Julember: ‘Tis the Season to Sit by the Fire and Eat Comfort Food

While most of the world is experiencing the summer fun of July, here in my part of the world we are experiencing Julember – the calendar may indicate it is July, but the weather is indicating it is November.  With temps hovering around 9C, I have spent the past week thinking of soup instead of salad, socks instead of sandals, and Santa instead of summer.  The normally ignored fireplace has been lit every day this week and I have been knitting – not one of my regular summer activities.

So, when a recipe for strawberry muffins popped up in my Facebook feed I jumped at the chance to mix a traditional comfort food with a summery delight.  I gathered the ingredients and immediately called my visiting sister and her family to drop over for a sit by the fire, coffee, and muffins.

With help from my adorable nine-year-old niece, and changes to the recipe to veganise it, the dual season muffin-making began.

As always, prepare your flax egg first:  1 tbsp of flaxseed and 3 tbsp of water.  Mix in a small ramekin and let gel.

This is also a good time to hull, clean, and chop the strawberries.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened (each Earth Balance butter stick is 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1 flax egg
  • 2 cups flour  (Your choice; I used all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy, but almond or rice milk will work just as well)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped organic strawberries

TOPPING:

  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • I usually make a small bottle of sugar and cinnamon to have on hand so I don’t have to prepare this much-used topping every time a recipe calls for it.  

With your nine-year-old niece having a tight grip on the mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the flax egg and mix well.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and let the wee child stir it about. Add the flour mixture and the milk alternately to the butter mixture (much more fun when two people are doing this!). Add vanilla. Stir in strawberries.

Spoon batter into muffin pans and sprinkle the topping on the batter.  Of course, only small children are allowed to sprinkle the topping on the muffins. 

Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes.

This recipe makes one dozen regular-sized muffins.

Now announce to all and sundry that the beaters, bowls, spoons, and spatulas are ready to be licked!  Go sit by the Julember fire and enjoy!!

BEFORE:

strawberry muffins raw

AFTER:

strawberry muffins cooked

Advertisements

Dewberry Cobbler

Yum!

Yum!

IMG-20130416-02439

Dewberries!

Growing up, I ate wild dewberries (a relative of the blackberry) as fast as I picked them so there isn’t a family recipe for dewberry cobbler. I’m not sure if we ever picked enough to make a cobbler. Neither my mother or grandmother ever made any type of cobbler that I can recall (so much for my Southern heritage). By the time I married, my mother had discovered Bisquick so it’s possible she may have made something from a dough mix with some kind of fruit at some time— just not while I was around. So, my passes at making cobbler have been experimental, based my consumptions of fresh peach cobbler made by other people for church potlucks and other social gatherings. I never got anyone’s recipe because it’s just dough, fruit and spice…how hard can it be?

20140422_164350

Preheat oven 350.

I use about 3 pints of dewberrys (slightly more) and bake the cobbler in an 8″x 8″ non-stick pan. Gently rinse the berries in a colander. Pour them into the pan. The berries should come almost to the top of the pan.

The dewberries should come almost to the top of the 8"x8" pan.

The dewberries should come almost to the top of the 8″x8″ pan.

Sprinkle 3 Tbls flour over them, drizzle with honey (about 2-3 Tbls) and then sprinkle 2 tsps nutmeg over the berries. Stir carefully, just enough to mix up the ingredients a bit.

Flour, nutmeg, and honey...then stir carefully.

Flour, nutmeg, and honey…then stir carefully.

The flour is necessary for thickening once the berries cook down. They’re very juicy and omission of any kind of thickening agent will result in a sloshing pan of boiling berry juice. I add a bit of honey because wild dewberries are tarter than their domesticated cousin, the blackberry. If you’re making a cobbler using sweeter fruit you may be able to omit adding any type of sweetener.

Dough (to make the “cobbles”)

Cobbler is so-named because of the blobs of dough on top resemble the uneven cobbles of cobblestone streets. In short, neatness doesn’t count. 😉

1 cup – 1 ¼ cups flour
1 Tbls baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbls margarine
2/3  cup milk

The “cobbles” traditionally aren’t sweet. The idea is that when you eat it, you break the bits of bread up with your spoon and it soaks up the juice of the fruit. If you want more sugar, it won’t hurt to add a bit of sugar to the dry ingredients.

Mix dry ingredients. Cut in margarine until it’s pretty much homogenous. Stir in milk. It will form a wet sticky somewhat loose dough.

Drop dough by large spoonfuls on top of the berries in the pan. Don’t try to spread it for complete coverage. Think of the dough like it’s dumplings in a berry stew.

Drop sticky dough by large uneven spoonfuls on top.

Drop sticky dough by large uneven spoonfuls on top.

Bake 35 mins in 350 preheated oven — or until dough starts to brown.

The dough on top will help hold the heat in, and the cobbler will “set” a bit as it cools, so it’s best to leave it out on the counter for for 15 minutes before digging in.

Dewberry Cobbler, piping hot from the oven!

Dewberry Cobbler, piping hot from the oven!

Cobblers are juicy. They are best served in bowls. Especially dewberry cobbler. The fruit cooks to bits, so unless you add way too much flour for thickener, it will just run all over a plate.

Yum!

Yum!

Cobblers, particularly peach, are favorite desserts for dinner-on-the-grounds or summer cookouts, but they’re always runny and really aren’t suited to plates. If you must use disposable plates, styrofoam with a raised lip around the edge is best. Cobblers are often served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Another reason for serving in a bowl. 😀 If serving with Ice Cream and if you live within the distribution area for Bluebell Ice Cream, Natural Vanilla Bean would be my choice to go with this.

If you want to do something else with the berries…and have a toaster oven, you might want to try this easy fruit crumble. If you want to read more about my adventures picking and domesticating dewberries, check out the post I wrote last year on my author blog, Idleness.

Rocket Pops

Rocket Pops!

Rocket Pops!

I love dewberries. I always pick more than I can do anything with at the time I pick them, so I freeze them to use later. One of uses is to make frozen yogurt pops. Dewberries are tarter than their cousin the blackberry. You can make these pops with lots of different types of fruit; just adjust the amount of sweetener to your taste.

1 cup frozen dewberries (or blackberries)
1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt (I use Chobani)
A small amount of honey, sugar, or sweetener, to taste.

Gently rinse frozen berries then add with yogurt to the blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and add some type of sweetener, to taste, if desired. Dewberries are a wild southern blackberry; they are very tart, and not readily available in stores. You will probably be using a sweeter fruit or berry, which is why I don’t give an amount of sweetener. I like the tartness of dewberries and probably don’t sweeten it enough for most tastes. I’ve made these with no sweetener. Jaw-lockingly good. 😉 Blend well. Carefully pour into freezer pop mold. This makes just enough for six rocket pops. Your mileage may vary, depending on the size and shape of the pop mold you use.

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter and think like a 5-year-old girl who wants build a rocket ship in the back yard and live in space.

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter and think like a 5-year-old girl who wants build a rocket ship in the back yard and live in space.

If you have trouble releasing the pop from the mold, run it under warm water for a little while — or just step outside! It’s August and and it’s hot!