Category Archives: Food

Pumpkin Muffins Master Recipe

It’s probably too early for the annual pumpkin invasion, but honestly, I couldn’t wait. I went on allrecipes.com and found a nice mix of recipes, and mixed it into one monster muffin recipe. (It was interesting, like comparative literature for baked goods.)

Ingredients

Vital Ingredients (per 12 muffins)

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • .5 tsp salt
  • 7.5 oz of canned pumpkin (half of one of the Libby’s cans)
  • 2 eggs
  • .75 cup vegetable oil

This is the least customizable part of the recipe, so tread carefully. Omissions, substitutions, and variations are going to be more risky here than anywhere else. Baking soda, baking powder, and salt are more or less a constant, as is the pureed or canned pumpkin. Eggs are also pretty necessary.

The easiest ingredient to substitute is vegetable oil.  Some recipes don’t include it at all, others use butter or margarine. Some people put in milk, soy milk, or yogurt instead. I am keeping the vegetable oil in the mix because it worked when I used it, and it means that the muffins are conveniently lactose-free. The flour can also be buckwheat or gluten free instead of all purpose, and some people use honey, maple syrup, or light brown sugar instead of white sugar.

Suggested Flavoring (per 12 muffins)

  • .5 tsp cinnamon
  • .25 tsp allspice
  • .25 tsp ginger
  • .25 tsp nutmeg
  • .25 tsp ground cloves
  • .25 cup molasses
  • .25 tsp vanilla extract

Not all of these are necessary to make the muffin tasty. In fact, all of these flavors combined might be overkill for a refined palate. Still, at least one of these ingredients should be included in the mix, though, because otherwise the muffins are going to be very bland. Remember that pumpkin doesn’t have much of a flavor; most of the pumpkin spice hype comes from allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Cinnamon is the strongest and the easiest to recognize, but the others round it out.

By the way, the McCormick pumpkin pie spice is a combination of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. It’s an option, but I like adding the spices individually because it gives me more control.

Pick an Addition (per 12 muffins)

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • .25 cup pecans (or walnuts, or basically any nut)
  • 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups apple chunks
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 cup rasins
  • .25 cup pumpkin seeds

All of these ingredients together will be too much, but one or two together will be all right. I go by a two-cup limit, and scale back the portions if I need to.

How to Make It

Equipment

  • Muffin tin
  • Nonstick spray (optional)
  • Muffin tin liners/papers
  • Two mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Rubber spatula

Heat Source

  • Oven

How You Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s an option to spray the muffin pan here, but unless the muffins are monstrous mountains it’s more or less safe to leave the pan unsprayed. Insert the muffin liners here.
  2. Whisk the the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, the salt, and spices, if using. Basically, put in all of the dry stuff except for the sugar. (Note: some recipes suggest doing the wet components first. I prefer it this way because I only use one whisk, and mixing flour with a wet whisk irritates me.)
  3. Whisk the wet stuff and the sugar. Start with the eggs and the sugar, then add the pumpkin and vegetable oil. If using molasses or applesauce, add it in here.
  4. Add the dry stuff into the wet stuff and whisk them together until incorporated. If using vanilla extract, add it in here.
  5. Fold* in the extra component, make sure that it’s incorporated into the batter. It might be a good idea to set some aside, to insert manually into individual muffins, but most of it should go into this step.
  6. Using a .333 cup measure and a spoon, fill the individual muffin tins with batter. If using something like apples or nuts, put a little nut or apple chunk on top of the muffin. It’s a nice touch.
  7. Bake the muffins for twenty minutes or so. Rotating the pan after ten minutes is a good idea: the back of the pan usually cooks faster than the front. It’s pretty easy to tell when muffins are done, because when the tops are solid and dry the muffins can be taken out of the oven.
  8. Storage is pretty easy. Muffins can last about a week uncovered and at room temperature. Putting them in a container makes them last longer. Muffins don’t do well in the refrigerator, and while they may fare better in the freezer, it’s best just to keep them out in a dry, safe place.

 

Resources

There are so many people with pumpkin muffin recipes out there.

We have to start with allrecipes, because all of these pumpkin chocolate chip recipes were the inspiration for the article. Then when I was browsing for stuff to put in pumpkin muffins, there were recipes that included apples, bananas, pecans, raisins, everything under the sun. One recipe even did a banana-apple-pumpkin mixBarb suggested extra pumpkin instead of an oil or dairy component, the Southern In-Law brought up gluten-free flour and honey instead of sugar. Ellie Krieger said pastry flour and brown sugar. It was a little overwhelming.

* “Fold” is a weird term. Here’s a resource. It basically means you use the spatula make a little pocket of batter around whatever is being added, and then stirring the component around a little.

My Favorite Way to Make Top Ramen

There are articles upon articles devoted to what you can do with ramen. Even entire websites. When I cook ramen, though, it’s usually because I’m too lazy to actually prepare anything. Recipes that involve cutting vegetables or cooking meat are usually out. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few ingredients I like to throw in every once in a while.

Rice Vinegar and Mirin

This one came from the Momofuku cookbook that I found at my public library. There’s an honest-to-goodness ramen broth recipe in there, which is way too involved for me but still looked delicious. The main thing that I took out of the recipe was that there is a magical substance called mirin that has enough sweetness to balance out the tang of soy sauce. Seriously, mirin is great: it’s this rice cooking wine that costs $3-5 if you get the cheap Kikkoman kind.

I don’t know how I ended up substituting rice vinegar for soy sauce. Maybe it was because another recipe, the sushi rice recipe in one of my cookbooks, mixed rice vinegar and mirin as a sauce. Maybe I was making ramen one day and I didn’t have any soy sauce. In any case, I tried rice vinegar-mirin ramen one day and loved it.

What I do is I make stovetop ramen in a little saucepan. Proportions vary, but I mix the vinegar, the mirin, and the water in the pan before adding the noodles and the flavor packet. Then I boil it as per usual.

Adding an Egg

I learned this trick long before I learned about the existence of mirin. It started as a fried egg on top of the noodles. Then I learned that you can boil an egg in ramen, and that was the best thing ever. Less dishes to wash, more flavor in the broth.

So, Ultimately, This Is How You Make It

Ingredients

  • Rice Vinegar ($3 for 12 oz)
  • Mirin ($5 for 10 oz.)
  • Egg ($2 for a dozen)
  • Top Ramen ($2 for a dozen)

Equipment

  • Saucepan

Heat Source

  • Stovetop
  1. Mix the rice vinegar, the mirin, and the water in the saucepan. Add noodles, bring to a boil.
  2. When the mixture is actually bubbling, crack an egg on the side of the saucepan and drop it in.
  3. Keep boiling the ramen. If you’re impatient, stir the egg around to get little wisps of cooked egg in the broth. If not, let it sit for a while.
  4. When the egg is cooked, take the ramen off heat and let it sit for a while.
  5. Consume immediately.

A note about boiling vinegar: it can leave a strong smell in the air. So if you share a kitchen with several people, ask them if they are okay with the vinegar fumes. If not, open a window when you cook, or use a fan.

Frittata Master Recipe

Bless the day I learned how to make a frittata.

Not enough people know how to make this dish, which makes me sad because it’s perfect for beginners and college students. It’s cheap, it’s easy, it takes very little time (for the amount of food it gives you), and it’s good for when you’re running late to class or work and you need to jam something in your face as you run out the door. It’s naturally gluten free, which makes some people very happy.  Also: it’s an egg dish that keeps at room temperature without spoiling almost immediately. How rare is that?

Ingredients

One of the best things about frittatas is that almost all recipes (at least the ones online) have the same basic formula. It goes like this:

  • 6-10 eggs
  • Olive oil or butter
  • Assorted filling (i.e. herbs, veggies, potatoes, onions, meat)
  • Grated cheese (usually parmesan, but not a fast rule)
  • Salt/pepper/spices

That’s  it. Frugal cooks can go for the minimal approach: eggs, cheese, little salt and pepper (which might come out to somewhere around $2.50 per frittata)*. The ones who worry about getting veggies in their diet can throw things like chard and kale and broccoli in there. People who want a full dish that they can serve to other people go for meat and potatoes. It works for everyone, is what I’m saying.

A note on cheese: parmesan is the most popular recommended choice, but cheddar and mozzarella frittatas are floating around out there. If you’re trying a different cheese, I’d recommend making a more veggie-heavy frittata, maybe with some tomatoes or zucchini in there.

The biggest variable in these recipes is the amount of stuff they recommend you put in the pan. Sometimes it’s six eggs, sometimes it’s ten. Sometimes it’s a quarter cup of cheese, sometimes it’s half. Don’t even get me started on the filling, it fluctuates all over the place.

What matters most in deciding how much stuff you want to put in the frittata is how much the skillet or frying pan can handle, and how easy it is to burn. If there’s too much in the pan then the chance of burning something skyrockets. So a smaller or shallower pan is going to mean less ingredients.

How to Make It

As far as equipment goes, you’ll need:

  • A cutting board (optional, only if you have to cut up filling)
  • A cheese grater (if you didn’t buy the cheese pre-grated)
  • A skillet or frying pan (one that you can stick in the oven without worrying about it)
  • A mixing bowl
  • A whisk, a spatula
  • A knife (to cut the frittata into sections)
  • A plate ( if you plan on flipping the frittata over)

As for heat sources, you need:

  • A stovetop burner
  • An oven

I’m not sure if you can try this in the microwave. Odds are a big skillet won’t fit, and you’d have to make sure the skillet was microwave safe. I am not brave enough to experiment with microwaves and egg dishes, so I just go for the oven.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 or 400 degrees. 350 if it’s a small frittata, 400 if it’s a little bigger.
  2. Cut up the filling. The bigger it is, the longer it takes to cook. So dice the onions, slice the tomatoes, mince the garlic or herbs, chop up the leafy things, cube the potatoes, whatever’s necessary. (Also, now is a good time to grate the cheese if it’s in a block).
  3. Fry the filling. Put down a little butter or olive oil and put in everything but the egg, the cheese, and the spices. Chances are the filling cooks slower than the egg and cheese. Be very careful with meat, make sure it’s mostly browned before the eggs are added in. Same goes for onions, for picky eaters who only like onions after they’ve been browned and had their spirits broken.
  4. In the mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, grated cheese, salt, and pepper. That way the important stuff is incorporated into the frittata itself.
  5. Pour in the eggs, swirl them around. Keep an eye on the filling, make sure it’s evenly distributed around the pan. Otherwise all of the good stuff will be on one half of the frittata, and it will be harder to cook everything evenly.
  6. Here’s the tricky bit, but it makes the process easier and faster. Take the spatula and run it along the edge of the fritatta, then lift the cooked egg off the pan just slightly. Tilt the pan so that the runny uncooked egg on the top of the frittata goes between the cooked egg and the pan. I know it’s confusing. Here are some pictures. Frittata_-cooking-1024x768 More Fritatta Stuff                                                                  Without this step, it’s really hard to make sure that the frittata cooks evenly.
  7. Once the egg is more or less solid, but still a little wet looking, turn off the stovetop and put it in the oven. (At this stage, I like to take a little extra cheese and sprinkle it on top of the frittata.)
  8. Cook the frittata for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the top is dry to the touch.
  9. Take the frittata out of the oven. Leaving it to cool in the frying pan is an option, but some people like to rinse off the spatula and use it to slide the frittata onto a plate. Some people flip it over, it depends on how comfortable the cook is with flipping things and how concerned they are with presentation.
  10. Cut the frittata disc up into pieces. I like to go with eight, it’s a good portion size.
  11. If the frittata is not being immediately consumed it needs to be cling-wrapped within like ten minutes of cooling down. Frittatas don’t spoil if you leave them out, at least not in a way that makes you sick, but they can get too dry or too moist really quickly. The result is kind of gross. However, frittatas don’t need to be kept cold, and as long as they’re cling-wrapped they’re fine for a week or so.
  12. These things go quickly. Some recipes claim that a frittata can serve four people, but unless you have a lot of filling, it doesn’t feel like a lot of food. If it’s being served for other people, include a snack or a side dish, or just make two.

Sources

Pictures: http://theintolerantfoodie.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Frittata_-cooking-1024×768.jpg , http://the-domestic-engineer.com/veggie-frittata/

Full recipes:

The William’s Sonoma chard-onion recipe is really good, but be careful with the cayenne pepper.

I’ve been looking for a mozzarella-tomato-zucchini recipe to try.

America’s Test Kitchen had a great basic parm-basil frittata recipe in their Family Cookbook, but online the only recipe of theirs that I can find is the Asparagus Ham Gruyere recipe, which is not my favorite.

* Assuming there are six eggs in the recipe and a dozen eggs is about $2, and the cook uses use a half-cup of cheese and cheese is about $3 per 8 ounces, and the salt, pepper, and butter come from packets available at several restaurants and food courts, and can be taken without people noticing. Add half of an onion and you’ll be at $3. Again, all of this is a rough, rough estimate.