Blueberry Cream Cheese Muffins

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I remember this one coffee shop in my college town had the best pastries – they never had a wide variety, but of the 2 or 3 things they had, everything was always delicious. My favorite was the muffin with cream cheese in the middle – it was so decadent and added a rich tinge to anything I was eating that day. Not to mention, muffins are so light and airy – it’s a wonderful juxtaposition.

In my attempt to not be a burden on the family Thanksgiving celebration, I was determined to make some breakfast treats, as I mentioned in Adult Children and Family Holidays; one of those things was a batch of these blueberry cream cheese muffins! Crazy For Crust has this wonderful recipe, which worked up exactly as she said. I didn’t do the streusel – lazy – but I am confident they would have been even better with that added!

My favorite step was definitely putting a dollop of batter, a gem of cream cheese, and then another dollop of batter on top – it was a fun construction inside some cute parchment paper muffin tins, and after they cooked all brown and caramel-y, they stored really well in a big gallon plastic bag for the trip to see the in-laws! I cannot recommend these enough as an alternative to grabbing grocery store or coffee shop pastries – fast and simple!

 

The Return of Pumpkin Spice: Squash Scones/Cookies

Sometimes, the way I choose my cooking plans is crazy. For instance, when I type “pumpkin cookie shortening” into google because 1. no one makes cookies out of butternut squash and 2. I am running low on inspiration for what to make out of all this squash and 3. somehow I am out of butter AND vegetable oil in my house. Sigh. I’m a mess.

But the internet rewarded me, in the form of this recipe – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/10671/pumpkin-cookies-iii/. It has a cute backstory about a simpler time, and with a couple substitutions (adding chocolate chips, swapping pumpkin puree for mashed roasted butternut squash), the cookies were all set to go.

I made them a little haphazardly big, and because they are so fluffy and cake-y when they come out, they remind me of scones. Everyone has some cookie memories, but I have some lovely scone memories: it was one of the first things I baked all by myself, and I loved the fact that the dough was almost savory and the chocolate chips I put in them made them into a sweet treat. My sister and mother and I once shared a wonderful afternoon at a tea room drinking herbal teas and eating scones with lemon curd… it’s just one of those simple-pleasure foods, something that isn’t necessary but is rather delightful.

So these cookies/scones came with me to a little backyard campfire across town that we attended over the weekend, and they have been my quick go-to breakfast for days, and they seem inexhaustible… much like the squash from which they came, I guess. Still, if you want a treat that reminds you that fall is coming, but don’t quite want to break out the pumpkin puree yet, this is a pretty great way to get your veggies; Vitamin A and C in a cookie!

My Great-Grandmother’s Buttermilk Biscuits – Beware the Over-Improvising…

Today is a story of biscuit woe. I’ve been pretending for a while that my biscuits turn out well, because, honestly, the first day they always taste good. But they turn to hockey pucks with great speed after that. My great grandmother’s recipe is no exception. It’s amazing how it was passed down to me: my grandmother’s sister learned it from her father when she was 8 years old to be able to fill in while my great grandmother, H, was ill; she had 13 children during her lifetime, so you could barely blame her for being under the weather! They didn’t have self-rising flour or electricity, so no mixers. Everything was beaten by hand in a wooden bowl.

The recipe is this:

4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons lard (shortening)

1 cup butter milk

Put the sifted flour in the mixing bowl and make a hole in the flour – add the buttermilk in the hole and sprinkle baking soda on the milk and add salt. Add lard and mix well until soft dough forms. Pinch off a ball of dough and shape to 1/2 inch thick large biscuits. Place on greased oven pan so the biscuits touch. Bake in 400 degree oven until a rich brown.

Let me tell you, this was where my substitution nature got the best of me. I hadn’t planned to try this recipe, but E was in town and we wanted to have a nice breakfast, so I made little corner-cuts until I realized my own recipe was unrecognizeable: no buttermilk so I used regular milk, the baking soda was old, the lard had to be subbed with crisco vegetable shortening. All in all, hockey pucks by midday, though our breakfast was delightful.

I need to return to T’s house, my friend who makes biscuits entirely by feel. I need, also, to buy new baking soda, which might solve my problems. More than anything, I’ve got to respect the biscuit recipe: they know what they are doing. It’s baking, after all: a science experiment. Cooking may yield something different and delicious when I improvise, but baking can be pretty unforgiving!

 

29. B’s Peanut Butter and Jelly

I met Husband’s friend B on a camping trip – he was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, sarcastic and funny, and very athletic. We didn’t have much in common, life-experience-wise, but we definitely bonded around dumb jokes and ridiculous humor. Thus, I was not particularly surprised to find this in the mail along with the other RSVPs last year:

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In honor of B’s goofy spirit, I decided to make this recipe, despite the HUGE AMOUNT OF EFFORT REQUIRED. He skipped a few of the steps in his description, so I will let you know what went into this meal.

FIND A BREAD RECIPE AND MAKE BREAD: I had run out of yeast recently, so I found this recipe for Whole wheat oatmeal honey bread, which I whipped up in not too long. Good thing it took about an hour from start to finish, because I needed food!

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FIND AND PULVERIZE PEANUTS: I don’t have an electric chopper, so I used my hand chopper to crush peanuts down almost to the point of them coalescing into peanut butter. I gave up on this because 1. my hand was tired and 2. I knew he was going to make me mix it with the jam, and who was gonna be able to tell?

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FIND STRAWBERRIES AND MAKE INTO JAM: I didn’t use a recipe for this; I poured frozen strawberries (who can find fresh strawberries this early? No one, I tell you. I don’t have a greenhouse!) and water and sugar into a saucepan and boiled it for ages. When it was thickening, I poured it all into a mason jar and sealed it up to make sure it wouldn’t get too scary inside.

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At breakfast, after a whole evening’s work, I assembled the ingredients: bread, toasted, and a mixture of crushed peanuts/almost peanut butter and strawberry jam.

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I have to say, this was delicious, but perhaps the most work for the littlest pay off of all my recipes so far. B really ought to have sent me something easier, especially since I didn’t even grow the grain, peanuts, or strawberries myself.

Happy April Fools, everyone!