Archive for July, 2012

July 26, 2012

Simple Blueberry Muffins

This morning I went on Martha Stewart’s home page and found an 8 minute video on how-to make toy sailboats. Why would toy sailboats even enter her mind? The boats were cute, but no simple task to make. Drilling, gluing, painting… 3 verbs that never enter my mind. Martha claims she always finds old-fashioned toy blocks at yard sales. Can you picture Martha driving around the suburban neighborhoods of Connecticut in her Land Rover on a Sunday morning, stopping at garage sales to pick through some stranger’s used stuff? I was grateful she had a trusty assistant in the video, who seemed to be the brain-child of the toy boats. Her name was Helen and she even used the word “hypotenuse” to explain how to properly cut the sail for a boat. Why wouldn’t she say “big side of the triangle?” That would have worked fine. I had to look up hypotenuse, a word I last used in the 8th grade. It was good to know that Martha doesn’t think up all this crafty stuff on her own. I wonder what she did with the sailboat she made in the video? She did mention they’re fun to play with in the bathtub.

I am grateful for Martha’s Baking Handbook. Baking is definitely not my thing, but truth be told, when I need a recipe to bake something specific in a pinch, Martha seems to be the one I keep turning to. After a quick drive to Solebury Orchards, I walked out with 2 quarts of just picked blueberries. Too lazy to pick my own in the summer heat, I paid a premium for the farm to do all the work. A quick rinse in the sink when I got home, I realized that 2 quarts of blueberries is a lot! Since yesterday I’ve already had cereal and blueberries, handfuls of blueberries, yogurt and blueberries, another handful of blueberries and still not a dent has been made in the bowl. Muffins were the perfect solution and these were quick and easy to make. I’m a purist when it comes to old-fashioned baked goods, which is why I selected this recipe. These muffins highlight the fresh-from-the-farm berries without any distractions.

SIMPLE BLUEBERRY MUFFINS (makes 12 muffins)

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 stick of room temperature unsalted butter (plus a little to rub on the muffin pan)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a little to dust the pan)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs (I use extra-large)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Some turbinado sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

To prepare the pan, rub the muffin cups and the top of the muffin tin with soft butter. Toss in a little flour and shake it around in the pan to coat, discard excess.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Toss the blueberries with 2 teaspoons of the flour mixture in a fine mesh strainer, shaking off the excess back into the flour mixture bowl. Set the bowl of blueberries and bowl of flour aside. In a stand mixer using the flat beater attachment, cream the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add one egg at a time, mixing until combined. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add in the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix the batter. Finally, add the milk slowly and mix until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour dusted blueberries.

Fill the muffin cups evenly with the batter and give each muffin a hearty sprinkle with turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw). This will give the muffins that delicious crunch on the top after they bake.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean. I baked these using the convection setting in my oven and they were done in 25 minutes.

Remove pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack and then turn muffins on their sides in the pan to cool. Transfer the muffins from the pan to a rack and let cool completely.

Enjoy!

Advertisements
July 12, 2012

A Foodie on Safari

We’ve enjoyed an amazing summer vacation in South Africa. I think I might be the luckiest person in the world. I’d like to call this the trip of a lifetime, but it’s my second trip here. With my South African husband having most of his family still living in Johannesburg, I know it’s not my last visit. Again, lucky me.

When I was a little girl, I used to think going to Africa was like taking a trip to the moon. Flipping through a National Geographic back then didn’t really paint the picture of a place that I thought I’d ever travel to. The people here don’t look like the ones in the magazine. When you go shopping in Joburg, a-bone-through-the-nose is not one of the trends you’ll see, but welcoming smiles, amazing food and an unsurpassed appreciation for our planet are. I thought I would share my safari experience at Madikwe Game Reserve. There are many places to go on safari in South Africa. I think we truly picked one of the best.

A view from my window on our drive to Madikwe.

After a long, fascinating drive through the African countryside, we arrived at the Madikwe Safari Lodge hungry and ready for our first safari drive. We were treated to a traditional South African lunch. The food was fantastic.

One of the cozy outdoor spots at Madikwe Safari Lodge.

South African Chicken Pie with Roasted Potatoes

Traditional South African Bobotie with Yellow Rice

When you go out for a game drive, there’s always a pit stop for refreshments right in the bush. Morning drives bring hot tea and coffee served with these amazing oat crunchies, similar to our granola bars, but better. I had a splash of Amarula in my coffee. Amarula is a creamy South African liqueur made from the fruit of the Marula tree. It makes for a nice hot toddy on a cold morning. Afternoon drives included hot beverages as well, but our ranger also pulled out a well-stocked bar from the back of the truck. My husband enjoyed his scotch while a lone springbok grazed not far away.  African smoked sausages, crunchy roasted corn nuts and spinach quiche were our snacks for the afternoon. Somehow you forget that there are “real” predators lurking in the bush behind you and no fences!

Morning game drive refreshments.

A 6am wake-up call knocked on our door each morning. Sunrise is one of the best times to see the animals. We’d return to the lodge for breakfast by 10am and enjoy a few hours of rest until our afternoon drive. The lodge makes the best chocolate chip biscotti and homemade shortbread, served alongside our 3pm tea. Afternoon game drives always started off perfectly warm and sunny, but by the time we’d return to the lodge around 7pm, it was freezing. Average high temps were in the 60’s during the day, but mornings and nights called for down jackets and layers of thermals. It’s that cold! Upon our return our vehicle was greeted each evening by the smiling staff, holding hot towels to wipe our hands and a glass of something to warm our bones.

Beautiful Kudu

Our first night they surprised us with an African BBQ, called a Braai. Kudu sausages, grilled chicken and African pap were on the menu. Pap is like an African version of polenta and is usually served with a tomato and onion sauce. Steamed veggies, beef stew with dumplings and salad were also part of the feast. I was feeling a little guilty about the kudu, seeing them frolic in the bush just hours before, but one bite of the sausage erased the guilt.

African Braai

Our wonderful hosts Maria and Barbara.

On the third morning, we were out for our game drive and began heading back to the lodge only to be diverted to a surprise breakfast in the bush. We initially thought, “isn’t that nice, someone must be getting married in the bush,” only to find out it was a breakfast party for us.

Yogurt with the freshest fruit & Muesli offered every morning.

I was thrilled to receive a few recipes from the chef at our lodge. I plan to give African cooking a try at home and will definitely share the recipes. The first step is translating the measurements and step two is figuring out what desicated coconut is? Do we have that in the States? It’s a key ingredient in the yummy oat crunchies from above.

A last note on our safari trip… I left the lodge thinking how blessed I was to experience nature in its true form. Since my last visit in 2006, I can’t bring myself to visit a circus and cringe at any news of poachers and animal cruelty. My sister-in-law reminds me that even an ant will run if you try to kill him… the ant loves life as much as we do. I often catch and release spiders rather than squash them. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes my ridiculous bug fears get the best of me. All I can do is try to remember we are all living creatures who deserve a chance at life. The mom and baby elephant below did everything in sync. Each movement the mother made, the baby would mimic perfectly. I’m certain this is the habitat they should be living in.

%d bloggers like this: