Moist Muffins

October 25, 2009

I am going to file this under the “a tip that some people might already know but I didn’t, so I’ll share it,” category.  Sadly, the recollection of information received was much later than when I actually discovered this little nugget of info.  I read it in a magazine what seems like forever ago and it was one of those things, you know, where you get the info and you think “hmm, interesting…” and then one day you’re in your kitchen and for whatever reason, it pops into your head and you decide today is the day to try it.  Well, today was that day for me and the tip actually worked!

Because it was so long ago, I cannot recall which magazine I was reading, sadly and I am not going to try and pinpoint it.  Between my subscriptions (I am a magazine person, not green but I must have them!), the mags in our office lounge and the obscure skimming that takes place in physician waiting rooms and the grocery store line, I have no idea where it came from.

So the piece was centered how to achieve a moist muffin and there were all sorts of tips in the article but the one I had not heard and that I successfully attempted today was to fill all but one of your muffin cups in the pan.  Instead of a liner and batter, fill that last one 1/3 the way up with tap water.  As the muffins bake, the moisture from the water evaporating goes straight to your muffins.  It’s almost as if they are being steamed as they bake.  And it totally worked on my blueberry muffins this morning.  Nothing fancy, just a recipe I found from the blueberry experts.  It was by far the most moist batch of muffins I’ve made yet.  I am betting the same trick would work with cupcakes.  Nice, right?

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I remember about 4 years ago catching an episode of Barefoot Contessa in which Ina Garten was preparing a huge spread for an elegant dinner party she was throwing. In the midst of making some of the most refined (and French) dishes, she pulls out her trusty, classic white porcelain place settings to set the table.  In this particular episode, she made a point of saying that using white place settings ensures an elegant, classy and clean-looking table while still feeling cozy, comfy and welcoming.  Not to mention, what you are really wanting to showcase is the tasty goodness you have prepared and what better way to do so than with a white backdrop? Since then, I’ve been slowly adding to my own collection of white porcelain place settings along with serving dishes and must say that I agree with Ms. Garten – they are divine and really make the food possess this “come and get me” attitude. In retrieving my mail from the box a couple of days ago, I happened across the newest Sur La Table catalog (yes, I still get catalogs, I know it’s not “green” but it’s one of those things I can’t help – I live for my catalogs) and noticed they are having a “Stock-Up Sale” on all of their whiteware. If you feel like your old place settings just aren’t cutting it but don’t want to drop a load of money on something you will only break out twice a year, then this is your lucky day! Pop over to their site and check out this amazing deal. This whiteware is the best investment. It’s classy enough for dinner parties, will coordinate with any fresh flower arrangement or centerpiece and yet still practical enough for the regular Saturday night spaghetti dinner with the hubster and kids. And best of all … it’s on SALE!

Secret Weapon

August 15, 2009

I thought it would only be appropriate to provide a tip in my first post, given that the reader likes to feel as though he/she leaves with something out of their time spent.  Let’s just not jump right in though; have to make you sweat, right?  One of my biggest weaknesses is under-planning.  I’ll admit it, I am the one who is always up for anything and when it gets right down to it, forgets what the heck she was up for in the first place.  Ask my friends and they will tell you (although I think I have many of them fooled by now), that I am Miss Let’s Do It until it comes down to doing it.  One of the most frequent occurences of such behavior always happens amidst the workday.  I will be bored, sitting at my computer when, oh yay, an email from a friend comes in and in my hurried response (because I’m at work, hello) I say wouldn’t it just be so lovely if you would come for dinner tonight and we would have the best time.  Of course, I belive this as I am typing it and a good time is always had but what starts out as “this will be so fun” turns into rush-hour, pick up at the sitter’s, hubby needs to shower so no help there, kind of stuff and you’ve casually invited friends to dine.  Everyone knows pasta is awesome for entertaining…easy to re-warm, stretches a buck, pairs great with the Chainti that most dinner guests bring and honestly, who doesn’t love pasta, especially when accompanied by some good crusty bread?!

Ok, so for the weapon part.  This is so bad but you should know what you are dealing with up front.  I am a subscriber (can you even say subscribe when it’s free?) of the Food and Family mag that Kraft puts out.  I know, I know, but I warned you, not a snob and this magazine has gotten me out of many hairy entertaining situations.  My secret weapon came from one of their recipes.  If you are entertaining friends with pasta, you are obviously going for a restaraunt-style pasta dish, right?  Too bad you worked all day and barely have time to change, let alone be a slave to the stove.  Rest easy, my friend, the folks at Kraft have got you covered.  Simply purchase your favorite pasta sauce – I really like the spicy tomato basil variety – simmer it on low in your sauce pan and once it is warmed through, add 1/3 of a brick of cream cheese.  It melts into the sauce beautifully and makes a creamy, light sauce that everyone will think is homemade.  To go the extra mile, I often sautee garlic and onion before adding the sauce and sometimes will add criminis while simmering.  Even by itself, it makes a darn good sauce and people will think you stood over a simmering pot.  If you think I am crazy (and/or lazy) that’s fine and if it isn’t good enough to try on your week-night dinner guests, try it on yourself.  Trust me, you will not be disappointed.