Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Heavenly Chocolate-Chip Pumpkin Muffins

It sounds like bragging, but it's true. These velvety cakes not only use a whole can of pumpkin (no annoying half-cup), but they're silky-soft due to the addition of sour cream (I use vegan) and the Tipsy Crumpet's favorite mystery ingredient, RUM. Showers of dark chocolate chips send the mid-afternoon snacker into the stratosphere of ecstasy.


makes 6 large or 12-14 medium muffins



1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
dash salt
a few hearty shakes of cinnamon
a flurry of freshly grated nutmeg 
a cautious tap of allspice
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sour cream (or a few healthy tablespoons, if you don't like measuring)
1 long pour of rum
as many chocolate chips as you can handle--I really like Whole Foods' dark chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350.

Did you let your stick of butter soften for a few hours? No? Microwave it for about 30 seconds.

Did you remove the wrapper first? I hope you did. Use it to grease your muffin tins.

Cream the butter and sugars together. 

Beat in eggs.

Stir in vanilla. Whisk the ingredients until they are relatively smooth.

Sift in flours, baking powder, and baking soda. Include the salt and spices. 

Add the pumpkin and sour cream. Mix gently. If your batter is a little dry, good. Add the rum.

Pour in as many chocolate chips as seems reasonable.

Spoon the batter into the tins. Bake for 18-20 minutes if you're using medium tins, and 22-25 minutes if you're using big tins. (Note: my oven runs hot and tends to bake quickly, so use your discretion. Basically, when they smell done, they're probably done. An inserted knife will be mostly clean, with a few fluffy orange crumbs.)


  • As always, I like to use half whole-grain flour, and oat flour is healthy without making the muffins taste too virtuous for their own good. It does, though, add to their density (or their destiny, as the case may be).
  • You can play around with spices, adding as much or as little as you want. Why not go wild and incorporate some clove? Ginger might also be tasty.
  • Speaking of which, candied ginger instead of chocolate chips would be divine.
  • I like Tofutti sour cream. Unlike other vegan products, it really tastes like what it is replacing and is just fine for this kind of application (as well as being a great topping for quesadillas, soups, etc.)
  • You can use all white sugar, too. I just like the earthiness of brown.




5 stars. 5 is the maximum number of stars.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Piquant Caesar Salad with Seared Tofu

This is adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe. You massage mustard greens in a creamy, pungent dressing redolent of capers, garlic, and lemon, add some blackened tofu rectangles, croutons, and flame-red tomatoes, and pretty soon even your salad-averse boyfriend is clamoring for more.

This is a vegan Caesar (unless your croutons have some milk product), but it's just as zesty and potentially obnoxious as if it were filled with anchovies.

for a hungry crowd of people desperate for something green




2 Tbsp capers
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
juice from one lemon
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
squeeze or two of Dijon mustard
black pepper
white pepper


Main Players


2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
6-oz package baked tofu: Italian, smoked, or savory
one head of mustard greens
handfuls of croutons (I used Caesar salad croutons, but any type will do)
1 carton cherry tomatoes, heirloom or otherwise
two juicy sundried tomatoes that have been packed in oil




First, slice the tofu into thin rectangles.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat. You may need more than one pan, as you'll want each tofu slice to have full-body contact with the metal.

When the oil starts to protest, place the tofu slices on the pan(s). After two or three minutes, flip them with a spatula. Sear them so that each side has crusty, blackened patches, like so. It's even better if the edges start curling like one of those mood-detector fish.

No squishy, flavorless soy cubes here. Set the tofu aside to cool when it has been sufficiently punished.

Now, put your capers and garlic into a food-processor. Blend. Add the tahini, water, lemon, nutritional yeast, and mustard. Whizz until you have a smooth paste.

Rinse your mustard greens and chop finely. Soak up excess water with paper towels.

Place the greens in a bowl and massage in the dressing. Add salt, black pepper, and white pepper and massage some more.

Chop your sundried tomatoes and add those, too.

Add the tofu.

If serving right away, mix in the croutons and as many cherry tomatoes as you like. 




  • I bet this would taste just as good with kale or some other sturdy green.
  • A few handfuls of crisp red pepper slivers would be a nice addition.
  • This makes a good lunchbox option for work or school, as the mustard greens are hardy enough to withstand the pressure of the dressing, as opposed to a flimsier leaf, such as arugula, which would curl up and turn into a lifeless piece of mulch.

 Getting ready for a nutritious workday




4 stars. You may not want to breathe on anyone afterward.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blackberry Pie Bars

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Arnold Palmer Pie

For a barbecue, I was inspired by Nothing-in-the-House's sweet tea pie recipe. However, I wanted a less sugary custard with more lemon and a bracing tannic edge. My approach yielded a soft tart-and-sweet filling supported by a tender pie crust. It was delectable, and the flavors brought to mind the Arnold Palmer, that refreshing blend of iced tea and lemonade. 

for a 9 1/2-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch pan if you're willing to risk spillover




1 cup pastry flour
dash of salt
1 stick cold butter
tiny dash of apple cider vinegar
1 or 2 Tbsp ice water (I don't understand the difference between "ice water" and cold water from the refrigerator, but you could swirl ice around in a glass of water to make it even colder.)


1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
8 egg yolks
3/4 c. strong black tea, room temperature (I use 3 bags of Wegmans Irish Breakfast)
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cornmeal
dash of salt


First, brew the tea. Heat the water to the boiling point and pour it over the three tea bags. Let it sit so it can cool. You may want to brew yourself a cup to drink so you can muscle up for the crust.


Sift flour and salt into a bowl.

Cut in butter. (I do this by slicing it and then crumbling it in the flour with my bare hands until the flour is uniformly pebbly, but you can also freeze the butter and grate it.)

Add the vinegar and one tablespoon of the ice water. Mix with the dough and try to form the dough into a ball. If it's too dry and crumbly, add more ice water. Be careful! I tend to overdo this, and end up with a mushy, soggy lump that I have to pat with paper towels.

Wrap your lovely, pale yellow dough in plastic and pop it in the freezer. Let it sit there for at least 20 minutes, but preferably an hour or more (you can leave it in there for days or weeks--even months, if you're willing to eat pie that tastes like your freezer).

After the dough has endured enough freezing, take it out. Generously flour a large, clean surface (I use a silicon baking mat). Once the dough has softened a bit, roll it out, turning it over periodically and sprinkling flour on it so it doesn't get sticky. Try to form a large, flat circle. (I usually have to wait until the dough completely softens to achieve a shape that is 70 percent what I want.)

Press the dough into your pie pan, fluting the edges. (This is where I usually have to patchwork excess dough onto gaps in the crust.)

Stick the pan back in the freezer while you make the filling.  


Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a whisk, beat the sugar and the butter until creamy and pale.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking them in the batter after each addition.

Add tea, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk again. (I use a citrus squeezer to avoid pits.)

Add flour, cornmeal, and salt, and whisk until the mixture takes on a lively froth.

Take the pie crust out of the freezer and pour the filling in. 

VERY IMPORTANT: There is nothing stopping the contents of this pie from bubbling and spilling over except for the size of the pie pan and the grace of the pastry gods. Line the oven rack with aluminum foil to catch drippings unless you want a smoky oven you need to douse in baking soda like so. (Note that this was after I had lined the rack with foil! Sugary liquid evaporating in a hot oven is a dangerous thing.)

Place the pie in the oven and bake 45-50 minutes. The top will look slightly burnt and crackly, like creme brulee, and the pie will jiggle a little bit when shook.

Cool the pie on a rack until it is no longer a lethal pan of lava, then put it in the refrigerator for a few hours to let it set. I balanced the rack on some other food items and set the pie on the rack so that it could aerate further.


  • In case you missed it, this pie is so runny, you'll want to line your oven rack with aluminum foil to catch drippings. I realized that the filling was simply too much for my 9-inch pan when it kept spilling over during the first 15 minutes of baking. Not liking to waste anything, I scooped up the half-baked ooze and poured it back on the pie, resulting in the moon craters you see here.
  • On the bright side, the sweet goo spilling over the fluted edges of the pie constitutes an egg wash that enhances the flavor of the crust.
  • I baked this pie a scant hour or so before the barbecue, and it didn't have time to set properly. As a result, each slice was a runny emblem of the chef's procrastination. However, even in a mostly liquid form, the pie still drew oohs and aahs.
  • Even cooled for hours, the pie will never firm up into even key lime pie consistency. A slice will not win a beauty contest, but it will take over its neighbors on the plate like a sprawling pie warrior.
  • Even though the tea I brewed was strong, somehow, you don't really taste it in the pie, even after it sets for a few days. Emily noted this in her recipe, in which she used 2 tea bags. Some enterprising person will have to use 4 and let us know if you can taste it then. Don't get me wrong, though, the flavor of this pie is scrumptious--like a lemon lollipop. Perhaps the tea contributes to the overall umami.


3.5 stars--succulent and slightly troublesome, like a tempestuous starlet

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blackberry-Lime Bars

When I saw this recipe for blackberry blondies on the Baking Bites blog, I knew I had to make them, but I knew as well that I would not be content if they did not have a) some whole grains, lest they glide too lissomely down the palate, and b) a burst of lime to perk up the batter and give tang to the berries.

I tweaked the recipe twice. The first time, I cut the sugar a little, and added some lime zest and juice. The bars were fluffy, thick, and crackly on top, with a perfect appearance and mouthfeel. Despite their charms, however, I wanted to crank up the lime and crank down the sugar. The second attempt yielded a moist, succulent bar that packed a citrus punch that delighted all tasters, but at the expense of the crackly crust and chewy texture. 

Here is my best attempt at combining the two efforts. Play in this sandbox as you please: you can't go wrong with the flavors involved.

serves 12 normal or 6 gluttonous people (it is hard to eat just one piece)

meant for an 8 × 8 or 9 × 9 baking pan 


1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
shake of salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
slightly more than 1/2 cup white flour

1/2 cup oat flour (or other whole-grain flour)
1 1/2 to 2 cups blackberries

zest of one lime
juice of one lime


Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease the baking pan.

In a bowl, whisk butter and sugar until well-combined.

Beat in salt, egg, vanilla and almond extracts. 

Add zest and juice of lime.

Stir in flours and mix until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.

Fold in blackberries until they are evenly distributed.

Pour batter into baking pan and smooth gently.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until bars are set and golden-ish on top.

Place pan on a cooling rack and let cool completely before cutting. This makes 12 large bars or more smaller ones if you don't like your guests very much.


  • Using the juice of half a lime rather than one lime will yield a fluffier, chewier bar. 
  • If your lime is exceedingly juicy, you may want to add a tablespoon or two of flour to balance it out.
  • No matter what you do, these bars will be welcomed by all. The ingredients are so simple and the flavors so tantalizing, you can't go far wrong. 
  • White chocolate chips might be a nice addition. If you go for this, I'd cut the sugar down to 1/2 a cup.  


4 stars. They stay good for about a week if you keep them in an airtight container.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grilled Peach and Portobello Salad (with roasted asparagus and Cajun garlic bread)

Inspired by Panfusine and the mounds of peaches spilling over the produce aisles, I created this salad. I was afraid that the fruit would add a ruinous sweetness, but grilling it deepened its flavor, lending the salad a subtle and mature taste of midsummer. Spicy arugula, sundried tomatoes, salty feta, and scallions balance the earthiness of the mushrooms and deliver pungency. Lemon kicks the salad into life.

serves 4 to 6


3 or 4 portobello mushrooms
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
2 peaches, sliced
1 yellow tomato, cut in wedges
handful or so of sundried tomatoes (I use the basil-scented kind that comes sliced in a bag)
1 scallion, sliced
aged feta
1 lemon

1 pound asparagus, trimmed

1 crusty baguette 
garlic powder
Cajun seasoning
dried basil


Preheat the oven to 425.

Slather the mushrooms in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The tipsy crumpet has a failsafe method: pour a puddle of olive oil into your hand, then hastily slap it on the mushrooms, trying to smear them all with an equal amount. Do the same with the vinegar. Add a little salt and pepper.

Coat the asparagus with olive oil, then grind some salt and pepper over the spears.

Put mushrooms on one baking sheet; put asparagus on another. Put both sheets in the oven.

Let roast for 10 minutes. Flip the mushrooms. Add the peaches to the mushroom sheet. Roast for another 10 minutes, checking with a fork to see if everything is tender. Remove from oven when this occurs.

Meanwhile, slice baguette into sections, then cut each section lengthwise. Drizzle the interior of each side with olive oil, then sprinkle with garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, and dried basil. Put baguette slices in oven and bake until the outside is crunchy and the interior is steamy-tender.

Lay down a nest of arugula on the plates of you and your guests. Add tomato wedges, sundried tomatoes, and scallions. 

When the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, slice them into wedges.

Top the salad with the mushroom wedges and peach slices. Crumble feta on top. 

You could chop up the asparagus and put it in the salad, but I prefer it as an accompaniment, its long green elegance adding variety to the plate.

Squeeze lemon liberally over both salad and asparagus. Serve garlic bread in the center of the table, wrapped in foil.


  • You can grill the mushrooms, peaches, and asparagus on an outdoor grill instead of using an oven.
  • I tried this salad both hot and cold, and it works better when the warmth and juiciness of the grilled ingredients contrast with the cool dryness of the arugula.
  • This salad needs no other dressing but lemon, but you can experiment with olive oil and various vinegars. Champagne vinegar might be nice.
  • Bleu cheese would be a good replacement for the feta if you're so inclined. I recommend a porous, soft cheese and not a hard cheese so that it can better meld with the ingredients.


4 stars. Seasonal salad with piquant flavor accents.

The crumpet tiptoes to the abyss

I have a Korean friend and a Japanese roommate. This situation quickly led to a kimbop dinner. Kimbop, which can be spelled a variety of ways, is a delicious food concept in which you wrap egg, pickled radish, carrots, spinach, and pickled gourd in a cylinder of seaweed and sticky rice, then slice it into snack-sized circles.

This is what kimbop looks like when prepared by Asian people.

This is what happened when I took over.

Here's another view of the carnage.

If you're white like me, stick to things like potatoes au gratin, where you can hack a bunch of root vegetables, throw them into a pan with cheese, and call it dinner. For foods involving precision and finesse, cultivate a diverse friend circle.

Beet Brownies

Vegetarian Times calls these red velvet brownies. Let's not be euphemistic: the red comes from a can of root vegetables. Yet they are so good, even your most mainstream dessert-loving friends will clamor for them. The beets give the brownies a rich hue, a moistness as of rain-drenched earth, and a succulent cellulose toothsomeness. This is basically a Vegetarian Times recipe, but with more chocolate. 

one 9 x 9 pan is best, but you can use 9 x 13 for flatter brownies, like those shown above


2 large cooked beets (HA HA) or 1 15-oz. can beets, rinsed and drained (the lazy crumpet opts for this)
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup plus 2 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder (I heave in four tablespoonfuls and hope it's the right amount)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbs. instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (My approach is to pour these in without measuring. What's the worst that can happen?)
  • Process

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the pan if you want.

Puree the beets. I use an immersion blender stick attached to a chopper/grinder. 

Mix the melted butter and sugar until frothy. Add the vanilla and eggs, then stir in the beets. You'll have a lovely pink batter.

Mix the flour, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in another bowl. Gently combine the two mixtures.

Pour in as many chocolate chips as you want. Give a few swipes to the batter to make sure they're uniformly dispersed.

Bake 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size pan you use.


None. This is a simple recipe and hard to improve or mess up. You can even cut the brownies relatively quickly after they come out of the oven.


4 stars. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Citrus-Scented Ricotta Berry Muffins

Ricotta adds protein and calcium, giving the muffins a profundity they would otherwise lack. Tart berries enlivened by orange zest perk the palate, and chocolate lends a sybaritic note. These sturdy goods are best for breakfast, when you can enjoy the crackly give of the oat-flecked top and awaken to the marriage of fruit and chocolate in the interior.

makes 6 jumbo muffins or 12 regular ones


1 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar 
2 eggs
8 oz ricotta cheese (I used fancy artisan whole-milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 grated orange rind

1 cup white flour
1 cup oat bran
some healthy shakes of ground flaxseed
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

raspberries and blackberries
2/3 of a cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

splash of Grand Marnier
juice of an orange
enough buttermilk to turn this melange into something resembling muffin batter


Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the wet ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients in a different bowl. Gingerly mix both together. Add the berries and chocolate, then add the rest of the moistening ingredients.  Mix until batter is just consistent. Pour into muffin tins.

Bake for 20–30 minutes, depending on muffin size. Test obsessively with a knife to see if done. Normal took 20 minutes for me; jumbo, 28.


  • After years of making leaden fiber bombs that no one wanted to eat, I've determined that half whole-grain and half white flour is the perfect combo when you want a wholesome pastry that doesn't taste like a punishment. But you could go with all white flour and be fine.
  • You don't really need flax. I like adding it to everything and pretending that it negates the butter content.
  • I usually add too many berries, creating bloated muffin monsters that billow and threaten to collapse under their own weight. One small carton's worth should be fine.
  • I don't like overly sweet baked goods. 3/4 a cup of sugar is just right for me, giving the muffins a gentle sweetness without clobbering me over the head.
  • These are best enjoyed steaming hot out of the oven, where you can almost fool yourself into thinking you're eating pie.


3.5 stars. You won't be able to binge on them, but you will look forward to eating the next one.

The oat bran and ricotta give these muffins some density. If you prefer a lighter baked good, you may want to reduce the volume of these ingredients.