Monday, August 29, 2011

Muffin Mania

Muffin Mania

What do you do while you wait for a tropical storm to wear itself out?

Make muffins!

That's what happened yesterday.  I was home alone with the cat.... and a carton of buttermilk.

A carton of buttermilk will make three batches of muffins ---  1 1/4 cups for each batch.

The basic muffin recipe I use is from the Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook.

Then I make different flavor combinations. You can use whatever inspires you.

Hmmm, so what were my options?

Overripe fruit works very well, because the flavors are intensified.
Peaches Go Well with Allspice and Brown Sugar

These peaches were a definite. Combined with allspice.  Extra brown sugar and nutmeg on top.

Bananas Go Well with Shredded Coconut and Coriander

The three spotted bananas were another obvious choice.  But I also had a little bit of coconut.  So, I went with banana, coconut, coriander.
Cinnamon and Raisins Are a Classic Combo
For the third, I thought a cinnamon-raisin-bread-style muffin would be good.  So, I went heavy on the cinnamon and used sweet golden raisins. Extra sugar and cinnamon on top.  If you like cinnamon raisin toast, then you will like these.

To make the muffins:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12 muffin pan.

Melt 1 stick of butter in the microwave and let it cool.

In a large bowl, whisk two eggs and 1 t.  vanilla together.  Add the cooled butter and whisk well until smooth and very yellow.

In a separate bowl, add 3 cups of flour, 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda and 1/2 t. salt plus your choice of spice:
  •  Peach Muffins - 1/2 t. allspice
  • Cinnamon Raisin Muffins -- 2 T. of cinnamon (it's a lot but really works well)
  • Banana Coconut - 1/2 t. coriander
Whisk the dry ingredients together.

Add them to the wet ingredients, and then gently, mix until it looks about half combined.

Then add your fruit,
  • Peach Muffins -- 1 1/2 cups peeled, finely chopped very ripe peaches
  • Cinnamon Raisin Muffins -- 1 cup raisins
  • Banana Coconut -- 1 1/2 cups total of smashed bananas and shredded coconut
and  1/2 cup, plus 1 T. sugar
  • Peach Muffins - brown sugar
  • Cinnamon Raisin Muffins -- white
  • Banana Coconut  -- white
and 1 1/4 cup buttermilk.

And mix gently, just until combined and there aren't any pockets of dry ingredients in the mix.

Divide evenly into 12 portions, using a 1/3 cup measure.

Sprinkle extra sugar on top, and then a little of the spice.  Example.  Cinnamon on the Cinnamon Raisin Muffin.

Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for a few minutes in the pan.

Then, remove to finish cooling on a rack.

Now I have lots of muffins in the freezer for guests, and to take with me when I stop in to see friends back in Corning who I haven't seen in a while. I have enjoyed being at the lake, but I am beginning to miss being at home in my old routine.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whoopie Cake Update

Summer Fun:  Whoopie Cake Made at the Lake by Colleen and Buddy

While Irene blows outside, there isn't much we can do but wait for the tropical storm to pass, and to reflect on fun from the summer.  One of the them was the Whoopie Cake our sister-in-law, Colleen, and niece, Buddy, made during the 4th of July weekend.

We debated during the cooking process whether or not to use baking powder or baking soda with Dutch processed cocoa.

So,  recently Colleen researched it. 

She says, "Dutch process cocoa (which has alkali) CANNOT be used with baking soda. It has to be used with baking powder. So the Whoopie recipe should be made with regular cocoa."

If you want to understand why, here's the link:

Whoopie Cake
From Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell

½ cup butter softened
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 2/3 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa  (use regular, not Dutch processed)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take a nine inch pie or cake pan and draw a circle around it in the middle of each piece of parchment. Flip the parchment so the mark is face down.

Beat butter and brown sugar until combined, and then beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes.

Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add half to the butter mixture with ½ cup of the milk. Beat until incorporated. Add remaining flour and milk and repeat.

Put half the batter in the middle of each circle on the parchment. Use an offset spatula to spread the batter to the edge of the circle. Try to get the batter even.

Bake each tray separately for 15 minutes.

Check to see if cake springs back in center and remove from oven. Let cool for five minutes and then slide parchment/cake off onto a cooling rack. Repeat with other cake. When cool, peel off parchment and frost with filling of your choice.

Suggested Filling:

Classic Marshmallow

2 ½ sticks butter, softened
1 7 oz jar of Marshmallow Fluff
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
Beat the butter and marshmallow together until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat together on low. When mixed, beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes more.

Spread between layers of Whoopie Cake.

We  didn't have sprinkles to put on the cake, but it tasted just as good!

Here's how it would look with sprinkles.  Buddy took this photo in earlier in the year when she made it around her birthday in June.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Speedy Spiedies by Tom

Speedy Spiedies by Tom

If you are following the blog, you know we are fans of Spiedies, but tend to make them when we have guests.  They are specific to Upstate New York and can be found as a staple dish at county fairs and similar events.  Easy to make at home, though, with a bottle of Spiedies marinade.

One day, though, I decided to try to use the Spiedies marinade with whole chicken breasts rather than cubed chicken breasts.  This was an experiment to see if I could replicate the Spiedies taste without the hassle of skewering the cubed chicken.  Voila, it worked just fine.  The chicken was very tender and moist with the distinctive taste of Spiedies.  We skipped the roll, too.

So if you are in hurry, try these speedy Spiedies!


whole chicken breasts - enough for as many people as you are serving
one bottle of Lupo's Spiedies marinade

Place the chicken breasts in a container and dump as much of the bottle of Spiedies marinade in as you can.  Push and prod the chicken breasts to make sure every part of the breast is in contact with the marinade.  It is best to do this a day or two before you actually grill the chicken breasts.  Keep this in the refrigerator.  You cannot over-marinate this.  Every few hours shake the container up to insure that the chicken is marinating.

Grill as you normally would the chicken breasts and occasionally marinate as you are grilling.  These were pretty large chicken breasts and cooked for about 20-22 minutes.  I turned them over every 5 minutes and splashed a little of the extra marinade on them after each flip.

Let the breasts rest for about 10 minutes after cooking and then slice across the breast.

Serve and enjoy.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Wellsboro Diner

Wellsboro Diner

We took a day trip to see the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (Pine Creek Gorge) and were hungry afterwards.  We decided to check out Wellsboro which is about 10  miles away, and the closest town, to see what we could find.

The Wellsboro Diner is smack dab downtown at the intersection of Rt. 6 and Rt. 287.  You can't miss it.

Note the curved ceiling.  It is a 1938 Sterling manufactured diner.   Very cool!

The main reason to eat here, in my opinion, is to see an historic diner, although we had their Angus burgers and they were quite good.

We had fun walking around town afterwards and found a nice little used bookstore up the street before it started to rain, so we headed home. 

Wellsboro Diner

19 Main St
Wellsboro, PA 16901
(570) 724-3992

Wellsboro, and the diner, is worth a look if you are ever in the area.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Turkey on the Grill

Grilled Turkey Leg

If you get tired of grilling steaks and salmon, try turkey.  It is excellent on the grill.  And easy on the pocketbook.

Tom likes the turkey leg, so that's what we picked, but they are many other choices, including the breast, which is also great for grilling, then using the leftovers for sandwiches afterwards.

These two meaty pieces were only $3.30.  Turkey is $2.19/lb around here.  Much cheaper than steaks or fish. 

Brining turkey keeps the meat moist and brings out the flavor.  To brine, you simply soak the turkey in cold water to which lots of salt  has been dissolved.   You can add other things to add flavor.  I chose to add black peppercorns, bay leaves and mustard seeds.

Brine the turkey for 4 to 6 hours.  Then, discard the water, and pat it dry.

I tucked lots of fresh sage and a knob of butter under the skin, then salt and peppered well.   I sprinkled them with paprika, too. 

Then, Tom grilled them for about 30-35 minutes.

The skin is crispy and the meat is tender and juicy. 

Finger-licking good.  And you get to make Barney Rubble jokes.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad Our Way

Now this is summer on a plate!  We can't get enough of this salad at this time of year.  The tomatoes are at their peak, as is the basil.

Ignorance is bliss. I didn't know until today when I looked it up that balsamic vinegar isn't used in Caprese salad. But then again, I haven't been to Capri, so how would I know.

Our way is very good!

Caprese Salad -- Our Way

To make Caprese salad, you will need

--fresh tomatoes, at their peak, but not too soft

--the best mozzarella you can find at the store

--fresh basil, preferably from the garden

--extra virgin olive, the best you can afford

--balsamic vinegar

--salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice the tomatoes in thick rounds, and lay them out on the plate.  Salt generously.  This is a key step.

Layer big pieces of mozzarella on each of the tomato slices.

Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Add salt and pepper.

Sprinkle basil leaves over the top, enough for each of the tomato slices.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chris's Rice Salad with Dressing

Chris's Rice Salad with Toasted Almonds and Sesame Dressing

This is a great picnic dish.   Here it is served cold, but it can also be served hot, and goes with just about anything, like grilled fish or steak.  It's a real crowd pleaser.  Chris has been making it for years --I think I first had it when she brought it to a picnic on the lawn of the Canandaigua concert amphitheater or was it at the twister event at CMoG eons ago?  Anyway, I get very excited when Chris makes this dish.

Here's the recipe.  I think it is pretty close to what she does. 

Chris's Rice Salad with Toasted Almonds and Sesame Dressing

1 cup rice  (your choice -- rice, or rice pilaf, or wild rice)
2 cups broth or stock (your choice -- chicken or beef or veggie)
1 cup frozen peas
2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally and thinly
4 scallions sliced
toasted almonds

2 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
1 t. sugar
1/2 cup salad oil
2 t. sesame oil

Prepare the rice in the broth or stock.  Cook until liquid is absorbed. Time will vary based on the type of rice you use.

While it is still warm, add the dressing and toss to coat it all thoroughly.

Let cool.

Slightly cook the peas, in the microwave or in a saucepan, and drain.

Mix in the scallions, celery, toasted almonds, peas and toss well.

Serve it warm now. Or, refrigerate to serve it cold later.

Note:  it does not freeze well.  But it can be reheated in the microwave with good results.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pita Picnic Pockets

Chris's Pita Picnic Pockets

Last Sunday, we invited our friends, Chris and John, to come up for the afternoon to sit and talk by the lake, and to do a little fishing off the dock.

To my surprise, Chris said that they would only come if she could bring the lunch. Sure!, I said. What a treat!

They arrived with a delightful picnic lunch consisting of the mini-pita pockets, Chris's fabulous rice salad, and slices of chocolate pound cake.

The mini-pita pockets were stuffed with tempting combinations:

--mozzarella and roasted red pepper
--Gouda and smoked turkey
--a "BLT" version
--a roast beef and spinach one, too, I think.

You could make whatever combination inspires you.

Because they were mini-sized pita pockets, they were easy to eat.

And cute, too!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

QKA Grilled Pork Tenderloin

QKA Grilled Pork Tenderloin

Thought I'd share this tasty marinade for grilled pork tenderloin that we make at least once every summer while we are at the lake; hence, the name, QKA Grilled Pork Tenderloin.

I am always looking for a new way to use pork tenderloin, since pork is one of the healthier meat choices, and a cut we keep on hand.

The deep dark color comes from the cinnamon-based spice mix and the balsamic vinegar. The honey caramelizes during grilling to give it a nice crisp exterior.

The marinade is a fragrant mix of spices, mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey.  Plus fresh rosemary. 

QKA Grilled Pork Tenderloin
adapted from The Healthy Barbecuing and Grilling Recipe Book by Karyn Wagner

3 T. Dijon-style mustard
2 T. honey
2 T. olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 1 T. cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 T. cardamom
1/2 to 1 T. ground ginger
Fresh rosemary sprigs
1 to 2 lbs of trimmed pork tenderloin or pork loin

Place the pork in a plastic ziplock bag, add all of the ingredients on top, and massage them all into the pork.  Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.  Turn frequently and be sure that the marinade comes in contact with all sides of the meat to maximize the flavor.

Remove the pork from the ziplock bag, then grill until the outside is crisp and the inside is just cooked through.  Use the leftover marinade to baste the meat, then discard what is leftover.  (Do not eat the raw marinade.) 

Grilling time will depend on the thickness of the cut.  A 1 lb tenderloin will take approximately 20 minutes.

Let it sit a few minutes, then slice across the grain into medallions.

Serve with small buttered potatoes with fresh thyme and grilled corn.  And a side salad.

This recipe came from one of my summer favs --- The Healthy Barbecuing & Grilling Recipe Book by Karyn Wagner -- a falling-apart paperback, with yellowed pages, printed in 1994.   A cookbook doesn't have to be fancy to be a great cookbook. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Union Block Italian Bistro

Union Block Italian Bistro
Hammondsport, New York

It's not on the lake, but you forget all about not having a view when you are at the Union Block Italian Bistro.

The food and service are just right for this area. A nice mix of Italian classics with chef specials, including fish, plus enough choices for even the pickiest of eaters.

They welcome families and have an experienced, courteous waitstaff. The wine list and beer list aim to please.

It's a tiny little place, and doesn't take reservations, but it is worth the wait. They have a cozy bar downstairs or you can walk around the charming Hammondsport village square to pass the time.

Casual, yet sophisticated. No need to dress up.

Union Block Italian Bistro is in its second year.

Lunch is served on the weekends, too. The antipasto for one is a great option. It is updated frequently by the chef and has a nice variety of single bites, from salumi to their signature egg.  It's a nice place to stop if you are touring the area for the day.

Union Block Italian Bistro
31 Selthar Street (On the Village Square)
Hammondsport, New York
Open in the summer 7 days a week, 4 to 10 pm.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes by Penny

I tried baking my green fried tomatoes last Sunday and I just loved them. Not a greasy as fried in a pan, crispy on outside, firm inside... AND you can cook a bunch at once.

Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes -- Penny's Way

Preheat oven to 425 degrees or 400 degrees convection

Dip sliced green 3/8 " in a beaten egg with a splash of milk

Dip in corn meal seasoned with s & p, paprika, old bay, whatever

Let sit on a rack for at least 30 minutes

Spray cookie sheet with oil

Put tomatoes directly on cookie sheet, pop in oven for 10 minutes

Flip, sprinkle Parmesan cheese

Cook another 5 to 7 minutes, test doneness

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lakeside Dinner

We attended a lovely lakeside dinner, provided by friends who "won" the dinner at a fundraiser earlier this year.    We were very happy to be guests for the event.

The cooks, Ann C. and Louise, have been donating a dinner for over 10 years now, and each year they find a way to outdo themselves. Bottles and Corks pairs delicious wines for their menu.

This year the Grilled Salmon Wrapped in Lemon and Bay Leaves, served with Potatoes Simmered in Saffron Butter, was the star. 

The whole fish was coated with olive oil and salt, then wrapped in lemon slices and fresh bay leaves.

It was grilled it at 350 degrees until the internal temperature was 160 degrees.

The starters were beautiful and delicious too.

Herbed Zucchini Spirals were made with walnut pesto.

A layered torta was made with Pesto, Olive Tapenade, Roasted Red Peppers, and Goat Cheese.

Fresh Corn Soup, topped with Roasted Corn Guacamole, was the first course.

They made bread twists to go along with the soup.

A lovely garden salad with yellow tomatoes and peaches followed.

Then, they served the fish.  It was so moist and bright tasting due to the lemons.  The bay leaves did not overpower the fish.

Later, we had Warm Peach Shortcakes with Bourbon-Brown Sugar Cream.   Yum!

Our favorite wine pairings were the Argyle Nuthouse Pinot Noir 2008 (Willamette Valley, Oregon) with the salmon, and the soft Mastroberardino Falanghina 2009 (Sannio, Campania, Italy) with the hors d'oeuvres.

It was a beautiful evening all around.  Hats off to Ann C., Louise and Mary Beth!