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Thursday, June 04, 2009

in pieces

My excitement mounted at knitting circle last night as the second sleeve to my Drop Collar Cabled Jacket grew. Now just the finishing work is left! I've been swamped with end-of-the-quarter nuttiness lately (this is the last week of classes), but I may just have to take a break to seam it up.
See that unfamiliar lichen green in the background? We're in the midst of a living room re-do. We bid adieu to the tan microfiber sofa and shuffled some things around. Now I need to sew some throw pillows, figure out window treatments, and pick out an armchair. Well, I already picked out a chair, but it's a tad pricey, so I either need to save my pennies or compromise on something more affordable.
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A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg(of Orangette) is absolutely charming and heartfelt; it has been inspiring me to spend more time in the kitchen. I love how Molly intersperses stories from her life with recipes. This book is more than a love affair with food -- it explores relationships and family and growing up, all that good stuff, and (most importantly) in an intelligent and thoughtful fashion. No saccharin-sweet, chicken-soup-for-the-soul crap here.

I'm no Molly Wizenberg, but I will share one of my favorite muffin recipes - Raspberry Streusel Muffins. I first started tinkering with this recipe when I lived in a darling 1-bedroom apartment overlooking State St. in Madison about 10 years ago (gulp, that makes me feel really old). It was the one and only time I've lived alone -- and I loved it. The kitchen was tiny -- no microwave or dishwasher (of course), an old-fashioned refrigerator that I actually had to defrost, and an oven that was about half the size of a regular one. And it was at least 40 years old. And it ran hot. Really hot. The girl who lived there before me left me a note in the kitchen carefully calibrating the oven settings to thermometer readings. It was a logarithmic scale, kind of like the Richter scale. On a related note, I kept a fire extinguisher in the kitchen just in case.

That year I also discovered the joys of the Dane County Farmers' Market -- being out and about bright and early while there's still a cool nip to the air, picking out my own fresh berries, meeting the farmers, testing out all the varieties of Wisconsin cheese... This recipe highlights two specialties from those mornings -- fresh Wisconsin dairy products, and sweet-tart raspberries. The muffins themselves aren't overly sweet; the streusel topping gives it a sugary kick.
Raspberry Streusel Muffins
adapted from Cindi Flahive-Sobel's Daily Bread

makes 12-18 muffins (12 muffins with large "muffin tops"; 18 small muffins)

muffin ingredients
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 C. butter, melted
1/2 C. milk (skim is fine)
1/2 C. sour cream (I use light)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 - 2 C. fresh raspberries

streusel ingredients
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. all-purpose flour
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon (I use Penzey's ceylon cinnamon for this as it's more delicate in flavor)
1/4 C. butter, softened, cut up into small chunks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray muffin tins or line with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I use a whisk to keep it light and fluffy since I don't bother to sift my flour.

In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg, then add the melted butter, milk, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir with a spoon until just combined and the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the raspberries.

In a small bow, combine the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Work in the butter with a fork until the mixture is crumbly.

Fill the muffin cups with batter -- to make 12 muffins, fill them just about to the brim; to make 18 muffins, fill about 3/4 full. Top with the streusel mixture. Bake for 18-20 minutes (for the large muffins -- a little less for the smaller ones), or until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.

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