Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blueberry Muffins with Smoked Cheese

The summer evening found me stuffing twenty dollars in my pocket. I loaded up the punks and headed to the local blueberry farm for the evening. The plan was to get the kids out of the house, break the monotony of the day. We would pick blueberries until the first meltdown. I estimated that would be about thirty minutes.

We arrived and were assigned buckets and a row of our own to pick. Frick and Frack were ecstatic. They had been black raspberry picking with my mom and I heard her exclamations coming out of their mouths. "Jackpot! Look at those berries! Bonanza!"   My mom used to drag us along berry picking when we were young. I remembered my mom's excitement over finding an abundance of berries in a good spot. We spent hours capping wild strawberries until there was not much left of the berry but a tiny spot of mush. My mom would make freezer jam, cakes, pies out of those berries. It was misery to me until in the middle of January when she would pull out a container of jam for toast. I didn't appreciate the work then, but I do now. I expected the punks to be in the same misery I used to be in I when picking with my mom at that age. 

However, she had prepared them for me. They were eager pickers. Because you pay by the pound, twenty minutes in, I began to worry abut the quantity of berries piling up in their buckets. Trying to calculate the heft of the bucket around my neck, I began to worry I hadn't brought enough money to cover the cost of what we were picking. I gently suggested that it was time to go. They ignored me and told me they couldn't leave all those berries there. They were racing to see who could get the most berries in their buckets. I had to bribe them with Dairy Queen to get them to leave. They continued to pick their way out of the row. I was sweating the thought of how much the berries would cost. I hadn't even brought the checkbook. 

The scale revealed my suspicions. Thirty minutes of picking - a little over ten pounds. The cost $18.92. We had cut it close. We were able to put twenty-two cups of blueberries in the freezer for winter consumption. My mom would be proud. 

You will be proud of this blueberry muffin recipe. They truly are the best muffin ever. Just a good, simple, solid muffin with a sweet crusty top.

To Die For Blueberry Muffins
from All Recipes

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 c. fresh blueberries
Crumb Topping
1/2 c. white sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. butter, cubed
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Line muffin tins with liners.  Combine the 1 1/2 c. flour, 3/4 c. sugar, salt, and baking powder.  Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup;  add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup.  Mix this with the flour mixture.  Fold in blueberries.  Fill muffin cups right to the top and sprinkle with crumb topping.  To make the crumb topping, mix together 1/2 c. sugar, 1/3 c. flour, butter and cinnamon.  Mix with fork and sprinkle over muffins before baking.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes.  Makes about a dozen regular-sized muffins.

For the Smoked Cheese Flavoring (Not Recommended)

Bake a cheap frozen pizza for lunch the day before, placing the pizza directly on the oven racks.  Allow cheese to drip off into the oven.  Forget about scorched cheese.  Bake muffins.  15 minutes in, remember the scorched cheese from the day before.  Worry that muffins will taste like smoked cheese.  Win a small prize for your correct guess.  Muffins with have absorbed the toasty taste.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Give Me Some of Your Tots.

"Why do you love me? Why do you need me? Always and forever... We met in a chatroom, now our love can fully bloom... Sure the world wide web is great, but you, you make me "salvivate"... I love technology, but not as much as you, you see... But I STILL love technology... Always and forever."  
Kip, Napoleon Dynamite

"Don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day."  Dating online is not all that fun, but I'm an optimist.  If Kip can "be almost 100% positive that [Lafawnduh's] his soul mate" after meeting her on the world wide web, I think that I can at least find a good date on there as well.

To be honest, I have found some good dates.  My favorite dates are the ones where the guy actually thinks about how to impress.  Thinks about their "A" game, and then brings it.  Teaching me how to play darts at the Irish Pub.  That was "A" game.  That was fun.   Taking me bowling and ordering the grossest deep fried item off the menu and daring each other to eat it.  That was "A" game. That was fun.  Slow dancing together outside a restaurant while waiting for a table.  That was "A" game.  That was fun.  

Talking incessantly about yourself?  Not so fun.  I'll even give the benefit of a doubt for nerves on first dates, but before the night was over, he almost had me convinced that rainbows were shooting out of  his ass, but I couldn't see them in the dark hours.  Couple that with the fact that he was short, and I couldn't help but refer to  him as Napoleon in my head.   I even went out a second time with Napoleon before calling it quits.  

Now, I know some of you girlfriends are saying, "But, Brindi, you like short men with tall egos."  Those girlfriends would be correct.  I do seem to be drawn to banty roosters, who strut around.  What one usually finds under those faux exteriors is that there are reasons for their tough shells.  

On the second date, I learned that he still lived at home.  He didn't have a job.  He had a child who needed my children as play dates.  Any of those things, singly, are not deal breakers.  What I learned from Napoleon was that I'm old enough to have my shit together, I would expect someone of the same age to also have theirs together as well.  

In honor of Napoleon and the lesson I learned from him, I made zucchini tots.  Not necessarily tater tots, but they taste just as good.  If you don't like them after you make them, then "just make yourself a dang quesa-dilluh!"

NOTE:  I referred to the date as Napoleon, as in Napoleon Bonaparte, but I don't make French food.  I do, however, have an extensive knowledge of Napoleon Dynamite, the movie.  So in my mind, I made the logical jump from French Napoleon to Napoleon Dynamite.  If you don't know Napoleon Dynamite, you are missing out on some sweet quotes from the movie, many of which I included in this post.  

Zucchini Tots
The Curious Country Cook via Pinterest
1 c. zucchini, grated
1 egg
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1/4 c. cheese (cheddar or Parmesan)
1/4 c. bread crumbs (I used crushed up stuffing mix)
Salt and pepper

Spray a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray.  Grate the zucchini and then place in a dish towel to squeeze out the excess water.  In a small bowl, combine the egg, onion, cheese, bread crumbs, zucchini, salt, and pepper.  Fill each mini-muffin cup to the top with a spoonful of mixture.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 - 18 minutes, or until the top is brown and crispy.

"Don't worry Napoleon, I'm sure there's a babe out there for you too. Peace out."

What's your favorite Napoleon Dynamite quote? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Derecho Grilling

All last week, I thought about what social commentary I would write about concerning the derecho that blew through our state.  Others better spoken than me already put into words what most of us were thinking.   Some of my favorites are here and here.   Some of my least favorite commentaries were shared on the Facebook community as others looked to place blame for their misfortunes.  I unfriended those people.  It wasn't the time or place for those kinds of words.  

For me, all I know is that it tested my independent single-woman status. Living on the farm, I considered myself somewhat of a Ma Ingalls, prepared for any travesty the winter would bring.  My move to the city had given me the false comfort that Walmart would always be open.   Realizing that I had two punks, little dog, and fourteen slices of bread without enough gas to sit in line for two-hours at a busy gas station sent shivers through me.  There wasn't a back-up person to reassure me.  My anxiety attacks ranged from "just want a cold coke" to "this was really an alien fly-over and the government is hiding it from us by making up storm terms like derecho."  (Raise your hand if you had heard of a derecho before this.  Sounds a little fabricated, doesn't it?)

I spent a lot of time in the bathroom because it is the one place in a house where I, as a mother, could escape and cry like a baby in private about me now being the only adult in the place.  The bathroom also happened to be the place that had the coldest ceramic tiles to lay on in the heat.  

But then, you do what you do.  You wipe your eyes, come out of hiding from the bathroom, put a smile on your face and declare this a great adventure.  You pull out puzzles, old coloring books, and craft supplies.   You call friends who have pools in their backyard and go invade.  You clean out the fridge and make an impromptu potluck at a friend's house.   

You have a storm story.  You have better conversations with your punks without electronic devices filling the quiet.  You hang out with friends.  You check on people you should be checking in on regardless of the storm.  You appreciate small acts from kind people.  You shoot out laser beams of love and light to turd wads complaining and making asses of themselves.  You hoot and holler and wave when power trucks go by your house.  You make a plan to be better prepared.  

If nothing else, you become a miracle worker with food on a gas grill.  People boasted about brewing coffee,  making pizza, baking cornbread.  Canned foods were opened and doctored and served proudly next to hot dogs for the third night in a row.  

At our house, we had a pack of frozen turkey tenderloins.  They were starting to defrost, so they were marinated in a bag, and placed in an insulated Scooby-Doo lunch box with the remaining dregs of ice.  Hot from the grill, it was served over the last of the produce from the crisper.  It was a good meal.

Marinade for  Turkey

1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. ginger ale (or Sierra Mist, cause that's what we had, and we didn't have any stinkin' gas to get something else)
2 Tb. lemon juice
2 Tb. chopped onion
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 - 2 tsp. brown sugar
dash of freshly-ground black pepper

Blend all ingredients and use as a marinade on turkey or chicken.  Cover and chill in the fridge or insulated lunch box for several hours, turning occasionally.  

Please share your favorite dercho recipe.  


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