'jammer' cornmeal muffins

In the Pacific Northwest, there's the great Grand Central Bakery, which serves, among other things, the jammer.

Ode to the jammer! It's a big ol' biscuit with a pile of jam in the center for dipping.

In the spirit of the jammer, I wanted to try Barefoot Contessa's raspberry corn muffins (from her first cookbook). They may not be so good for an on-the-go snack -- the jam on the top kind of limits this muffin's "willingness to travel" -- but they're great lazy brunch food.

'jammer' cornmeal muffins
makes 12 large muffins (I made 12 regular-sized muffins and used the remaining dough in mini muffin tins -- the minis are in my freezer, un-jammed, waiting for a rainy day)

3 C flour
1 C sugar
1 C cornmeal
2 Tbs baking powder
1 1/2 teas salt
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 C yummy jam (I used blackberry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners (for my mini muffin tins, I just greased well).

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients (except the jam!) Pour the wet stuff into the dry stuff and stir until just blended. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top. Bake until the tops are crisp and the toothpick tester comes out clean (about 30 mins.) Cool slightly before removing from the pan.

After the muffins cool, spoon the jam into a pastry bag, fitted with a large round tip. Push the tip of the bag into the muffin and squeeze some jam into the middle of the muffin. Repeat!


"italian" meatballs

Remember the scene in Big Night where the camera is cruising through the competitor's "Italian" restaurant? The camera gets a shot of a server carrying a mound of spaghetti and meatballs and in that moment, the audience knows that the restaurant is not truly Italian because it has sold out to the American clientèle. I love that sequence (and I really love that movie!)

While meatballs may not be the most authentic of Italian dishes, it is popular for a reason -- it can be really delicious and very satisfying. (And I hope my Italian host mother forgives me for saying so!)

Here's a slightly modified version of the recipe offered in Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe cookbook. The secret to these tasty tads of meat is in the sauce. Actually, in the milk. If we just use dry bread crumbs, the way my Grandma did it, the crumbs soak up any available moisture and leave the meatball dry and crumby. This trick of soaking the bread in milk makes good meatballs better yet.

And a second trick: if you cut out the egg white and just use the yolk, the meatball mixture isn’t so sticky and hard to handle. The yolk itself is enough to bind the ingredients.

about 2-3 servings

½ pound ground meat, beef and/or pork
1 slice of bread, torn into small pieces
¼ C buttermilk, or just plain milk
1/8-1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
A couple Tbs of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 garlic clove, minced fine or pressed
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

First, combine the bread and milk in a medium bowl. Let sit while you get the other ingredients together, mashing occasionally with a fork. After 5-10 minutes, add the ground meat, cheese, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to the soaked bready paste. Mix well and shape into balls. Use a light touch. If you compact the meatballs, they become dense and hard.

Heat oil a pan. Cover the bottom of the pan, not just a drizzle. Add meatballs in a single layer once the oil is ready. Fry, turning several times, until browned on all sides. Try to keep the oil from smoking, by turning it down a bit. Once browned, set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.

Pour out the oil and add whatever tomato sauce you’re going to use. Once heated, add meatballs and simmer, turning occasionally until heated through (about 5 minutes, maybe more depending on the size of your meatballs).

When done, serve over spaghetti with a bit more fresh parmesan for the classic faux-Italian dish.



The world of copyrights, trademarks, and licenses is a real can of worms -- especially for the arts and crafts world. I stumbled upon this discussion (via Be*mused.) It's one of the funnier takes on the subject -- one in which Really Rude People are the losers.

Even though it's a minefield to even mention the topic, I kind of want to put in my two cents. We'll see if I regret it...

I realize that many people have legitimate reasons to protect their creative and unique work, but I wish we could all try to remember that not everything, not every idea, needs to be owned. Some things should be left in the communal realm.

I think many people fail to remember that folks have been using fibre, fabric, and thread for long, long time. There may be some new takes on old techniques, but we need to be realistic about what is "original." No one ever creates in a vacuum.

It is a fine line (and gray at the best of times) to know when and how to take ownership of your creativity and handiwork. But for all the folks with the urge to stamp their handmade wares with an "all rights reserved," I with they'd recognize and respect the history of handcrafts. We inspire each other -- that's allowed.

Of course certain things aren't allowed. That's where those Really Rude People come in.


easy as... chocolate cake

Moist chocolate cake. Is there anything better? And one made entirely in one pot? A keeper, for sure.

I loved the Sex and the City episode when Miranda scarfs chocolate cake and thinks she should be checked into the Betty Crocker Clinic...

one-pot chocolate cake
makes 8x8 cake (or you can double it for a double-decker cake)

2 Tbs butter
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
1 C milk, divided
1 C sugar
1/2 Tbs vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 C flour
1/8 teas salt
1 tsp baking soda

In a medium sauce-pan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring continuously. Once melted, add 1/2 C of milk. Stir over low heat until it thickens a bit. Take off burner, then add sugar, vanilla, and egg yolk. Stir well. Then add flour, salt, and baking soda. When mixed, add remaining 1/2 C milk. Bake at 350 degrees, until a toothpick, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean (about 25-35 mins.) Let cool completely before icing with frosting.

And speaking of frosting...

chocolate frosting

makes 1.5 C frosting

2 Tbs butter
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
2 C powdered sugar
1/3 C milk
2/3 teas vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

In small saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and chocolate together. Once mixture is melted and smooth, pour into large bowl and add powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until well blended. Refrigerate 10 minutes or so, until the frosting is of spreading consistency. If you need to keep it in the fridge for several hours, be sure to allow time to bring the frosting to room temp before trying to frost your cake. I used a little hot water bath to bring mine back to being spreadable.


cheater's summer quilt

I admit it. I cheated.

I bought pre-laundered, pre-ironed, and pre-cut fabric. And I'm not sorry.

When I saw these feedsack reproduction quilt squares in SewNimble's shop (on Etsy), I thought, "sweeeeet!" And when I got them in the mail, I was like, "wahooooo!" I was free to start on the fun part of quilt-making: playing with new colours and patterns.

As you can see, I ended up sewing the squares up into larger squares of four, then adding some white. I randomly used some embroidered white-on-white fabric for a bit of texture. It's so summery, I love it.

The top is now all sewn together, but I haven't bothered to quilt it yet. I just added it to my growing stack of quilt tops, and started on a new one. Oh well. I can think of worse things than a stack of unfinished quilts.


bread crumbs and pasta

Have you seen this month's Gourmet? The cover picture leaves a lot to be desired, eh?

But I have to admit -- since I absolutely love bread crumbs in my pasta -- my mouth began to water. That pile of brown still portrays the simple magic of crispy bread crumbs together with al dente pasta.

Now I don't prepare mine the way Gourmet did -- I'm anxious to try their recipe. No, the way I tend to add bread crumbs is as Smitten Kitchen does in her baked tomato sauce: "Halve them and roast them cut side up in an olive oil slicked baking dish and top them with a mix of bread crumbs, garlic, parmesan and romano cheeses for all of twenty minutes, and ta-da, deliciousness is yours."

Let me show you...

tomato and bread crumb pasta
Serves 4

olive oil
1 lb ripe cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 C real, finely ground, dry bread crumbs
1/2 C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
course salt and freshly ground pepper
handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 lb pasta -- I like spaghettini or linguini for this

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9x13" baking dish with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and place all tomatoes cut side up in dish. **For 2-3 people, I just fill the bottom of my little 8x8 baking dish.

In small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, and minced garlic. Spread over tomatoes, making sure each of the tops are covered well. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the tomatoes are soft (about 20-30 mins.)

Meanwhile, make the pasta according to package directions. Try to time it so that the pasta is done about the time that the tomatoes are done. Drain pasta. Add hot pasta and basil leaves to the baking dish and toss with the tomato mixture, gathering up the crusty pieces of cheese and bread that may have slipped between the tomatoes. Yum!


orzo, spinach, and feta salad

I don't think it's news to anyone that not all of Martha's recipes are winners. Some of her recipes look and sound great, but something about them never really captures the magic. Still, they are usually quite approachable, so I often find myself trying another Martha recipe.

And I have found some of her winners -- like her pecan sticky buns! Oh man. Pure deliciousness in a gooey roll. My mouth is watering at the mere thought of them (mmmm, must make a batch soon!) **If you make these, make sure to half the recipe -- I'm not sure what huge-sized muffin tin she assumes folks are using, but even half will make 12 good-sized buns.

So anyway, I wasn't so surprised that the recipes in her Everyday Food cookbook are hit and miss. I was disappointed with the orange and beef stirfry and with the Moroccan chicken couscous, but her spinach with orzo and feta is great. So simple, flavourful, and easy -- perfect BBQ fare.

-- sorry...not the best picture --

orzo, spinach, and feta salad
serves 4

1 C orzo
almost a whole "bunch" of spinach -- washed, trimmed and roughly chopped (maybe a lb, if you're measuring)
a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
3/4 C crumbled feta
fresh lemon juice of 1/2 lemon (1-2 Tbs)
olive oil
course sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook orzo according to package directions. When done, add spinach and stir until wilted. Drain.

In large serving bowl, toss the hot spinach and orzo with the mint leaves, feta, lemon juice, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

** Check 'em out! I've added some fun new blogs to the sidebar: elsie marie, crazy mom quilts, house on hill road, the long thread, and bakerella. Lots of beautiful quilting and mouth-watering cupcakes to get you inspired.