Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.

It reminds of Muffin Mondays in high school, "Banana Pancakes" by Jack Johnson, my Uncle Dave's diner food at the shore every morning, the strata scene in The Family Stone and the reason you go to church.

I don't eat much in the mornings, which is why I think I fell in love with muffins. You can have variety, they're filling, and easy to take with you. I have made over 52 varieties of muffins. This pumpkin muffin, which is so fitting now that fall has finally arrived (and I can't find my winter coat and still need to knit myself some gloves), is pretty fail-proof. The secret is the pumpkin pie spice and (lean in close) not overmixing the batter. Mix just to combine. Mix just to combine. Mix just to combine. Let some lumps be, use a wooden spoon, try to limit yourself to 15 or so turns around the bowl. Otherwise, you're screwing with the gluten. Mixing just until combined will yield fluffy donuts have nice muffintops.

This pumpkin muffin recipe is near and dear to my heart, and first appeared in Gourmet magazine in November of 2006.

Pumpkin Muffins

1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin (from a 15-oz can)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin-pie spice (a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice)
1.25 cups plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Put liners in muffin cups.
Whisk together flour and baking powder in a small bowl.
Whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, pumpkin-pie spice, 1.25 cups sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until smooth, then stir, preferably with a wooden spoon, in flour mixture until just combined.
Stir together cinnamon and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another bowl.
Divide batter among muffin cups (each should be about 3/4 full), then sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture (the caramelized sugar will give you a nice crunch). Bake until puffed and golden brown and a toothpick or skewer inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then transfer muffins from pan to rack and cool to warm or room temperature.

I knew I wouldn't have time to bake this week, so my mom bought me 5 donuts, and a cruller for Matt, at Yum-Yum, where they make their own donuts.
I played with the self-timer on my camera this morning. The fact I had chocolate icing all over my face was not to be missed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Steve Zissou's, er, I mean Courtney's, hat.

(In progress shot.)

Nina mentioned to me about a week before Courtney Brown's birthday that there was nothing in this world Courtney Brown desired more than a red hat. I obliged, naturally. I went to Rosie's first, in search of bulky-weight, fire-engine red yarn. There didn't seem to be anything to my liking, so I headed over to Loop.

Loop is on 19th and South or so. I can't seem to say enough nice things about it lately, as I always get great deals and exactly what I'm looking for.

So I'm in Loop for about five minutes and have been presented with a good deal of options. I chose an almost variegated red from Lamb's Pride.

I made up the pattern as I went, and we ended up with this:

(Courtney Brown's current Facebook Profile Picture...I think that's the hat)
I made up the pattern as I went-- 2x2 rib for about an inch and a half, decreases starting with every 15 or so, then 14, and so on. It turned out a tad big and I really should have blocked it because the decreases didn't match up exactly, but The Lady seemed to like it. It took about five hours in tv-watching time to knit.

As for my other knitting endeavors, all seems on hold for this week--its midterm week.
But watch for a recipe with meat in it. I found a recipe for chorizo and sweet potato soup and had to try it out. Whip out your separate cutting boards, this should be interesting!
On the sabbath try and make no noise
that goes beyond your
Cries of passion between lovers
are exempt.
St. Thomas Aquinas

Friday, October 10, 2008

Week in Review

My gaining-a-reputation Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, made especially for my Spanish class. A portion were sent off in the mail--I am anxious to see how they survive.
Mujadra, one of my favorite staple dishes from North Africa. Lentils, rice, and onions--so simple, so incredibly delicious.
What, in the recipe, is called Spicy Orecchiette with Broccoli, became very spicy tennis rackets with broccoli when I made it. Also delicious and worth trying. I substituted cayenne pepper for the red pepper flakes, but there's probably a reason to use red pepper flakes.
Caramelized brussels sprouts with lemon, which I couldn't stop snacking on. I picked up the sprouts from my favorite produce guy, who sells off the back of a truck on 13th and Oxford for $1.50. There should be plenty more brussels sprouts recipes before fall is over.
Chipotle smashed sweet potatoes, which were smokey and sweet and an even more vivid color. That picture, apart from being blurry, also doesn't capture that incredible orange.
I made the smashed sweet potatoes and the brussels sprouts together last night, almost as a Thanksgiving side dish test run. Laying in bed, I thought of pairing them with an open face turkey sandwich, with a thinned-out filling on the bottom and a cranberry relish on top of a whole wheat baguette.

I had to buy packing tape to send those cookies out earlier this week. In an effort to justify spending $4 on packing tape, I'm thinking of starting a cookie-of-the-month club. I love hearing "I miss your baking," but I would prefer to hear, "Those cookies got me through midterm week." I also the idea of combining my two favorite things--getting mail and feeding people. I'll be doing some investigating around the cost of postage this week.

I've never asked people to pay for food though--something feels morally and foundationally wrong about that. Food is so basic and essential, but we have so many feelings and traditions attached to the things we eat. I think food is a currency beyond money--a physical currency that carries emotional and even spiritual weight with it. One day I'll find away to express this more effectively, but for now, know that sometimes a muffin is the best way to say I love you.

"Ask anything,"

My Lord said to me.
And my mind and heart thought deeply
for a second,
then replied with just one word,
God's arms then opened up and I entered Myself.
I entered myself when I entered
And having learned compassion I
allowed my soul
to stay.
St. Thomas Aquinas

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mixtape Miercoles

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Everytime I listen to Sufjan it seems I have a new epiphany. I don't think anyone who listens to Sufjan often would be surprised--he's distinctly Christian in a good deal of his songs. He quotes scripture and has done covers of some really great Christmas songs (my favorite being "O Come O Come Emmanuel", which is my favorite Christmas song of all time).

This is not a new epiphany, and this song might be a strange choice, especially if I'm trying to argue Sufjan as another Gospel writer. But the song "Casmir Pulaski Day" says so much about God that people aren't willing to say, or even admit to themselves.

The song's narrator falls in love with a woman who has bone cancer. She loves him, relunctantly (knowing her condition is fatal), and dies.

The narrator sings:

Oh the glory that the lord has made
And the complications when I see his face
In the morning in the window

Oh the glory when he took our place
But he took my shoulders and he shook my face
And he takes and he takes and he takes

I think the last two verses, and I don't want to preach too much, say three things:
1. God stares us in the face particularly when we wish He didn't exist and think we can do without.
2. God became man through Jesus and this reminds us that when we suffer, God knows our suffering personally and intricately.
3. God takes, and takes, and takes and this feels unfair. And that's okay because God is big enough for us to be angry at Him.

Anyway, that's what I was thinking. "Ring Them Bells" is a cover I listened to a lot this summer.

This week has been really, really good to me so far. Yesterday alone is worth outlining. Cookie making, a brilliant movie in Spanish, a letter in the mail, getting Forklore (a cookbook from Fork, a Philadelphia institution), having a great night at work, not to mention Mac & Cheese from a box (and someone to share it with).

I've got a few recipes lined up for you, but I figured I'd take some time today and up the JC on this blog.

Oh, and I saw the UCC commercial I posted last week on Bravo tonight!

I sat one day with a priest who expounded on the
doctrine of hell.

I listened to him for hours, then he asked me
what I thought of all
he said.

And I replied,

The doctrine seems an inhumane cage;
no wonder the smart dogs
ran off.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

A bouquet of pencils

"Don't you just love [Philadelphia] in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils."


Someone had quoted my all-time-favorite romantic comedy in a food blog post this week. I sent it to Nina, who replied with perhaps the best line of the movie ("Yeah, yeah. I would've asked for your number. And I wouldn't have been able to wait 24 hours before calling you up and saying, Hey, how about... oh, how about some coffee, or drinks, or dinner, or a movie... for as long as we both shall live?"), which is why she is the greatest. But in all honesty, fall has arrived in Philadelphia. Today I wore a sweatshirt and found that other people had discovered outerwear too. I've been wearing cardigans all week, but I think the temperature has dropped enough that everyone has caught on. I even treated myself to a hot chocolate from the Starbucks that opened a full three and a half minute walk from my apartment today.

I have had a ridiculous week (running trend?). I haven't done laundry, I sliced my finger pretty good with the mandoline slicer, and the UCC's board restructure is causing me more agony than I'd like to admit. My job with Bright Hope Baptist Church is good, but on days I don't help teach computer classes, I am bored to tears rewriting their curriculum (which, more often than not, I feel unqualified to do). But people are splendidly nice and I am learning a good deal. Not to mention all the reading, though I will admit it is interesting. "Death and Dying" is proving to be one of the best classes I've taken thus far at Temple.

I had time Tuesday night to make a meal for Matt and myself. We all know I've been celebrating fall prematurely. But this Cuban black bean stew was so weather appropriate and so darned easy. I was concerned that with the addition of oregano, my least favorite herb in the world, the whole dish would taste musty and old, but it was actually a good touch. The red peppers, which I'm also not a huge fan of, worked great with the black beans. Even radishes, which aren't a typical ingredient for me, were well placed. It was an unexpected favorite, a "maverick", if you will. The only substitutions I made were replacing the can of vegetable stock with a can of water and half a vegetable stock cube, and the cider vinegar with white because, well, that was what I had on hand. I probably added more onions than in the recipe too.

I had planned to write about Orangette's Soba noodles with peanut citrus sauce, but they went horribly, horribly wrong. Not enough lime juice, I think.

I've had some knitting to share with you for awhile. The first cowl of the season, based on the one I wrote about so long ago, has been done for about two weeks. I wore it out when it was still too warm, and afterwards decided it either needs a more finished border. So maybe I'll work up that pattern and test it out, because the texture is really cool.
So I understand that (a) I am not the best model in the world and (b) nor the best photographer. So this photo (a) makes me look ridiculous and (b) is poorly lit.

I tried. Take pity on me.

Here's a poem I should read more often.


He was too shy to sing,
but I taught

The Sky's voice is such that
one's mind must be very
quiet to hear


Mira (14980-1550)
A renowned woman poet-saint of India

Oh, and speaking of God speaking, the UCC's commercial ("Steeples") should be on television this week and next. It'll be on CNN, Bravo, NBC, and a bunch of other stations. I'm on this committee on the national board, so I'm very excited we've pulled this together. And that we're showing it on Bravo.