Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn(less) and Pepper Muffins


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Savory Corn & Pepper Muffins, was chosen by one of my favorite food bloggers, Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake. I always know to buckle up and put down my beverage before reading one of Rebecca's posts, because it's sure to be a wild, frolicking ride. If I'm having a bad day, I can just re-read her story about her grandmother correcting her mother's pronunciation of 50 Cent's name ("Fiddy, Sherry. It's Fiddy.") and turn things right around. But unlike some other bloggers I know, ahem, who crack jokes because they have nothing else to bring to the table, Rebecca is an accomplished chef, baker, cake decorator, food stylist and photographer. Ezra Pound Cake is the holy trinity of food blogging -- amazing food, great writing and stunning photography. It's the complete package!

Therefore, I had no doubt that Rebecca would come up with the perfect pick for TWD this week. I was immensely relieved to see these Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins after having stopped just short of actually hooking myself up to an IV sugar drip in December. My plans for these muffins were greatly influenced by my New Year's resolutions. Someday, I will resolve to do something clever and interesting, but until then, every January 1st I will commit to shed a few pounds and get organized, like everyone else. And so I've kicked off Project Miniaturization, in which I will attempt to shrink things in my kitchen in 2009, starting with myself. Dr. Phil says (here is where I embarrass myself with my extensive knowledge of what Dr. Phil says) that in order to succeed with your weight loss goals, you need to create an environment that encourages success. What he probably means is that you should ditch things like the weekly online baking club, but I think that you can liberally interpret his advice to mean that you should make mini muffins instead of regular muffins. So that's what I did.



I've also unveiled Project Chaos-Be-Gone, which is a far more complex and daunting undertaking given the current level of chaos in my household. This project has numerous components, most of which are not relevant to the corn muffins, but dealing with the chaos that swirls around mealtimes in my house is at the very top of my list. I want to prepare healthy, delicious meals for my family, but I have finally accepted that I just can't be chopping vegetables at 5:00 p.m. Mostly because as I chop, the littlest love of my life stands at my feet and does this:



Or, if she is feeling independent, she'll go empty out a cabinet or two:



Or chew on one of the scores of teeny tiny Barbie shoes that infiltrated our house this Christmas:



So I have logged many, many hours in the kitchen with my littlest love on my hip, using my one remaining hand to gather things, measure things, pour things, and stir things. But I draw the line at knives. That's just the kind of mother I am. Also, it occurred to me at some point that restaurant chefs don't see an order for fajitas pop up on the screen and then commence with slicing a green pepper. No, the prep is done well ahead of time. Therefore, I decided that a central component of Project Chaos-Be-Gone would involve prepping ingredients for our dinner either the night before, or earlier in the day. And these corn muffins were my first test case.

Things were calm in the early afternoon the day I planned to make these. I mixed together the dry ingredients. Diced the jalapeno and red pepper. Measured out the liquid ingredients. Started the chili that would accompany these muffins. I was feeling quite self-satisfied as I surveyed my lineup of measured and prepped ingredients. How great would it be later on when all I had to do was mix it all together, throw it in the oven, and be treated to fresh, warm corn muffins in a mere 20 minutes? Well, dinner rolled around, and everything went right according to plan. I had the corn muffins in the oven in 5 minutes flat.

Minus the corn, which I forgot. That was the one ingredient I didn't measure ahead of time; I had just planned to get what I needed straight from the freezer at the last minute. But I failed to do one last "recipe check," and since it was depending entirely on my memory and focus, the corn never stood a chance. Apparently my new system results in cornless corn muffins. Back to the ol' drawing board.



While I really did miss the corn in these, I thought these were great savory muffins. They definitely had a kick to them, which I loved. If you need something to neutralize your spicy chili, this might not be your corn muffin, but I was perfectly fine with the heat-on-heat situation that we had going on there. David said that he really liked these muffins as well, but I think that he is a little bit afraid of me after the banana pancake post, so I'm not sure if he is telling the truth. Believe me, I do not want to be surrounded by a bunch of yes-men in my kitchen. I've carefully attempted to assemble a "Team of Rivals" who will critically evaluate my cooking and provide me with candid, constructive feedback. And I've been spectacularly successful with that up until this point; some days people in my house actually line up to offer me constructive criticism, in fact. Which is great, because this is how I'll become a better cook -- so I'd hate to think that I undermined that by going off and being a loose cannon. That said, I really do think that David liked these muffins as much as I did!

On a topic unrelated to corn muffins (but related to TWD), my older daughter just turned 4. I thought that with all of the baking that I do, SURELY I could make my own kid's birthday cake. But for the past 8 months, every time we've entered the Publix bakery section, Elizabeth has begged for this bedazzling spectacle of Disney marketing brilliance:

Yes, that's a cake. And we did get it for her for her birthday party with her friends at the Hall 'o Giant Inflatables. But I still wanted to make her a cake, so I decided to make one for our family dinner on her actual birthday. I found a Wilton castle cake pan that looked like it could be decorated to suit her divalicious tastes, and decided to make Dorie's Perfect Party Cake with Buttercream Frosting. Back in August, right after I first joined TWD, I attempted to make the Perfect Party Cake for my parents' birthdays, and it was a royal flop. The cake did not rise and was not even remotely edible. But this time, the cake did exactly what it was supposed to do:



which I view as a testament to the fabulousness of TWD and all that I have learned from my fellow bakers over the past six months. We loved this cake. And it would be even better as a layer cake with raspberry filling (as is shown in the book). As my son (and helper) pointed out several times as I was decorating this, the cake is not nearly as good as the one in the picture that came with the cake pan (nope, you never need to worry about my ego getting too big), but it tasted great, and my birthday girl liked it, so I'm calling it a success!

Thanks for the picking these fabulous corn muffins, Rebecca! I know that I will be reaching for this recipe whenever I need a little extra heat with my fire.

59 comments:

Audrey said...

You've been holding out on us, Cathy! I think you should also unveil "Project- Tell-Them-The-Truth-About-My Awesome-Hidden-Cake-Decorating-Skills," although it probably won't brighten our days as much...jealous. snarl.
ps I forget an ingredient at least once a week...especially if I've made a special trip to buy it!

Jess said...

Go Project Miniaturization! I am doing similar, but it's really just an excuse to buy some mini cake pans. Love the birthday cake...I have a soon-to-be-4 girl whose only birthday request is "PINK CAKE" so I will be inspired by your decorating skills!

Steph said...

The cake decorating is amazing! I would be so happy if my mom ever made me a b-day cake when I was younger. Doesn't it feel great when you get better and cakes actaully rise! I finally feel confident enough to bake cakes for b-days.. I'm going to do one for my cousin and I can't wait.

At least you only forgot the corn, I've forgotten salt and even sugar before and without those ingredients.. well you may as well not eat it!

Jessica said...

I am miniaturizing too. I've got to get my hands on a smaller cake pan before next week's TWD, actually. Oh, and if I'd gotten everything ready beforehand (which is great, by the way) there's about an 80% chance that I'd have forgotten the corn too.
Your daughter's cake is just beautiful! I am so impressed by the flowers and the leaves and all of the pretty icing colors. I also have no doubt that it tasted so much better than the Publix cake. For my 5th birthday I BEGGED my mom to let me have a store-bought cake and so we went and I picked out a Care Bears cake and I was so excited about it! But I'll never forget biting into it -- blech! It didn't taste like my mom's cakes did. So, that was the last time I asked for a store cake. I think that the call to make your daughter's was a great one.

Girl Japan said...

Mini's are fun to work with!!! They look savory too, the cake is awfully cute.. I bet it took hours..

Maria said...

I love mini portions! The muffins look great but I am loving that cake!

Peggy said...

You are so creative this week with the mini's! And the cake is so cute! But not as cute as that precious angel by your side. You've got to treasure that! And Barbie shoes, who knew Barbie needed that many pairs!

Kimberly said...

Good for you and your pre-prep! And if the only bobble in the plan was the corn, well that's only 1 little tiny thing to fix :)

I really enjoyed seeing the cake. Bless your son's heart :) I guess having kids means you have to be grown-up enough not to say something snarky back...one more thing to add to my "To Do Before Kids" list :)

n.o.e said...

Girl, when you create something as magnificent as that castle cake, it needs to be the lead story!!! Corn muffins, schmorn muffins. That cake is the big news. I'm in awe of that piping ability. And the tinted frosting. Oh my. Your daughter will always remember that castle cake her mommy made. (And demand another creation next year!)

Personally, I think cornless is no big loss in a corn muffin. I actually chopped up the frozen corn because I don't like big ole kernels in my muffins. Your miniaturization plan is good. I'll be following progress and copying the good parts. Advance prep is a great idea - just like a real cook!
Nancy

spike. said...

I think we were all ready for a savory recipe this week. That cake looks perfect! What a nice mom

Jamie said...

Project Miniaturization is a great idea...your pics are too cute!

Karen said...

Hilarious! :) I am going to have to try to limit my chaos sometime soon here too. Love the cake it is beautiful!!

Flourchild said...

Happy Birthday to your sweet little girl.. The bday cake is amazing. Im glad you liked the muffins..great job!

Melissa said...

First off, I'm attempting a project miniaturization in my kitchen too. I need to go out and buy tiny versions of every pan I own because going forward I will be making things much smaller.

And secondly, your daughter's birthday cake is fabulous. That looks like it took a long time to do - and a lot of patience. Kudos to you for doing that for your daughter. Awesome job!

Pam said...

The muffins sound excellent. I can't believe that cake from Disney - it looks fake. I think your cake is beautiful...you are a talented baker!

Kayte said...

Like you, I always go to Rebecca's site knowing there will be great food and great giggles...that's why I come here, too! LOL. Your muffins look great...mimis are such a great way to go as you can have two without doing much damage and still get to feel guilty, and we are all always about feeling the guilty pleasures, right? LOL. I love the idea of the feedback being constructive, etc. to improve your baking/cooking skills. I have two male 16 year olds over here and they eat most anything not nailed down and proclaim it "delicious!" I think the key is not actually using the tastebuds...so really, there is some value to all of that in my mind as far as my cooking goes..what they don't know can't hurt! They tell everyone I am a fabulous cook. The husband here, in all his legalese, is much more trustworthy on proclamations regarding both the law and the food...nothing like a man versed in debate to give you a fair evaluation! But, then, you know exactly what I am talking about, right???? LOL.

Heather said...

i think your liberal interpretation of dr. phil's advice is absolutely appropriate! mini muffins are the perfect compromise :)

ecrunner said...

That
picture of your little one is so cute, but I know how it is to have to be cooking dinner and watching a little one tear up your cabinets! It's fun isn't it! Great job on the cooking!

pinkstripes said...

Wow! Your daughter's birthday cake looks great!

I don't know how you do it with your little ones running chaos through your kitchen. I only have to deal with an occasionally moody husband.

Your muffins look great. Wonderful post as always!

BAKE-EN said...

Wow, you're one busy little lady with all your projects :) I really liked the muffins too, and I bet you'll like them even more next time you make them and remember to add the corn! I forgot to add the red pepper, so you're in good company.

vibi said...

First, happy B-day to the birthday girl! What a wonderful cake she got!

Second, I have to remember next time I read your post... to get a kleenex stach next to my pc... for I'm at the point where... well, let's just say... I need it! LOL LOL LOL

Beautiful minis, just what Dr Phil calls for! LOL

Jodie said...

Very cute cake! And muffins!

TeaLady said...

I think lots of us have already signed up for Project Miniaturization. A little bite of heaven is better than a year of Slimfast any day (and I speak from experience.) Your littlest love is adorable. And your muffins look great. Nice job.

Natashya said...

They just continue to keep your ego in check when they are teens too....
Minis were a great idea and I love your princess cake. Great piping!

Mary Ann said...

You always make me laugh!
I admire your goals and I really think that prepping vegetables and ingredients throughout the day or the night before is a great idea.
Your minis look great and what about that cake!
Doesn't it make you feel good when your child loves the cake creation?
Great job, Cathy!

chocolatechic said...

It is ok that you forgot the corn.

They would be great without corn.

HoneyB said...

WOW, I remember doing it when I was young, but I would never have the energy for what you do anymore!

kim said...

Wow, that is one gorgeous cake!! not to mention your awesome planning skills in making these muffins ;) great idea to make minis for portion control too! yea i also looked at next week's recipe, and it is certainly a doozy... maybe it would be better in mini-cake form ;)

jillbert said...

The cake looks awesome! I love the Wilton cake pans. Sometimes I wish my husband would give me more constructive feedback too, but it's nice to have a fan club, isn't it?

shortbreadsouth said...

It's even tougher to take the brutal honesty of kids when they are talking about your hair or your backside. The food criticism usually comes after a super complicated and labor intensive recipe I've tackled. That's when I have to tell everyone to "just hush and eat"! I started making Wilton cakes for my kids' birthdays when they were small, and now they're requesting things for which there is no pan. Eeek.

Danielle said...

Your muffins turned out great. I have made many a meal with a kid attached to either my hip leg! I feel your pain kids gotta love em!

dharmagirl said...

I love your entry, Cathy! I too have many projects or goals to tame chaos and regain things lost, like muscle tone...

I love your mini-muffins, and I adore your cake. There's something about a pink and purple princess cake that this 30-something girl just can't get over:) Happy Birthday to your daughter:)

The Blonde Duck said...

I know how you feel. The other day I didn't put milk in the French Toast. It was like egg toast.

Except I have two chihuahuas crawling in my dishwasher (literally) and raising hell on my couch while you have a cute little girl. :)

Matt said...

That is on amazing looking cake. How long did it take you to decorate it? It would have been rock solid by the time by the time I got through with it!

I love your new projects (although Project Miniaturization would not work with me. I would just stuff my face with handfuls of minis at a time). Project Chaos Be Gone sounds a little more doable to me, but how can chaos be gone when I lost the jalapeno I picked up at the store and have misplaced my huge French rolling pin. How can anyone lose a rolling pin?!

Your littlest one is awesome, a girl of many talents. Your children are so blessed to have you as a mom!

Di said...

Your cake looks wonderful! My older daughter keeps looking at the princess cakes, too. For her third birthday, I went online and found a place where I could order the princess figurines (we don't have Jasmine or Snow White, though) so I could put them on the cake I made. =) And it sounds like the corn muffins were a hit, too.

Pamela said...

Well...I see someone knows how to do some serious cake decorating there! Nice job on your cake, no matter what your son says! :o) And that was QUITE the cake from the grocery store. Marketing brilliance, indeed.

Nice job on the corn muffins, even if they were missing some corn. I have just started to get into the groove of prepping things, too. It's helping, but there are just so many other things I'd rather be doing when I have a moment other than chopping vegetables. Sigh...we're such good mom's, aren't we??

Much luck on all the projects, especially Project Miniaturization. I'm doing that one, too! :o)

Leslie said...

That cake is awesome! How could you not lead with that (or follow your TWD post with a separate cake post)? I know it's TWD day, but that cake deserves a day of its own! Your daughter is precious!

Oh, nice muffins, too. :-)

Cooking for Comfort by Jennifer said...

I am so envious of your cake decorating skills! I do NOT have a steady hand...I can't decorate a cake and I sure can't paint a wall.

I always find your blog so entertaining and love the stories you tell. I think you should be a writer/cake decorator.

Beautiful job on the muffins!

Madam Chow said...

It is already Jan 14, and I've been so tired that I haven't committed to any goals or projects. If I don't get my rear in gear, 2009 will fly by and I will have little to show for it, except a LOT of baked goods. Oh, now that I think of it, that's not so bad! ;)

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

Lovely pink frothy girly frosting castle with mass quantities of princessey-ness. I'll be she was in heaven. Nice job! The mini muffins are super cute too, even without the main ingredient. An offense I have committed and know that I will again.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Great job on the muffins and the cake decorating! I'm so on board with project miniaturization!

casaamiga said...

Good luck with Project Miniaturization! I'm sure you'll be a success. It helps to have all the meals planned out ahead of time. I know easier said than done, I need to go back and start doing that again.

Your muffins look delicious! And the cake, wow, you did an awesome job. New to reading your blog and you have me hooked right from the start. Thanks for sharing!

bakingwiththeboys said...

Oh the joy of mealtime chaos. I didn't even know we owned a slow cooker until we had kids. I broke the lid last week (i am having butter finger issues) and now I am wondering how I will get by without it until summer.

That cake? Looks professional. You have been holding out...

natalia said...

I love your super cake ! Complimenti ! Thanks for being so nice to me to think I'm such a good embroiderer ! If you want check the edited post !

Debinhawaii said...

I am pretty sure miniaturized food has negative calories! that cake is beautiful--I am impressed with your decorating abilities!

Ivette said...

WOW.. you really have you hands full there, your baby is gorgeous!
I really like that idea of prepping the ingredients a while before the baking day to make things easier. Even though we forgot the corn I'm sure we both made tasty muffins!

My Famous Recipe said...

I loved reading this. My 3 1/2-year-old daughter and 1 1/2-year-old son are an armful when I'm trying to measure, sift, chop, and bake. I also have to twist my husband's arm to fit the 'team of rivals' model and give feedback beyond, "Wow, these are great!" Thanks for a great post!

Jacque said...

You know, I have this sneaking suspicion that chaos will not indeed be gone until the last child heads out the door to college (oh, yes, you WILL be going to college, young man... oh, ahem, oops sorry).

Anyway, I'm so glad you all enjoyed your muffins. It sounds like LOTS of folks forgot the corn, so you're in good company.

P.S. CUTE cake! I love that pan :) You aced it.

Cakelaw said...

LOL - I think the muffins would be great, even without the corn. Love your photos of your daughter - she's very sweet, even when she's not being an angel. The castle cake is magnificent - I like yours way better than the commercial Disney one.

Katherine Aucoin said...

I love the muffins. I like to put a little heat in ours too. Now your cake is sensational! Your are a very talented baker!

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Teanna said...

I LOVE YOUR POSTS! I had to go on a post holiday detox as well.. basically I cut out anything that the body doesn't process well - coffee, alcohol, processed foods, dairy, fizzy drinks, gluten, condiments, sugar, meal, shellfish... basically I can't eat anything. But hey, it works!!! I lost all of that holiday weight, plus more! hahaha!

Anyways, your daughter is the cutest thing ever and I love your muffins!

The Food Librarian said...

Cahty, everything looks soooo great! What a great post. You are so talented!

LyB said...

I love your idea of prepping ahead of time. My little one does exactly the same thing your little one does! Your muffins look perfect. As does that homemade cake, it's beautiful!

leanne said...

OHH my goodness. The cake looks awesome. The muffins too! I have to say that I miss the days when my smallest one was in my kitchen destroying everything. Glad you posted the pictures.

AmyRuth said...

Kudos to you as well Cathy. I think you have a fabulous blog! You offered up ooodles of well deserved praise to Rebecca. I enjoy hers as well. I just happen to think that your "family factor" is way appealing to all of us who have been there and done that as well as those who are "doing." eh hmmm. Love the cake. REally cute and definitely a memory maker. Oh yea and good luck on eradicating chaos. Its kind of fun living on the edge of crazy, at least most of the time. Although certainly a calm feeling of accomplishment is rewarding. Loved your muffins too.
AmyRuth

Proud Italian Cook said...

Loved this post Cathy, you always crack me up!!! You poor thing you forgot the corn, you were so organized too!! That's ok, because your cake turned out fabulous!!

CB said...

"But unlike some other bloggers I know, ahem, who crack jokes because they have nothing else to bring to the table"
[Clara whispers to herself.] I wonder if she's talking about me? I know my jokes are corny and lame but... Muffins look yummy and cake is adorable. Love the pictures of your little one. She's such a cutie pie.
Clara @ iheartfood4thought

Queen B. said...

Love your castle cake.
I made the Carriage for my daughters 4th birthday this year...
http://thequeen-b.blogspot.com/2008/09/getting-ready-for-big-day.html
I'll do the castle for 5th !!

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