Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pottery, café au lait, scrambled eggs with leftover cornbread



She called us yesterday with the big news. She said she was going to process it a bit before announcing it to the world but a few hours later it was all out on facebook with a pic of her smiling from ear to ear! It's emotionally exciting and a bit overwhelming. She might be 24 but she was my first baby! She moved out a few years ago but wow! A new milestone for everybody in this family! :D

All week, I just wanted to wish everybody a great Easter weekend. :) I had a great post on the topic but I keep getting distracted! The truth is, I have 6-7 posts, waiting to be completed (covering everything from our traditional easter egg decorations, amazing baked ham with scalloped potatoes, bad weather and comforting soup, tasty pasta, cool pottery, crafty cards I made with the girls *breathe* and more). All fun stuff! All unfinished because 1- I can't focus! 2- I have young girls that need me and they don't sit still. Now 3- My baby is getting married (I sort of knew and was on standby for a week) and that is all I think about!! :D

Before the roller coaster of emotions, yesterday's morning was a nice slow one. Got to sleep in, found myself alone in the kitchen while all were puttering or playing upstairs. I made coffee, felt like having it in a bowl like a real café au lait from my youth and took the time to enjoy it on the couch by the window. I even made myself some food without interruption. Usually I don't eat in the morning or not until it's considered brunch or lunch and definitely not before I had a few cups of coffee in my system. I explained and shared my ritual here. I had a strong craving for scrambled eggs though. There was a bunch of green onions wasting away in the fridge and leftover cornbread sitting on the counter. So after 2 good bowls of magic potion which I enjoyed slowly in the living room, I got started.

First I'll sidetrack and say that I made this bowl shown in the pic below. I'm proud of it! :) It was made for my 6 year old daughter who is usually using it for soup but I enjoyed it just as much lately. It is amazingly thick at the base to keep fingers from getting burned and the rim is nice and slim and comfortable for lips to pleasantly sip a hot drink. I hate thick rims. It is the perfect bowl for café au lait or tea. I need to make more but I'm no expert on the pottery wheel and I don't know if I can make it the same.

Lame 'selfie' drinking coffee but who else is going to take the pic?

It didn't occur to me until now but it's appropriate to show this one. It's Easter weekend after all! On this bowl I just felt like being spontaneous, I drew a rabbit without thinking too much about it and then made up a plant/tree that grows figs (one of my favourite fruits). At the time, I was obsessing over the fiddle leaf fig tree which is now everywhere and sort of drew the same kind of leaves. It was a happy experiment. The end result is a whimsical composition and my girl loves it. I'm surprised that it's still in one piece after 2 years! So I'm thinking Etsy shop? ;) Whether that happens or not I plan on sharing my projects on this blog. Okay, focus... So back to the café au lait and morning grub.

It will sound like a contradiction but for barely set scrambled eggs, I like a nice hot cast iron pan. It might not be the right way but somehow it works for me and rarely sticks. Lots of melted butter helps. A well seasoned pan too. There are lots of links on Google for that and the secret is to keep using it! While the cast iron pan heated on medium high, I whisked in a bowl, 2 eggs with a fork, a bit of salt, freshly cracked pepper and set it aside. I then took 2 green onions, washed, trimmed and sliced them. I threw a pat of butter in the pan with a little oil to prevent it from burning and let it melt and foam then threw the onions in. I cooked them for 1 minute stirring on and off and then tipped the eggs in. Now the next step is why it works for me. The moment the eggs hit the pan I take it off the heat. It's my quirky method. I give them the chance to barely set before I gently nudged them into ripples with my spatula, breaking and turning them delicately. Usually just pushing them around here and there as they try to set is enough. I don't add milk, water or cream to my eggs. I like them simple and moist and just cooked enough to say they're not runny. Cooked but creamy! :)

That's what my oldest daughter (the one who is GETTING MARRIED), calls them. She is still asking me to make creamy eggs if the opportunity knocks. The whole process goes really fast! About 2 minutes. Especially when using a cast iron pan that retains the heat so well. I shredded old cheddar on top and let that melt a bit. I took the cornbread sitting on the counter, sliced a piece and put that in the empty pan which I put back on the hot burner to warm it up and toast the sides. It didn't take long. It was so good I ate before taking a pic. Oh well, I'm learning.

It turned out to be a tasty, satisfying brunch which my 6 year old smelled too. Next thing you know I was making an order for her too. Hers is the pic of the yellow goodness in the pan above. Simple, no onions, served with ketchup and toasted cornbread. Oh and here is a plate of her face below! :) Sort of. When I made it, it captured her expression. She had long hair then and loves the colour green. All I had at the time was this dark green glaze that ended up looking blue. Besides that, it's a great little plate that gets used a lot for eggs and sandwiches. If you scroll below, you can see what she looks like with an egg on her face. Here, it never gets old! :)

Her little sister was not impressed though. She wanted boats! Which means hardboiled eggs cut in quarters. With cornbread. Non toasted. No pics for that one but my favourite hardboiled eggs are roughly cooked for 8-9 minutes like the ones in this older post where it was served with buttered asparagus.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chick-pea and tomato soup with rosemary

My favourite cookbooks don't have pictures. Or very little. Most of the cookbooks I grew up with or learned from didn't have many. With time, I learned to recognize a good recipe by reading about the main ingredients, the supporting ones, the key seasonings and the preparation. I'm not always right but I can usually guess if it is worth trying or not. One of these picture-less books is SUPER handy to have. It saved me more than once when I was too tired to think or too hungry to focus. The title says it all: What to cook when you think there is nothing in the house to eat by Arthur Schwartz. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I can thrive in the kitchen when there is little to cook with, but sometimes I need guidance and this reliable friend provides it.

If there is a book out there that shouldn't be judged by it's cover, this is it! :)

I'm a visual person. As an illustrator with an education in graphic design, I can appreciate beautiful cookbooks. That said, when it comes to recipes, I learned to be skeptical of the pretty pictures in the glossy pages. They influence your opinion with a visual that, in the end, isn't about the taste but about presentation. I love a good presentation but let's face it, it's worth zilch if the recipe isn't good! If only we could lick a page and find out! :) I like rustic food. Tasty peasant food. The comforting kind that helps you let go of the stress and worries at the end of a long day. It's not always pretty or picture friendly but it quickly gets overlooked when it leaves you with a happy tongue and a distracted mind. This basic book can deliver that kind of satisfaction. Arthur Schwartz was a restaurant critic for the New York Daily News. He is a knowledgable food lover who can also find great pleasure in a simple, home cooked meal made with mundane ingredients. You can feel his enthusiasm in the book which is pared down enough for the basic cook. I truly enjoyed reading this one.

I wanted to ignore it the day I saw it in the bookstore. I was in my early 20s and had no idea who Arthur Schwartz was. I just stared at the cover, feeling sorry for the poor design sitting ugly in a sea of beautiful books. Now I wonder if that was designed on purpose so that it could stand out because it worked! Almost defiantly, I picked it up. Mainly out of curiosity. I admit, I appreciated the title as I had been asking myself that question too many times. I felt like it was worth a look inside. After perusing through a few pages, I felt guilty for judging. Arthur Schwartz was no fool. I was! Here was a food lover who knew how to improvise with a small larder and tackle the challenges of a late night craving or unexpected guest. He was talking my kind of language! I read a few recipes in the entry 'Beans and other legumes' and then further under 'Tomatoes'. My mind was made up. SOLD! I dropped the pretty books that I wasn't too sure about and took this one home. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Thank you Mister Schwartz!!!

Before I sound like a lame book reviewer (too late?), I'm going to talk about the recipe I love. Actually there is two which I cooked so many times, I stopped counting. They're both simple, quick and tasty chick-pea soups. One has Italian flavours and is from the late Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook (Harper's Magazine Press 1973). It's so flavourful! The second one is a chick-pea chili soup with Mexican, Southwestern flavours. Another winner. Marc never complains when those soups are served. Usually after the kids are in bed. Tonight it was rainy, grey and a bit cold and I was in the mood for one of these soups. I was feeling like having the Mexican chili version but mainly had the ingredients for the Italian so I did a cross over. It didn't disappoint. Like always, Marc approved. My only wish was for a second bowl but the first one was quite generous.

This is my improvised version thanks to Mister Schwartz. I would love to have dinner with this man!!

I wish I had a picture to share but it was too good and I like to eat hot. All I have is this! ;)

Chick-pea and tomato soup with rosemary 

Adapted from Arthur Schwartz's What To Cook When You Think There's Nothing in the House to Eat and Marcella Hazan

1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves chopped fine, or dried and finely crushed between your hands
28 ounce canned tomatoes, roughly chopped with their juices
19 ounce can chickpeas, drained
3 cups beef broth, or 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in chicken broth or water (see Note below)
Salt, pepper to taste
Olive oil

Note: About the beef broth. I rarely make homemade beef broth and I rarely buy it in a can. That said, I often find myself buying bouillon cubes to cheat. What I often have is homemade chicken broth. It tastes great but somehow beef holds better in this recipe. I felt guilty once to add a beef bouillon cube in my homemade chicken broth but the end result was so good in my soup that I never looked back. This is a quick recipe when you are stuck with what you have. If you have beef broth great. If you have a beef bouillon cube to throw in water, fine. If you have homemade chicken broth and a beef bouillon cube, even better! :)

In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, sauté the onions in the oil for 3 minutes. Add the garlic, stir and cook 2 more minutes. Careful not to let it brown. Add the finely chopped rosemary, stir around and add the tomatoes with their juices. If they're not chopped, you can break them with a spoon. Cook for 20 minutes. It will start looking like a sauce. Add the drained chick-peas, stir and add the broth (the original recipe says to add 1 cup but I always end up adding more liquid and the soup still gets thick), stir it all together and let simmer for an other 20 minutes. I often let it simmer for 30.

Taste, add salt and pepper. Purée all or part of the soup in a blender, food processor or food mill. An immersion blender is the best for this. It allows me to control what I want directly in the pot. I like to chase the tomatoes if too big but I like this soup chunky. If you prefer it smooth, go for it but personally I think this soup deserves texture. Reheat if necessary (I never need to and always burn my tongue). Serve in bowls with some grated parmesan.We don't always have some but I always drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top and hopefully have a chunk of bread with butter to mop the bowl. It's that good! Happy flavours!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring is here!

Sounds like a late statement but it took for ever for spring to show up. In fact I'm still expecting to see snow. It's hard to believe that this pic is only 12 days old! This little jerk looked creepy lurking at our living room window. He startled me a few times in the late hours and was an irritating reminder of our long brutal winter. He was like mocking me, saying: "I'm still heeeeere!" Finally, he melted last weekend. Good riddance! Sorry kids. He was cute but he had to go! Same with the snow.

Yesterday, I went for a milk run late in the evening under the rain. It was the perfect spring setting. I had a gorgeous red umbrella with me and I couldn't even bother to open it. The rain almost felt warm, the air was balmy and the peat mossy smells were hinting that things were finally happening. The earth is softer, thawing, worms and plants like our day-lilies are poking out of the ground. The little world around us is waking up after a long sleep, slowly stretching and pushing. New birth, new cycle.

When we walked home from school, my girls and I stripped our coats off for the first time this year. They were chirping, skipping and so excited about the change. It was contagious! :) They talked about picnics and biking and the park. They stayed outside to play, I gave them juice, the sun was warm, the birds were singing but the girls were louder. SPRING! Yay!

Eventually it got cold and I went in followed by the little one not too long after but that was a great start!

And with that I realize that I have no energy for a post. Maybe for a drink. I've been obsessing over a concoction that I'm enjoying best in a crystal glass. Goes something like this: 3-4 ice cubes, top with coffee liquor (the one I have is made with rum), top with milk. Voilà! Si bon!! 

I would like to call it a White Russian but I know better (no vodka). I'm personally quite happy with the rum version. I'm not the Dude.


Now pizza, feet up and a movie. Happy Weekend! :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

French potato salad (with tuna) when you wonder what's in the kitchen to eat

I wrote this post well over 2 weeks ago. Yet I couldn't get myself to click "publish". It was easier to procrastinate with other, simpler entries. Why? It was a mess. It was too long, too personal, then too short, then too long again. I think I must have written half a dozen versions. I'm blaming it on being new at blogging, being too honest, having too much to say and not being a writer among a few other things. Add to that pics that weren't quite selling it and it felt like too much trouble. It's a tasty salad though and I did waste braincells on it (the writing, not the food). So no more fretting, I'm putting it out there with one of the things I do best when I procrastinate: doodling on photos! :)

So here it is. KACHUNK!

I don't know if it's a family trait or a European thing but my French mother said she functions the same way. We might feel secure with a full larder and great provisions but we seem to thrive in the kitchen when there is little to eat. I'm not talking about chewing on a carrot while assembling a cheese sandwich (as tasty as that would be when hungry). I'm talking about creating a simple, tasty recipe with just a few ingredients to feed a whole family. We've all done it with soup, salad, pasta or stew that can be stretched if needed. 4-5 generations ago, it was a matter of survival and I respect the women who had to put up with that pressure everyday to feed their loved ones. Many cultures developed a great respect for food after long hardships in their countries with limited food supply. Sadly, many struggle with this reality right now. I had a taste for it myself a long time ago as a very young parent. A Christmas basket ended up at my door. It was hard to swallow but I was grateful and I wish to never experience this again.

In my pampered life now it's more of a welcoming challenge. I force myself to focus on the goods and try to make them shine. I'm not always successful with the results and eventually someone has to run off to the store. Many times though, I'm proud to say, the outcome is pretty tasty! 2 weeks ago, I had a few moments like that. We were already due for a grocery but bad weather and sickness all around made us stay inside and rely on what we already had. I did well with the goods but one simple meal really stood out for Marc and I. That day we were beyond fried from dealing with sick kids. The fridge was pretty slim, the girls barely ate and by the time they were settled for the night, we just wanted to crash on the couch. It was too late to go to the store and we didn't want to order. What to do? What to do? I told Marc, that I had been craving potato salad for a while. We had a few potatoes in the pantry and the goods to make good dressing. Hurray! He was all over that idea.

Now, I'm not talking about potato salad with mayo. I have no issues with that kind and I love mayonnaise but what I wanted was a French version. My mother's. The potatoes are boiled till tender, peeled while still hot, halved, sliced thick then tossed while still warm in a bowl where they'll soak up a well seasoned vinaigrette made of red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper and oil and then party with the onions (or French shallots if you have them). Simple but tasty. It's a great side for fried fish by the way. I also had a can of tuna that I knew would work well with this. Potato salad with tuna it was! Before you get all squeamish with a "yuck" and close this page, wait! Please STAY! Stick around and give it a chance. Even Marc who wasn't convinced, kept shoving more in! He admitted it was tasty and only wished for more. Seriously. Taaasty! Now, the problem with late night food pics (for an amateur like me), is poor lighting. Freaking challenging!!! It gets brightened later in photoshop but sometimes too much! :) I was so hungry I almost didn't bother to photograph this in the first place but I wanted to document.

So lets just look at the picture of the actual salad below and get this out of the way shall we? Don't let the looks deceive you. Your taste buds will thank you later.

Potato and tuna with scallion and celery salad.

This is all about improvising with what you have. Ideally 2 French shallots chopped fine and added to the dressing would have been great. Often I just settle for what I have. Red, white or yellow onions give more bite but all we had was a small bunch of skinny green onions to save the day. Turns out it was perfect and way easier to digest so late in the evening. We also had 4 celery stalks, happy to join in to add great crunch. Add to that the 1 can of tuna, the 6 potatoes and it felt like the perfect ratio for 2 hungry people. I used leftover dressing I had made a few nights before. It had a little bit of chopped onions left in there and I was going to milk any onion flavour I could get! This is a "go by feel" salad so in the end (after a good taste), I adjusted with a few more splashes of red wine vinegar that I drizzled on top. Same with the salt and pepper. The point is to taste, taste, taste and adjust. There were a few romaine heart leaves in the fridge too. They were still crunchy and it felt silly to leave them out so I washed and dried them well, ripped them into manageable bites and lined our plates with them before dishing the potatoes on top. Aside from the vinegar and oil, I never measure. I had to redo this just to get an idea of what one would need. This also explains the 2 brighter fun pics above. ;)

I later realized that we had asparagus and wished I added those too but they turned into a tasty speedy lunch the next day. Other great additions would be green beans cooked al dente and cut in 2 if too long, radishes sliced thin, cherry tomatoes halved, sliced hardboiled eggs, chopped parsley, capers, cornichons... So many options if you don't mind experimenting! I'm just glad we were limited to a simple version. If you're using a cooking onion I would only use half. If you have french shallots (the best), finely chop 2!

Potato Salad with Tuna

4 big potatoes or 6 medium ones
A bunch of small green onions (about 8)
4 celery stalks
1 can of tuna (in water, oil or broth, doesn't matter)
Romaine heart leaves (enough to generously line your bowl or plate)
French dressing


Red wine vinegar 4 tablespoons plus extra at the end if you wish
Extra virgin olive oil 8 tablespoons
Dijon mustard 3 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon
Salt (a teaspoon)
Freshly cracked pepper

First make the dressing. You can do it in a bowl and whisk with a fork or you can shake it in a jar. I use both methods. The last one is handy when in a rush or with no clean utensils in site. ;) It's also handy if you made too much. Just leave the leftover in the jar and save the rest for later in the fridge. In bowl or jar pour the red wine vinegar in which you'll add a good spoonful of dijon mustard with salt and freshly cracked pepper. I go by taste so for the salt I'll say start with 1/2 a teaspoon... taste. I can garantee you that you'll want more in the end. Add to taste. Whisk a bit or shake. Add the oil, whisk or shake to get a nice emulsion. Taste and adjust if needed.

Wash the potatoes (don't peel them), plunk them in a pot of water, bring to a boil and cook till a knife slips out of them easily (or cheat and use the microwave if in a rush like us).

Wash, trim celery and slice. Same with green onions. Wash your romaine heart leaves, dry well and rip in reasonable bites.

Take your potatoes and peel them while still hot but manageable. The skin should come off easily with the help of a paring knife. Once peeled, cut in half and roughly slice over the bowl. You want the slices to be thick but not perfect (anywhere between 1/4 to 1/2 inch). Pour half the dressing over them and toss gently. Let them soak it up. It will disappear. 

Add onions and celery. Open the can of tuna, drain the liquid (pour that in a bowl for your kitty) and scatter the flesh over the salad. Add the rest of the dressing and toss gently. Taste. Taste again! Does it need vinegar? Does it need salt? Adjust till your happy. Chances are you will want to add one last tablespoon of vinegar on top. Maybe more oil. When I did this again recently, I remembered a little jar of capers and added 2 full tablespoons. Great idea! :)

Line your wide plate or pasta bowl with the leaves, generously spoon the salad on top, grab a fork and dig in! Leftovers will be great the next day and best at room temperature.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Little things

We had a rough "cranky pants" start for a couple of hours today then things pleasantly settled over hardboiled eggs, oatmeal muffins, apple slices and cheese.

It's not Valentine's day. 

Just taking pleasure in the little things (and showing my skills with red wax). It started with a late breakfast. One cheese, two cheese and a trick I showed my girl. She likes tricks.

Needless to say, we have a collection of little things. Yesterday they were sticks. Today it's wax, dominos, an open window, the sound of spring with rain and birds chirping... They can brighten your day.

Hope you find pleasure in little things too! Feel free to share as it seems to be contagious.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Oatmeal muffins and my coffee ritual

Before I start, I'm going to come right out and admit that I'm not a morning person. I'm also not a breakfast person (especially if it's oatmeal). The first thing I want when I wake up is strong coffee. Not food. By the time I'm interested in eating it is brunch or lunch time. I hate to admit it. I tried to change, sometimes for good long stretches but I never stick to it. It is what it is.

I do have hungry kids though. With time, it was easy to figure that if I feed them first, they'll leave me alone long enough to proceed with my sacred coffee making routine. It goes something like this: I put the kettle on, grind my coffee beans on the coarse setting, wash my bodum or rinse it to make it hot, tip the grounds in, pour a little boiled water (that rested a bit), on top of the grounds. I let that bloom a few seconds, stir with a chopstick and pour more water in to the top. I push the plunger just enough to keep the grounds under the water and wait. Usually that means I empty the dishwasher or daydream. 5 minutes later I push down the plunger, knowing I'm seconds away from a great cup. Still standing by the counter, I drink my first sip, quietly, eyes closed. Each time, I can picture myself in a dark cockpit and with each sip I take, I can see and hear the lights blink on, the switches flick and feel the engine start. It happens fast. I don't waste time on the first cup. I pour a 2nd one right away and enjoy it slowly somewhere else like the couch where the little one eventually joins me. It's a process that most of the time doesn't get interrupted. I am lucky. It also helps that the kids are past the toddler years! ;) Only then can I start considering baking or eating something like the beautiful muffins below. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

With all the best intentions, I used to bake Fannie Farmer's oatmeal muffins among other healthy versions for my oldest daughter. She's 24 now and won't even remember. To be fair it was 15-18 years ago. It was healthy and a handy thing to eat in the rushed mornings with school but it wasn't blowing us away unless it was smothered with butter and jam. With time, like many recipes, it got left behind, forgotten.

Thanks to many magazines, food blogs and facebook posts, loads of new recipes involving oats and oatmeal got to circulate in the last 6 years. I'm sure it's been around longer but that's when I really noticed. Probably because of my new little girls who are turning 4 and 7 in a few weeks. They used to love oatmeal! Especially with blueberries and maple syrup. Then they stopped. Sadly, I can't get them back into it. Even with this amazing version which is from the blog 100 days of real food. Funny enough, like me, the author doesn't care for oatmeal either but her concoction converted me for a while. I still enjoy it now and then (not necessarily as breakfast). I really like the texture and the flavours. It's worth trying! It's a big deal for me to say this because usually, I can't bother to care!

Unfortunately, for now, the girls sound like me. Unless it comes out looking like this!

My youngest's favourite spot. Smelling the goods.

Patiently waiting

2 food blogs I simply LOVE and follow since I discovered that blogs exist are: Orangette and The Wednesday Chef. Please check them out. They even have books out which I also recommend! Funny enough in the last few months, they both mentioned the recipe I used to bake in my house so long ago. They of course made their own adjustments to it. Molly from Orangette also mentioned  SouleMama which is an inspiring blog created by a very creative mother of 5 who takes pleasure in the little things. I also recommend her books! :) Anyways, digressing... Apparently a few years back, she shared the recipe too!! Needless to say, it creeped me out a little! In a good way! I saw it as a sign. I seriously had to give those oatmeal muffins another chance! 

It was Orangette's post that I noticed first. It almost made me want to bake right away. At the time I had no blog but 4 days later, I was all over facebook, sharing the link, the love and my results. The pics you see here are from that time. I didn't have the ingredients for the add-ins that were suggested in Orangette but I had some frozen wild blueberries! The little one who's blueberry obsessed was going to approve that. I didn't measure though. I just threw in a handful or 2. I'm not sure why but on a whim I also added a touch of vanilla. Maybe because I've done that to my oatmeal (like in the link above from 100 days of real food).

The batter from Fannie Farmer's recipe barely has any sugar (2 tablespoons). I knew the girls would approve if I drizzled maple syrup or honey on top. I went for the honey. Because of the time it takes to bake, I figured it would be ready before it burns. I also had some slivered almonds (I always do somehow). It was fun to sprinkle on and it didn't feel fussy. I knew it would go well with drizzled honey and kept my fingers crossed as I slipped it all in the oven. So glad I tried!! The topping alone tasted like praline! The girls spent 5 good minutes just nibbling at the almonds on top before digging in.

Finally, they asked me to cut them open. We added a bit of butter and a drizzle of honey on each half. The moist crumb with the blueberries was not too sweet and quite enjoyable with the honey. The girls said I could do this again and I agreed. It was a lazy morning and so nice to hang out, quietly munching away on what in reality was their 2nd breakfast. 

Then things got a little crazy because kids are kids. Be glad those are just pics because they were so loud! :) 

Chimps! They were good company to try it with though. Hope you try it too! With or without your sidekicks. ;) Let me know what you think. Tell me what your add-ins were.

Oatmeal muffins

It says it makes 12. I got 8 generous muffins which was plenty.

1 1/2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 cup of cooked oatmeal

My add-ins: 
2 handfuls of frozen wild blueberries, maybe 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Enough slivered almonds to sprinkle on top, maybe 1/2 cup
Honey for drizzling (about 1 generous teaspoon over each muffin)

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Butter the muffin pans. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. I added my frozen blueberries to the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl stir the milk, egg, and butter into the oatmeal (this is where I added the vanilla). Stir until well blended. Combine the two mixtures and mix well. Spoon each muffin cup two-thirds full of batter (somehow I suck at this and always spoon more which gives 8 muffins). Sprinkle the slivered almonds all over followed by a generous drizzling of honey over each cup. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a broom straw (or skewer) comes out dry when inserted in the centre.

Those muffins are easy to unmold while the honey is still warm. Just loosen with a knife (if needed). Treat yourself to the caramelized almonds that are left behind. Seriously! :)

*UPDATE* I just did those again with the little one who just loves to help with baking. I can't keep her away so might as well encourage her! :) After we poured a cup of oatmeal in, we realized that there was a good 1/2 cup left. For fun, we added that too. It's fair to say that 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal is very doable and just as delicious! In fact, it really felt like an oatmeal muffin! Squishy and SO MOIST! It held well, with a nice sweet crunch just on the top. We ate 2 each with delight with just a bit of butter. Hers didn't even have honey or almonds on top. Her new preference (as long as it's loaded with blueberries). Husband just grabbed one too before he got back to work and his verdict: Good and tasty!

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Buttered asparagus with lemon and hardboiled eggs

Last week among sick kids, bad weather and little food in the fridge, I found this!

It was such a treat! The asparagus is such a cool looking vegetable isn't it? I should grow some... I say that every year though. They are so sculptural and such symbols of spring! The green colour is spot on with little touches of pink and purple. Each time I can spend a few good minutes just looking at them. Such a treat for the eyes and for the tastebuds.

I can't believe those slender beauties were forgotten in the fridge! Marc purchased them on a whim the week before. In fact I was surprised that they were still in good shape! Without hesitating, I grabbed my wide pan, the last 2 eggs, an old lemon and came up with a speedy, yummy lunch that Marc and I shared while slurping fingers. One girl was in school and the other one preferred her peanut butter and jam "shandwich" which was fine by me. There wasn't much to share! ;) It was a simple pleasure really, cooked asparagus, melted butter, a squirt of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. A great side: hard boiled eggs!

I could have poured vinaigrette on them instead. The eggs could have been finely chopped and scattered on top or maybe even poached. A gratin would have been great too with a few rolled slices of good ham but this was a speedy lunch (and it was all I had).

Buttered asparagus with lemon and hardboiled eggs

1 bunch of asparagus
A few tablespoons of butter (3 was what I used)
2 large eggs
Sea salt 
Freshly ground pepper

Fill a small pot with cold water and gently put in your eggs. Make sure there is enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil. The moment it starts boiling put your timer on for 7-8 minutes. Make sure it's not boiling too harshly. I usually turn down the heat to medium high (8). I like it when the yolks are still not too hard (like in the pic above). If you really want hardboiled yolks I suggest 10-12 minutes. When the time is up, remove from heat, and run cold water over them right away. Peel and cut gently in half.

While you wait for the eggs, wash your asparagus. Be gentle with the tips. I used my wide pan above for that. Then gently bend the bottom part of each stem. It will snap and should separate the woody part from the tender stalk. You could trim the stem with a vegetable peeler too (to make it more tender). I think it's a waste, my stems were too skinny and I am greedy. If you're not sure, Google is great help! :)

In a wide pan, pour just enough water to barely cover the bottom. Throw in a sprinkle of salt and bring to a boil. As soon as it's boiling, lay in your asparagus and squirt a few drops of lemon juice on top. Cook till the bottom of the stem is tender (test with the tip of a knife). Mine took a little less than 7 minutes but many times it can take up to 8. Just wait and test. Funny enough the amount of time that it took for the asparagus to cook (on medium high), was just long enough for the water to evaporate without burning.

Asparagus, 7 minutes later.
Drain if you have to (I didn't need to). Tip the hot asparagus in a plate, melt the few tablespoons of butter and drizzle on top to your liking followed by a few more squirts of lemon juice, and a grind of pepper. The butter is salty and the salt in the cooking water was plenty once evaporated but hey, feel free to add more! Please taste first. 

Add your egg halves, sprinkle a bit of sea salt on those followed with freshly ground pepper and dig in! Napkin required. This could have served 4 but made 2 very happy! :)

It's like edible spring in your plate. Hope you try it.