Today’s Letter is "M"

I think today’s Wednesday. I kind of don’t care to keep track anymore because I’ll only be reminded how many more days stretch ahead before the weekend. And once the weekend gets here, how few days are left before the inevitable return to work on Monday. Sorry, that’s kind of negative, I know, but seriously. We’ve gotten a bunch of snow in the past five days. Every morning this week I’ve woken upon hoping for too much snow on the road to go into work, but the damn city has kept our roads snow-free. So I’ve been spending most of my week daydreaming of North Carolina. Oh and yesterday I spent my day watching the Bonnaroo line-up be slowly and painfully announced on Bonnaroo’s MySpace. Who does that? Anyway, it looks pretty good. I usually feel that Bonnaroo’s line-up is a pretty good preview of Lollapalooza’s. Hopefully will get to at least one festival this summer!

Mira was somewhat suspicious of the tiny snowman we met on one of our walks.

The snow did kick in a serious hibernation switch on in my head over the weekend. I decided that I needed to cook and bake a lot just in case I could never leave my apartment again. Friday night I made these bombtastic baked chicken meatballs. My only problem was that my tomato paste had been in the fridge for awhile, and some nice fuzzy, white stuff was growing on parts. I just went ahead and used the non-fuzzy, white parts. A few hours post-meatball consumption, I felt off. Amazingly enough, still ate leftovers the next night, and even more amazingly enough, felt slightly off again. HAH. Anyway, the meatballs are super tasty for few ingredients (which is my favorite. The less money I have to spend, the better.) I made them bigger (got about ten balls I think), and ate them with spaghetti. I bet they’d be the perfect party appetizer if made smaller.

Then came the muffins. These whole wheat apple muffins have been my go to when I’ve had extra apples lying around this fall and winter. They are DELICIOUS. Nice and warm spicy (you know, like cinnamon), moist for days after, and partially healthy. This was probably the fourth or fifth batch I’ve made.

Baked Chicken Meatballs
(adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen)

3 ounces sliced pancetta, chopped (Deb suggests Canadian bacon if you can’t find pancetta)
1 small onion, finely chopped (have I mentioned how I hate to chop onions? Also grate cheese.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
1 pound ground chicken
3 tablespoons tomato paste, divided
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons oregano

– Preheat the oven to 400°F with racks on the top third of the oven.
– Cook the pancetta for a couple of minutes in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until the onion is soft, about 6 minutes.
– Lightly beat the egg in a large bowl. Add the chicken, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, pancetta mixture, bread crumbs, and oregano. Shape into meatballs, whatever size you want, and arrange on a lipped cookie sheet or 9×13 inch baking dish.
– Stir together the other two tablespoons of tomato paste and the olive oil. (I actually ended up having to make up a little more of the tomato paste/olive oil mixture to put on top.) Brush over the meatballs.
– Bake until meatballs are just cooked through, (and really just. I let mine go a bit long and they were kinda dry.) 15 to 20 minutes.

Whole Wheat Apple Walnut Muffins

(I like adding the “whole wheat” in there because it makes me feel healthy)

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I usually get about 18 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk or soy milk (you can use that vinegar trick with soy milk too I think)
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

– Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease 18 muffin cups and set aside.
– Mix flours, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together, and set aside.
– In a separate bowl, cream the butter until it’s soft and creamy. Add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, and beat until fluffy. (I’ve recently discovered the importance of literally beating butter and sugar until really fluffy, and not half-assing it. I think it makes a difference to take 3 minutes instead of 1 minute.)
– Add the egg and mix well. As always, scrape the sides of the bowl while mixing this whole time. Mix in the buttermilk/soy milk gently. (Apparently if you over mix, buttermilk will curdle?)
– Stir in the dry ingredients with a spoon. Fold in the apple chunks and walnuts. I saved some of the walnuts to put on top.
– Pour the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top, and any extra walnuts, if you so desire.
– Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 19 minutes (I always only need 5), or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tins, then take them out and cool completely on a wire rack.


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