Dueling Muffins! White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Muffin vs. Blueberry Blackberry Streusel Muffin

July 31, 2012

So how would you like to have a freshly baked muffin every morning for breakfast? And not just any muffin, but one with your favourite add-ins. And wait, it gets better. What would you say if I said that your significant other can also have their favourite muffin, freshly baked, even if it isn’t the same flavour as yours. No, I’m not going to tell you to hire a personal chef. It’s much easier and less costly than that. The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion has shown me how this is actually possible. They have a great recipe listed for All-Star Muffins. It is a basic muffin recipe, that you are able to customize with your favourite ingredients, like apple cinnamon, peanut butter chocolate chip, carrot raisin….you get the picture. But the brilliant thing about this recipe is that once the batter is mixed, it will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator! This is a great recipe to keep handy so that you can mix up a batch of muffins the night before a big breakfast or brunch. With all of that prep work done, you can just heat up your oven and get right to baking in the morning.

But how does everyone get their favourite muffin? Here’s what I did. I mixed up a batch of the batter, then divided it in half. To the first half (my favourites) I added Rum soaked dried cranberries and white chocolate chips. Right before I popped these muffins in to bake, I sprinkled some crushed pistachios over the top.

Then I took the other half of that muffin batter and mixed in my husband’s favourites, blueberries and blackberries (I’ve mentioned he is all about fruit in baked goods…) and topped them with a delicious streusel before they went in to bake.

I only baked two muffins on that first day, one for me and one for him. I took the rest of the dough, scooped out muffin sized servings and stored them in 1 cup Tupperware containers so that each morning for the rest of that week, we could just wake up, turn on the oven, make our morning coffee and tea, put two of the pre-scooped muffins (one for him one for me) in muffin tins, pop them in to bake and 20 minutes later we would have freshly baked treats! Of course you could just leave the batter in the bowls in which you mixed it and just scoop a serving out from there each morning, but room is at a premium in my fridge, so the little Tupperware containers worked out much better for us. The muffins were fantastic, moist and delicious. Though we each tried a bite of each other’s, we both insisted that our muffin was the best! Try a batch of these with your favourite mix-ins today and you can rise and shine to a freshly baked treat every morning for a week!

All-Star Muffins

recipe from: King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

yield: 16 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups (14 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose or cake flour (14 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F and lightly grease 16 muffin cups or use paper liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a handheld or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Do not over beat the muffins here if you want to keep them tender. Mix just enough to moisten the flour. Don’t worry about any small lumps you might see.

At this point decide if you wish to bake all of the muffins or whether you will be keeping the batter in the fridge to bake freshly all week. Use a muffin/cupcake scoop to fill the desired number of muffin tins and bake for 18 to 24 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the muffins from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a rack. Muffins left in the pan to cool the entire time risk becoming tough from steaming.

Customized Directions:

White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pistachio Muffins: Soak 1 cup of cranberries in 1/3 cup orange juice, water, rum or bourbon. ( I used Rum!). Fold them into the muffin batter. Fold in one cup of white chocolate chips. Garnish the top of the muffins with crushed pistachios. ***As a variation you can use 2 cups of any dried fruit like apricots, cherries, dates or raisins if you prefer and also top with any type of nut you like.

Blueberry/Blackberry Streusel: Fold 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries and 1 1/2 cup fresh blackberries into the batter. Sprinkle the tops with streusel (recipe below) before baking.

Streusel

  • 1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tablespoons (3 ounces) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 Tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) soft butter

Mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl, until the mixture is crumbly.

**If you are splitting the basic muffin batter to make two different types of muffins, remember to half the above add in measurements.


Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

July 27, 2012

I know it wasn’t too long ago that I made that fantastic Oreo Key Lime Pie. It really was delicious and so refreshing served cold right out of the fridge. I have mentioned how outlandishly hot it is around here haven’t I? Have I gone on to tell you how much I loath Virginia in the summer? Ah-hem. Anyway…I thought that same lime-y goodness would be great, but it needed to be even colder…you know, like frozen!

Lucky me, I stumbled upon a great recipe for Key Lime Pie Ice Cream over at Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. Let me just take a moment to tell you that Tracey’s Culinary Adventures truly are fantastic. She is on fire! You just have to take a peek at her blog. Just recently I’ve posted three delicious recipes I’ve found there: Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits, Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes and now this Key Lime Pie Ice Cream. Everything so far has been absolutely to die for! Really…you have to go see for yourself. And there is a new recipe posted nearly every day! How amazing! Where does she find the time! But back to this gorgeous Key Lime Pie Ice Cream…

This ice cream comes together very easily. Although the recipe does not call for it, when I make ice cream I generally do it in a two day process. On the first day I mix up the ingredients and then let them sit in the refrigerator overnight, so that the mixture is good and chilled. I then pop it in the ice cream maker the next day and let it churn away before I put it in the freezer for an hour or so before I plan to serve it. However, this recipe only calls for you to chill the ingredients for a few hours before churning. You can help it chill quicker by placing it in an ice cube bath while in the refrigerator. Believe me, you will be happy with the results. This ice cream is smooth and creamy and has that refreshing lime zing. The graham crackers, which are swirled through the ice cream as well as sprinkled over the top, are very remniscent of the namesake pie and provide a great crunchy texture. And like all ice cream, it is nice and cold. Just what I want and need from a dessert at this time of the year. It makes these intolerable temps just a bit more tolerable. How much longer is it ’til Fall? Hmmm…I suppose I can just kick back and eat a bit more of my Key Lime Pie Ice Cream while I wait.

Key Lime Pie Ice Cream

recipe from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

yield: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
  • Key lime wedges, for optional garnish

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk the whole milk, lime juice, heavy cream, salt and sweetened condensed milk together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until the mixture is very cold, at least a few hours.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In the last minute of churning, add the crushed graham crackers. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour. Garnish with additional crushed graham crackers and lime wedges before serving.

Enjoy! – and try to stay cool!


Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

July 24, 2012

Don’t you just love how life is full of surprizes? Well, I guess that is a kind of loaded question huh? The surprize could be your roof just collapsed in the midst of the latest round of thunderstorms. In which case I bet you wouldn’t be loving life’s little surprizes. But maybe you just opened a letter to find you’ve inherited a huge amount of cash from some relative you didn’t even know existed. That would be quite a nice surprize. Added to the difficulty here is that you can’t hear my tone of voice, so I could be asking in a genuinely happy manner or the question could be dripping with sarcasm. Usually with me I think the sarcasm bit would be a good guess, but this time I am asking completely sans sarcasm. I really am pleasantly surprized with just how fantastic these Chocolate Marshmallow Bars are. O.k. ….that isn’t as earth shattering a surprize as the inheritance thing would be, but hey, you gotta take those little pleasures and delight in them where you can. And these bars were really very tasty! I mean, obviously I thought they would be good when I decided to attempt to make them. I can’t really think of a time that I’ve looked at a recipe and thought to myself, “Wow. That looks God Awful! I think I’ll make that for dessert tonight.” However, I must admit, this time around I just needed to whip up something for dessert. I wanted it to be something easy and quick. You know, it had been one of those days. Generally any “bar” type of dessert would satisfy those criteria for me. And the ingredients looked good…chocolate, marshmallows, Nutella. Yet for whatever reason, I didn’t set out to make it with my usual excitement. Again, I knew it would be good, but I was expecting the usual run-of-the-mill brownie-ish bar dessert. But wowzers! These bars are the bomb! The bottom cake layer is moist and tender, the middle layer marshmallows are ooey-gooey perfection and the top layer…Oh my stars! The top layer is nothing short of phenomenal! I mean the chocolate and Nutella are so decadent and rich. But then there are also the Rice Krispies, which provide a fantastic crunchy texture to go along with the chewy marshmallows.  What have I stumbled upon!

They were pretty easy to make as well, so Ladies and Gentlemen,  we have a winner! There are a couple of “wait for everything to cool completely” times involved in the recipe, so you may want to start these earlier in the day. But definitely, whatever you do, do start them. They are truly amazing!

Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

recipe from: A Little Bit of Everything

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 Cup Butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 Cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Cup Nutella
  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Cups Rice Krispies cereal

Directions:

Preheat oven to  350° F. Line a 13″ x 9″ baking tine with parchment paper, leaving some paper hanging out over the sides.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In a nother bowl lightly beat the eggs. Add them to the creamed butter and mix well.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture. Spread into the prepared baking tin.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over the top and return to oven to bake for another minute. Remove pan from oven after one minute and allow marshmallows to continue to melt on their own. Cool completely.

Once the pan of cake/marshmallow has cooled completely, make topping. Combine chocolate chips, Nutella and butter in a small saucepan. Melt over low heat and stir until blended. Remove from heat and stir in the Rice Krispies. Immediately spread chocolate/krispie mixture over the marshmallow topped cake evenly. Allow bars to cool completely before cutting to serve.

Enjoy!


Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes

July 19, 2012

Don’t put that cornmeal away yet! I know you just used it to make the batter up for those tasty Mini Corn Dogs. This time around it’s on the menu for breakfast in some delicious Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes. Good lands, I just knew this dish would be fantastic! How could it not when its got all those great ingredients, buttermilk, cornmeal and fresh blueberries!

I had never made a cornmeal pancake before and was a bit nervous about doing so, thinking the cornmeal might make a pancake heavy. However, we really do love cornbread around here and my cornbread isn’t heavy at all. So, I gave these pancakes a try and we were not disappointed. The pancakes were wonderfully light and fluffy but had a great texture and taste to thanks to the cornmeal. Even though there were blueberries in the pancakes, we served them up with extra berries on top and drizzled with maple syrup. What a fabulous lazy Sunday morning breakfast!

Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes

recipe from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

yield: 15 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups (7 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pint blueberries, rinsed

Directions:

Whisk the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and gently whisk just until combined – the batter will still be lumpy, that’s what you want.

{If you aren’t going to serve the pancakes until you’ve cooked all of them, preheat oven to 200 F. Spray a wire rack with cooking spray and set it inside a baking sheet then place the baking sheet in the oven.}

Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet set over medium heat (you could use butter too if you’d rather). Once the oil starts shimmering, use paper towels to wipe the pan so only a thin, even coating of oil covers the bottom and sides. Use a 1/3 cup measure to portion the batter into the pan. Sprinkle some blueberries over the surface of the pancake. Cook on the first side until the edges are set and the bottom browned, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the pancakes and cook on the second side until golden brown and cooked through, about 2 more minutes. {If not serving immediately, transfer the pancakes to the wire rack in the oven.} Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan if necessary.

Serve with butter, maple syrup and/or more blueberries!

Enjoy!


Mini Corn Dogs

July 16, 2012

Now what says “summer” more than Corn Dogs? The darlings of State and County fairs all across this great country, fairs which always seem to happen in the sweltering summer heat. (what is up with that!) For those of you who somehow do not know what a Corn Dog is, please allow me to enlighten you. This culinary delight consists of an American style hot dog, skewered on a stick, dipped into cornbread batter and deep-fried, served with mustard, ketchup or relish and eaten right off that stick it was fried on as you continue to stroll down the Midway. Yum, yum, yum.

Although some other versions of corn dogs can be found throughout the world, it is thought that the corn dog as I am describing it was invented in the good old U S of A sometime in the 1920′s. My husband loves Corn Dogs. How could you not…a hot dog, buttermilk cornbread batter, deep fried…it’s got it all! I have even heard tales that my husband may have survived on nothing but boxes of frozen Corn Dogs for quite some time when he was in college and his cash flow was somewhat limited. Ahhh…those were the days huh? I’m happy to say that he tells me that my home-made Corn Dogs are better than those old frozen ones from back in the day. These not only taste better than anything you’ll find lingering around in the frozen food aisle, but are pretty dang easy to make as well. And serving them up bite-sized makes them more fun. Who doesn’t love miniature sized food? They’re so small, you know there can’t be many calories in them. (what does it matter that you ate 10 or 15 of them…) And these pint-sized versions are easier to prepare than trying to fry a whole frankfurter. You’ll only need about 3″ of oil to fry  these babies up.

Although the original recipe I consulted recommended you cut the bamboo skewers in half, I left mine long (8″), the better to have the inevitable corn dog sword fight. Nah, really I was just too lazy to cut them in half and wouldn’t have minded watching a good corn dog battle should one have sprung up (it didn’t :( ). The original recipe also recommended that I cut the sharp end of the skewer off so that folks wouldn’t injure themselves. I must be somewhat less thoughtful than the original author, but if someone manages to stab themselves biting into skewered food…I don’t know…maybe it was meant to be? I’ve been to a few State Fairs and don’t remember any corn dog disclaimers posted on the vendor’s booths, nor do I remember paramedics loading folks who had impaled their soft palates into ambulances. I’m glad to report that no one here damaged themselves on the evening these were served. You’ll have to decide how cautious you want to be when you serve these little devils up, but considered yourself warned and I’ll consider myself absolved! Have fun!

Mini Corn Dogs

recipe from: Hungry Girl por Vida

yield: 42 mini corn dogs

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 packages (7 links) hot dogs, cut into thirds * I used Hebrew National…YUM!*
  • bamboo skewers – leave them long and pointy…Live dangerously!
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 ear of corn, grated on a box grater
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

Roll hot dog pieces in a light coating of cornstarch and skewer. Set aside.

In a medium, high sided sauce pan, heat 3-4 inches of oil to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels for draining.

In a large, deep bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cayenne. In a large measuring cup, mix together corn, onion, egg, buttermilk, and honey. Add to the dry mixture and stir to combine. Dip cornstarch coated hot dogs in batter and fry in batches–4-6 pops at a time–until coating is deep, golden brown. Remove from hot oil and drain on paper towel lined pan. Enjoy warm with desired condiments.


Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits

July 6, 2012

So it has been one heck of a week! I know I haven’t published in a bit, but goood Lordy we’ve had some problems around here! It all started last Friday evening with a huge, and rather unexpected storm. It has been very hot and humid around here recently, we’re talking around 100 degrees F (38 degrees C). But that is par for the course in Virginia, in the summer time, much to my dismay. With those sultry temperatures, we will often get thunderstorms springing up in the evening hours. Usually our good weather folks give us a heads up that one may be brewing. Well last Friday night, Mother Nature had quite a surprize in store for us. An incredibly powerful and stealthy storm snuck right up on us and….KAPOW! I’m talking 80 mile per hour winds and a wall of water which just descended instantly on us unsuspecting folks who were simply minding our own business around 11 pm in the evening. Well, Falls Church was devastated, trees down everywhere, trees which took the power wires down along with them. It was bad timing, as if there were ever a good time for mass power outages, but this power outage happened in the midst of a heat wave when the mercury was expected to stay hovering around that 100 degree mark for oh, a week or so. Our power was out from Friday evening through Monday. And we are the lucky ones, as many of my less fortunate neighbours still don’t have power today. Whenever you step outside, which isn’t often if you can help it – remember, 100 degrees of scorching heat envelopes you the moment you cross the door frame – instead of  hearing the peaceful chirping hum of the crickets, you are greeted by the rattling buzz of hundreds of generators, like some sort of  swarm of angry hornets is about to descend. (Hey, after that storm, anything could happen…)

Tree (and wires) down!

Now I had cooked up some delicious, mouth-watering food last friday that I couldn’t wait to share with ya’ll. Specifically  I made crunchy on the outside but moist on the inside Buttermilk Brined Southern Fried Chicken, flaky and fluffy Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits and oh so decadent home-made Bourbon ice cream. It was really yummy. Little did we know at the time, but it turned out to be a last meal of sorts before the onslaught. I was going to get pictures of everything the next day as the light wasn’t so good when I actually finished cooking the meal. Well, you know what they say about those best laid plans of mice and men…The next day, this little mouse found herself sweltering in an electricity, cell phone, internet free zone watching all that lovely bourbon ice cream melt and pool in the bottom of her ever warming “freezer”. I saved my hard-earned southern fried chicken though, icing it down in coolers which I hid away in our basement. You see, the basement temperature was much cooler. It only got up to about 86 degrees F down there… (I have mentioned that thing about how I hate to live in Virginia in the summer…right?) Now mind you getting the ice for the cooler was no easy tasks. Every store, gas station, etc. had not had electricity all night. What with our lovely Virginia temperatures which don’t really dip significantly in the overnight hours, that ice was looong gone. So we drove about 30 miles to our friend’s neighbourhood which did not lose their power because they have under ground power lines. Nothing for the trees to pull along with them on their descent. However, all the other folks without power had this same bright idea. We managed to nab the last six bags of ice at one grocery store and thought we were going to have to fight our way out of the parking lot when the other hot, tired and angry ice seeking folks realized the last ice had left the building.

Whew! I hope you can see I’ve had my hands full! I just didn’t have the energy to fry up another mess of chicken again after this ordeal, but it was so yummy I promise I will do so again soon and share with everyone. I did manage to recreate the Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits post power outage and got some pics as well. These are truly phenomenal biscuits and were so easy to make. I have made buttermilk biscuits before, but they were always the kind you rolled out and cut. These are drop biscuits. Much simpler. And they rose up like champs! Mile High is a good description. Light, fluffy, buttery goodness! They were definitely a comfort to us during our recent tribulations. Give them a try today, while you have power. If there is one thing I have learned, you should always be prepared. You never know when Mother Nature will throw her next hissy!

Mile High Buttermilk Biscuits

recipe from: Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

yield: 12 biscuits

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups cold low-fat buttermilk

For Finishing:

  • 1 cup (5 oz) all-purpose flour, distributed on a rimmed baking sheet
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500° F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Also, spray the inside and outside of a 1/4-cup measure with nonstick cooking spray. * I used an ice cream scoop*

To make the dough: Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter evenly over the dry ingredients then pulse 8-10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Dump the contents of the food processor into a large bowl and add the buttermilk. Stir with a rubber spatula just until everything is incorporated (the dough will be quite wet and sticky and somewhat lumpy).

To form the biscuits: Using the 1/4 cup measure you sprayed earlier and working quickly, scoop level 1/4 cup mounds of dough and drop them into the flour on the baking sheet. Continue until you’ve scooped all of the dough – you should have 12 mounds of dough. Use some of the flour from the baking sheet to dust the top of each mound. Flour your hands, then, one at a time, pick up each piece of dough (coating with extra flour if necessary so you can work with it) and gently shape it into a rough ball. Shake off the excess flour and place in the prepared cake pan. Repeat with the remaining mounds of dough, fitting 9 biscuits around the outer edge of the pan and 3 in the middle.

Gently brush the top of each biscuit with some of the melted butter (don’t press down and flatten them). Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 450° F and continue baking for another 13-15 minutes, or until the biscuits are deep golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscuits cool for 2 minutes, then invert them onto a clean kitchen towel. Flip the biscuits over and break them apart. Allow to cool 5 minutes longer before serving.

(Note: Store leftovers in a resealable plastic bag and reheat at 475° F for 5-7 minutes.)

Enjoy!


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