Recently my husband and I drove to western NY to pick up our new kitty, JoJo. Turns out Spencerport is nearly on the Ohio border so it was a long 8 hour drive for us in rain and heavy fog, but the trip was well worth it on a number of counts. First, may I introduce you to JoJo:
He is an adorable Rag Doll and I know will bring us years of pleasure together! We stayed that night at the White Farm B&B in nearby Brockport, NY located in farm country along the Erie Canal.
This turned out to be the next best thing that happened on the trip. Owner Christine Hunt and her husband are delightful hosts and fortunately for us (and Jo Jo!) are cat lovers as they welcomed him into their home, too. The Inn is a beautiful and stately mid-1800’s brick farm house. (www.thewhitefarm.com). One of the most unique features of the inn are hand painted wall murals done by a local, well-known artist. They are unusual, beautiful scenes mainly of birds, including a gorgeous depiction of the now-extinct carrier pigeon; animals; and nature, all in fantastic condition. The inn is brimming with antiques, art, and wonderful stories that Christine is all too happy to share. She is a ‘professional food arranger’ and it’s easy to see she loves to decorate rooms as well as plates. We became fast friends! The breakfast she served was perfect starting with warm, freshly baked Nutty Pumpkin Muffins.
NUTTY PUMPKIN MUFFINS
This came from an old recipe book she shared of locally collected favorites; one of those cookbooks where pages are torn, spattered and stuck together with ingredients; a well-loved recipe cooked for many years. It was submitted by Denise Baumert from Jameson, Missouri. I am not sure of the year. These muffins were moist and flavorful; icing and pumpkin seeds were the perfect finishing touch. Christine also pointed out that if you have several muffins in the same tin, by marking with pumpkin seeds you know which is which…makes sense!
1 cup sugar (Christine said she uses less)
1 cup canned or mashed pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped cashews or walnuts (she used walnuts)
Preheat oven to 350 degreees. In a large bowl mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil and water. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and powder, salt. Stir in pumpkin mix. Mix well. Fold in nuts. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done. Do not overbake. Cool on wire rack. Drizzle on icing and place 3 seeds on each muffin.
Next course was a hot fruit compote made with Northern Spy apples (which are
great for cooking), golden raisins, dried cranberries and maple syrup; home-made, of course.
Northen Spys are an American heirloom apple and are often referred to as Pie Apples as they hold up well when cooked. Peel and core the apples and cut into big chunks. Mix with a handful of golden raisins and some dried cranberries and big dollop of maple syrup and heat on the stove until warm and the apples get just tender. This was a scrumptuous combination of flavors and textures.
Next she made us some delicately scrambled eggs served with various home-made whole-grain breads. Of course we consumed pots of rich coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice. A highly recommendable stay and one we will be sure to visit again. Thanks Christine!
Christine inspired me to re-visit some of my old favorite muffin and quick bread recipes and I found my favorite for a very rich and moist Banana Bread.
RICH BANANA BREAD
1/2 cup butter, melted (yes, that really means 2 sticks!)
1 cup sugar (I used a little less)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream (I used non-fat Greek-style plain Yogurt–my favorite replacement for sour cream)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
2 large bananas-sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream or yogurt, walnuts and banana slices. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. This is everything banana bread should be—rich, very bananay because banana is added in slices, rather than mashed, and super moist. I guarantee you will LOVE it!
SWITCHING GEARS….The other day I made a topping for spinach (one of my favorite vegetables) that I want to share with you. This topping made the spinach very special. First, lightly steam the spinach until barely wilted. Place steamed spinach in a buttered casserole and top with ground pecans, garlic, parmesan cheese, a few bread crumbs, salt/pepper, and some olive oil. Just put all those ingredients in a mini-max, food processor or blender and blend until well combined. Dot with butter and bake for about 15 minutes at high heat until the topping gets browned. You will not believe how easy and delicious this is!
You know I was recently in Eastern Europe. I was surprised and pleased to see how many menus offered steak tartare served many different ways. Here were two I had, each wonderful.
I love my steak rare and having it raw for me is even better! I have never made steak tartare, but will put it on my list for 2013. Don’t these look wonderful? The first was served at a small cafe in Pilsen, Czech Republic–very simple in presentation with the black and paprika peppers being the main accompaniment and the second tartate was served at a lovely outdoor restaurant in Warsaw, Poland–quite a bit fancier in both presentation and adornments, but both equally satisfying! Note, both tartares offer a raw egg; a must when serving tartare.
I am going to conclude today with one more food photo from our Eastern European vacation from a bakery in Krakow, Poland. You can almost smell the butter, almonds and chocolate!
Thank you again for joining me while I ramble about food and cooking and travel. We are approaching December 21, 2012—the big day—the end of the Mayan calendar. Hope you honor, celebrate and cherish the day with loved ones in whatever way gives you the most pleasure and happiness. I am going to spend the day in thought and thankfulness for all I have in my life. Plus I will probably do some cooking which is the thing that makes me happiest. I think I will make soup since today I made a rich chicken broth. I also have a big ham bone in the freezer ready for a nice pea soup so am ready to go! Let’s talk about soup next time. Until then…
HAPPY, MERRY, FESTIVE CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!
Much love and peace…Cindy
EXPERIMENT, HAVE FUN AND
BE BOLD IN THE KITCHEN!