Archive | June 2014

Berry & Oatmeal Muffins

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I’m not sure why, but it’s been almost impossible to get out of bed the past few mornings. No, it’s not depression, just my immense hatred of being awake before 6 a.m. I’ve never claimed to be a morning person and even on a good day I press the snooze button at least twice before even considering getting out of bed. But recently hitting that glorious button that gives me 9 more minutes of sleep has been pressed countless times. Before I know it I have less than 15 minutes to wake up, shower, get ready, and head out the front door to battle traffic and get to work on time.

While I should be making a bigger effort to eat breakfast, I’ve recently been in the position where I have to chose between brushing my teeth and eating a bowl of fruit and yogurt since I only have time for one… and since I take my personal dental hygiene seriously (and don’t want to scare off coworkers with bad breath) it’s a pretty easy choice to make. And since my lack of breakfast means I’m ravenous long before lunch, I usually grab something quick and easy at a store or cafe. While my local coffee establishment has some truly tasty pastries, it can be hard to justify spending three or four bucks a day on a pastry. My solution? Make something that’s easily portable, relatively healthy, and something that will stay fresh for a few days…. and I decided on muffins…

Berry & Oatmeal Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour; makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not the instant kind)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (yes, a tablespoon, not teaspoon)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup berries (I used raspberries, but blueberries, blackberries, or chopped strawberries would also work)

Preheat your oven to 500°F. Lighltly grease a muffin tin.
Place oats, flours, sugars, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix together with a whisk. 

In a small to medium sized mixing bowl, add milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla; lightly whisk.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix with a whisk until just barely combined. Gently fold in berries. 

Fill cups of a lightly greased muffin tin three-quarters full. Place muffins in the oven and immediately drop temperature to 400°F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Let cool in muffin tins for 15 minutes before removing and letting cool completely. Muffins will last, wrapped and at room temperature, for 3-4 days.

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Mushroom Cream Pasta (My Interpretation of Forest Floor Frenzy)

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Going out to a restaurant with me can be a bit of an adventure. Growing up it was sort of a given that my family and I would share (or at least sample) everything we ordered, and as a result we would consult with one another on all of the dishes we wanted. Under no circumstance would we ever order two of the same things. Why? Because there are always new menu items to try and what if the item we ordered two of was mediocre? Duplicates are boring.

These days when I’m out at a restaurant with friends I tend to subtly (or not so subtly) recommend dishes they should order—mainly dishes that I want to try but don’t want to order myself. When I went out to dinner with a good friend a few months ago I was torn between two items: some sort of ragu pasta and a Forest Floor Frenzy, a glorious pasta dish with a mushroom, sherry, and cream sauce. Shortly after opening our menus it was established that my friend would order the mushroom pasta since it is one of his favorite dishes. Since I refuse to order the same dish as anyone else at the table I decided to order the ragu, a dish that ended up being tasty, but rather forgettable.

I ended up having serious entrée envy after sampling a few bites of my buddy’s life-changing, delicious pasta dish. I quickly decided I would order the Forest Floor Frenzy every time I went back to that restaurant, even if everyone at the table ordered the same… although I might persistently recommend others order something else…

What made the dish so divine? I’m not sure. The chef has appeared on local cooking shows to prepare the dish and I’m sure you can find the recipe somewhere on YouTube. The recipe itself isn’t that difficult or complex: pasta, mushrooms, sherry, cream, and walnuts. While these are all simple ingredients the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s just a flawless combination. Here is my interpretation…

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Forest Floor Frenzy (Mushroom Cream Pasta)

Inspired by Bizzarro Italian Cafe

  • 1 pound pasta (a parpadelle, tagliatelle or fettucini is ideal but whatever you have on hand will work [I used mini bow tie])
  • 4 strips bacon, cut into lardons (small strips)
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms (I used portabello and crimini), cleaned and chopped into a medium to large dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup sherry (white wine would also work)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Approximately 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional but a nice crunchy addition)
  • Chives for garnish (optional)

Cook bacon until crispy in a large sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat, remove using a slotted spoon and blot grease with a paper towel; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente (usually a minute or so less than package instructions).

In the same sauté pan you cooked the bacon in (no reason to remove the grease), cook onions over medium-high heat for a few mintues, until softened, Add mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 additional minutes. Add sherry and scrape up any bits stuck to the pan and cook just until alcohol has burned off and has slightly reduced in volume. Add thyme, salt, pepper, and cream and cook for approximately 5 minutes, until thickened and reduced.

Toss together with cooked pasta, bacon, walnuts (if using), and parmesan; taste for seasoning, transfer to individual serving bowls and top with optional chopped chives and additional parmesan.