All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

butternut squash muffins on a glowing day

What a gorgeous, glowing day.  The trees are still showing color, especially a heady yellow on the beech trees.  Being surrounded by the colors of autumn make me think of all those delicious squashes and pumpkins - and though I do tend to bake wildly and enthusiastically with canned pumpkin, I boldly ventured into using a fresh butternut squash last night.  

I peeled half of a large butternut, cut it into chunks, and simmered it until it was soft, then drained it and proceeded with the muffin recipe I had for sweet potato muffins.  What resulted was a dense, not-too-sweet muffin, moist and lighter in taste than my pumpkin muffins and a perfect breakfast muffin.  You can toast it, but there's no need for butter at all because of the butternut puree.  Delicious!

Butternut Squash muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins.

First, prepare the butternut squash puree:

2 cups peeled butternut, cut into chunks
water to cover

Simmer the squash until tender, then drain and mash.

The muffins:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Place cupcake papers in a regular sized muffin tin.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 extra large eggs
1 1/2 cups of the butternut mash
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
chopped pecans for tops (optional)

Cream the butter and sugar in mixer bowl, then add the eggs and mix again.

Add the butternut puree, the flour and baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, mix well, then use an ice cream scoop to scoop batter into a 12 muffin tin that you've lined with cupcake papers, 1 scoop per muffin.

Sprinkle with the chopped pecans if desired, and bake for 30 minutes, or until tops are firm when gently pressed in the middle. Because the muffins are so dense with puree, they need to bake the full 30 minutes, even if the tops are firm before that.

Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely before storing or wrapping (or devouring!)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin muffins with crystallized ginger for October

October brings transcendental and brilliant leaves drifting to the still-unfrozen ground.  Those of us in New England watch the weather forecast, covering the last of our lettuces and cabbages when the temperature dips below 30 degrees.  Fresh, sun-kissed tomatoes are a distant memory, and the days shorten and darken.  Is it any wonder that we seize on the rich taste of pumpkin anything?  Nevermind Halloween, pumpkin is like chocolate in these dwindling days of light - a deep, dark, luscious, and  spicy taste to welcome in the changing of our seasons.  It is lovely, whether roasted or pureed, brushed with butter or olive oil, sprinkled with thyme leaves or nutmeg.

I celebrate the season with these remarkable muffins from Sarah Leah Chase from her delicious cookbook, Nantucket Open House Cookbook, and, I have to say, one of the only recipes I've made from a cookbook that was perfect, just as she wrote it.  It's everything you would want in an autumn muffin, and one I look forward to making at this change of season.  The richness of pumpkin combined with the juicy, spicy nuggets of crystallized ginger are simply stunning.

From Open House Cookbook:

This makes around a dozen Texas size muffins - two scoops of batter per muffin.  Obviously, it will make more if you make smaller muffins.  It also works as a loaf cake or a dense, delicious round cake, topped with sweetened whipped cream.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease Texas size muffin tins, or cake tins, with vegetable shortening.

1 can (15 oz) unsweetened pumpkin puree
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
3 1/2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
about 1 t. kosher salt
4 1/2 t. cinnamon
4 1/2 t. ginger
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

Place pumpkin, sugar, and melted butter in mixer bowl.  Mix briefly, then add the eggs and beat until smooth.  Add the cider or apple juice.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves into a bowl, then gradually sift into the pumpkin mixture until smooth.  Stir in the crystallized ginger.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop two scoops into each Texas size muffin tin, or, fill cake tins or smaller size muffin tins to about 3/4ths.

Bake until the the muffins are firm to the touch when gently pressed in the center - about 25 minutes.  Cakes will take longer.  Remove to a cooling rack for ten minutes, then gently remove from tins to another cooling rack and let cool completely, especially if you're icing them.

Enjoy the season, wherever you are!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

chunky oats and fresh apples for breakfast

It is apple picking time again here in New Hampshire, and the first thing I made with those fresh, juicy Macs was my very favorite breakfast this time of year.  Rolled oats with chunks of apples, cinnamon sugar, and a good drizzle of honey, heaven on these first chilly mornings when the temperature is 40 degrees, but no hard frost quite yet.

I take a quick hike up the hill first thing in the morning, delighting in the flash of sunrise, and come back to a lovely hot breakfast steeping on the stove, and remembering so many autumns in the past, when I was a very busy Mom.  Enjoy!

"This cool, clear morning brings back a lot of memories of this time of year with my children. Taking my daughter to the 7 o 'clock bus, still barely light. Hauling buckets of water down the hill to the horse in the fresh autumn air. Soccer games after school, when the weather could be anything from summerlike to sleet; picking apples at our local orchard. The mad search for mittens and hats, sweaters and parkas.
This time of year I often made this hearty oatmeal for my children, hoping to fill them up and keep them warm and healthy, and this morning I made it for myself, for all the same reasons. Finding the nuggets of slightly soft, warm apples in the buttered and sugared oats somehow makes the morning memorable. I measure a large (very large!) dollop of local honey into my spoon, and tip it on top of the oats, licking the spoon clean. Enjoy the season!"
(from October, 2010)

To make:
2 medium apples, peeled and cored, cut into chunks
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
2 T. cinnamon sugar (a little cinnamon stirred into sugar)
2 t. butter
1/8 t. kosher salt
Place the water, salt, cinnamon sugar, butter, and apples in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the oats, turn down the heat, and cook on medium low, for about ten minutes. Take off the heat and cover until ready to serve.
Serve with maple syrup , honey, or more cinnamon sugar.

Monday, October 8, 2012

roasted chicken with green garden sauce: the end of summer

Tonight the chill at 5 o'clock was obvious - summer is over, and fall is creeping in.  The last few nights have been brisk enough to start a fire in the woodstove . Instead of vibrant ( and what I call "transcendental") brilliant orange and red leaves, we have seen only the slow yellow fading of the summer greening.   The brisk weather inspired me to roast a little chicken, but instead of the tarragon chicken I usually make, I thought of my friend from Red Maple Farm, who makes a glorious adieu to her garden with a zesty, green sauce of everything from tomatillos to pinched leaves of chard and the last cucumbers.  Though lacking tomatillos, the sauce I made from bits of this, and leaves of that, I was able to come up with something that shouted a last goodbye to the garden.

First, you need a small chicken. Preheat oven to 400F. Rinse the chicken, pat it dry, then smear with unsalted butter and drizzle a little olive oil over, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Squeeze a lemon all over the chicken, including the inside cavity, then put the squeezed lemon inside the chicken.  Roast for an 1/2 hour, then turn heat down to 350F.  Roast for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the legs move easily when jiggled - it depends on the size of the chicken and the temperature when it was put in the oven.

For the green sauce:

Take a stroll through your garden or herb garden ( or your fridge!) gathering mild greens in a basket.  Avoid strong-tasting herbs, as this is a mild, fresh-tasting sauce.  Avoid basil, sage, more than a pinch of oregano, garlic.

I used:
 1 cucumber, washed and partly peeled, cut up
a handful of arugula
a handful of green tomatoes
a small handful of onion/scallion tops
a handful of parsley, both Italian and frilly
a few stems and leaves of green chard
a few chives, snipped
a small handful of nasturtium leaves
sea salt and pepper
a few drizzles of olive oil
Oh how I wish I had bought some tomatillos!  They are amazing !  Tangy, spicy, delicious.  And sorry to to have forgotten to bring home some radish leaves, which are amazingly tasty in sauces, like this, or green smoothies.

Place in food processor and coarsely puree.  Taste, and correct seasonings- it usually needs more salt.  Serve on top of sliced roasted chicken, along with the last tomatoes and some fingerling potatoes.


Monday, October 1, 2012

the bisonburger

You might remember that photo I took last June when I suddenly came upon a herd of buffalo fenced beside the very rural road in town.  To say I was astonished isn't even close.  I always saw pictures of them thundering across a Western plain;  to come across them in a vibrantly green field of grass in New Hampshire was worth several double-takes.

Saturday, the very kind farmer/rancher of Summit Meadow Farm threw a huge party for the townspeople, with free tastings of his bison (bison and buffalo are used interchangeably) - there were bison sausages with fennel, bison steak tips, bisonburgers, bison chili.  I tried them all, and they were all delicious, though a little heavy on the barbecue spice rub for my tastebuds, and I was eager to try to find some fresh bison to cook at home.    

Just as I was leaving, passing the most adorable black pigs I've ever laid eyes on, I overheard him say some bison burger would be available at our local market.  This morning I was pleased to be the first customer of a very limited amount of bison burger - and when it was gone, it would be 8 months before any more was available.

I was told bison is best very fresh, cooked quickly on high heat, and removed from the heat while it was still rare.  Let sit, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bite in.   A very bright taste, and while there was some fat in the grind, it's a small amount compared to beef.  Love at first taste.

What's to like about it besides the taste?  Knowing it spent the summer not two miles away in a beautiful pasture, and really, that's what buying local is all about.

I made slider size burgers, just a handful of bison burger, salt and pepper, seared on both sides quickly in a saute pan with a little unsalted butter and olive oil, and removed off heat to sit briefly before plating.  Rare is good with these burgers.

For a fancier version, I cut a round of bread ( lacking slider buns), drizzled a little homemade ranch dressing on top of the bread, added lettuce and a little chopped sweet red pepper.