Pumpkin Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin

1/2 cup non-fat yogurt

1/4 cup apple juice

1/4 cup skim milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened

2 cups fresh blueberries

 

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and flour two 12-muffin pans (or one 12-muffin pan and one 9-inch loaf pan).

2.  Combine all-purpose flour, quick oats, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together in a large bowl.  In a separate, larger bowl, cream together the pumpkin puree, yogurt, apple juice, skim milk, eggs and butter.

3.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing by hand until the ingredients are just combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Fill muffin wells just to the top, and fill the loaf pan about halfway.

4. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (aside from blueberry juice), about 30 to 35 minutes for the muffins and about 50 minutes for the loaf.

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Savory Vegetable Tart Redux

Last weekend, I wanted to try my savory vegetable tart recipe in a Springform pan, as I had seen on a few websites.  The pastry recipe was exactly the same.  As for the filling, I used one less egg, omitted the fennel, and omitted the goat cheese for this version (having both goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes made for a saltier tart than I prefer).  It worked out great, although I would probably reduce the quantity of pastry dough on the sides of the tart as it was a little thick and made a serving rather heavy.  This version also required a bit more time in the oven.

Ricotta Corn Muffins

So I had 1/2 a cup of ricotta cheese left over from a big tub my husband used to make my birthday dessert, with the aforementioned tub also contributing to a vegetable tart earlier in the week.  Hmm.  Let’s see how it works with corn meal.

Ingredients

2 eggs

8 tbsp (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup sugar (white)

1/4 cup honey

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup skim milk

1 cup flour

1 cup yellow corn meal

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

Directions

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.

2.  Cream together eggs, butter, sugar and honey using a hand-held mixer.  Add heavy cream and skim milk and beat on low for about 30 seconds, until combined.

3.  Mix in the flour, corn meal, salt and baking powder using a large spoon.  Stir in the ricotta.  Allow the batter to rest for 5 minutes.

4.  Grease the wells of a 12 muffin pan.  Fill each well about 2/3 to 3/4 with the batter.  Bake at 400F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick/tester/knife inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Turn out onto a cooling rack.

The verdict

There was enough batter left for a mini-loaf pan, which took about 45 minutes to bake, or perhaps another 4 muffins if you wanted to make a partial pan.

The muffins had a nice, golden color.  They didn’t have fat muffin tops, so I guess a little extra baking powder is in order for the next batch and perhaps filling the muffin pan wells a little more.

The muffins we extremely moist, perhaps too much so.  They didn’t have that nice moist but crumbly texture that works best for corn muffins.  There was some crumble at the surface, but no crumble in the middle.  Next batch, I think I will omit the skim milk.  And I think I might have to experiment with buttermilk instead of heavy cream.

Taste-wise, the muffins were great.  Just the right amount of sweet with a hint of salt, along with a nice note added by the honey.  I couldn’t taste the ricotta at all.  I guess it just contributed to the texture.  All in all, the 1:1 ratio of all-purpose flour to corn meal was much tastier than the 2:1 or 3:1 flour to corn meal ratios I’ve tried based on other recipes.

Savory Vegetable Tart

Ingredients & Directions

For the tart shell (can be prepared up to a day before and refrigerated):

3 cups all-purpose flour

15 tbsp unsalted butter (1 and 7/8 sticks), room temperature

6 tbsp ice water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, butter, salt and sugar, using your fingers, until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  (Alternatively, pulse ingredients together in a food processor until it resembles coarse bread crumbs).

2.  Slowly add the ice water, adding just enough to allow the dough to combine.  Shape the dough into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 24 hours).

3.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove the dough from the fridge and separate into two pieces, one using about 2/3 of the dough and the other the remaining 1/3 of the dough.  Roll out the larger piece of dough into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  The dough should be about a quarter of a inch thick or slightly less.  Place over a 9-inch tart or pie pan (I prefer the pie pan as it is deeper) and shape to the pan.  Cut the excess dough from around the edges, leaving about 1/2 an inch.  Turn the overhang inwards and crimp the edges.  Repeat with the remainder of the dough, using a smaller tart or pie pan, or mini tart pans.  (I had enough dough for four mini tart pans.)

4.  Cover with foil or parchment paper, using pie weights or dried beans to hold the foil/paper down and keep the center of the dough from puffing up too much.  Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the bottom of the dough is lightly baked through.  Remove the pie weights and foil/paper.  Continue baking for another 15 to 25 minutes, until the crust is lightly golden brown.  Keep an eye on the mini tart pans, if you use them, as the crust will bake faster and may brown too much.  When done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.  Can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours before assembling the tart.

 

For the filling (all but the egg mixture can be prepared up to a day before):

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters lengthwise

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into quarters lengthwise

2 small onions, thinly sliced

1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced

2 red potatoes, washed well and cut into a 3/4 inch dice (does not need to be peeled)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 eggs

3 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)

1 tsp dried red chilli flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Spread the seeded and quartered bell pepper slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.  Heat under a broiler until the skin is blistered and charred and the peppers are mostly cooked through (15 to 20 minutes).  Remove from the oven.  Place the bell pepper pieces in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  After about 15 minutes, remove the plastic wrap.  The steam created in the bowl should have softened the skins.  Peel and discard the skins, chop the peppers into 1/2 inch x 1 inch strips and set aside.

2.  Saute the onions, fennel, 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in olive oil, until the fennel is just softened and the onion begins to caramelize.  Remove from heat and set aside.

3.  Place the potatoes in a microwave safe bowl, along with a 1/2 cup of water.  Microwave on high until the potatoes are just tender.  Drain the water and set aside.

4.  Prepare the egg filling just before you are ready to assemble the tart.  Beat together the 4 eggs and 1 cup of ricotta cheese, along with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, red chilli flakes and 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme.

 

To put it all together:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Layer the onion/fennel mixture, bell peppers and potatoes in the tart shell(s).  Make sure you pour out any excess water.  Sprinkle the feta cheese on top.  Pour the egg/ricotta mixture evenly over the vegetables and feta.  Sprinkle the sun-dried tomatoes on top.

2.  Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes, until the egg/ricotta filling has set and the crust is golden brown.  If the crust browns faster than the egg sets, simply crimp some aluminum foil over the crust to protect it from the heat while the egg cooks.

3.  Allow to set at room temp for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Easy, Cheesy, Any Veggie Bake

There always comes a time when I find that I have small bits of different vegetables in the fridge, but not enough to make an entire dish.  Or, I don’t have any fresh veggies, it’s cold and rainy outside, and I’m too lazy to go out.  I always have at least a few packets of frozen vegetables, potatoes and onions on hand just in case, and mixing the fresh and frozen veggie bits makes for an easy and tasty meal.

Ingredients

3 cups of any mix of vegetables you like, cooked and unseasoned

1/2 cup + 1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs (or 1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp of dried herbs)

1 small onion

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

2 tsp dried red chilli flakes (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp all purpose flour

2 cups fat free milk

1/2 cup gruyere or other cheese which melts well, grated

1/4 cup bread crumbs, unseasoned

2 tbsp parmesan or other hard cheese, grated

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2.  Heat oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onions and saute for a few minutes.  Add garlic (if using) and continue to saute for a few more minutes.  Add the cooked vegetables, herbs (reserving a small amount for later), salt, pepper and red chilli flakes (if using), and mix well.  Continue cooking until heated through.

3.  In a small saucepan, heat the butter over a medium heat.  When the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk continuously until well combined and the flour has cooked (raw flour smell will be gone).  Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously to keep lumps from forming.  Continue cooking on low heat until the sauce thickens.  Slowly add the grated gruyere cheese, whisking until it melts.  Remove from heat.

4.  Mix the breadcrumbs, reserved herbs and parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Place the vegetables in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Pour the cheese sauce over veggies.  Top with the breadcrumb mixture.

5.  Bake in a 350F oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the veggies and sauce are bubbling and the breadcrumb topping has browned.

6.  Serve hot with bread or salad on the side.