Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When is A Muffin Not Really a Muffin?

You may already know the old saying attributed to Freud that goes "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!"?

Same goes in cooking apparently. This concoction, from 101 Cookbooks is called "Sun Dried Tomato Cottage Cheese Muffin Recipe".

Hey not the flashiest name perhaps but you read that and at least you know what you are getting in to. I think I like that better than calling this something like "Hot Flash Mini-Pies" because while whimsical, that name doesn't give you much of a clue as to what it might be all about. That said....

This recipe will give you what is more a crustless mini-quiche or soufflé type result than a muffin. So if the word "muffin!" conjures up sweet soft crumbly bites interspersed with little blue spherical orbs or a sugary buttery streusely top, then don't even go there, OK? This is not that.

What it is, is healthy and delicious. Taken from "Vegetarian Supercook" by Rose Eliott this recipe reportedly is representative of Elliott's ability to combine proteins, complex carbs, vegetables and good fats in just the right way to fill you up without simply moving that literal cottage cheese out of the container only to be conceptually reproduced by a fatty re-visualization on your own thighs. (OK if any guys are reading this and are grossing out then just skip down towards the end of the post where I describe the taste. Deal?)

I used my food processor to do all the heavy lifting in this recipe. This made the prep easier than I'd anticipated. Which I gotta say up front means I am sitting here while they bake having a hell of a time typing because I have my fingers crossed so tight these will turn out to be deliiiiiiiiicious, a new family favorite.

Maybe you are in fine shape but I could desperately use a breakfasty favorite to feature around here that is not all about bacon or syrup or time spent over a skillet doing ANYthing one at a time. Something healthy but tantalizing. Something with built in portion control.

Funny thing is, for a family of control freaks, we seem to have nearly no self control when it comes to portions. Without some strict guideline, we have a startling tendency to fill up our plates until there is no room left. Thanks so much "there are starving children in China!" Mommies. Conditioned by countless well meaning admonitions over the years we are just as likely to over fill our plates and then over eat to clean them after. And apparently, leading by example, we just about trained our kids to do the same.Enter the Miraculous Not Muffins.

In the past I have carefully avoided making anything featuring a load of ground nuts in place of most of the flour. I already confessed to being a World Class Avoider when it comes to trying new things. What made the difference this time? A muffin is a great running head start on portion control. Then, after reading the rest of the ingredient list my curiosity overcame my hesitancy. I took a deep breath and decided to boldly go.

As I've said before, I am trying to forge some new territory around here in the culinary arena to help support our eating healthy portions including a lot less animal protein without feeling all hair shirt about it. I wanted this whole "not so much meat" trip to be more about adding in, rather than simply taking away. So. Add in the Miraculous Not Muffins please!

A few notes. As I made these this morning I discovered two things. First while shopping for ingredients recently I apparently grabbed two hunks of shrink wrapped Romano rather than a hunk of Romano and a hunk of Parmiggiano-Reggiano as I'd intended. A bit later I found that, although I can count to ten without moving my lips or anything, my Miraculous Not Muffin batter batch yielded more than would fill 9 of the designated batter cups in my muffin tin.

A lot more.

So I pulled out my container of muffin papers, tucked 3 more into place and as it turned out, there was just enough batter to nicely fill all 12 muffin cups. So I did. My muffin pan apparently is more of a "small" than a "medium". It was nice to have things skewed towards the smaller rather than the larger for a change - but maybe that's just me.

I figured to check the Miraculous Not Muffins early, at 25 minutes, Just In Case. I took my slightly smaller Not Muffins out at 25 because they looked done but 5 more minutes wouldn't have ruined them. But enough about me. Here it is as featured on 101 Cookbooks:

Sun-dried Tomato Cottage Cheese Muffin Recipe

You can use the flour of your choice in this recipe. The original recipe calls for soy flour (great for people looking for a gluten-free option), I use white whole wheat flour - unbleached all-purpose flour will work as well. To grind the almonds I gave them a whirl in my food processor. You are looking for a flour-like consistency - be sure to stop short of turning them into an almond paste.

1 cup plain cottage cheese (low-fat is fine)
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup flour (see headnotes)
1 cup almonds, very finely ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), finely chopped
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a muffin pan with medium-sized paper baking cups, you'll need nine of them.

Put the cottage cheese into a bowl with all but 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, water, and eggs, and season with salt, then mix all together.

Spoon the mixture into the muffing cups 3/4 full, scatter with the remaining Parmesan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until set, risen, and golden brown. Serve as hot or at room temperature.

Makes 9 muffins.
And here are my Miraculous Not Muffins. Before I tell you what they taste like to me, go back and scan the ingredient list and see if you can guess for yourself. Really. I'll wait and totally not use the time to eat another MNM. Or well, maybe I will, but only to make sure I have a fresh set of sensory references to report to you. I am so all about the science here.

OK. Ready with your guess? Did you guess Pizza? Because, you smart cookie you, that is exactly right. Whatever you want to call them, these tasted to me very much like pizza. A really moist on the inside, with a little crunch from the baked on cheese of the outside, tomatoey, cheesy Margherita style pizza.

Now maybe you are one of the 5-9 people in the United States who do not think that pizza is an acceptable breakfast food. If you are, avert your eyes for a few sentences because I am sitting here typing to tell you these Not Muffins are so evocative of eating pizza that I think any kiddo any age would be delighted to find these waiting on the breakfast or lunch table either one.

They would also de-foofify any bruncheon setting but in a totally stealthy way. They would look all properly grown up on a platter garnished with a few springs of basil and a sprinkling of edible flowers. Surrounded by the other typical offerings like fancy supremed fruit salad these Not Muffins would go WOWZA along with a mimosa or bloody mary for sure. Once everybody started to daintily bite in with their pinkies all elevated you just know these big grins would be breaking out on everbody's tastefully made up faces because here you've given them yummy moist healthy PIZZA flavored bites. Take that, Martha Stewart!

OK maybe Pizza is not one of your favorite food groups. Fair enough. You could play with the flavor profile a bit and swap in chard and some finely chopped thyme for the basil and take it a slightly different direction altogether. You could try a different grated cheese, but do take pains to avoid anything that will throw too much moisture into the mix. The original post on 101 Cookbooks lists a whole host of potential tweaks if tweaking is what you want.

I count these a total success even though along with some of those commenting on the 101 website I too noted these Not Muffins have a tenacious cling to the paper quality that has you turning aside from fellow diners so they don't necessarily have to watch you scraping the last bits off the paper with your teeth. (cue "eeeuwwwww" noise from studio audience)I am not sure how to address that problem really are you? What do you do about muffins that stick to the paper (or in this case Not Muffins)?

Any ideas out there? Spray the muffin paper with cooking oil prior to baking? Use free standing aluminum muffin cups rather than paper liners in a tin? Spray the muffin tin itself with oil and eschew the paper lining cups altogether? I figure on trying any/all of these options as quickly as I can justify the additional batches. If I happen upon some remedy I will be back with an update.

These are healthy, cute as a button and pull together in about a half hour, especially if you have a food processor to do your grinding/chopping/grating. Don't let a tenacious muffin paper or unreasonable fear of using nut flour get between you and your own batch.


Mayberry Magpie said...

I like healthy as much as the next guy (okay, maybe that's a lie) but what I really like is yummy. And I have to admit I read nearly the whole post thinking "not for me." Then you said pizza. I ate cold pizza for breakfast two days ago and ENJOYED it. Pizza muffin? Hell, yes!

Anonymous said...

I have found that muffins stick to the papers when they are hot, but once they've cooled they come out readily.

TexasDeb said...

MM: In my book all food is healthy. IE apples lead to good health, chocolate cake might lead to bad health. (cough!). Truth is, I could eat pizza 7/52. It includes all my favorite good groups with the advantage of not having to dirty a plate. Win/win.

Anon - I've noted that and had hopes for better paper peeling once the NotMuffins cooled, but no go. They were every bit as stuck to the paper cool as they were warm. Thanks for the good thought, anyway.

bee said...

i'm makng this next week for sure. (right now i'm eating cornbread with peach jam and some espresso coffee, all sent to me by a lovely lady in austin, texas.)

that peach jam is the freaking awesomest.

TexasDeb said...

Random reaction: Cornbread with peach jam and espresso sounds quite sophisticated when I read somebody else is having it but feels homey when I have it myself. Funny, eh? All in the eye of the beholder I guess. Enjoy your pilgrimage, Bee!

Siren said...

i absolutely LOVE this recipe (not having tasted or made it yet). I love the idea of bringing this to a brunch or serving it at my house for a brunch. I am not a big sweet-food eater around breakfast time.

Oh man. This is great.

TexasDeb said...

Siren, welcome! I most definitely appreciate your enthusiasm.

Do let me know if you come up with a good remedy for the whole "sticks to the papers" problem.

I hope to make another batch next week but with only 3 of us in the house I have to pace so production doesn't way outstrip demand.