Harvest Muffins

Time to get grating.
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Last week was as big one for the CSA harvest, plus I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of things at a farmer’s market I was passing, so it has been a busy time of cooking and eating and trying to keep up. No ordering lunch for this gal! It has been delicious though. There was a modified sweet potato shepherd’s pie made using leftover barbecue pulled pork my sister made for a family function and sent me home with. I made scallion pancakes, butternut squash parsley penne, and slightly spicy coconut chicken bok choy soup, the latter of which went really well with an ice cold lager beer home alone watching Dancing with the Stars (I’ve accepted my occasional loneliness while my husband has volunteer fire department responsibilities).

When it looked like my meals were already covered for the rest of the week, I knew I had to take precautions against food spoilage. Fortunately Melissa Clark came to my aid. Well, SHE didn’t actually COME to my side and counsel me, but how cool would it be for her make a video in my kitchen? I came across her harvest muffin recipe.

This recipe reminds me a little bit of the sourdough carrot cake recipe from August, which led me to King Arthur Flour’s “Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake” recipe. Muffins are easier, since they can be individually frozen and thawed as desired.
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Harvest Muffins
From The New York Times

1 1/8 Cups (140 grams) whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 Cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 Cup (70 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 small apple
, grated, and juices reserved (1/2 cup)
1/2 Cup grated carrots (or butternut squash or parsnips)
1/2 Cup grated beets (or zucchini)
1/3 Cup (55 grams) raisins
1/2 Cup (40 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut

A note on the inclusion of grams on the ingredient list above–it is a true a time saver to be able to use the kitchen scale instead of pulling out the different measuring cups and leveling them off.
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins, either mini or regular. Prepare ingredients:

I ended up using a little more than 1/2 Cup of the carrots and beets.

I ended up using a little more than 1/2 Cup of the carrots and beets.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

To a large bowl, add the grated apple and juices and grated vegetables, eggs, olive oil, honey, and brown sugar.
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Combine.

Lovely!

Lovely!


Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the raisins and coconut.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way up.

It is hard to tell what is 3/4 of the way filled. These muffins aren't huge risers, so it wasn't a problem.

It is hard to tell what is 3/4 of the way filled. These muffins aren’t huge risers, so it wasn’t a problem.


Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes for mini-muffins and about 20 to 22 minutes for regular muffins.
8 minutes in--we're halfway there!

8 minutes in–we’re halfway there!


When an inserted toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are ready to be enjoyed.
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I know you’re wondering–the answer is yes, the muffins do taste a little like beets. You get the beet flavor when you first take a bite, but then it fades into the straightforward sweet taste you would find in any zucchini, apple, or banana bread. I will be enjoying these now until Thanksgiving!

Sourdough Carrot Cake

Have I mentioned that I am in possession of living culinary matter, matter that demands nurturing and care, also known as sourdough starter? I know I have mentioned my husband’s love of bread, and that is what led me to give him the starter as a birthday gift years ago. That same starter survives today, supplying tang to our breads, pizza doughs, and waffles, and this time, our cake.

The care I’m referring to is the regular “feeding.” Sourdough starter is kept in best tip-top shape by feeding it every week with some new flour and water. First, you dispose of, or use, 1 cup. And I will confess that we probably dispose of that cup more than 50% of the time, especially since many recipes call for FED starter.
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The latest King Arthur Flour catalog arrived, and one of the recipes that caught my eye was the Sourdough Carrot Cake that used UNFED starter! This recipe is a great example of my ability to cook my pantry with the addition of very few specially purchased grocery items. This time, that special item was crushed pineapple.

I followed this recipe almost exactly–I was surprised by how much oil it called for considering the pineapple added so much moisture, so I think I put in a smidge less oil than it called for, which I modify in the version below. This does make a generous amount of cake. It could also be served in a more bread-like form, similar to zucchini of banana bread. It would make at least two loaves. I completely eyeballed volumes with the various containers I used in an attempt to make cute little layer cakes. My output was the six ramekins (which puffed up) plus a full loaf pan.

Bonus: I ended up with little carrot cake cookies, when I sliced the top off these!

Bonus: I ended up with little carrot cake cookies, when I sliced the top off these!


Sourdough Carrot Cake
From King Arthur Flour

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 Cups sugar
1 Cup sourdough starter
, right from the fridge, not fed
3 eggs
1 Cup (8 oz.) crushed pineapple
, mostly drained
2 Cups grated carrots
1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
1/2 Cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting
(optional)*

Grease desired baking pans – suggested single size is 9 x 13-inch – and sprinkle with flour. Set aside.

Combine oil and sugar, and stir in sourdough starter. Mix in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold in pineapple, carrots, walnuts, coconut and vanilla.

I was feeling lazy and used the food processor.

I was feeling lazy and used the food processor.


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In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
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Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring just to combine.
I tried to capture the whir of the KitchenAId with my camera...haven't quite figured it out.

I tried to capture the whir of the KitchenAId with my camera…haven’t quite figured it out.


Spoon batter into pan. Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and cool completely before frosting.

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*The frosting made the cake totally decadent, but I don’t think it is necessary. Feel free to half the below recipe, to incorporate with some but not all of the cake.

Simple Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 to 1/2 Cup (1/2 to 1 stick) butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups (1 pound) confectioners’ sugar
milk, as needed for consistency

Combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla; beat until light and fluffy. Add sugar gradually, beating well. Add milk, a little at a time, until frosting is a spreadable consistency.

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Perhaps this recipe is irrelevant to you because you don’t have sourdough starter! Well, if you’re interested (and local), I’d be happy to get some of my starter in your hands. If you’re not interested in taking on such responsibility, King Arthur Flour has another similar, highly-rated carrot cake recipe.

Bottles Upon Casks Upon Jars

Last week, I decided it was about time that I found a way to use some of the specialty ingredients that have been sitting patiently in my refrigerator or pantry, expiring away.

It takes a sincere effort to use up an entire jar or bottle of these things, before they pass their date.  I lamented about this fact when my friend Kristen and I discovered expired and unusable Sriracha in my pantry once when cooking together in my kitchen.  I told her I liked having it on hand, but didn’t want to have a full bottle. She is an avid Sriracha eater, so she offered to transfer some of hers over to a small jar for me to have. How great is that? This kind of friendly/neighborly trade makes so much sense to me, and it harkens back to the idea of neighbors lending a cup of sugar.  Do neighbors even do that anymore? I have trouble imagining myself knocking on someone’s door to ask for some sugar, flour, sauce, etc., even in my safe and relatively comfortable suburban neighborhood. It would be interesting, though, if groups of people in a local vicinity “went in on” smaller quantities of goods.
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I won’t tell you how long past expired the sweet chili sauce was, but unlike the Sriracha, there was little difference in taste, and I searched through the web to find a recipe that could take advantage. Here’s what I settled on.

Spicy Shrimp with Thai Peanut Rice Noodles
Based on recipe found via the Food Network here
Servings: ~4

~6 ounces rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce
(Trader Joe’s)
1 teaspoon spicy chili garlic paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup broth
,
plus extra as needed. Use whatever kind you have around–I had an open container of vegetable broth in the fridge, and I thought it worked fine.
1/3 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 -3 green onions
, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
, chopped
1/2 pound frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
, tail on,
thawed overnight in the fridge or if you need to cheat, carefully thaw in bag submerged in room temperature water, replacing the water as it cools.
Chopped peanuts
Lettuce

Optional Thai Sauce:
1/3 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon vinega
r, white or rice
1/8 teaspoon sweet chili sauce
1 pinch crushed chili flakes
1 small carrot
, shredded

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, placing in a bowl with hot water until soft. Noodles can be al dente since they will be added to the pan and simmered for a few minutes with the shrimp and sauce.

Melt peanut butter in a small microwave safe bowl for 15 seconds. Whisk in lime juice, sweet Thai chili sauce, chili-garlic sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, broth and curry powder. This can be made ahead of time and re-whisked immediately before adding to noodles.

Make optional sauce ahead of time, if using. This sauce is for drizzling over the noodle bowls upon serving. I was skeptical, because it didn’t taste like much on its own, but it does add to the final taste product. Prepare sauce by combining the following in this order: cold water, sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, sweet chili sauce and crushed chili flakes. Grate carrot, add to bowl, and stir.

Heat oil in a large nonstick fry pan at medium-high heat. Add onions and let cook for about 30 seconds. Add garlic and sautee for about 1 minute. Add thawed shrimp to hot pan. Cook for about two minutes per side until just pink.
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Add drained rice noodles to the pan along with prepared peanut sauce. Cook for a few minute until all ingredients are heated through and rice noodles soften. If mixture seems dry, add 1/2 cup more broth to loosen up.

Place lettuce on serving dishes and top with rice noodles and shrimp. Drizzle with 1-2 Tablespoons of optional sauce. Top with fresh cilantro, if you have it, and chopped peanuts. Additional carrot can also be shredded on top.
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Enjoy! Try not to dwell on the fact that you haven’t made a noticeable dent in the various bottles and casks and jars…

Healthy Choice

Remember the leeks from the broccoli soup recipe? Well, the store doesn’t sell leeks individually — you have to buy several — so I had some left over.  I also wanted to use fish in a meal I cooked one of these days.  As you may know, one of the those recommended habits for healthy eating is incorporating 2-3 servings of fish per week, to gain the benefits from healthy fats.  This meal was going to be shared with my husband for once, and while quite fit in general, Matt’s blood work has shown that he could improve his cholesterol levels.

I came across a recipe on the Food Network website by Ina Garden for “Salmon with Lentils.”  Subsequently, while searching for a particular recipe among my saved selections and reading through several, I discovered that leeks and salmon and leeks and lentils are common combinations. I am going to try to store this tidbit in my memory for future planning. This recipe also used–surprise surprise–more celery and carrots from my refrigerator stock.

Salmon with Lentils

adapted from Ina’s Barefoot in Paris

Serves 2 plus 1-2 servings of leftovers

Ingredients
6 ounces lentils (I had this much left of black beluga lentils I bought in a whim with a gift card to Williams Sonoma. These are great lentils though, if you can find them, and they work well in place of green lentils, which could also work here).
a few tablespoons of olive oil
1.75 cups chopped yellow onions
1.5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (Leeks can acquire a lot of dirt and grime during harvest. To prepare, cut to separate white and light green part from green leaves. Cut once lengthwise. Submerge in a bowl of cold water and slosh layers around. Drain and then arrange pieces together to chop crosswise).
3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup homemade chicken stock, or good canned broth
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste (Hint: when you open a can of tomato paste, which rarely needs to be used in its entirety, measure individual tablespoon amounts into small pieces of plastic wrap or into ice cube trays and freeze.  Keep scoops together in a container for later use)
1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
6-8 oz center-cut salmon fillets, in the quantity of the number of people you are serving (in my case, 2, wild-caught all the way)

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Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Heat oil in a medium-large saute pan.  Add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. 
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Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the vinegar and season to taste.

While the lentils are simmering, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the salmon, heat a cast-iron or other oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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When the pan is very hot, place the salmon in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. Flip fillets, and move pan into preheated oven.  Cook 5-7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare and still moist. Scoop lentil-vegetable mixture on plates and place a salmon fillet on top.
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Enjoy your meal, and look forward to the dessert you can afford to have because you made a healthy choice for dinner! 🙂