Make dinner tonight, inspired!

Wondering what to make for dinner tonight? This is your place for quick and healthy meal inspirations. Here you'll find recipes for seasonally focused dinners, desserts, breakfasts, and everything in between.

My cooking focuses on the freshest ingredients prepared in a simple and careful way, to highlight their uniqueness. My own diet is primarily vegetarian, but does include sustainable fish and seafood, and is gluten free.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to sharing some of my favorite recipes with you!

10 May 2010

Desert Muffins with Mixed Berries & Honey

I call these Desert Muffins (not dessert muffins) since I've been calling the Hi-Desert home for the past several days. A trip to the local farmers market here, which was surprisingly large for such a small town, turned up many locally grown items that aren't quite in season yet where I live. It's warm and dry here (very very dry!) and things like zucchini, tomatoes, and berries are in season year round. I came home with a jar of cactus honey from the local cacti blooming now, a dozen lovely farm eggs for a mere $4 (they're $7 at home), and a few baskets of beautiful fresh berries.

So, feeling like I just needed to bake something, after all it is what I do every day and not baking anything for several days in a row just felt too strange, I decided some simple morning muffins would fit the bill. I thought they should be easy enough in an unfamiliar kitchen, if a reasonably well stocked one at that. I'm including the recipe below. Note that I'm using fresh berries, which on first thought would seem preferable to frozen (fresh is always better, right?), although in my opinion just the opposite is true. I find that fresh berries in general bleed too much in the muffins and tend to leave a wet, somewhat uncooked bit of batter right around the berry itself. To prevent this I either freeze them for a few minutes to harden up the outsides a bit or toss them in some cornstarch or flour before mixing them in. Adding the starch absorbs some of the juice which leaks out when exposed to the heat.

This particular part of the California desert is one of my favorite places. I am always inspired by the fortitude of the plants and animals that call this land their home. Being a city dweller I realize how much noise is around me at all moments that I don't even notice. I also notice how entirely quiet it is here, the calls of ravens fill the canyons, the birds are a symphony of song every morning. This is a place that's really alive. Life is hard here, the land is inhospitable in almost every way but all around are treasures of beauty. The quiet and the open space are refreshing and expansive. It's a place that as whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is also what I love about baking, cooking in general. Start with a few simple ingredients and combine them together and you make your own bit of alchemy in the kitchen every day.

Desert Muffins with Mixed Berries & Honey:
Yields 12, large muffins

1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mixed berries, toss with 1 TB cornstarch if using fresh or use frozen berries that are not defrosted (I used blackberries and raspberries)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cardamom, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, honey, canola oil, melted butter and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just barely combined. Fold in the berries and finish mixing just until all the ingredients come together.

3) Spoon the batter into each of the muffin cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just golden brown around the edges and the middles are puffed and set. Serve with butter and honey. Enjoy!

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