Friday, May 13, 2016

Mini Raspberry Muffins for my Toddler

My toddler - he has a thing for fresh fruit. Mangoes, oranges, and bananas are some his favorite but, because we live in Minnesota, fresh, tropical fruit are not always easy to come by. Luckily, he also can't get enough of raspberries. I can get him to eat almost anything if I put chucks of fresh raspberries on it. As you can imagine, meal times often include very adventurous (for a toddler at least) food combinations. Scrambled eggs with raspberries. Chicken with raspberries. Avocado, sausage and raspberries - we've done that too.

While on the less adventurous side, mini muffins are a go-to for breakfast around here. I make a different batch every two weeks and pop a few in the freezer. It about 10 seconds to warm up in the microwave. I've added raspberries to this batch but have made them in the past with blueberries. That's how we shake things up around here these days.

Raspberry Cinnamon Muffins 
Makes approx. 24 mini or 12 average-sized muffins

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups frozen raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffins tins and set aside.
2. Whisk the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition, then whisk in the vanilla extract.
3. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together in a separate bowl.
4. Fold in half of the flour mixture into the egg mixture, followed by half of the milk. Repeat.
5. Dust the raspberries with the remaining flour. This can be easily done by placing the raspberries and flour in a sieve and gently sifting the flour through.
6. Scoop into greased muffins tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes (longer if you are making average-sized muffins) until a toothpick test comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack and cool before serving.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Fig and Red Wine Sauce

Some dishes are almost treasured in our house. The ones that are not prepared on a daily basis but once a year, at special occasions. They require specific preparations far in advance, such as ordering the meats from the farmers market or ritualistically making  parts of the recipe weeks or days ahead, and they help to define a season or occasion.  One of those is this rack of lamb. I make this only during the spring (usually at Easter) so understandably it's also a favorite. However, this is the first time that I have served it with this delicious (emphasis on delicious) fig and red wine sauce.  Like most special recipes, this one take a bit of time and effort but is absolutely worth it. 

For the rack of lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped

For the sauce
1 shallot, minced
1 cup dried mission figs, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Mix the chopped herbs together; set aside.
3. Rub the rack of lamb with one tablespoon of olive oil and season evenly with salt and pepper.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Sear the rack of lamb, beginning with the fatty side, on all sides for about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a baking dish and paste with dijon mustard. (Save any leftoever oil and drippings to make the fig sauce). Then, gently coat the top of the rack with the herb mixture. Place in the oven, and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees F.
5. Let the lamb rest for about 5 minutes before cutting it into individual chops. Serve with fig and red wine sauce.

Fig and Red wine sauce:
1. Heat the leftover oil (used to sear the lamb) over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until softened.
2. Add the chopped figs to the pot and cook an additional two minutes. Pour in the red wine, stirring well. Once the wine has stopped sizzling, add the stock, fresh herbs and honey. Cover the pot, lower the heat, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the figs have softened significantly. Remove from the heat.
3. Discard the sprigs of rosemary and thyme.  Pour the sauce into a blender and carefully blend until smooth.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Berries and Yogurt Whipped Cream

No. It is never something I say to dessert. Maybe I should, considering that I am currently trying to lose the baby weight. That stubborn baby weight. Unfortunately, I possess little discipline when it comes to most sweet foods, so I try to make substitutions here and there. 

This is my latest indulgence, which shouldn't even be considered dessert actually, since the main ingredients are greek yogurt and berries. Let's call it a healthy, luxurious mid-afternoon (or whatever time of day you are having it) snack. 

Berries and Yogurt Whipped Cream 

8 0z plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 
1 tbsp confectioners sugar 
fresh berries 

Whip the yogurt, cream and sugar together until light an fluffy, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve topped with fresh berries. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Quinoa Salad with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes

We have four tomato plants in the back yard but only one of them is producing ripe tomatoes at the moment. Beautiful, yellow cherry tomatoes are ripening overnight - every morning over the past four days, I get to clip a good handful off the branches. These are the gold nugget variety - a variety that is so sweet, it's a travesty to use them in any other preparation but raw and fresh. So here, they star with red and white quinoa, and some fresh herbs that I also picked from the garden. It's summer time in Minnesota!

Quinoa Salad with Fresh Cherry Tomatoes 
Serves 4 

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups cherry toamotes, halved
1/4 cup chopped chives
8 to 10 mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt, to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl, and mix well. This salad can be served at room temperature or cold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Strata - a savory bread pudding recipe

When this strata came out of the oven this morning, I knew that it would be the basis of my next blog post.  I like to think of a strata as a savory bread pudding. Unlike the sweet versions, this one is full of wholesome vegetables and, due to the addition of thyme and nutmeg, it makes the kitchen smell a little bit like Thanksgiving. The other good thing about a savory bread pudding is that, even though it lends itself easily to breakfast, it can make a quick weeknight dinner. 

Spinach, Mushroom & Cheese Strata
Serves 4 

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 sprigs of thyme
8 to 10 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
10 oz fresh or frozen spinach (if using frozen, make sure to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can)
6 cups cubed bread
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 cup grated cheese
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and set aside an 8"x10" baking dish.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the thyme and mushrooms. Cook, stirring regularly, until the mushrooms have browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach. Making use of the residual heat, toss the spinach with the warm mushrooms until it has wilted a bit.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the bread, green onions, cilantro, cheese and the mushroom mixture.
4. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over the bread mixture and toss well. Pour the pudding mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake at 350 °F for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve warm.