Maple Muffins


My lady: hey honey, whatcha doing?

(ok, sometimes “whatcha doing” is a totally innocuous and enjoyable phrase, and sometimes it’s a precursor to don’t get mad at me but I signed us up for an interpretive dance class with Carl and Suzanne you just need to get to know them just because he’s a racist doesn’t mean he’s all bad can you please learn to get along with him I really need this promotion why don’t you love me?!?!)

Adam (suspiciously): ummm, nothing, what’s going on?

My lady (batting her eyes adorably): so you know how everyone at work looooves your cooking?

(oh shit, the volume and intensity of the eye bats is directly proportional to the favor that is about to be asked.  And my lady is the queen of eye bats.  Like Jedi master level.)

Adam: yes, you’ve told me that.

My lady: well, every day until the end of the year someone is bringing in food for the entire department, and our day is Wednesday.

(ok, so first off, we don’t work together, so technically it’s not our day, but we’re a team, so ok yeah it is get off my back.

Second, my lady has told me that the only thing she makes in the kitchen is mashed potatoes – she makes very good ones, btw.  So, unless we are making three tons of mashed potatoes, I’m going to be doing a fair amount of work in the kitchen pretty soon.)

My lady: and did I mention how handsome you are?

(at this point, unless she said, so would you mind going downtown to meet Tuco Salamanca to buy the weapons-grade anthrax he promised he would get me, I’m pretty much going to do whatever she wants.  I’m a boy, I’m putty in her hands when she says things like that.)

So now, what to make.  Before we moved to Houston, I saved a bunch of breakfast recipes onto my Paprika app, since I figured I could have actual breakfasts working from home.  I also forgot to account for the fact that I am really lazy and would rather pour a bowl of cereal than spend more than four seconds beating an egg or warming up a pan at 6:30 a.m.

I did, however, try out a few recipes during evening hours.  These maple muffins were the clear winner of the few I gave a shot.  I like them because they’re actual muffins, and not the overgrown dough monstrosities that Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts bake and try to pass off as muffins.  “Oh, you did not want to consume 75% of your RDA of calories in this gigantomuffin?  Mixing all the chocolate and three pounds of blueberries into your breakfast pastry does not sound appealing to you?  What do you have against America?  Commie!!”

But these are great, they almost taste like little pancakes with the syrup baked into them, and they’re pretty easy to make.  Plus, the recipe comes from a Canadian site, and they know their maple syrup.

As with all baking recipes, don’t mess around with the ingredients and volumes unless you really know what you’re doing.  You’re reading my blog.  You don’t know what you’re doing.

ENOUGH ALREADY, CAN I MAKE A MESS WITH THIS RECIPE??

Anything related to baking has the potential for a mess.

OOH, HOW SO?

Well, if you pick too small of a bowl to mix everything together in, then the flour is going to fly everywhere.  Also, when you sprinkle the topping on, there’s about a 0% chance that it will all land on the muffins themselves – personally, I would cut back on the amount of flour and sugar in it.

WAIT, YOU JUST TOLD ME NOT TO MESS WITH THE RECIPE?

Yeah, I know, it’s just for the topping, it’s not going to mess up the muffin itself.  Forget I mentioned it.

 

Maple Muffins

Makes about 12 muffins

From Seasons and Suppers

Ingredients

 

For the muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup maple syrup (spring for the good stuff, this isn’t going to taste good if you cheap out or use Mrs. Butterworth’s)

1/4 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

Directions

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease the cups of a muffin pan, or place paper linings in each cup.

In a large bowl (at least 2 quarts, preferably 3), combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, combine the milk, butter, syrup, sour cream, egg, and vanilla.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, until the dry ingredients are incorporated with the wet.

Pour the batter into the cups until they are 3/4 full.

For the topping, combine the dry ingredients, then cut the butter in until the mixture is crumbly.  Sprinkle it over the batter.

Bake the muffins for 16-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.  Remove the pan and place it on a cooling rack.  Let it cool for 5 minutes before removing the muffins from the pan.

One Skillet Greek Chicken

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So I had totally planned on having multiple nights worth of the chili I had made last night…and then I woke up and realized that we had never taken the chili out of the slow cooker from the night before…so between getting norovirus or whatever bacterial infection you get from eating food that’s sat out for too long and making dinner from scratch, the latter was the only real option.

Going through the fridge, I see feta cheese, I see olives, I see baby spinach, I see Roger, I see Susan, I see Jason…

So I’ve easily got enough ingredients for a quick Greek chicken recipe…except, you know, the chicken.  Not to worry, chicken thighs are cheap, and so much better than chicken breasts.

(Do not even try to argue this with me.  2016 chicken breasts are just flavorless sacks of rubber injected with 20 gallons of broth to ensure that you can’t fuck them up too badly when you put them in the oven and NO FLUFFY DO NOT DO YOUR BUSINESS ON THE CARPET JUNIOR DO YOUR HOMEWORK I AM NOT HAVING ANOTHER PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCE HONEY WILL YOU PLEASE STOP OGGLING MEGYN KELLY AND SET THE TABLE OH MY GOD THE CHICKEN BREASTS HAVE BEEN IN THE OVEN FOR 180 MINUTES!!!)

And it’s a one pot recipe, which is great, because my lady hates it when I dirty up tons of pans and skillets and pots to make a simple dinner.  I mean, who doesn’t use seven bowls and six plates and a skillet and a stockpot to make dinner?

Nobody?

Never mind.

CAN I MAKE A MESS WITH THIS RECIPE?

Oh sure.

FINALLY!!

Any time you cook with chicken, you have to clean the board over and over again so you don’t get TB of the trichinosis of the eyeball.  And you have to trim the fat and throw that out, which is icky, but it will taste more appealing and saves on grease spatters.

WAIT, YOU’RE TELLING ME TO MAKE IT LESS MESSY?

Settle down Chachi.  It’s going to spatter regardless, and the extra far is going to have this really weird texture to it.  You’re better off trimming them up.

BUT THAT’S IT?  NOTHING MORE THAN THAT?  YOU’RE REALLY LETTING ME DOWN!

I’m sure they have plenty of room for hecklers over at the pioneer woman’s site.

WHATEVER…JUST GET TO COOKING.

One Skillet Greek Chicken

Serves 6

From I Wash You Dry

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

6-8 boneless chicken thighs (skin on or off, either will work)

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper

3 cloves minced garlic

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta

1 cup pitted olives, halved (or whole, it’s your family, do whatever you want to them)

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 cup diced feta cheese

1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper strips, chopped

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Get a large oven-safe sauté pan, and heat it over medium-high heat.  Season the chicken with the oregano, salt, and pepper.  Sear for three minutes on each side (if you’re using skin on, do that side first).  Move the pan to the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Take the pan out of the oven – carefully, use oven mitts – and move the chicken to a plate.  Drain out the excess fat, leaving a tablespoon or so behind.

Reheat the pan over medium heat (give it a minute or two to cool off when it comes out of the oven).  Saute the garlic for about 30 seconds then add the broth, orzo, and olives.  Pour in a little of the olive brine if you like, but don’t overdo it.

Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat, and let it simmer for 15 minutes, just until the orzo is cooked.

Stir the spinach, dill weed, and lemon zest into the mixture, just until the spinach starts to wilt.  Put the chicken back in the pan and let it warm up.  Take the pan off the stove, and top with the feta, peppers, and onion.

Serve immediately.

James Beard’s Pot Roast Chili

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WHAT’RE WE MAKING TODAY?

Chili!!

WHY ARE WE MAKING CHILI?

Is this is a serious question?  Why would you ever not make chili?

DUDE, CHILL!  I’M JUST GIVING YOU A SEGUE TO TELL YOUR STORY.

Ok, fine, props to you for using the right spelling of segue.  You’re already better than the kids that hold up signs at Gameday like “Saturday’s Are For Penn State”.

Anyways, my fiancé loves chili.  Like, she told me that she could eat it every night and be happy.

WHOA, THAT’S PRETTY COOL!

Yeah, I hit the jackpot of smart/beautiful/funny/football fan.

I DON’T BELIEVE THAT.  IS SHE A ROBOT YOU BUILT IN YOUR BASEMENT?

I have never been able to put together a table or desk from Target that didn’t end up wobbling back and forth like a drunken leprechaun, there’s no way I could build a robot.

I’VE NEVER SEEN A DRUNKEN LEPRECHAUN.

Me either, but I’m sure if I did, I would say, hey that looks like every Target table or desk I ever tried to put together.

OK, SO CHILI!

Yes, thanks for getting me back on track.

Chili is great, because you can just go through your pantry and say “oh look, I have a can of tomatoes, a couple onions, and where did this extract of antelope come from”, and you have the base for a good chili.

ALRIGHTY THEN.  THERE’S NO ANTELOPE IN THIS CHILI, RIGHT?

No, breathe easy.

I make a pot of chili every few weeks, trying new recipes to find my favorite.  I even bought The Chili Cookbook to try and come up with some ideas.

YEAH, SO WHO’S THIS JAMES BEARD FELLA?

He was this old timey cookbook author and teacher, and people seemed to like him because they named cooking awards after him, and the only people that get them are ones that run restaurants that charge you $300 for an eleven course meal, each of which consists of one shrimp, and they look at you funny if you use the forks out of order.

I WOULDN’T FIT IN AT THOSE PLACES, I WAS KICKED OUT OF APPLEBEE’S FOR THROWING SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP AT MY DATE.

Moving on…

This recipe is suppose to “elevate” chili, which is the term that chefs use when they want to eat like the rest of the unwashed masses but still hold fancy chef street creed.  “Ooooohhh, look at the baby back ribs that I smoked with green tea hibiscus leaves, and glazed with Romanian guava jelly and dusted with coffee powder ground from African beans that came out of a civet’s buttonhole.”

OH LORD, THERE’S NOT GOING TO BE BEANS IN IT, ARE THERE?  YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE FUCKWADS THAT TELLS PEOPLE THAT THEY CAN’T HAVE BEANS IN CHILI, RIGHT?

Oh no.  People should have whatever they want in their chili.  If people don’t want beans in their chili, fine.  People that say that your chili isn’t chili because it has beans in it can go fuck themselves.  When I become president in 2036, the 1st thing I will do is legalize capital punishment for anyone that tells someone that their chili can’t have beans if they want it to be “authentic Texas chili”.

WHEW, OK THEN.

That said…

OH SHIT, WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

I wouldn’t put beans in this version of chili.  This one really should be just the beef and sauce, because the beef is pretty spectacular in large chunks, and the beans I think would get in the way of that.  But I wouldn’t judge if you threw in a can or two of beans at the end.

OK, I’LL TRUST YOU…THIS ONCE…NOW THE IMPORTANT QUESTION…

CAN I MAKE A MESS WITH THIS RECIPE?

It’s a pretty straight-forward recipe, but there are a few opportunities to get a little messy.

FUCK’S SAKE…WHY AM I EVEN BOTHERING????

So searing the beef at the beginning is going to spray oil and grease.  When you blend the sauce at the end, if you’re not careful, you can get that all over the place.

FINE, I’LL WORK WITH THAT, GIMME THE RECIPE!

You’re very demanding.

James Beard's Pot Roast Chili

Serves 6

From The Chili Cookbook

Ingredients

 

2 dried ancho chiles

1 3 pound beef chuck roast

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of your preferred browning fat (I used bacon fat, oil is fine too, butter not so much)

2 onions, coarsely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup beef broth

1 14.5 ounce can of stewed tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (see note)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons New Mexican light red chili powder (see note)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Place the dried chiles in a small bowl and add just enough hot water to cover them.  Let them sit for about 15 minutes, until they’re softened up.

Season the roast with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat the fat in a large Dutch oven over high heat.  Sear the roast for 3 minutes on each side, then remove it from the pot.  Turn the heat down to medium, then add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the broth, tomatoes, oregano, cumin, and chili powder to the pot.

Go back to the dried chiles, and remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.  Add the flesh to the pot, as well as the soaking water.

Bring the chili to a simmer, then place it in the oven and let braise for 3 hours, turning the meat every 30 minutes.  You could also put this in a slow cooker for 8 hours as this point as well.

Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven.  Remove the roast and set it on a cutting board.  When it is cool enough to handle, chop or shred the meat into bite-sized chunks, removing any fat or nasty gristle.

Pour all the remaining ingredients into a blender, and puree.  You could also use an immersion stick blender and do this without dirtying up the blender, but be prepared for a little spatter.

Pour the sauce and meat back into the Dutch oven, return to a simmer, then serve.

NOTES:

If you don’t have Mexican oregano, regular oregano will be fine, you probably won’t have enough need to get a whole container unless you cook a lot of Mexican food.

Try to seek out, however, a pure chili powder, instead of a commercial blend.  You can use it if you have to, but the pure powder is going to taste better.

Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins

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As I said in my last post, we made a ton of food for Thanksgiving, including mashed potatoes.  My lady made the potatoes, and they were extremely tasty – just the right amount of butter and cream/milk/half and half to bind the potatoes.

Although, she gave me some shit for not buying any salted butter in my massive purchase of butter.

Did I mention I bought a lot of butter?

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So, yeah, all of it unsalted.  We’ll be holding a black market sale to unload all of the unused butter.

Not really.

Anyways, we had a fair amount of leftover potatoes, and I didn’t know what to do with them.  Then I got my daily email from the NYT Cooking subscription list, and they linked to a recipe from Just a Taste.  I’ve heard Kelly – the blog owner – on the Food Blogger Pro podcast, so I knew she did good stuff.

This is sold as a perfect mixture of hash browns and mashed potatoes.  I don’t know if I would go that far, but it’s a pretty good way to use up leftovers, and you get to add a lot of cheese, because fuck no you did not have enough dairy in your potatoes already.

CAN I MAKE A MESS WITH THIS RECIPE?

Probably not, you’d have to be really uncoordinated to do that.

BOOOOOOORING!!  WHAT’S THE FUN IN THAT?

You like mashed potatoes, right?

YES, I’M NOT A SOUL-LESS ZOMBIE!

You like cheese, right?

OF COURSE, WHO DOESN’T EXCEPT FOR THOSE LACTOSE INTOLERANT WUSSES!

My lady is lactose intolerant.

MY BAD, SORRY, WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN :(.

Sure it won’t.

Leftover Mashed Potato Muffins

Makes about 12 muffins

From Just a Taste

Ingredients

3 cups leftover mashed potatoes

1 cup cheddar or jack cheese, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup portions

1 large egg, beaten lightly (if your potatoes are loose, add a second egg to tighten them up)

3 tablespoons chives, divided into 2 T and 1 T portions (I forgot to get these – oops)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Lightly spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Mix together the potatoes, 3/4 cup cheese, egg, and 2 T chives.  Season with salt and pepper (taste it, the slight bit of raw egg isn’t going to kill you…maybe).

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the mixture into each cup.  Pack them down to ensure there’s no air pockets.

(The recipe says to use an ice cream scoop, one of those old-timey ones with a swiper thing that pushes everything out of the scooper in one shot.  More power to you if you have one of those – most humans do not, so a couple spoons will be fine, or just push them in with your hands if you want to be messy and feel confident that no one minds your germs.)

Bake the muffins for 30-35 minutes, until the edges start to brown.  Remove the pan from the oven and top the muffins with the rest of the cheese (no one will hate you if you use more than the 1/4 cup prescribed above – except lactose intolerant people – who aren’t eating this anyway.)

Bake the muffins for another 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack.  Sprinkle the remaining 1 T of chives over the muffins.  Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes, then remove them from the pan and serve.