I'm back from my vacation at the so-called happiest place on earth, Disneyland and the California Adventure. After almost a week of eating overpriced, deep-fried crap and a side of limp salad shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of other people, I'm so glad to be back home and back in my own kitchen.
I actually missed my kitchen, and more specifically my oven, while I was away! That's my late cat Diane staring at "the Wolf".
It's not that Orange County has nothing to offer. It's just that I didn't know where to find the good casual eats in the O.C. My internet research was fruitless and the local newspapers weren't much help since most of the recommended places were in the Los Angeles area. And I definitely didn't want to fight my way through traffic to get to L.A. I already sit in enough traffic during my daily commute.
But every meal wasn't terrible. The La Brea Bakery Express in Downtown Disney was okay. Although practically everything substantial like sandwiches, salads, breakfast cost nine dollars. At least the bread was decent (but definitely not up there with my beloved Acme Bread). But it makes me a bit sad that the most positive thing I can say about a place is that it was decent. But on the plus side, I did eat at a pretty good and surprisingly affordable sushi restaurant in nearby Tustin. (Thanks to O.C. food blogger elmomonster for the recommendation.) But aside from the food issues, the children had a great time. Each night we were exhausted but we still woke up at sunrise to begin the next day at the park. Even so I think I've had my fill of all things Disney for at least 5 years.
Upon my return, all I wanted was food that was the opposite of the food I had on vacation. I'm not even sure what opposite really means in this case but I didn't want hamburgers or fried anything. Courtesy of my parents, the first meal I had when I got back was a dinner of sautéed gai lan (Chinese broccoli), roast duck, tofu soup, and steamed rice. My first breakfast was jambon-gruyere and frangipane croissants from Tartine Bakery in the Mission District. Tartine has the best croissants in the area. And the first thing I baked was these simple, satisfying oatmeal muffins.
Oatmeal Dried Plum Muffins
(adapted from Gale Gand)
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
6 oz (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cups dried plums*, chopped
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 15 muffin wells (4 fl oz capacity) with paper liners or butter well.
Combine oats and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in another bowl. Set aside dry ingredients.
Add eggs to oatmeal/buttermilk mixture and mix. Mix in brown sugar and then mix in melted butter. Mix in vanilla extract.
Add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Batter should still be slightly lumpy. Gently fold in chopped dried plums.
Fill the muffin wells about 3/4 full. Bake at 350 F until muffin tops have risen and are lightly golden, and a tester comes out clean (a few crumbs are okay), about 20-25 minutes.
* Dried plums used to be called prunes until someone decided it was fancier (and less geriatric) to call them dried Italian plums. But a prune is still a prune.