Friday, September 25, 2009

Foodie Friday! Blissful Blueberry Muffins

With the weather cooling down, this monkey plans to have an indulgent Sunday brunch on the patio with a few family and friends. This is a favorite muffin recipe that is best when using fresh blueberries. The lemon gives them a brightness and the cinnamon and nutmeg add warmth and depth.

They make a great care package for students off at college or friends who are far away. But I promise you won't see any objections from coworkers, friends or family if you drop a few of these on their desks/doorsteps either.

I enjoy these muffins most when I need to slow down and unwind. They make a great traditional addition to brunches or breakfasts. But I also enjoy grabbing a mug of tea, a good book, one of these muffins and curling up in a comfy chair to make for a great afternoon/evening relaxer.

Blissful Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp Red Monkey organic ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup sugar (White will do, but we like brown sugar)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons Red Monkey organic ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners. Makes 8 regular sized muffins, or 5-6 jumbo muffins.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, baking powder, lemon zest and nutmeg in a bowl. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup.

Mix into flour mixture, taking care to not over mix. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture (see below for topping directions).

To Make Crumb Topping:
Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Try a batch this weekend and enjoy a simple, comforting pleasure. Once you get comfortable with this recipe, see what other fruits and berries you can add/substitute. We like strawberry, blueberry/raspberry, blueberry/strawberry, and the occasional peach muffin. Try some of your favorites!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall Means Chicken and Dumplings

Thursday,fall officially begins and for me it is a time for celebrating the joys of cooking. The crisp cool mornings rejoice of the coming season.The landscape becomes a parade of pumpkins on beds of straw surrounded by bouquets of mums and the scarecrows that are keeping a close watch over them.  Fall brings about such wonderful memories for me growing up on a small farm. Each year as autumn approaches my mind drifts back to those days.

As a child it meant coming home from school to a house filled with an aroma that would comfort the weariest of souls. One of my fondest memories was my mother’s homemade chicken and dumplings. When it comes to comfort food this is and has remained at the top of the list. While my mother made her dumplings from scratch,I adapted the recipe to fit our families busy lifestyle without giving up any of the flavor in this wonderful dish.  For me,this is the perfect ending to a busy day.








Chicken and Dumplings

8 pieces of chicken (2 1/2 lbs.)

2 Red Monkey Bay Leaves

2 celery stalks

1 tsp. Red Monkey Garlic Salt

2 chicken bouillon cubes

2 cans cream of chicken

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup half and half milk

1 can crescent rolls


Place chicken pieces, bay leaves,garlic salt and celery in stock pot and cover with water. Cook chicken on medium high for approx 45 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and remove 1/2 cup of the broth. Keep broth in pot on low heat. Allow chicken to cool until it can be handled safely. Remove the skin and chicken from the bone,discard the skin.Place the chicken pieces back into the pot.  Add the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch to the 1/2 cup of broth and mix making a paste, set aside. (To make it more like a soup omit the cornstarch and broth mixture).

Bring the broth to a boil and add 2 chicken bullion cubes and the 2 cans of cream of chicken. Mix well. Whisk the cornstarch and broth mixture making sure that there are no lumps. Add the 1 cup of half and half and stir until completely mixed.  Turn heat to medium and cut crescent roll into small squares. Add  the squares to the mixture and  coat dumplings with soup ,then cover. Do not remove lid as the steam from the soup is the secret to moist dumplings. Allow dumplings to cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Dumplings will float to the top when they are done. Grind fresh Red Monkey pepper medley over the top and serve in soup bowls.