Cookbook Giveaway!

While I’m away at the beach this week, I wanted to get ready to celebrate the blog’s 3rd birthday!  26 May will be three years since my first food post.  The blog has changed a little over the years, hopefully for the better, but I often come back to the same cookbook over and over again, the source for my first post. Although the Muffin Cookbook is out of print, I managed to procure three copies in very good condition to give away at the end of the month. All you have to do is a leave a comment telling me the name of your favorite muffin at the end of this post and you will be entered to win! I’ll use a random number generator to select three winners. Thanks for reading!

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Fig Muffin, Honey?

This is yet another recipe from my favorite muffin cookbook! I was looking for a recipe I hadn’t made before and I had some dried figs languishing in the cupboard, so an instant match was made. It tastes like what you might expect from a muffin version of a Fig Newton. Maybe it was just the long bike ride with the older two Tartlets and friends today, maybe it was the muffins, but The Husband ate a few when he came home this afternoon and seemed to enjoy them. 😉

Honey Fig Whole Wheat Muffins (from The Muffin Cookbook: Muffins for All Occasions, 1989)

1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. wheat germ
2 t. baking powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 egg

1 c. chopped dried figs
1/2 c. chopped nuts (recipe calls for walnuts but I used hazelnuts)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease or paper-line 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. In a small bowl, combine milk, honey, butter and egg until well blended. Stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Fold in figs and nuts. Spoon into muffin cups. Bake 20 minutes or until lightly browned on edges and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan.

Makes 12 muffins.

Aptly Named

Everyone, it seems, goes through a phase in which they detest their given name, wondering what possessed their parents to give such a truly horrid name when it could have been something sooo much better. I used to hate my name, Melody, which implies a musical ability that is utterly lacking but is actually my great-grandmother’s maiden name. I was a kid when the show ‘Mel’s Diner’ was on TV and I used to be so annoyed when people would say ‘Hey, Mel, how’s the diner business?’. Me: Oh, that was original! No, wait, you said that yesterday too. 😛  I used to think life would have been far better if my mother had used the ‘Rachel Nadine’ that was her second choice. Instead I used those names for a couple of my favorite sheep while in high school. 😉

Now I get to watch my kids go through this. Tartlet 1 would have preferred Eleanor, Tartlet 2 has picked Beth Kate, Katie Roelle and a few others for her future stage names, Tartlet 3 likes Daisy or wishes we would change her name to Emily since most people screw it up and call her that anyway, and Tartlet 4 just wants ‘Princess’ in her title, the name after it isn’t as important.

But these little delightful bites of chicken yumminess are definitely sporting the correct moniker, ‘Delicious Chicken Bits’. I first made these last week and have already made them a second time, doubling the recipe both times. The younger kids prefer less spice and certainly by decreasing or leaving out the pepper you can adjust the heat, but my eldest loves this. I served them first with toothpicks to pick them up and tonight I served the leftovers with some yellow rice and peas. Mmm, good stuff. The chicken is amazingly tender and tasty.

Delicious Chicken Bits
(from Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey)

1 1/4 lbs boned, skinned chicken breasts (4 breast pieces)
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t. ground turmeric
1/4 t. cayenne pepper (I didn’t have this on hand so I used dried chipotle)
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried thyme or 1/3-1/2 t. ajwain seeds (which she says are difficult to find but I didn’t even bother to look as I had plenty of thyme)
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 t. bright red paprika
3/4 t. salt
1 Tbsp. oil (I didn’t add this either time and it was just fine)

2 Tbsp. oil for cooking

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut each chicken breast into thirds, lengthwise, and then crosswise into 3/4-inch to 1-inch segments. Put in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes or longer. (I put this in a zip bag and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours while I did some cleaning.)

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wok or large, nonstick frying pan over very high heat. When the oil is very hot, put in the chicken. Stir and fry quickly until the chicken pieces are lightly browned or turn opague on the outside. Put in a baking dish, cover loosely with lightly oiled waxed paper (which should sit inside the dish and directly on the chicken pieces), and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken pieces are just cooked through. If not to be eaten immediately, remove the chicken pieces from the hot baking dish to prevent them from drying out.

Keeping Warm

Yesterday’s high in Champaign was supposed to be the same as in Duluth, MN, although their wind chill was expected to be up to 10 degrees colder! Still, as my grandfather would have said, not fit for man nor beast to be out and about. So what do you do when it’s -4 F outside and The Husband brings a reality check to fantasies of flying off to the Florida coast or a Caribbean island? Turn on the oven and bake!

This is yet another recipe from my favorite Muffin Cookbook. The kids loved this one, especially the streusel topping.  Originally, this recipe was written to use walnuts (It’s a Diamond Walnuts recipe!) but I had pecans on hand, so that’s what I used. Also, the recipe calls for nutmeg and I was out, so I used cinnamon and pinch of cloves in its place. Tartlet 2 ate two warm from the oven and asked if she could have more and if I would please make this every day! I guess it’s a good thing this recipe makes 18 muffins, rather than the usual 12.

Nutty Streusel Muffins

2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c. butter
1/4 c. chopped nuts

1 c. flour
3/4 c. chopped nuts
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

1 c. buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine 2 c. flour and brown sugar; cut in butter to form fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 c. of the crumbs and 1/4 c. nuts; set aside.

In the remaining crumb mixture, stir in 1 c. flour, 3/4 c. nuts, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and eggs; stir into dry ingredients just to moisten.

Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups. Top each with a generous spoonful of reserved crumb-nut mixture.

Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Loosen and remove from pan.

Providence

If you’re as old as I am, you’ve probably watched at least one episode of The A-Team and know a few of the classic lines: I pity the fool, I ain’t gettin’ on no plane, and the most well-known of all, I love it when a plan comes together. My plans didn’t come together. I had planned for a busy evening of a meeting and possibly a shopping run, but then Providence stepped in and my meeting was canceled, leaving me unexpectedly free for an evening, which hasn’t happened in a while.

Then my friend called. She’d had a bad day. I said, “hey, we’re getting ready to throw some burgers on the grill — come on over.” Having no dessert planned for the night, I pulled one of my newer cookbooks off the shelf, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking and decided to make the Fudge Pudding Cake, because every bad day is more bearable with chocolate. It baked while we sat on the patio and fought off the large bugs swarming around our table and the persistent gray cat who’d had an unhappy interaction with some orange-ish paint. (This cat proceeded to stay outside our bedroom window yowling all. night. loooong.) We sent the kids to bed and the grown-ups had cake and ice cream and chatted. I love it when a plan falls through and I’m available for a friend.

The cake is decent; I obviously left the coffee out, as well as the nuts. It’s a whole grain version of what you may already know as Betty Crocker’s Hot Fudge Sundae Cake. I haven’t made the other version before, so I can’t give a comparison. The pictures are of the leftovers as it was too dark to take decent photos last night. I warmed the cake but it had already absorbed much of the ‘pudding’. It was definitely better served immediately after baking.

Fudge Pudding Cake (from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking)

First Layer:
1 1/4 c. (5 oz.) whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat
3/4 c. (5 1/4 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 c. (1 1/2 oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

3/4 c. milk
1 large egg
2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. espresso powder
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick, 2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

1 c. (4 oz.) chopped nuts, optional

Second Layer:
3/4 c. (5 5/8 oz.) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 c. (3/4 oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 c. hot brewed coffee or hot water

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Have a 9-inch square pan on hand.

To make the first layer:
Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together the milk, egg, vanilla, espresso powder and melted butter in a large measuring cup. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing till smooth. Sir int he nuts, if using, and spread the batter evenly in the pan.

To make the second layer:
Mix the brown sugar with the cocoa, and sprinkle this mixture over the batter. Gently drizzle the hot coffee (or water) over the batter; there’s no need to mix it in.

To bake the cake:
Place the pan in the oven, and bake until it appears set and is bubbly around the edges, 45 minutes. Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. The sauce will thicken as it stands, and when totally cooled will be the consistency of medium-thick fudge sauce.

To serve, scoop servings of the warm cake onto individual plates; top with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired. If you can’t serve it while it’s warm, keep it at room temperature (for 2-3 days) and reheat it oh-so-briefly in the microwave just before serving.

Sugar Overdose

We were planning to visit our 5 acre lot to water our baby trees and burn some yard waste, and I didn’t have the ingredients on hand for the mandatory assemblage of S’mores that is associated with our bonfires. Tragedy!

But I had lots of mini M&M’s and mini marshmallows leftover from banana split/ice cream sundae making last week, so I was sure I could come up with something that would at least contain the two most important ingredients of S’mores — chocolate and marshmallows. The cracker is there just to keep your hands from becoming *too* gooey! 😉

In the Tase of Home Baking Book, a gift from my mom, there was just the thing — Fun Marshmallow Bars. The only modifications I made were to use mini M&M’s and I used almonds instead of peanuts. The kids love the rich marshmallow top. I think I could come up with a better brownie recipe for the base, but this works. Calorie for calorie, I think I’d prefer to have a bowl of ice cream, but if you want a kid pleaser and something that’s simple from the pantry, this is a decent dessert.

Fun Marshmallow Bars (from The Taste of Home Baking Book)
1 pkg devil’s food cake mix
1/4 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. water
1 egg

3 c. miniature marshmallows
1 c. M&M’s
1/2 c. chopped nuts

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry cake mix, butter, water and egg; mix well. Press into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 375 F for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with marshmallows, M&M’s, and nuts. Bake 2-3 minutes longer or until the marshmallows begin to melt. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Trial and Error

Once again I thought I’d try some new recipes from one of my many cookbooks, and I turned to the King Arthur’s Flour All-Purpose Cookbook, despite my less than thrilling results with the chocolate chip cookies. After all, you hear rave reviews of something and, when the first thing that you try that isn’t to your taste, it doesn’t squelch your interest entirely and you have to try something else. I made the ‘Ultra-Butterscotch Brownies’ but used the variation for blondies and omitted the butterscotch chips.

I wish now that I would have tried these in one of my glass dishes, because I think they may have baked better than in my metal 9×13 pan. These were looking quite done — pulling away from the sides of the pan, glossy on top, gooey but not runny in the middle, so I pulled them from the oven and *FOOM* they collapsed like the Stardust but without the fireworks, cheering, or dust. But the part around the edge is sooo yummy. Oh, man, how can you go wrong with that much butter and brown sugar together? I may have to try these again. And on the next page in the cookbook is ‘Raspberry Truffle Brownie Bars’, so I’m not ready to throw in the towel on this cookbook, yet.

Butterscotch Blondies (from The King Arthur’s Flour Baker’s Companion, p. 324)

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) soft butter
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
2 t. vanilla

1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

1 1/2 c. chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl in the microwave, and mix in the sugar, salt, baking powder, and flavoring. Stir in the flour, then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in 1 c. of the nuts. Scoop the batter into a lightly greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the top of the batter.

Bake the blondies for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is shiny but the middle is still gooey (though not liquid). Just like a fudge brownie, you don’t want to overbake these; underbake a bit for chewiest texture. Remove them from the oven and cool completely before slicing.