June 13, 2012

Whole Wheat Strawberry Muffins

It's stawberry season! It's strawberry season!!

This time of year is practically on par with Christmas for me.  How wonderfully joyous it is to find loads of fresh, local produce in grocery stores and farmer's markets after a long, dull winter.  Salad greens, asparagus, rhubarb and of course, STRAWBERRIES!!

If you feel like celebrating too, try a batch of these super yummy muffins.  Made with whole wheat flour, a little sugar, fresh fruit and a punch of vanilla, these are sure to please the whole family. 

2 1/2 cups     whole wheat flour, sifted
1/2 cup        lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp          baking powder
1 tsp          baking soda
1/2 tsp        salt

2              eggs
1 1/4 cups     buttermilk
1/3 cup        vegetable oil
1 Tbsp         vanilla extract
1 cup          fresh strawberries, sliced

A note about the ingredients: If you don't have buttermilk, simply add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar to whatever milk you have on hand (2% or homogenized works best) and let sit for a few minutes.

Pictured above is my home-made vanilla extract.  The stuff in the store is really expensive, and I find this way pretty cost effective!  It's really easy to make.  Simply place 3 or 4 vanilla pods (cut in half) in an air-tight jar.  Pour vodka or white rum over them and let sit in the back of a cool cupboard for 2 - 3 months.  I can usually get 4 or 5 batches out of the same pods.  Just be sure to wash out the jar inbetween uses!

I sifted the flour before measuring to prevent heavy, dense muffins.  Be sure you do the same! 

When you've sifted most of the flour out, you will be left with a bunch of bran. You can either discard it, or keep sifting a little while longer so the little fine bits of bran are included into your muffins.

Gather your ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, two bowls, a whisk and a wooden spoon.  Preheat the oven to 425'F (220'C).  Prepare your 12 cup muffin tin by either greasing each cup or lining with paper.

Before you measure out the sifted flour - did you know there's a 'proper' way to measure flour?  It seems a little anal retentive, until you realize it produces great results.  Spoon flour into measuring cup until it's heaping.

Take the flat edge of a knife and slide it across the cup to smooth out the surface. 


I had a teensy bit of flour left over, so back into the the bag it goes!

Now that you've got your flour, add the remaining dry ingredients - the sugar, baking powder and soda and salt. 

Combine with a wooden spoon so there aren't any lumps and set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk eggs. 

 Add milk, oil and vanilla and gently whisk to combine. 

Pour egg mixture over dry ingredients. 

Add strawberries.

The next step is CRITICAL.  Do. Not. Over-mix.  This is the rule for muffins, pancakes, waffles and cakes.  Cookies you can pretty much beat the crap out of and they'll end up the same.  But not muffins.  They're delicate.  Use swift, deep strokes to combine the wet/dry ingredients and stop as soon as it's done.  If you're mixing for longer than 30 seconds, you've mixed too long.  If there are still one or two little pockets of flour, that's not a big deal.  Just stop stirring.

Divide evenly into muffin cups, filling almost to the top.  If you're feeling fancy, you could sprinkle a little brown sugar on top.

Pop them in the oven and reduce the heat to 350'F (175'C).  The reason for starting the muffins at a higher temperature is so they'll rise a little more.  Fluffy muffins are the best!  Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or whenever a toothpick inserted to the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Let sit in the muffin tin for about 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.  They're at their best when still warm, but still moist and delicious the next day.

So delicious in fact, that R-man had TWO for breakfast this morning! 

I didn't have the typcial twinge of guilt with these muffins as I normally do with baked goods.  Low sugar, high fibre and lots of fruit.  They're perfect!

If you happen to be lactose intolerent, you most certainly can switch in some soy, almond or rice milk.  Just be sure to still add the lemon juice/vinegar.  It reacts with the baking soda to give you light, fluffy muffins.

When strawberry season is over, try these variations:

Lemon Blueberry
Replace the strawberries with fresh or frozen blueberries. Reduce the buttermilk to 1 cup and add 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.  Nix the vanilla in favour of 1 Tbsp of lemon zest.

Orange Raspberry
Replace the strawberries with fresh or frozen raspberries.  Reduce the buttermilk to 1 cup and add 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice.  Nix the vanilla in favour of 1 Tbsp of orange zest.

 Let me know if you try them! Have a happy Wednesday.

June 9, 2012

Monogrammed Tea Towel Tutorial

I received a virtual kick in the tush last week from a fellow blogger.  She didn't think my once-a-month blog posts were sufficient.  I have to agree with her.

I've been busy.  I know that's a lame, catch-all excuse.  But, it's the honest truth.  B-U-S-Y.  Yeah, click that link.  You'll see that I've completely lost my mind and deluded myself into thinking that someone (or maybe a couple of someones) will actually want to BUY the things my sewing machine spews out.  Go ahead and 'like' my Facebook page too.  Sometimes I give stuff away on there.

I managed to snag an hour to make up a little personalized gift for a bridal shower I'm attending tomorrow.

Round up the following:

Tea Towels
Co-ordinating cotton fabric
Iron-on adhesive (I used Heat 'n Bond)
Letter templates
Fabric scissors

Optional: needle (or sewing machine) and thread

Print out lettering off of your computer to your desired size.  Cut around the letters (don't cut out the letters yet) and tape them to the paper side of the iron-on adhesive.  If you are using letters that have a right side, like 'P' or 'K', be sure to tape them down reversed.  Otherwise you'll stomp your feet and yell "Aaaahhh! I have backwards letters!"

Place the adhesive, paper side up, on the wrong side of the co-ordinating cotton fabric.  Iron according to package instructions.

Using the fabric scissors, cut out lettering. Peel the paper backing off.  Please excuse the gross, chipped nail polish.  See!?  No time!

If your tea towels have come folded, be sure to unfold them and iron out any creases.

Place lettering at your desired location.  I left my tea towel folded in half (length wise) and placed the letters in the middle.

Iron again according to package instructions.  You can either stop here, OR add a little bit of stitching.  If you don't own a sewing machine, you may want to add a neat little back stitch around the edge of the letters with an embroidery needle and thread.

I chose to use a sewing machine, since I was short on time.  Change your presser foot to a satin stitch foot (clear plastic) and switch up your stitches to a short zig-zag.

The satin stitch foot allows you to see what you're doing a little better.  You'll need to stop and pivot the fabric around tight corners.  Be sure the needle is in the fabric before lifting the presser foot!  I ended up doing a lot of manual hand-wheel turning around the 'H'.

Snip threads and you're done!

Since my tea towels came in a set of four, I thought I'd make up two animal silhouette towels as well.  'H' is a horse riding instructor and 'T' has a beloved pit-bull cross.  I was afraid the horse silhouette might come out looking like a donkey...but I think it looks like a horse.

Sweet beans.  I'm a teensy bit peeved about the lines that show through little miss pit-bull.  Next time I'll use a darker fabric.  Or pattern-less towels.  Sew and learn.

Have a mah-velous weekend!