All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

buttermilk bran muffins and too many boxes

Early Sunday morning in the kitchen, I made the coffee, pulled out my muffin tins and buttered them, set up the mixer, pulled out the ingredients - and looked for the recipe for my favorite buttermilk bran muffins.  My recipe notebook was missing in the mess of boxes and piles as I prepare to move in a few weeks.  I checked my blog, and was surprised to see I hadn't updated the recipe in a long time.  Two hours later, my notebook showed up under a box of papers to be filed (if it were up to me, I would file everything in the recycled paper box for the dump).  BIG sigh of relief.

I know even saying the words "bran muffins" sounds dismal, doesn't it?  Most bran muffins have an odd metallic taste to me, which is why I treasure this recipe.  Soft, filling, bouncy, with plumped, juicy raisins folded into the batter , it's still my favorite muffin.  Not too sweet, not too heavy, and a delicious flavor, and pretty much fail proof.   They freeze well, too.

Buttermilk Bran Muffins with plumped raisins

3 cups wheat bran ( I get mine from the health food store) divided
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup light oil
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs - I always use extra large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a medium bowl, add 1 cup of the bran, the raisins, and the boiling water.  Stir and set aside.

Grease your muffin tins well, or line tins with muffin papers and set aside.

In mixer bowl, add the rest of the bran, the light oil, cinnamon, baking soda, flour, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk and mix briefly.  Add the wet mix of bran, hot water, and plumped raisins and mix again.

Using a regular ice cream scoop, scoop batter into tins - I use two scoops for my Texas size muffins, one scoop for normal sized muffins.  Here you can see the difference between the sizes: 

Bake 20 minutes for normal size, and five or ten minutes more for the big muffins.  The muffin tops should spring back when you press them gently on their tops.

Let cool on cooling rack, then remove from tins with a dull knife to cool further.


Hope you enjoy this beautiful Spring day!  The last few mornings out the kitchen window, the dark lilacs are fluttering with beautiful butterflies.

Monday, May 18, 2015

juicy melon balls with fresh berries - and blooming lilacs

Oh, how the moving continues!  The house is full of boxes - one corner is books, lots and lots of books, that no longer seem important.  But another corner holds boxes of books so dear to my heart - and the photo albums of family through the years.  Much harder than I realized, all those memories.


The air is balmy, the grass is green, and it was once again time for my favorite warm weather snackaroo - juicy melon (watermelon and cantaloupe, but honeydew is great as well, if you can find a ripe one), mixed with fresh raspberries and mint.  Blackberries and tiny wild strawberries work as well - or currants, if you have them, and blueberries, which, of course, come later in the season.

Our local farmer's markets here in New Hampshire now have the most amazing fruits - I bought some fresh organic peaches last year that were the best I'd tasted in years:  and grown right here in Hancock, which is zone 3-4.  Amazing.

The lilacs are blooming, and we have both the dark purple ones, that last a very long time and spread throughout our town via cuttings from one avenue of them - and the powdery light lilacs that quickly rust, but are heavenly, very briefly.  We have had no rain at all for weeks and weeks, but some finally is supposed to come tomorrow.

You will need to buy a melon baller from your local kitchen store or supermarket - a handy, low tech tool that makes this so pretty.  Mine has a large ball at one end, and a smaller one at the other.  I find the smaller baller to work best if you're making a tray of these melon balls for a party - with a few large balls mixed in . 

You can assemble them in clear, squat glasses, or plastic ones for a large group.  How perfect is this for parties and early summer celebrations?  Just make sure you make them at the most a few hours before, so they are juicy and moist, and keep them briefly in the fridge if the weather is hot.  The mint is best snipped just before serving - and check for bugs before serving!

Happy Spring, feels like Summer!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mystery Monday: what am I making?

Answer:  If you said Vichyssoise, you were partly right - but given the temperature is close to 60 - a little chilly, it would be Potage Parmentier, basically, which is warm vichyssoise with a little extra butter.  The only recipe I found was this, but I was horrified it called for garlic.

My recipe goes back to Le Bocage, I think - it's possible I changed it over the years.  Actually, it's VERY possible:)

You will need:
2 cups clean leek whites, sliced and washed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup water
2 cups light chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon tarragon (my favorite) or dill (dried)
1 teaspoon thyme (dried)
2 cups washed small potatoes, sliced or quartered
kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 last tablespoon unsalted butter, after pureeing
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced, from the garden for garnish

Saute the leeks in the butter for 15 minutes in a large saucepan, then add the water, chicken stock, potatoes, thyme and tarragon or dill and cook until the potatoes are soft.  Make sure the mixture has enough liquid, not enough liquid and it will scorch.

Remove from heat and puree with a stick processor, or a food processor, then add the cream and butter and puree one more time.

Pour or ladle into bowls and top with your lovely fresh chives, serve warm with warm bread and butter and a nice little salad.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

ground turkey and spring greens meatballs

When my son and his wife (and most important:  Baby Max!) visited last week they brought a wonderful salad mix I'd never had - it's organic, from Earthbound Farm, and is a delicious mix of baby spinach, greens, radicchio, and arugula. After they left, I realized we'd barely eaten half the box, so I made up these meatballs.  Not little ones, big, ice-cream scoop size, all this packing is making me hungry!  They were so good I stood at the counter eating them warm from the skillet - so much for good manners:)

While sorting through the freezer I discovered I had five bags of frozen cranberries - 5 bags!  Ever since the year there was a shortage of cranberries, I tend to panic in the Fall and stash extras in the freezer for my cranberry muffins, but five is a little excessive.  So I added a cup of berries to a saucepan and cooked them just until they started popping, then served them as a side. I loved the tang of the berries with the fairly mild turkey mixture, but that leaves me with 4 1/2 bags to go!

Once the meatballs are made, cooking time is short - I cooked them for 18 minutes, covered, until there was no pink when I cut them with the fork.

Ground Turkey and Spring Greens meatballs

1 package of ground turkey , mine was 20 oz.
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
a few grindings of pepper
1/2 cup finely minced greens (about two handfuls)
2 T. finely minced onion (one small onion)
1/2 teaspoon whole thyme
1 heaping tablespoon Panko crumbs (optional)
dash hot pepper sauce or Worcestershire sauce (or both)

1 cup frozen cranberries

Mince the greens in a food processor, scrape out into a dish, then mince a small onion - no need to wash the container after the greens, since they are dry.

Place turkey into a bowl and break up with a spoon, then add the greens and onion, the thyme, salt, pepper, Panko, and sauce, if wished.  Form into large meatballs with your very clean hands, or use an ice cream scoop.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil in a skillet, add the meatballs, and cook five minutes.  Turn the meatballs then turn the heat to medium-low and cover.   Cook another 13 minutes, then remove from heat and uncover pan. 

In a small saucepan, cover the cranberries with water and bring to a boil, uncovered.  When the cranberries begin to pop, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Serve unsweetened cranberry sauce on the side with the meatballs - and dig in!


A tiny sprinkle of rain a few minutes ago - we haven't had rain in weeks!  As you see, the front garden is doing well.  And I have 21 boxes packed for the Big Minneapolis Move, now about a month and a half away.

Monday, May 4, 2015

pickled leek and red onion relish and some astounding news

Good beautiful afternoon from hot and sunny New Hampshire!  If I disappeared suddenly two weeks ago, it was because I was running around flapping my arms and squeaking - in between sorting all my worldly goods while packing for a move to........Minnesota!

Yup, Minneapolis, to be exact.  My daughter and her family are out there and have been dropping hints for a year for me to move there, and one day I just said "yes".  Maybe it  was something in these pickled onions I was making , heaping them onto a huge turkey sandwich.  I've been sorting and packing ever since, and finalized a late June Moving Day.  Yes, I'm excited, and yes, I will miss New England, but it's time for a change.

I don't know that relish is the right word for these, but I use them like that hot pepper relish I have - on sandwiches.  Tossed on top of roasted chicken.  Stirred into cottage cheese.  Since this makes two cups of pickled relish, it goes in a flash, and I don't have to worry much about leftovers.  I used a fresh bay leaf that was very flavorful and aromatic, and that immediately went on my To Buy list in the new place - a small bay tree.

Makes 2 cups pickled onions:

1 16 0z Wide Mouth Mason jar

1 cup very thinly sliced leek white
1 cup very thinly sliced red onion
two pinches of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or light herb vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon bottled caper berries
1 large fresh bay leaf

Wash the jar very well, then dip it in a saucepan of boiling water, along with the lid.
Remove jar with tongs to a clean cloth, as well as the lid.   Let cool. 

Pour out about half the hot water, and add the leeks and onion slices, keeping at a slow boil for about a minute.  Drain and set aside.

Use the same pot to heat the vinegars, adding the salt, red pepper flakes, capers, and bay leaf until warm, then pour into the heatproof jar. Add the onions and leeks.  Let cool and store, covered, in the fridge.

Happy Spring!