Wednesday, April 28, 2010

muffin muffin, who's got the muffin? {Recipe of the week}


Have I got a muffin recipe for you!

It's light, good for you, and doesn't taste like it. At all. Once you start becoming a "gotta lose the fat while saving the taste and nutrition of the muffin" connoisseur like me, you realize that certain ingredients or techniques allow you to do just that.

For instance, reducing the butter and adding yogurt allows you to retain fluffiness while reducing fat and increasing nutrition. Adding things in a certain sequence creates a better texture and composition. High quality ingredients increase flavor and stamina. You know, things like that.


Want some? Here goes...

Light Blueberry Muffins (adapted from America's Test Kitchen)


3 cups whole wheat pastry flour plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups low-fat plain yogurt
2 cups fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Sift the 3 cups of flour,baking powder,baking soda, salt, and 1/4 cup of the sugar together and into a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the rest of the 3/4 cup of sugar with the butter until creamy and fluffy (a few minutes). Add the eggs in while mixing on low one at a time, and then add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture and yogurt alternately (1/3 of each mixture at a time) while mixer is still on low speed.
Mix the additional 1 tablespoon of flour into the blueberries to coate, and then lightly fold into the batter.
Scoop into muffin cups and sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of raw sugar throughout the tops of all the muffins.
Bake 25-30 minutes.
Hints and tricks:
  • To make these into a lemon-blueberry muffin, change the plain yogurt to lemon. It's delish.
  • Fact, these are not the high fat super light and angel fluffy muffins that you might be used to. They have substance (the whole wheat flour), so if you DO want those kind, use all purpose and/or cake flour.
  • I use really small blueberries (my favorites are the wild boreal blueberries from Trador Joes). I think it distributes the flavor better and makes eat bite more simple and less intense. The ones you pick yourself are always the best, though!
  • Using yogurt when baking is a HUGE way to substitute the fatty ingredients (like oil), not to mention it helps create a fluffy texture. Most of my recipes have yogurt and/or applesauce for that very reason.
  • Since you're going lighter on this muffin, give yourself permission to use that real butter. It's worth it. Then go running. Like, far.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cheese Extravanganza

Wanna learn how to WOW your audience? Make them jealous of your coolness? Pimp your entertaining status up a bit?

Hello, Cheese Platter.

I am not talking about going to Costco and grabbing their platter of cheddar and crackers. Oh no, my friends. I am talking about creating a cheese extravaganza so cheesy that your heart skips a beat just viewing it's goodness. I hope you are not lactose intolerant. I really really hope you are not.


How to say cheese:

1st. Get yourself a cheese board. I like having one because it has a purpose to do just that... be a cheese board. Of course, you don't have to have one at all because any cutting board or platter will work just fine if you need it to. It is also wise to buy yourselves some cheese spreaders. Without them, it can be quite the awkward cheese-spreading experience.

2nd. Go to the cheese counter/deli. There are many places that provide you with A LOT of different and fabulous cheeses in one stop. Our favorites in the area are:


Cheese counters/deli's can be REALLY overwhelming. However, the wonderful thing about these counters is that there is usually a cheese guy behind them. He is your key to opening this new refined door in your life. Sometimes we tell him exactly what we want, sometimes we ask his opinion considering what we are using the cheese for (a certain pizza or cheese platter or picnic), and sometimes if they allow it (Delaurenti does), we ask to sample.

Sample Sample Sample. This is VERY important, especially if you are new to this cheese thing.
Your sample-tasting experience usually goes something like this:

You: So, behind-the-cheese-counter-guy, we're having a picnic tomorrow. We already have Brie and some cheddar and figs and grapes, so we're trying to find more of a blue-cheese-type to contrast with that fruit.
Him: How about this? (handing us a piece to taste)
You: Yuck.
Him: How about this?
You: We're getting warmer.
Him: How about this?
You: Perfect. Now can you write that down for me? I want to remember that for next time.

Easy Cheesy.
*PS. If you can't go to this type of counter to taste... your local grocery store is still a good stop. We usually buy a few creamy cheeses like Brie and Chevre there.

Cheeses we love: Brie, Stilton, Gorgonzola, Parmesan-Reggiano, Gouda, Chevre, Cheddar, and a good sheep's milk cheese. (when preparing a large platter, a mix of soft and hard cheeses with some strong and mild are a nice taste for all palates.)


3rd. Hit the Meat Counter, too...
Meats we love: Speck Prusciutto, Alps Prusciutto, Columbus Calabrese (a salami)
(We prefer a prusciutto for the mild and soft texture that pair nicely with the smoothness of the cheese. But flavor-wise, it's fun to have spicy and robust salami)


4th. Gather together those sides.
  • Sweet- Cheese and fruit are like bread and butter. They compliment and contrast. They meld the flavors. They make you sit, savor, and saddle (I couldn't think of another s -word.) The fruit we like are apples sliced very thinly (not too sweet, like pink lady perhaps), green grapes, and figs. I have come to love fig bread (found at Whole Foods). LOVE IT.
  • Savory- Artichoke hearts, cherry peppers, roasted red peppers, etc. When making sandwiches or panini's with your cheeses and meats, these are such a nice compliment.
  • Substance - You have to have something to hold it all together, right? We have found that you don't have to go all-out-gourmet on the crackers. Although we ask that you stay away from Ritz crackers (due to the Costo similarity again and the crumbly texture), we are a fan of triscuits and wheat thins or a simple rosemary flat cracker. When it comes to bread, we like a crusty loaf. Ciabatta is our favorite because of the sandwich capabilities for later.




Fifth. Say Cheese and Enjoy!

Sidenote: We KNOW how expensive this experience can be. However, we also know that such gourmet cheeses are usually not eaten in one sitting. You only need a little to go a long way. We usually get at least 2 meals out of the situation (with guests over as well). One time in an appetizer fashion and sandwiches/panini's are perfect for the next day. The leftovers go into the fridge (vacuum sealed) for next time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Seattle Restaurant Week

You just HAVE to get in on this shin-dig.

Seattle Restaurant Week on April 18th-29th is when you can go to a zillion awesome restaurants and get a 3 course meal for $25, and some serve a lunch 3 course meal for $15.

There are an amazing 100 participating restaurants in every area of Seattle, so start tempting those tastebuds!

We entered
the contest to win a $100 gift certificate too-- Wish us luck! Or you luck. Or whatever.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Next Stop - Chowder and Humbow {Tour of Pike Place Market Part 5}


Right next to our meatball lover place is the famous Pike Place Chowder House. We like it because A) we get to use our entertainment guide coupon and B) it's just good. Nothing beats a sourdough bread bowl and chowder on a cool day. or a sunny day. or whenever. It is very similar to Ivar's which is super popular around here, but I have to admit that I like the bread bowl at this place better, not to mention this hot spot has won some SERIOUS awards. If I won the "Great Chowder Cook-off," you better be sure that you wouldn't here the end of it. I'd probably make you do my laundry for a year or something. And you would, wouldn't you? (mwa-ha-ha)

Our Top Picks off the Menu:

-Clam Chowder, obviously

-Seafood Bisque, pictured above

*We also like the variety of chowders. From Vegan to Southwestern, it just goes to show how party pleasing this place is.

Wait.. another review.. so soon? You asked for it!


It is MANDATORY that Rowdy stop at Mee Sum Pastry for a humbow (baked or steamed buns filled with meats and/or veggies) every stink'n time. He doesn't get them anywhere else but I guess that means that you need to get yours here, too. After all.... he is the humbow expert. We're a huge fan of that sweet barbeque in a bun!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Tast-y Meat-a Ball-a {Tour of Pike Place Market Part 4}


A few years ago we were doing some exploring in the inside of the market. It wasn't too far inside, but far enough away from the main walkway that I think it sometimes gets passed up. We hadn't eaten in 30 minutes, and it was lunch time, so you know... this looked like a cool place. Pike Place Pasta Bar cool-looking-place, to be exact. The owner said "try some meatballs." We did.

They tasted like Mom-Mom's-- Rowdy's full blood Italian Grandmother. I myself had never had the privilege of tasting her meatballs before she passed away, but my MIL, SIL, BIL's, and HIL...I meant husband, all swear by them.

As we were tasting of their delish-ish-ness, I asked the super cool owner "hey! what's in these?" Secret ingredient, of course. Just kidding. He told me worchestershire sauce. "Really?" I said.

It works. I put that in my homemade meatballs now, too.

One of my favorite things about this pasta joint? They drizzle pesto and parmesan on top of their marinera. Such a fantastic combo.

Their pasta is yummy, garlic bread delish, and the prices are super reasonable. Very casual environment where you can sit at the barstools and slurp up your deep red marinera and pasta without worries of bugging the neighbor next to you. They are doing the same thing, you know. Hot take-out Italian at its best.

Here's a map.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

For the Love of Cheesecake {Tour of Pike Place Market Part 3}


I'd like to think that I know a good cheesecake when I taste one. Years ago I made a cheesecake for my office and it didn't turn out well AT ALL. I was beyond embarrassed, so from that moment on I made sure that I not only knew how to make it (I'll give you my recipe later), but that I knew how to taste it. There has to be a certain bounce upon touch, creaminess, richness, and flavor that unite in a way to make it a decadent dessert. If you get that right, it's bliss in a bite.

Our past trip to Pike Place led us to The Confectional. I never really noticed this place before because I was always stuffed to the brim with other carbs (as seen in previous posts), but my MIL ran right in and bought this small and simple dessert for us all to share. We were really really happy with her choice.

A Happy Day and Good Cheesecake go hand in hand.


I know this is not a very good picture of the cheescake itself-- but it's mainly because it was swallowed by five people in 1 minute.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Donut Heaven {Tour of Pike Place Market Part 2}

Let's talk about our favorite donut shop ever. Daily Dozen Donut Co. located at 93 Pike Place Seattle, Wa 98101 is the bomb.

Always our first stop on our market adventure, this bag 'o dozen makes my heart swoon. I am not a donut lover in general. For these, however, I will take off my "no greasy items" cape and relish in such goodness. They are hot, fresh, and scrumptious. My kids love them. We love them. How can somebody NOT love them? If you don't, well then, we can't be friends anymore. Unless you just lie to me and say you do. But then our friendship will be based on lies, and who wants that? How about you just love them for realz?


Sometimes the guy behind the counter does this cool "pop" to the paper bag when he opens it before he shoves your donuts in there. Oddly, I look forward to that:) There is no "restaurant" that you go into. Just a place behind the counter where the dough is made and served fresh off the conveyer belt fryer.


I really don't have much more to say. I believe these pics speak for themselves, don't you?


beautiful bite, my dear daughter.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Parisian Macaroons {Tour of Pike Place Market Part 1}

We'll be posting our little tour of Pike Place in a series because each place deserves their very own spot.

Let's start with carbs ooh la la.

There is a bakery in Pike Place that is probably the closest I will ever get to heavenly France until hubby decides to take me there. I'm just say'n. Hint. Hint.

Thankfully, for now, I can have my own France close by. Just walking by I can taste each pastry before it even enters my mouth. You are surrounded by goodness. Warmth. Bread. Sophistication. French.

Say it again.


LA PANIER is truly wonderful.


(location on website)

Their bread is gorgeous and of course, tastes amazing. And don't even get me started on their amandine croissant. A lot of people just sit down and hang out. The line is usually long because of intense market traffic, but goes relatively fast regardless. We're more the hit and run type of family and it is very easy to still savor that pastry while walking around.


These Petit Macarons are a very recent fave. They come in chocolate, pistachio, lemon, orange-ganache, raspberry, coffee and vanilla. When you bite down the first thing you encounter is the consistency; a crunchy meringue with a sudden creamy softness. Then the flavor hits. I am a fan of the lemon and pistachio. They are light and airy. A real treat at $1.50 each, which I feel is a "splurging-steal" considering how fun they are to take wrapped up in a cute box and for your picnic at Kerry Park.

If you don't have access to France OR La Panier in the Seattle Area, here is a Recipe from good 'ol Martha to hopefully give you some of that same satisfaction... and make you all trendy-sophisticated for that baby shower you are throwing and want to show off at.

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