Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zucchini Bran Muffins

Zucchini Bran Muffins
I don’t have a reading inspiration for this recipe - I just made a really great thing I want to gift to the Internets.  Terribly sorry to ruin your Tuesday with that news.  I just happen to love bran muffins, and weirdly often find myself embarrassed by them.  Their reputation gives the impression they are the old man of the muffin family, or something.  They’re not the family dog everyone loves, like blueberry, or your zippy mom, like a lemon poppy, or a corn safe bet, like your dad, or cool and trendly like your popular older siblings (donut muffins) or even like the hot cousin blowing into town at the holidays (I’m looking at you, pumpkin).  They’re just kind of there, sitting heavily in the back of the case.  But I love them.  I truly, madly, deeply do.  I’ve loved them since I was a kid, and they were DEFINITELY not cool, because who coats a bran muffin in sugar, like all the fancy blueberry muffins the other kids would fight over after sitting through a Sunday morning church service?  

Soon you will be delicious Zucchini Bran Muffins.
I also love this time of year for the bountiful crop of zucchini that you can find at your local farmers market, or even grocery store.  I enjoy zucchini bread half as much as I enjoy the actual vegetable, which is to say an indecent amount.  When I started thinking about how much I love both of these things on a long run, it only made sense to put them together.  Let’s just call it a wild success; pretty sure this is one of the top five things my brain has ever made my hands cook.  My mouth seems to believe that this recipe will be one I make for years to come.  They are beyond delicious, filled with flavor, and presumably healthy from all the nutrients in the vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruit (just play along, guys).  They’re basically all you need aside from a strong cup of coffee on a cool, August morning (or ever).  Get cooking!

So soon. 
Zucchini Bran Muffins:
Proudly elevating Bran Muffins from Old Man status to Hawt Young Thang status (since 2013)
  • I consulted a few sources, and then, shocker, went rogue.  If you’d like to consult too, check out Shipyard Galley’s Zucchini Muffins, The Farmgirl Fare's Zucchini Bran Muffins, The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook's Carrot Golden Raisin Muffins, and The Joy of Cooking’s recipe for Bran Muffins.
  • I used golden raisins because I thought they’d be a nice, visual contrast, and are slightly larger and chewier.  You can use regular raisins, dates, or another dried fruit of your choosing.
  • For nut allergies, I’ve got a few ideas.  I’d suggest either doubling the dried fruit (or trying two different kinds), omitting them entirely, using the equivalent in dried coconut or grated carrot, or (crazy) going for chocolate.  
  • Allegedly, this batter will keep for four days, refrigerated.  I’m also contemplating the potential for freezing it.  I didn’t try either (how could I wait?!), but want to; it sounds like a great gift idea!

Zucchini Bran Muffins

Recipe below:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Black Spring, by Alison Croggon: A Wuthering Heights a magical allusion? (#wordplay)

Black Spring
Alison Croggon
Candlewick Press, August 27th 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6009-3
ARC copy provided by Candlewick

In the rough northern territories, the rule of vendetta is the law, and the king and wizards share power over the peasants.  When a southern noble comes to stay to escape scandal and goes to greet his landlord, he unwittingly stumbles into a slightly more magical adaptation of Wuthering Heights.  His housekeeper reveals that she once worked in the household of Lina, a young witch.  Witches are marked for death by wizards under the laws of the north, but she is protected to by the noble status of her father, who is punished when a silent, stoic young boy is sent to be his ward.   Lina and the ward develop a tempestuous, dangerously passionate and desperate link in childhood that is tested when the bottom falls out and Lina’s father passes away, setting them on a course that may destroy their own lives and the lives of those of around them.  Told alternatively through the housekeeper, Lina’s journal, and the southern noble, Black Spring is a gothic, dark read for those who love Heathcliff and Catherine.  


Friday, August 16, 2013

Here is what I hope Egypt will look like again, and soon.

I'm not super political, or at least generally try to keep that off the Internets (except when it qualifies for Case of the Terribles status).  But sometimes, you just need to say what is on your mind.  And as we in the 21st century do it best, I think I'll say it with pictures instead of words, and I have been feeling quite sad about the images I'm seeing and accounts I'm hearing coming out of Egypt these days.  Instead of doing a tidbits post (considering I never do it in a timely fashion, I think you'll survive), I've decided that I'm going to put up some of my favorite pictures from my March, 2010 trip to Egypt.  I was there directly after the Revolution in January, and can vouch for the kindness, happiness, and pride of the Egyptian populace in bringing democracy to their country.  You can read much more about my experience here.  

Here are some of the beautiful things I witnessed there that I hope we, and they, see again soon.  This starts with some of the most powerful images of national pride I witnessed, including the first true democratic national election:

This is the way I remember Egypt: a little girl and her father waving their flag and smiling at an Egyptian soldier working at a Cairo polling station, after her father voted freely for the first time.  March, 2010.
More images below:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Recipe 9: Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise
 I don't know when, where, or how this recipe idea came into my head, but I do suspect why. This summer started sweaty, and suspect that may have had something to do with it!  But what sane person is all "yeaaaah, sweet potatoes cold!" Can you think of any other one thing that is a regular and also cold sweet potato based dish, because all I'm coming up with are things that are not good served cold: sweet potato casserole, sweet potato fries, baked sweet potatoes, soups, etc.  You get the idea.  As a disclaimer, I'm really not a huge fan of the humble, servicable pot-a-toe.  I appreciate it.  I'll eat them, sometimes.  Thanksgivingtimes.  The same goes for things with cream included.  But I've grown increasingly fond of throwing sweet potatoes into things, and rather like them. And I did really want a cold soup that wasn't a gazpacho. Good thing I'm not sane though, amirite?!?

Where it all starts: the glamorous kitchen sink.

Somehow, somewhere, sometime in July, while probably lying in my bathtub for my 10th freezing shower of the day, inspiration struck: what about a cold soup with something I like - sweet potato?   In fact, as I started to explore options and do research to find out if it would be possible (I really hate wasting food), I was surprised that not too many sources had tried something like this.  My only two solid leads were Marcus Samuelsson and Design Love Fest.  It may have taken way longer to actually get around to making this soup, but it was worth it when I did, and I'm glad that I've got enough frozen that I can defrost and easily make a quick lunch or dinner of it.  I'm fairly certain it'll taste pretty good hot, but why mess with a good thing? 

It's filling, mild to spicy, and easy to adapt as you want.    I really loved it with a garnish of scallions, a dash more of cayenne, and a hearty dash of soy.   Consider this your base, and get creative for other iterations of it (chipotle? peanuts? WHY NOT), or with toppings.  I've already been mentally cooking up version 2.0.   We're getting close to the tail end of it, so why not try this lovely orange hued soup during the dog days of summer in September?

Notes: I planned to freeze and keep it, so I immediately ruled out using cream, despite it being a vichyssoise; cream just gets disgusting when frozen and defrosted.  Nobody wants to eat baby vomit!  This mostly vegetarian (if you use vegetable stock, or 100% vegan if you use oil instead of the butter) recipe does freeze and keep well.  

First blend: Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Second blend: Sweet Potato Vichyssoise


Friday, August 9, 2013



Friday, August 2, 2013

Dinner Train: The Raven Boy

The Raven Boys meets The Raven Boy
Once upon a time, long ago and far away, I lived in a castle atop a hill with several other beautiful princesses, a fire-breathing dragon, and our loyal manservant, Maurice.  That’s only sort of true: it was sixish years ago, we lived on a cliff in the top two floors of a run-down Victorian house, the fire-breathing dragon was an oven that shot fireballs out when you turned it on, and our manservant was neither loyal nor male, but rather a birthday cake stealing, pregnant racoon named Maurice.  

The one truth?  There were in fact beautiful princesses (and more as the years went on), and we had a magical fresh out of college experience, navigating the perils of the new adult world (running out of French Onion Dip, Brazilian DJs showing up to your housewarming parties, a bathroom without a door, and a landlord who once tried to fix a broken door using only a snow shovel) way more classily (sometimes), and well fed than the girls seem to do on Girls.  More importantly, a group love of YA/fun literature swept through the ranks in the house - we did group reads for things like Breaking Dawn, hazed new roommates with gifts of Outlander, made mixes for books...you get the idea. This appropriately titled blog started right back about then!

Pretty pretty princesses.
It seemed only fitting that in a year when three members of the first generation of the house would be turning 30, and another is having her first baby, that said first generation (and moi, generation 1.5) should muster and eat way too much cheese, drink some wine, and reflect upon these momentous life events.  Naturally, we decided to have a faux book club in anticipation of this event, and even more naturally, choose a YA book about a group of magical friends: The Raven Boys.  JUST LIKE US.  I reviewed it last year, but was really glad to reread it and discuss with like-minded BFFs, especially in light of the sequel (one of...several? I’m unclear what “cycle” means, publishing world.), The Dream Thieves, dropping in just about a month.  Maybe I have a copy.  Maybe you should stay tuned for that review...

A pizza feast fit for Welsh kings,
Raven Boys, psychics?

We’re a little older and theoretically wiser now (which is just a polite way to say that we don’t bounce back like 22-year-olds anymore; our drinks better be worth it!).  We’ve certainly become way better and more confident chefs, even when faced with the daunting challenge of making pizza (in honor of Blue’s job as a pizza parlour waitress, and meeting the Monmouth boys for the first time at work) in a 1970s kitchen lacking any baking sheets.  Over several rounds of Marry Shag Cliff (Does anyone keep Noah?  Poor guy.) and group casting as characters in the book (apparently I’m Maura? Whattt? Disagree?), a feast fit for Glendower was prepared.  I whipped up a little something I’m calling the Raven Boy to toast both our reunion, and the Raven Boys with.  It’s got a little bit of everything from the book in there: mint for Gansey, Bourbon for the Southern Henrietta accents (also alcohol, for Ronan), black-blue for both Blue and the Raven boys, and is served ice cold.  Like Noah! 

Making magic happen in old kitchens since 2005.
This is our kind of tea reading.
Recipe below - but do note that you can use the syrup with more seltzer to make a non-alcoholic version of this, any teens who may stumble across this recipe.  

The Raven Boy
(Blackberry Lime Julep)

The Raven Boy, inspired by Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tidbits: Gitmo' Shady

  • Jellicoe Road movie news (I'd totally partake in a Kickstarter, for the first and only time, for this to happen.  Just sayin'...)
  • Are you even more behind the time than moi?  Well, get with it campers: the Catching Fire trailer is out, and it's pretty solid (spoiler alert: Peeta gets a hair upgrade, Finnick sans shirt, Stanley Tucci will probably haunt your dreams, you get the idea).  The Forever YA girls break it down here

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