Musing with Max

Musing with Max

December 29, 2010

Stud Muffins

Being snowbound

makes me crafty, creative, cooky, all of the above = restless. What to do, what to do? Watch the icicles?
just in case they kill somebody (namely me) as in "the lovely bones"? Hmm need to watch where I step. I know I'll go online! And then I am inspired by this post from David Lebovitz  about English Muffins. And I'm thinking "Get out of town, I can make my own English Muffins, no way." So now I'm on a mission with time to spare and I decide to look in my Joy of Cooking from way back in the day for a recipe, not that there's anything wrong with this one but I just decided to do that and lo and behold there it was "English or Raised Muffins"---who knew? And it actually says "not at all like "store-bought" ones." Well that works for me so off I go, with some variations.

English Muffins adapted from The Joy of Cooking (way back in the day version) and

Combine in a mixing bowl
1 cup of water
1/2 cup scalded milk
2 tspn sugar
1 tspn salt
Dissolve for 3 to 5 minutes
1 package of active dry yeast in 2 tbspn of warm (105f-115f) water
Combine with water and milk mixture
Gradually beat in 2 1/3 cups of bread flour
(I have a KitchenAid mixer that Frank gave me for my birthday years ago so I use that with dough hook)
Cover with a cloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours or until it collapses back into the bowl. (It never rose, it was too liquidy, but that's OK)
Beat in 3 tbspns softened butter
Beat in 2 cups of all-purpose flour until a stiff dough forms.
Lightly flour a board and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the dough on it and pat or press to a thickness of 1/2 inch (it feels like pizza dough, stretchy). Cut dough into rounds (I used a 3 inch ramekin) and let stand in a lightly greased cookie sheet

until doubled in bulk. ( I left them alone for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours and barely any rising, I worried, no need).
Butter and heat a griddle pan. When fairly hot, slide muffins onto griddle using a pancake turner and cook until light brown, turning once on other side
they actually rise as they are cooking. Cool slightly on a rack, to separate the muffins stab all around gently with the tines of a fork. Serve with loads of butter and jam or marmalade, or fry an egg or cheese or whatever you like. If you don't eat them all right away fatty, then wrap them up individually in aluminum foil and throw into a freezer bag and freeze. Take them out and toast in the oven as needed or wanted or needed. Here is what they look like and I have to say I am quite proud of myself and whoever that guy is, Thomas, who seems to think he has a monopoly on this; he better watch his back.
and Max smells bread:
which is his favorite thing next to

napping on his daddy's lap

December 27, 2010


So the White Christmas came one day late and boy what a wallop! 2 freaking feet of snow which is a tad too much if you ask me because we are stranded. Public transportation has come to a standstill; on the plus side Frank stayed home; on the minus we got up early anyway cause he thought he might be able to shovel his way out and the trains would be on time, working, riding, railing, whatever it is they do. The answer of course was no, not in two freaking feet of snow and 60 to 70 mile an hour winds and plummeting temperatures: no no no. So here we are in our little winter wonderland:
and the milk went sour. Of course we always think we'll be stranded for days like in those bad old movies with Canadian mounties but that will not be the case, and even though Max is a little apprehensive about stepping into this white stuff that is almost taller than him and the same color which means he could get perilously lost in it

at least he has a new sweater to keep him warm

and Frank will continue to dig us out

while I make concoctions like Short Rib Jambalaya
courtesy of Eula Mae Dore via The New York Times Magazine:

Short-Rib Jambalaya
2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Tabasco
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup seeded and chopped canned tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, green and white parts
2 1/2 cups long-grain white rice.
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Season the ribs with 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon Tabasco. Cook, covered, until well browned on all sides, about 45 minutes. Be careful when turning the meat as the hot oil can splatter.
2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the ribs to a bowl and drain off all but 3 tablespoons of the fat in the pot. Add the onions and sauté, scraping the brown bits off the bottom, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the celery and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté for 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and ribs to the pot and cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Pour in the broth and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes longer. Stir in the parsley, green onions, rice, the remaining salt, black pepper and Tabasco. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, over low heat until most of the liquid has absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Serves 6 to 8. Recipes adapted from “Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen,” by Eula Mae Doré and Marcelle R. Bienvenu.

and that makes Max a happy pup!

December 24, 2010

(B)Rookie mistake

OK, so I decided to bake some cookies since I have some time (not for long, later on that) which I haven't done in a long time and made these awesome "Mantecaditos con guayaba" which I found in this great blog:
They are delicious and so easy to make, however I may have to make more since Frank keeps finding the hiding place and keeps eating them. Here is the recipe.
Mantecaditos con Guayaba ( Shortbread Almond Cookies with Guava)
about 18 cookies
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup guava paste, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream sugar, shortening and butter in a large bowl. Mix in egg yolk and almond extract.  Blend in the flour a little at a time, until well combined and chunky. Shape a tablespoon of dough into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the cookies on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Using your thumb press the down on the cookie.  Fill the dimple with about 1 tsp of guava paste.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Transfer to cooling rack.

And here's what they look like once they are baked:

So far so good! Then I decided to make "Brookies" from a recipe that I had found from a post. OK, you say what the hell is a brookie? Duh, part brownie, part cookie of course, and how can you possibly go wrong with that? I will tell you. First though I will share the recipe:

Makes eighteen to twenty
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp. unsalted butter
2 c. semisweet chocolate chunks (52-62% cacao)
2 large eggs
¾ c. light brown sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ c. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt

1. While the oven preheats to 350°, melt the oil, butter, and 1 cup of the chocolate together in the microwave on high heat for 2.5-3 minutes, stirring at 1-minute intervals. Or melt the mixture in the stainless-steel bowl of a double boiler. Let cool.
2. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla until combined. Fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
3. Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Combine the flour mixture with the chocolate mixture, and then fold in the remaining chocolate chunks.
4. Freeze the batter in a shallow pan (such as a pie plate) 6-8 minutes until it sets and hardens slightly.
5. Spray two cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper. Scoop about 10 tablespoons (teaspoons) of batter onto each sheet. Bake 11-12 minutes, until the tops look dry and cracked (the insides will still be quite moist). Cool completely. The brookies will be perfectly soft and chewy.

which I have already altered once I made them. I do NOT recommend using the nonstick spray on the cookie sheet because they spread out like this:

and once baked become even flatter, more cookie than brownie by a lot if you ask me. And secondly I say use a teaspoon full, not a tablespoon, too big. Either way though, they are delish, the brown sugar is awesome and regardless of what they look like:
which is definitely not soft and chewy, I'm still giving them to friends and family.
Max on the other hand could care less; he is still quite bored with all of this baking stuff and can't wait til it's over. Anyway, merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

December 22, 2010

It's Christmastime

We got a smaller tree this year, not necessarily in height but in bulk so this guy's a little thinner than usual. Went a little simpler on the trimming too; no gold ribbon going through it, used less than half our ornaments, etc. Little guy looks kinda nice though, I think.
Made some truffles!
Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 lb. bittersweet chocolate chopped, or a combo of bitter & semisweet
pinch of salt
tspn of vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 cup of sifted powdered sugar
1 tbspn Grand Marnier or Cointreau

In the top of a double boiler, or a pot over simmering water, heat the cream with the butter until butter is melted. Add chocolate, salt and vanilla and stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat and beat in egg yolks until well blended. Add sugar and Grand Marnier and beat until mixture is smooth. Transfer to a bowl an refrigerate until mixture is very firm. (I usually wait a day).

Prepare a sheet of wax paper with sifted cocoa and/or cinnamon sugar and or toasted and chopped walnuts or almonds. You will roll the truffles in these.

When mixture is firm, remove from refrigerator and take a small spoonful (I use a melon baller) and roll it into a ball, the roll in the topping of choice then put into petit four cups. I find I can only do about ten at a time before I need to put the mixture back in the fridge and clean my hands of melted chocolate and start up again after about ten minutes. Once done store in fridge or they freeze beautifully. Unfortunately this makes only about 50 truffles which is not enough since they are so yummy people can't stop eating them. I make them for gifts and need to keep Frank away with threats and a big stick.

Made so Creme de Vie! (that's eggnog to you)
Here's how:
In a blender mix 1 can of evaporated milk, 1 can of condensed milk, 2 egg yolks, one teaspoon of vanilla extract and 5 ozs. of rum, until well blended. I keep old clear wine bottles just for this, pour in and add a cinnamon stick.

There is more baking to come! This is such fun!

Max on the other hand finds it increasingly boring.

Oh well.

December 19, 2010

Damn it, I'm Gumbo

I think of New Orleans all the time...well maybe not all the time...but a lot, and its awesome food. Nothing like a yummy gumbo to warm up a cold winter night. I remember eating at The Gumbo Shop on our last night in New Orleans way too many years ago; I had red beans and rice even though it wasn't Monday and it was awesome, so was the place.  We sat in the courtyard and I could just hear Stanley screaming: Stellaaaaaa!!!!! Aw, the memories.
So I went and got me some shrimp and some andouille sausage and made us some gumbo. OK so I didn't use a recipe from the Gumbo shop which I usually do but I used the one from the New York Times Magazine a few years ago when they had an article on Eula Mae Dore, and boy oh boy, this woman could cook: Here we go y'all.

Andouille Sausage-and-Shrimp Gumbo
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound andouille smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (chorizo may be substituted)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups sliced fresh okra or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen sliced okra, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
2 bay leaves
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions, green parts only
Cooked long-grain white rice (optional).
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl.
2. In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is light brown, about 2 minutes. Add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and cook, scraping the brown bits from the bottom, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the sausage, okra, salt, cayenne, Tabasco and bay leaves. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the shrimp and green onions and simmer just until the shrimp turn pink, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and season to taste with more salt and cayenne. Serve in soup bowls, over hot rice if you choose. Serves 6 to 8.

This does not make 6 to 8 servings by the way, probably 4 if you're lucky so make a lot.

Max is still not amused. His little head is saying "OK, enough with this shellfish stuff, and what the heck is okra? Ugh it's so goopy, disgusting"

December 14, 2010

Father Knows Best

I must have been 3 or 4 years old trailing after my dad as he went into the orchards with a basket. He was going to pick peppers from his cherished plants and I was going to help. We walked through the thicket of bushes and as we went by he picked all the peppers he could and threw them in the basket: every once in a while he'd pop one in his mouth and savored it as if it were the most delicious thing on earth. I stared up at him and my mouth watered, hmmm that looks delicious and pretty too, they were these little red things. Oh Daddy can I have one, please? Please Daddy please! He said no, he didn't think I would like it, I insisted and insisted as only a 3 or 4 year old can...relentlessly. He looked down at me and said "are you sure?" I nodded enthusiastically, I was ecstatic. He popped one in my little tiny mouth and suddenly I was on fire, my eyes were crying but I wasn't; what was this? Yuck, I spit it out and wiped my tongue, he laughed "I told you so". He used to put up jars of those same peppers which he had pickled in the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets and check on them adoringly until they were "ready" and then once they were he'd add them to his salad, I knew better by then. My Dad could make anything, and I mean anything, look delicious; he ate with amazing gusto and savored every bite. I remember staring at him as he ate the big bowl of quaker oats my Mom would make for him on weekend mornings. He ate the plain kind with a little cinnamon on top, I had it once, thought it was bland but continued to stare at him with envy as he ate his. When I was 13 he had a heart attack and they put him on a strict diet, no fat, no salt, no butter, no sugar...While he was recuperating at home my job was to make his lunch when I came home from school which consisted of a very plain hamburger patty which I sauteed in a dry skillet only in its own fat. I would serve it up with some lettuce and tomato on the side, no bun, no condiments, not even the beloved peppers. I would make one for myself so he wouldn't eat alone and the two of us would sit there and eat this tasteless lunch. He looked like he was having filet mignon. Today would have been his 96th birthday; in four days it will be the 36th year that he has been gone. Or has he? I can still taste that little red pepper.
He loved homey dishes so I will make this today for my Daddy-o

Fabada de Lentejas
1 cup of lentils, picked over.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 spanish chorizos,chopped into small cubes
1 large baking potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 medium tomato, not too ripe, chopped into cubes
½ to 1 cup chicken broth
salt to taste
pepper to taste
cumin to taste

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the chopped chorizo. Cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Add onions, garlic and potatoes; season with salt pepper and cumin and cook stirring about 5 minutes. Add tomato and ½ cup of chicken broth and cook stirring now and then until potato is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Add additional broth if mixture becomes too dry.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of salted water to a boil, add lentils lower heat to medium and cook until lentils are cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Make sure they don’t get mushy. There should be a little liquid remaining with the lentils. Lower the heat, add contents of the skillet and stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning.

December 12, 2010

Mussel spasms

I love mussels.

They make me feel warm inside, something I need a lot of these days. They bring back great memories of weekends in Little Deer Isle, Maine where they just wash up on shore and dot the sand like jewels. I always wanted to grab bunches and bunches of them to bring home but that was never feasible since we were usually staying at a bed and breakfast and it would be days before we got home and hours of driving which meant definite rot. I remember staring down at them thinking what a waste. They remind me of France and that's enough to make them exceptional. They remind me of one of our most memorable meals at Rouge in Philadelphia when we walked in for lunch on a freezing new year's eve afternoon into a warm and cozy room and sat down to a huge bowl of mussels and even bigger platter of frites cooked to perfection. So when I needed mussels for a recipe that Saveur emailed me, I didn't hesitate. Since for this dish I only needed about a dozen I figured I'd have lots left for one of those giant bowls and frites, hmmmm. But alas, it was not meant to be. Frank wasn't in the mood for that and I only had sweet potatoes so he suggested a paella using just mussels. OK!
I added chopped chorizo to the sofrito.
then made the paella using the same method as the vegetable paella then adding all the mussels
and covering the pot until they opened which takes anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.
Max on the other hand doesn't think much of mussels, he'll eat just about anything but not if there are shells involved. He'd rather eat his foot.

December 9, 2010


So now we have a cracked and leaking boiler, and everybody says the same thing. "Why does it always happen in the Winter?"....cause we don't use it in the Summer maybe. Max is cold.

He wonders when it will be fixed
So do I...