Chocolate nut muffins

Double chocolate and nut muffins recipe

Calling these muffins instead of cupcakes is reallllyyyy pushing it IMO, but we’ll let that slide. I made these w/o the chocolate chips, with a dash of orange flower water instead of vanilla, and with pecans instead of walnuts + almonds. They were great, would definitely make again. They look super presentable with a single whole pecan on top of each muffin.

Use-up-all-the-things meal

I was away recently for a lovely weekend with a big group of 16 people. Dinner on the last night was a use-up-all-the-things meal that I tag-teamed with BW. This is a rough description of each thing, a bunch of them were new to me but I’d like to make them again. We were super low on olive oil so went heavy on the butter, and we omitted garlic + onions in most things due to some dietary restrictions within the group.

Cheese

Use a peeler to get thin slices off any nearly-finished firm cheese in the fridge. Pile the slices together on a plate, then throw the rind in to the fridge or freezer for use in future stews or pots of lentils / beans.

Arbutus (strawberry tree) jam

Good with cheese. This was sort of based on a variety of recipes online. I didn’t mind the texture but it was probably a bit too seedy for most TBH, so next time I’d probably strain part way through cooking while the mixture is still relatively liquid.

Remove stems and bad bits from about 2 cups of ripe Arbutus (strawberry tree) berries, then rinse and put in a small nonstick pot. Cut an orange in to chunks and squeeze in the juice, then throw in the rind. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze in the juice of a lemon half, then throw in the rind. Add about ¼ cup sugar and a small pinch of salt, and then simmer over medium-low heat until the berries are completely dissolved. Add water during the cooking process if needed, and taste while cooking to adjust the sweetness. Remove the citrus rinds before serving. The colour of the cooked jam should be a reddish ochre, and the consistency is similar to fig jam, very seedy.

Lamb’s lettuce salad

In an enormous bowl, combine a big pile of Lamb’s lettuce with soft, crumbled fresh cheese, a chopped avocado, a big handful of chopped black olives, the sliced green tops from 3–4 scallions, and a very big handful of toasted pine nuts.

For the dressing, combine olive oil, some red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, a mashed anchovy, salt, and fresh black pepper. Taste the dressing and adjust it to balance it out, then add it to the salad and toss to coat.

Croutons

This was probably the biggest experiment. I’ve done this with cubed bread of all sorts in the past, but never GF bread. Specifically, we used leftover GF focaccia which had been made from leftover pizza dough and topped with capers, olives, rosemary, and tomatoes. It was pretty firm due to the GF flour, sort of the consistency of cornbread crossed with polenta. The resulting croutons were maybe a bit too big / crunchy for a salad but still very tasty, kind of like baked polenta. It actually worked pretty well with this meal since most of the other things lacked crunch.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Cube a bunch of leftover firm bread, then toss it in butter or oil and season to taste with salt and spices or herbs. Roast in the oven until golden and crispy.

Puy lentils with rosemary and thyme

I definitely over-salted these! Still good though. Every other time I’ve made Puy lentils they’ve come out way too bland, so I’ll probably make them like this in the future, probably with a bay leaf and maybe some other herbs. I’d be a great side to make instead of potatoes or rice, for example.

Pour a 500 g box of lentils de Puy in to a medium sized pot with enough water (see the instructions on the box), the rind of a hard cheese, a good pinch of salt, a knob of butter, fresh black pepper, and about 2 tablespoons each of chopped thyme and rosemary. Bring to a boil and simmer until the lentils are tender and the water is mostly gone. Note that you may need to top up the water during cooking. When nearing the end of cooking, taste the lentils and adjust the flavours. Add a little salt, lemon juice, and / or orange juice to adjust the flavour and acidity. Remove and discard the cheese rind before serving.

Caramelised onions

Ours weren’t quite caramelised, but still tasty! Apparently sodium bicarbonate is a useful secret ingredient if you’re light on time, need to remember that for next time.

Thinly slice 4 onions and place in wide, flat-ish pot. Stainless steel or aluminium is best if you have a lot of time, nonstick works well if you don’t. Add a pinch of salt and a knob of butter, then cook over medium-low heat until a deep golden brown.

Roasted aubergines

These are good lukewarm or cold as well. Do not be tempted to season with salt before sticking them in the oven, there will be plenty in the veg still from the initial step.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Slice aubergines in to rounds that are roughly 1 cm thick, then salt on both sides and place in a shallow dish. Allow the salt to draw out the water for at least 15 minutes, pressing on them occasionally to encourage them. Once a lot of the water has been drawn out, put the aubergine slices in a big bowl of cold water and rinse thoroughly, removing all of the remaining salt. Squeeze the water out of the slices, then place in a baking dish. Top each slice with a little butter or olive oil, generously top with fresh black pepper, then sprinkle over about 1–2 tablespoons each of chopped thyme and rosemary. Roast in the oven for 30–40 minutes, turning halfway. Taste when done and add a squeeze of lemon juice if desired.

Pasta with tomato sauce, basil, and anchovies

BW tackled this mostly, so here’s hoping I’ve remembered this correctly! She said it was based on a Rachel Roddy recipe so I had a look online. Her recipe for pasta with tomatoes and anchovy sauce looks really similar and very good, though I don’t think it’s the same one. Worth a try!

Heat some butter or olive oil in a large flat-ish pan, then add halved baby tomatoes and cook until very soft. Add two finely chopped anchovies and cook a little longer, then add one chopped stove-roasted red pepper and a can of chopped tomatoes. Allow the sauce to simmer and reduce while you cook the pasta. Cook the pasta of your preference in heavily salted water until al dente and then drain, reserving a small amount of the pasta water in the pot. Tip the sauce in to the pasta and reserved pasta water and then cook a little longer, allowing the water to reduce slightly and the pasta to finish cooking. Stir in a whole bunch of torn basil and serve.

Spiced roasted carrots + broccoli

Kind of based on the honey roasted carrots from this Guardian article. Try to avoid crowding the pan or cooking too much at once in the oven because it will inhibit roasting and will cause the veg to steam. If you have to cook a lot at once, consider cranking up the heat.

Preheat the oven to about 200C. Put a bunch of oblique / roll cut carrots in to a big baking dish with the florets and peeled stem of a head of broccoli. Add a very generous sprinkling of brown sugar, a good pinch of salt, a squeeze of lemon juice, some lemon zest, a lot of cumin seed, about a thumb’s worth of minced ginger, and about 1–2 teaspoons of ground coriander. Roast until the edges are well browned, tossing occasionally to cook evenly.

Spiced chickpeas and greens

The vibe was espinacas con garbanzos, but with what we had on hand. I would definitely consider adding some cayenne, smoked paprika, garlic, etc. in other circumstances. For the greens we used rocket and spinach, but this would probably be good with kale as well though the cook time would take a little longer.

Heat a knob of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat, then pour in a can of chickpeas, drained. Add a very good pinch of salt, at least 2 tablespoons of cumin seed, 1–2 tablespoons of ground coriander, and a solid pinch of ground cinnamon. Cook for about 5 minutes to allow the flavours to come together, then your greens and the juice from at least a half an orange. Allow the greens to cook to the desired doneness, adding water if needed. Taste and adjust flavours as necessary (salt, lemon, etc.).

Roasted potatoes with a roasted pepper sauce

The idea was sort of patatas bravas, but again, with what we had on hand. Would probably consider smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic for this as well.

Preheat oven very hot, at least 200C. Cut 5–6 thin-skinned potatoes in to chunks and parboil, then toss in to a baking pan with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until brown and crispy. For the sauce, reduce a can of chopped tomatoes over medium heat, then add a knob of butter, some cumin seed, and one finely chopped stove-roasted red pepper.

Citrussy black beans with chipotle chiles

Makes a big pot of beans, enough for 6–8 people.

These are basic guidelines for a well-flavoured, medium-spicy pot of beans that take little hands-on time. This recipe doesn’t call for soaked beans since it isn’t necessary, but you could soak them to reduce the cooking time. Chipotles in adobo are smoked, dried chiles in a spicy tomato-based sauce. Adobo can be made at home and has a great flavour, so consider making a big batch of it for use at home if you can’t find it canned.

In a large heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot, combine:

  • 500 g (1 lb) dried black beans
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 orange, topped and tailed then cut in to large chunks
  • 2 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1 ½ TBSP ground coriander
  • 1 can (about 7 oz or 200 g) chipotles in adobo
  • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A good pinch of brown sugar
  • A solid pinch of salt

Add enough water to cover the beans by the width of about three fingers and give it a good stir. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, then place in a 175C (350F) oven or simmer on the stove over low heat for about 5 hours. The older the beans, the longer it will take to cook them.

Check about every hour, more frequently if simmering on the stove. Give it a good stir to ensure nothing is sticking, and taste the mixture to adjust the flavours and seasoning. Trust your gut; this is a big pot of beans, so it needs a good amount of salt and spices. Worthwhile additions might include a cinnamon stick, crushed garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, epazote, and much more.

When done, remove the orange skins, bay leaves, and any other whole spices. If you prefer a thicker texture, mash some of the beans with a potato masher.

Serve with salsas, chopped coriander (cilantro), sour cream or yogurt, and rice.

🌶🍅🥑🥭🍋

Cooked a big meal for friends this past weekend, will definitely make a bunch of these things again. Particularly polvorones! I hadn’t had those in years, since I was a kid. The asterisked items are things I hadn’t made before, I mostly referred to Saveur recipes for guidance on those. We had this with flour + corn tortillas from the shop and rice.

  • Mango salsa – frozen, thawed mango; minced red onion; minced jalapeño; lime juice; chopped coriander; salt
  • Chiltomate* – roasted, peeled roma tomatoes; roasted garlic; roasted habanero; salt
  • Pico de gallo – diced roma tomatoes; diced yellow onion; minced jalapeño; lime juice; chopped coriander; salt
  • Guacamole – mashed avocados; minced jalapeño; lemon juice; salt
  • Quick pickled red onions – finely sliced red onion; white wine vinegar; salt
  • Carnitas* – pork shoulder; bouillon; ground cumin; ground coriander; bay leaf; salt; ground black pepper
  • Black beans – dried black beans; chiles in adobo; bouillon; sliced onion; whole orange, cut in to chunks; bay leaves; toasted, ground cumin seed; toasted, ground coriander seed; salt
  • Polvorones* – pecans; white flour; cinnamon; butter; vanilla extract

Me-proof boiled eggs

Boiled eggs 🥚

I’m decent in the kitchen yet always screw this up. Don’t wing it, follow instructions below.

  1. Place eggs in saucepan. They should fit comfortably.
  2. Fill saucepan with water, covering the eggs by the breadth of a finger or two.
  3. Turn heat on high and bring to a boil. Stick around, read a book or do some dishes or something. You need to be there when it starts actually boiling.
  4. Right when the water has come to a full boil – you can tell by listening, the eggs will probably be knocking around a little – take the pan off the heat and cover the eggs.
  5. Allow the eggs to sit covered in the hot water for 4-10 minutes. 4 = soft, 6 = jammy, 8 = firm, 10 = hard. If making soft boiled eggs for eggs and soldiers, let them sit for about two minutes, three max. The egg will continue to cook when you place it in the egg cup.
  6. When they’ve reached the desired done-ness, remove the eggs to an ice water bath. Allow to rest in the cold water at least 10 minutes.

In the fridge with the shell on, soft boiled eggs keep about two days and hard boiled eggs keep about 4 days.

chickpeas for days

Made a chickpea salad last night that was a riff on this one by Bon Appétit and loved it, ended up finishing the whole thing. I’ll definitely make it again. My changes (due to dietary stuff and what I had on hand) were:

  • Didn’t have any parsley and not enough basil (scrounged a tiny amount from my not-happy plant), so I bulked it out with big handfuls of chopped spinach
  • Added ½ of a small bulb of fennel, sliced very thinly
  • Added about ⅛ of a cucumber chopped in to quartered rounds
  • Added one very finely chopped scallion
  • Used lactose-free “cheddar”

You could easily make a ton of different tweaks. I’d like to make it with some tahini whisked in to the lemon, sumac, a very thinly sliced red onion, and some mint. Or do a ginger + garlic + soy sauce + rice vinegar dressing, swap basil for coriander, drop the cheese, and maybe swap some of the chickpeas for edamame. That might be lunch today.

Nan-nan’s cupcakes

Looking through Nan-nan’s recipe books, the first thing that caught my eye was a recipe for cupcakes from her sister June, see below. I’ve preserved her notes and phrasing as much as possible but have adjusted certain elements to be more usable.

I’m an OK baker but more of a pies-and-cookies person. Every cake I’ve ever made seems a little meh. These were not meh, 10/10.


Cup Cakes

From June, Merle’s favorite. Good with baked icing or white fudge icing. Makes 12.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

In a large bowl, cream together ½ c (113 g) softened unsalted butter, 1 c (200 g) sugar, ½ t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract until very fluffy and light. Next, beat in 4 egg yolks until thick and light in color. In another bowl, sift together 2 c (230 g) all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder. In small, alternating amounts, add the flour mixture and ⅔ c (158 ml) milk to the butter mixture. Beat after each addition, until smooth.

Pour the batter in to a lined cupcake tin, filling each cup ⅔ of the way. Bake in a moderate oven, about 350F (175C), 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the tin once halfway through if you find one side is browning more than the other.

Additional notes

Note that the cupcake recipe originally calls for Spry, a vegetable shortening. I’ve substituted butter here since that’s what I’ve got.

The original recipe also specified 2 c of sifted flour, with an additional note that specified Gold Medal or Swans Down flour. Gold Medal is usually plain / all purpose flour, and Swans Down only produces cake flour AFAIK. This made determining the metric measurement kind of ambiguous, 2 c sifted all purpose flour is significantly different than cake flour. The measurement below worked well ultimately, but I’d like to try cake flour eventually so will need to keep this in mind.

She originally said it makes 18, but I found that it is much closer to 12 in a 12-cup cupcake tin with cups that measured 2″ (4.25 cm) in diameter across the base. The flour debacle might have caused the difference.

The cupcakes supposedly go well with “baked icing”, something I had never come across before. I tried it with baked frosting and failed *spectacularly*. I can see that it could be great though, kind of like a molasses-y meringue on top, so I’ll try again and note here if successful.

Nan-nan’s recipe books

Handwritten recipes by my paternal grandmother

My cousin kindly let me borrow my paternal grandmother’s cookbooks for the next few months until we meet again in August. One is a comb-bound cookbook assembled by the community of Worthington, OH. The other is more of a diary where she recorded her favourite recipes. I had NO idea that these books existed. I had always been told she didn’t keep track of her recipes, so this is pretty exciting.

It’s going to take a while to go through the cookbooks, so I took some rough photos of all of the spreads in case I don’t get through it all by the time I return them. It’s classic late 20th-century Midwestern fare. Most of the pages are dedicated to sweets of all sorts, and there are a fair few recipes that call for Velveeta cheese, Jello, or Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. I’ll probably steer clear of the gelatine “salads” and sadly have to avoid the cheesiest of things, but I’m up for everything else!

I’ll share some of Nan-nan’s recipes in future notes as I try them.

Seviyan kheer, or spiced rice noodle pudding

We made some vermicelli (rice noodles) for dinner the other day and came across a recipe for seviyan kheer on the packet. I’d never heard of it. Since we had leftover noodles and wanted something sweet, I gave it a try following this seviyan kheer recipe on vegrecipesofindia.com. Differences: I omitted the almonds and rose petals, used oat milk, and fried the leftover, chopped-up cooked noodles instead of broken raw noodles. It was really tasty! A lot like rice pudding, but better IMO.