Sunday, September 27, 2009

French Donuts: Ooh la Yum!

When Ben and I went camping recently, I was concerned about the following things:
  • Avoiding a sunburn.
  • Whether or not I could get a warm shower.
  • The eats.
Needless to say, food is an important part of the camping experience.  That being the case, I made a batch of French donuts for us to enjoy for breakfast at dawn.  Or 9:30 a.m., which was a more likely rise-and-shine time for us.

I've seen lots of variations on this recipe and it's been called lots of things.  "Donuts" might be a little misleading, since these are really little cakes that are baked (not fried) then rolled in butter and cinnamon sugar.  So you don't have to call them donuts if you feel like that's dishonest or misleading.  You can just call them "yum."

French donuts

For "donuts":
  • 1/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 c. milk
For sugary-goodness coating:
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 t. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 12-muffin tin.  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add egg and mix well.  Sift together dry ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with milk.

Fill muffin cups half full and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.  Allow muffins to cool.  Meanwhile, mix 1 c. sugar and 2 t. cinnamon.  Dip cooled muffins in melted butter, then roll in cinnamon sugar.

The food: French donuts
The verdict: Not really donuts, probably not really French, but exceptionally tasty

Monday, September 21, 2009

Garden Detective Needed

When I started my porch garden, I had a great little map made up so I knew where everything was. Lettuce here, chives here, this one's basil, and so on and so on. Then we went on vacation for a bit and I put all of my pots in shallow bins of water to keep them from dying of thirst. This was a good plan for the plants, but not a good plan for me or my map.

I've got everything figured out except for one pot in which I appear to be lovingly growing a weed, and for my parsley and cilantro. I can't figure out which is which. They aren't ready to cut, so I can't taste them, and neither of them have a smell yet. I think this one is cilantro, but it could be parsley. What do you think?

Remember that episode of Full House when Uncle Jesse can't tell his twins apart? I know how you feel, Uncle J.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

For this year's urban garden, in addition to the standards (basil and chives), I've started growing lettuce and bell peppers. The lettuce is swell and all, but what I'm really excited about is the peppers. I like to assess their growth every day. Yesterday I spent about 30 minutes photographing them. I'm about this far away from starting them a baby book.

Which could make it tough to eat them when the time comes. I'm getting so attached.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pork Marinade Saves the Meal

A week ago or so, I made a recipe for chili and lime pork noodles. The chili and lime dressing was less than stellar. But the pork marinade was tasty -- so tasty, in fact, that we pretty much just picked the pork out of the noodles. This recipe makes enough marinade for about 1 lb. of pork, thinly sliced. Marinate at least 20 minutes, but I let mine sit for a few hours. I might throw a little lime juice in there next time, too.

Asian pork marinade
  • 4 T. chopped shallots
  • 2 t. chopped garlic
  • 5 t. fish sauce
  • 5 t. soy sauce
  • 3 t. sugar
  • 5 T. sesame oil
  • Salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients. Add 1 lb. of thinly sliced pork; refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or overnight.

The food: Asian pork marinade
The verdict: Soy, soy good

Friday, September 4, 2009

Coffee Cans Make Good Bread Pans

This being Labor Day weekend, I'm bidding adieu to another summer -- a little sad, since I'm so fond of the season.

When I was a kid, summer was pretty much awesome overload. My birthday is in the summer. School's out. The days are long and warm. And then there was our annual Fourth of July trip to Madawaska Lake to see my aunt Sandy and cousin Kate.

My family really loves tradition, so the routine was pretty much the same every time we came: float around the lake in inner tubes, stage a patriotic play (I penned it myself -- let me know if you'd like to purchase the performance rights), make a daily candy trip to Stan's, attempt to spot Susan Collins, whose family lived next door. We also spent a lot of time eating, because we love food and because Sandy is a great cook.

There were two foods we could always count on: Mrs. Dunster's Donuts (Canada's finest export) and oatmeal spoon bread, which is mixed in large batches and baked in coffee cans, then toasted and buttered.

I like most types of oatmeal bread that I've tried, but there is something extra good about this one. The molasses are the secret ingredient.

You can also bake this in regular old bread pans (especially since metal coffee cans are tough to come by these days -- I know, because I got tricked into buying several plastic impostors), but the cans make one awesome round loaf of bread.

I generally think of this bread as a breakfast food, but I made a BLT with it the other day and Ben dips his in corn chowder, so we can attest that its deliciousness knows no meal-specific bounds. Eat it 'round the clock, if you like. And I think you will like.

Oatmeal Spoon Bread (from my aunt Sandy, who got it from my grandmother)
  • 2 c. quick-cook oatmeal
  • 3 c. boiling water
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. salt
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. molasses
  • 1 c. whole milk
  • 2 pkgs. yeast
  • 1/2 c. water, warm
  • 10 c. flour

Combine first seven ingredients (through the milk). Meanwhile, proof the yeast in the 1/2 c. of warm water. Allow the oatmeal mixture to cool (enough so it doesn't kill the yeast), then add the proofed yeast.

In a stand mixer with a bread hook, mix in the flour, five cups at a time. Cover and let rise until doubled. Once it has doubled, punch down and divide into seven equal lumps. Put dough into seven well-greased coffee cans. (Metal, not plastic, but I'm sure you assumed that.) The dough will be pretty wet (and I'm guessing that's why they call it spoon bread).

Cover the cans and allow to rise until the dough reaches close to the top of the can -- 30 to 45 minutes. Bake on the lower rack of the oven at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes. Place foil over the tops of the cans if the bread crust begins to look too dark. Cool on racks, shake out of the cans and serve.

The food: Oatmeal Spoon Bread
The verdict: I'd rather eat this than donuts (no offense, Mrs. Dunster)