26 April 2010

Hot Mormon Muffins: April Edition

Between Easter (with all its accompanying treats) and the start of the garden season, I almost didn't get to April's muffin. But have no fear--it's here for you now, in all its hot Mormon glory! April's muffin (Seminary Streusel) is brought to you by Charli the bunny. She's 33 and a mom of two. Click photos to enlarge.

Walnut-cinnamon streusel goodness:

Hand-mixed and still-floury batter. I didn't want to overdo it:

Ready to go into the oven and already looking good:

Freshly baked:

Check out the melted sugary crust that's formed around the top of the muffin in the foreground. Streusel gold!

Charli's Seminary Streusel

[My notes/changes in brackets]

Muffin

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup [granulated] sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Streusel

1/2 cup chopped nuts [I used walnuts]
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs melted butter

Grease or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. [Preheat oven to 400F.]

[Make streusel by mixing all ingredients together thoroughly. Set aside.]

In a bowl, slightly beat egg, adding milk and oil. Set aside. In a large bowl stir flour, [granulated] sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add egg mixture all at once, stirring just until moistened. Do not over beat, as batter should be lumpy. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Top with streusel.

Bake at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes.

My verdict: I really liked this muffin. It's easy to make and tasty. At first I thought the muffin itself was a little too bland, but it's actually a nice foil to the streusel topping. It's also got a good dense, but light, texture that works well with the crunchy topping.

This is a muffin I'd like to experiment with. Besides trying different nuts in the streusel, I think adding a touch of the vanilla would be lovely. I'm also tempted to make a double batch of the streusel and stir half of it into the batter (and top the muffins with the other half) before baking. Even a simple cinnamon-sugar swirled into the batter could be good.

Want more Hot Mormon Muffins? Check out my previous posts:
January
February
March

All photos by Domicile.

15 April 2010

Review: New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown

When Quadrille offered New Urban Farmer by Celia Brooks Brown for review, I jumped at the chance because it sounded exactly like the sort of thing I love to read, although I didn't expect the book to be that useful to me. I thought it would be a back-to-the-land type of instruction manual with info on raising backyard chickens and canning vegetables and that sort of thing. Well, it turns out I was right and wrong. Self-sufficiency manual this is not--but I did indeed love reading it (more than I even expected).

New Urban Farmer is described as "...a year-round gardening book that is part-journal, part-gardening manual and part-recipe book with one aim: to inspire you to cultivate and enjoy your own delicious homegrown produce."

Talk about ambitious. And she succeeds.

I loved reading Brown's personal stories of life at her London allotment garden. I could easily delve into an entire book of such anecdotes, and I wish there had been more of them. Not exactly a social butterfly (especially when I'm digging in the dirt), I never thought I was the type to enjoy the public aspect of allotment gardening. But after reading about the author's garden friends and neighbours, and her interaction with the community at large, I suddenly find myself wishing for an allotment of my own (never mind that I already have a large yard). Journal: check.

I couldn't try as many of the (all-vegetarian) recipes in the book as I wanted, since they rely on fresh, local ingredients and there's not too much available around here at this time of year. But they all looked delicious, and I did get to try the ones for Pea + Feta Egg Cups (p 72) and Smoky Chard with Chickpeas (p 39). The Pea + Feta Egg Cups were fantastic, even with my substitution of dried spearmint for fresh. They're easy to make and are ideal for breakfast/brunch or as a side at dinner (maybe with a salad or some form of potatoes). Even better, they're just as good at room temperature as they are hot. I'll definitely make those again. The chickpea recipe is a little on the vague side (see below), but it's not really a dish you can ruin. And it's delicious: smoky and tangy and savoury. I have the crazy notion that some bacon crumbled into it would make it even better, so I think I'll try that with the leftovers. I'll be going to the recipes in this book again and again as things come into season. Can't wait. Recipe book: check.

But it was the gardening-manual portion of the book that I really fell in love with. Every bit of it was completely inspiring. I started fantasizing about growing all the things the author talks about, from asparagus to rhubarb and beyond. The fact that I'm within walking distance of a farmers' market, Parkview Neighbourhood Garden, and several supermarkets and ethnic groceries doesn't put any kind of dent in my newfound enthusiasm. Neither does the fact that I have limited sunlight in my backyard, most of it already given over to flower beds. The book's not just inspiring--there's plenty of good advice, as well (though by no means comprehensive, as the author herself points out). You'll find info on growing (in beds and containers), keeping costs down, when to sow and when to harvest (remember to adjust for your own climate)--even foraging. This is my new favourite garden book. Garden manual: check check.

As for the book itself, it's nicely designed, on heavy paper (this isn't a book to read once and put on the shelf) with lots of full colour photos. And the photos have captions! Informative ones! It's amazing how often captions seem to be an afterthought, or are overlooked entirely. My one quibble: it's hard to keep the book open (say to a recipe) even with a weight meant for that purpose. I'm afraid you might be in binding-breaking territory.

I think everyone should get this book. It's a fun, inspiring read and you'll learn things. Useful things. Writers like Celia Brooks Brown deserve all the support they can get.

Smoky Chard with Chickpeas

A quick supper--serve as is or with couscous or rice.

Drain the contents of a tin of chickpeas, then stir-fry with chopped garlic in olive oil. Add a few handfuls of shredded chard with a little salt and pepper and stir until wilted. Stir in some pimentón (smoked paprika), then add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serve topped with yoghurt flavoured with lemon, salt and ground cumin.


More info on the author here.
Info on buying the book here.

12 April 2010

Getting Seedy Pt 2

After a week of constant rain, the weather is beautifully cooperating now--sunny and reasonably warm. I'm loving the time spent in the garden, despite looking like I lost a fight with an angry cat. I won't be making the mistake of pruning roses while wearing short sleeves again. I'm still starting seeds, both indoors and out. And I'm trying not to feel overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done!

Planted indoors 3 April:

In peat pellets:

--butterfly bush
--Greek basil
--sweet basil
--cinnamon basil (sprouting!)
--Alyssum, 'Wonderland Rose' (sprouting!)
--Alyssum, 'Royal Carpet' (sprouting!)
--marigold, 'Red Gem'
--marigold, 'Tangerine Gem'
--marigold, 'Lemon Gem'
--Achillea, Cassis
--cosmos, 'Early Sensation'
--cosmos, 'Sensation Daydream'
--malva, 'Mystic Merlin'
--nicotiana, 'Only-the-Lonely'
--nicotiana, 'Sensation'
--poppy, 'fruit punch' (sprouting!)
--foxglove, 'Giant Shirley'
--vinca, 'Cooler Mix'

In a small plastic pot with Miracle Gro potting soil:

--leeks, 'Ramona'

Outside, directly in garden:

--garlic (the kind my mom grows in her garden, whatever that is)

As for my previously planted seeds, I've now got three lupines (one pink, two mixed 'Russell') and loads of tomatoes and tomatillos. The cherry tomato plants are big enough that they need to be transplanted into larger pots (they're all crowded into one at the moment). The datura looks like it might be starting to cooperate too. And I never got around to planting the cilantro (it's not too late!) As expected, my old seeds aren't delivering for the most part, but I'm actually pretty happy with my results so far. I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with all those tomatillos...

By the way, if you want to follow what's going on in my garden (among other things) in more detail, follow me on Twitter!

Photos of 'Fruit Punch' poppies and alyssum from Thompson & Morgan; photo of cinnamon basil from Richters. Click to enlarge.