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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Updated Bran Muffins

A few years ago, I posted a recipe for bran muffins. I've been mainly eating my chocolate chip and banana nut muffins lately, but a couple weeks ago, I suddenly decided to change pace. But the old recipe exhibits one major pet peeve of mine... it does not make a convenient amount of batter. It makes enough for one and a half trays of muffins (it says it makes a dozen, but when I went to make it again recently, it made quite a few more than that). Who wants to make a half tray? So, I decided I would adjust the recipe to make one dozen muffins. I figured that was easiest, because if I wanted to make two dozen muffins, I could easily double the recipe. Well, one thing led to another, and suddenly, I found myself playing with the recipe.

First, I want you to know that the original recipe is darn tasty. They are sweet and moist and yummy. The recipe I am about to post produces muffins that are a little more moist and not quite as sweet. In fact, they have no refined sugar in them. The majority of the sweetness in this new version comes from the dates themselves. Instead of adding chopped dates into the batter at the end, I thought I would see how the muffins tasted if date sugar were used instead. Date sugar is not really a sugar, but simply dried and ground dates. But dates are so sweet, that they can be used like sugar in many instances. In the muffins, I found its use has a few advantages. First, the muffins are so incredibly moist now. It also makes eating the muffins less sticky. Those large chunks of dates, while delicious can make a mess while eating them (especially when feeding them to a one year old!). The updated recipe also has no refined flour. In the previous post, I post the disclaimer that they are "good tasting muffins, not to be confused with 'health' muffins." In this case, I think we can confidently state that these muffins are good tasting and healthy. They're not low calorie, but they are packed with good stuff!

While I've decided I like these muffins a little less sweet, if you want yours to be a little more... decadent, you can simply add 2-4 tablespoons of brown sugar to the batter.

If you want to make your life easy while mixing the batter, pour the oil into a glass measuring cup first. Then eyeball the amount of honey. Lastly, add the molasses until the total amount reaches a half cup for the three ingredients. Not only is the measuring easy, when the oil is poured in first, it makes getting the sticky ingredients out of the cup easy too.

As for decorating the tops of the muffins, in the original, I tossed a few oats on top. I got to thinking about it, and that just doesn't make a lot of sense; there are no oats in these! A better option is either to sprinkle them with a little turbinado sugar, which is a coarse grained, unrefined sugar that gives a nice crust and sweet bite to the tops of the muffins, or to sprinkle a little bran on them. You can also leave them plain, but where's the fun in that? As darkly colored as these are, they can be a little difficult to determine when they are done. For these muffins, I always use a cake tester to be sure the muffins are done.

Updated Bran Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 TBS honey
3 TBS unsulphured molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup wheat bran

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/4 cup date sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the first seven ingredients. Mix the bran in with the wet ingredients and let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes so the bran can hydrate. In a small bowl, mix together the dry ingredients together. Once the bran has swelled and thickened the wet mixture, you can mix the dry ingredients into it. Spoon into lined muffin cups. A #16 disher slightly overfull will make 12 evenly sized muffins. Sprinkle the tops with either bran or turbinado sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving. Keeps well in the freezer. Reheat in the microwave to enjoy at your leisure.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chickpea and Lentil Stew

I wish I could have come up with a name for this recipe that is as delicious as this dish... but, alas, all I have is the humble "Chickpea and Lentil Stew." And there is meat in there. We're carnivores around here (not that we dislike vegetarian dishes, but we're partial to meat).

The first time I made this, I had a pound of lamb and was shooting from the hip. I knew the flavor profile I was shooting for and just went for it. I was multitasking (as I am wont to do these days!) and didn't take the time to write down what I put in it. Boy was I sorry once this dish was done. It was fantastic! At first taste, I immediately knew I would have to make it again, and soon, before I completely forgot what I had done. On round two, I made a bigger pot of it (now that I knew it would be good!) and I only had beef on hand. While it is delicious both ways, if you can find the lamb, I heartily recommend it. It adds a depth of flavor to the dish that beef just can't provide.

This stew is robust and flavorful. It has a Middle Eastern edge, but - as far as I know - is not authentic in any way (I did make it up as I went, after all). The chickpeas are substantial yet creamy (especially if you use ones canned without salt), and the lentils make a nice, hearty gravy. The cumin and garam masala seasoning gives it a lovely warmth. Yup, it's a keeper!

Chickpea and Lentil Stew
Yield: serves 6-8

1 1/2 - 2 pounds ground lamb (or beef)
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
30 ounces canned chickpeas, drained (aka garbanzos - salt free, if possible)
2 TBS tomato paste
15 oz can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups red lentils
salt, to taste

In a large Dutch oven (or heavy stock pot), brown the meat and drain off the fat. Over medium high heat, add the remaining ingredients. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Continue heating until the mixture just comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover to simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Depending on the brand of lentils, you may need to add a little water to keep the stew loose. Just add a little at a time until the stew is the consistency you want. Keeps very well in the refrigerator for one week.
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