29 June 2011

Adventures in Baking: Your Average Spicy Chocolate Muffin

The humble muffin. In the case of yesterday's batch, easy to mistake for a cupcake, since the first recipe I ran into when looking for a quick, kids-will-definitely-eat-it kind of breakfast was for a Chocolate Muffin. What could be simpler, or more kids-can't-say-no-to-it?

Except, of course, that I'd completely forgotten that I had used up a main ingredient, the cocoa powder, in Ralphie's birthday cupcakes a couple of weeks earlier. And since this was a quick-and-easy recipe and I was SURE I had all of the ingredients, I didn't bother to do anything in the correct order. So by the time I realized I didn't have the cocoa powder, well, the batter was already completely put together. Sans cocoa.

If any of the four convenience stores I'd stopped at had had the cocoa powder, I would have tossed some in and we would have gotten yummy chocolate muffin breakfast goodness, and that would have been that. Only there was no cocoa powder to be found that morning. And completely-put-together-muffin-batter only missing its cocoa will only last on the counter for so long, so a trip all the way to the grocery store was out of the question. So, we ended up with two different muffin experiences - the chocolate chip cupcakes made for the kids, and the experimental chocolate cupcakes I made with the rest of the batter.

See, I had a kind of chocolatey powder at home, just not the one I'd originally had in mind. The one I had handy is one called Aztec Spice Sipping Chocolate by Dove Chocolate Discoveries. It's packaged as a spicy hot cocoa, and I wasn't going to throw it in there originally since it's an already sweetened product. But I figured, I had put in less sugar than the recipe called for anyway (habit, thanks Dad!), and it just suddenly sounded like it might be yummy to have in there. And OH MAN, was it ever! I can't tell you at ALL how much I threw in - so sorry. I just upturned the can until it looked like a good sized pile and the batter had the right consistency. But the muffin that came out was moist and chocolatey and had just a delicious amount of heat - not quite 'hot and spicy', but almost. Even the kids liked it! I am so going to figure out how to do it again!!

Thanks to Chocolatier Katie Resig, on whose DCD website I originally 'discovered' this yummy spicy sipping chocolate that ended up being the star of my morning muffins.

The original chocolate muffin recipe I followed is from joyofbaking.com - here - and my only alterations aside from the cocoa powder, discussed above, were that my chips were dark chocolate, and I didn't bother to melt the butter - the kitchen was so warm just from the weather that my stick was barely a solid to start with :).

On to Wednesday dinner planning. Have a great week!

26 June 2011

Local Favorite: Netcong Farmers' Market

I am still mourning my blog over at ScrapFriends. A couple of years worth of stories I only-put-there, always thinking they'd be there for me to go back and grab later..including many kid milestones, like first-word stories, birth stories...sigh! As someone who's lost all digital photo files twice now (once due to no backup, I guess, but the second time due to failed backup...) I guess I've come to accept that such things are more ephemeral than I would hope. So now I'm ready to blog again. My last blog included much of my life, since my followers were friends, but the central theme was, of course, scrapbooking, due to the nature of the site and my relationships there. I don't know that I'm sure how to focus my revived blogspot blog yet. So we're going to go with the theory that it will evolve somewhat organically, and I'm happy to sit back and see where it goes.

One thing I can say is that whenever I'm enjoying a favorite anything - food, local attraction, free-kid-thing - I always want to share. So I know what will be feeding some of my writing here. And in celebration of summer, I'm going to start by sharing my favorite little Farmers' Market, the one held at the train station in Netcong, NJ, known simply as the Netcong Farmers' Market.

This is not what I used to think of when I thought of farmers' markets. I thought of the one in Madison, Wisconsin, where you keep going and going and going around the circle and it's just neverending and mindboggling in its variety and the sheer number of vendors.

I was pretty surprised the first time I visited Netcong, a few years ago, and found only a few local farms set up. But until the Sparta market opened this Spring, it was What We Have, and I love it for being close and fresh and just so much more convenient than the bigger ones further away. They also used to have fantastic weekend giveaways - I once won the 'beach day' themed giveaway, which was a colorful beach umbrella-with-stand, two supersized towels and two beach chairs! - but I was told this year that Netcong 'said no.' Bummer for that!

Here's what to expect at Netcong Farmers' Market: Alstede Farms (whose frequent-shopper card does not work here...only if you buy at the farm in Chester). Hickory Ridge Alpaca Farm, with at least one supersoft alpaca in a pen to accept the attention of small fry. (This week, we had a Mama with her little one - bonus!) Iona Hill Farm. A little admin tent where, if you bring in your ValPak coupon, you can get a free canvas tote (this year's appears to be maroon). The possibility of one or more other local vendors, who may or may not stay the season.

Herbs and fruits and veggies are the stars of the market, but Alstede usually has local honey and some baked goods, and you can pick up plants and hanging baskets at Iona Hill.

We were happy to see Netcong's fabulous new spot, All in the Icing, set up. Though their Farmers' Market fare included less perishable items, their cupcakes are so so SO flavorful and creative and beautiful - so worth a visit! They even go for local and organic/sustainable ingredients 'when possible.' Their alcoholic flavors are truly alcoholic. Come to think of it, I may need to blog about them here one day, too. Don't have any photos, though. Looks like a visit is in order. ;)

The kids' favorite spot is always the alpaca stall..they all love to moon over the fluffies for a few minutes, and KC especially loves to beg for the fluffy 'stuffed animals' on display.

The nice thing, of course, about the smaller market is that it's a quick in-and-out if that's what you need. Parking is right by the booths and the fare is somewhat predictable. But I'll take a prediction of sweet, fresh Jersey Corn any day.

The Farmers' Market takes place from 9-2 every Saturday from now through mid-October at the train station at Main St. & Rte. 46 in Netcong. According to a quick search, they can be reached by phone at 973-347-0252, or by email at "b dot ryan2 at att dot net"

Maybe we'll see you there one Saturday :)

23 June 2011

Summer Reading Club for grownups - is this really a good idea??

We went through a lot to get to summer, and now that we're here, I've got a boatload of things on the agenda.

Taking advantage of Kids Bowl Free and the free movies at Clearview Cinemas.

Getting the kids to daytime karate classes. And to Crescent Cove for fun swim, and Hackettstown for swim lessons.

Maintaining the pumpkin patch and our new (huge!) container garden (can I call it a Victory garden?) so that we can enjoy it all summer.

Cleaning out our entire house, top-to-bottom, in an effort to get it where we need it to sell next year.

...and so much more. But I'm pretty sure staying up four hours past bedtime because the siren call of a Summer Book Club - for *grown ups* - made me check out three Orson Scott Card books I haven't yet read was not part of the program. But there is no putting down a good book once I get started.

So three days into the summer reading program, and three Card novels later...oy. This Mama needs some sleep!

Books down..so far..Homebody ('ok'), Treasure Box ('very good') and the last one I read, whose name I forgot, which was written with a co-author and had to do with Healers and DNA-coded viruses and such. Which was also very good, but not as good as Treasure box. Tried to get another book out of the library yesterday, this time looking for unread Ursula LeGuin, and ended up in the kids' department. Which was just as well, since that's where my kids were looking for their own book treasures :)