I’m lucky I didn’t burn the house down

This past weekend, I baked and cooked around the clock for two entire days. None of it was planned! And yet all of it went smoothly.

Action JacksonThis particular bowl saw a lot of action // muffins, granola, macaroons, grain-based sausage, brownies . . . I’m full just thinking about it

While the muffins were cooling and the granola was baking, there was an impromptu birthday party. I had no idea there were triplets in the house!

birthday girlsthere ain’t no party like my nana’s tea party // . . . happy birthday, dear Rainbow Sparkles, Kookaburra, and Click . . .
zesty macaroonsorange zest-spiked macaroons // totally on a whim, because I needed something to do while the granola was baking

At one point, I had four slow cookers going at the same time. Beans, more beans, lentils – and the richest, smoothest marinara I’ve ever made. Accidentally slow cooking my marinara sauce for 18 hours was the key.

grain-based Italian meatballsspaghetti and grain-based meatballs simmered in glad-I-didn’t-burn-the-house-down marinara // meatball recipe will be posted on Wednesday
researchresearch! because somehow, I was still actually hungry // I rarely eat when I’m cooking or baking, the smell all on its own makes me feel stuffed

There was also potato focaccia bread, triple chocolate buttermilk brownies, multiple tester recipes for two of my favorite cookbook authors, and another accidental discovery – my wok is the perfect popcorn popper.

When I wasn’t actively cooking, I managed to leave my kitchen. There was a library visit, grocery shopping, Lego building, movie watching, more Lego building, winter clothes sorting, book reading, and even laundry. Whew! Just thinking about it all makes me tired. The only thing we didn’t do was go for a hike, because my still-healing knee was throbbing. Apparently, standing on an injured knee for several hours straight will do that.

Oh, and there was also this soup.

cup o' soup creamy tomato soupI used both my slow cooker and my oven for this, and it was totally worth it
soup dregsthe best part of cleanup duty

Slow cooker tomato soup

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This recipe may read as long and complicated, but most of the time is spent waiting for the soup’s base ingredients to melt together in your slow cooker. It can be made on a stove top, but the results just aren’t the same. You’ll need to purée the base by itself, and then again with the rest of the ingredients once they have roasted. I usually combine everything in a tall, stainless steel pasta pot and use my stick blender, but a stand blender or food processor will also work.

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Soup base, to slow cook:
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (or 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 tablespoon chicken-style broth powder
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
10 basil leaves, torn
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and white pepper

Soup body, to roast:
4 medium tomatoes, quartered (or 20-25 cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 large shallot or red torpedo onion, quartered
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
large pinch kosher salt
large pinch turbinado sugar

Finishing garnish:
nutmeg
agave
crostini or croutons, optional

In a 2- or 3-quart slow cooker, combine the first seven ingredients (red lentils through smoked paprika) with 2 1/2 cups of water and set to low. Allow everything to cook for six hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed. You want enough liquid to purée everything easily at the end, but not so much that it will be watery. When the six hours have passed, purée everything until smooth and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Keep the base warm in your slow cooker until the roasted vegetables are ready.

When your slow cooker has about an hour to go, preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C. In a baking dish, arrange the quartered tomatoes and shallot, cut sides up, in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, then sprinkle on the salt and sugar. Roast until the tomatoes have caramelized and their juices are concentrated.

Combine the puréed base and the caramelized tomatoes, shallots and their juices in a blender or food processor (in multiple batches, if necessary) and purée until completely smooth, adding water if needed.

Garnish with a drizzle of agave and fresh grated nutmeg, and serve with small crostini or croutons.

Yield: 2-4 servings, depending on course and appetite

Prep time: 10 minutes | Slow cooking time: 6 hours (mostly unattended) | Roasting time: 30-45 minutes

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These muffins keep stealing my pear butter

You know that pear butter I made a week or two ago? It’s gone, baby, gone.

{Film note/Aside: We had an Affleck mini film festival over the weekend. It’s Southie accents run amok at our place right now. You’re so, so lucky I don’t have the patience to type things the way I’ve been pronouncing them. And I’m so, so lucky my husband puts up with my attempt to work ‘cah’ or ‘Hahvuhd’ into every other sentence. Even though the word Harvard probably isn’t spoken once in either Gone Baby Gone or The Town. Also, every time I say ‘cah’ we get off on a “Stop the cah, Cole. Stop the cah!” tangent. If my daughter doesn’t turn out schizophrenic, it will be a small miracle.}

Where were we?

muffins.meet.ganacheSpeckled muffins, about to receive a crumb coating of bittersweet ganache/mousse/whatever.

My favorite thing about being gluten free is the inherent multi-graininess of it all. As I’ve become familiar with different grains, I’ve learned which ones pair best with each other, with stone fruits, with chocolate, or with absolutely nothing at all. Kamut, I’m talking to you. 

multigraininessKamut free.

These muffins are the perfect blend of almond and corn and sorghum and oats, rounded out with turbinado sugar, dark chocolate and sage-infused pear butter.

gf.multigrain.perfection.muffins

appeasing.the.gargoyleWe always offer this fella a bite. He’s super impressed with the crumb of these muffins.

Multi-grain pear & chocolate chunk muffins

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Any fruit purée or butter will work for these, but in my house it’s almost always pear butter. Pumpkin is a very close second. Adapted a zillion times over from this recipe, which Celine adapted from here after I sent her some pear butter.

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2/3 Cup sweet sorghum flour
2/3 Cup almond meal
2/3 Cup potato starch
1/3 Cup steel cut oats
1/2 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup almond milk
1/4 Cup sunflower oil
1/2 Cup turbinado sugar
1 Cup pear butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 small (1.5-2 oz) dark chocolate bar, chopped

Preheat oven to 375 F / 190 C with a rack positioned in the center. Line 16 standard muffin cups with paper liners, or lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray without paper liners, for 14 standard muffins.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, almond meal, potato starch, steel cut oats and cornmeal.

In a medium bowl, combine milk, oil, sugar, pear butter, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt and apple cider vinegar.

Stir wet ingredients into dry. Fold in chocolate.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 14 muffins

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 22-24 minutes