Burmese Semolina Cake

Bermese Semolina Cake

I am going to try and get this post out before my head falls onto the keyboard in utter exhaustion.  I am not sure which time zone I am in at the moment, but I know that I am not really in my own.  It is somewhere between here and Madrid – but I still managed to get all my errands done this weekend – and drive the kids all around the city.  Yes, I am finding that I am not only a Mom with a full-time job, I now have a part-time role as a chauffer.

Coconut anything still fascinates me.  I love that tropical flavor it has – and all of a sudden I close my eyes, and I am on the beach wearing my straw hat (the sun is not good for you).  I am also a sucker for simple yet strange recipes – which this one definitely qualifies for.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit months ago.  At first glance, there were not a lot of ingredients, and one of them was coconut milk.  Then I read the description – I could almost taste the cake before I made it.  The thought of a creamy and custardy cake was exactly what I was in the mood for.

This cake was very interesting.  Without the coconut ice-cream, I was not overly impressed. I did like the texture of the cake – although it didn’t have ton of flavor – that was until the coconut ice-cream went on top – then I felt like I was on vacation.  It’s just amazing how food can do that, and boy do I need a vacation – with some coconut ice-cream on the side please.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly, divided, plus more
  • cups semolina flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • cups half-and-half
  • cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Coconut ice cream and toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (for serving)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°. Butter an 8×8” baking dish. Toast semolina in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring, until darkened and nutty-smelling, about 2 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk egg, coconut milk, half-and-half, sugar, salt, and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in semolina and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking, until mixture is very thick and pulls away from the sides of saucepan, about 4 minutes. Scrape batter into baking dish.

Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack. Brush cake with remaining 1 Tbsp. butter; let cool slightly. Serve with coconut ice cream, topped with coconut flakes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Burmese Semolina Cake

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Apple Streusel Muffins with Maple Drizzle

Apple Streusel Muffins

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, next to dinner, lunch, and all the snacks in between.  I definitely like to eat all day, it keeps me going.  My most favorite days are when I can start off with a couple of hard boiled eggs, and then a couple hours later, I eat a muffin.  That only happens when there are muffins in the house, and they didn’t all get claimed by the kids – which is not that often.

Last night I was exhausted – and I knew I had to get up super early in the morning – not my regular early time, but a couple of hours earlier than that.  Unfortunately for me, I was up most of the night worried that I would sleep through my alarm.  Boy do I hate when that happens.  Instead, I very lightly slept (if at all), and turned off my alarm before it even went off.  I was so tired I wasn’t even hungry.

When I finally was hungry enough to think about food, these muffins were what came to mind.  Right out of the oven, with a nice cup of tea.  These muffins have been long gone though, but I still think about them.  I know what you are thinking – what is so special about these?  Well, it was the maple drizzle.  It was almost like I was eating an apple pancake shaped into a muffin with some syrup on top.  Yes, they were that good.  The perfect breakfast to get you out of bed – and from Cooking Light, what could be better?  Sleeping in and then eating these muffins…

Ingredients

Streusel:

  • 2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons spelt flour (if you don’t have spelt flour you can use all-purpose)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Muffins:

  • 5 ounces spelt flour (about 1 cup) (if you don’t have spelt flour you can use all-purpose)
  • 2.5 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; set aside.

To prepare muffins, weigh or spoon 5 ounces spelt flour and whole-wheat pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine buttermilk, 1/2 cup sugar, oil, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and egg in a bowl. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in apple. Divide batter among 12 paper-lined muffin cups; top evenly with streusel. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely.

Combine powdered sugar, syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon water in a bowl; stir until smooth. Drizzle evenly over muffins.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Apple Streusel Muffins with Maple Drizzle

Autumn Sangria

Autumn Sangria

There is both an art and a science to turning lemons into lemonade.  I may not be a glass half-full type of person, but for some reason, when it comes to food – that is my specialty.  At work. people often joke about my motivational speaking.  But still, they keep drinking the lemonade and showing up each and every day.  It is what keeps me going, and puts a smile on my face – even if the lemonade wasn’t as sweet as we all wanted.

I never really thought about it like this, but for me – turning lemons into lemonade is similar to turning wine into Sangria.  I love a good glass of wine, but it is not what I look forward to on a Friday evening after a long hard week.  It is a well balanced cocktail that really puts a smile on my face.  Last weekend I was invited to a party and was asked to bring mixed drinks.  I was right in the middle of an extremely busy weekend – if I wasn’t driving kids from one place to another, I was in my office on the computer.  There was not a lot going on in the kitchen this weekend – and I had these drinks hanging over my head.

I could have just brought some bottles over to the party and mixed drinks a la minute…but I wanted something easy.  Something that was already prepared, and that people could just pour for themselves.  It finally hit me – it was time to turn lemons into lemonade.  Maybe it was because I was thinking about my upcoming business trip, or because I was looking at all the apples and pears on the counter – but I knew that Sangria was answer.  I went right back to the computer, and started searching for the perfect recipe.  I wanted something with fall flavors – something not too heavy, but perfect to go with a meal.  I found this recipe on NeighborFood Blog and it was exactly what I was looking for.  This Sangria was probably the best I have ever made, it just oozed of fall flavors.  The cinnamon was incredible, with all those apples and pears – it was like a pumpkin pie in a glass.

So the next time you are looking to turn lemons into lemonade, I have a better idea…turn wine into Sangria.  Then invite me over for a drink.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of pinot grigio (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 3 cups apple cider + ¼ cup maple syrup whisked in (the maple syrup part is optional)
  • 1 cup club soda
  • ½ cup bourbon (see below for a non-alcoholic version)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 2 pears, chopped
  • 2 plums, chopped

Instructions

Mix all the liquid ingredients together in a BIG pitcher and stir it up really well. Drop in the cinnamon sticks and fruit, give it another good stir then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Give it one more good stir before serving.

Note:  if you do not drink alcohol, or want to make a version for kiddos, use a bottle of sparkling cider instead or wine and bourbon, and add the cinnamon sticks and fruit.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Autumn Sangria

Apple-Toffee Hand Pies

Apple-Toffee Hand Pies

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders today, and for part of the day, I actually felt like I was actually going to be able to breathe again.  My mind is like a three-ring circus these days.  When one act finishes, there is another act starting up on another part of the stage.  There is always something going on, and everyone around is becoming way over stimulated.  It is hard to know when to just stop the show.  So far that has not happened yet…and it is becoming a little scary.  Can the performers actually keep going day after day, night after night?  No way, it is not sustainable…but somehow they keep going.

Tonight there was a little break in my show though, and for about 60 minutes, I was actually floating.  There were a lot of stories about Paris, and about the people in France – how they don’t like to bake – that’s what bakeries are for…and then there were the descriptions of different recipes.  Wonderful recipes, where you can obsess over how delicious the end result is.  And those cream puffs…that were filled a la minute.  Pinch me.

Yes, tonight I was lucky enough to see Dorie Greenspan talk about her latest book.  She is just incredible – such a pleasure to experience.  It really reminded me why I started this blog to begin with.  It was a break, a deviation of normal life – and a way to share recipes and food with others.

I have not had a lot of time to focus on posting lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been baking.  It is my favorite season right now, and I have not be wasting it away – but I also have run myself ragged trying to keep up.  I saw this recipe twice before I really couldn’t let another weekend go by before making them.  This recipe came from Cooking Light - although one of my favorite food bloggers also recently posted her version.  What a cute and delicious treat.  The only thing I would change here is to use a homemade crust – but desperate times call for desperate measures – and I settled.  The concept was perfect, and the filling tasted like fall…and next time with a homemade crust, these will shine – just like the tight rope walkers…yep, the circus is starting up again.  The show must go on.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely chopped Gala or Rome apple
  • 2 tablespoons toffee chips
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury)
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into 12 cubes

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine apple, toffee chips, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Roll the pie dough on a lightly floured surface into 2 (12-inch) circles. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut each dough portion into 12 rounds. Discard any remaining dough scraps. Place 12 dough rounds on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush half of the beaten egg over dough rounds. Spoon about 1 tablespoon apple-toffee mixture onto each round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges of the dough. Top each round with 1 piece of butter. Top pies with remaining 12 rounds of dough; press edges together with a fork to seal. Brush remaining half of beaten egg over each pie. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Apple Toffee Hand Pies

Pear Vanilla Jam

Pear Vanilla Jam

I can’t believe that October is almost over – where did this month go?  Time is just flying by, and I am seriously concerned if I blink, I might just miss something big.  October is my favorite season, and I love to savor every minute of it.  The farmer’s markets are just overflowing with amazing produce right now – and colors.  Even as busy as I have been, I have tried hard to carve out time each weekend to meander.  Usually my mind starts racing though…and I think of all the things I want to make.  Then I calm myself down, and decide if I can just make one favorite every weekend, that will be enough, but it never is…

Last spring when I was in Paris, we finally made it to this jam store that I had read about.  We walked in, and I was overwhelmed.  I thought I had a jam problem…but my pantry only has a few shelves full.  This place was overflowing with jam, all types.  It was incredible.  Then we started sampling, and I swear I was in some type of jam coma – because why on earth would I ever buy jam?  I could go into business myself.  But no, I couldn’t stop myself.  I ended up with this jar of Pear Vanilla Jam.  It was the most delicate yet sophisticated flavor of jam, and one that I just had to have.  The consistency was perfect – nice and runny.  I had to make it for myself.

I have been waiting months to see if I could reproduce that delicious concoction of pear and vanilla, and finally the pears have hit the market in full force.  Last weekend I gave it a try – and the flavor is spot on – the problem is that the consistency is a little more firm than I would like.  I am fine with it though – once it gets on that warm English muffin, it softens right up.  Although I found another really good way to serve this jam…with some creamy blue cheese.  Wow.  Talk about savoring the season.  Just give me some cheese and this jam, and life can get as hectic as it needs to be.  I will be sitting on the side, savoring every minute.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chopped Bartlett pears (or any smooth, thin-skinned pear. There’s no need to peel.)
  • 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 packet liquid pectin

Preparation

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine chopped pears, sugar and vanilla beans (and all that bean-y goodness you scraped out). Cook over medium heat until the fruit can easily be smashed with the back of a wooden spoon. Use a potato masher or immersion blender to break the fruit down into a mostly-smooth sauce (remove the vanilla bean solids before blending).

Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for a full five minutes in order to active the pectin, so that the finished product will have a nice jammy consistency.

Fill jars, wipe rims to remove any residual jam, apply lids (heat canning lids in a small pot over very low heat while you’re preparing the jam to ensure a good seal) and screw on the rims.

Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (start the timer when the pot has returned to a boil). When the time has elapsed, remove jars from pot and place the jars on a towel-lined countertop. Let them cool undisturbed for at least two hours. During this time, the lids should seal. Check to ensure the jars have sealed by pushing down on the center of the lid. If it feels solid and doesn’t move, it is sealed.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pear Vanilla Jam

Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

I am trying to convince myself that there are really only 5 work days that stand between another weekend.  For some reason, I know that doesn’t mean anything.  These days the weekend doesn’t mean no work – it just means that I am not at work, and I guess if I think back to 16 years ago, before I had a laptop, when I had work to do – I actually had to drive to work.  It was a different world back then.  In a way, even though work never stops anymore, at least I am not wasting hours away sitting in the car.

When I think back to those times, I remember what I used to do about meal planning.  This was before kids – and my husband worked just as much as I did.  We would usually make it home around 8pm most nights, sometimes even later – and at that time, I couldn’t start making dinner from scratch. So – Sundays was my “cooking day.”  I would make 2-3 meals that I could put in the refrigerator and just stick in the oven when I got home.  In about 30 minutes, I would have a delicious meal for us – while I was sitting on the coach watching TV.  It was awesome.  This was also before the Big Green Egg.  We ate a lot of one dish meals back then – and we loved them.  I would usually make one casserole with rice, and one with pasta.  If I had enough time, I would also make a hearty soup.  When we ran out of the meals I had prepared, then we would order take out…but some weeks we had plenty to last until the weekend.

One of the dishes I used to make was a chicken-noodle casserole.  Each week it was slightly different – but always healthy, and always with fresh vegetables.  When I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - it reminded me of those days.  Now I am just too busy on the weekends to prepare meals for the week – and my husband actually does it for me – he will smoke up some extra chicken breasts or pork, that I will use in my recipes during the week.  It is definitely a huge time saver.

This mac-n-cheese was a huge hit – and it covered all the food groups.  For less than 400 calories a serving, you cannot go wrong.  And hey, it was awesome warmed up the next day.  So – even if you don’t have your act together to make your meals ahead of time – this one will feed a crowd…so enjoy the leftovers – particularly when it is warming up in the oven, and you are sitting on the couch recovering from the day, instead of slaving over a hot stove…

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces uncooked large or regular elbow macaroni
  • 3 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 3 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/4 cups)

Preparation

Preheat broiler to high.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Add broccoli to pan during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon; reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add chicken to drippings in pan; cook 4 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with turmeric; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Combine remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, milk, stock, and flour, stirring with a whisk. Add milk mixture to pan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Add pasta mixture and 2 ounces cheese; toss to coat. Sprinkle with remaining 3 ounces cheese and bacon. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and just begins to brown.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese with Bacon

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-free cookies.  Right away there is a strike against the cookies when those words are involved.  I hate to admit that, because I am all for people being gluten-free, but there are some things that just need gluten to taste delicious, and in my opinion, cookies are one of them.  I thought I had made the one and only delicious gluten-free cookie already, and that there would be no others that could even compare.  Boy was I wrong, just WRONG.

I am sure someone has already thought of this – but one of the reasons why gluten-free cookies scare me is because there is notoriously some special ingredient or flour (made without gluten) that you have to use.  I walk down the baking isle in our market, and I see all those special flours – there are tons of them, but they don’t exist in my house.  That means I would actually have to plan to make them and buy the ingredients in the house, which would also require me to plan.  Seriously – do you know my life these days?  Planning is just not part of the routine.  “Just in time” is my new mantra. So back to where I started this paragraph – I am sure someone has thought of a gluten-free cookbook, where you use only regular ingredients.  Because seriously – you can make a delicious gluten-free meal without even thinking about it – we had one tonight.  Just fresh vegetables, some nice potatoes, and delicious meat smoked on the egg.  Magic.  No tapioca flour, sorghum, or arrowroot starch.

So, when I saw the title of these cookies in Cooking Light, I almost turned the page – but then my eyes wandered to the ingredients, and I couldn’t believe it.  Just like those chocolate brownie cookies, these also just used regular ingredients.  I thought it was too good to be true.  Well, that’s exactly what these cookies were.  You seriously would never know they lacked flour.  They were soft and chewy, yet crunchy on the outside.  I washed them down with some chocolate milk, and it was like eating a Reese Peanut Butter Cup – except a delicious one, since they are way too sweet for me.

I think the tides may be changing, and I may start taking that strike away when I see the words gluten-free.  Or maybe I should just write my own cookbook – gluten-free baking without the fancy ingredients.  Just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it. I will put that on my list…let’s see, number 1,729.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 cup reduced-fat chunky peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate minichips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place salt and egg white in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until white is frothy. Add peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

Divide dough into 20 equal portions (about 1 tablespoon each); arrange dough 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the top of each cookie with a fork; press the top of each cookie again to form a crisscross pattern, and flatten to a 2-inch diameter. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins

Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins

I know I have said this before, but food has magical powers – that is until there is a force that breaks those powers.  I haven’t seen it happen very often, but it does.  Why is it so important when you go to a all day meeting that there is good food to eat?  That’s because often, it puts you in a better mood.  You come back from lunch refreshed and ready to tackle anything – only then to look forward to snack time.

Normally my meetings have nothing to do with food – which is why it is such a treat every year to attend the Food Blogger’s conference.  Not only do you talk about food, listen to other people lecture about food – there is food EVERYWHERE.  It is quite something.  This year things were just a little different though.  The conference started on a Friday night – with a wonderful reception and the gift suite.  I brought home lots of great stuff to share with the family – snacks and treats galore – but I wasn’t staying at the hotel.  The next day they started us out with breakfast sponsored by Noosa Yoghurt.  Now, if you haven’t had Noosa Yoghurt yet, you are truly missing out.  I have been eating it for months now, and it is leaps and bounds better than any yoghurt I have ever had in the United States – it is closer to the wonderful yoghurt I can find in Europe.  So, needless to say, I was in my glory.  They had tons of toppings out for us so I went to town – and that pumpkin yogurt was just like eating pumpkin pie filling.  I was ready to sit and listen to people talk about food for hours.

After a few hours of that, I was actually hungry again – and I forgot to bring the snacks with me from the night before.  I was with hundreds of foodies – was I the only one that was hungry?  There was 4 hours in between breakfast and lunch, and I hate to say it, but that is just too long for me to wait.  I eat every couple of hours.  It is the only way for me to stay sane during the day.  Well, fortunately I ran out and bought myself a snack to keep me going, but I was definitely surprised by the whole thing.  I have to admit, that was the only part of the weekend that I was hungry in the least bit.  The rest of the weekend they kept the food coming.  Let me remind you how hard it is to watch a food demo when you are hungry…

That brings me back to these muffins.  My daughter loves muffins in the morning because they are quick and easy.  I have a different rational.  I can eat a couple of hard boiled eggs for my first breakfast, then have a muffin for my mid-morning snack.  Boy is life good when that happens.  Magic.  Fortunately for me, my daughter’s did not like these muffins from Cooking Light – but my husband and I LOVED them – they were mildly sweet with a touch of bacon on top.  OMG.  And I used margarine instead of butter, so they were dairy-free.  Now, if only I could just snap my hands and make those muffins appear…now that would be magic.

Ingredients

Streusel:

  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 3 applewood-smoked bacon slices
  • 3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Muffin:

  • 7.9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 cup Guinness Stout or other stout beer
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil; place a wire rack on the baking sheet.

To prepare streusel, combine 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons water, and pepper in a small bowl. Spread mixture evenly over both sides of bacon. Place coated bacon on rack; bake for 18 minutes or until done. Cool; finely chop.

Combine oats and 1 tablespoon flour in a small bowl. Stir in butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped bacon; reserve remaining bacon. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

To prepare muffins, weigh or lightly spoon 7.9 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 7.9 ounces flour, remaining bacon, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl; stir well. Combine beer, oil, vanilla, and egg in another bowl, gently stirring with a whisk. Add beer mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Evenly divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle streusel evenly over batter.

Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pan; serve warm, or cool completely on a wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Spicy Bacon and Brew Muffins

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

My husband and I have a deal when it comes to the kitchen.  We have a completely fish-free kitchen, and I promise not to use vinegar unless it is balsamic.  For some reason balsamic vinegar is not nearly as offensive to him.  Now there are problems with both of those…I love a good pickle, and he LOVES just about anything from the sea.  So, we try and go out to eat once a week so he can get his fill of seafood, and I try only to make pickles when I can open all of the windows and he is going to be out of the house for at least a few hours.  I haven’t tried to make pickles out of balsamic vinegar, but that just doesn’t sound appealing to me at all.

I love a good pickle, and I have been eyeing those pickle recipes from Cooking Light for a long time – waiting for just the right time to completely fill the house with that wonderful smell of vinegar.  Ok, I have to admit, even I don’t exactly love the smell of white vinegar, but if I know what is coming in the end, I am all for it.  For many years I only liked the half-sour, or dill pickles.  Bread and butter pickles were just too sweet for me.  Even today, I would never buy a container of bread and butter pickles to eat, but for some reason this recipe was calling me.  Everything about it appealed to me – the onions, the turmeric, the celery seeds – I just had to try them for myself.

They were every bit as wonderful as I had hoped they were be.  I just love seeing them in my pantry – knowing that I still have another jar to go.  They were the best bread and butter pickles ever…and maybe it was because I made them – or maybe my tastes are changing, and I am expanding my pickle pallet.  Either way, you need to get your hands on some end of the season cucumbers before they are all gone.  Maybe I can even convince my husband to leave the house for a few hours next weekend so I can make another batch…

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt
  • 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 5 pounds pickling cucumbers, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons turmeric

Preparation

Combine 8 cups water and salt in a large container, stirring with a whisk.  Add onion and cucumber; let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.  Drain; rinse cucumbers under cold water and drain.

Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add cucumber mixture; return just to a boil.

Using a slotted spoon, divide the hot cucumber mixture among 6 1-pint hot sterilized jars.  Divide hot vinegar mixture among jars, filling to 1/2-inch from top.  Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims.  Cover with metal lids; screw on bands.

Process in a boiling-water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove jars from water bath.  Cool completely; check for proper seal.  For best flavor allow 2 weeks before eating.  Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Bread and Butter Pickles

Chicken Salad with Fennel and Dill

Chicken Salad

Is it Friday yet?  Oh my, it is not a good sign that I am already thinking that, and we are not even at Monday.  My life has been one big hurricane lately – but I haven’t yet reached the eye of the storm.  I am really hoping it comes soon before I completely fall apart.  I am definitely overextended at the moment – at work and at home, and last week just about did me in.  I figured if I didn’t post something tonight, I might never get to it…so here we go.

On top of everything going on right now, this weekend was the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle.  Lucky for me, there was no travelling involved – I just had to get myself out of my office on Friday and downtown for the kick-off event.  Even that was difficult – but I managed to get down there.  And I am really glad I did.  The conference was terrific, with lots product samples to try – that hopefully I can play with when things calm down a little.

I must say, I was not in the mood to socialize this weekend, and I think people could actually sense that.  I didn’t have a lot of people come up to me (was it the scowl on my face that gave that away?) and want to chat – but I did happen to meet a few people that really took me out of my shell, and to the Foodland that I long to be in.  At lunch on Saturday I chose a person with just one other person sitting – who happened to go to college with a couple of others who were at the conference, and they joined her – Adam and Lyndsay from NYC, who worked for Peanut Butter & Co.  They were awesome.  There was no break in the conversation, and they really put a smile on my face.  As well as showering me with packets of their delicious peanut butter – which my daughter basically inhaled today.  I think they have their latest Super Fan in the making.

Later that evening, as we were waiting for the Food Fair to begin, I met two others from NYC – these wonderful ladies named Christina and Alycia.  They have a fantastic blog called Feel Good Foodies - all about their food adventures in NYC and beyond.  It was really fun to look through their site today.  I felt like they were long lost friends, we had so much to talk about – of course everything tying back to food.

Which reminds me – this chicken salad.  Recently I have had to join the ranks of many who have trouble digesting lactose.  Of course those tiny Lactaid tablets work perfectly – but what a pain in the neck.  One of the products I sampled this weekend was the lactose-free Green Valley Organics sour cream.  Oh my gosh.  Wow.  I swear I could have just gotten a spoon and gone to town – good thing they just gave us a little taste.  It was so creamy and delicious, and wonderfully rich.  I can’t wait to try it in this chicken salad with fennel – which was outstanding.  Just the perfect end of summer dinner.

I have lots more to share about the conference, but this is a good start.  Now excuse me as I prepare to blow away…hurricane style.

Ingredients

  • 4 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast (12-14 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°. Place chicken on a small rimmed baking sheet and rub with 2 tablespoons oil; season with kosher salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and cooked through, 25-30 minutes. Let cool, then shred into bite-size pieces.

Toss in a large bowl with fennel, scallion, dill, vinegar, chicken, sour cream, mayonnaise and lemon juice; season with kosher salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.

Do ahead: Chicken can be cooked 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Shred just before using.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chicken Salad with Fennel and Dill