. And yes there were some road blocks in the plan (like the fact that it was supposed to be last week but we had to push it back a week because of a funeral) but since when are good parties supposed to be easy and peaceful? If someone in your family hasn’t yelled at you needlessly while helping you prepare crusts for mini quiches than your party is going to suck. Because stress breeds good food ON TIME.

The menu, inspired by this month’s Gastroporn Menu, was labeled as a “Tea Party” but with most of my parties turned into an extended grazing affair that was really more like three or four smaller parties all strung together throughout the afternoon and evening. I also made something new that I surprisingly enjoyed eating about an hour or two after all the guests had left because eating them in front of people just isn’t sexy and a hostess should always be sexy: Blue velvet Cupcakes.

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

“Blue Velvet Cupcakes” from Sprinkle Bakes

Now… I like making cupcakes. I don’t always like eating cupcakes but I do like making them. Why? Easy dispersal. Try giving away cake at the end of the party and tell me you didn’t wish you’d made cupcakes. And if you aren’t giving away cake at the end of a party then don’t complain to me about your expanding waistline. Take that cake to work and give it away. It will make you more friends and fewer pounds.

Note: Don’t use a tablespoon of blue dye for the cupcakes. That’s too much and cupcakes that turn tongues a funny color…not sexy.

But you know what is sexy? Eating chocolate mousse from a tiny cup with a mini spoon. The recipe I used  can be found in “The Great Disappointment (of 2012)” post. A friend gave me the recipe and I have no idea where it came from but probably the Internet.

Note: I also piped some fresh whipped cream (made with a little sugar and a splash of vanilla) on top and put my brother to work with a piece of 100% chocolate and a vegetable peeler to garnish the tops.

There were also things I really don’t have a recipe for but if you’ve played around in a kitchen long enough you’ll just know what to do. Like stuffed mushrooms and mini-quiches. Watching my caveman-neanderthal dad trying to press rounds of pie crust dough into a mini-muffin tin was absolutely priceless.

And, of course, there were the scones we always make (the recipe is in the “Tea Time, Nap Time, Fun Times” post from many moons ago) served with the remaining fresh cream from above and berries. I love me some berries. I brought the rest to work with me today along with the remaining 3 scones (to give away). Everybody is always asking for that recipe and it’s ridiculously easy so there is no reason NOT to try it. Unless you’ve got allergies, in which case I am so sorry.

Anyone who knows anything about me and my party style also knows that I like complicated. I like the idea of doing everything from scratch and if I had the ability to gather and make all the ingredients by hand on my mini plot of land out back I so would.

But beware of making things complicated to your guests. Try to make things they can just pass by, pick up with a couple fingers, and just put in their mouths (which is where your party food SHOULD be going). Otherwise they will pass by the stuff with a dip or the thing that goes on top of that other thing and go straight for that stuff that just ends up in their mouths.

Here’s a recipe that looks good:

tartelettes chèvre et confiture d'oignons

“Tartelettes Chèvre et Confiture D’oignons (Onion Tartelettes with Goat Cheese)” from Vaniglia

There’s often at least a couple people at a party known as “grazers”. These are the folks that don’t take a heaping plateful and then start denying food while patting their bellies. These are those smart party goers that pace themselves. A min-quiche here, a cupcake there, caprese salad on a stick? Why not! Oh and then maybe another deviled egg. So set things up nicely for these folks. They know what they’re about. And, as always, stay sexy, Foodie Nation!

 

Because Breakfast Should Never Be Half-Assed (Day 2)

Make Your Own Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt Cups

“Make Your Own Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt Cups” from The Kitchn

Today’s “make ahead” breakfast is “Make Your Own Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt Cups”. I’m not actively against yogurt but it isn’t something that pops into my head as an actual food in and of itself very often. The reason I’m choosing this recipe for a Monday is because Monday is the day I work late and so my the time I get home there ain’t no way I’m going to have enough energy to cook anything. I can barely get into bed fast enough by the time I get home on Monday nights. That being said, I think I might be able to quickly dumb these yogurt cups together on Sunday and keep them in the fridge for Tuesday morning. If I do it on a Sunday I could even make my own fruit mixture with some of the blueberries we picked in the summer or from some canned fruit we have around that is nice but could be nicer.

Gastroporn Menu – October.2012

October is like the perfect month for cooking. The weather is crisp but not frigid and it is energizing as your natural instincts are telling you to start storing fat for the winter. Unfortunately we also have Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up (two of the greatest food-related holidays in my world) and everyone is already thinking about all the weight they will gain from that.

I’ve also noticed that people seem to be going a little pumpkin crazy. It’s cool but there is such a thing as single-ingredient-OVERLOAD and a little goes a long way with things like squash and pumpkin. Yes, it’s healthy. Yes, it’s pretty. But no I do not want pumpkin spice lattes with my pumpkin bread after a pumpkin soup and squash ravioli lunch. And I definitely don’t need to be preparing my pumpkin donuts for the morning after all that. I’m gonna turn orange!

But without further ado, here is October’s menu:

Fall Lunch

Black Velvet (Guinness and Champagne)

Spinach and Smoked Salmon Salad with Lemon-Dill Dressing

Roasted grape, goat cheese + honey stuffed sweet potatoes (with step-by-step instructions)

Blueberry, basil, and goat cheese hand pies (A good use for all those blueberries I have from the summer. See “The Big Blueberry”)

The Big Blueberry

The other day we were back over at my grandma’s house to harvest berries. After the great DC power outages, which hit her area but not ours, and our trip to Chicago it had been a while since we’d gone to collect our blue-ty.

There were 6 of us down in the blueberry patch this time instead of the usual three and we were all excited to get picking. Unfortunately something happened over the last week or so and the crop was not doing so well. Instead of our usual 5-6 quarts of blueberries the size of dimes we ended up with a scrawny and all too reddish-in-hue 1.5 quarts and that was pushing it. My grandma made a pie with that harvest and each slice is requiring a rather large amount of doctoring.

While we’re not sure what happened to that last batch, which should have been ripe, there are still many many berries yet to ripen so we’re hoping that this was just some fluke of nature. Perhaps a bird got in through a tiny hole in the net and ate up all the good ones while we were away or the storm caused the process to slow. I’m no expert.

What I do know is that there are 3 different types of blueberry bushes in my grandpa’s garden and that the last three to get ripe also happen to be the sweetest variety of blueberry. In anticipation I’ve begun collecting a selection of potential recipes to try with the berries we look forward to harvesting after this weekend.

Another recipe I hope to dig up and make for myself during the summer is my Gpa’s blueberry jam recipe. It’s simply to die for with our family’s scone recipe (which can be found in “Tea Time, Nap Time, Fun Times“) and a dollop of homemade whipped cream. We have one or two bottles left from a large batch we made many years ago while he was still alive and I want to make sure we keep up recipes like that in the family.

But until I find his recipe book somewhere amongst his things I have this list:

Blueberry Pancakes

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Cookies

Blueberry Lemon Bars

Blueberry Lavender Mojito

Lemon-Blueberry Cheesecake Parfaits

Blueberry Mojito

“Perfect” Blueberry Syrup