Author Archive for Patricia Tolbert

12
Jan
14

Watch me turn this muffin into a donut

Donut Muffins 003-001

Sometimes I just want a donut.  And sometimes I give into that craving.  And most of those times, I feel icky after eating one.  Perhaps it’s the type of donut I’ve chosen.  Or maybe it’s the guilt I often associate with eating foods that are not “good for me”.  I once drove for miles on highway 99E in search of a donut shop.  Didn’t there used to be lots of donut shops in the world? They seem to be disappearing, perhaps replaced by Starbucks, McDonald’s and Taco Bell’s.  At any rate, I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with donuts, of late.

After driving south on 99E from Portland, through Milwaukie, Gladstone and practically to Oregon City, I finally found Heavenly Donuts.  My expectations were high.  Anything named “heavenly” should be, in my mind, out of this world.  These donuts should taste like God made them, right?  Or angels, at the very least.

With my sugar junkie adrenalin pumping, I entered the shop.  Nerves and guilt were starting to overtake me.  What was I doing?  Why did I drive all this way for a donut?  These things better be worth it.  I scanned the display case.  Disappointment creeping in now, as there was not much of a selection.  Just the usual suspects; cake, glazed, chocolate covered, maple bars and some really greasy looking apple fritters.  Well, I can’t leave now.  I should have, but I drove all this way.  I’m obligated to buy not one, but two of these things.  And I did.  I purchased an apple fritter and a cinnamon swirl raised sort of affair.  Then I made a mad dash for my car, where I sat and consumed these sins.

God did not make these donuts.  Nor did angels.  Hell, I’m sure if the Devil himself made these donuts, they would have tasted much better.  No, I’m pretty sure these donuts were made by the Hispanic gentleman behind the counter.  No offense to him at all, but these were not donuts worth making a special trip for.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the donuts at Safeway might be a little better.  Either I’m waxing nostalgic for the donuts of my youth, or there are no special donuts in the Portland vicinity.

All this being said, I have found a substitute sweet morsel that comes close to a donut without as much guilt attached to it.  I recently purchased a Williams-Sonoma cookbook simply entitled “Muffins”.  And in that book there is a recipe for Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins.  And surprise!  They taste like Buttermilk Bars.  No kidding.  You know the kind of donut I’m talking about?  Kind of shorter and fatter than a Maple Bar, with that buttermilk tang and glaze.

It is my pleasure to share with you what I now call my Donut Muffin recipe.  It could save you a trip searching the streets for a donut shop.  Or maybe that’s just me.

Donut Muffins 002-001

 CINNAMON-BUTTERMILK MUFFINS

From the Williams-Sonoma book

MUFFINS

7 tablespoons (3 ½ oz / 105 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup (5 oz / 155 g) sugar

1 large egg

1 ½ cups (7 ½ oz / 235 g) all-purpose (plain) flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

½ teaspoon salt

½  teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg IF YOU ONLY HAVE GROUND NUTMEG IT WORKS JUST AS WELL.

½ cup (4 fl oz / 125 ml) buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract (essence)

FOR THE TOPPING

2/3 cup (5 oz / 155 g) sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons (3 oz / 90 g) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).  Grease 9 standard muffin cups with butter or butter flavored non-stick spray;  fill the unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

To make the muffins, in a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg, beating well until pale and smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  Add to the butter mixture in 2 increments, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Stir just until evenly moistened.  The batter will be slightly lumpy.

Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it three-fourths full.  Bake until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20 -25 minutes.  A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.  Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

To make the topping, stir together the sugar and cinnamon in a small, shallow bowl.  Have ready the melted butter in another small bowl.  Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly.  Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tapping it to remove excess sugar.  Transfer to the rack, right side up.  Repeat with the remaining muffins (DUH).  Let cool completely before serving.

Donut Muffins 008

It just occurred to me as I was writing this post, you could totally substitute a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze for the cinnamon sugar, for a true Buttermilk Bar effect.

Next time!

05
Jan
14

Let’s get crafty!

Part of my daily Tuesday routine is to deliver meals to seniors in the Sellwood area.  Meals on Wheels is a fantastic organization providing 5,000 meals a day to Portland seniors, as well as people with disabilities.  It is my pleasure to serve these folks meals, as well as to form a friendly bond with them.

I thought it would be fun to make each of my clients a special treat for the holidays this past Christmas.  Since Christmas Eve was on a Tuesday, it was perfect for gift giving.  I baked some extra soft Snickerdoodles and Ginger Molasses cookies for my friends.  I wanted to present them in a special way. There were some pictures of cool little tree shaped boxes in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine and I decided to try a little crafty action.  The boxes were perfect for the tiny cookies.  Here is how they turned out:

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christmas 2013 002-001

I used poster board and glue sticks from the Dollar Tree.  I did have to purchase a bone folder from JoAnn’s Fabrics, but with a coupon it only cost $2.99.  And, hey, you can always use the bone folder for other craft projects.  I used the glue stick to attach wrapping paper on the fancier trees.  Just glue the paper on and trace your pattern on the opposite side.  Easy peasy, right?

If you would like to make tree boxes yourself, go to BHG.com/PaperTrees to download the template.  They are simple to make and a lot of fun.

04
Jan
14

Hella Hot Jalapeno Pizza

I don’t consider myself a total wimp when it comes to spicy food.  In fact I prefer food to be a bit on the zippy side.  But I made a pizza for last night’s dinner that burned my fingers!  I’m not talkin’ burnt from heat.  The peppers made my fingers burn!  And they still smarted this morning.  Here’s how it all started:

 blog shots 2014 002-001blog shots 2014 004-001I didn’t have a lot of topping stuff on hand last night, so I decided to load the piazza up with fresh jalapeños and the nacho style jarred variety. There is also fresh pineapple, onions, soyrizo, chopped tomatoes and cheese in there.  so, I load it all up and slide into  the hot oven.

blog shots 2014 012-001And there it is, starting to cook.  You can see all of those peppers in there, looking all innocent.

blog shots 2014 014-001It’s almost ready.

blog shots 2014 021-001It’s go time.  Normally, I can eat three slices of my homemade pizza, no problem.  Seriously, I could only make it through 2 slices, and that second one took me a while.  I was savoring it, right?  Actually, I had to let my mouth cool down in between bites.  Can you believe Katie not only put crushed red pepper on her slices but also a TON of cayenne pepper!?!  Ok, I put crushed red pepper on mine, too, out of habit.  I really didn’t need to do that.

I noticed my hands were burning a bit all evening after dinner.  At least I had the foresight to remove my contacts before concocting this blistering affair, but I still managed to rub my eyes during the course of the evening, causing a bit of pain there.

Leftovers for lunch today.  Where are my food safety gloves?

04
Jan
14

I’m Baaaaacccckkkk!

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I posted anything on this blog.  I wasn’t even sure how to get into it anymore.  Good thing I’m a little bit smart and figured it out quickly.  So, I’m not making any big promises here, such as I promise to write  more in 2014 or share only healthy recipes and that  sort of nonsense.  I just had this feeling I should check in on this thing I created several years ago and was having so much fun with;  fun being the operative word.

We should all have more fun.  Cooking and baking is, obviously, fun for me.  And so is writing about it and sharing pictures of whatever I’m making.  But what is really fun is hearing from all of you.  I miss you and hope you feel the same.

What have you been doing lately just for fun?  I’ve been trying to teach myself how to play the accordion.  Katie has been teaching herself to play the guitar.  We’ve been hanging upside down like a couple of nutters on a Teeter machine!  We adopted a young dog in October and he’s a lot of fun.  Six pounds of pure cuteness.  His name is Diablo.

Not too sure what is going on with a lot of my pictures from previous posts.  A lot of them, it seems, have fallen off the pages.  I’ll have to have my IT girl (AKA Katie) look into why this keeps happening.  They are linked to Fotki, so if anyone has ideas or suggestions, let me know.

So, Happy New Year and I hope to be posting something with pictures and recipes soon.   Feels like a good plan to me.

31
Dec
12

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 19,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

24
Nov
12

Oooey, gooey and a little chewy

Figs or grilled sandwiches?  Which is it to be today?  How about I just combine the two?  After all, the apple cheese grilled combo was delicious.  I didn’t write about the pear smoked Gouda sandwich, because it fell flat for me.  But I did learn that smoked Gouda is not a melty cheese!   Should I be writing about the failures as well as the successes?  You guys tell me.

The other day, in an effort to use the fresh figs in some way that didn’t involve something too sweet or a baked good, I created a more savory fig concoction.  My taste buds approved this delightful combination.  May I present, the Grilled Cheeses and Fig sandwich…………………………….

 Spread coconut oil** on sourdough bread slices first, then place oiled side down in a cold non-stick pan.  Cover the bread with Havarti cheese slices and top with sliced fresh figs.

Next I topped the figs with some soft goat cheese, nice and tangy!

The figs were not super flavorful nor sweet so I decided to drizzle honey over the goat cheese.  A very wise choice.

I added more Havarti cheese to help hold the sandwich all together, once all of the cheeses start to melt.  Cheese makes a very good sandwich “glue”.

And we pop the other coconut oiled bread slice on top and turn the heat to a very low setting and cover the pan with a lid.  I keep the heat low so the cheese melts as the bread slowly toasts without burning. The lid helps to heat the pan , sort of like a mini oven.

Using a wide spatula, gently turn your beautifully toasted sandwich over and continue to grill until the other side is equally toasted and golden.

 Some of the honey will spill out and that is a good thing.  The edges of the sandwich will get caramelized – OMG, right?

And here is the beautiful end result.  The sourdough bread was a perfect choice for this tasty treat.  It’s chewy texture and slight tang married perfectly with the zing of the goat cheese and the sweetness of the honey drizzled fig.  The heating of the fig brought out more flavor.  Havarti cheese is very mild and agreeable, creating no sharp contrast with the goat cheese, just lovely meltiness and ooziness.

One last parting shot because I really liked the shininess of caramelized bread edges and the melted cheese with that pretty fig poking out.

Get creative with your grilled sandwiches.  Try different bread, cheese and fruit/veggie combinations.   Have fun with your food.  Your taste buds will thank you.

**NOTE:  Coconut oil is usually rock hard.  For this sandwich I gently heated the oil (DO NOT MICROWAVE) in a metal measuring cup over the lowest setting on my cook top and then used a pastry brush to apply the oil to the bread.

07
Nov
12

Caramel and figs? Go “fig”ure!

In 2009, I posted Fresh Fig Tart and an ode to Marie.  Wow, have I really been blogging for over 3 years?  Well, I’ve been pretty lazy this past year about posting on a regular basis, but I’ve been bitten by the Blog Bug recently and I’m back for more fun.  Anyway, in the fig tart story I gushed about my crush on cookbook author and food genius, Marie Simmons. I also shared a recipe from her wonderful book, Fig Heaven.  Since I am on a fig roll this week, I tried another recipe from the cookbook.  Heavenly is a perfect descriptive word for this sauce.

FRESH FIG AND CARAMEL SAUCE FOR ICE CREAM

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

6 to 8 ripe figs, any variety, stems trimmed, halved lengthwise

¼ cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a 9 or 10 inch skillet until foamy.

Add the figs, cut side down, and

sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Cook, without stirring, over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes and the figs are browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

 Carefully turn the figs over and cook 2 minutes more.

Remove the figs to a serving bowl.

Add the cream to the skillet and boil,

stirring, until it has reduced slightly and the sugar has melted into the cream to make a caramel-colored sauce.  Let stand off heat for a few minutes.

Then stir in the vanilla and add to the figs.  Serve warm over ice cream.

My original intention was to serve this sauce over some ice cream, as the recipe indicates.  Since I had fresh baked coffee cake in the house, I went with a more decadent choice.  Coffee cake ala mode, the mode being Häagen-Dazs Caramel Cone ice cream, and this luscious fig caramel sauce.  It was surprisingly light.

I may have another fig recipe in the works, so check back with me, or better yet, just subscribe to this blog and you will receive an email the next time I share.  Have a figtastic day!

03
Nov
12

mmmmmmm……..coffee cake!

Fall is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest.  We’ve been having almost non-stop rain in Portland for the entire month of October.  As we enter in to the month of November, Katie and I are still eating bounty from our garden and enjoying the fruits from the trees.  I’m especially happy about the crop of fresh figs we have this year.  Last year the tree was loaded with fruit, but none of it ever ripened.  This year it’s falling on the ground, there is so much of it!

That being said, what does one do with so many fresh figs?  Well, some of them get sent to work for our co-workers to enjoy.  I made some fig bars one weekend, mostly to try the recipe and then ship off to our respective jobs.  Everyone approved.  During this week I cooked a bunch of figs down with some added honey and sugar.  Not having a plan for this fig jam, I just let things evolve, as I do.  This morning the fig jam had a purpose.

Chop up fresh figs, throw ’em in a pot, add sugar and honey to your taste and just let it cook down. If it’s still chunky, you can puree it; I used a stick blender to smooth this.

As most of you know, I love Ruth Reichl.   I am still sad about the demise of Gourmet magazine.  It was far superior to Bon Appétit, in my humble opinion.  Thank goodness I held on to tons of my old Gourmets.  One thing I am especially happy I saved is the Letter from the Editor page that I ripped from the December 2001 issue.  It is safely wrapped in a protective plastic sleeve and inserted into my binder of often used recipes.

One usually does not find a recipe on the Editor page, but good ol’ Ruth shared this one from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book.  It is a very straightforward, simple, delicious coffee cake.  The addition of fig is my contribution to the recipe.

A beautiful, basic coffee cake. This smells so good!

FIG COFFEE CAKE

2 STICKS UNSALTED BUTTER

1 CUP SUGAR

3 EGGS

2 ½ CUPS ALL PURPOSE FLOUR

2 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER

1 TEASPOON BAKING SODA

1 TEASPOON SALT

1 CUP SOUR CREAM

5 TEASPOONS VANILLA

FIG JAM

Pre-heat oven to 350°  Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl on a standing mixer.  Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.  In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add this to the butter mixture.  Stir sour cream and vanilla together and add to the batter.  Mix just until everything comes together to a smooth, thick batter.

Grease a non-stick 10 inch bundt pan.  Spoon half of the batter into the pan, smoothing evenly.  Make a sort of ditch in the center of the batter.  Fill the ditch with fig jam.  Spoon the remaining batter over the top and spread evenly.  Bake for about 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes;  remove cake from pan.  You can serve this warm or at room temperature.

You can serve it plain. Plain sounds pretty ordinary, but this is not ordinary coffee cake.

Or you can dress it up by drizzling a little honey over the top while it is still warm. This was soooo good!

27
Oct
12

Bingo and Brownies

I’ve been thinking about my paternal  grandmother lately. She has long been a coffin muffin, but still, memories of her are always with me.  Just yesterday, as I was surfing the web, I ran across this site called Foxy Bingo.  I was drawn to the fox’s snappy suit and wondered where I could get such an outfit.  It would make a good Halloween costume, as I would like to be Prince this year or a disco dude.  Then I started to think about my Grandma Ferguson and how much she loved playing Bingo and slot machines.  I wonder, if she was alive today, would she get into the Internet gambling fun?

Grandma loved to dance.  Folk dancing in particular.  If I recall correctly, she taught us the song called Bingo.  Does anyone else know that song?  “A big black dog sat on the porch, and Bingo was his name.  A big black dog sat on the porch and Bingo was his name.  B.I.N.G.O., B.I.N.G.O., B.I.N.G.O.  and Bingo was his name.”  We used to do some folk dance to that song.  I loved it.  Maybe my grandmother liked that song so much because of her love of playing bingo?  I’ll never know.

Grandma Ferguson was not a cook, as I recall.  She was totally addicted to sugar.  Perhaps that’s one of those things I liked best about her; she always had gum and hard candy in her purse.  There was always Kool Aid in the fridge because she said the tap water was undrinkable (and this was in the 60’s!).   Boxes of brownie and cake mix were always present in the cupboard, as well as a pan of brownies on the counter.  All I can remember eating at Grandma’s were sweets.  And not the homemade variety, I can assure you.

The only home I remember her living in was a converted garage in Lemon Grove, California.  I loved that place!  It was so tiny that you had to turn sideways to get through the bathroom door.  Her friend Thelma, a large woman, would have to go down the street to the gas station if she needed to use the facilities, as she could not fit into Grandma’s toilet.  There was actually an upstairs in that garage where we would find all sorts of treasures that she had pack ratted (as my mother would say) away.  I recall finding a cool violin there and begging my grandma to give it to me.  She wasn’t as soft hearted as I had hoped.

Some of my grandmother’s proclivities certainly run through my veins.  I share her love of thrift store shopping, sweets, sewing and creating and a Peter Pan attitude for life.  My mother was always so annoyed with her mother-in-law.  “She’s like a little kid” my mom would complain.  She was embarrassed to go into thrift stores with her. I remember her telling us that Grandma wanted to go to Girl Scout camp with my cousins, making a big deal about it, like Grandma was crazy.  I believe my grandmother had the right idea.  She was living life the way she wanted to.  She was following her bliss, each and every day.  With every swig of Kool Aid and bite of brownie, she was celebrating life.  And if she were alive today, I know she would grab her bag and go with me to the thrift store in search of that foxy suit.  Bingo!

 

P.S.  After watching this clip on YouTube, I’ve decided to be this fox for Halloween!

 

19
Oct
12

whatever, I need a grilled cheese!

With the return of the cooler weather here in the Pacific Northwest, the fall season has begun.  People are busting out their sweaters and umbrellas here in Portland.  Katie is sporting her leg warmers and fingerless gloves and I am craving comfort food.  I have no need for the warm clothing, as I am a hot blooded, menopausal woman.  What I do have a need for is melted cheese.  That’s warming, right?  No, I do not apply it to my body, although it does manage to find it’s way to my thighs, butt and stomach region.  Oh, and probably to my grandmotherly fat arms.  But, like the squirrels in our yard, I need a little extra padding for the winter, or so I tell myself.  Whatever, I need a grilled cheese sandwich.

So, today when I came home from work, I celebrated my Friday with a tasty grilled cheese and apple sandwich.  I figured since people like cheese melted over their apple pie, well some people do, then a sandwich made with cheese and apple might be pretty good.  I was right!  It’s pretty basic really, just bread, cheese and apple.  I used Havarti cheese, an apple from our tree in the back yard, I believe it is called a King apple, Dave’s Killer Bread and coconut oil.

The perfect fall lunch!

Up close and personal

This sandwich would be good with any kind of cheese, apples or bread.  The King apple was super crisp before I grilled the sandwich, but it did not snap when I bit into it.  The Havarti and apple just married perfectly.

Don’t be afraid, or turn up your nose, just try it. It’s not weird, it’s good.




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