Stuff & Nonsense

08 June 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Jalapeños & Cheese

After much indecisiveness, I decided to experiment with jalapeño and cheese corn muffins for June's Improv Cooking Challenge. Unfortunately, the first batch was nearly indelible -- astonishingly hot, much too dry, and a little tough. However, I tried again -- adding more liquid, reducing the amount of dried jalapeños, and stirring less -- and eventually arrived at a moderately zippy, tender muffin.

I used Cabot's Jalapeno Jack, a creamy cheese generously studded with fiery jalapeño pieces. It's a flavorful cheese, with plenty of spice, but doesn't set fire to the back of my throat. Really, though, any spicy semi-soft cheese you like will work in this recipe. Just as you should only cook with wine you like to drink, you shouldn't cook with cheese you don't want to surreptitiously nibble.

If you can't find plain kefir at your market, buttermilk or soured milk will work in a pinch. I used kefir simply because I almost always have a container of kefir in my fridge and running to the shop to purchase a container of buttermilk that would end up going off before I could use it up was just ... nope.

Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins


  • 3 oz canola, plus extra for greasing the muffin tin
  • 5 oz white whole wheat flour
  • 5 oz cornmeal
  • ⅛ tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp dried crushed jalapeños
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 9 oz plain low-fat kefir
  • 4 oz whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 12 pickled jalapeño slices


  1. Heat oven to 425°F. Brush a 12-hole muffin tin with neutral cooking oil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, mustard powder, baking powder, cheese, crushed jalapeños, and salt.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the kefir, milk, oil, and eggs together.
  4. Fold the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture, working swiftly yet gently to avoid tough muffins.
  5. Divide the mix between the 12 oiled muffin wells (they will be quite full) and top each with a jalapeño slice. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when tested.
  6. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Serve warm with whipped butter.

For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the second Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.

07 June 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Poppy (Papaver)

Hairy sepals slowly splitting to reveal a maturing poppy flower.

03 June 2017

The Gardens In Late Spring

On my days off I try to get out into the garden first thing and do some weeding and planting. The vegetable seeds and seedlings I planted in the new steel raised beds have made great start -- probably thanks to the superior garden soil and compost the deep beds are filled with, but possibly also due to them being much closer to the house and thus less likely to be pillaged by critters. My radishes are beautiful little ruby orbs, the pea plants are becoming properly bushy, and even the lettuce (something I never before tried from seed) is slooowly coming up. The tomato plants do look a bit sad, but it’s been a cool, grey, rainy spring so far and that's not really the weather tomatoes thrive in.

"Cherry Belle" radishes

Delicate baby oak leaf lettuce & friends

A few Saturdays ago, I attended a container gardening program at White Flower Farm in Litchfield and came home with a big pot of annuals that's now been hanging out on the porch, waiting (with the tomato plants) for a few sunny days. Like a fool, I tossed the pot markers, so now have no idea what some of the plants are called! Whatever they are, they are pretty.

The yellow, honeysuckle-like plant I can't name smells pleasantly minty.

The herb planter -- also a White Flower Farm project -- would probably look a bit more luxurious if I'd leave the rosemary alone for a time, but I keep pinching off bits to cook with and so the poor plant just keeps recovering old ground! Also, as with most things in the garden, it has just been TOO COLD AND WET for the poor thing.

Some day, the sun will come out and the rosemary will be happy.