Cottage cheese muffins à la Accidental Balabusta, but double the size. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
Looking for a couple of easy recipes to add to your repertoire? But you’re not quite sure what to try? Because sometimes you want savoury. Sometimes you want sweet. But what if you want both? I’ve got just the answer – but it doesn’t come in the form of one recipe. It comes in two. One’s a side dish and one’s a snack or breakfast food. Both punch above their weight, that’s for sure.
With very few exceptions I have neither the focus nor the patience to embark on complicated recipes that call for exotic ingredients and specialty cookware. If I can’t pronounce it and it’s not available at my local Safeway or Superstore, it ain’t happening. (Except for those lamb shanks that I made for Rosh Hashanah, which did call for loads of ingredients and which were, to use my hubby’s words: “The best lamb I’ve ever eaten!” Sorry … I just had a modesty bypass.)
Maybe I’m not the most adventurous eater/cook in the world but I never go hungry. My father, alav hashalom, used to say that I’d eat out of a puddle if push came to shove. I prefer to describe it as having simple tastes.
Good thing my husband didn’t marry me for my cooking. Although it has improved significantly since we got married 12 years ago. When we first met, my idea of dinner was a California roll and Agedashi tofu takeout. We used to eat out at restaurants maybe three or four times a week during the honeymoon phase, i.e. the first four years of our marriage. I kept telling him I knew how to cook; I just chose not to activate that skill. And what do you know. He believed me.
But I digress. Back to the savoury recipe I was going to tell you about. It’s an eggplant side dish or chunky dip and is a perfect accompaniment to just about any meal, be it meat, chicken, vegetarian or fish. It’s a bit time-consuming, but what eggplant recipe isn’t, with all that peeling, slicing and dicing? I’m not a big fan of spicy food so you can up the garlic content as you see fit. I find it’s got just that right combination of salty, spicy, sweet and tart, without being heavy or overpowering. I call it Merle’s Eggplant, after my sister’s friend who gave us the recipe decades ago. Thank you, Merle.
1 diced onion
1 large or 2 medium-size eggplants, peeled and cubed
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz (398 ml) can tomato sauce
a squeeze or two of lemon juice
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
- Peel and cube eggplant and set aside.
- Fry diced onion in olive oil until lightly browned.
- Add eggplant to onions and fry, alternating covered and uncovered, until eggplant is opaque.
- Add minced garlic, tomato sauce, lemon juice and brown sugar. Cook on low heat for about one hour, covered.
- Refrigerate then serve. Some people like to serve it hot, but I prefer it cold, because I find that the flavours meld even more when it’s been refrigerated. But that’s your call. Try it both ways.
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As for the sweet recipe – cottage cheese muffins – well, it’s a favourite in our home. It’s one of those comfort foods that soothe just about any ailment, from fatigue to sore feet. Aside from being healthy (think protein), they’re filling and super-fast to make, plus it’s one of those recipes that you can make blindfolded with both hands tied behind your back. Eat them hot, eat them cold, eat them with jam, eat them plain.
The only people that won’t like these muffins are the lactose-intolerant. And that can be remedied. I recently found lactose-free cottage cheese at the local supermarket. It’s slightly more expensive, but worth it if you like dairy but not the side effects that can go with it. Knock yourself out with these fluffy, light, healthy muffins. I’ve seen all sorts of variations on this recipe, using cheddar cheese, whole wheat flour, sour cream, etc., but none of them quite matches the simplicity and yumminess of this one.
I would strongly suggest doubling the recipe, since this recipe only makes 12 small muffins. Or just eat several at one go, and explain to shocked onlookers that they’re mini-muffins. Which they’re not, but, never mind. Just look at it as muffin-envy.
COTTAGE CHEESE MUFFINS
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 cup flour
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Mix all ingredients by hand. Don’t be surprised if the batter is quite thick.
- Grease muffin tins or use paper muffin liners. Distribute batter evenly between the 12 muffin cups.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. They’re ready when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Eat plain or topped with yogurt, sour cream, berries, jam or whatever. They reheat well in the microwave. But, if there are more than two people living in your home, the muffins probably won’t make it till the next day. They may sound too good and too easy to be true, but I’m here to tell you, they’re the real deal. Sometimes, the most basic recipes are the star of the show. Or at least the crowd-pleasers.
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It’s not the number of ingredients or the sophistication of technique that make a recipe sing. It’s the flavour, plain and simple. So, do yourself a favour and try out these two recipes. Tell them the Accidental Balabusta sent you.
Shelley Civkin aka the Accidental Balabusta is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review. She’s currently a freelance writer and volunteer.