Monday, May 25, 2009

Pom-Wonderful Ribs for Memorial Day

I still have several bottles of Pom-Wonderful juice in the fridge waiting to be used in some creative way, and since Memorial Day calls for--yea, demands--barbecue, I thought, why not combine the two? My favorite way to prepare ribs is to forego the grill and follow the Alton Brown low-and-slow oven method. So I just reworked the braising liquid to include some pomegranate goodness, and they turned out GREAT! I served them with a fairly basic macaroni salad based on a recipe from "Big Daddy's House" on the Food Network, corn on the cob (from Florida, but very sweet), and the wonderful Austrian tea cake. A memorable meal for Memorial Day!

What made it even more memorable was what happened when I posted my menu on Facebook and invited people to join me (in jest, as most of my FB friends are long-distance). After posting, I left the computer for a couple of hours to tend to some household chores--a mountain of dishes, a load of laundry, cleaning out both fridges, taking out the trash, and so on. I had just taken a break, gone upstairs to use the restroom and was considering jumping in the shower as I was all sweaty and gross, when I begin to hear a banging and my name being called. I stuck my head out of the upstairs window and said, "Hello?" Then I recognized my friend Vicky's voice and saw her truck in my driveway. Apparently, she had read my posting on Facebook and taken me up on my virtual invitation to dinner! Mind you, this woman lives in a cabin in the woods in the Adirondacks and drove about an HOUR on the spur of the moment! (Come to think of it, that may be the nicest compliment I've ever received for my cooking!) However, I looked like an absolute wreck, and the house hadn't really been cleaned thoroughly since before finals! I was absolutely horrified at being so unprepared to received guests. But I opened a bottle of wine, turned on some music, lit some candles, and Vicky and I ended up having a lovely dinner together. And we both learned some lessons. I learned to be careful in issuing open invitations unless I really mean them, and Vicky learned that if she gives me more advance notice, her hostess would look (and smell) more pleasant, and at least the top layer of pet hair would be removed from the surroundings (it is the shedding season, you know)! Tee hee.

I hope you all had a memorable Memorial Day weekend, too!

Pomegranate-and-Honey-Glazed Ribs

2 slabs pork ribs
1/2 to 1 cup BBQ rub

Braising Liquid:
1 cup Pom-Wonderful pomegranate juice
1/4 cup pomegranate balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons honey
4 cloves garlic, chopped

Coat both sides of the ribs liberally with the BBQ seasoning. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place each slab of ribs on one half of a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down, then fold the other half over and seal both side edges but not the top opening. In a microwavable container, combine all ingredients for the braising liquid. Microwave on high for one minute.

Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Pour half of the braising liquid into each foil packet then seal the top openings. Tilt the baking sheet in order to equally distribute the braising liquid. Braise the ribs in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and reduce by half or until of a thick syrup consistency. Brush the glaze onto the ribs. Place under the broiler just until the glaze caramelizes lightly. Slice each slab into 2 rib bone portions. Place the remaining hot glaze into a bowl and toss the rib portions in the glaze.

Mega-Egga Macaroni Salad

(adapted from Food Network's Aaron McCargo, Jr. of "Big Daddy's House")

1 pound elbow noodles (I used shells and spirals)
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and diced (I used only 4, so maybe mine was just super-egga!)
1/4 onion, finely diced (I used 1/4 cup Vidalia onion relish instead)
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/8 cup pickle relish (I used zucchini relish)
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (mine only seemed to need about a cup)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon coarsely-cracked black pepper
dash hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

In a large pot with salt, boil pasta according to package directions. Stir often. Drain and cool. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a large pot with a dash of salt, add eggs on medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let eggs sit for 6 to 7 minutes. Remove eggs and shock in ice water. Once thoroughly cooled, peel eggs and roughly dice.

Place pasta in a large bowl. Add onions, celery, eggs, relish, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Mix until well combined. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled before serving.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Culinary Conquest Completed: Austrian Tea Cake

As you probably already know, I live near a very small city, and in that small city, there is but one real bakery. Ever since I moved here nine years ago, people have been extolling the virtues of said bakery, but I never could understand why. Almost everything I had there was no better than what you could get at the local supermarket, and in fact, the cakes at Price Chopper were better! There were only two things at this local bakery that I thought were excellent—a pecan coffee ring (kind of like a round Danish) and something they called Austrian tea cake. A friend of mine, herself a very talented baker, told me that she worked at this bakery for one day once upon a time, but she quit after her first shift. She was horrified that much of the products that they used were of poor quality, such as those prefab fillings that you buy in long, plastic tubes. And the cakes were all made ahead of time and frozen for months, then defrosted and re-moistened with simple syrup. When I asked her about the pecan coffee ring and the Austrian tea cake, she confirmed that these were some of the very few things there that were homemade from scratch.

Recently, our local bakery that had been run by the same family for generations was sold to another owner, a Polish baker, as I’ve heard the story told. But I am sad to report that the quality does not seemed to have improved, because the new baker’s philosophy (via a quote in the local paper) is along the lines of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But it is indeed broken, and though he promises some changes over time, they can’t come soon enough to suit me! Of course, I bake my own stuff, so I don’t really have the need to frequent a bakery too often. And there is always Montreal with its endless numbers and varieties of European-style delicacies just an hour away. However, I sure would like to be able to be able to make that tea cake for myself at home!

I have searched online many times for something by the name of Austrian tea cake, but I always ended up finding cookie recipes. Then I ran into a posting on some German baking site from someone in Plattsburgh looking for the same recipe. I emailed her to see if she’d had any luck. Interestingly, she had some sort of relation by marriage to the previous owners of the bakery (everyone is someone’s cousin in Plattsburgh!), but even so, they could not be compelled to divulge the secret family recipe. Boo hiss. But she did discover one important clue…that the cake was soaked in a buttermilk and butter glaze. Ah-ha! The Austrian tea cake was always very moist and rich, having clearly been soaked in some magical solution. But I didn’t know what. A buttermilk glaze—of course! The cake has that characteristic tang that I should have recognized as buttermilk.

So with some additional Googling of various similar cakes finished with a soak of buttermilk glaze, I tried to fashion something close the original. Though I produced a couple of very tasty cakes, they weren’t quite right. So I back-burnered that project for (interestingly) almost exactly one year to the day, when out of the blue, the same nice lady emailed me to let me know that she had finally wrangled the recipe out of the original owner of our local bakery. However, the recipe was on a MASSIVE, bakery-sized scale, and it was written in weighted measurements. It also did not include the buttermilk glaze. So I set myself to task, cutting down the recipe for home use, converting the measurements, and adding a glaze that I thought would work well. Moreover, my policy is that everything can be improved with nuts, so I added some, but you can omit them if you want to stay close to the original cake. SUCCESS at last! This tea cake is quick and delicious—in fact, you don’t even need to dirty your big mixer for this, as it can easily be mixed up by hand. Who needs to go to a bakery, anyway?

Buttermilk and Toasted Walnut Tea Cake

For the cake:
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped (optional, but highly desirable!)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, oil, and eggs until thick and smooth. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Add the vanilla to the wet mix, then alternate the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in thirds. Toss in the toasted nuts, if using, and mix just enough to combine. (Another option instead of nuts would be to add a good amount of poppy seeds. I may have to try that version next time!)

Spray a 9x13 dish with flour-added baking spray. Pour in the batter, and rap on the counter to remove most of the bubbles. Bake at 375 degrees for fifteen minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and bake for another 45 minutes or until the cake is evenly browned all over, the top springs back when touched, and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool on a rack for a few minutes while you prepare the buttermilk glaze.

For the glaze:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, combine the buttermilk, sugar, butter and baking soda. Bring to a full boil (watch out—it will foam up!), and then turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Using a bamboo skewer, poke the warm cake all over with small holes. Spoon the glaze evenly over the cake (start with about half then see if it will absorb anymore--you won't use it all), then let it cool completely on the rack. The cake can be eaten just like this, or preferably, frost the top with your favorite frosting*. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator.

*I used about a half a batch of this recipe (without any Cool Whip).

Follow-Up 6/2/13: This recipe works great (maybe even better) as cupcakes! It makes 24 or 25 with the batter filled 3/4 of the way up two cupcake tins lined with individual baking papers. Bake for 15 minutes at 375, then another 20-25 minutes at 250. Prepare only half the buttermilk glaze, and spoon one teaspoon over each cupcake.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Too Much Neufchatel!

I taught two cheesemaking classes within the last month, and though one can easily make ricotta and mozzarella within the span of a three-hour session, Neufchatel takes a couple/few days. So like they do on t.v., I had to prepare batches ahead of time to have swap-outs in class. As you can imagine, that ultimately left me with quite a lot of Neufchatel on my hands...rather, in my fridge. One can only eat so many schmeared bagels, so I needed some other ideas. My first thought was to make a cheesecake out of the lovely, silky, swoopy stuff. Unfortunately, my initial attempt was not particularly successful. I think I needed to pull back the moisture content--particularly the eggs--as the homemade Neufchatel is not as dry or dense as regular cream cheese. I ended up with something tasty, but with an undesirably loose, almost curdled texture. I'll have to keep working on that idea, I guess.

However, I had great success with converting a lemon cream cheese pound cake recipe that someone had posted on Yahoo Answers. The Neufchatel gave the cake a lovely tangy quality, and the texture was sturdy but amazingly tender at the same time. Instead of lemon flavoring, I substituted lemon oil which gave it a deliciously (and naturally) tart flavor. This recipe is terrific, and could only be improved by being served with freshly-whipped cream and some ripe summer berries when they appear at the markets later in the season. Bookmark this one, people! It is a surefire BBQ/potluck/picnic hit!

Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake

1 8 oz. package cream cheese or Neufchatel, softened
3 sticks butter, softened
3 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
3 cups cake flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and lightly floured bundt cake pan.

Cream together cream cheese, butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs,one and a time, beating well after each addition. Add lemon oil. Mix in flour, just enough to combine. Spoon into prepared pan.

Let bake for 45 to 55 minutes, depending on your oven. (Mine took between 70-75 minutes, and I had to cover the top of the cake with tin foil toward the end to prevent over-browning).

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I started this little blog about three and a half years ago to amuse myself, my friends, and any interested readers that happened to wander along. I never aspired to go commercial with it (though I've had a few offers to place ads on my site), nor did I expect to attract thousands of visitors a day like, say, a couple of my very favorites, Smitten Kitchen or The Pioneer Woman. However, I must admit to a wee bit of jealousy when some of my favorite bloggers received free SWAG from food product companies hoping to get advertising on those blogs. If a product is really good, I always share with my readership--as evidenced by my previous post about my latest food find, Blue Smoke Coffee. But I guess my blog still wasn't high-profile enough for anyone to notice or want to court my attentions to pimp their products. Boo hiss.

But then a couple of weeks ago, an email popped up in my inbox from "The PomBlogger" at Pom Wonderful, the awesome pomegranate juice company, asking if I'd like a free case of Pom Wonderful to enjoy. My mama didn't raise no fool, so of course, I said YES! About a week later, a box arrived with eight bottles of Pom Wonderful, cushioned with little ice packs to keep them fresh until delivery. I was tempted to just crack a couple open and suck them down on the spot, or better yet, make a lovely cocktail with some of the sweet and healthful juice. But I decided to ration them and try to come up with some new pomegranate-based recipes. (It seemed the least I could do to thank Pom Wonderful for the freebies!)

Of course, I have already extolled the virtues of pomegranate-glazed pork, but I wanted to develop my own savory recipe. I got to thinking about pomegranate molasses and how it's a staple in Middle Eastern cooking. I knew I wanted to do a meat dish, so that led me to consider glazing some kibbeh (Lebanese meatloaf of sorts), as we might top American meatloaf with a ketchup-based sauce. But I wanted something I could leave to do its thing in the crock pot all day, so I downshifted from meatloaf to meatballs that were flavored with Middle Eastern spices and then cooked in a sweet glaze comprised of pomegranate juice and some of my honeybell marmalade.

They turned out GREAT, if I do say so myself! The meat was juicy and flavorful and spicy with just a bit of heat that truly complemented the sweet, fruity sauce. And it's nice to have another crock pot meatball recipe to add to the repertoire, something different from Italian, Swedish, Hawaiian, barbecue, or that old standby, chili sauce and grape jelly. These would be terrific for a party, as it made a TON! To serve them as I meal, I whipped up some rice pilaf with toasted almonds, and served it all with fattoush--a green salad with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing and bits of toasted pita bread tossed in. Primary ingredients would usually include lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, onions, and fresh parsley and/or mint and the toasted pita bits. Then you also might choose to add feta cheese, black olives, carrots, bell peppers, and especially with this meal, pomegranate arils! Delish! THANKS, Pom Wonderful!

Mediterranean Meatballs with Citrus-Pomegranate Glaze
Makes about 58 meatballs (though you could easily halve this recipe)

6 sets of (4) crackers (Waverly Wafers or saltines)
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce (to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 cup honeybell (or orange) marmalade
8 oz. Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice

Heat the milk in the microwave for a minute or two until hot but not boiling over. Crumble the crackers into the milk, fully submerging them, and set aside to soften. In a very large frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and saute the onions until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two until it has softened.

In a large mixing bowl, place the ground beef and add the sauteed onions and garlic. Mix in herbs, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and spices. Then mix in the cracker and milk mixture. Using your hands, gently combine all the ingredients. Using a regular cookie scoop (2 oz?), scoop out meat mixture into your hands and finish rolling into balls. Fill the large frying pan with the meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, in the bottom of a slow cooker, stir together the marmalade and pomegranate juice. Add the meatballs to the crock pot and stir gently to coat with the glaze. Cook on high for a couple of hours or on low for several hours.

Toasted Almond Rice Pilaf

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cups long-grained white rice
1/3 pound thin pasta (angel hair or vermicelli), broken into fourths
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped finely
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a large sauce pan (that has a tight-fitting lid), melt the butter and olive oil together, then saute the diced onion until soft and translucent. Stir in the rice and pasta and cook until they start to turn golden brown. Pour in the chicken stock, mix everything together, and bring to a boil. Cover with the lid, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

When the rice has finished steaming, fluff with a large fork, and mix in the parsley and toasted almonds before serving.

*I realized too late that a pinch of saffron thrown in with the broth before steaming the rice would have been the perfect addition. Oh time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'd Rather Be BLUE Over You (Than Happy with Somebody Else)

Ok, I have the GREATEST discovery to share with you, dear readers! No, scratch that. Credit must go to my beloved friend, Mike, for this one. When he was here visiting at the end of March, I ran out of coffee, and so we picked some up at one of my favorite specialty shops at the Atwater Market in Montreal, Les Douceurs Du Marché. As I was waiting for my coffee to be ground (as I knew we'd be going through it quickly with my friends in town), Mike started sharing with me about this company that he had been ordering his coffee from of late called Blue Smoke Coffee Roasting Company out of Gatlinburg, TN. (Are you hearing Ronnie Milsap in your head now? Thought so.) Mike spoke highly of their personal customer service and environmentally-conscious policies, and of course, about their delicious coffee blends. I filed this information somewhere deep in my messy little brain, but did not get around to ordering from Blue Smoke until Mike was discussing a coffee drink recipe last week on Facebook, and Kevin Price, the owner/roaster at Blue Smoke, posted a reply. That reminded me that I had been meaning to try some Blue Smoke for myself.

I went onto their website, and I ordered one pound each (whole bean) of two of their most popular blends, Appalachia (medium roast) and Canopy (dark roast). The transaction was easy, completed through PayPal, and I almost immediately got a personal shout-out from Kevin on Facebook, thanking me for my order. The next day, I had an email thanking me again for "the opportunity" to roast my coffee, and also informing me that he would like to throw in an extra half pound for free, recommending one of their newest blends called LeConte. Sure, I said! Whatever the master roaster recommends, I'll drink! I promptly received a confirmation of my order, and by the same evening, I had another email to let me know that Kevin had just finished custom-roasting my coffee, and that it was on its way! People, this was less than 24 hours after I hit "enter" on my order! Is that INCREDIBLE, or what? What is even more amazing to me was receiving another email from Kevin on Saturday saying that, when he checked the tracking information, it said that my package had been cleared through Albany, so he hoped that it had made it onto a northbound postal truck in time for me to enjoy some Blue Smoke over the weekend. Sadly, it did not. (Not his fault that I live WAY UP HERE in the middle of nowhere!) I was haunting the mailbox in my jammies on Saturday morning, and though a Fed Ex truck did a cruelly disappointing u-turn in my driveway, there was no shipment for me. Boo hiss. Still, I was so impressed by his concern and follow-through on the order!

I was sure that the package would arrive Monday morning, and I was looking forward to brewing myself some Blue Smoke to jump start finals week. Again, though I kept an eagle eye on the mailbox, nuthin. When I left for my final late in the afternoon, I did one more check of the mailbox, and lo and behold, the mail carrier must have slipped past me, but left my aromatic package at long last! The box itself was charming, decorated with custom Blue Smoke labels, but that's all I could ascertain at that time, as I was running late to my final (as is my way). When I got home that night, I opened the box, and was immediately enchanted by the delectable aromas within and, it must be said, by the GORGEOUS blue packaging! The coffee had been packed beautifully and with care. When I first opened the box, I was greeted with a Blue Smoke postcard, and under that, a hand-written Post-It Note from Kevin, thanking me once again for giving him the "honor of roasting my coffee." (Um, anybody had personalized customer service like that recently? Like since the 1950's? Didn't think so.)

Pulling back the lovely blue tissue paper, I revealed three stunning (blue, of course) bags of coffee and a pamphlet about their company. By the bye, I could go on all day about Blue Smoke's environmentally-conscious practices. They only buy fair trade, shade-grown, organic beans, supporting indigenous peoples and communities from Latin America (closer to us than Africa, thus further reducing their carbon footprint, though they are already a carbon-neutral company). They also support environmental efforts near home by donating a percentage of sales from certain special blends to local non-profits, including Appalachian Voices, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Riverlink, a group supporting the revitalization of the French Broad River that runs through North Carolina and Tennessee. Finally, Blue Smoke is a member of 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses who donate at least 1% of their annual profits to environmental projects. I am a passionate locavore, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, but we also know that none of us can source our coffee locally. So it makes me feel a lot better about purchasing coffee from a company like Blue Smoke that is clearly making great efforts to reduce further harms to our planet.
This morning, I got up early to grade papers, and as I was letting the dogs out, I brewed my first pot of the medium-roast LeConte Blend. Oh, friends! It was just lovely stuff! The beans were plump and glossy, the aroma emanating from the bag was heavenly, and the taste was ultra-smooth--bright and sweet, even somewhat fruity. It was the perfect complement to a sunny but brisk spring morning here in the North Country. Well done, Blue Smoke Roasting Company, well done! I can't wait to try the Appalachia* and what I have a sneaking suspicion will be my favorite, the darker Canopy Blend**. I will report back, of course.

In the meantime, I implore you coffee lovers out there to put down the Starbucks, back away from it at once and head directly to your computer to order yourself some Blue Smoke ASAP! Besides being such an environmentally-conscious company run by really cool people offering the most AMAZING customer service, I have neglected to mention that their prices are quite reasonable, It costs more than grocery store coffee (blech!), but they are certainly competitive with Starbucks and the like. I believe that the Appalachia was $12.95/lb. and the Canopy was $11.95/lb. The shipping was about five or six bucks, but as they threw in a free half pound of coffee, I'd say that about evens out! And I would like to remind you once again that they micro-roast your individual order as soon as you place it! Even if you can't afford a butler or chauffeur, you can have your own personal coffee roaster just by ordering from Blue Smoke! (Check out the picture below--how cute, huh?! And such attention to detail!) So competitive prices plus uncommonly personal service? I think it's a heck of a deal! Once you taste Blue Smoke Coffee, I bet you'll agree.

*This commercial for Blue Smoke Coffee has been brought to you by me, and has not been approved by anyone other than me. I hold no stock in the company, and I paid for my own order, thank you very much. I DID get an extra half pound of coffee for free, but you will, too, if you order two pounds at once. I just think they're a fantastic company making a terrific product, and I wanted to share the recommendation with my readers--especially the coffee fiends among you! ;-)

*Mmmmm....had the Appalachia this morning (5/13). It's richer than the LeConte, but maintains a nice amount of acidity. It's a little smoky and a little spicy. Delish!
**(5/14) Oh, had me at "hello." Dark but not the least bit bitter, smooth like Barry White, and dare I say it, more than a bit chocolatey? This is the one.

Monday, May 11, 2009

One Whole Weekend Off Calls for a Special Breakfast!

It may actually have been a couple of MONTHS since I had an entire weekend off with no obligations, so last weekend was SUCH a blessing--especially heading into the final two ugly weeks of the semester. I may have done a few light chores around the house and run a load of laundry, and of course, graded some papers. But mostly, I just took the long-awaited opportunity to catch my breath! I didn't even have the desire or will for any intricate weekend cooking projects. However, a college friend had the indecency and cruelty to mention Cracker Barrel to me recently, though the closest one to me is more than two hours away! Rather than feel sorry for myself, I scoured these internets until I found a recipe for their buttermilk pancakes as published in a Cracker Barrel cookbook. I added some toasted pecans to simulate their delicious pecan pancakes, and....TA-DAH!

They were fluffy and tangy and crunchy, and all the good things that pecan pancakes should be, especially when topped with butter and fresh, local maple syrup. These are going into the regular brunch rotation from now on! I encourage you to make them at your earliest convenience. You won't be sorry.

"Cracker Barrel" Pecan Pancakes
(Source: adapted from
Serves 4 -5 , 12 -15 pancakes

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (heaping)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1 (generous) cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

oil or butter (for cooking)
butter and maple syrup, for serving

Mix all ingredients together until incorporated, but do not overmix. Heat a griddle or nonstick pan under medium to medium high heat, and grease with a little butter or oil (more if you like a crispy edge). Drop batter using a 1/4 cup measuring cup onto hot pan. Once the bottom side is golden, flip and brown remaining side.

Serve with butter and real maple syrup.

On Sunday, I did find the strength to wash and groom the two PBGVs and then take them into town for the annual Adirondack Humane Society Pet Walk fundraiser. The rain held off, and it was a lovely event for both humans and canines. When we got back home, I had just enough energy left to throw together a quick batch of muffins to take to work the next day to share with my beleagured colleagues whose grading load at present is (to quote a line from the beautiful French film, I've Loved You So Long) "soul-destroying."

I first saw this recipe for the cheerfully-named Good Morning Muffins on the Pioneer Woman's blog. PW has yet to let me down, and I thought the citrusy muffins might be just the thing to use up some of the honeybell marmalade that I made last year--especially the batch that didn't set up as much as I would have liked. Sure enough, they were sunny-tasting, and the orange flavor was complemented by the crunchy, sugary topping, particularly when I added a bit of ginger to it. Perhaps your co-workers would appreciate it if you baked them some, too? :-)

Good Morning Muffins
(Source: adapted from
The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)
Makes 18 muffins

4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup shortening (can use 1/4 cup shortening with 1/4 cup butter but PW says they bake up higher and lighter with shortening only)
2 cups orange marmalade
1 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (next time, I will try some finely-chopped candied ginger)
1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Place in a mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter to mix in shortening (or butter/shortening if desired). Mix marmalade, orange juice, and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour into dry ingredients. Beat eggs and pour into the bowl. Mix all ingredients together gently, using fewer than 10 large strokes.

In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients. Fill muffin pans with batter (I used cupcake liners). Sprinkle one heaping teaspoon of topping ingredients over each muffin. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes until done. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Eat warm or at room temperature.