23 August 2009

A Vacation to Recover from a Vacation

I hope you all are doing very well and enjoying the remains of the summer. Here in Central Jersey, it's hot and HUMID. Well, it's actually wet. I'm sure that's affected some of my baking results, but the new AC has been helping.

Speaking of baking, I'm gearing up for September's Making Over Martha Month. Tanya helped with one recipe, and 2 days ago, Dawn (my Tennessee pal) helped me make another. Because I'm also gearing up for the fall semester, I'll try to get two more done before the end of the month to blog about in September, but it might be a bit of a squeeze.

We dropped Dawn off at the airport at 4 am this morning for her return flight to Nashville, after a week of fun. Well, not all of it was fun. The day she arrived, we had to drive the 5 hrs to the northern tip of Lake George to attend a funeral service for her recently departed Aunt Joy. The lake was lovely, as were the homes of her brothers on the lake. If you go to Lake George, stay in Ticonderoga and eat breakfast at the Hot Biscuit. The biscuits are HUGE. Easily the size of both my fists together. I recommend not eating the night before in order to finish one of them. Excellent with agave nectar.

All that to say, we had a very full week, and now I have a long to-do list to accomplish before settling down with a routine for school. However, I will be back in September, blogging away for Making Over Martha Month. Enjoy your week!

17 August 2009

Guest Blogger: Teresa and Her Magic Banana Muffins

From Aug. 2009 photos

This recipe comes from my pal Teresa, who is studying to become a librarian with me at Rutgers. Originally, I was going to veganize them, but just for fun, I tried them just as she outlines below (except that I didn't make mine in a food processor or process the nuts -- just whacked 'em with a mallet. I also used walnuts, and instead of the cinnamon, I used 1 teaspoon Pensey's Baking Spice.). I made these yesterday with another friend, Tanya, who baked with me all day. We used up all the black bananas in my fridge and freezer. More of those recipes to come.

Tanya had some lovely things to say about these particular muffins -- "A great breakfast muffin with a spinach and feta omelet." I thought that 1. they don't taste like whole wheat muffins at all (thank the stick o' butter for that one), 2. they are very light in texture, and 3. I prefer them with walnuts over cashews. Overall, they are very fine muffins which, if I had a cafe, I would serve them in my muffinry repetoire.

But, for now, please enjoy these delicious banana muffins from Teresa.

From Aug. 2009 photos

Delicious Banana Nut Muffins

I suppose I should start with a little introduction as it is not Deb writing this entry.
My name is Teresa, I go to grad school with Deb, and I am a baker who refuses to follow recipes. The general public may find this shocking, but you, loyal readers of Altered Plates, by now realize that recipes are not set in stone. I bake a good amount, usually at least one breakfasty treat and one desserty treat a week. My father is a processed food addict that seems to hate all sources of fiber, so I constantly struggle to hide good things in yummy tasting snacks. As such, I grind up all sorts of things and use alternative sweeteners a good amount in my baking.

This is a recipe for banana nut muffins. I don't know about everyone else's household, but mine often finds that it buys one or two bananas too many before they are over ripe for eating. Luckily, overripe for eating equals perfectly ripe for baking. Furthermore, if you ever find yourself in such a situation and do not have time to bake, just disrobe your banana, place him in a plastic bag or freezable container, and pop him in the freezer. You can throw chunks in a blender with berries and yogurt for a delicious smoothie, or defrost them to use in any baking recipe.

This recipe is extremely loosely based on a banana nut bread recipe from an old (1980, which is before I was born) food processor bread cook book. I changed the nuts (and ground them to hide from my father), used agave nectar instead of cane sugar, used whole wheat flour instead of white, got rid of the milk, and baked them as muffins because who can wait the 50 minutes for a loaf when you can be eating a yummy muffin in 25?

Anyway enough chatting, you are here for a recipe!

Banana Nut Muffins

Yields 12 regular muffins.


2 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4-1/2 cup nuts (I used raw cashews, but any nut you find yummy will do the job)
2 eggs
1/2 cup room-temp unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (I never measure such spices when baking... so this is just a general guess of how much it was)


Note: I used a food processor for this to grind up the nuts, but it is easy to do by hand if you like more chunks. I would not use beaters, however, because over beating the flour will make the muffin texture more like pucks and less like light fluffy muffins.

1. Mash the bananas and mix with lemon juice.
2. Add the nuts, eggs, butter, agave nectar, and vanilla. Mix until completely combined.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients until homogenous.
4. Add the dry to the wet in 3 or 4 stages, pulsing or mixing until just combined.
5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F
6. Grease a muffin pan or line with paper liners.
7. Dole out the batter evenly. The batter should be a little short of the top.
8. Bake in a hot oven 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
9. Remove from pan when you can touch them (I have crazy baker hands that amaze friends and family with their ability to touch hot things) and finish cooling on a rack.

These muffins can be enjoyed as soon as they are cool enough to eat. Let leftovers cool to room temperature completely before placing them in an airtight container for keeping.

13 August 2009

Vegan Lemmmmmmmon Poppy Seed Muffins

From Aug. 2009 photos

The pre-Altered Plates version of these vegan lemon poppy seed muffins originates in Vegan Brunch. I made quite a few changes to the recipe to make it agave-nectar friendly. I also doubled the recipe because I made "Thank You" muffins for my supervisor at the Zimmerli Museum, and sesame seed (instead of poppy seed) muffins from the same batch for some friends who don't eat poppy seeds.

From Aug. 2009 photos

These muffins definitely improve over time. I had one just after they had cooled enough to split open and try, and immediately had doubts about whether to give them to anyone. So, my advice to you: Let these cool completely and don't cover or refrigerate them overnight. The magic that happens is amazing.

I'm also not sure I'd use AP flour again. When I use whole wheat pastry flour in my baking recipes, they tend to turn out better. I'm not sure why, but they just do. Next time, I'm also going to make these with dried cranberries and pistachios instead of lemon and poppy seeds. I'd bet they would be great.

Here's the recipe as I made it.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Yields 12 large muffins and 24 mini muffins


4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (feel free to use whatever suits you here)
scant 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup agave nectar
4 tablespoons lemon zest
4 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons each of poppy seed and sesame seeds, separated


1. Line your muffin pans with paper liners.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
3. Whisk together the almond milk, lemon juice, canola oil, agave nectar, lemon zest, and vanilla until very well combined.
4. Mix the wet with the dry ingredients for 1 minute, maximum, until just combined.
5. Split the mix in two parts, and add the poppy seeds to one half and the sesame seeds to the other. Just fold the seeds in, and don't mix a lot.
6. Begin preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
7. Using a medium scoop, fill your large muffin cups to the edge of the paper. Using a small scoop, do the same with the mini muffins.
8. Bake the muffins 10 minutes for the minis and 20 minutes for the large muffins, or until a tester comes out clean.
9. Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes in the pans before releasing them onto wire racks to cool completely. Very important: Do not cover or wrap these for at least 12 hours. It will make a huge difference in the outcome of the muffins. Trust me on this.


07 August 2009

Travelogue: Salt Lake City and Park City on Here and There

If you happened to be interested in the rest of my trip to Salt Lake City, please feel free to visit my other blog, Here and There for the complete travelogue. Otherwise, next week, I'll be back to baking as usual. Enjoy the weekend!

04 August 2009

Altered Plates On Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Este Pizzeria in downtown Salt Lake City is a very busy spot at 12:30 pm on a weekday. It was even busier than usual on the day Connie (my mom-in-law) and I went. It was a heck of a day, in fact. But I'll get to that later. You did come here for the food.

Above are little puffs of fried dough called zeppoles that are normally sprinkled with granulated sugar and cinnamon. I got gypped on the cinnamon when I asked for no sugar, but the cool thing was that the zeppoles come with a little container of agave nectar in which to dip them. When I say little, I mean this:

From Salt Lake City July 2009

Just a few milliliters, but it turned out to be just enough for the whole box. The box, by the way isn't styrofoam, it's some biodegradable corn container. So was the water cup.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

OK, back to the food.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

These tiny doughnut bites were yummy. I'm sure they would have been a bit crisper and not as chewy if we hadn't such a long walk back to the car and the wee drive to Connie's office. But, we were running out of time on the meter and needed to move the car.

Being able to have another option besides sugar for a dippable dessert is wonderful. And, Este pizza isn't bad either. Well, let me clarify that. For SLC, the pizza is great. Tastes a lot like East Coast pizza. For New Jersey or New York pie, it's pretty average.

Are you still curious about the heck of a day we had? Well, you asked for it. Connie and I saw two people get hit by a train! But, before that happened, we witnessed (in separate instances) a pretty large, and strangely quiet protest at the courthouse.

First, on my way to the main branch of the Salt Lake City Library (I will be blogging about that at length -- as well as much more of the trip -- on Here and There later), Connie called me to say that there was a big gathering of Fundamentalist LDS (read: Mormon for LDS) protesters gathered in front of the City and County Building, and that I shouldn't miss the opportunity to see such a thing. I wasn't sure what this meant until I drove past the building and saw what appeared to be costumed women with poofy hair and men in long-sleeved shirts (in 90 degree F sun) and jeans milling about under the trees and by the steps of the courthouse.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

There were probably around 500 folks (although the paper said there were at least 1000 -- they exaggerated) quietly waiting for news inside the historic building. I did what I always do in these situations, and told the the friendly police bikers that I was a visitor from New Jersey and was curious about what was going on.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

The kind officer on the left told me that the fuss was about a land dispute. He also recommended going to see the cannons fire in Park City that Saturday night during the 1812 Overture. Moving on...

After leaving the protest (mind you, they didn't quite resolve the dispute after all.), I went to the library. I won't blog about the wonderful and gorgeous library here (because that's what Here and There is for), but what I will tell you is important to the rest of the story.

In the atrium of the library is the library store. I know! I'd never heard of a library store before. Next to the library store is a lovely little plant and fancy bits store where I bought my step-father Dave a great gift for his upcoming birthday in September. I can't say what it is because he just might read this.

Connie met me in the atrium and we walked to my rental car to put the gift in the trunk before hoofing it to Este for pizza and agave nectar zeppoles. On our way back from the car, just about to the library, we heard a huge commotion by the Trax station. Trax is the city train that runs along the streets, kind of like the trolleys of San Francisco. People were shouting "Walk! Run!" and some other things that didn't sound good at all. As we approached the Trax station (which looks just like a bus stop, with a plexiglas enclosure), things did not look good at all.

From Salt Lake City July 2009

I know, it was creepy of me to have taken a photo, but I was there before the reporters around the corner at the courthouse came over, so I snapped one. Just one. Turns out, there were two boys (although Connie saw a third running from the scene) slugging it out by the stop, and they ended up in front of the train as it came to a stop. One boy was bumped by the train, and the other was run over. When we had walked up to the front of the library (directly across the street from where the accident happened), someone was taking off his shirt in order to get under the train to pull out the second boy. And, when I say "boy," I should really say "man," because the paper said they were two 20-year-old-men. Seems people get hit by these trains all the time. Just two weeks earlier, a 50-something-year-old man was hit and was in critical condition as a result. These two young guys were pretty cut up, but hardly in critical condition.

The weirdest thing was that three separate people, on three separate occasions during our walk from the car to Estes and back, felt compelled to tell us what had happened, what we, in fact, had witnessed. I'd never experienced that before, nor had Connie nor I felt compelled to share with a stranger what we had seen. On the other hand, we did feel compelled to tell John's sister and Connie's other co-workers the moment we walked into her building.

Anyway, it was a heck of a day -- all before lunch!