Sunday, August 25, 2013

Good Morning, Morning Glory!

Don’t you just love the phrase morning glory….the words sound so happy and welcoming when spoken together.  They come to mind every time I eat morning glory pancakes or a morning glory muffin.  There is nothing like a porch seat, a freshly baked muffin, and a cup of coffee or tea to greet a new day!    I had carrots that I wanted to use and what better way than to make Morning Glory Muffins.

Packed with fruit, Morning Glory muffins are really yummy and good for you and the topping on this version, made with walnuts and wheat germ instead butter and sugar, add an earthy, nutty flavor. 
Once again, the masters at Stonewall Kitchen made it possible for me to glam these up a bit while staying true to the recipe…I used Caramel Apple Butter instead of plain apple butter. I did not use as much sugar as the recipe called for and threw in some coconut because Morning Glory muffins need coconut, right?

Regarding two of the more ordinary – but useful – ingredients, I often wondered (and I guess I should know this) exactly what baking soda and baking powder contribute to a recipe so I turned to for the answer.  Both are leavening agents, which mean they cause baked goods to release gas (bubbles) and rise when combined with an acidic ingredient, such as fruit or fruit juice, salt, buttermilk or vinegar.  If omitted from a recipe, you will have a flat mess!  The same will occur if you omit the baking soda and just use baking powder because baking power (which is actually a combination of baking soda and some other compounds like cream of tartar) does not contain the right amount of baking soda to encourage quick breads, life muffins, to rise. There you have it!

Morning Glory Muffins

Note:  the recipe makes 18 muffins but I like my muffins a little bigger, so I only made 12.  I adjusted the calorie content accordingly.  Also, based on my own experimentation and on the reviews I read, this recipe adjusts nicely, so don’t be afraid to substitute honey for sugar, use more whole wheat flour or apple sauce instead of apple butter!

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1¼ cups white sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
½  teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots
1 apple - peeled, cored, and chopped
1cup raisins
2egg whites (I used ¾ cup of egg substitute instead of any eggs or egg whites)
½ cup apple butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ (I didn’t toast and it was fine)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly oil 18 muffin cups, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, apple butter, oil and vanilla. In a large bowl, stir together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in carrots, apples and raisins. Incorporate apple butter mixture until just moistened. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  I use an ice cream scoop (the kind with the little lever) to fill the muffin cups in a non-messy way….this method also produces evenly sized muffins!  In a small bowl, combine walnuts and wheat germ; sprinkle over the muffin tops. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed.

All I can say is that these are 291 calories and 3 grams of dietary fiber fabulous.  Neighbor’s word to describe these little gems is applecious and, you know what, I think she’s on to something. The next time I make them, I will chop the apples a bit finer (maybe even throw them in the food processor with the carrots), decrease the sugar even more and add a little pineapple or mashed banana to compensate.  I’ll also use more whole wheat flour and throw some walnuts into the batter for a little crunch.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New York Times Plum Torte

My Wednesday night dinner pals still had not met the newest member of our family, sweet little Faye, so I hosted dinner to arrange a rendezvous.  She, of course, stole everyone’s heart and behaved quite nicely.

She is cute…but very frisky!

I made Chicken Marsala, but the hit of the evening was the plum torte that Foodie brought for dessert.  Apparently, it is the most searched and requested New York Times taste and you will understand why.

This recipe reminds me a lot of the pistachio apricot cake I made a little while ago….a no-frills cake that is gussied-up with plum halves then sprinkled with fairy dust (a cinnamon/ sugar mixture) before baking so that the oven can coax it’s caramelizing magic.  I love that word – magic – it reminds me of one of my favorite movies  ever, Sleepless in Seattle.

A few words about plums…they come in a panoply of colors and varieties and are a member of the prune family.  They are high in fiber, a natural antioxidant and help the body to absorb iron. They contain potassium, a mineral that helps manage high blood pressure and reduce stroke risk.  Studies also suggest that plums lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration.  Delicious and good for you!

Original Plum Torte
From:  New York Times
September 21, 2005

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
24 halves pitted purple plums
Sugar and cinnamon for topping.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.

3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired (but first, double-wrap the tortes in foil, place in a plastic bag, and seal). Or cool to lukewarm, and serve.

Heavenly..simply heavenly.  It's easy to make and a pretty dessert for a pot-luck or dinner party contribution.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dining Under the Stars

During the summer our little dinner club typically takes a hiatus because of vacations and other scheduling challenges. We get together periodically just because and to celebrate birthdays, but not as consistently as we do otherwise.  We are fortunate to live near Media, PA, a town that offers “Dining Under the Stars” on Wednesdays nights during the warm months.  If you have never experienced such a dining delight, it’s like a fancy picnic, only you sit at a table and servers from various participating restaurants dish up favorites while diners casually watch the world go by just like in the “open-air cafes on Paris's Avenue de Champs Elyseé and in the piazzas of Rome and Venice.”

So far, with my usual band of foodies, I tried the Mediterranean Cuisine of Desert Rose, complete with it’s freshly-baked and oh-so-yummy pita rounds paired with a homemade soft yogurt cheese called Labaneh that is garnished with garlic comfit, zatar and mint. Apparently, the chef is an Irish-born, French-trained master who married an Israeli woman (who inspired the restaurant name) raised in this area and they opened this restaurant…lucky for us.  The restaurant also doubles as a market for Mediterranean favorites.

A few weeks ago for my birthday, my daughters, their beaus and I feasted on the always reliable and perfectly spiced Indian specialties of Shere e Punjab.  I had my favorite, Chicken Saag…I forgot to take a photo!   After dinner, we enjoyed baked treats from Tartes Fine Cakes and Pastries, 212 Arch Street in Philadelphia.  Just look at that delectable selection…key lime, pecan, mixed berry and, of course, chocolate tarts.  So. Damn. Good.

Then, this past Wednesday, I joined Singer and a few of her (wonderful) block-party friends for a farm-to-table experience at Lotus. 
I had a citrus cured feta, compressed watermelon, roasted peanut and red onion salad as a starter, and dill brined tofu with grilled asparagus, lemon puree, and wheat berries for my entrée.  
Singer had a lovely field greens, grilled peach and fennel dill salad. 

A pot of freshly brewed herbal served as the evening’s finale …pure bliss.

 Many of the restaurants in Media are BYOB.  That and the live music, add to the fun and casual vibe of the dining under the stars experience.  The wait staff at the participating restaurants are typically very friendly and helpful with menu selections, but the server at Lotus was particularly attentive…I wish I could remember her name!

Speaking of stars, do not miss the Perseid meteor shower this Monday morning at 1:00 a.m.!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Doughnut Shop

I never eat doughnuts.


I’d rather save the calories for other delicious treats like McVities Digestive Biscuits.  And wine.

Then I went to Rehoboth Beach, DE and, on the recommendation of a friend, visited The Fractured Prune. 

I rarely eat doughnuts.

The Fractured Prune is an all-the-rage doughnut franchise based in Ocean City, MD. There are multiple locations in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Ocean City, New Jersey.  The shop offers delicious yellow-cake doughnuts that are freshly made and hand dipped in a variety of glazes such as blueberry, mocha, mint, caramel, cherry, banana and, of course, the always reliable chocolate and honey.  As if the glazes were not sinful enough, you can further embellish the confection with toppings such as sprinkles, jimmies, coconut, peanuts, cooking and cracker crumbs and chocolate chips.

If you are not feeling particularly creative or are just stymied by the many and scrumptious choices of glazes and toppings, no worries, just order from the specialty doughnut list…..they’ve done the “what will taste good together” work for you!  I chose the Black Forest – raspberry glaze, coconut and mini chocolate chips, the Peppermint Patty – mint glaze, mini chocolate chips, the Banana Nut – banana glaze, cinnamon, sugar, nuts, and the Lemonade -- lemon glaze and sugar.  I also threw in some chocolate covered and glazed doughnuts just for kicks and giggles. 

I was feeling nostalgic.

I have to warn you, these doughnuts – served up warm – are seriously good.  And dangerous.  The best I ever had.  Myfitnesspal is gonna be downright salty about this entry. 

Visit The Fractured Prune on the web here.  I wondered about the odd name of this company and to get the history we go back to a story from the late 1800's.    When the owner of the franchise wanted to come up with a catchy name for his new enterprise, he decided to do some research on the land he owned.  Turns out that a local woman, Prunella Shriek, owned much of the land in the Ocean City, MD area.  Prunella was a character and liked to compete with men in sporting activities, during which she often got injured. Despite these injuries, she diligently returned to competition, often on crutches.  Thereafter she was affectionately dubbed, fractured Prunella. 
There is a specialty doughnut called the Ms. Prunella -- mixed berry glaze with a cinnamon topping.