Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blueberry Muffins

Some folks go by the vernal equinox or the autumnal equinox.  Me, I go by when asparagus is ready to be picked.  Ditto the blueberry.  Most especially the blueberry!  I have a file folder filled with recipes for the luscious purple blueberry.  They are the only fruit I pick (though not of late) and the only fruit I preserve.  Just in case you want the "preserve" recipe, here it is.  Pick, put in freezer bags (I do two cups to a bag) and freeze.  Use frozen.

The blueberry season is now for us.  The farmer's markets are featuring them in abundance.  Our first few purchases are usually just left on the counter to be eaten as is--out of hand, on oatmeal/cereal or in salads.

I always pull this recipe from the "blueberry file" for our breakfast treat.  It has been a mainstay for decades.  I no longer remember the source.  The only notation on it is "easy".  That it is!  Time it to come out of the oven when the coffee has perked and the newspaper has been delivered.


Make the neighbors happy by dropping off a few muffins for their breakfast treats as well.



Blueberry Muffins

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp melted butter,  slightly cooled
zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 cups of fresh blueberries/blackberries or raspberries
Sparkling white sugar (I use King Arthur's)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Use paper liners in 12 muffin cups.

1.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until well mixed.  Stir in the melted butter.  Add the lemon zest, vanilla, beaten eggs and milk.  Mix by hand until well blended.  Fold in the berries.
2.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling each to the top (not the usual 2/3).  Sprinkle the tops with the sparkling white sugar.
3.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Test with a toothpick.

ENJOY!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Container Gardening and Post 4th of July Post


Container gardening is the way to go--at least for me with limited space.




No weeds!


Basil for pesto.


Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (and basil)
for the table.


A delicious spread for our 4th indoor picnic.


Diana always wins the coveted "Best Plating" award.


Apple pie or strawberry shortcake for dessert?
This year, strawberry shortcake was the winner.

It was good to have Scott, Sue, Jane, Jim, Diana and Steve to join in our celebration!!  Later, we settled in to view A Capitol Fourth.  Despite the fact that the fireworks were not live, it was a good show.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Blueberry-Ricotta Cheesecake

It rained during the night.  Outside my window, there is an explosion of green.  It is amazing at how many shades of green there are in nature.  Crayola could devote an entire box of 64 crayons just to the color green.

As I've traveled about the countryside this past week, I've noticed that the green blueberry bushes are starting to add the color blue(ish) to the landscape.  After a long and blustery winter, I am impatient for the bounty of summer to come to market.  We've already enjoyed the sweet and juicy local strawberries.  Every spring, I think it would be good to make strawberry jam.  It is a fleeting feeling.  Why spoil the freshness of those beautiful berries.  Hopefully a friend will show up with a jar or two of jam made in a kitchen other than mine.

Blueberries are at their best fresh off the vine and untouched in any way.  This cheesecake, made by The Baker,  is the ultimate vehicle in which to enjoy that freshness.  The berries are added after baking!  The cheesecake itself is much like the one his mother made.  The texture is not the silky smooth one we are used to.  The base of the cake, with the lemon zest is perfect with the juicy berries and the crunchy almonds.

Here is the recipe.  Give it a try.  You won't be disappointed!



Blueberry Ricotta Cheesecake

2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 ounces of amaretto cookies or graham crackers
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into smallish pieces
1 15 oz. package of whole-milk ricotta cheese
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one lemon, finely grated
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

1.  Butter a 9" springform pan and place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
2.  Place the cookies and cut-up butter into a food processor and pulse until you have a fine mixture.  Pat it into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3.  Bake the crust until slightly browned and crisp--about ten minutes.
4.  Clean the bowl of the food processor and add the ricotta cheese.  Process until smooth, a minute or so.
5.  With a mixer on medium and using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs until broken down a bit then slowly add the sugar with the mixer running.  Beat until thick and pale.  This will take 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the ricotta, flour, vanilla and lemon zest and beat until just combined.
6.  Pour the mixture over the pre-baked crust and bake until just set, about 30 minutes.  It will still be slightly moist in the center.
7.  While the cheesecake is baking, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and place into the oven (with the cheesecake) and toast until golden--4 to 5 minutes.
8.  When the cheesecake comes out of the oven, top with the nuts and blueberries while still warm.  Gently press down on them.  Chill completely before unmolding.

ENJOY!


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mothering (A Working Title)

Did I mention that, while The Baker was in Poland, I enjoyed this boy?  Adam flew in to spend Memorial Day weekend with me.  I started early with menu planning.  Then I put that aside and planned what restaurants we would visit instead.


Lunch at Meditrina was a delicious success!


Adam had the tasty vegetarian sampler.


I had the house made lamb gyros.  It was excellent!


It was a beautiful day and we headed to the shore of Lake Michigan.


Too soon, he headed back to California.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Broccoli Soup for a Cold Spring Day(s)

I really find dwelling on the weather tiresome at times.  This is not one of those times!  We've had rain, rain and more rain.  Along with the rain, the wind whipped down from the north (at least that's my weather report) and chilled us to the bone.  Heeding my mother's long-time advice of not planting outside before Mother's Day, I waited,  putting out pots of newly started herbs last week only to drag them into the house and garage at night.  The porch furniture is out but not us!

Warm weather will come!  In the meantime, this mid-May bowl of broccoli soup hit the spot!  If you are still chilled, I hope you'll prepare yourself a bowl.



Broccoli Soup 

Broccoli, about 1 pound, separated into florets with stems peeled and rough chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 quart of good chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
Salt and Pepper
Half and Half, about 1/4 cup

Put all ingredients, except salt, pepper and half and half, into a large pot, bring to a slight boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft.  Salt and pepper to taste. Puree with an immersion blender (or regular blender/food processor).  If you have an immersion blender (I don't know what I did without one), you can puree it right in the pot and cleanup is a breeze!  Add half and half to taste.

ENJOY!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Post Mother's Day Post

I woke up Mother's Day morning to the sound of birds chirping out a varied melody outside my window.  The sky was blue with white, puffy clouds scudding by.  NO RAIN!  It was a perfect time for a walk, returning to enjoy a steaming mug of coffee on the porch while Andrew prepared brunch.


This lovely boxed arrived on the doorstep Saturday afternoon.


Edible art!  Had I taken the photo this morning,
the heart in the upper right and the chocolate three spaces to the
left of it would be missing.  I shared with Andrew as an after-dinner treat.
They are as delicious as they look!!


These gerbera daisies are the most beautiful red wine color.  
My camera, with the light at hand,  just couldn't quite capture that color.

I spent the rest of the day reading The Secret Chord, Geraldine Brooks' latest book and enjoying phone calls from the boys.  Later, we headed out for dinner at Sage.  It was a very good day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sausages, Cream and Tomato Sauce for Pasta


We have had a wet and wild spring so far.  April certainly provided plenty of showers to bring out the May flowers!!  I've pretty much followed my mother's advice not to plant anything until after Mother's Day.  Nevertheless, these pretty posies have graced our table for almost a week now.  They arrived with friends who came to lunch last week.

We are wealthy people when it comes to friends!  When we moved to our new cottage, we thought our circle of friends was complete.  It wasn't and, hopefully, isn't.  One dear couple has given us much time and patience over the last few months.  They are teaching us how to become proficient at bridge.  
Since mid-January, we've been meeting for a morning of bridge every Friday.  We follow it by lunch.
There are usually eight of us but this past Friday, we were only four.  So we invited them to come home with us for lunch.


Personally, I think it is going to take a long, long time for me to learn the game.  I plan to stretch it out as long as possible because we really look forward to their company.

The lunch recipe is from another old friend, Marcella Hazan.  It's from Marcella's Italian Kitchen, a cookbook that has been a constant source of good eating from my kitchen since 1988.  


Cartwheels With Sausages, Cream, and Tomato from Marcella Hazan with a little tweaking by me

For 4 to 6

1 pound mild Italian sausage
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp dried Italian herb blend
1 1/2 cups canned chopped plum tomatoes and their juice
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 pound pasta cartwheels, cooked al dente
Freshly grated Parmesan to pass

1.  Remove the casings and slice the sausages into 1/2 inch pieces.
2.  Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium heat and add the garlic.  Stir for one minute then add the Italian herbs and stir another minute.  Add the sliced sausages and turn them frequently until they are beginning to brown on both sides.  This will take about fifteen minutes.  Add the tomatoes, stir and cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for about twenty minutes.  Add cream and turn up the heat.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring frequently.  Add the salt and a good grinding of fresh pepper.  Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley.
3.  Place the pasta into heated bowls and top with the sauce.

ENJOY!