Sunday, March 25, 2012

Whole Wheat Jam Muffins

It's Sunday. Sunday is a day for strolls, and muffins.

I admit that after last weekends 5-mile jaunt, I was ready for it again. However, Mother Nature was not quite ready for me. After a week of 70+ degree temperatures in New England, March became March. It's cold, rainy, and barely hitting 50 degrees today. Therefore my "Sunday Stroll" this week included a walk to and from my mom's car, to Ten Center Street, in Newburyport, Ma., and what you see below.

I love a Bloody Mary on a Sunday.

On cold, early spring days like this one, you need a hug. A warm, hearty, toast-your-belly, type of fare that delivers on the comfort you're craving. These muffins are just that. They're substantial with the sweet surprise of jam in the middle.

This particular Sunday, they're filled with Strawberry Jam. I made it early last summer. It was my first real foray into canning. I'm telling you, on a raw March day, the taste of a June strawberry is absolutely divine. It tides me over until I'm back out strawberry picking again.

Whole Wheat Jam Muffins
Makes: 12 muffins

You can fill them with whatever kind of jam you have on hand. The whole wheat gives them a nutty flavor, which by all means, if it's not your thing, feel free to use regular old all-purpose.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (I weigh, it's 8.5 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (I've also used olive oil in a pinch)
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 oz. jar of strawberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. In one bowl combine whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine. 
  3. In another bowl, lightly beat the two eggs, and add canola oil, honey, buttermilk and milk and whisk to combine. 
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until the mixture resembles a thicker batter.
  5. Grease a muffin pan (normal sized) and fill each tin up a little less than halfway.
  6. Grab your jam and put a dollop of it on the batter in each tin.
  7. Divide the rest of the batter between the 12 tins, covering the jam. 
  8. Pop into your preheated oven for 10 minutes. 
  9. While they're in the oven, combine sugar and brown sugar in a little bowl and whisk to combine. After 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the muffins with the sugar mixture.
  10. Bake for another 5 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out clean.
  11. Take out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan on wire rack for 5-10 minutes.
  12. After that time, pop out of the pan and serve warm with butter and extra jam.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Potato Leek Quiche

They're the signs that Spring is here. Beautiful greens, the arugula, the leeks, the spinach, popping up at markets all over. They join the pinks and reds of those lovely spring radishes, which are perfect when cooked up in a copious amount of butter or to even add a peppery crunch to your salad.

Just when you thought you couldn't eat, or even look at another root vegetable, or open a mason jar full of last year's bounty, they appear.

The greens of spring let you know there's hope on the way.

I shouldn't complain. Our winter here in New England was mild in comparison to years past. This week, we've seen 70 degrees several time, in mid-March. I do get fairly excited, however, when I start seeing the early spring offerings pop up at the Newburyport Farmers' Market.

I picked up early spring leeks from Arrowhead Farm (Newburyport, MA) and several varieties of potatoes from Heron Pond Farm (South Hampton, NH). I love Heron Pond's potatoes. They come in a rainbow of colors, from blue, to gold, to red. They go well in quiche.

Simple. That's the point of quiche, right? Look in your refrigerator and if you have eggs, some vegetables, and some dairy, you're good to go. This is an easy, weeknight quiche. It doesn't call for egg separation, no heavy cream, or anything you might not have on hand. It deals with milk, eggs, and cheese. If you're feeling really healthy, ditch the crust. I won't lie, I had some store-bought pie crust in the fridge, and for a quick meal, I never hesitate to grab them. They make dinner, simple.

Potato Leek Quiche
Serves: 8

I've called for 1/2 a bunch of leeks. I used early spring ones, and I found using the entire bunch was too much, it will depends on the size of your bunch. Add them slowly to your egg mixture so that you can find the right amount for you.

  • 3 small potatoes (any variety will do), scrubbed clean (peel if you'd like, I didn't.)
  • 1 9-inch pie crust (homemade, store-bought, whatever)
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (or cheddar, or Swiss, brie would be nice too)
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • dash of ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 bunch leeks, sliced into 1-inch pieces.
  1. Place your potatoes into a pot of some variety and cover with cool water until there's about an inch covering them. Place on stovetop, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender (about 15-20 minutes).
  2. Once their fork-tender, drain, and allow to cool enough so you can handle them, slice, and set aside.
  3. Now, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  4. Grease up a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out your pie dough to about 10-inches and place in your pie dish, folding the excess over, and crimping to your liking. (I'm awful at this.) Prick the side and bottom with a fork.
  5. Now, place a sheet of parchment paper over your dough, and place several pie weights (or as I do, dried beans), over the parchment in the dish. This will allow your crust to keep its shape in the oven.
  6. Bake the crust for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Take out of the oven and allow to cool on a baking rack, set aside.
  7. While your crust is baking, make the filling: combine milk, egg, cheese, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl and beat lightly to combine. 
  8. Finally, add in your leeks, the amount should be to your liking. 
  9. Now, take your pie crust (make sure weights or beans or all out), place your potato slices on the bottom, just enough to cover, and then pour the egg-leek mixture over the potatoes. 
  10. Bake 35-45 minutes. The top will become golden, and 35 minutes will give you a more custardy filling. I baked to about 45, because the husband likes a firmer quiche. It's up to you. 
  11. Slice, and serve alongside a small salad of greens.

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sunday Stroll: The Winter Market

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchid white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
-"A Prayer in Spring", Robert Frost

Far too often, we move far too fast.

Our lives are a blur of appointments, events, deadlines, to-do's; a constant trail of the things we have to do, versus the things we want to do.

Introducing, "The Sunday Stroll".

I run during the week for exercise, I walk as well, but only to get my heart rate up and my mind clear. Those sessions have goals of endurance, time, the focus on the movement, not on the scenery.

So, upon being gifted by mid-March burst of beautiful spring temperatures, I elected that instead of driving about to the market, to the store, I'd simply walk it. I'd walk slowly and deliberately. I'd breathe in the sun-warmed air, and look at the flowers along the way. I'd notice homes I've never noticed before.

I'd take my time.

About a half-hour or so into what turned out to be two-plus hours meandering, I realized, I'd like to do something like this every Sunday, and share it; a reminder that slowing down, while not always possible, is always necessary.

The crocuses above was one the first things that caught my eye. I live in a city called, Newburyport. It's a small, seaside city right near the border of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It was settled in 1635, given its official name in 1764. It's the birthplace of the U.S. Coast Guard, and it filled with the kind of New England stately homes that people travel far and wide to see. Those blossoms above grace the park near my home. Atkinson Common had it's start in the late 1800's, and it's a quiet, beautiful spot for all to enjoy.

 I continued my wandering down Newburyport's historic "High Street". Here is where the sea captain's mansions reside. Beautiful homes ranging from the early 1500's (yes, before official settlement) to now. Along the way, a historical marker pointing the way to the site of the first ferry landing that took people from one side of the Merrimack River to the other. 

 My destination, the Newburyport Winter Farmers' Market, just under 2.5 miles away from my home, on the other side of the city. Green was the theme this week, as the warmer weather has given way to a host of spring greens, from chives, to green onions, to the leeks that I brought home from Arrowhead Farm, in Newburyport. I picked up some potatoes, from red, to blue, to gold, from Heron Pond Farm, in South Hampton, Ma. The world's best guacamole comes from Patty's Guacamole, out of Gloucester, Ma. I always pick up a container. No trip to market would be complete without a chai from White Heron Tea and an amazing breakfast wrap made with all local ingredients. They're out of Rollingsford, NH. I *love* seeing the market packed on a Sunday morning.

Armed with my wrap, my chai, and my much saner mind at this point, I head to the waterfront of Newburyport. A boardwalk stretches along the blue water of the Merrimack River, reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean, less than a mile from this point. I enjoy my breakfast, the quiet, and the sun, before my stroll back home.

Two glorious hours, five miles later, I reach home. Relaxed, content, a little more aware of where I live, ready to start the last gasps of the weekend.

Happy Sunday to you and yours....
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