Saturday, October 25, 2008

Comfort Food (Kate Jacobs)

As I posted earlier, I enjoyed Kate Jacobs' The Friday Night Knitting Club, so when I found out her follow-up book, Comfort Food, was about cooking, I immediately put it on my hold list at the library. I actually read the book back in August (and have since returned it to the library), so this won't be the most detailed review, but I can still definitely give you my overall impressions on it.

Powell's gives a brief plot synopsis that is better than anything I could do from memory here. The book's structure is similar to The Friday Night Knitting Club in that there are multiple narrators telling their sides of the story throughout the book. This worked really well in the previous book, but I felt like the story in Comfort Food wasn't as compelling, making this technique almost unnecessary. One of my biggest problems with the book had to do with a fairly minor character, whose behavior and personality throughout most of the book are explained and resolved way too easily near the end, making for an abrupt 180-degree turn that just didn't resonate as real.

All that said, I read the majority of the book on an airplane, and it definitely was interesting enough to keep me reading and entertained throughout my flights. So if you're going on a trip, and read and enjoyed The Friday Night Knitting Club, I'd recommend Comfort Food for that kind of reading.

Somewhat related, we just finished our first summer as CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. We had held off becoming members because Madison has great farmer's markets that I love to shop at, but eventually we wanted to directly support a farm. I knew the weekly CSA box would change the way I cook, but I wasn't fully aware of the extent of it. I became more of a cook-what's-on-hand person, and when confronted with an overbounty of broccoli or potatoes, learned quickly to either blanch and freeze or make a soup that would freeze well. The CSA ended this week, and now it's going to be very strange to go back to what was "normal" meal planning and grocery shopping.

One recipe that became a regular this summer helped out when our CSA box had a lot of beets: chocolate beet muffins. Jim likes to point out that these muffins sound like they would taste awful, but that they are so delicious. And, they're pretty good for you, too. (I'd recommend waiting until they cool to eat them, otherwise they may have an overly "beet-y" flavor.)

Double Dark Chocolate Beet Muffins

1 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 C. (split into two half-cups) Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 C. chopped pecans or walnuts

1/8 C. butter
1/8 C. milk
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C. beet puree*
1 C plain lowfat yogurt
1 t. vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line it with paper cups; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients until well combined.Stir in the half cup chocolate chips and nuts; set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt the other 1/2 cup chocolate chips and butter over very low heat. Stir to combine, add milk, and set aside to cool until lukewarm.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, beet puree, yogurt, vanilla, and melted chocolate.
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Don’t over mix.
  7. Immediately spoon batter into 12 well-greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Batter should completely fill the cups.
  8. Place muffin pan in a preheated 375 oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Muffins are done when they spring back when touched lightly in the center (or when a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean). Don’t overbake!
  9. Cool muffins for 10 minutes in pan then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

*To prepare beets: Cut off the greens leaving about one inch attached. Don’t cut anything off the root end. Gently scrub the beets being careful not to cut the skin. In a medium saucepan, cover beets with water, bring to a gentle boil and cook, covered, 30-45 minutes until tender. Drain and let sit until cool enough to handle. The tops should pull off easily or they can be cut off. The skins will slip right off. Puree beets with a little bit of the cooking liquid in a food processor until they are the consistency of applesauce.

Recipe adapted from here.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Your muffins look really good, but I'm kinda too busy for all that pureeing and peeling. Could you just send me a couple of muffins. Priority mail. I'll pay the postage.

Unknown said...

Nice picture. Recognize the background. Tracked your link to Ghirardelli chips and on their site found a link that located 9 stores within a 100 mile radius of my cabin on the mountain that carried the chips. Even had maps. Impressive. Surfing out from your recipe link I found that beets prevent birth defects. Probably too late for me. I'll have to continue to live with my birth defects. Finally did find (on Pinch My Salt) a recipe for vegetable chowder I am going to use.