Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recipe for Cosmic Muffins

This Recipe Makes 12 Jumbo Muffins


1 cup all purpose flour     1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed  1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder        1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt                          1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg                  1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 cup slivered almonds      1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup packed brown sugar  2 large eggs
6-8 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract    2/3 cup milk


1) in large mixing bowl combine flours, flax seed, sugar,baking powder & soda, cinnamon and nutmeg until there are no lumps. 
2) Stir in oats, raisins, coconut and almonds
3) In separate bowl lightly whisk eggs then add to large bowl of dry ingredients with the coconut oil, milk, applesauce and vanilla, stir until just combined and there are no dry ingredients remaining on bottom of bowl.

Using a large scoop, spoon mixture into jumbo muffin cups to 3/4 full.  Sprinkle top with bits of oats and a little sugar if desired.  Bake in 350 degree over 25-30 minutes until tops of muffins are lightly browned. 

Makes 12 Jumbo Muffins

Good for Early Morning Trick-or-Treaters

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why Your Cosmic Muffin?

Most everything you'll need to prepare Cosmic Muffins

When the Cosmic Muffin made its first appearance on a wooden kitchen table scattered with home-made granola, fresh berries, kifer, and herbal tea, the originator was told her newest creation might be better suited as a door stop.  A much needed item in a house with a foundation that was tilting on a downward slant more and more each year, causing the doors of every room to slowly sway open unless securely latched.   Not one to be battered into quitting, this baker-at-large continued to add, reduce, sift and change-up until her muffins were a balance of taste and texture even Mother Nature would appreciate.  Certainly her roommates did.  Since then, those who have bitten into a Cosmic Muffin have described its flavor and properties to be as enigmatic as its namesake.  High in fiber, this baked, cake-like bread prepared with a variety of flours, grains, dried fruits, seasonings and nuts makes for excellent breakfast fare.  Easy to prepare, as it is leavened with baking powder, this quick-bread is an eclectic combination of sweet and savory, moist and crunchy, and can also serve as a flavorsome snack when time is short or energy is low.  So how did this multi-tasking muffin get its name?  Well, I have to go back in time a bit. To the early ‘70’s, when we Baby Boomers were as passionate about our long hair and tapestries as we were our picket lines and folk music.  While some were tuning in, turning on and dropping out, I was in the kitchen.  Well, sometimes.    
I am the Cosmic Muffin and it all started with my pheromones.  Had to be.  Hooked him like the two fingers one of the Good Fellas jabs into the nostrils of a particularly annoying peon in a dark Italian restaurant.  Cigar smoke competing with the aroma of garlic, calamari and green olives.  Doing their best to avoid being witnesses, the surrounding diners feign interest in the plastic grapevines that loosely hang from splintering wooden trellises strategically placed between booths.  But there was only one witness to the effects of my engaging aromatics, which apparently lifted him to the very tips of his toes.  Mine was a combination of A & W French fries, from working 4-6 hours as a car-hop, the Jean Nate perfume I doused myself in, as I never had time to go home and shower after my shift and perspiration from my 3-5 hours of dance class and rehearsals immediately following work. 
It was mid-week in late October, my favourite time of year.  Light rains, cable knit sweaters and leg warmers.  Leaves turning colours from green to yellow to red and simple dinners of thick, creamy soups.   By early evening I was exiting the dance studio with a fellow dancer when we were approached.  I tried to walk past, I was hungry.   I had not eaten anything since my morning cinnamon Poptart.  I also needed a shower.   I was having one of my more ripe days as there were no breaks between commitments.    My friend insisted we stop so she could introduce me to the rather imposing figure walking towards us.  He was dressed in a ghee with a black belt tied tightly around his middle. 
 As my friend began to speak the most unusual thing occurred.  Our surroundings suddenly slowed to such a degree it felt surreal.   Her voice and his moved from their lips to my ears on languishing waves of thick, rich molasses.  As if I could, I tried to hurry my listening.  I watched their arms and hands move at this same dreamlike pace, as though they were moving through water.  I noticed this Grizzly Adams look-alike who stood before me emitted his own scent, one of real sweat, and chlorine, (likely because we were standing alongside the campus swimming pool).  He was saying something about just finishing teaching a women’s self-defense class and was on his way to water polo practice.  When, what felt like an hour long introduction finally ended, I found myself agreeing to meet this strangely magnetic man after his practice.  Time and space returned to normal and I hurriedly showered, then sat outside on the bleachers to watch a water sport I knew absolutely nothing about.  After practice, Gerard showered then took me to dinner at a place called Too-Taste-Tee’s.  They served the most gigantic burritos I had ever seen!  A once normal flour tortilla inflated to near unrecognizable proportions.   Filled with an abundance of black beans, well seasoned shredded chicken, cilantro, chilies and tons of cheese, then smothered in salsa verde and sour cream.  Though I could only take a few bites, barely making a dent in mine, I had to admit they were delicious.
What followed that “date” was seven years of on-again, off-again, love, fun, passion, jealousy, competition,  learning, teaching, communal living and hitchhiking across the country.  To this day I love Gerard.    I was eight years his junior and because of it, he was the teacher and I the student.   There were few similarities between us.  Gerard was attending college courtesy of the GI Bill, he had not been home long from time spent as a Navy Seal in Vietnam.  I had graduated high school a year early and left home to complete one semester at Brigham Young before deciding I didn’t fit in.  I returned to California and enrolled myself at the local Junior College Gerard and I attended.  He was funny and outgoing, at times over the top outgoing.  I was quieter and took everything, including myself, too seriously.  He was BIG.  I was not so big.  He knew the Tarot, I Ching and the Martial Arts.  I knew Ballet, Shopping and the Fine Arts.  I drove a small European car, he drove a VW bus.  But when we were in sync everything worked.  We were good. 
Much of the time I felt as though as were running to keep up.  Always the willing and eager pupil, I did my best to take it all in, be as mature as possible.  I embraced his teachings the way I danced.  Fully and completely present.   I became engrossed in the esoteric.  We took classes together in alchemy and TM.  I tagged along with him to his Tai Chi classes, easy for me.  Yes I was becoming pretty “cosmic.”  But  when you haven’t yet learned to balance a checkbook, pump your own gas, or think to save a tea bag so you can use again for a second or third cup of tea AND you’re running from car-hopping to school to dance class you can feel a bit overwhelmed.  You get a little spacey, head in the clouds as you consider the principals of time and space occurring simultaneously.  I was even spacey by nature.  I’m a Pisces and we’re dreamers who spend a lot of time in our own heads.  And perhaps I was a little spacey because I was deliriously happy.   So if you’re a busy, happy Pisces you may keep friends waiting in the car while you run back into the house two or three times to get something.  Or abruptly burst late into the wrong classroom.  You may even show up to the cast party on the wrong night.  But they’ll still let you in because you brought your own booze and munchies. 
   It was after such a day as the one described, yes that all happened in one day, my beloved Gerard bestowed upon me the nickname “Cosmic Muffin.”   Afterall I did eat muffins, all types of muffins every morning.  I really didn’t mind in the nickname in the least.  Gerard’s tone was playful and loving.  Besides, I liked Cosmic Muffin much more than Space Cadette.  So it is my homage to Gerard and our roommates on Moody Road, I created The Cosmic Muffin.

Cosmically holding up the sky

Can't you just see how in love we are?


Monday, October 13, 2014

Hungarian Meatballs - Just Right For Autumn

They say season as you go, I like to taste as I go.

I didn't forget, I just couldn't decide if I was going share my Mood Rings or Meatball recipe with you.  Changlings in air brought about my decision to share the Meatballs, even though it isn't cloudy today and there's no chance.

And don't be put off by the number of ingredients to prepare this recipe.  If you've ever made a meatloaf you can do these.  Just be sure to do your mis en place, (get everything in place), before you start.

1 pound good ground beef                        1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup bread crumbs                                   1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley                4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons each;kosher salt, black pepper, ground coriander, cumin & red pepper flakes
1/3 cup whole milk                                    1/3 cup vegetable broth
2 whole eggs, slightly beaten                    Olive oil - for browning

2 cups seeded and sliced red or yellow bell peppers
1 cup diced onion                                       2 Tablespoons Hungarian, (sweet), paprika
2 Tablespoons minced garlic                      1 cup dry white wine
2 cups vegetable broth                                1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 cup sour cream                                        kosher salt and pepper to taste

To Prepare the Meatballs
1) In a very large mixing bowl mix ALL the ingredients listed for meatballs
2) Using your hands, mix ingredients together until will combined
3) Using a scoop, (cookie or ice cream), measure out meat and shape into compact balls, again using your hands
4) Heat about 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large skillet and brown meatballs in batches, over medium heat for about 7-9 minutes.  Do not cook through completely.  And do not crowd the skillet OR turn the meatballs until they have browned and easily turned.  This is how you can maintain the round shape.  By turning the meatballs in the pan too soon they stick and fall apart, losing their meatball appearance.  This is important if you're a meatball. 
5) Place browned meatballs on papertowel-lined plate - set aside.

To Prepare the Sauce
1) Using the same skillet, sweat the sliced bell peppers and onion until softened - you may need to add just a little more oil.
2) Stir in paprika and minced garlic, saute another 2-3 minutes
3) Using a wooden spoon, stir in white wine and deglaze the pan.  Deglazing means you're scrapping the bits of tasty browned meat off the bottom of the pan so it will mix into your sauce.    
4) Allow the mixture to simmer until it has reduced by half
5) Using your hands again, squeeze the tomatoes into the pan, so they squish into bite-sized chunks, stir in the vegetable broth and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6) Continue simmering your sauce another 10-15 minutes until it has thickened a bit.
7) Return those meatballs to the pan and allow everything to cook together another 10-15 minutes, (you may have to do the meatballs in two batches - if you do, place the ones that have cooked in the sauce in a small casserole dish  and place in a 250 degree oven to keep warm until you're ready to serve).
8) When all the meatballs have been allowed to simmer in the Hungarian sauce, transfer them to a serving plate or bowl then quickly whisk the sourcream into the sauce.  Pour sauce over meatballs, taste for seasoning and you're done!

     This recipe serves 8-10 depending on how large you made those meatballs.  I put three meatballs on a skewer and gave each guest 2 skewers set on a bed of sweet and spicy quinoa.

Only one left


Friday, October 10, 2014

Innings and Outings

I was out of town last weekend to do a cooking and tasting demonstration.  I had been auctioned off as a special event for an eclectic group of e-egg-heads, art enthusiasts, accountants, attorneys and one scientist.  I arrived late Friday afternoon and immediately upon stepping out of the frigid airport and into the blinding sunlight ripped off my heavy cable knit sweater.  I had been warned San Francisco was experiencing a heat-wave.  But the disparity between their definition of a heat-wave and mine is as vast as the Grand Canyon.   But it was hot.  Within ten minutes my limo arrived, (the infamous Blue Super Shuttle), and before long I was perusing my way through the kitchen cabinets and cupboards of the event’s primary hostess. 

Early the following morning she and I finished grocery shopping and began prepping.  By 6:00 p.m. the food to be tasted was prepared.  All the ingredients for these same dishes to be demonstrated were arranged in orderly fashion on large jellyroll pans in sequence of presentation.  The recipes were printed, the tables set, the beer and wine ready for consumption.  Two of my co- hostesses were wrapping up their vodka tonics when the third and final co-hostess arrived.  With thirty minutes left before start time there was a final push and we were ready.   Everything was in position so one of the girls poured us all a glass of wine and turned on the game.  I was, after all in Giants/49’er country. 
Finally our team scored a run in the ninth inning, tying up the game!  All of us jumped to our feet cheering.   So of course we went into extra innings.  Two of the guests arrived shortly thereafter and were thrilled to see we had the game on.  Straight away they sat themselves down on the sofa, were handed a couple of beers, and our conversations rolled at the speed of one of Lincecum’s grounders.  More guests arrived.  They too were offered cooling libations, a couple of chairs and joined us to watch our bearded boys, in orange and black.  The game went into another inning, and then another and then another.  The score was still one-to-one. 
By now all the guests who had purchased tickets to participate in my Tasting/Demo remained secured in their seats with drinks in hand.  We were now in the thirteenth inning.   From the edge of her seat one of the attorneys asked,
“Is anyone else getting hungry?”  
 Of course we should start cooking!   What a relief as I had been holding dinner for several minutes.  And the Giants too, were on their third or fourth relief pitcher by this time.  A unanimous decision was made to record the game, but still keep it on, without sound.
 An instructional Chef versus the Giants.  This gave me some stiff competition, but I was on my game, in my own hometown.  You may know it as Silicon Valley or The Bay Area.  Some, who are afflicted with details and specificity, would correctly refer to this section of the Peninsula as The South Bay, noting that what my hommies and I call The East Bay is really the Bay Area.  The few who have been around the longest know this neighborhood as Professorville, due to its proximity to Stanford and the fact that at one time, most of these then humble abodes, purchased at far less than one to two mil, were inhabited by those who taught at the University.  To me, it’s just home. 
Early October but the unusually high temperatures and lack of air conditioning meant the appetizer I had chosen as part of this menu months ago was a lucky choice.  Frozen rounds of lemon slices, ever-so-lightly brushed with freshly grated ginger juice, topped with a pitcher’s-like mound of caviar, brought in from Russia as a contribution from Co-hostess number three.  I pinched just a spot of wasabi paste on the mound, serving as a rather deceiving blast for the tongue.  This combination served my students well, by opening their taste buds so wide none would be reaching for the salt shaker any time soon. 
I calmed things down and gained control of my now over-excited fans with a simple Bistro Salad.  Bibb lettuce, toasted walnuts, cubed apples and Mandarin oranges.  I demonstrated the art of preparing a simple vinaigrette.  It always amazes how few take the time to prepare this most basic and economic of embellishments for salad courses.  I was asked why I didn’t include water in my ingredients.  In my opinion the inclusion of water only serves to extend the quantity of your product while reducing the potential for a viscous dressing that hugs the greens like a sinewy runner rounding first base. 
 We stopped our tasting demo to watch a play and see who was left standing.  It was now the bottom of the seventeenth.   I didn’t allow for a lengthy delay.  I brought the fans back by deftly pulling the mixture of ground beef and pork from the refrigerator and added a line-up of spices any coach would be proud of.  I then demonstrated the art of curving a meatball into a perfect round and how to maintain that shape even while cooking.  Our resident science pointed out the heat seemed a bit high in my skillet.  The Giants hit a fly ball that was caught at this same moment.  She was right I had to take it down a little, just enough to finish the play but not burn out the remaining meatballs.  Next, the sauce that would make these Hungarian Meatballs, Hungarian.  Paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin, coriander and fresh parsley.  These aromatics, when blended with sweet tomatoes, bell peppers and shallots gave rise to a crowd of flavors big enough to hold the attention of any ballpark loyalist. 
As I continued to show and tell, my sous chefs tirelessly assisting all along the way, I brought out the ingredients for my Sweet & Spicy Quinoa.  The grains had been simmering and were now translucent and plump.  The rich Kalamata olives were chopped, the cinnamon ground, and the pignolis toasted.  Just as three of our guests rolled their heads back while exclaiming,
“Ohhhh, that’s chiffonade!”  A great cheer arose.  The Giants scored!!  Finally, in the eighteenth inning, they scored just at the exact moment I outed the secret to evenly slicing fresh mint into attractive and edible threads!  Shots of Russian vodka all around!  This was all worth celebrating!
  No one balked at the offer for more shots of Russian vodka or my final play, Tropical Fruit Ambrosia.  I opted out of sour, whipped and marshmallow creams, using instead a simple syrup infused with vanilla and white rum.  This gave the ripe mango and kiwi a fair chance to play up their island influences.  Poppy seeds added texture.  Judging by what little was left in their serving bowls, I hit this one out of the park. 
What a game – what a night.