Category Archives: brunch

My Valentine post

Sweet and nutty honey muffins

 

I am not sappy (except when it comes to my kid). I am a no nonsense, logical, practical person (when it comes to everyone else). My own mind and heart, that’s another story for another day.  So the best I could do to come up with a Valentine recipe was something sweet with a sweet word in the title. Nothing with sprinkles, chocolate, pink or red hearts.   Nothing against any of that stuff, because I love it, and go crazy for it at Target.  But this is a brunch muffin, a “hey I really like you so why don’t you have a muffin and watch bad tv with me” treat.  Or a “hey you are a great friend, have a muffin that is a bit sweet but super awesome” muffin.  Try it, see what you think, and don’t save the sweet love stuff just for the holiday, because we all like to hear it all year round.

 

1 cup all purpose flour

½ tsp cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves and nutmeg

12 T room temp unsalted butter

2 T honey (I used organic, any type will do)

Zest of 2 oranges

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ¼ cups chopped fine walnuts (or pecans)

 

Topping

3 T minced walnuts (I used my food processor)

½ tsp cinnamon

3 T honey

Juice of 2 oranges

  

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Line 12 muffin tins with muffin/cupcake liners

 

Sift flour, spices into a bowl

Beat butter and sugar in the mixer until fluffy, add honey and orange zest (use less if you don’t like a lot of citrus flavor)

Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each one

Fold in flour mixture, stir in chopped nuts and spoon into liners

 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean

 

Make topping by mixing minced walnuts and cinnamon.  Heat honey and orange juice on stove under low heat until combined, about five minutes

 

Let muffins cool for about 20 minutes, then using a fork poke a hole into each one, adding a drizzle of the honey orange mixture.  Sprinkle walnut mixture on top, serving immediately or at room temp, kept up to four days

 

 

sweet nutty muffins

Cranberry almond granola

 

In my head I am one of those people who gets up early and makes a great breakfast, even before work.  Sadly the reality is I am not.  I grab a granola bar or a bagel and eat it at work.  In the 45 minutes or so before anyone gets there, that quiet calm before the storm.  As I was eating a granola bar, I thought how easy this is to make, have it as a bar or just as a handy snack.  So I made cranberry almond, because that is what I had in the house. Quick, easy, not too bad for you, and really great on the go.  So until I am a cool person who gets up early and makes an awesome breakfast, a baggie of this will do

 

 

Cranberry almond granola

1 stick unsalted butter

2 T light corn syrup

½ cup brown sugar

2 ¾ cups rolled oats

¾ cup sliced almonds (can use hazelnuts or any nut that can be easily sliced)

1 cup dried cranberries

6 T all purpose flour

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a greased 9×9 pan with parchment or foil (bottom only)

Heat butter, corn syrup, and brown sugar on stove over low heat until combined

Mix oats, almonds, cranberries and flour into a bowl, adding butter mixture, stirring until combined

Place in greased pan, smooth top and bake for 25 minutes or until firm/golden brown

 

Let cool to room temp and cut into squares or crumble for over yogurt, or as a handheld snack 

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Cranberry muffins

Breakfast. I am not a huge fan, but I know it’s important. But brunch, I can get behind brunch.  And bacon, always up for some bacon. This is why I go to kickboxing, not so much for the workout, so I can eat bacon. But I digress-these cranberry muffins, they rock. My secret is orange zest, gives them just the faintest of kicks, to get you going for a long day, a slow lazy day, or any day.  

 

Cranberry muffins 

1 cup whole milk

2 lightly beaten eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract or paste (more on the paste in another post!) 

3 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 T baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

half stick unsalted butter cold and cut into small pieces

1 cup frozen or dried cranberries (can also use blueberries if you want)

1 T orange zest

2 T melted butter

1 T raw sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line muffin tin with papers

In a small bowl, combine milk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside

In a mixer with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt for 1 minute on low speed

Slowly add butter chunks and turn to medium speed until mixture looks like coarse crumbs

Remove 1/2 cup of mixture for streusel

Fold in fruit and orange zest, add milk mixture and mix until just combined

Fill each muffin tin about 3/4 way full of batter

Add melted butter to remaining flour mixture and mix with a fork until combined

Sprinkle on top of muffins.  Add a small pinch of raw sugar on top of mixture for a crunchier top 

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until center comes out clean

Cool and serve

Can be saved at room temperature for three days

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Asparagus White Cheddar Tart

I love the word tart, I find that if I was a food, that is what I would be. Probably a lemon tart, you can take that as you will 🙂 

A few of us at work joined a local CSA, weekly getting fresh vegetables, and eggs from local farmers. Last week included asparagus and white cheddar. So I went for it, making a simple asparagus tart, which would be great as a side dish with dinner, or an appetizer for a party or gathering. Local foods aren’t just a great way to give back to the community, they are fresh, seasonal, and you know where they come from. Try this tart, see what you think. And think about what food you might be, it’s amazing how we see ourselves. 

 

Puff pastry thawed (about 30 minutes on the counter)

5-10 pieces of asparagus, depending on how big of a tart you want to make

4 oz white cheddar cheese (any cheese really that you want to use, just make sure it melts easily or is cut into thin strips)

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees 

Roll out puff pastry into a rectangle onto a sheet pan or in a tart pan if you prefer

Fold sides over about half an inch towards the inside of the tart. Slash fold with a knife, and prick the whole tart with your fork (this will keep the middle from puffing up too much)

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges are slightly brown

Take out of oven and lay cheese on tart, making an even layer. (I also added some shaved parm cheese for a little extra kick)

Cut asparagus to fit inside the tart laying one after the other (use stalk sides to fill in gaps)

Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for about 20 minutes

Serve warm or room temp

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My southern post

My dad is from the south, the real south. I never had the chance to know him, but I feel that southern presence in the way I bake. I feel the sunlight through a farmhouse window, I feel the humid heat of a summer day, lemonade sweat on the side of the glass, ice clinking. I imagine the wraparound porch, the fan clicking and going side to side, not making a dent in the heat, but making enough noise to almost be music. I see the pies cooling on the windowsill, the heat from the oven making you want to run from the kitchen, but you stay and stir and mix, and add more flour, more salt, more Crisco. You knead the bread by hand, you cut out biscuits and rub the tops with melted butter, real ass butter. You take a cake to a neighbor who just had a baby, or a sick elder down the road. You know your local dr by their first name, you know their favorite cookie when you go visit. Small town inside, big city dreams outside. That’s me people. And I bake like it. 

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Biscuits

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 T baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 T kosher salt
3 sticks unsalted butter (plus some melted for brushing tops)
3 cups chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven for at least 20 minutes on 475 degrees

Combine first four ingredients in a mixing bowl (use dough hook attachment if using mixer)
Cut in butter either with dough hook (will need to scrap the sides) or using a pastry tool, cut butter into small chunks in flour mixture
Add buttermilk and knead* (just until formed, do not overmix)
*mixture will be a bit wet when you knead it, make sure to have extra flour to keep hands dry

Roll dough into a rectangle and either cut out with biscuit/cookie cutters, or cut into squares or the shape of your choice, just making sure they are the same thickness to cook evenly

Place on parchment lined sheet pan, brushing melted butter on tops (if no parchment paper, lightly grease your sheet pans)

Cook for 8 minutes, turn sheet pan around, cook for 8-10 more or until brown/toothpick comes out clean

Makes about 20 biscuits

Banana muffins (recipe) and how long to keep dried spices

“She went bananas” Not yet folks, they haven’t checked me into the loony bin. There are days when I think any minute. But where did that saying come from? How did bananas get a bad reputation, or more a crazy one? They look pretty sane to me. I don’t like them, and one thing that annoys me is “banana flavored” stuff. If that is what flavoring is, I am good, thanks. But I bake banana bread or muffins frequently it seems, because one spot of brown in this house, and Mad moves on. So here are some banana muffins with streusel topping. Oh and I used vanilla salt to kick it up a notch.

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Banana muffins with streusel topping

Streusel topping

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients into a bowl, cutting up butter with a pastry cutter, fork or your hands. Set aside

Banana muffins

Preheat oven to 375. Line muffin tins with liners and set aside

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (i use vanilla sea salt or sea salt for more texture. table salt is fine)
3-4 bananas
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Mash bananas, then add oil, egg, and vanilla. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients and stir until combined (do not overmix)
Fill muffin tins about 3/4 full with muffin batter, and sprinkle streusel topping on each muffin
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean in middle of the muffin. Depending on your oven, muffins could take up to 20 minutes.
Let cool in muffin tins for 15 minutes
Cool on cooling rack or serve warm
*Makes about a dozen muffins

Now let’s talk spices. Yep, I am all over the place, so go ahead and call the blog authorities if you want, but I do what I like.  How long should you keep them?  Good question, and thank you Terry for asking me. I keep them unopened for about six months. After that, we have to break up. Now things like cinnamon and ginger I go through quickly, but I only buy the smaller jars because I want to make certain I don’t keep them too long. And yes there are spices I will buy only the good stuff. Anyone who has been to a Penzey’s knows what I am talking about. It’s a spice paradise. I buy the 1 oz jars, which aren’t any more expensive than your grocery store. People get overwhelmed or worried about price, but in fact it’s a better quality spice and the cost is reasonable. Because I bake more than cook, I have cinnamon (I do get the big Costco one, this does last quite awhile with no problems) ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice, etc. I do have about four types of cinnamon and nutmeg, but you don’t have to be “bananas” like me unless you want to. I am pretty swell, but I digress. Other essential spices are chili powder, ground mustard, pizza seasoning, pepper, cumin, peppercorns, and bay leaves. I also like seasonal spices like pumpkin pie spices.

 

Dried vs fresh-always use fresh if you can, but if you are using dried, always use a little less. So if a recipe calls for ½ tsp, go with ¼ dried.

 

So six months is my rule of thumb. Go forth, spice it up, live your life spicy and a bit crazy. It’s much more fun here

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Life is hard, jam doesn’t have to be

 

Life, man. It’s hard. You might be living the life you had imagined you always would, or a better one, or sometimes a worse one than you thought you might. Maybe you went down a completely different path than your parents, friends, yourself had wanted. Or maybe you are doing exactly as you wrote on a piece of paper back in junior high. Life, man it’s hard and real and great and tragic and deep and light and hopefully filled with love and laughter.

 

I grew up in a house of chaos. There wasn’t a lot of “normalcy” in my neck of the woods. There was disruption, confusion, lies, mistrust, loneliness, guard up, sometimes hands up. This is not meant to have anyone feel sorry for me, this isn’t pity party table for one. This is real life. In a moment of childhood weakness, upheaval feels like a sigh of relief. I hate this part of me, but it’s me. It’s the girl behind the lens, behind the cake, behind the blog. It’s the mom who does whatever she can to break a cycle, to control the chaos, to organize and plan and push for a real sense of security and normalcy. This is me, making up for the basic skills I lacked. There weren’t a lot of bbq’s, there were no hobbies and practices, not many vacations or happy memories. There was a life, my life, which made me who I am today. No matter how far we run from our roots, they are deep inside us, and sometimes they come up in a surprising way. 

So that is my deep part of this post, the dark place in which I sometimes go. But here is something happy, something tasty, simple and delicious-strawberry jam. Many people are afraid to tackle jam, with the canning and the boiling, etc. But don’t be afraid, because you can tackle it, and this jam is so easy, so quick, but just as good as if you had spent days stirring in a hot kitchen with no ac. Make some jam, take time for yourself, and love those around you who might not seem like they need it.

 

Strawberry jam

 

1 bag of frozen strawberries, or half a pound of fresh strawberries

½ cup of sugar

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

 

Chop the fresh strawberries, or puree the frozen strawberries in a blender until chunky pieces

 

Place strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a heavy saucepan or pot on med high heat with the lid on for 5-7 minutes.

 

Remove lid and stir until thicken, about 10 minutes more.

 

Place in cans or heatproof storage container and let cool to room temperature

 

Refrigerate for up to two weeks, freeze for a month or two

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