Suzi's Blog

Date Walnut Muffins

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Lucinda Scala Quinn has writing Mad Hungry and Mad Hungry Cravings. These are success and survival manuals she wrote for moms like her, moms with a perpetually hungry husband and one or more tall and getting taller sons. Like their father, her three sons are often hungry, too, and Lucinda believes — well, knows — that men’s approach to food is direct: plenty, good, now. And men develop food memories: there is that band of dishes they want over and over again. Men have cravings.

From Cravings comes this very different muffin recipe. In American cuisine, we rarely employ dates in recipes. Overlooked, dates offer a distinctive sweet flavor, but this time with a twist: they are soaked in coffee to add an extra dimension.

The chopped dates add texture as do the nuts. Walnuts are a natural pairing with dates, but Suzen has found that pecans provide a wonderful flavor alternative. Suzen has a personal “no walnut” policy so our nut shelf is stocked with pecans and almonds. The next batch of muffins will take a stroll down the almond path.

But all future batches will employ these coffee-soaked dates.

Enjoy this brunch or breakfast or perhaps a midnight snack.


Date Walnut Muffins

Yield: 18 regular size muffins or 36+ mini ones [as pictured

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 5 ounces pitted dates
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup safflower oil
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Line 18 muffins cups with paper liners.

Bring the coffee to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the dates, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature. Drain the dates, discarding the coffee, and chop.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, sugar, oil and milk.

In the dry ingredients, make a well and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk together. Fold in the dates and walnuts. Do not over mix. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them three-quarters full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes [less for mini-sized], or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing.

Source: Mad Hungry Cravings by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

Photo Information [top]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for1/100th second at ISO‑2000

Photo Information [bottom]: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/2.8 for1/100th second at ISO‑1600

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Pan-Seared Lemon Chicken with Ginger Honey Sauce and Ginger Honey Walnuts

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Have you ever followed a recipe in a cookbook, really and truly and honestly followed it, and the result was a disaster?

It wasn’t you. It was the cookbook. And the failure of the author and publisher to make sure that each and every recipe in the book has been tested and works exactly as written. A couple of decades ago, you could depend on that quality in any cookbook you bought. Today? It’s rare, and the recipes in many books can be hit and miss.

What’s the solution to this more than minor problem? First, if you make something and it fails, shoot off an email — maybe with a photo — and just very politely tell the PR department at the publisher that there may be a problem.

Second, and more directly, you can avoid the problem entirely by searching for books from authors and publishers you can trust. Authors like Marie Simmons. With well over a dozen cookbooks in her portfolio, Marie is one of those very special authors you can put full trust in. If it is a recipe in her book, and you follow that recipe, you will have something quite special.

In the past two years, there has been a flurry of cookbooks devoted to one sweet topic: honey. Marie has authored Taste of Honey and it ranks at the top of the hive. Typical of her books, it is smart and simple. The recipes are not 1-2-3 simple, I admit. But, Marie’s writing style is excellent. The directions lead you step-by-step with clarity and precision. Most importantly, Marie has a spirit of adventure, like this recipe where honey and ginger and walnuts and chicken all come together in a sticky, delicious delight.


Pan-Seared Lemon Chicken with Ginger Honey Sauce and Ginger-Honey Walnuts

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the ginger-honey walnuts:

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • ½ cup walnut halves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt

For the lemon chicken:

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless and skinless chicken breasts (see note)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 thinly sliced scallion (about 1 tablespoon, green part only)

Preparation:

To make the ginger-honey walnuts, place oil, ginger, and garlic in small skillet. Slowly heat over medium-low until garlic sizzles. Add walnuts and honey. Cook on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, adjusting temperature until honey boils and sticks to walnuts and walnuts turn golden. Sprinkle with the salt, adjusting to taste. Transfer to a side dish or sheet of aluminum foil. Do not put on paper towels because they will stick.

To make the lemon chicken, with a sharp knife, fillet the chicken breasts through the thickest part to make 8 cutlets.

Place them on a large piece of plastic wrap, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with second sheet of plastic wrap, and gently but firmly pound chicken with a meat pounder or underside of a small, heavy skillet to make fillets of even thickness of ¼ to ⅓ inch.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in large, broad skillet until hot enough to sizzle.

Add the chicken a few at a time and cook 1-2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.

As the chicken is cooked, transfer to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Discard oil in skillet and let skillet cool slightly. Add remaining 1 tbsp. of oil, ginger, and garlic to skillet. Heat and stir over medium-low heat just until garlic sizzles. Add the lemon juice, chicken broth, and honey. Heat, stirring to loosen any browned bits in skillet, for about 3 minutes, or until mixture boils and thickens. Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with the walnuts and scallions.

Source: Taste of Honey by Marie Simmons

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO‑500