After the events of Sunday night I needed something strong to calm me down. And nothing makes me feel better than cooking. A friend (Thanks Luke!) brought some delicious, fragrant early season strawberries to Anna’s party and we didn’t end up eating all of them so on Monday Theodore and I made the first strawberry jam of the season. It was a “natural” jam (no added pectin) and used a sauce made from apples and a lemon for natural pectin (pectin is what makes jam “jell”). I was concerned that the recipe was going to be a waste of strawberries when cooking the apple-lemon mixture – it turns out apples and lemons cooked together don’t smell appealing. But after mixing everything together I ended up with a beautiful jam. The jam is also a reduced sugar recipe yet the citric acid from the lemon brings out the strawberry flavor such that the jam tastes incredibly sweet – like strawberry candy. The 10 half-pints we made are happiness in a jar. Then we had some vegetables languishing in the fridge and some leftover celery and carrot sticks from the party that looked a little sad so they became a couple of gallons of vegetable stock. There were twice baked potatoes (serious comfort food) and bean burgers and grilled cheese with minestrone soup for our dinners. And yesterday Theo and I made lemon-blueberry muffins: 24 mini muffins and 8 dinosaur shaped muffins. (Aside: My mother in law gave us the dino pan and while I thought it was quite cute, I was also very skeptical about how it would work in reality. I envisioned little bits of dinosaur muffins stuck to the inside of the pan and boys crying about how their triceratops were missing a horn. I am pleased to say that I was wrong and that I simply spray the pan with pan spray before filling and the muffins come out perfectly. I am going to have to get more of these fun pans – you can pretty much get my kids to eat any fruit or vegetable if it is in a fun shaped muffin.) Everyone in the family loves these muffins and we bake them every few weeks – freezing many of them to pop in the boys’ lunches or thaw for 20 seconds in the microwave for a quick breakfast or snack. They are not low-fat by any means but I am rather fond of fat and it’s comforting properties.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup whole grain flour (I like kamut flour but regular whole wheat is fine too)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1.5 cups blueberries (fresh, frozen, or canned and drained)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Mix the butter, milk, eggs, sugars, and vanilla together in a bowl and set aside.
- Mix the flours, salt, and baking powder together and set aside.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over mix. The batter should all be moist, but still lumpy.
- Gently fold in the blueberries and the lemon zest.
- Bake for 12-18 minutes (depending on the muffin size) until the tops are a light golden brown and the center of the muffin springs back when lightly pressed.
Note: Any muffin or bread can be kept quite fresh for future eating by wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and then putting in a ziploc bag. I wrap each muffin individually and then put them all together in one ziploc bag in the freezer, pulling one or two muffins out as needed.
To end our rough week on a good note I declared last night movie, spaghetti, and girl scout cookie ice cream sundae night. I don’t happen to find the Land Before Time #1,000 to be the most engaging movie so I pulled out my laptop and began planning our menus for next week’s dinners (Mini Tostadas, Leek/Broccoli/Asiago Risotto + Arugula Salad, Kale Pie + Roasted Cauliflower, Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apple Sage “Sausage”). It was quite nice to all curl up together under a blanket in the living room and nosh; a much needed break from the greater concerns of life. We just might have to make it a weekly tradition. What do you do to feel better when life threatens to bring you down?