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I’ve been cooking out of Olia Hercules‘ cookbook, Mamushka, this past week. This warm kidney bean salad jumped out, and I made it (with the last of the dried red kidney beans in a jar on my shelf. (I simmered them straight from dry, no pre-soak, in salted water with a bay leaf. They took a little over an hour to tenderize.) I also roasted wedges of cabbage and onion to chop and stir in, and it was wonderful. Some feta crumbled in would be delicious too, I think.

Lobio means “beans” in the Caucasus region – Olia calls for a can of red kidney beans, which would certainly streamline the process. This salad was wonderful warm, but is equally delicious cold — and beans always benefit from some time in the fridge to allow them to marinate. As I was out of fennel seed, I used a small-batch Kadhai spice blend (that includes coriander and fennel) from chef Aman Dosanj — if you don’t have these, feel free to adjust the spices to use what you have.
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Last weekend, I came across a recipe in the Guardian for a banana cake made with just the banana peels – an intriguing way to address food waste. I’ve made a *lot* of banana bread in my lifetime, and generally my strategy is to toss overripe bananas into the freezer whole, and then pull them out to thaw in a bowl when it’s time to bake. (If I’m in a hurry, I cover them with warm water to help them thaw more quickly.)
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Oat milk has been gaining popularity in a big way, in part because so many formulations are made especially for baristas, with extra additions that help them foam and froth, and the slightly nutty, grainy flavour pairs well with coffee. We talked about the increasing number of options out there and tasted a few non-dairy milks on last week’s Eyeopener. But if you want to make your own oat milk, it’s easy: simply blend a 1:3 ratio of rolled (old-fashioned or quick) oats to cold water in a blender, add a pitted date (for a bit of sweetness that mimics the lactose in milk) and a pinch of salt if you like, blend for 20-30 seconds, and strain. Don’t let them soak, or your milk could get gummy — and the same thing can happen if you over-blend. Just put the oats and water in the blender and go. (Don’t try steel cut—they’re too hard to blend.) I like to double strain — pour it through a fine sieve to get rid of the bulk of the ground oats, then through a few layers of cheesecloth or a clean thin tea towel — or use an old shirt or the corner of an old pillowcase (well cleaned, of course) and there you go—you have oat milk! Keep it in the fridge for up to a week, and give it a shake before using.


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This was the trickiest of the lot, but perhaps the most satisfying to crack. The cheddar Mmmuffins had a slightly sweet, cakey texture, and were brilliant orange. My initial tests were tasty but missing the mark… it wasn’t until a CBC listener messaged me with a tip: back in the eighties, working at a different chain eatery, she used powdered cheddar when making the muffins. I added about half a pack of the cheese mix from a box of KD and voilà—extra cheesiness, but also that intense orange colour that acts as a visual cue, making them taste even cheesier. You could, of course, use extra-old white cheddar here—and you could omit the powdered cheese… just expect them to look a bit different.

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I think I’m most excited about these – I remember them clearly, yet never thought to make a butterscotch-pecan muffin since. I used the same base as the chocolate chip muffin, swapping out brown sugar, adding chopped pecans and Skor bits (which I think are more accurate than the butterscotch chips some have suggested – though those would be tasty too!) – and a streusel on top. I baked some batter right away and some that sat for awhile and saw a similar, though not as dramatic, difference in the rise compared with the chocolate chip. If you’re looking for higher peaks, let it sit for awhile (just on the counter) before you bake them.. but they’re pretty fantastic just baked right away.

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Here we go!!! I decided, after seeing my friend Caitlin Green lament the Marvellous Mmmuffins of her youth, to try to recreate them in my own kitchen. Mmmuffins kiosks brought mega muffins to the masses from 1979 until peoples’ tastes for muffins started to wane around the turn of the millennium – they were in their heydey in the eighties, when malls were also the place to be. The taste and texture of the chocolate chip, butterscotch-pecan and cheddar varieties are burned into my consciousness.

I started with chocolate chip. Peoples’ memories of these seem to differ – many recall them having a crunchy, sugary lid, and I remember them being pale-ish and sticky on top. My theory (and I don’t know this- I haven’t seen the actual formulation) is that a high fructose sweetener was used in the batter – fructose has humectant properties, and draws moisture from its surroundings. (It could also have been that they were a bit underbaked at the location I frequented.) If you want to recreate those massive Mmmmuffin tops that were often square because they kind of baked into each other and had to be cut apart, spray your muffin tin rather than lining it with paper liners – and fill the batter to heaping. Everyone loves a good muffin top. If you like, sprinkle the tops with some coarse sugar, like sugar in the raw, before baking if you want crunchy, sugary lids.
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I make falafel all the time, and keep meaning to write up a recipe to share. The truth is, I make them so often I don’t really measure anymore – I add a bit of onion, some garlic, a bunch of cilantro stems, a bit of heat in the form of a jalapeño or pinch of chili flakes, and some baking powder to lighten them. Sometimes I add a spoonful of flour — any kind – which isn’t necessary, but will help them hold together a bit. Some people refrigerate their falafel mix overnight to let the texture and flavours develop, so really this is a great make-ahead kind of thing that you can cook quickly, without even having to preheat the oven. And yes, you could use canned chickpeas, but the falafel will have a softer texture, and there is a chance they will fall apart in the oil… I’ve never had a problem with them falling apart but a few people have in some dinner classes, and I’m not sure if it’s a particular brand they’re using? At any rate, if you use canned chickpeas maybe it’s safest to cook small patties in a skillet instead!

Also! I often plan for a batch of naan at the same time, and ladle some of the hot oil from cooking the falafel into a cast iron skillet to cook it just as fast.
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Hey friends!!

Wow, what amazing week!!! Thanks for inviting me to join you in your kitchens! You’ve given me a better start to 2022 than I ever could have imagined!

There has been such incredible interest in our zoom cooking classes that OF COURSE we will continue! We’ll cook together some weekends (maybe all weekends?? I’m not sure yet!) and some weeknights we can make dinner together. It will still be free, and we’ll still do it on zoom the way we have been, but we can’t keep doing it every day, since most students are back at school now, whether online or in real life. So we’re going to bake together on weekends (some of them? all of them? I’m not sure yet!) and I think we should make dinner together on some weeknights! Rather than relying on social media, you can sign up for a newsletter and I’ll send the recipes and zoom links out ahead of each class – you can join whenever you like! If you’re interested in hearing about upcoming classes (and getting the recipes!) sign up below!

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Coming Up Next: Two Cakes – Carrot Cake and Lemon Cake, with Cream Cheese Frosting
Sunday, January 30, 10:00 AM MT
Click here for a PDF of the recipe + the zoom link!

Here are the recipes and videos from past classes!
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