comfort food

Doughnut Muffins

by Caroline

This time of year, seasonal eating is often also holiday eating, as we slide from Halloween through Thanksgiving into Christmas and New Year’s. I want to take each of these in turn, give them their due, and then take a breath before the next one is upon us.

Which is why I love Advent. The liturgical calendar I’ve followed my whole life gives us four weeks of contemplative preparation for Christmas, four weeks of lessons and carols and calm. But, sadly, no specific Advent foods. Advent’s a quiet period, not quite as abstemious as Lent, but still not a big feasting time. And this year, when its first week overlaps with Hanukkah and my boys are coming home from school talking about dreidels and menorahs, it’s been a little hard to keep them focused on our traditions. And who wants to compete with latkes, anyway?

But I think I have hit on the perfect Hanukkahvent (or perhaps Adventukkah) snack: the doughnut muffin. A bath in melted butter and cinnamon sugar gives it the fried crispiness of a latke, but it is baked — not fried — to suit the more temperate Christian holiday. Compromise never tasted so good.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the Sugar Coating
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups, or line them with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.

Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Working with one at a time, remove muffins from pan, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture. Let muffins cool completely on a wire rack. (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

recipe from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

by Caroline

It’s November in San Francisco, which means that I am facing the annual disconnect between the food my New England-raised body feels like I should eat and the food appropriate for our sunny and warm days. The New Englander in me says “Turn on the oven! Roast vegetables! Make soups!” while the Californian wants a salad.

This week, the New Englander won.

I’ll link to the recipe I followed for pumpkin black bean soup, with a reminder that it is soup, so you can be flexible. I roasted the smallest of our CSA pumpkins and scooped all the flesh into the soup pot, without measuring, but it was probably more like five cups. My cans of black beans are 15 ounces, not 19, so that’s what I used. I didn’t have any canned tomatoes, but did have some of last summer’s frozen roasted balsamic tomatoes (made without the leeks and pureed immediately into a sauce) which looked like about two cups (but I did not measure.) I had about a tablespoon of sherry left in the bottle, so tossed that in with a glug of last week’s Sauvignon Blanc. The soup was delicious, and it’ll never taste quite the same way as it did last night. That, to me, is one of the charms of soup.

Lemon + Honey

by Caroline

It has been six days now since this cold clamped its vise grip on my head and chest, six days of trying to wash it way with gallons of tea, at first, and then just hot water with lemon and honey. Usually by this point in a cold, I’m tired of the drink and craving a milkshake (even though I know it’ll bring on a coughing fit) but not this time. Yesterday, I even hauled a pile of cookbooks into bed with me to read up on lemons, and found a chapter dedicated to them in the incomparable Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking. After detailing the various delicious things that can be made more delicious with the addition of a lemon (roast chicken; any kind of fish; lentils; salads; rice pudding; pound cake; biscuits), she writes:

“And when you have run out of things to cook with lemons, you can use them as medicine. When you or a loved one is sick with the flu, a very good remedy is

Hot Lemonade

For this you need one big water glass. Into the bottom of it put 1 large spoonful of honey and 1 cinnamon stick. Slice half a lemon into thin slices and put those in, too. Now squeeze the remaining lemon half, and 1 more lemon, and put the juice of both into the glass. Fill with hot water, stir, and serve to the sick person with the glass wrapped in a napkin.”

I can’t say it has cured me, but the cinnamon stick is a nice change of pace, and one I’m sticking with as I lie in bed, re-reading the rest of Colwin’s lovely book.

Sausage with Apples and Potatoes

By Lisa

This is one of those fast and comforting foods you can be happy to serve on a busy weeknight or for an early afternoon Sunday dinner. It came about one day last winter when I was staring at what was left in my pantry and freezer. What spoke to me:  apples, potatoes, an onion, a pre-cooked sausage.  Since then, I’ve made the dish with chicken-apple sausage or kielbasa and both are good. It’s fast and needs little tending.  You can increase or–as we do–decrease the amount of meat to your taste, so it’s more of a flavoring/side accent.  My kids love all of it and I love that it’s a one dish meal.

Baked Sausage with Apples and Potatoes

Serves 4+

  • 1 link pre-cooked kielbasa or about 3 links of pre-cooked sweet sausage, about 3/4-1 lb total
  • 2 apples
  • 1 medium to large sweet onion (red or maui work best)
  • about 3 potatoes
  1. Core and slice apples into 6-8 wedges.
  2. Slice potatoes into sizes similar to apples.
  3. Slice onion into 8 pieces.
  4. Put potatoes and onion in oven proof casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Bake at 350 until potatoes are nearly tender, about 40 minutes.
  5. Add apples and sausage to casserole, placing sausage on top.
  6. Bake until apples are tender/soft and sausages are well-heated through, about 20 minutes.
  7. Serve with your favorite mustard and a green salad with a mustard-based vinaigrette (white balsamic vinegar + mustard+ 1 smashed clove garlic + olive oil)

Rice +

By Lisa

Not so long ago our microwave died a not-so-quiet death. It zapped and fritzed and we quickly decided it was time to retire it. We’d had it a long time, and we used it a lot: for reheating many things; for morning porridge; for defrosting; for popcorn.  But getting rid of it freed up a large space, onto which I placed my new rice cooker.

Caroline loves her rice cooker. I was lukewarm about the model I had, which was old, American, and did a so-so job with the rice.  I knew I needed a new one, but never got motivated.  Then, last summer, Ella and I had her Japanese friend and her mother over for dinner before they moved back to Japan, and I made rice to go with dinner. Well, my friend took one look at my appliance, and felt very sorry for me. “I think we had one like that when I was very little.  She offered to give me hers when they left, since they couldn’t take it with them.  I gratefully accepted, and now I have this really lovely Tiger Model, which has sort of changed many things in our life:

It has a timer, which can permanently remember two different times, settings for white, brown, mixed rice & porridge, reheat, and keep warm settings. It has a nice little slot for the paddle, and interior markings on the inset bowl so that you can pretty much tell where the water level should be (you can totally tell if you read Japanese).

Now, I use the rice cooker all the time. I have one timer set to 5 pm, and I can dump in the white rice, mixed rice (part brown/part white, which is our favorite), brown rice, farro. (Caroline cooks quinoa, too) at noon or 1 or 2 pm and it’s done perfectly by dinner time.  But  here’s the added beauty:  The second timer is set for 7 AM, and after dinner, I can dump in a cup of steel cut oats, 3 cups of water, and in the morning–hot porridge. No mess, no stirring for an hour.  It’s genius.  The kids love it. I love it.  It’s made our lives–and especially our mornings–easier and some of our meals healthier. So, if you’re in the market for an appliance, or a new toy for your holiday list, get a rice cooker w/some of these features. You won’t be disappointed, even if it can’t cook popcorn.

And: Thank you, Wakana, for your friendship. And the rice cooker! We think of you every time we use this!