Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Peanut Butter Muffins

Here's a quick little recipe. These muffins are sweet enough to satisfy a sweet tooth in the morning, but not so sweet that they’re dessert. Besides adding flavor, the peanut butter adds a bit of protein to this breakfast treat.

While you could use a smooth peanut butter, the crunch of the chunky peanut butter adds great texture.

No self-rising flour? Make your own.

Peanut Butter Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

 2 cups (9 ounces) self rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

In a medium bowl combine the flour and sugar.

In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vegetable oil, egg, and peanut butter. Whisk until the peanut butter is incorporated.

Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until combine an there are no more dry spots. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the next day. (You can skip this and bake immediately, but the overnight rest gives the muffins better texture.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and spray the cups of a standard-size 12-cup muffin pan with baking spray.

Remove the batter from the refrigerator. It will have expanded. Don’t stir. Using a disher or spoon, divide the batter into the 12 muffin cups.

Bake at 325 degrees until the muffins are lightly browned on top, and they bounce back when lightly touched on top – about 25 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and let them rest a minute or two before flipping them out of the pan. If necessary, you can run a thin knife around the sides of the muffins to help loosen them from the pan.

Place the muffins on a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, April 14, 2014

There's no need for artichoke angst!

Fiore Viola artichoke and Sangria artichoke
Ah, artichokes. When I was first introduced to them, I was told how laborious they were to prepare.

Well, yeah, they can be. But they don't have to be.

Part of the angst of that first artichoke recipe came from wrestling the choke out of them.

If you're not familiar with artichoke prep, the choke is a fuzzy section that's inedible and annoying. It's stuck to the very tasty base of the artichoke. And it's guarded by those tight leaves*.

So, scraping a choke out of a whole, uncooked artichoke isn't fun.

But it's what I was told had to be done, particularly if I wanted to stuff the artichoke. I tried removing the chokes before I cooked and after I cooked. They came out a little easier after cooking the artichokes, but it still wasn't fast-n-easy cooking. Which was more my speed at that time. And then that same recipe called for inserting stuffing deep into each leaf so each bite had a bit of stuffing.

Oh, and of course you had to trim the top of every single artichoke leaf.

It wasn't particularly difficult, but it was a little more finicky than I wanted it to be.

But then I thought, gee, why not make it easier? A whole artichoke standing up with stuffing by every leaf and in the center is an impressive presentation, for sure. But who am I trying to impress? I just want to eat the darned things. Bonus points if they look nice, yes. But easy preparation means I get to eat them more often. And that's my goal.

So, I decided the smart thing to do was cook the artichokes whole - no need to trim leaves or rub the cut sides with lemon, or douse them immediately into lemon water. Just cook them whole, then cut in half.

That's what's going on here. And, bonus, since the artichokes I got had long-ish stems, I could just leave the stems attached for tasty eating since they were never going to need to stand upright.

To make things even easier, I cooked them in a pressure cooker. It cut the cooking time waaaaay down. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can cook them in any pot they'll fit into. They're done when the bottom can be pierced easily and a a leaf pulls out easily.

Stuffed Artichoke Halves

For the artchokes:
2 very large artichokes
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, softened or melted
1 tablespoon Penzey's Greek seasoning

Lemon butter for dipping/drizzling:
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Trim a slice off the bottom of the artichoke stem. The stem is tasty - you don't have to cut it off. Peel the stem if you like, but it will hold up better if you don't peel. In that case, you just need to scoop the edible stuff out of the stem part and leave the tough part behind. your choice.

To make cooking much faster, I used my pressure cooker. It took 9 minutes after it came to pressure, and I cooked the artichokes in water with some lemon juice added - I squeezed the rest of the lemon juice from the lemon that gave me the 2 teaspoons into the water, then added the lemon halves as well.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, just cook them in boiling salted lemoned water until a leaf comes out easily when tugged and the stem is tender.

While the artichokes are cooking, combine the bread crumbs, butter, and seasoning in a small bowl. If you don't happen to have the Green seasoning, use an Italian blend, or your favorite dried herbs.

Drain the artichokes and set aside just long enough so you can handle them. Cut in half vertically - from tip to stem.

Scoop out the fuzzy choke in the center and remove some of the small center leaves to make room for stuffing.

If you like, drizzle some of the butter/lemon combination onto the artichoke. Otherwise, reserve this for use at the table.

Fill center of the artichoke halves with the seasoned bread crumbs.

Bake until artichokes are warmed and crumbs are browned, 10 min.

Serve with lemon-butter for dipping or drizzling.

You can also prep the artichokes ahead of time then refrigerate, then bake them covered until warm, then uncover to brown the bread crumbs.

*I know they're not technically leaves, since the artichoke is actually a flower. But they're leaf-like structures that are green and look like leaves. Gold leaf isn't a botanical leaf, either. So let's just roll with it.


Little Chokes

Baby artichokes can be prepped in much the same way as their grown-up friends - cook them until tender - about 5 minutes in a pressure cooker, then cut them in half.

If they're small enough, you might not need to remove the choke - it's likely to be tender enough to eat.

Drizzle with lemon butter - the same recipe as above - or sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake, just like with the larger ones.

Or, if you like, after you've sliced them in half, you can toss them in a saute pan with a little butter to brown them gently.

Need info on how to eat artichokes? There's instruction towards the end of this video, along with some other useful info:



Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem artichokes, also known as sunchokes, aren't from Jerusalem, and they're not related to artichokes at all. But they taste a bit like artichokes.

I cooked a pound of them, like this:

Boil the Jerusalem artichokes in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. When they're cool enough to handle, peel them, then slice or cut into chunks or wedges, as desired.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, then add the Jerusalem artichokes. Cook until browned lightly. Add chopped chives.

Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon, if desired.

Disclaimer: I received these vegetables from Frieda's Specialty Produce for my use. I was not required to write about them.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gadgets: Food Huggers

I think I've mentioned before that I hate buying things like plastic bags or plastic wrap just to throw it out after a short use. I'd much rather have something reusable, and it's a bonus if it's something I can toss in the dishwasher so I don't have to put any extra work into it.

So, when Food Huggers ($19/4) got their Kickstarter funding and went into production, I figured it was worth giving them a try.

They're designed to push onto the cut portion of a fruit or vegetable, keeping air out to keep the food fresh. They also work as covers for things that don't have their own lids, like glasses, cans you've opened, or small serving bowls.

I don't end up with lot of half-used fruits and vegetables, with the exception of onions, so that seemed to be the perfect test of long-term storage. I popped a Food Hugger onto half of an onion and chucked it into the crisper to test its survival.

The first thing that surprised me was that when I opened the crisper I didn't smell even a whiff of onion.

After a week, the onion looked almost as good as fresh, so I tossed it back into the crisper and promptly forgot about it. It was nearly two weeks later when I fished it out and checked it. The cut surface was a little dry, but the onion was still perfectly usable. Not soft or mushy, like sometimes happens wrapped in plastic.

I used the huggers for shorter term storage of some citrus fruits, and that worked just fine, but what I thought was handy was snugging a Hugger onto small containers. I wouldn't use them for permanent pantry storage, but when I'm making a sauce ahead of time, I'd rather have it in its serving container. Although the Huggers are round, they're flexible enough to fit on non-round containers.

The Huggers nest together for storage and they're dishwasher safe.

The product was supplied for the purpose of a review on Serious Eats; this was previously published on Serious Eats.
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