Monday, April 29, 2013

Banana Honey Muffins #MuffinMonday

We are coming up on six months in the desert and it occurred to me that I haven’t really shared that much about life here.   At least not like I feel I did when we were in Cairo.  I guess it is that Dubai is such a modern city that it doesn’t feel that different in many ways, from other places we have lived.   My neighborhood is surrounded by vast desert wasteland with little in the way of plants besides natural scrub.

But, inside the walls of this gated community, we enjoy green lawns and flowering plants in abundance.

The view from my kitchen window.

A different angle of the backyard.

Supermarkets have everything we need, including bacon and cheese, and even some things we just want like fresh flowers, Wilton baking supplies and Jif peanut butter.   I know, I know, some of you are saying that bacon and cheese are “wants” not “needs” but then you must not know me very well yet.  :)  After Cairo with its limited supply of green leafy vegetables, I am working on not getting spoiled by choice and trying to choose fresh foods that haven’t been flown in from the other side of the world with a long carbon footprint to match.

Overwhelmed for choice.

Every item is labeled with the country of its provenance, which is very helpful.

One thing I did get in Egypt and for which I am very grateful, were two bottles of wonderful honey, which were a gift from the Orthodox priests we visited on a charity trip.  I haven’t found anything to match it here yet.   It’s lovely runny stuff, produced by religious bees.  (Just kidding.)  But it does make delicious muffins.   I reminisce with gratitude every time I use it.

2 cups or 250g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup or 115g sugar
2 large bananas (ripe)
2 eggs
1/4 cup or 60ml canola or other light oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup or 120ml milk

2 tablespoons or 30g butter (softened)
1/4 cup or 25g oats
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and prepare your 12-cup muffin tin by greasing it or lining it with paper muffin cups.

Combine your flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

In another small bowl, mashed your ripe bananas with a fork.

Then whisk together your bananas, eggs, canola oil, honey and milk.

In a separate small bowl, mix together your first four topping ingredients until smooth.  Add in the honey and stir well.

Pour your egg/milk mixture into your dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Divide the muffin batter between the muffin cups.

Top each cup of batter with a scoop of the topping and spread it out just a little with your spoon.

Bake in your preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  The topping will form a natural slightly crunchy glaze on each muffin.

Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pan-fried Scallops with Garlic Chili Linguine

Garlic and chili flavor the olive oil used to pan-fry succulent scallops and coat linguine tossed with arugula. A deliciously quick meal for any day of the week.

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is a challenge:  Try something new.  A technique, a new ingredient, a new ethnic cuisine.  Just something new that might be considered adventurous.  You may find this hard to believe, but I had never cooked scallops.  I was always just a little bit intimidated by their thickness and the fact that they should be just cooked, not too much, not too little, to be perfect.  Couple that with the fact that they’ve been relatively expensive everywhere I’ve lived and it was easy to justify NOT trying to cook them.  If you know what I mean.  But, thanks to our host for this week, a fellow nomad, Conni from Foodie Army Wife,  I am ready for adventure and here we go!  (And make sure you go on over to Conni’s blog and give her some love.  Spouses like Conni are the backbone of the military and I am grateful for the service of her husband and the sacrifices the whole family has made to make that service possible.)

2 cloves of garlic
1 small red chili
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
8 large scallops
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (I actually use a three-peppercorn mix of white, black and pink, but freshly ground is key.)
8 oz or about 250g dried pasta (I prefer linguine.)
Massive handful baby arugula or rocket

Lay your scallops out on a bed of paper towels and pat dry with more paper towels.

When they are completely dry, season with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meanwhile, boil your pasta in lightly salted water, according to packet instructions.

Slice your garlic very thinly and chop the chili pepper.

Sauté the garlic and chili in the olive oil, just until the garlic softens.  A little color won’t hurt but you don’t want to the garlic to brown.  We are looking to flavor the oil.

Remove the garlic and chili from the pan with a slotted spoon.

When your pasta is done, drain it and then toss in a huge handful of arugula or baby spinach, if you prefer.

Add in the garlic and chili and stir.  Put the lid back on the pot to keep warm.  The greens will wilt nicely, just from the heat of the hot pasta.

Heat the pan very hot and lay the scallops to fry.  You will need a mesh cover for the pan because, no matter how dry you dried your scallops, they tend to be moist and will spit at you.

After just a couple of minutes, use some tongs to turn the scallops over.  Put the spatter guard back on because now it really goes to town.

When the second side of the scallops are a little golden, turn them back to the first side and push them to one side of the pan.  Add in the pasta and swirl it around in the garlicky, spicy, scallopy olive oil.

Sprinkle with a little more sea salt, if necessary.

Serve each plate with a pile of pasta and four scallops each.

I have to say, scallops will probably be on the menu from now on.  My husband and I both loved them!  And they really weren’t hard at all.


New Expeditions (Sides, Starters & Staples)

Grand Quests (Main Dishes)

Escapades (Sweet Treats & Spirited Companions)


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lemon and Cilantro Crusted White Fish for #Random Recipe Challenge

This month’s Random Recipe Challenge has the same rules as always, it’s just gotten a little more high tech, with Dom over at +belleau kitchen creating a random number generator for us to use.  I have seen these, as I am sure you have, on blogs that do giveaways but I had never used one myself.

 Good fun and more probably more random than my usual method, which is to make someone give me a number.  :) Since Eat Your Books has my cookbooks all organized, it was easy enough to find book number 33 in the category of “Wherever Home is Now.”

Random Recipes #27 - April

So, this recipe was adapted from one by Bill Granger in Bills Food,  of which the cover, the endpaper and flyleaf have no apostrophe in Bills so I will cringingly omit it here.  Upon further research, I discovered that his restaurants and blog are also missing the apostrophe.  Why, Bill, why?  Is there a punctuation shortage in Australia?  Such a rich and wonderful country!  I’d be happy to send you some.  But I have to forgive Bill because this fish was delicious.  And he is such a cutie pie.

1/2 cup or about 40g fresh breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup or about 15g fresh cilantro or coriander leaves (or flat-leafed parsley if you are not a fan of cilantro)
1 small red chili (optional)
Zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
Few grinds of black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 thick white fish fillets (about 6 oz or 175g each)

Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Chop the garlic and cilantro roughly.  Mince the red chili, if using.

Put the breadcrumbs, garlic, chili and sea salt in the food processor.

Pour in the olive oil and grind in some black pepper and grate in the zest of the lemon. Process until you have lovely green breadcrumbs.

I almost forgot the lemon zest. You should put all the stuff in together, as per the
instructions.   But if you forget something, by all means, add it in.
Heap the mixture on top of your fish, trying to make sure it is all well covered.

Bake until cooked through.  I cooked mine for about 10 minutes and then put the oven on broil (or grill) for a few minutes more to brown the top.  If your fish is thicker or thinner you may have to adjust the time.

Bill says to serve this with garlic mashed potatoes and baby spinach, which I agree would be very lovely but I had some butternut squash that needed roasting so I did that and a small tomato salad instead.

All in all, a fabulous random recipe.  I would definitely make this again.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Cheesy Spinach Muffins #MuffinMonday

A cheesy muffin with cheddar and feta and spinach, topped with thinly sliced tomatoes. There's thyme in there too! These guys are perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or a snack. 

There are a few staples I keep in my freezer, just in case.  Frozen spinach is one of them.  In a pinch, spinach can be thawed quickly and added into omelets or quiches or cheesy sauces for pasta.  It adds color and nutritional value without an overly strong or objectionable flavor.   It is also beautiful added into muffins.  (See exhibit A, above.)

I've got to tell you that this is my all-time most-visited on this entire blog. I published it originally almost four years ago and have made these muffins countless times since then. It is almost my most-pinned recipe. It give me great joy to know that folks are pinning and saving and making these!

Ingredients - for 12 muffins
3 1/2 oz or 100g frozen spinach
2 2/3 oz or 75g feta
3 1/2 oz or 100g extra sharp cheddar
2 tomatoes
2 cups or 250g flour
Sea salt flakes
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup or 60ml olive oil
1 cup or 240ml milk
Several sprigs fresh thyme
Black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C and grease your 12-cup muffin pan liberally with non-stick spray or butter.

Thaw your spinach with a few zaps in the microwave.  Or allow to thaw naturally, if you have time.  I never seem to.  Allow to cool, if you zapped it too long.

Buy the spinach that is frozen in cubes.  It's much easier then to thaw just what you need. 

Grate your cheddar cheese and crumble the feta.

Slice the tomatoes fairly thinly and leave to drain on some folded paper towels.  You need 12 slices so if you have any tomato left over, save it for a sandwich or share it with your helper.

Measure your flour, salt, baking powder, grated cheddar and some of the leaves off of your fresh thyme sprigs into a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Measure the milk and olive oil into a smaller bowl and whisk with the eggs and thawed spinach.   Just two eggs, pay no attention to that double yolk behind the curtain.  (Sorry, watched too much of The Wizard of Oz in my youth.)

Here’s something incredible, and I use that in the literal sense.  Hard to believe.  But true!  In the last week, I have opened SEVEN eggs that had double yolks.  I think I may have had one or two in the whole rest of my life!  And they weren’t all from the same batch of eggs, although they were the same brand.   Isn’t that something?!  Have you ever found a double yolked egg?

Fold your wet ingredients into your dry ones until just mixed.

Fold in the crumbled feta.

Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups.

Pat the tomato slices really dry with another paper towel and top each cup of batter with one.

Sprinkle the tomato slices with a little more fresh thyme, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until you can see that the sides are turning golden brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Remove from the pan, loosening gently with a knife if necessary, and cool further on a wire rack.


For those who might need a gluten-free version, check out this post.  The author/baker saw this link on Pinterest and modified it for her family's needs.  Thank you, K!