Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

To go along with my Blueberry Boy Bait from last week, here's another way to use up the 8 pounds of frozen blueberries that are keeping my freezer running efficiently!

My Grandma used to make blueberry muffins for breakfast when we would stay overnight at her house when I was growing up. I always thought it was the greatest treat to have muffins fresh from the oven for breakfast, as my mom never made muffins that early in the morning - we always reheated them in the microwave if we wanted warm muffins for breakfast. My 3rd grade mind thought my Grandma must have gotten up HOURS before us to be able to pull out hot muffins at just the right time.

I shared this with my mom, who said "She doesn't get up that early...the muffins are from a box!" But I didn't care where the batter came from...fresh muffins for breakfast are still one of my favorite morning treats. (I have since added large amounts coffee to that list, but that's a little more mature than my 3rd grade self)

So one Saturday morning, my son and I went to work getting these muffins baking, and they came out of the oven right as my husband was stumbling out of bed. Perfect timing, even if I do say so myself!

These muffins were coffee shop quality but still easy to whip up at home. They make large muffins, and even then, my husband and I ate way too many for breakfast. The few that made it to leftover status got happily eaten as snacks later in the day.

My muffins did not look exactly like the photo in the cookbook, because I couldn't get the "jam filling" stirred into the muffin batter as easily as I would have liked, and I didn't make the topping, as I didn't have any lemon in the house. But these were still the best blueberry muffins that have come out my kitchen!

I am sharing this at The Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap.

Blueberry Muffins
recipe from America's Test Kitchen Cookbook
Makes 12 Muffins

Lemon-Sugar Topping (I didn't add - no lemon in the house)
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon

2 cups fresh blueberries, picked over
1 teaspoon sugar plus 1 1/8 cups
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the topping: Stir the sugar and lemon zest together in a small bowl until combined and set aside.
For the muffins: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a standard-sized muffin pan with vegetable oil spray. Bring 1 cup of the blueberries and 1 teaspoon of the sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing the berries with a spoon several times and stirring frequently until the berries have broken down and the mixture is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and cook to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and the eggs together in a medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in the butter and oil until combines. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg moisture and remaining 1 cup blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened . (The batter will be very lumpy with a few spot of dry flour; do not overmix.)
Using a 1/3 cup measure or an ice cream scoop, divide the batter equally among the prepared muffin cups (the batter should completely fill the cups and mound slightly). Spoon 1 teaspoon of the cooked berry mixture unto the center of each mound of batter Using a chopstick or skewer, gently swirl the berry filling into the batter using a figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over the muffins.
Bake until the muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool the muffins in a pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blueberry Boy Bait

We went blueberry u-picking last month, and somehow came home with 8 pounds of blueberries. Yikes, it was a lot. It didn't seem like a lot in the sweaty, tired haze of picking some of those blueberries, but once we got home, I realized I had to do something with all of them. We had some muffins for breakfast the next day, my husband wasn't interested in blueberry jam, so I started getting them ready for the freezer.

I washed the berries, lightly dried them, then froze 'em in a single layer. As you can see the photo below, it wasn't too single-ish of a layer...I was very sick of blueberries by the end of the day, so I took a few liberties. I then measured the frozen berries into 2 cup portions in freezer bags

The next weekend, we had to bring something to a church potluck, so I immediately thought to use some blueberries, and found this recipe in the cookbook that slowly is becoming my new favorite. This coffee-cake dessert was very yummy, not too heavy for summer, and would work great for a brunch.

I'm sharing this at Eat at Home's Ingredient Spotlight: Blueberries.

Blueberry Boy Bait
recipe from America's Test Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 12

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degres. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch baking pan.
Whisk 2 cups of the flour, the baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in one-third of the flour mixture until incorporated, beat in 1/2 cup of the milk. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Toss the blueberries in a small bowl with the remaining 1 teaspoon flour. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the blueberries. Spread the batter into the prepared pan
For the topping: Scatter the blueberries over the top of the batter. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn out and place on a serving platter (topping side up) Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Banana Ice Cream...aka Frozen Bananas

I've seen this around a few cooking blogs over the past few months, and finally thought we'd give it a try one night. It's not really "ice cream" as it doesn't have any dairy, but does sure look like it!

After I whipped it up following the directions below, this had the true texture of soft serve ice cream, but had much different aftertaste than ice cream...it tasted not surprisingly, like bananas.  I covered my two scoops of "ice cream" with chocolate syrup, so it was the perfect chocolate delivery system! This was a fun weeknight snack, and I didn't have to run a marathon to burn off the dessert calories!

Banana Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredient: bananas
Use one banana per serving (i.e., 2 bananas for 2 servings)

Peel bananas and cut into small pieces and freeze. (at least 1 to 2 hours)

Using a food processor and scraping down the sides periodically, blend the frozen pieces until the mixture becomes smooth. Scoop and serve!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Basic Baked Ziti - Freezer Friendly!

I know that there are much more complicated (and probably better) recipes out there for Baked Ziti, but this is a basic recipe that always seems to be a hit, easy to throw together from the pantry and because I split the dish into two pans, the frozen pan in the freezer makes another night's easy dinner.

I don't add cheese to the noodles, mostly because there is another casserole I make with cheesey-noodley goodness (Triple Cheese Delight) and have another favorite skillet meal that is similar (Bowtie Lasagna). So this might not be totally authentic, but it is still good eats. You are more than welcome to top your casserole with shredded cheese, or throw some ricotta inside, I won't judge!

Basic Baked Ziti
Makes 8 servings
1 - 9 x 13 pan or 2 - 8x8 pans

1 pound ziti noodles
1 pound italian sausage (I like Turkey Italian Sausage or Hot Italian Sausage)
1 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Boil ziti noodles according to package directions in salted boiling water, drain, and set aside. Brown meat in a large saute pan, add spaghetti sauce and salt until warmed through. Add noodles and combine with sauce. Spoon into a greased baking dish and bake, covered with foil, for approx 30 mins. Top with parmesan cheese

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mac & Cheese and Ham Casserole - Freezer Friendly!

I have a five month old, that while seemingly happy, smiley, and cooing for the majority of the day, becomes a screamer from 5 pm until bathtime. This, of course, puts a big dent in my dinner time prep and cooking. My son will eventually grow out of it, but until then, the rest of my family still needs to eat!

So I have become all about the freezer meals and crockpot dishes. Anything that I can make enough of to freeze for another time is totally appealing to me. After I saw this recipe at Mom Advice, I thought I'd give it a try.

This went over well with the family, and it tasted just like regular 'ol kid friendly macaroni and cheese, amped up for adults with hearty ham and Italian breadcrumbs. There were no leftovers!

This recipe is now included in my Creatively Domestic's Freezer Meals ebook for sale on Amazon. To view this recipe and many others, please visit (and buy if you're interested) from that site.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Freezing Leftover Pizza Slices

Ok, I'm letting you into the depths of my frugal brain today. I've debating posting this frugal tip because it makes me feel soooooo... cheap. There I said it. Not frugal, not thrifty, just plain cheap. And everyone has their own line of frugality: when you cross it, you feel like the cheap aunt or other crazy family member that ties pieces of yarn together and saves them "just in case".

So my husband came home with two boxes of leftover pizza from work. Someone over-ordered for a lunch meeting, and instead of letting it go to waste, my husband and few others rescued the completely untouched pizzas. We ended up having one of the pies for dinner that night, but the other perfectly good pizza was still sitting there.

I decided to wrap up the individual pieces and freeze them. Then the next week, when I was wondering what to make for lunch, I remembered those pizza slices. I threw two in the toaster oven, and they re-heated so well that I was mentally high-fiveing myself.

Now I've done this a few more times, and it works great to have the option to pull out as many pieces as we need, either for a quick lunch or dinner or a late night snack (What can I say, my husband loves pizza!)

I have been also known to take advantage of those crazy ridiculous promotions going on at our favorite pizza joint (2 pizzas for $5 each!), and we buy a little more pizza than we can eat for one meal, then I freeze the individual pieces for lunches.

So you make the call: frugal or cheap? Anyone else do this?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homemade Cornbread Mix

I've always made cornbread from a box, but after I tried cornbread in the slow cooker, the realization that how easy it is to whip up this side dish had me somewhat hooked! I went on the hunt for a homemade rendition.

This was basic, good cornbread. I ended up adding a bit more sugar to my version, and it yielded more than my favorite box mix, which is fine by me! More to eat!

Homemade Cornbread Mix
Serves: 6
recipe from Sweet Pea Chef

3/4 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients together. Store if needed.

When ready to use, mix in a separate bowl:
1 egg

3/4 cup skim milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Add the wet ingredients to the cornmeal mix and stir until just incorporated. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cook for 20-25 minutes if using a 8x8 baking dish, or 15-20 minutes for muffins, removing the muffins or bread from the oven when the center is no longer jiggly and the edges are slightly browned.

Creatively Domestic

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