TWD: Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Dorie has done it again and brought such simple joy!  These were fabulous on so many levels:

1) The crisp, tight flavor of fresh lemon was great after so many gray days of temperatures below 20 degrees, and anticipated wind chills FAR below zero.


2) The sour cream in the better makes the muffins wonderfully moist. They popped out of the muffin tin without a crumb left behind, and the few crumbs I spied on the napkin that I ate off of at my desk this morning easily came together with my fingers as I hurried to mop up every. last. one. Seriously.

3) The smell of lemon pastry really freshened up a house that hasn’t seen an open window in months.  I should bake these weekly just for the emotional high that brought.

I thought these were wonderful, and I don’t think I’ll ever eat a lemon muffin from the office cafeteria ever again.  There must be both health and financial benefit in that. The Other Eater, on the other hand, merely thought they were “good.”

But my baking experience left me with a question for my fellow cooks. I made 6 muffins with paper muffin cups for sharing with others, and six straight in the muffin tin for eating at home.  The paperless muffins for a lot taller than the paper-wrapped muffins, and I’m wondering why. Any ideas?

In general I’m thinking that next time I’ll make 10 naked muffins for oversized indulgence, just so you know.

TWD: Chocolate Ganache Ice Cream

As this recipe’s host said : Oh. My. Ganache!

This is so rich and flavorful.  It’s more of a custard than an ice cream, one that Another Eater says could give the infamous Kopp‘s a run for its money.It has whole milk and egg yolks and cream – all of which make it difficult to at more than a few spoonfulls before you can feel your arteries closing. But it’s worth it.


I really wish I had used milk chocolate instead of bittersweet, because it’s a little more to my liking, but Another Eater is quite pleased that he’ll have this one largely to himself.  And it’s going to be back in the 90s this weekend, so ice cream will be just what the doctor ordered after he mows the lawn.

I seriously thought she was kidding

I routinely read the articles filed by the Chicago Tribune’s health  reporter Julie Deardorff, if only for their comic value.  She routinely finds ways that either I am shortening my life or ruining the lives of those around me by performing mundane tasks, like emptying the lint tray in my clothes dryer. If only I could use my left hand instead of my right hand for the chore, we’d all beat cancer.

Today, though, I really thought she was kidding in her article about 9 foods worth eating.  It describes foods we all learned to hate as children, why our parents made us eat them, and then why they are worth a second shot as adults.  I was with her for the first few: sardines, beets licorice.

Then she got to crickets.

I leave the rest to you.

TWD: Allspice Crumb Muffins

I had such high hopes for these, but they failed me on various levels:

Allspice Crumb Muffins

1) My crumbs were runny, turning to crusty when the muffins cooled.

2)  The muffins were excellent warm, but kind of dry when they cooled off. I needed coffee to go with them later in the week. Would the lemon zest have made a difference? I didn’t have any in the house!

3) Without the crumbs, the muffins were kind of dull. Nice with coffee, but not the kind of thing I was eager to eat in the car on the way to the train in the morning.

But I have high hopes for the sweet potato biscuits I’ll make Sunday when I return from Nashville!


Between working on the house, working at my job, celebrating with family, hosting overnight guests, and just sheer exhaustion, I’m WAY behind on my posting for TWD. But know, dear bakers, that I’ve been eating right alongside you and loving most of our creations.

I just recently pulled the photos of our Applesauce Spice Bars off of my camera (they were just before my niece’s Christening photos), and they were one of my favorites! I baked them over one of the first really cool fall weekends using Farmer’s Market apples, and they were popular both at home and at work – so popular that I forgot to photograph them before they were all gone:

Applesauce Spice Bars

Mine came out like a thin piece of apple cake with a sticky icing (which I enjoyed – it wasn’t too sweet)  but it made them very difficult to transport to the office in one piece.  We had to scrape the icing off the tin foil covering. Nevertheless, the tart fresh apple bits, plump golden raisins and wonderful fall spice blend made them worth it! I highly recommend these for an at-home treat.

They were F-A-R better then Rachel Ray’s Tiny Grape Upside Down Cakes. Mine tasted like overly dense pancake batter topped with apple jelly, and looked like something you would feel an elementary school classroom’s pet turtle:

Grape Upside Down Cakes

But maybe you’ll have more luck than I did.

TWD: Parisian Apple Tartlet

I’m catching up on posting the baking I’ve been doing lately, and I have to say that this dessert kinda let me down. So did the local grocery stores.


But it’s my own fault, I think.  I’ve come to consider Dorie’s cookbook and this weekly baking group as sort of a go-to for fabulousness and decadence. I’ve rarely messed anything up beyond eating, and everything we’ve made I’ve really liked.  I may not make something again because I am kinda lazy, but I thoroughly enjoy most of our projects the first time around.
So when the Other Eater’s Birthday fell on Father’s Day, I was challenged to fit it all into one 24 hour festival. There was a restaurant lunch with Dad and then a simple dinner on the patio (maybe soup? maybe leftovers? I can’t even remember – that’s how unremarkable it was) but I was sure I could turn it all around with Birthday Tart. It came from Dorie, after all.


I couldn’t find the all-butter pastry dough for this super simple tart, so I went with the Pepperidge Farm impostor that Dorie warned us about.  She was absolutely right that it fell WAY short of greatness.  Not even worth eating, really, except that it was easy to scarf down in the car on the way to the train the following morning.  The apple was baked perfectly (not too soft), full of natural sweetness and yummy, but the crust ruined it all.

And sadly, I’m not into shopping trips for single ingredients.  So since I can’t find the all-butter pastry dough in the two markets I go to regularly, I’m afraid I will forever miss out on this simple dessert…but I may feel differently during apple season.

Also, Dorie, in case you are reading, we both L-O-V-E-D the garlic scape pesto we had a week later, so all is forgiven.

On to the Brownies!

man vs. ape

The New York Times recently previewed a book, due out later this month, in which an anthropologist proposes that cooking is what separates man from ape. Tool-making and meat-eating are all well and good, this Harvard professor suggests, but it’s cooking foods over a fire that enabled higher development.

“Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” explains that cooking made foods richer and healthier as long ago as 1.8 million years. Foods became softer, safer and more nutritious. Though no evidence of fire dates that far back, Dr. Ricahrd Wrangham says biology suggests cooking is just that old – that’s when man’s body type changed from apelike proportions with a big gut to upright bodies topped by larger brains. Teeth got smaller, too, suggesting that they weren’t as needed for chewing because foods were softer – because they were cooked.

I’m not sure how I feel about his theory (keep in mind that the doctor has also lived like a chimp, eating only what he found, while he studied the animals – this included eating raw monkey that the other chimps had cast off – eewww), but I like the idea of cooking as an social tradition that has always shaped our development; it continues to shape families and dictate traditions today. I think about this when I consider the Tuesdays with Dorie experiment, and how 200+ young cooks in various corners of the world are all learning to bake because one woman wrote one book.  Dorie’s labor of love will no doubt become the center of family traditions. It’s exciting to think that this little blog is part of that grand idea.

My friend Ken Patchen recently wrote a guest column for the Illinois Agri-News, recalling the various vegetable gardens that have shaped his life: A gradeschool friend’s mom’s where the boys picked grapes and made jelly, his mother-in-law’s carrot patch where fruit stayed in the ground well into December, Ken’s garden that enabled them to continuation her family’s canning tradition, the plot his daughter used to explore her taste for obscure vegetables (and to test her father’s patience, no doubt),  and now the container garden that Ken’s daughter is sharing with his granddaughter in an urban setting.

“Growing a garden is an inter-generational act of faith, reflects a sense of hope, offers exercise, creates memories and puts food and great taste on the table in hard times,” Ken explained as he commended the White House for planting its table garden this spring.  The First Garden likely won’t make a dent in the national deficit, but it will undoubtedly remind parents and grandparents of how they spent their summer days and prompt them to reconsider what their children will remember about this summer.

I guess in a way that’s how I think about cooking, and I thank Ken for helping me to understand that.  I’m still planning my summer garden; I’ve yet to really identify what I’ll have and what kind of containers I’ll use. But my house on McCraren Road always had a garden when I was young (actually, it still does), and I wouldn’t know what else to do with the space now that I have a home of my own.

Super Foods

This article in the New York Times Web site lists the 11 best (and most reasonable) foods that we all should be eating:

  1. Beets: a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.
  2. Cabbage: loaded with sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.
  3. Swiss chard: packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.
  4. Cinnamon: May control blood sugar and cholesterol.
  5. Pomegranate juice: loaded with antioxidants and may lower blood pressure.
  6. Dried plums: packed with antioxidants.
  7. Pumpkin seeds: packed with magnesium, which is associated with lower risk for early death.
  8. Sardines: high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese, as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
  9. Turmeric: anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
  10. Frozen blueberries: associated with better memory in animal studies.
    How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.
  11. Canned pumpkin: high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.

Now, nevermind how many of these foods are currently in my pantry, nor those which might have made an appearance on my grocery bills over the last 6 months.  Let’s focus on the positive: I had two meals (plus leftovers) with cabbage this week, and I liked them both!

I rediscovered cabbage a year or so ago when my mother-in-law cleaned out her refrigerator prior to extended travel (that means she sent a bag of leftover groceries to my house) and I was determined to find uses for the items that I would NEVER have purchased for myself (except for the Greek yogurt; that I threw straight down the garbage disposal). The Canadian bacon made a fine breakfast strata, but the cabbage sent me to the bookshelf.

In The Best Vegetable Recipe cookbook (put out by the fine folks at Cooks Illustrated), I found two recipes that I’ll use again and again, I’m sure.  Braising cabbage with green apple and apple juice pairs well with pot stickers from the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s, and then this weekend I braised the cabbage with beer and brown mustard in which I had previously cooked pork brats.  Yum.

That’s probably not the way the New York Times wants me to eat cabbage. But such is life.