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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Dark Rye Bread

Some time ago, I saw "whole grain" rye flour at a local grocery store and thought it might be fun to try my hand at rye bread. I have used rye flour in some multi-grain batches, but the flavor never really came through. Maybe this heartier version would be more like the rye bread I have bought in the past.
As I started to look for possible recipes to try, I discovered that what I was looking for was usually called "German Rye Bread." I wanted something deep brown and solid.

It took me a few times to get the texture I wanted, so here are a few hints to try:
  • The dough generally seems more time to rise at each step than what you might be accustomed to with wheat and even other multi-grain breads, so allow plenty of time. I also find I like the texture best if I do punch down the dough an extra time in step 4.
  • While some of the sides I found on line talk about "folding" the dough rather than kneading, but I have had good success with kneading well. Try not to knead in too much flour. You can avoid this by adding just a little flour at a time. Stop kneading if the dough starts to have little "tears" in the side.
  • Recognize that the texture of the dough is going to be much more like play dough than the usual springy wheat bread, and that is okay. Note the hand prints on this dough ball:

  • Be sure to oil the dough when rising, as the dough can dry out quickly.
  • Slashing the dough here helps avoid "tears" on the sides of the loaves--plus it looks nicer.
  • While the caraway is optional, I happen to think that is part of the "real" rye bread experience.

Don't be put off by all these "hints. This really isn't all that hard to make , and it's a wonderful foil for all kinds of sandwiches. Well worth trying if you like making breads. It's a great way to vary your menus.

A couple more advantages:

This version is vegan too, so you can use this as the basis for your favorite no meat/dairy productions as well. Good for anyone with dairy or egg allergies too.

Dark Rye Bread

2 pkgs dry yeast
2 c warm water
¼ c brown sugar
2 T molasses
2 T vital wheat gluten
3 T cocoa powder
¼ c canola or other vegetable oil
2 t salt
1 T caraway seeds (optional)
3 ½ c whole grain rye flour
2 ½ to 3 ½ bread flour

1.         Combine all but the bread flour, beat well, and allow to sit until bubbly—about 20 minutes or so.
2.         Gradually add the bread flour until a soft dough is formed. Knead 8 to 10 minutes until smooth (it will feel like play dough). Place in oiled bowl, oil the top of the dough, and cover.
4.         Allow to raise at least an hour until doubled. If desired, punch down and let rise again. (It will probably look like this:)

5.         Divide in two pieces and shape into loaves. Slash tops and let raise another hour or so—probably won’t quite double.
6.         Bake at 376 about 25 minutes or until the crust is rich brown. You may want to lift one of the loaves off the pan to be sure the bottom is well browned.

Make into four smaller loaves--same length, just smaller diameter--for canapé style sandwiches. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Cranberry Applesauce Muffins

If you have ever read any of my posts here, you know that I am a) definitely not a professional food photographer and b) I am not "monetizing" the blog with any kind of promotion, either of ingredients or equipment.

What I do like to do with my little essays is present some recipes I've found pleasing to others that I hope readers will want to try. Along with the recipes I like to include some narrative that includes some "history" on when I started making the dish, a family story or other background comments I hope might be interesting. Sometimes I may also include some hints on how to make cooking and baking a little easier and/or less expensive.

All that said, today I would like to recommend and feature two "tools" that are pretty indispensable for me in my everyday cooking and baking. The muffin recipe that follows uses both pieces of equipment, with only measuring spoons and a mixing spoon to prepare the entire recipe.

First, a clear glass 1 quart measuring cup that doubles as a mixing bowl as well.

Those who know me know that I like to minimize the number of dishes that are going to be needing to be washed when I finish making something, and having to use many different measuring cups for a single recipe is especially not my favorite thing.  The nice thing about this large measuring cup/bowl is that many recipes can be adapted to just keep adding ingredients to the bowl rather than measuring each separately.

Today's mini-muffin recipe is especially easy to adapt to using only the measuring bowl. As you'll see in the recipe, I first layer in the cranberry sauce and applesauce and then pour the canola oil over:

3/4 cup cranberries + 1/4 cup applesauce + 1/4 cup canola oil = 1 1/4 cup total. (Though I realize now that the angle of the photo makes this look like 1 1/2 cups, it really is the right amount. As I said before, I am definitely not a pro at food photography!)

Then I add the eggs, brown sugar, and spices:


At this point, I beat everything together until well mixed. The clear glass helps me to see if I have any spots where some of the ingredients didn't get stirred in.

Now to the dry ingredients and the other "basic tool" that I have had for decades, literally! This, my friends who may be a little new to baking, is a flour sifter!

Probably the most important thing a flour sifter does is make sure that those "concentrated" ingredients like baking soda, baking powder, spices, and even cocoa are evenly distributed throughout the flour. I know that many, many people no longer have one of these, and you can get by without one. If the recipe says "sift together...," then you can just put all those ingredients in a large bowl and stir well with a fork to be sure that everything is evenly mixed. If you ever make the mistake of not thoroughly sifting or stirring in the baking soda, I can tell you from sad experience that you may get very uneven rising--and some bites will not taste good at all!

Wait, you may say. If it is so important to sift the spices along with the flour, why do I suggest adding them with the wet ingredients here?

When I am doing a lot of baking, I don't always wash my sifter between every recipe! If the only things going into the sifter are flour, baking soda, and/or baking powder, there is no problem with just reusing the sifter without washing. If I don't want to use the same spices in consecutive recipes, there could be a residue left in the sifter from one to the next. Thus, I long ago learned that spices can  be evenly mixed in with a very liquid set of ingredients, and my sifter would be left for only those more basic ingredients. So for this recipe, I have used my somewhat unorthodox method. If this sounds heretical to you, do feel free to sift those spices in with the flour.

Now, finally, on to the recipe.

If you are like most people I know, cranberry relish is a very seasonal dish, so you might well have a can of cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving or Christmas. Instead of having that linger on the shelf until next fall, this is a good way to use it up.

Cranberry Applesauce Mini Muffins

3/4 c cranberry sauce--the "whole berry" kind if you are using canned
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce, preferably homemade!
1/4 c canola oil
2 eggs
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1 1/2 c flour--either unbleached, whole wheat, or a mixture of the two
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and use non-stick cooking spray to prepare enough mini muffin pans for 36 muffins. Be sure to cover each litle cup completely to avoid any sticking!

2.  Put the first 8 ingredients in a clear glass quart measure or other large bowl, in the order listed. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

3.  Sift the flour, soda, and baking powder together (or mix with a fork in a second bowl). Pour over the liquid ingredients and stir gently with a fork just until blended. Try not to over-mix.

4.  Spoon the batter into the greased pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until the muffins are nicely browned and spring back if touched lightly.

5.  Remove from oven and loosen from pans as soon as possible. Cool.

Makes 36 mini muffins.

If you prefer to make regular size muffins, this recipe will make about 12. Bake at 350 for approximately 16 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Perhaps we are far enough away from the pumpkin spice madness to try one more pumpkin recipe. This could be helpful if you still have a little pumpkin--canned or homemade--left from all that holiday baking. These also make good take alongs for any New Year's Eve party you may be invited to. Not quite so sweet as all those cookies and maybe even a little "healthy" with all the fruit.

This is in the category of "quick breads" and really does come together quickly, especially if you have a processor or immersion blender to quickly chop the apples.

Pumpkin Apple Bread

1 c pumpkin puree
1/3 c canola oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c flour—may substitute whole wheat flour for up to half a cup of the flour
1 1/4 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t cloves
1/4 t allspice
2 c (packed) cored, but not peeled apples, finely diced (about 2 large or 3 medium)
1/2 to 1 c chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 to 1 c chopped dates (optional)

1.  Beat together the pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs.
2.  When well-blended, gently add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just blended.
3.  Fold in the apples and nuts and dates, if used.
4.  Pour into two well-oiled medium loaf pans, about 5 X 9. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  
5.  Allow to sit in the pans for about 3 or 4 minutes and then turn on to racks to cool.

Wrap tightly and refrigerate if kept for more than a day or two. As with most breads of this type, these loaves slice much better the next day.

Size changes:

For all sizes, bake at 325 degrees when using either glass pans or disposable aluminum pans, to avoid the crust getting too brown before the centers are done.
The recipe can be made in a single large bread loaf pan; allow about 35 to 40 minutes to bake.
"Mini" loaf pans can also be used with the recipe making about 6 or so. These should be baked for only about 20 to 22 minutes.
You can double this recipe and use three 5 X 9 pans for slightly higher loaves.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Butternut Squash Cake

The Monday after Thanksgiving, I stopped at my favorite orchard to pick up another bushel of apples for the apple-butter-making party we'd be having later in the week. While there, I thought I'd pick up another pumpkin or two, for a few cakes and other things. Unfortunately, that very morning they had decided to compost the few pumpkins they had left because there had not been any call for them after the holiday so no more pumpkins for me this year.  Since my "root cellar" garage has more than enough butternut squash for the season, that probably was just as well.

So today was the day to make squash cake. If that sounds bizarre to you, consider the great carrot cakes and pumpkin bars or muffins you have often enjoyed. Here's a great frugal secret: for many (most) of these desserts, you can easily interchange carrots, pumpkin, and butternut squash. Since all are relatively mild (especially the squash and pumpkin), the flavor differences will be very hard to detect.

Old-fashioned carrot cake is the kind of recipe least amenable to these substitutions, though you can shred raw pumpkin or squash chunks just as you would carrots. However, many years ago, I found a carrot cake recipe that used mashed, cooked carrots, and that has been a family favorite ever since. I most often baked it in a Bundt or angel food cake pan, but it also works well in a standard 9 X 12 pan, and that is how I prepared this squash cake today. Note the addition of a tiny amount of black pepper, not enough to really taste it but enough to add a little zest to the overall recipe.

The topping is my old standby, sometimes-it-hardens-and-sometimes-it-doesn't-fudge-frosting or, when it doesn't set, just fudge sauce. It's not really the recipe (many others in the family have used this repeatedly), it's me and my impatience with the cooking, cooling, and/or beating. No matter the final consistency, the flavor is wonderfully fudge-like, my favorite kind of chocolate.

I want to be upfront about my checkered history with the recipe. When I post recipes on this site, I check and double check to be sure they will turn out satisfactorily as given. Just be forewarned that this frosting may not reliably set up to a picture perfect finale. However, it is so very flavorful that I am including it, with the thought that most of you will probably do a lot better than I in getting it to set just right. Because, even if it doesn't, the flavor will be so good, you probably won't even notice.

Chocolate Butternut Squash Cake

2 c sugar
1 c butter or margarine, softened but not melted OR 1/2 c butter and 1/2 c canola oil
1/3 c baking cocoa
4 eggs
1 c cooked and pureed butternut squash
2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/2 c milk
1/2 c broken pecans or walnut pieces (optional)

1.  Cream the butter, cocoa,  and sugar together until very smooth. (A stand mixer is especially good for this.)
2.  Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Continue beating until the mixture is very light. (I once had a home economics teacher say that you should be able to take a bit of the batter between your fingers at this stage, and you won't be able to feel any graininess from the sugar, as it will all have dissolved. Not totally necessary, but this is the stage when you want to do most of the beating.)
3.  Gently stir in the squash puree, mixing until well blended.
4.  Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and black pepper together. Add these dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the milk, stirring well after each addition. Fold in the nuts if used.
5.  Pour the batter into a well-oiled and floured a 9 X 13 loaf OR 10 inch tube pan. (OR see NOTE below.)
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes for the 9 X 12 pan or 55 to 60 minutes for the tube pan. Allow the cake to cool for about 15 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

NOTE:  Combine about a tablespoon of flour and a teaspoon or so of cocoa and use this mixture to dust the pan instead of plain flour.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c baking cocoa
2 t cornstarch
1/2 c milk
1 T butter
1 t vanilla

1.  Combine sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch in a large, heavy pan. Pour in the milk, and stir until well blended.
2.  Boil the mixture over medium heat, until it forms a soft ball in cold water. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.
3.  Remove from heat and allow to sit (stirring occasionaly) until cool. One way to cool this quickly is to put some ice cubes or crushed ice in a very large bowl or pan and place the saucepan of frosting in the center. The main problem with this approach is that some water could splash into the frosting, almost certainly assuring that you will not be able to get the frosting to "set."
4.  Beat in the butter and vanilla and continue beating until the frosting is shiny and smooth. If you have a small electric beater, that can be a good tool at this point, as you will need to beat for a few minutes to really get the thickness you want. Spread immediately on the cake--usually easiest to do while the cake is still warm, but not hot.

A few additional thoughts for newer cooks:

How do I "sift" the dry ingredients together if I don't have an old-fashioned flour sifter?
The reason to do this sifting step is to be sure to get all the dry ingredients--especially the baking soda or baking powder in these recipes--completely mixed. You can duplicate the sifting action by combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mixing thoroughly. The best tool for this is actually just a plain fork from your table. If you notice any lumps (especially likely for the soda and baking powder at times), be sure to use the fork to completely break them up.

How do I know if the frosting has reached "soft ball" stage?
As I noted above, I may not be the best person to ask this, as I don't think I have always achieved it! However, here's a nice, scientific, site that provides perhaps more than you ever wanted to know about this.

This video actually shows what that "soft ball" should look like.

If you find yourself impatient in watching it (as I did!), that represents the same kind of impatience you'll probably need when waiting for the frosting to really be cooked enough.

Why do I need to do more than just oil the pan? 
 You will probably ask this question only once, before you try to turn a cake out of a pan in one piece! Sometimes, you may get lucky and be able to get a whole cake on to the plate, but much more often, only oiling the pan will result in a large chunk of the cake stuck to the bottom of the pan.

So, if the recipe directions tell you to oil and flour the pan--do it! The best way to accomplish this is to use a small spoon to shake a little flour over the pan. Then tap the pan and swirl it around to get the flour evenly applied. Add more flour as needed and then shake off any excess--you really don't want to have lumps of flour on the crust of your baked cake either.

I have added a NOTE to this recipe that suggests mixing flour and cocoa to use to dust the pan instead of plain flour. This is a relatively new hint for me, and I really, really recommend it for any chocolate cake. I had read about using cocoa instead of flour for doing the dusting, but I thought it might work to just use some of each. Sprinkling the two separately was hard to make the coating evenly distributed--as illustrated below. However, the cocoa did make a much more attractive crust than flour alone. Mixing just a little of both came out to be a really nice application.

Freezing Avocados

The day after the Super Bowl, I stopped in at my local Fareway and discovered they were clearing out some beautiful avocados for 25 cents each. (They also had big bunches of cilantro at 3 for $1 along with their usual good specials.)

Unable to pass up such a bargain, I brought home 12 large avocados and let them soften a few days. After I had made a few batches of guacamole and had enjoyed others in salads, I started to wonder if I could freeze the eight still sitting on the counter, now perfectly soft and ready to eat.

According to the California Avocado Board--who better to know--I could actually freeze these without making them into guacamole. Their instructions are here:

Reading through their site, including many of the comments that suggested variations, I decided to try this approach:

1.  Place a small amount of lemon juice in a shallow dish. I used ReaLemon straight from the refrigerator.
2.  Wash each avocado and cut in half. Remove but retain the pit.
3.  Put each half cut side down in the lemon juice. Add the pit and roll it around a bit to get lemon juice on most of the surface.
4.  Cut pieces of plastic wrap about 6 to 8 inches X he width of your wrap. Lay a piece of the wrap across the cut side of one half. Press the pit into the depression from which it came.
5.  Carefully fold the wrap back over the pit, taking care not to pull the wrap away from the first half.
6.  Place the other half back onto the side with the pit and press tightly. Press any overhanging plastic wrap around the sides of the avocado.
7.  Place the wrapped avocados in a freezer weight plastic bag and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. (I put the freezer bag into yet another heavy plastic bag, just to be sure.) Label and freeze immediately.

So, did it work?

Yes, decidedly so.  The last of these kept for several months, coming out of the freezer as well as any purchased frozen avocados. They were perfect for guacamole, avocado toast, etc. Though I didn't slice any of the thawed ones for a salad or other garnish, I believe they would have worked well in that way too, if sliced and served while still not quite thawed.

I have successfully repeated this approach, but they do take a bit more freezer space than just mashing the avocado and stirring in a little lemon or lime juice before packing into plastic bags and freezing them into compact, flat little packages. The secret to either approach is to be sure to package the avocado in an air-tight manner, to keep browning to a minimum.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fall Harvest Muffins

Many years ago our family put together a cookbook of some of our favorite recipes. Included in the Breads section was one for Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins my sister Linda had gotten from a neighbor. She noted that this had long been a family favorite.

It was several years before I got around to trying the recipe, and then it was in early fall, when I didn't yet want to bake up the pumpkins still decorating my front walk. I did, however, have plenty of butternut squash, so I roasted a couple and substituted that puree for the pumpkin.

While I was working on making the recipe my own, I decided the original recipe had a little more sugar and fat than what I was looking for, so I played with those amounts as well. The spices? That relatively large amount sounded just right--and it was. No wonder these were muffins their family looked forward every fall.

In the end, the muffins turned out beautifully, even with my tweaking, and I still like to make a batch or two when I have lots of squash and apples ready to use. Now I just wish I could share a muffin or two with my little sister.

Fall Harvest Muffins

1 1/3 c sugar
1 c roasted or steamed butternut squash, pureed
1/3 c canola oil
2 eggs
2 1/2 c flour
1 T pumpkin pie spice (see NOTE)
1 t baking soda
2 1/2 c finely chopped apple--don't peel


Streusel Topping

4 t softened butter
1/4 c brown sugar--I used dark brown sugar but "regular" light brown sugar is also fine
1/4 c flour
1/2  t cinnamon

NOTE:  If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can substitute the following: 1 t cinnamon, 3/4 t ground ginger, 1/2 t nutmeg, and1/2 t allspice. You may also add 1/4 t ground cloves if you like, though I usually prefer not to include this.

1.  Combine the streusel ingredients with a fork, mixing until well blended. Set aside.

2.  Prepare two 12 unit muffin pans by spraying or oiling each cup very well--OR just line each with a cupcake paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3.  Combine the sugar, oil, eggs, and squash in a large bowl and beat until smooth.

4.  Sift the flour, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda together and add to the pumpkin mixture, stirring ust until well mixed. The batter will be very thick.

5.  Fold in the apples and, again, stir only until all the ingredients are well mixed.

6.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Using a teaspoon, lightly sprinkle some of the streusel evenly over the tops of each muffin.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently touched. Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

Makes about 24 muffins.


Use 1 cup canned or freshly prepared cooked pumpkin puree in place of the squash.

Add 1/2 c chopped walnuts to the streusel mix OR stir into the batter with the apples.

Add 1/2 c dried cranberries or raisins with the apples.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Quick and easy appetizers or coffee break snack

For some of us who prefer savory over sweet, many morning coffee gatherings don't provide a lot of options. So when I was called on to bring a treat for one of these occasions this week, I decided to make these quick little bites to go with some apple slices and a quick bread.

With a local store featuring a dozen eggs for 49 cents and still some onions and green peppers from the garden, the cost was minimal, and they are very fast to make too, nice when you have an already busy morning planned.

Because they also work well if made the night before, you might want to bake them ahead in full size muffin cups and have them ready for the family to pop into the microwave for only 10 to 15 seconds--instant protein-charged breakfast!

Mini Egg and Cheese Bites

2 T olive oil
a total of 2 c finely chopped onion, pepper, and mushrooms
½ c chopped cilantro
8 eggs
¼ c flour
½ t baking powder
1 t seasoning salt
1 to 2 t Italian seasoning, to taste
1 t black pepper
1 1/2 c grated Cheddar cheese (5 oz)

1.  Saute the onions, peppers, and mushrooms in the olive oil on medium heat until the onions are golden and all are quite limp. If necessary, add a few drops of water to keep the onions from burning. Add the cilantro about a minute or two before removing the vegetables from heat.

2.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs, flour, baking powder, and seasonings until completely blended. Stir in the cheese and mix until completely incorporated. Fold in the vegetables.

3.  Using baking spray or oil, liberally grease 24 miniature muffin cups. Spoon the batter into the cups.

4.  Bake at 325 for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot out of the oven or at room temperature. Salsa is a nice accompaniment.


Omit the mushrooms or peppers if you don't care for them, or substitute finely chopped broccoli.

Saute 1/2 c finely chopped onions as in the recipe above. When they are just beginning to turn golden, stir in 1 to 2 cups finely shredded spinach or kale. Cover and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes more, until the greens are just limp.

Substitute basil, thyme, or other fresh herbs of your choice for the cilantro.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Quick Raspberry Muffins, AND a Quick Bread

This post shows the versatility of many batters.

It started out as just a muffin recipe, one that has been sitting in my draft folder for months. I've made these muffins several times, but this week, with the first of the fall crop of raspberries just really getting up to speed, I was looking for a recipe for a loaf bread--you know, the kind like those ubiquitous banana breads that show up at morning coffees.

Knowing that there are great similarities between the two types of baked goods, I took the muffin recipe and, with hardly any tweaking, had quickly stirred up a couple of loaves of wonderfully moist bread, a little on the tart side but excellent with a little honey butter spread.

The one problem with this as a loaf bread is that the amount of batter is a little too much for a "standard" 9 X 5" loaf pan. As noted below, you can use the standard pan and a "miniature"  3 X 5" pan or a few muffins.

Since I had plenty of raspberries this week, I doubled the recipe and used it for three loaves made in 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" pans.

While the batter is the same, the baking temperature and time will be different. The baking temperature should be 375 degreesfor muffins but only 350 degrees for loaf breads. Unsurprisingly, the time in the oven will also vary, with the muffins and smaller loaves requiring less time than the large loaf.

Whether you want muffins or loaves of bread, this is a wonderful recipe, especially if you have only a cup of raspberries and want to stretch them over several servings. The applesauce can take advantage of the early fall apple crop too. Oh, and note how very little oil is used--a nice bonus!

First, Muffins

Perhaps your picture of a muffin is one of those huge, overly sweetened and garnished desserts masquerading as a breakfast bread at your local coffee place. However, they once were rather plain Jane sides for a light meal of soup and salad or even a fairly healthy after school snack for kids. The nice thing about traditional muffins is that they really do live up to their "quick bread" categorization, and it isn't hard to whip up a batch with little equipment or time.

First, there is the "muffin method," which means you will just stir the dry ingredients in a bowl (no sifter needed), form a "well" in the middle, and then add the liquid ingredients all at once. Stir only until the mixture is just blended, no more, even if there are a few lumps here and there. An ordinary table fork or a wood spoon will do for the stirring, and you really should avoid using any kind of mixture. (Overbeating muffins results in a toughened texture and little "tunnels" in the finished product.) If you have special add-ins like berries, grated carrot, raisins, or nuts, you will fold them in at the very end, again mixing only until the added ingredients are well distributed through all the batter.

One of my least favorite parts of muffins is preparing the pans. You can use cupcake liners, but the muffins often end up sticking to these little papers. My preference is to use a cooking spray (like Spam), but kids who may be helping you sometimes enjoy the messy job of rubbing oil all around all the parts of each muffin "hole."

If you started preheating the oven just before you began putting the dry ingredients in a bowl, it will probably be heated just about the same time that you have the first pan of muffins ready to go. Then it's time to wait maybe 15 minutes or so, and, voila, hot bread to go with the rest of the meal. What could be easier?

For me, raspberries are the "frugal" choice, since I have these in abundance in my backyard garden. However, strawberries, blackberries or raspberries could all be substituted. Even chopped peaches and nectarines could work; with these, I would probably add a half teaspoon of almond extract.

Nuts--walnuts, almonds or pecans--are another nice add-on, either sprinkled over the top or stirred into the batter with the fruit.

Whichever variation you like, do give these quick recipes a try the next time you have a few extra minutes to spend in the kitchen.

Old-fashioned Raspberry Muffins

1 c whole wheat flour (OR use all unbleached flour)
1 c all purpose unbleached flour
2 t baking powder
3/4 c sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1 T canola oil
1 c fresh or frozen raspberries; if using frozen berries, thaw and drain the juice (save it for other uses like adding it to a smoothie)
1/2 c coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

1.  Stir the flours, baking powder, sugar, and cinnamon together in a large bowl until they are well-mixed.

Make a "well" in the center of the mixture. (This means that you will form a depression in the middle of the dry ingredients where you will pour the liquid ingredients all at once.)

2.  Measure the applesauce into a 2 cup measure and then add the egg and oil. Stir together until they are all well-mixed.


3.  Pour the applesauce mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently with a fork or wood spoon, just until there are no streaks of the flours left. Don't worry if there are a few lumps.

4.  Fold in the raspberries, and walnuts if used. Stir just enough to swirl them evenly through the batter.

5.  Spoon the batter into well-oiled muffin pans, filling each one about half full, or use cupcake liners. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 16 minutes. Don't worry if you do not have enough pans to bake all the muffins at once; just set the batter aside until the first pan is baked.

6.  Remove from oven and leave in the pans for 3 or 4 minutes. Then take the muffins out of the pans and place on a cooling rack. Serve warm or cold.

This recipe makes about 18 muffin. As you can see at the edge of this photo, you can also make some muffins and a loaf of bread, following the baking instructions below.

These go well with butter or cream cheese and perhaps a drizzle of honey or even a bit of raspberry jam. Since raspberries are bit more tart than some other fruits, a sweet topping may be warranted.

Or...Raspberry Applesauce Bread

Follow the recipe above, through step 4. Bake at 350 degrees, in a well-oiled 9" X 5" loaf pan for about 40 to 45 minutes. If you do this, I would suggest putting some of the batter in a small (3 X 5 or so) pan or making 3 or 4 muffins with part of the batter, as it filled the loaf pan very, very full,  Bake the small loaf or muffins for about 20 minutes. Allow to sit in the pans about 5 minute before turning on to a rack to finish cooling.

As noted above, a double recipe will be enough for three 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" loaves.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Savory Carrots in the Microwave

This one is easy. 

Friends were coming for dinner and I was planning to serve a garden salad and scalloped potatoes and ham--yup, even in the summer, potatoes served in this old-fashioned way are just the right kind of comfort food. Even with the salad, however, I thought one more brightly colored food would be a good addition, and carrots seemed a just right addition to the plate. 

However, plain old cooked carrots are not always a favorite, so I looked to my little herb garden for inspiration. Using the microwave would keep the kitchen cool, and a little olive oil without any added water would highlight the sweet flavor of the carrots.  
The result was frugal--carrots are reasonable at any season of the year; fast--the simplest of  preps, along with the microwave, took care of that; and fun--trying out fresh herbs from the garden is a great way to experiment with new flavor combinations.

Note that a key to the success of this recipe is to be sure to cover the carrots tightly while in the microwave. A glass casserole dish with its own cover is ideal for this.  

Oh, and be sure to use plenty of olive oil--it's healthy and helps ensure the flavors of the herbs really come through. 

Savory Carrots

1 pound carrots, scrubbed and sliced in thin rounds

1 T olive oil
1 to 2 t chopped fresh basil (or about 1/2 t dried)
1 t fresh thyme leaves (or about 1/2 t dried)
1/4 t dried marjoram (I didn't have any fresh; if you have some, probably a teaspoon would be enough)
sprinkle of garlic powder
salt to taste

1.  Place the carrots in a microwave safe bowl and sprinkle with the herbs and salt.
2.  Drizzle the olive oil over the carrots and toss lightly, just enough to evenly distribute the herbs through the carrots.

3.  Cover tightly and microwave on high about 3 minutes. Stir well and return to microwave for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the carrots are just tender.
Serves 3 to 4.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Peanutty Pops"

Years and years, and years, ago, I cut a recipe off the back of a package of Knox Unflavored Gelatine (sic), pasted it to an index card, and have had it as a key recipe ever since. This has always been a favorite of any kids who wander into the house, tasting a lot like the commercially available fudgsicles--do I need to do a copyright symbol for that?

I have updated the recipe and method only slightly, but overall, I share this pretty much as it was shown on the package. Thanks, Knox, for a family heritage recipe!

(Site note: I have been trying for several years to never post an entry without photos to attach. However, this is a special request that I haven't prepared myself today, so here it is for now. Will have to make some just to get some photos I guess!)

Peanutty Pops

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/3 c sugar
1 c water
1 c peanut butter
1 c chocolate milk--see NOTE

1. Stir the gelatin, sugar, and water together in a 1 quart measuring cup or similar LARGE bowl, making sure it is well mixed. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
2. Microwave on high until the mixture begins to boil and is clear. Be watchful--it will boil up and spill over very quickly! Remove from the microwave and allow to cool slightly.
3. Beat in the peanut butter and then gradually add the chocolate milk. When completely blended, pour into popsicle molds, insert sticks, and freeze.

NOTE:  Mix Nesquik or a similar powder into a cup of milk, as directed on the package. You can also use a package or two of hot cocoa mix prepared with water or, for extra richness, milk.

If you don't have popsicle molds, other small glasses (or bathroom size disposable cups) may be used. If you don't have molds, freeze the mixture until just slushy before inserting popsicle sticks so they remain as upright as possible.