3.31.2014

The Best Ever Banana Muffins - Recipe


One of the first recipes I put up on this blog was my grandma's banana bread recipe.  That was four years ago and it is still a favorite.  In the last year or so I started to make the same recipe as banana muffins.  The main benefit is they bake faster.  Start to finish these muffins take just half an hour, making them excellent for breakfast.  I like to make some scrambled eggs when they are just about done baking.  Add a cup of coffee and I'm a happy mama.

The Best Ever Banana Muffins

Yields 12 regular sized muffins

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar (I prefer evaporated cane juice sugar)
2 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana (two bananas)
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/2 tablespoon buttermilk*

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand add a couple drops of lemon juice or vinegar to milk or use sour cream in the same amount.

  1. Start by setting out the butter and eggs. Bringing them up to room temperature will make the batter better. Let them sit for at least an hour at room temperature. If you are in a hurry, microwave the butter for 10 seconds and stir it to distribute the heat. Try not to liquefy the butter, the goal is soft, but solid. And in the end cold eggs, won’t make bad bread.
     
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla and buttermilk and mix it until smooth.
     
  3. In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
     
  4. Add the dry mixture and the banana to the butter mixture, adding a little at a time and mix after each addition. Stir in the nuts. Ideally you will mix just until all the ingredients are moist, there should still be lots of lumps. Over mixing will react all the baking powder and soda. This makes the texture of the bread dense and heavy. So less work equals better bread. That’s the way it should be.
     
  5. Pour the batter into greased or lined muffin tin. Bake at 425 degrees for 18 minutes or until a sharp knife poked in, comes out clean.
     
  6. Remove the bread from the pan immediately to avoid soggy crust. Let the muffins cool on a rack for at least five minutes before serving. When cool, cover and store.

3.27.2014

Planning to Preserve 2014


Over the last four years my cooking and food goals have evolved.   First, I worked out how to eat healthy on a budget.  Next, I wanted to put by part of our yearly food supply.  At the start, I couldn't grow it myself  because we lived in an apartment the first three years in Indiana.  Instead, I took home extra from the vegetable garden which was part of the arboretum I worked for, as well as, the farmer's market.  I look back at those blog posts and see my early attempts at canning, dehydrating and foraging.  There was a learning curve.  The first couple years I did small batches without ever putting enough by for the winter.

Remember when I used to think this was a lot of tomatoes in 2010?


This is about a third of what I put up last year:



I left my arboretum job a couple years later when my husband got a position as a professor and we moved to our current small town in northeast Indiana.  Before we moved I contacted a couple farms and gardens nearby and asked if I could volunteer.  Hawkin's Family Farm let me come out and work for food that first fall in 2011.  That was also the first year I put up a significant amount of food and I decided the next year I needed a plan for putting food by.

During the winter of 2012, when I was pregnant with June Bug, I created a full blown plan to preserve.  I had spread sheets and calculations of how many canning jars, pounds of tomatoes and how many batches of pesto so we wouldn't have to buy any for the two, soon to be three of us, for a year.  I needed that kind of intensive planning to know what it would take to reach my goals.

My first plan to preserve post can be found here.  This is the calendar I kept on the fridge that summer to remind me how much I wanted, of what and when:



Last year, 2013, I was a little lax.  I looked at my previous year's plan and aimed for a similar amount of food put by with some small adjustments.  It is March of 2014 and we are running out of things; a little more planning could have made the difference.  This year I am back on the saddle making another full blown plan to preserve.

I started by looking back over my notes from the last three years.  I have a notebook with lists of what I was canning, freezing and preserving over the summer and fall for each year.  I put those in a spread sheet and made notes; which foods were enough, too much, when we ran out that type of thing.  I also added a section of things I would like to try.  I'd love to put up more frozen fruit and make my own hot sauces.  I'd also like to get into cool, dry storage for root crops and winter squash.

I looked back at my list and figured out which produce we would grow, which I could get from the CSA and which ones I could buy at the farmers market or from other local farmers.


Our home garden is still fairly small, just three beds equaling 263-square feet.  If I wasn't due with our second baby in June, I would have pushed for expanding as we have used maybe a sixth of the potential space in our side yard.  The large sunny side yard was a selling point for this house!



This year I plan to grow in our home annual vegetable garden:
  • Winter squash (dry cool storage)
  • Cucumbers (pickles)
  • Blue Potatoes (dry cool storage)
  • Onions (dry cool storage)
  • Cherry and paste tomatoes (dehydrate and can)
  • Basil (frozen as pesto)
  • Zucchini (frozen)
  • Lettuce (only for fresh eating)
  • Spinach (frozen)
  • Broccoli (only for fresh eating, I'm not putting that much in)
Some vegetables I will be able to get from Hawkin's Family Farm CSA.  When crops are plentiful I often get the option to pick as much as I am able and then split it with the farm.  From the last couple of years I know I can count on green beans, beets, chard, peppers, more tomatoes and grapes.  

Last year I harvest two 5-gallon buckets of grapes and split the juice with family who grew the grapes.

It is also important to be flexible.  Sometimes there is an unexpected bumper crop and I have to be willing to take advantage when possible.  Last year I passed up a bunch of bell peppers because we were doing a lot of hosting and I just didn't feel like I had to the time to process them.  I still regret that a little. The year before I cashed in and we had frozen chopped pepper on hand all winter.  This year I did take advantage of the grapes at Hawkins Farm.  They didn't have time to pick or process them so I made a couple batches of jelly and juice and split it with the family.

Do you want to see it?  I've boiled down my plan into one spread sheet.  Here it is (click chart to enlarge):