Back-to-School Treasure Hunt

We had lovely weather for our Annual (how many years do you have to do something before it can be "annual"?) Back-to-School Treasure Hunt.  There was some slight unpleasantness in the form of a screaming baby in the bike trailer, but this subsided periodically and we all had a great time anyway.  We love family bike rides, especially with treasure involved!

A shadowy figure hunts for clues
We had a picnic mid-way through, with zucchini-tomato turnovers (vegetables fresh from the garden!)

Mountain flowers

We went hiking up near Cedar Breaks a couple weeks ago, and the wildflowers up in those mountains were SO beautiful.  The air was still cool up that high, so it almost felt like we'd gone back in time to Spring.
Lots of meadows just had sprinklings of color, like this . . . 
that resolved themselves into separate flowers when you got up closer.  (The purples look like some kind of lupine---I have lupines in my yard and I love them!)


Peanut Butter Muffins

These peanut butter muffins turned out to be everyone's favorite.  The best part is how moist they are.  I'm having a hard time conveying in pictures just how moist.  But they're almost like a soft peanut butter . . . cookie?  Really good, especially the top edges.

These have an interesting mixing method.  (Here is where I got the original recipe.)  You recall that usually in muffins, you use a specific mixing method: dry ingredients, wet ingredients, fold together until just combined.  You don't want to develop the gluten like you do in yeast bread; if you overmix, the muffins won't have a nice tender crumb.  Or, if your muffin recipe calls for softened butter instead of oil, you probably use the creaming method, like you would for cake.  I learned all this from my mom when I was little.

These muffins, though, have you do weird things like mix the eggs with part of the brown sugar---and add the butter before the peanut butter.  Strange.  I couldn't see why it was necessary, so I didn't do it the first time, and my muffins turned out flat.  And sure, looks aren't everything, but they just weren't as moist as I felt they might be, either.  So I wanted to try to improve them.

Flat muffins can be caused by a few different things.  Filling the cups too full (they are only supposed to be filled three-fourths of the way) can do it , and so can a too-low baking temperature.  So next, I tried preheating the oven to 425, and immediately turning it down to 350 once I put the muffins in.  This is supposed to help "oven spring."  I also made sure not to overfill my muffin cups.  But still, they were flat:  

Okay, now I was ready to sheepishly try the mixing method the recipe called for in the first place.  Using that method (and the regular temperature, 350 degrees) yielded these:
They aren't perfectly domed, but much better.  See the crust of the muffin in the foreground?  It rose up above the rim of the pan before hardening.  I like to see that because it shows they are getting a lot of "oven spring."

Then I tried two more things: (1.) using the called-for mixing method, and ALSO preheating the oven to 425.  I tried baking them at 425 for 12 minutes (many of my muffin recipes call for high temperatures like these, with shorter baking times---as opposed to the 350 degrees/25 minutes in the original recipe) and they looked good, but I thought they were a bit dry.  
Then (2.) I tried the different mixing method, preheating the oven to 425, and then immediately turning it down to 350 when the muffins were in.  Perfect.  And there we have my somewhat scientific method (can one be somewhat scientific in method?  Must ask my brother Karl) of testing this recipe.  I don't know why the mixing method works, but it appears to, so I'll do it.

After wading through the preceding discourse, you deserve some peanut butter muffins.  So here is the recipe, adjusted as I have described.  I hope it yields you perfectly delicious muffins.

Peanut Butter Muffins

1/3 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, divided
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. peanut butter
2 large eggs, beaten
2 1/2 t. baking powder
2 c. flour
3/4 c. milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the softened butter in a large bowl and gradually add 1 c. of the brown sugar, the salt, and the vanilla, and cream together until light and fluffy.  Next add the peanut butter and cream again.  Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs together until well-beaten.  Add the remaining 1/2 c. brown sugar and mix until completely blended.  Stir into the creamed mixture gradually, until well blended.

In (yet another) bowl, [you can see why I didn't want to use this method right off the bat; I don't like dirtying so many bowls] sift together the baking powder and flour.  Gradually add these dry ingredients alternately with the 3/4 c. milk to the creamed mixture, until everything is combined.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tin, filling cups 3/4 full.  (I prefer NOT to use cupcake liners for these, but you could if you wish.)  Put muffin tins into oven, and immediately turn oven temperature down to 350.  Don't forget, or your muffins will burn.  [I've done this. Twice.]  Bake for 16-17 minutes or until tops of muffins spring back when touched lightly with your finger.

The best thing we've done this summer

You know how our boys like carwashes, right?  Well . . .
This is an idea that has many roots.  I guess it started with this:
and also drew inspiration from this:


Orange Muffins

Orange muffins, chocolate chip muffins, peanut butter muffins

It's no secret that we love muffins around here.  Lately I've tried out some new recipes to share with you.
Honestly, the chocolate chip muffins were just okay.  Of course they were yummy (chocolate chips!) but they didn't have anything extraordinary about them, in my opinion.  Maybe you want to try them anyway?  Okay, I got the recipe here.

The peanut butter muffins will get their own post.

These orange muffins are really light and delicate.  They have a delicate flavor, too, so I like to serve them with a salad or lemony pasta or something else summery.
Orange Muffins

1 c. milk
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. plain yogurt (or sour cream)
2 eggs
1 c. canola oil
3 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 T. orange zest

Preheat oven to 425.  Combine milk, orange juice, yogurt, eggs, and oil in a large bowl.  Whisk to blend.  Combine rest of ingredients in separate bowl and whisk to blend.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fill greased muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full with muffin batter.  Put muffins into oven and IMMEDIATELY TURN OVEN DOWN TO 350.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until middle of muffins spring back when touched lightly with your finger.

Huge . . . tracts of land

Sam's mom asked  me awhile ago what I would do, besides being a mother, if I could have any job I wanted.  I said maybe someone could pay me to travel around the world eating delicious things and then writing about them.  Or I could write poetry.  Or I would also like to own a little flower shop.  Or a little bakery.  Not the business part of it---the accounting and the marketing and so forth---but just the baking.  I'd like it to be small enough scale that I didn't have to use an industrial mixer and walk-in ovens like they had at the MTC when I worked there---small enough so I could make just a few dozen each of all kinds of things every morning.  Changing them every day, maybe: cheesecakes, pies, muffins, cream puffs, eclairs, cookies, brownies, cakes.  And breads, of course, all kinds of breads.  I'm sure in real life it would be harder than I realize, but in my imagination I would love it: trying new recipes, perfecting old ones, letting people taste things and then seeing how much they liked them.

Last week was our Young Women's Camp, and I couldn't go, so I sent love to my girls in the best way I could.  I made vanilla syrup and two kinds of brownies and three kinds of muffins (for various meals).  It made me feel like I was working in a bakery, and I liked it.
(If I worked in a bakery I would keep it cleaner than this.)
Here (above) is what the kitchen looked like during this process.  I have taken the liberty of highlighting some of the more notable objects, for your edification.

Anyway, the best part was that it resulted in big platters of food, all piled up invitingly.  I love big platters of food! Even if I'm not going to eat them (which I wasn't, in this case), I just love knowing that they will be eaten, that someone will enjoy them.  There's just something about a big platter of something that makes me happy.  I used to go to the BYU Employees' Christmas Party with my dad, and they always had huge platters piled high with donuts.  It was my favorite part.  Sometimes I only ate one donut, but getting that donut from a huge pile of donuts was infinitely better than just being handed a single donut on a napkin.  I don't know if that resonates with anyone else, but there's another reason I would like to work in a bakery and construct huge piles of delectable things to eat and then display them in a pretty glass display case.  Abundance, I guess that's what it is.  And I'm so thankful for the abundance in my life that I want to give platters and platters of it to other people too. :)
I will post these muffin recipes sometime soon.

(Cream cheese brownies on one side, peanut butter brownies on the other.  Recipe here.)


Fancy (dancing)

The boys made a fancy restaurant yesterday which I was privileged to attend.  It was very dim (to preserve the Romantic Atmosphere), played soft music (soundtrack from Cars 2), and the waiters carried lanterns.
There was also entertainment.  There were cliff divers, which were exciting, but the best part...


A sight you may see often if you live nearby---boys pushing down a sprinkler that got stuck in the "up" position.  (This particular sprinkler is a good one because it nearly always gets stuck.)  We usually have to stop the car when we are going somewhere, to let the boys get out and take care of the sprinkler.

Abe and Seb decided the other day that they were going to teach math to Ky.  ("I want him to know how  to do math before he even starts school, just like you knew how to read before you started school," Abe told me.)  Ky was obliging, as usual.  The teaching consisted of Seb and Abe peppering Ky with math questions all day, many of them "story problems."  Here are some things I overheard:
"If you have one mommy, and she goes to the church for Young Women, how many mommies do you have left?" 
"If you have three windmills in your backyard, and one falls down and cuts your head off, how many windmills are left?" 
"If you have five babies, and they are all crying, and two more babies come and start crying TOO, how many babies do you have total?"
"All those babies probably wouldn't be crying at the same time."
"Fine, then two of them can be laughing.  How many total?
"I don't know."
"Five plus two, Malachi.  Look at my fingers."
"Oh. Seven." 
"What if you have a birdie, and another birdie in a tree, and another birdie on the grass?"
"Like the birdie that I petted?"
"Yes, but concentrate, Malachi!"
Under such tutelage we'll probably have a boy genius on our hands soon.  I'll keep you posted.
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