Thursday, June 9, 2016

Easiest, No-Bowl Banana Muffins

The list of to-do's is more than 10 deep and I keep finding things that need doing that haven't even made the posted list.  Moving is never easy, but moving from one foreign country to another with a month long stop back home is an especially daunting task.  It's one of those days when there are so many things that need my attention it's paralyzing.  I don't know where to start and therefore haven't started at all.  I think by the end of the day I will have just closed my eyes, pointed at my list and tried to accomplish whatever my finger lands on.  That's as good a method as anything else.  My goal?  Get just one thing crossed off the list, no matter how small.

When you have a day ahead like the one that I have, it never hurts to start out with something to eat that is simple and delicious.  This muffin recipe is my families absolute favorite.  I get it asked for it all the time so I thought it was about time to share it in this space.  The best part of the recipe?  It requires only two measuring items- one measuring cup and one measuring spoon- and absolutely no bowl.  Part of what makes this a fave with my kids is that it is squished and mixed in a big zip-top bag.  They just love doing the "hard work" that it takes to mix the batter.  I kind of love that part too.  Then I simply snip off a corner of the bag, squeeze into the muffin cups and toss the empty bag.  Easy.  Brilliant, in fact (it's not my idea so I can call it that without bragging).  You can thank me later.

Easiest, No-Bowl Banana Muffins
Makes 12 standard muffins.  Adapted, only slightly, from Yammie's Noshery.
For the printable, click here

You really can't go wrong with these muffins.  It's a simple as squish, squish, squeeze and you're eating warm muffins for breakfast.  I like to keep them simple with just a sprinkling of sugar on top but I have tossed mini chocolate chips into the batter or made a quick struesel top at the request of my kids.  I'm sharing the recipe for my simplest version here, but feel free to play with it to your heart's delight.  The important thing is to follow the order given for adding the ingredients or you will end up with a wet measuring cup to scoop dry ingredients.  It just won't work.  So while it goes a bit against the "rules" of baking I promise it works.  Oh, and the only two measuring tools that you'll need are a 1/4 cup measuring cup and a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon.

3 bananas (the spottier, the better), 1 cup mashed
2 large eggs
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of sea salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (sometimes I use nutmeg instead, especially if I am adding chocolate chips)
1/2 cup neutral flavored oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Line a 12 cup standard muffin tin with muffin liners.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

In a large zip-top bag, mash the bananas.  Add the eggs and sugar to the bag, zip up and squish until completely mixed.  Open the top and add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon to the bag.  Close and mix until there are no more dry spots of flour.  Finally, add the oil and vanilla to the batter and give it a final squish to blend all the ingredients.

Snip a corner off the zip-top bag and squeeze the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of sugar.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool the muffins in the pan for a few minutes and then remove from the pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.  The muffins will keep in an airtight container for 2 days.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Cold Brewed Tea with Rhubarb Simple Syrup

 “When you have a watch, time is like a swimming pool. There are edges and sides. Without a watch, time is like the ocean. Sloppy and vast.”
-Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I'm Home

It's a funny thing, time.  Right now I feel as if I don't have nearly enough of it but at the same time I have no idea how I am filling all of it.  Case in point- I just logged onto my blog hosting site and read that I hadn't posted anything in a month.  A month!  How on Earth did that happen?  Has time really passed so quickly to me that those 4 weeks can seem like the blink of an eye?  I know that I've been busy with pulling together a move of my household to yet another country and keeping my kids healthy and happy and saying goodbye to friends who are moving on and...well, you know the drill.  Life.

And in the meantime, time keeps marching on.  Did you know that this is my 250th post?!  Oh, and that I've been blogging for 5 years now.  That's an average of 1 post a week for the past 5 years.  Mind blowing.  Don't even get me started on the fact that my husband's 40th birthday is in less than a week.  That means that mine is just a few short months away. 

Stop.  Right.  There. 

I can't even wrap my mind around that one.  I was just sitting in the optometrist's chair (remarking on how blind I am, a sure sign that the crest of the hill is right in front of me) talking with him about how no matter how old you are, in your mind you're still a perfect age.  For him, 22 years old and for me it's always 23.  Funny isn't it?  That was nearly half my life ago and I still can't quite comprehend that I'm really any older than that.

So here I am giving you a recipe that requires very little of your time so that you can enjoy the passage and not wonder where it all went.  Put some loose tea in some water, set it in your fridge or a cool spot and walk away.  Take your kids for a bike ride.  Go see a movie with your fellow.  Take a nap.  Do something that makes you happy and when you return, magic will have happened and you will have a pitcher of tea ready to sweeten as you wish (but I humbly suggest the rhubarb syrup I'm sharing today too).

Cold Brewed Tea with Rhubarb Simple Syrup
Makes 1 quart of tea and 2 cups simple syrup
For the printable recipe, click here.

This tea is good with just about any loose tea you enjoy.  I like a good strong black tea like English Breakfast or even Earl Grey (which is the pretty tea that I used for this batch), but a green or even white tea would do just as well.  You may need to adjust steep times for a stronger flavor.  The simple syrup is easy to make and you can really flavor it any way you wish.  Rhubarb was in season and my youngest loves it any way he can get it.  This was the perfect way to make the season last just a little bit longer.  Any berry you like would be a great alternative to the rhubarb.

For the tea: 
5 tbs loose tea of your choice
1 quart (about 4 cups) of cold water

Scoop the tea leaves into a 1liter container.  Add the cold water and cover the container.  Give the container a few shakes to distribute and bruise the tea leaves a bit.  Place in the refrigerator or a cool spot for 5 hours or until tea has reached desired strength.

Remove the container from the refrigerator.  Set cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl.  Pour the tea through the strainer to remove the tea leaves.  Bundle tea leaves into the cheesecloth and give it a bit of a squeeze to extract any remaining liquid.  Discard the used leaves.  Pour the tea into a jar or bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the simple syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar then turn off the heat and let the rhubarb steep in the sugar syrup for 5 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the rhubarb solids.  Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.  Syrup will keep for up to two weeks.

To make a glass of iced tea:
Add 8 oz of the cold tea and a handful of ice to a glass. Sweeten to taste with the rhubarb simple syrup (try 2 tbs to start) and stir.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Buttermilk Cupcakes

I'm going to exercise all of my patience, good nature and positivity today.  It's imperative.  Because if I give in to the "dark side" of my mood things can go very bad, very quickly.  (Can you tell I just watched the newest Star Wars?)

There are some big wheels turning right now that determine the future of my family and they are just turning WAY TOO SLOW for my liking.  It's time for the next big move thanks to the Navy and we know where we are going but the when, how and how frustrated we will be along the way is still up in the air.  The simple act of moving is difficult as it is but throw in three kids, an international move, moving our furnishings into storage, passports, visas and a month in the States in between and you can see how I might be just the tiniest bit stressed.

So instead over obsessing over things that are completely out of my control, I'm making cupcakes.  Simple, light, vanilla scented ones.  I've made these a few times recently and I'm happy to say that they always turn out just right and are easy to play with if you want to go beyond basic.  The first time I baked them I made these sweet little butterfly cupcakes like my Nana used to make.  You just cut a cone-shaped piece of cake from the top, fill the hole with something delicious (I used jam and lemon curd this time, but Nana used to use pastry cream), slice the cake cone in half and nestle it in the filling to look like butterfly wings.  My kids loved them and I was reminded of hanging out in Nana's kitchen as a little girl.  If anything was going to make me forget a mountain of stress, that was it. 

Thanks, Nana.

Buttermilk Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen standard cupcakes.  Adapted from this recipe by Martha Stewart.
For the printable recipe, click here

This is a simple, basic cupcake that you can do in one bowl by hand without having to pull out (or clean!) a big mixer if you don't want to.  It just takes a little elbow grease to whisk the eggs and sugar but it's totally do-able.  That kinda makes it perfect in my book.  The other bonus with this cupcake is that you really can leave it simple or jazz it up any way you want.  I've made them with mini chocolate chips for a birthday topped with buttercream and left them plain for a quick treat.  Add some lemon zest and blueberries, warm spices like cinnamon or cardamom or even bits of toffee or nuts to make them completely special and different.  What you do with the cupcakes is up to you but they are bound to become one of those recipes you keep coming back to time and again.

2 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup buttermilk
4 tbs butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line the cups of a standard cupcake tin with cupcake liners.  Set aside.

Place the eggs and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk on medium high until the mixture has thickened, lightened in color and forms ribbons on the surface that hold for a few seconds before disappearing. (Alternately, you can do this by hand with a whisk and a large bowl).  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the flour and baking powder.  Mix just until incorporated.

In a small saucepan, warm the buttermilk and butter just until the butter melts.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk/butter mixture to the batter until it is smooth.  Add in the vanilla and mix until just incorporated (if you want to add anything to the batter such as chocolate chips or berries, add them now).

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake cups.  Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cupcakes are lightly golden on top and the tops spring back when pressed gently and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool in the tin on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.  Remove from the tin and cool completely on the rack.  Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days at room temperature.