Monday, June 27, 2011

Recipe Redux: Poppy Seed Banana Muffins

When Pipkin blushes, even his ears get a little pink.
Pipkin got to work this morning baking one of his favorite easy breakfast items — the banana poppy seed bread in muffin form. He's made that banana bread so many times he's got the recipe memorized. Or, so he thought. After he popped the muffin trays into the oven, he happened to peek at the blog entry and realized he forgot to put in baking powder! No wonder his banana bread had come out so flat last time! He thought that the squishy sides of his silicone bread pan spread out the loaf and that's why it didn't grow tall. Nope. Turns out he forgot to put in baking powder. Funny thing is, he posed in a picture with the baking powder. See?

Not pictured: flour, which is very important.

Quick like a labbit, he got the muffins out of the oven, poured the batter back into his mixing bowl, and added a teaspoon of baking powder before spooning the batter into the muffin tray and popping it back into the oven. Phew! No one wants flat muffins, right?

And not to worry, Pipkin has corrected the error on the banana bread entry, and he's included this recipe remix on that same page, so you too can make these easy muffins for breakfast. Pipkin's a little embarrassed now, but he hopes you'll forgive him. Labbits make mistakes just like everyone else.

Labbits Like: Lemon Zucchini Risotto

When the labbits' friend Teresa isn't touring around North America on her BMW 650GS, storm chasing in the midwest or researching extreme weather in the Arctic, she takes time to share one of her favourite recipes: Lemon Zucchini Risotto. Even superheroes have to eat, after all!

If you're a fan of risotto (and who isn't? It's like elegant mac n' cheese) be sure to check out the beet risotto from last week. Risotto, you'll learn, is a basic formula of oil, onion, arborio rice, and slowly stirring in hot broth. What you add to it is up to you. Print out the recipe here.

Lemon Zucchini Risotto

5 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 onion, finely chopped
1 2/3 cups arborio rice
1/3 cup dry sherry
3 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon)
12 oz courgette zucchini, diced
1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Lemon zest for garnish
S+P to taste

Place the stock in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and keep at a low simmer.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan, add the onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat, stir in the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup of hot stock stirring until all the stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, for 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. If the risotto gets too dry, add a little extra stock or water.

Stir in the sherry, lemon zest, lemon juice and zucchini. Cook over low head for a further 5 minutes, or until the risotto is tender, with a slight bite to the inside of the grain. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir in the parsley and half the parmesan. Garnish with lemon zest and remaining parmesan.

Serves: 4 - 6 labbits

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Labbits Like Lattes

Pipkin cozies up with a latte at Mocha Joe's in Brattleboro VT.  Nothing accessorizes a 'stache like a hot foamy latte.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Labbit Under Boston

As a labbit, Pipkin feels very safe and cozy underground, but having seen U.N.K.L.E.'s music video for the song "Rabbit In Your Headlights", he's chosen a safer method of transportation - inside a vehicle.

"Rabbit In Your Headlights" features vocals by Thom Yorke of Radiohead and is a great track off U.N.K.L.E's 1998 album Psyence Fiction. (Yes, long before Pipkin was born!) While the video may be hard for some to watch, the ending is a good one, so have a listen, even if you have to shut your eyes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Labbits Listen To: Florence + The Machine

Pipkin went to Boston yesterday to see one of his favorite musicians: Florence + The Machine. Florence Welch is a vocalist and songwriter from London, England, and she tours with a regular line-up of musicians who back her up on keyboards, guitar, bass, percussion, harp and backing vocals. Her music is an eclectic mix of rock, pop and soul, with tribal like drumming and orchestral sounds all mixed in.

Although Pipkin prefers intimate shows at small venues, he enjoyed being at the Bank of America Pavilion, an outdoor tented amphitheater on the waterfront in South Boston. It can seat about 5000, with enough room in the seats to get on your feet and dance.

Pipkin had a seat near the back of the crowd but had a pretty good view when perched up on someone's shoulders. Unless you've got someone tall in front of you (and for Pipkin that's almost always the case) there really isn't a bad seat in the Pavilion. The sound is great, the ocean breeze is refreshing, and if it weren't for the clouds and rain, it'd be magical under the stars and city lights on a warm summer night.

A few crew members climbed up onto the lighting platform and threw t-shirts to the crowd before the show (those little black blurs are t-shirts). Pipkin didn't feel like getting crushed in the mob just for a free t-shirt. Besides, he's a labbit. And labbits don't wear t-shirts.

Not a terrible view from the back, given the size of the amphitheater. You can definitely make out the harp! Florence wore a flowy dress with a large chiffon like shawl on stage so you'd often see her shadow on the tent when she was backlit.

Like so. Pretty cool! Also cool - her backdrop for the song "Cosmic Love".

Pipkin had to get a boost and dance with the crowd during his favorite song, "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)".  Thanks go to the labbit hearted girl who raised him up! He had a fantastic time at the show and can't wait for Florence + The Machine's next album.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Labbits Like: Italian Herb Focaccia

Clover woke up unusually early this morning and got all antsy having no one around to play with. Since she had a couple of hours alone she thought she'd bake a quick bread before everyone else woke up. In under two hours she'd have an aromatic herbed focaccia hot from the oven for the labbits to eat.

Just like the fantastic Banana Poppy Seed Bread (with fancy pants orange zest!) that Pipkin baked a couple weeks ago, this bread requires no kneading. Just prep your pan, mix the dough ingredients together, and let the yeast do its magic. You'll get the best flavored results from long, slow fermentation (rising) at an ambient temperature of 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Then poke some holes in the puffy, pillowy dough, drizzle some oil and sprinkle on some herbs and bake!
Print the recipe here.

Italian Herb Focaccia
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp instant yeast
1/4 cup Vermont cheese powder (Clover likes Cabot Cheddar Shake Cheese)

2 to 3 Tbsp EVOO for drizzling
Dried Italian herbs for sprinkling (Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Basil)

Prep a 9" x 13" pan by lightly greasing and then drizzling olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Don't be shy with the olive oil. You'll get a nice crust bottom!

Dough, pre-rise
In a large bowl, combine the water, oil, salt, flour, yeast and cheese powder and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds. Your dough should get smooth and tacky. Pour the batter into the pan and cover with plastic wrap or a bit of tin foil (tin foil is recyclable!). Let the batter rise at an ambient room temperature of 70 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit for 60 minutes until it's puffy. At the end of rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gently poke the batter all over with a finger or clean paws.

Clover's focaccia dance is dedicated to Miss Maggie Whalebutt

Drizzle the top with a little olive oil and sprinkle generously with dried Italian herbs. Bake until the bread is golden brown, about 35 - 40 minutes. 

Drizzled with oil and sprinkled with herbs. Ready for the oven!

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, on its own or slice it up and make yourself a veggie sandwich with avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard. Yum!

Yield: about 12 slices
Recipe: Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Captain Holly Climbs Mt Cardigan

It was a gorgeous sunny day in New England so Captain Holly decided to check out the view from the top of Mt Cardigan in Orange, NH. The 3121 ft summit is barren rock with little vegetation which provides a 360 degree panoramic view of rural New Hampshire. On a clear day like today, Captain Holly imagines he saw into Vermont as well.

A fire in 1855 burned much of the vegetation and soil at the summit of Mt Cardigan, and to this day there are only a few shrubs, lichen and moss. Knowing this, Captain Holly really shouldn't be smorkin' up there!

After soaking in the sun on the rocks, Captain Holly cooled his paws in a pretty moss covered stream with little waterfalls over the rocks.

For more information about hiking the trails at Mt Cardigan, visit the Appalachian Mountain Club's page for Mt Cardigan.  And remember - don't smork on hiking trails! Only you can prevent wildfires.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Labbits Like: Beet Risotto

Clover was psyched to get the first beets and beet greens of the CSA season from Deep Meadow Farm. Beets are wonderfully sweet and have fantastic color, and the best part is you can eat the greens, which have a pretty purplish red veining. This beet risotto recipe, courtesy of Eating Well magazine, is a sweet and sour mix of beets and balsamic vinegar. Served up on a single leaf and sprinkled with some shredded cheese, it's also very elegant to look at.

Making risotto is a labor of love. You have to attend to it carefully, adding broth little by little and stirring constantly. When you bite into perfectly al dente but creamy risotto, you know it's worth the time you've spent hovering by the stovetop! Print out the recipe here.

Beet Risotto With Beet Greens
1 bunch of beets with greens
6 cups of low sodium vegetable broth
5 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, coarsely diced
2 cups Arborio rice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
grated cheese (Clover used Gruyere)

Remove the greens from the beets then cut off and discard the stems. Cut the greens into ½ inch strips crosswise and set aside. Scrub the beets and place in a saucepan with the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until beets are tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove beets from the broth and allow them to cool. Meanwhile, strain the cooking liquid by pouring the broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a paper towel into a bowl and set aside the broth. With the beets now cool, rub them to remove the skins. Finely dice the beets, place in a bowl with 2 Tbsp of the balsamic vinegar and set aside. With the beets, beet greens and broth ready and standing by, you can now begin to assemble the risotto.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Next add the remaining 3 Tbsp of vinegar and 1 cup of the broth. Stir until nearly all the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the broth one cup at a time as the liquid is absorbed, adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir frequently throughout the process.

Add the beet greens along with the last cup of broth and stir until the greens are wilted.

Then stir in the reserved beets and vinegar.

Cook another 3 to 5 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. The risotto should be thick and creamy and the rice should be al dente. If after all the liquid is absorbed, the rice is still too firm on the inside, add about ¼ cup of water and continue to cook for a few additional minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with grated Gruyere cheese.

Serves: 6 labbits
Recipe: Adapted from Eating Well, March 2006

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Captain Holly Visits Harpoon Brewery

Captain Holly visited Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, VT and sampled many of their fine craftsman beers. He's a particular fan of the Leviathan Uber-Bock, so he's claimed a case for himself. And the green pellets below might look a lot like labbit food but it's actually hops. Captain Holly had to put aside his labbitty raiding tendencies and leave the hops where they were.

Mmmmm. BEER. Captain Holly can drink you under the table, but he keeps it classy and checks out the tasting notes in his little Beer Passport.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Glassblowing At Simon Pearce

Captain Holly looks into the gift shop at Simon Pearce

Captain Holly was camping at Wilgus State Park on the weekend and decided to stop by Simon Pearce to watch some artists at work glassblowing. He'll be sure to tell Clover about this place, and he found himself a little lonely, wishing he'd brought her along. She would have really liked it here.

On the catwalk, Captain Holly looks down at a couple of glassblowers. One would bring hot glass out of the furnace and pour it into a heart shaped mold. The other would press the mold and then bring the product over for finishing while the first would trim off the glass and go into the furnace for more.

Holly peeked through a window off the catwalk to see what other glass creations were available. The window to the gift shop was a lot more interesting (top photo) but he'll come back another time with Clover.

Visit the Simon Pearce website to see their handblown glass items, pottery, home decor and lighting items.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Day at the Beach

Pipkin saw the mercury rise and rise and felt it would be a perfect day to chill at the beach at Spofford Lake. The sand was too hot for his paws so he decided to hang out on the swings in the shade. Then when someone abandoned a beach towel he raced across the sand and settled in for more cold treats.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Labbit Travels: Quechee Gorge

You'll have to pardon Pipkin's recent lack of updates on the blog. When he can't hitch a ride on a bicycle or a motorcycle to get places, he will travel far by pure hopping power. He knew he was in for a lot of heat so he hopped north to Quechee for a quick dip in the water at the bottom of the gorge. It's a short 1/3 mile hop down from the bridge (where you can get creamees and ice pops) to this quiet, sunny spot where you can sit on the rocks, dip in some of the little pools or get into some deep swift moving water. Pipkin himself prefers sunning on the rocks and occasionally dipping his paws in the cool water.

He also likes to climb, so when he saw this huge fallen tree trunk, he tested his balance with a little walk, being sure to keep a lookout for birds of prey.

All those black dots are tadpoles!

There's lots of small catfish, crayfish and tadpoles in the little pools at the bottom of the gorge. Pipkin hopes for the fish's sake that the dam releases some water and gets them out into the big water soon. And hopefully all these tadpoles will grow up to be nice big happy frogs. Pipkin feels because both rabbits and frogs do a lot of hopping, that they share a special sort of bond. Don't you just like their fat and bunchy bodies?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Labbits Like: Banana Poppy Seed Bread With Orange Zest

The labbits prefer their bananas bright and yellow and without brown spots. When bananas get really ripe, they make banana bread! This version skips the walnuts (which some of the labbits are allergic to) and adds poppy seeds and orange zest, to fancy pants it up.

Banana bread is a quick and easy bread to make, and doesn't require kneading or even anything more than a fork to mash and mix. It's a perfect Sunday morning kind of bread.

If you prefer your banana bread in muffin format, that's easily doable, and even quicker to come out of the oven. Look for the recipe remix down below, and print both versions here.

Banana Bread, pre-bake.

Banana Poppy Seed Bread With Orange Zest

Not pictured: flour, which is very important!
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
Zest of one medium orange (about 2 tsp)
Vegetable oil and flour for the bread pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour a bread pan and set aside. 

In a small bowl, mash the banana with a fork until smooth (a few lumps are ok). Add egg, sugar and butter and mix well.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, poppy seeds and orange zest. Add banana mixture and mix until evenly moist. Pour into the prepared bread pan and bake 50 - 60 minutes or until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For muffins: Spoon batter into a prepared muffin tray and bake 25 - 30 minutes or until tops of muffins are golden brown.

Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool further. Serve at room temperature.

Yields: One loaf, 12 slices, OR 12 muffins

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Labbit Travels: Shelburne Falls

Pipkin caught a ride as a stowaway on Nick's motorcycle and went to visit Shelburne Falls in the foothills of the Berkshires. He visited the famous Bridge of Flowers and the Iron Bridge connecting Shelburne and Buckland, seen in the picture above.

The Bridge of Flowers has many annuals and perennials, like alium, columbine, irises, roses, peonies, bleeding hearts, astilbe, hostas, a variety of shrubs, small trees and climbing vines, and giant poppies, like this one with Pipkin.

One mustn't miss the glacial potholes, carved out during the last glacier age 14,000 years ago. Late spring and early summer you get a better view of these naturally occurring potholes when the water is not so high.

After Pipkin got his fill of flowers and rocks, he visited a few shops featuring glass blowers and art from local painters, photographers and craftsmen before climbing back in Nick's panniers for the motorcycle ride home. Once Pipkin gets a pair of goggles and maybe a helmet, he'll be able to ride up front.