Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Apricots for Sweetie

It can't be Sunday evening, a full week after St. Patrick's Day! Where has the time gone? For about a week before that day and for a day after, we seemed to be on that pendulum upswing where there was lots of social stuff going on, then the pendulum swung more towards things that needed to be done. Probably some of that was due to not handling the usual while we were being so social? Anyway with more kitchen planning and visiting places that sell appliances and cabinets, with taxes and scholarship group and fire department stuff and graphic design, the usual errands and chores, getting seedlings re-planted into little peat pots (which makes them 'starts'!, the dance card has been full for every dance and then some.

So today's post is for the scones with apricots that Sweetie requested for his birthday, even though that was days ago. I served them still warm, with a nice bowl of mixed fruits and hot butter needed. They are barely sweet, except for when you bite into one of the apricot pieces, a bit on the rich side, and fragrant with apricot and almond aromas. As with many quick breads, these benefit from being barely handled. At first there wasn't enough liquid, so I added a bit more, then it seemed like the dough was too sticky. I so rarely make scones anymore that I thought I'd lost my touch and was sure they would be dense. I sort of flattened out the sticky dough on the silicon mat into a rectangle, then used a knife with flour on the blade to cut them into rough squares. I scooted the squares away from each other and slid the mat onto a baking sheet. You could do the same thing using baking parchment - when the dough is sticky it is nice to shape and bake the scones on the same surface.

I love the bits of apricot showing, too. Sweetie was a happy birthday boy when these were served!

These would make a nice bread for Easter, too. If you threw in some dried cranberries as well, it would look and taste even more festive.

Apricot Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup almond meal (almond flour - I use Bob's Red Mill
½ cup white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 oz (1/2 stick) very cold butter cut into small pieces
1 egg
½ cup light cream
¼ cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup moist dried apricots, diced finely

With a fork stir together the flour, almond meal, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the diced butter, then, using clean fingers, rub the butter and flour together until the texture of bread crumbs. Work quickly to keep the butter cold. You can also use a pastry blender to cut in the butter.

In a large measuring cup, use the fork to stir the eggs to beat them lightly, then add the light cream, buttermilk, and almond extract and stir to mix well.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and gradually add the liquid ingredient mixture, mixing lightly with the fork, just until ingredients are barely combined. Do not over mix. If mixture seems to dry, add a few drops of milk; if too wet, add a tablespoon of flour. Finished mixture should be the consistency of moist biscuit dough.

Take a tablespoon of flour and use it to dust the diced apricots, working to have all sides lightly coated with flour.

Again using the fork, gently stir the apricots into the dough, just enough to disperse them.

Turn dough out onto a baking parchment lined surface (or a Silpat mat). Pat dough out to about a 1 inch thickness. Cut with floured scone or biscuit cutter, or with the rim of a drinking glass. Gather scrapes and pat them down, then cut some more scones until dough is used up. If dough is too sticky, pat into a rectangle or circle and cut with a lightly floured knife edge, then use the knife blade to  move the cut pieces apart. Slide the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. You could also use a Silpat mat, like I did. Just be careful when cutting so as to not cut the mat.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly in pan, then serve warm.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Gifts of Spring

Spring shows her face in different ways around the world. In the Northern hemisphere it can be cold, windy, rainy, snowy, warm, foggy, or even hot. We started out this spring with duck weather; a good half inch fell today and is greatly appreciated since our weather since January has been drier than normal. I love it that I can go out tomorrow and have an easier time weeding. Since I keep talking about it you probably think that I've weeded acres by now, but the truth is I can only do about an hour of weeding a day (still getting my strength back) so it is ongoing.

One of the gifts of spring is asparagus. We have been eating it almost daily now that the price is reasonable. Usually we just steam it or put the spears on the grill for quick cooking. Today I used two other gifts of spring to make a stunning composed salad. Our across-the-street neighbors gifted us with fresh, pale blue shelled chicken eggs from their own chicken coop. Sweetie could tell you a tale about herding chickens for them and low hanging eaves in the coop, but since he survived to tell the tale, you'll have to ask him what happened. The same neighbors gave us a bag of freshly picked mixed salad greens. All of these combined to make a lovely salad.

A couple of years ago I read a recipe by our excellent local food writer, Michele Anna Jordan, where she used softly cooked eggs to top lightly dressed salad greens. She also combined asparagus and scrambled eggs. I sort of took those and mixed them together and cooked the eggs as over-easy ones. You still get the runny yolks like the soft cooked eggs, but now it is running over both the greens and the cooked and warm asparagus. I threw in some roasted golden beets that were waiting in the fridge and made a very simple vinaigrette. I kept the shaved Parmesan and really liked the interplay of soft with crunchy, warm with cold and the variety of flavors, too. I plated the salad into big, red soup bowls and it make quite an impressive presentation.

I think the trick to making this recipe work is timing...and excellent ingredients. If possible, use farm fresh eggs, high quality salad greens, and fresh asparagus that still have tightly closed tips. Have the asparagus ready to steam or microwave, the salad greens washed and dried, the chunk of Parmesan ready to shave, and the beet slices and dressing ready to go. Have the pan, butter, and eggs ready at the stove. It all goes together quickly after that, so have everyone ready to sit down to this dish as soon as possible after it is plated. I only made two servings. I think one could make four and still get it all plated quickly. Beyond that things that should be warm might get cold.

Spring Salad with Asparagus, Beets and Fried Egg
serves 2

6-8 spears asparagus, ends trimmed
3-4 cups fresh mixed salad greens, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
one beet, roasted until tender, skin removed, sliced into at least 6 slices and chilled
2 eggs, farm fresh if possible
a chunk of Parmesan cheese to shave about 1 tablespoon from
vinaigrette - recipe below

Place prepared asparagus in a steamer or microwave steamer. Set aside.

In a medium bowl toss the mixed greens with 2/3 of the vinaigrette to lightly coat. Add the beet slices and toss to coat them with the vinaigrette. Portion half of the dressed greens in each of two large salad plates or bowls. Top with the dressed beet slices, at least 3 per portion.

Fry the two eggs in a skillet or cast iron frying pan, using a bit of melted butter to keep them from sticking. While the eggs are cooking, steam the asparagus until barely tender.

Flip the eggs to cook the tops of the yolk briefly. Place the steamed asparagus on top of the dressed greens in the middle of the plate or bowl, dividing them between the servings. Top the asparagus with the eggs, one egg per serving. Use the tip of the spatula to break the yolk so it runs over the asparagus. Shave some Parmesan over each salad (about 1/2 tablespoon each). Serve at once.

Simple Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon type mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to emulsify and combine completely. Taste and adjust to your taste (you might want more lemon juice for instance, or more pepper).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Aye and Begorrah – Corned Beef from Scratch

Welcome, again, Guest Blogger No Handle with a seasonal delight:

Irish Corned Beef

Corned Beef is an iconic Irish dish, and since I am more than half Irish, and have Grandparents who literally came over on “the boat” from Ireland, it is a bit odd that I haven't attempted this before. My (Irish) uncle John made it every year. The recipe I used, and one of the harder-to-find ingredients, comes from a family friend who is more German than anything, and who prepares it for Christmas parties. The Celts passed through German territory on their meandering migration that ended in Ireland, so maybe that's it. She owns the Back Forty bar in Mountain Home, AR where several of my distant relatives also live. Stop by if you are in the area (Branson is just up the road). Thanks Opal!

Aside from obtaining one ingredient, this is not at all a difficult dish to prepare, but it does take some time (about 2 weeks, although another recipe from the Food Channel says it can be done in 10 days). To drop the suspense, the one ingredient is called salt peter, or potassium nitrate. It preserves the color of the meat over its long stay in the corning solution, which is essentially a brine. See my earlier blog on brining a turkey for a shorter brining effort. Where that brine used separate spices, this one calls for Pickling Spices (the salt peter was (inaccurately) labeled Pickling Salt, when I finally found it in a spice store in Boulder, CO had a nice pink color) which includes many of the spices from brining, plus a few more that deliver a wonderful aroma that fills the house when they are being heated. It is a delightful promise of things to come.

There are five ingredients that go into the corning solution, including the Pickling Spices and Salt. While they are heating, chop the garlic cloves into slivers, and insert them at intervals into the beef; puncture the meat with a paring knife to make it easier. I'm not sure that the Irish are that big on garlic, but I am so the recipe suites me fine. Once the solution has cooled somewhat (The Food Channel recipe calls for addition of ice. I am more patient and just let it sit on the counter for a while.) place the beef and solution into a 2-gallon plastic zipper bag or shallow pan.

The recipe calls for weighting down the beef in a shallow container and covering it with muslin, but the plastic bag approach is easier. In either case, the mixture goes into the refrigerator for about two weeks. Since corning is an old method of preserving meat, I suspect it could stay for months with no ill effect.

…. time passes ….

The big day has arrived, so remove the beef from the solution, which you can discard, and rinse it thoroughly. Remove the garlic slivers too. The spices have already been soaked into the meat, and the salt is mostly on the outside. It was needed for osmosis (encouraging the spices to enter the meat tissue), kind of like the way a water softener works. Put the meat in a largish Dutch oven. Le Creuset is nice, but there are good enameled cast iron pots out there for a more reasonable price. Check Macy's and Costco.

Cover it with fresh cold water, and add the vegetables.

I included carrots, even if the recipe doesn't call for them (another did). Put the pot, covered, on the stove on a back burner and bring to a boil, then reducing the heat to medium low to simmer for a few hours. Your patience will be rewarded. After three hours the meat should be falling-apart tender (no bones, so falling-off-the-bone tender doesn't apply), and ready to serve. Slice thinly across the grain and plate.

As the big day approached, I decided to go the distance and cook the full "boiled dinner" of corned beef and cabbage. It meant getting a few more vegetables and adding some pickling spice to the water, to season the vegetables. This requires adding the vegetables in stages, with potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery going in first, followed closely by the cabbage.

I removed the vegetables and cooked the beef a little longer because it didn't seem tender enough. I also transferred the beef and vegetable mixture to a larger pot when the cabbage went in, because my Dutch oven was a bit small (6 quart) and the mixture need a lot more space. Without the cabbage it was just big enough. The end result was delicious, and by adding the pickling spices at the beginning of the boil, the aroma filled the house. Yum! As you can see, adding salt peter did retain a lovely red color throughout the corning and cooking period.  

There seems to be a tradition of rewarding your salt peter provider with a serving, since he or she is a local, and the stuff is so hard to find that you are grateful, and want to show that gratitude. Also, it's just nice to share. So, pass on the green beer and enjoy this Irish (and sometime German) specialty.

Irish Corned Beef - The Recipe
4 quarts water
One half cup kosher salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoon pickling spice [I used McCormick]
One half ounce salt peter
8 bay leaves
5 lb beef brisket
8 cloves garlic
2 onions
2 stalks celery
Combine first 6 ingredients in saucepan (or large kettle). Bring to boil and cook for 5 minutes. Place brisket (trimmed of as much fat as possible) stuffed with the garlic, in a non-metallic container. Cover with cooked broth, and weigh down to keep covered. Cover with muslin (or plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 2 weeks. An alternative is a two-gallon plastic zipper freezer bag; press the air out.
To cook: Rinse thoroughly to remove brine. Place in kettle with onions [carrots] and celery. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for about 3 hrs until tender. Drain and slice crosswise.
Salt peter maintains the color, and may be gotten at the pharmacy. [If you have a “corner drug store"], else at your local spice shop, or search for Humco Saltpetre granular on the web (more expensive). The Humco product is white. Farm stores are another possibility.

Additions (Corned Beef and Cabbage)
1 Tablespoon pickling spice
2 lbs. Potatoes (I used reds, peeled and cubed)
2 lb head of cabbage (I used about 3/4ths of it; cole slaw anyone?)
3 medium carrots, sliced
3 bay leaves (I cheated and used the ones from the corning solution)
After the beef has cooked about 2 1/2 hours, add the onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Bring to a boil again, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the cabbage, return to a boil, and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and serve immediately.

Thanks No Handle! Will have to try this myself sometime. Dear Reader, it would be so nice if you would comment so that No Handle, our Denver favorite, gets some feedback. I think he did a grand job.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pesto Green and a Link to St. Pat's Cake

It's instructive to look back over a few years of posts, both to see the rise and fall and rise again of my enthusiasm for blogging, for cooking and baking, for the joys of the seasons and to re-discover old recipes. A few days ago I started looking for my favorite chocolate cake recipe, the 86 Proof Chocolate Bundt Cake, a perfect cake for St. Patrick's Day if made with Irish Whiskey, and ended up spending a pleasant half hour or so looking over contiguous posts. There were reminders of pleasures enjoyed and challenges faced as well as the joy of discovering other bloggers.

A lot can be learned by thinking back on the large and small challenges that life throws at one. At the moment I feel like the water in the eddy behind the rock in the stream...taking a short breather in a quiet place. It's far more pleasant than I'd imagined. While getting on with the seemingly endless weeding as I prepare for the new garden year, I have time to think and to dream and to try out new ideas in my head where they are easily turned over and just as easily discarded if not just what I want. Re-potting the seedlings into larger pots is another task that allows for dreaming time. With the kitchen remodel in the dreaming stages you can imagine where my thoughts are going.

Returning to the many posts that have filled this blog, there have clearly been some dreams, particularly baking dreams, that have been fulfilled. What a lot of recipes have been tried and printed over the years! There are some that have become a regular part of our meals, but many that I tried once and then forgot about. I noticed that there seem to be very few recipes from the Comfort Food cookbook, so it may be time soon to get some of those up. My favorite Guest Blogger, No Handle, will be featured early next week, too. Lately there is less baking and more cooking in my life as I try to change my diet to keep from having those nasty stones. That doesn't mean that no baking will happen, just less frequently.

For today I give you a recipe filled with fresh broccoli and squash and leftovers. I threw it together when the garden was calling my name and every minute in the kitchen seemed one too many. If you have to cook the rice (I used leftovers) it will take longer. If you don't have already cooked chicken, either, then you may as well keep this tucked away for another day when you do have some of those leftovers, too. Prepared pesto is readily available around here in every grocery store. All I really had to do was to lightly cook the broccoli and squash with some parsley. The rest was re-heating and mixing together. It did make a nice, warm, savory one dish meal. I love the mixture of the flavors of pesto, chicken, and broccoli. Next time I might throw in some roasted red pepper strips, too. Sometimes leftovers can be quickly embellished with fresh foods and become a real treat.

Pesto Rice with Chicken and Broccoli and Squash

1 cup cooked rice (I used brown but any kind should be OK)
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/2 cup precooked chicken, in large dice
1/2 cup or so fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 medium zucchini squash, cut into coins and halved
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
pepper to taste

1. Heat the rice in a large heatproof bowl in the microwave until heated through. Remove from the microwave and add the pesto. Stir to distribute the pesto evenly. Set aside.

2. While the rice is heating, steam the broccoli, squash and parsley until barely cooked through, about 2 minutes. Drain. Add to the pesto rice. Stir to combine. Cover to keep warm.

3. Once the rice is cooked, re-heat the chicken in the microwave in a small dish. Once hot, add to the warm rice mixture. Taste for seasonings and add pepper (and salt, if necessary). Serve at once. Can be garnished with more parsley, toasted pine nuts, warmed roasted pepper strips, etc. Serves 1-2.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Roasted Sesame Green Beans - More March Green

I've never been a big fan of fresh green beans, unless they are super slim and small. I think that the larger, older beans must develop some taste that the young ones don't have. Even blanching the bigger ones doesn't seem to stop them from tasting really, really beany. It might have been the reason why fresh green beans were always cooked almost to a mush when I was growing up, plus that pot of what my sisters and brothers and I called 'dead beans' usually had a liberal amount of bacon grease added. Almost anything with bacon flavor is easier to work up an appetite for than something without when it comes to vegetables.

As an adult I have tried different things with fresh beans since I actually like my beans to be green and have some body when I eat them. A few days ago a free copy of Cooks Illustrated magazine appeared in my mailbox. If you are not familiar with it, it is a most unusual magazine. There are no ads, many black and white photos, and the recipes have been tested and fiddled with until they are just what the author wants. There are guides for buying ingredients, step-by-step illustrations for technique, tips, buying information and more. The write-up of the recipes often explain in detail why they found that a certain ingredient needed to be added to or subtracted from the recipe, what was the result of baking something a one temperature instead of another and similar finding that can help create the perfect finished product.

On page 20 there is an article about roasting fresh green beans. There is a basic recipe and then variations. One of the variations really appealed to me; roasted sesame green beans. The basic beans are roasted for 10 minutes, then the pan is removed from the oven, a mixture of fresh garlic, ginger, some honey, toasted sesame oil and some hot pepper flakes is added and the beans are tossed with tongs and then roasted another 10 minutes, then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

These are great beans! I did have to sub cayenne pepper for the pepper flakes since my spice rack seemed to be free of pepper flakes, but otherwise I followed the recipe...until the end. I forgot to toss the beans in the sesame seeds, so I sprinkled them on top of the plated beans. Worked just fine! The beans were still green, softer than I like but still toothsome, and the topping and sesame seeds added just the right flavor and crunch. I'm going to make these again soon. I love the way the beans caramelized and the flavor that was added by that and by the garlic and ginger. Now even supermarket green beans are delicious.

Roasted Sesame Green Beans
Serves 4

1 lb fresh green beans, stem ends snapped off
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put beans into a produce bag or other food safe plastic bag. Drizzle with the oil. Close bag and shake. Add salt and pepper. Shake again. Spread oiled and seasoned beans on baking sheet in an even layer. Roast 10 minutes.

While beans are roasting, combine garlic, ginger, honey, toasted sesame seed oil and pepper flakes in a small bowl. When beans have finished their 10 minutes of roasting, remove pan from oven. Using tongs, coate beans evenly with the garlic/ginger mixture; redistribute on pan in an even layer. Return to oven and continure roasting until dark golden brown in spots and starting to shrivel, 9 - 12 minutes longer. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds and additional salt/pepper if needed. Serve at once.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Green for March

March in Northern California is a season of green. The grass has taken advantage of the winter rains and longer days. It is lush and long. Our neighbor has sheep. Recently, at our invitation, she brought them over to our pasture. They have been avidly cropping the long grass and soon she'll move them into a movable enclosure and they will lunch on the grass on the hillside, too. Pi wants to go play with them and sometimes just heads out to the pasture and looks at them longingly. One of them is pregnant, too, so soon we might have a little lamb or two frolicking down the hill.

The willows are showing the first tender green leaves, the daffodils are peeking out of their strappy green leaves, and (while not green) the plum blossoms, both white and pink, are decorating the neighborhood. My squash and tomato and beet seedlings are becoming larger and stronger. The weeds are burgeoning, too, so tomorrow I hope to get out and pull some of them out in preparation for spring planting.

Tonight I made a very green side dish. It works well as a main dish, too. Just be sure to allow plenty per person because it is hard to stop with one serving. This is a dish I have been making since the mid-90s when the Mediterranean Diet was quite popular. Today's paper talked about recent studies that showed that it is still an excellent way to eat, since it uses season ingredients, plenty of veggies, olive oil and things like fish and cheese. I just like it because it tastes so good.

Along with some spinach fettuccine, this dish uses both the winter staple broccoli and the spring vegetable that is just now on special in all the stores, asparagus. Add a little garlic, olive oil, ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese and you have a wonderful, warm spring dish. If you prefer, this can also be made with goat cheese. I rarely remember to make sure I have mint or fennel on hand when I make this dish, but those flavors would certainly go well. Don't forget the dash of nutmeg. Somehow it ties all of the other flavors together in a subtle but distinctive way. It may not look like much, but it is a plate of pleasure.

Fettuccine with Ricotta or Chèvre and Asparagus

from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook
serves 4 - 6

3/4 lb tender young asparagus ( or 1/2 lb asparagus and 1/4 lb broccoli crown)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced - optional
2 tablespoons fresh green wild fennel, minced
1 lb fettuccine
6 quarts water
1/2 lb fresh creamy ricotta or mild goat cheese
dash nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim touch ends off asparagus after rinsing them. Cut tender parts into 2-inch lengths. Cut broccoli crown into small florets.

In a sauté pan, over low heat and covered, gently stew the garlic, asparagus and broccoli in the oil until the vegetables are tender but not brown, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in mint and fennel if using. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling water until tender. While pasta cooks, extract 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and mix it in a small saucepan with the ricotta or chèvre. Set saucepan over low heat and gently cream the ricotta and cooking water. When the ricotta is warm, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add the nutmeg and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Drain the cooked pasta and combine immediately with the cheese sauce, tossing to mix well. Arrange over a warm platter and pour asparagus mixture over the top, being sure to scrape all of the cooked garlic onto the pasta and veggies. Sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese and serve at once.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Warm Blueberries

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I used to have a muffin company. I baked wholesale muffins for a couple of coffee shops, mostly to keep my brain active when my kids were very young. Although my lemon ricotta mega-muffin was my best seller, the next favorite was fresh blueberry muffins. It's been ages since I baked any kind of muffin, but the blueberries in the produce section called to me this week, so on Saturday morning I baked up a batch of fresh blueberry muffins, with some Meyer lemon zest since they go so well with blueberries. When I ate my first bite, the muffins still had warm blueberries...a most delicious and decadent flavor. The muffins were not the airy, overly sweet cakey kind that you often find these days. The texture is delicate but firm, the flavors are of the fruit, lemon and butter, and they were gone in a flash.

One of the keys with muffins is much the same as with most quick breads...delicate care in handling the batter. If you whisk together the dry ingredients, toss in the rinsed blueberries, then toss gently to cover them with flour, all you need to do when you add the mixed wet ingredients is to barely combine the ingredients. Do have your pans prepared and your oven hot. In no time you will have delectable warm blueberries in a lightly lemon, buttery muffin. What a lovely way to start the day.

Blueberry Muffins

based on Basic Muffins in Marion Cunningham's The Fannie Farmer Baking Book

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 cup firm fresh blueberries, rinsed
2 eggs, slightly beaten, at room temperature
1 cup milk, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick or 1/2 cup) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons white sanding sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease muffin pans or line with paper baking cups.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and whisk to combine. Add the fresh blueberries and toss to coat lightly with the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In another bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredient/blueberry mixture. Pour in the egg mixture and stir to combine, just long enough to blend. Batter will not be smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about two-thirds full. If desired, sprinkle sanding sugar on the tops of each muffin.

Bake muffins for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pans and serve warm.

Makes 12 muffins

With the unseasonable weather we have been having the seedlings in the sunspace are growing very rapidly. All of the squash seedlings are now in larger peat pots, having outgrown the cell they started in. Some of the squash seeds wrapped in damp paper towels didn't germinate in time to be put into the cells, but are now large enough to go right into the pots! That is vigorous sprouting! I expect great things of these squash plants once they are settled into the garden once the soil warms enough. That might be a while...we have been having frost most nights, even if the days are warm and sunny. Some peopel are yammering on about not enough rain, but we had far more than needed in the fall and early winter, so this is just balancing things out. Bet that March is rainy again.