TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

Before we get to the food, a word about the weather:

It’s crap. Complete and utter crap.

Saturday it snowed wildly, trapping me in the house with my untouched list of errands to run, wistfully looking toward the widow and thinking “I’ll give it another half hour to slow down before I hit the road,” or “maybe in another half hour I’ll just to the stuff in town.”

“HA!” Mother Nature replied as either the snowflakes got bigger or the wind blew harder, pushing me farther back toward the kitchen.  I left the house only once on Saturday, and that was by force at dusk when a realtor wanted to walk through my place with potential home buyers (yes, my place is still for sale).

Monday, it snowed again. Tuesday will bring arctic winds. Wednesday and Thursday promise more of the same.

corn and pepper muffin

The only response on days like these is to make soup (or oatmeal, if it’s breakfast time), and Dorie’s muffins went perfectly with the boxed red pepper and tomato soup I dressed up over the weekend.  Thanks to the blogger from Ezra Pound Cake for the foresight to know that I would need these corn muffins this weekend.  She’ll post the muffin recipe on her blog this week, while I describe how wonderful they are.

To start off, the muffins are pretty. Yellow cornmeal flecked with deep red chili powder makes for a very rich looking muffin, but the bits of finely chopped fresh red pepper and jalapeño pepper and the bright yellow corm make the muffin almost festive – confetti-like. I was really proud to put them on my table (even if I was wearing a stained t-shirt and hadn’t bothered with makeup for 24 hours before coming to the table).

Biting into the muffin puts flavor behind the appearance, as the buttermilk batter and good quality chili powder really do make for a happy mouth.  These are the perfect tomato soup muffins.  Many of my TWD colleagues served them with chili, but I think the flavors would compete.  These are a good companion for a creamy soup.

NOTE: Two days later they have dried out a bit, but I think toasting the leftovers and buttering them will perk things right up tonight. I usually need a snack while I cook dinner after work.

Oh, Tyler

As part of my week-long vacation in California last week I bargained with the Other Eater in my Household to drive a wee bit out of the way to visit Tyler Florence’s kitchen goods store in Mill Valley.

It was soooooo worth it.

The store, to begin with, is a mix of Williams-Sonoma (high end, pretty and also useful cooking tools) and Chef’s Catalog (useful things that you keep hidden in a  cabinet) and a flea market – there was a whole table of old pitchers and serving sets and the like right inside the door.  The back of the store has a small kitchen, likely used for demonstration classes, and then a small library with all sorts of cool cookbooks, including a whole section dedicated to Tyler’s Food Network Colleagues. And on the day I was there, Tyler was using the kitchen to make chicken and dumplings.

Tyler, chicken and dumplings

(That’s the Other Eater  on the left in the gray fleece jacket, sniffing Tyler’s chicken. Tyler is in gray in the center, well-lit)

In my star-struck shame, I sort of made friends with the saleslady, JoJo, a Naperville native, who told me that I was welcome to stay and watch the filming while I shopped and oh-by-the-way-if-you-buy-a-book-Tyler-will-sign-it-did-I-mention-he-has-two-new-ones-that-just-came-out-they’re-right-here. They were filming a segment for Macy’s (JoJo said the Food Network shows are still done in New York).

I made my way toward the stack of books and was flipping pages, trying to decide which book I wanted for my small collection of books signed by the author, when I paused on a black and white photo of a woman I recognized because she was STANDING RIGHT BEHIND ME STRAIGHTENING MERCHANDISE. Tyler’s wife, Tolin, seemed pleasant enough in the store.  She looked good in print, too.

So, I paid for my stuff and left my book behind to be signed.  Ho-hum.

We returned two days later to pickup the book and by the time I got in the car to go home I was apoplectic. He didn’t sign his name!

The note


And for the record, the chicken and dumplings recipe isn’t in the book, either.

Admirable, but still gross

Some guy is going to spend eight days inside of a giant pumpkin, floating down a river.  Sure, it’s for a good cause, but still.  After 8 days, the wet, hollowed gourd has got to smell, donchathink?

The Telegraph reports on it here: JR Hildebrandt has enough space in the 760-pound gourd for a chair, small propane heater and himself. A board running along the bottom will hopefully keep him stable.


Greek Meatballs

Fennel seeds.


Feta cheese.

Yup. That’s Greek.

Maybe that’s why the other eater in my household wasn’t so much of a fan: It offended his Italian roots.

I however, enjoyed them very much all week for lunch. He would argue it’s because I’m not real Italian. Just Sicilian. And I would remind him that this Sicilian prepares and serves all of his meals. Or that we have loveseats, not full couches (“Short couch. Long husband.”).

But I digress.

I found the meatballs in this magazine while I was waiting to have my hair cut, and I stealthily ripped the recipe out of a magazine.

Yes, I felt guilty. But it wasn’t the first page that was missing from the magazine, so I didn’t feel too guilty.

Moving on.

The meatballs seemed healthy because they were made with mostly turkey meat (I used a tray of ground turkey and some leftover bulk ground sausage from my freezer) and they didn’t have any cheese, eggs or breadcrumbs that most Italian meatballs use to bind the meat together. Also, these had a red grape in the center, like the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop. Finally, the salad made use of the fresh basil I had in the house and was dressed with just lemon juice and olive oil – not a fatty, creamy dressing.

Greek Meatballs!

The meat was tender and well seasoned, and the warm grape in the center was a nice surprise – sweet to counter the peppery salad that held the meatballs. The arugula salad was overly peppery for my taste, but by the second day of leftovers I had to cut it with some fresh romaine lettuce for bulk and that helped a lot. Also, the warm meatballs made the feta cheese I used a little soft, which I liked. I served it with some nearly-stale pita bread and some seasoned olive oil for dipping.

The other eater in my household, however, ate the meat around the grape like a baboon in the zoo, and then ate the grape last. Considering that his objection to his sister’s favorite Salad Nicoise is that it’s not “mixed,” his efforts to separate the grape from the meat surprised me.

I’d make it again, through. It’s a nice summer protein without being necessarily a heavy meal, and it’s a nice use for the basil I frequently swipe from Dad’s garden.

What is wrong with people?

As a follow-up to the chicken beating, we have a sausage attack. This comes to us from the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Man arrested after beaning mom with sausage

A 46-year-old man was jailed for beaning his mother with a three-pound pack of polish sausage, police said.

Gregory Allan Praeger was charged with battery on Saturday after admitting he threw the 3-pound package of sausage at his mother and hitting her in the head, a DeLand police report said.

But the story would not be complete without this response from a loyal reader:

You’ve never sau-sage a mess.

so much for family dinner

Today, rather than post about the preparation of food, I offer my commentary of food-related current events. From the Jackson (MI) Citizen Patriot, via

Man faces charges in assault with chicken

An Ypsilanti man is accused of stabbing his mother in the back with a dinner fork and clubbing another woman over the head with 10 pounds of frozen chicken.

It’s kind of a convoluted story about a 40-year old man with a criminal record waking his mom up in the wee hours of the morning and demanding cash, and then stabbing her with the fork (the attack drew some blood but did not cause serious injury) when she said no, but the chicken incident happened separately:

(The prosecutor) Blumer said that a day after he stabbed his mother, McKaney was riding a bicycle at 7:30 p.m. Monday when he encountered two women talking on the sidewalk on Woodbridge.

“He said something nasty to them and they responded in kind,” Blumer said.

“He jumped off his bike and hit one woman over the head with 10 pounds of chicken.”

The woman was treated at Foote Hospital, and had five staples in her head, Blumer said. The husband of the victim in the poultry assault trailed McKaney in a pickup truck and flagged a responding officer on Biddle Street, Deputy Chief John Holda said.

This is not a good way to tenderize meat, people. Nor is biking a good way to carry uncooked poultry in the summer.

It’s what’s for dinner!

So, only while vacationing in Hershey, PA, would I have found AND PURCHASED a bag of chocolate pasta, and only while in the perils of Hershey withdrawal would I have tried to make the Chicken Mole recipe on the back of the package. Healthy skinless, boneless breast of chicken in the chocolate-based sauce, served over chocolate pasta.

But I’m glad I did.

You can find the recipe here, and the pasta is available a lot of places, including Amazon. And actually, when you break the recipe down, there isn’t anything in there that’s whole-heartedly bad for you: no cream or butter, and only minimal sugar. No cheese. Lots of tomatoes.

The directions for the sauce weren’t great, and for that reason alone I wouldn’t call this a beginner recipe, but the outcome was pretty nice, for only 90 minutes of simmering. I’d certainly serve it over regular pasta next time – even whole wheat pasta, which seems to have become the only pasta I eat at home these days.

Much like the cooking instructions, the chocolate pasta was kind of underwhelming. I appreciated that it had a savory flavor for dinner (it also came with two dessert recipes on the package, so I was nervous), but I didn’t find it all that chocolately when I tried one to see if the noodles were ready.

Recipe: good, but don’t count on the instructions to carry you through
Noodles: stick to whole wheat