Saturday, April 27, 2013

Variations on a Theme: Peanut Butter Quinoa Muffins

The other day, my friend Morgan posted this wonderful recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Quinoa Muffins on her blog "Peaches, Please." Sounds great, right? I thought so, too.

Today, I decided to make these at home, except (you see what's coming, don't you?)...

Yes, I had no bananas.  Sorry. I warned you.

Meanwhile back at the point....I had to improvise. So, with apologies to Morgan, here's my version:


1 cup Quinoa, uncooked
2 cups water
2 cups flour (about 1/3 of total amount as whole wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cardamom
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped
8 oz. applesauce
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
1 large Egg
1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Honey
1/2 cup fat free milk


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  • Prepare your muffin tins. I use a baking spray.
  • Cook quinoa as per directions on the package. The brand I use needs 2 cups of water to cook one cup of uncooked quinoa.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, prepare your dry ingredients: 
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom and walnuts. Set aside. 
  • In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients:
  • Applesauce, peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, honey, and milk. I used my Kitchen Aid mixer. 
  • When quinoa is done, let cool and add to the wet ingredients. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix till combined. 
  • Scoop into muffin tins.
  • Bake 25 - 30 minutes.
  • When the muffins have finished cooking, cool in the times for 5-10 minutes, then transfer out of tins to wire rack to cool completely. 

Morgan - thanks for the inspiration! These are delicious!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Artisan Bread at the Culinary Institute of America

For Christmas, my husband gave me the gift of a class at the Culinary Institute of America, which has a campus about 40 minutes away in Hyde Park, NY. The "Artisan Bread at Home" class was held on a cold, rainy Saturday - a perfect day to be in a baking kitchen. 

Everybody wears a toque, no matter how stupid you look in hats. Chef's rules. 

Chef Temme explaining the properties and percentages for making poolish.  

Learning about yeast structures with a bread flour "chalkboard."

Sourdough loaves ready for second proof.

Chef removes sourdough loaves from the steam injection oven. 

Finished sourdough on the cooling racks. 

Enriched sweet bread almond frangipane filled coffee cake, ready for baking.

Finished ciabatta on the cooling racks.

Monsterous rolling pins.

A good day's work...and the text book.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What Do I Do with 2 Pounds of Lobster?

Every year for my birthday, my dad gives me a gift certificate to a fishery in Maine, Quality Fresh Seafood, that overnights fresh fish. Lobster, crab, salmon - you can even get a complete clambake delivered. How lucky am I? 

I’ve had a 2 pound package of lobster meat sitting in my freezer for a few months, until I had some time to figure out what to do with it. Today, I made Ina Garten’s Lobster Mac and Cheese recipe (which I’m not going to recount here. 

The only changes I made were to use whole wheat flour and pasta instead of white. The end result? This was a good way to use frozen lobster - warm and comforting - but not my favorite treatment of lobster.

(My all-time favorite is this Curried Lobster, adapted from "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"which I shared last September, which works best with fresh lobster meat...and which I'm looking forward to making with CSA ingredients this summer!)

Fresh bread crumbs

Mixing the pasta into the cheese mixture

2 pounds of lobster meat

Ready to go into the oven

A bowlful of the final result

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Blue Frog Pasta

As you may remember, I spent 16 weeks in Shanghai, China in 2012. I had the good fortune to stay in a very nice hotel while there, but honestly, hotel living leaves much to be desired in comparison to home. That said, there are three things I miss about my life in Shanghai.

  • The expansive and luxurious bathroom in my hotel room. The hotel site describes the bathroom as “A marble-clad bathroom with glass-enclosed bath and separate shower.” This does not begin to do justice to the glory that is the Kerry Hotel showers.
  • Arriving back in my hotel room at night and having my laundry clean, beautifully folded in a wicker basket with lavender sachets tucked in among the unmentionables. Everything you’ve heard about chinese laundry is true. The quality is unparalleled. I’ve yet to have pants ironed so well anywhere else in the world.
  • Roasted Pumpkin Pasta at the Blue Frog.

Blue Frog is a chain of restaurants in China that hosts a varied east-west menu, and more importantly, stays open past 10 pm. The entire city of Shanghai turns off the lights, quite literally, at 10. Restaurants and bars put the chairs ontop the tables and turn off the lights. This was an issue for our team because most nights we worked until at least 10, maybe later. 

The Blue Frog, though, not only stayed open late but more importantly: delivered. Jokes about chinese take-out aside, finding a restaurant that delivered and would take credit cards and had a menu varied enough to suit our team was a coup. And so, without further ado, here is my interpretation of Blue Frog Roasted Pumpkin Pasta, made with no pumpkin whatsoever.


4 cups cubed, butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups cooked, drained whole wheat pasta (rotini or penne)
½ cup pine nuts
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp pesto
sea salt
ground black pepper
grated parmesan cheese to taste

  • Heat oven to 375.
  • Toss the butternut squash with the olive oil, sea salt and ground black pepper
  • Spread on a cookie sheet and roast in heated oven for 45 – 60 minutes till done and slightly brown at edges.
  • While squash is roasting, boil large pot of water and cook pasta as per directions on package.
  • When finished, drain well and transfer to large mixing bowl.
  • While pasta is warm, toss with lemon juice, pesto and pine nuts. Let stand.
  • When squash is finished roasting, remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  • Then, add to pasta and toss well.
  • Serve immediately, garnishing with parmesan cheese to taste. 

Roasted Butternut Squash

Pasta tossed with Pesto, Lemon Juice and Pine Nuts

The finished pasta! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chopped: A Guilty Pleasure

Ok, so to start off, we've had a challenging spring. Bruce broke his ankle on a double black diamond slope at the top of Stratton Mountain on day 3 of a 4 day ski trip. Thus ended the ski season, and the vacation.

Then, I had abdominal surgery, taking me out of commission for several weeks, and leaving both of us impaired and housebound.  We're on the flip side now, and life should start to return to some semblance of normal within the next two weeks.

What does all this have to do with Epicurean Dimensions? On the surface, not much. We've been eating well, due to the freezer full of healthy meals that we spent last summer preparing. Nothing new in the kitchen.

Being housebound and somewhat immobile has meant that I needed to find low-impact entertainment. Enter Hulu...the online way to watch TV shows. And it was there that I discovered "Chopped".

Here's the description of the show from the Wikipedia entry:

"In each episode, four chefs compete. Their challenge is to take a mystery basket of ingredients and turn them into a dish that is judged on their creativity, presentation, and taste with minimal time to plan and execute.[1][2] The show is divided into three rounds: "Appetizer", "Entrée", and "Dessert". In each round, the chefs are given a basket containing between three and five (usually four) ingredients, and the dish each competitor prepares must contain each of those ingredients. The ingredients are often ones which are not commonly prepared together. For example, in "Yucca, Watermelon, Tortillas," the episode which originally aired on February 10, 2009, the appetizer course baskets contained watermeloncanned sardinespepper jack cheese, and zucchini.
The competitors are given access to a pantry and refrigerator stocked with a wide variety of other ingredients. Each round has a time limit: twenty minutes for the Appetizer round (thirty minutes in some season one episodes), and thirty minutes for the Entrée and Dessert rounds (some episodes gave the chefs 40 or 45 in the entrée round to allow them to handle whole large poultry, e.g. turkeys, geese, or ducks; another gave the chefs fifty minutes in the dessert round). The chefs must cook their dishes and complete four platings (one for each judge plus one "beauty plate") before time runs out. After each round, the judges critique the dishes based on presentation, taste, and creativity. The judges then decide which chef is "chopped," that is, eliminated from the competition. Thus, by the dessert round, only two chefs remain. When deciding the winner, the judges consider not only the dessert course, but the entire meal presented by each chef as a whole. The winner receives $10,000."

The Chopped Judges are notable chefs, restauranteurs, food critics and cookbook authors of acclaim.  The pace of the show is fast, and each episode has potential for a high degree of creativity (and some culinary disasters....).  I'm fascinated by how the contestant chefs make instant decisions, jump in and start working with bizarre combinations of ingredients: gingerbread and live lobsters....oysters and lemon candy...nopales and quahogs...the list goes on and on.

Tempers flare, drama ensues, and the formulaic verbiage of host Ted Allen gets old quickly...but overlooking these minor annoyances, I find the show to be an interesting and engaging diversion during my recovery.