Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

I know it is Sunday, but I am already looking forward to Thursday.  That market basket that my husband got me for Mother’s Day is quite something.  It is like Christmas morning every Thursday night – as we unpack the beautiful wooden box with all sorts of goodies.  This week’s basket came with this wonderful box of pistachio apricot granola.  I can’t wait to put some on my yogurt in the morning.  It’s the little things that get me through this end-of-the-year chaos.

Since I was set for breakfast this week, I thought it was only fair if I made some treats for the girls.  They do love granola – but I know they love scones even more.  I have gone through many ways of saving recipes over the years.  I started by keeping every single food magazine and marking the pages where I liked a recipe.  That worked for a little while, but after I had over 20 magazines, I couldn’t remember what was in each issue.  Then I started cutting out the indexes, and had a binder of them – with the highlighted recipes that I liked.  Again, not very practical as I had to look through hundreds of pages to find what I was looking for.  The next plan was to cut out the recipe and put it in a photo album, where I had dividers of the different types of recipes.  After I filled up two binders, I was done with that method.  At that point I decided I needed to use technology, and that’s when I started my blog.  I tell you, I love being able to Bing a recipe from my blog and get to it instantly.  Technology can be quite awesome.

Instead of going to my usual stack for a scone recipe (knowing that I didn’t have any lingering around that I wanted to make), I went to one of the binders I created – and flipped to the “Breakfast” tab.  I found this recipe that I probably cut out ages ago from either Gourmet or Bon Appetit and decided to see if it had stood the test of time.  Boy did it ever – these scones were crunchy on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside, with a touch of oat flavor, but nicely sweetened.  I could have scarfed a couple of them down, except that I reminded myself they were for the girls – I already had my treat waiting.  So, we will all be eating well this week, and we need to – if we are going to get through these last 5 weeks.  Ugh!

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large navel orange
  • 2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk plus additional for brushing
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Special equipment: a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a food processor, then add oats and pulse 15 times. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with small (pea-size) lumps, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir together zest and buttermilk. Toss chocolate chips with oat mixture, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork just until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface  and gently knead 6 times.

Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round, dusting surface with more flour if necessary. Cut out as many scones as possible with cutter, dipping it in flour before each cut, and transfer scones to a lightly buttered large baking sheet. Gather scraps into a ball, then pat into a round and cut out more scones in same manner.

Brush tops of scones with buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake in middle of oven until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, and transfer to a rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Scones

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Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Cream Cheese Danish Bread

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers out there!  I hope everyone had a wonderful day, and as my mother told me to do, indulge just a little.  Speaking of indulging…in going with the theme of over the top that I started last weekend, I decided to continue that trend just a bit…particularly in honor of mother’s day.

I don’t make bread very often anymore – it was something I was fascinated in when I lived in Denver – mostly because of the high altitude.  Bread would rise much faster, and it was just exciting to watch.  For the past 18 years, I can count how many times I have attempted a yeast dough on one hand – just because I don’t want to spend a day waiting for it to rise.  A couple of years ago, I noticed that my oven had a proof setting – and all of a sudden I realized that I had my own little proofing oven right in my house.  But even that added incentive was not enough.

The other month in Cooking Light they had a section on cooking and baking like the professionals.  Basically they tried to tell you that you didn’t have to be an expert to make different things.  I know better than that, and didn’t fall for it for a minute.  But here I was cutting out this delicious cream cheese Danish braid and sticking it in my recipe pile.  Note to self – if you don’t want to make something, do not put it in that pile.  Of course placing anything in that pile means that it is visible for my daughters to see – and when my older one saw that it was an option, that’s all she talked about.

So – I attempted the Danish braid.  I was not expecting much, but that dough was heavenly.  Figuring out exactly how to make the braid just by reading the instructions was a little tricky – but it turned out beautifully.  I was a hero.  My daughter was completely amazed.  The filling was a little sweet for us – but the bread was out of this world.  Just amazing, and I can’t wait to try the dough on cinnamon buns.

Here’s to all you heroes out there – but especially the moms today – even the little things you do go a long way…it is your day to celebrate.

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 6 tablespoons very warm 1% low-fat milk (120° to 130°)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package quick-rise yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:

  • 7.9 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour, divided (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 2.25 ounces whole-wheat pastry flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

Remaining ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Preparation

To prepare sponge, combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let stand 15 minutes.

To prepare dough, weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour and pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, sour cream, butter, salt, vanilla, 1 egg, and sponge in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until well combined. Add flours; beat at low speed 3 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes), adding remaining 1.15 ounces all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indention remains, dough has risen enough.)

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese and the next 4 ingredients (through dash of salt) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle on lightly floured parchment paper. Spread cream cheese mixture down center of dough, leaving about a 5-inch border on each side and a 1-inch border at top and bottom of rectangle. Make 5-inch cuts about 1 inch apart on both sides of dough to meet filling using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Remove 4 outer corner strips of dough from rectangle; discard. Fold top and bottom 1-inch portions of dough over filling. Fold strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally over filling. Press ends to seal. Transfer braid and parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine 1 teaspoon water and 1 egg; stir with a whisk. Brush braid with egg mixture. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes.

Combine powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons milk in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over braid; sprinkle with nuts.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Johnnycake Bread

Johnnycake Bread

What exactly is an “acquired taste?”  I use the phrase when I am describing something that I didn’t like at first, and then it grew on me.  I wouldn’t say I can put my finger on too many things like that, although artichokes definitely come to mind.  I remember sort of liking them the first time I tried one, and then over the years they completely grew on me to the point that I now consider them almost a delicacy.  My daughters were exactly the same way – the first time they weren’t crazy about them, but now they beg me to buy them in the market at this time of the year.

My daughter is still on this breakfast treat kick that she has been on for quite a while.  She just thinks that it is much easier to enjoy a slice of banana bread or a muffin in the morning, than to take the time to make toast, or even eat a bowl of cereal.  When your bus comes at 7:10 in the morning, I think there is always a little bit of a panic…what if I don’t have time to eat breakfast at home, what could I throw in my backpack and eat on the way?

I found this recipe in Bon Appetit ages ago, and it has been sitting patiently in the pantry waiting for its chance.  I didn’t think it looked overly sweet, but for some reason I was intrigued.  When my daughter asked what I was going to make for breakfast for her – I showed her the recipe.  She didn’t say no, which I thought was a good sign.

I absolutely LOVED this bread.  It was the cross between a brown bread and a cornbread.  Now, there was a certain way to eat this though after the first day and it was hot out of the oven.  I actually toasted this with some butter – and it sung in my mouth.  The best part, you can enjoy this bread at any meal.  The more I ate it, the more I loved it.  My daughter on the other hand took one bite, and that was enough.  This was not her type of breakfast treat.  Cereal for her.  Oh well, I guess my acquired taste was not contagious in this case.  Hey, more Johnnycake Bread for me…!!

Ingredients

  • ¼  cup vegetable oil, plus more for pans
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
  • 1 tablespoon maple sugar or raw sugar

Preparation

Heat oven to 325°. Lightly oil two 5×2½” loaf pans (or one 8½x4½” loaf pan). Whisk flour, cornmeal, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center, add eggs, milk, molasses, and ¼ cup oil, and whisk in dry ingredients. Divide between pans. Sprinkle with maple sugar.
Bake breads until golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40–45 minutes for small loaves (50–55 minutes for large loaf). Transfer pans to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes before turning out.

Do Ahead:  Breads can be made 1 day ahead. Store wrapped tightly at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Johnnycake Bread

Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Here we are back to breakfast.  My daughter got sick of the banana bread that I made every week for the past month.  The good news is that I finally used up the huge bag of frozen bananas we had in the freezer.  So of course I got the question on Sunday morning, “What am I going to eat for breakfast this week?”  I guess cereal was not the answer she was looking for.  Why is it that they can listen to the same song over and over again, but they get sick of my wonderful banana bread after a month?

To digress just for a moment, for some reason as I was looking at these beautiful scones typing away, the song Waltzing Matilda came into my head.  Why?  I have no idea how my mind works sometimes.  But nevertheless, it did.  I started singing the song, and asked my husband if he remembered it – of course he did.  We only listened to it about 100,000 times – it was on a Dan Zanes album that the girls absolutely loved when they were little.  And if you have small kids, you know that when they enjoy a song in the car – you keep playing it.  When I Binged it – the first YouTube video that was listed was by Slim Dusty.  Wow.  What a blast from the past.  My husband and I were in the office singing at the top of our lungs – of course intriguing my older daughter who was trying to finish up her homework, and all of a sudden the three of us were in the office having a little sing-a-long.  Gotta love that song…

Back to the scones – so needless to say, cereal was not going to cut it – fortunately Cooking Light came to the rescue – with some very interesting looking scones.  I adapted them to fit my daughter’s tastes – which of course has to include some chocolate.  These scones were soft and flakey and absolutely delicious.  She actually rationed them out so they lasted the entire week.  Just 30 seconds in the microwave was all they needed in the morning, and they were as fresh as can be.  Let’s see how many weeks in a row she can eat these – surely not as long as Waltzing Matilda – but maybe longer than banana bread?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (such as Calabro)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fat-free buttermilk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4.5 ounces whole-grain pastry flour (about 1 cup)
  • 3.4 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture. Add 1/3 cup buttermilk and canola oil to remaining ricotta mixture, stirring until smooth.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add chocolate chips; toss. Add buttermilk mixture; stir just until combined.

Turn dough onto a counter lighted dusted with flour.  Pat into a 1 inch thick circle, and then cut into eight wedges shaped pieces. Combine egg and remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk, stirring with a whisk. Gently brush top and sides of dough with egg mixture. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake at 425° for 15 to 16 minutes or until golden. Remove from pan; cool slightly on a wire rack. Beat the reserved ricotta mixture at medium speed 3 minutes or until fluffy. Serve with warm scones if you would like.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Chip Ricotta Scones

Indian Parantha

Indian Parantha

What a week…and I can’t believe it is only Wednesday.  I am only posting this tonight because I need a break from the madness.  Yes, there has been some serious madness going on this week.  I have probably two of the most important meetings I will have all year – tomorrow.  Isn’t that always the way things go?

And just when I didn’t think I could take anymore – tonight my daughter went to her new middle school she was redistricted to next year.  We have all been trying to look on the bright side of this move, but seriously, I see very little positives at all.  The worst part of all is that the majority of her friends will not be joining her.  Tonight they invited current 6th and 7th graders to come and talk about their new school, and what electives they would like to see.  This will be the first of a series of meetings with the kids – because at this point, they still have nothing but a Principal and a couple of teachers.  When she got in the car, she started telling me about how depressing it was.  The school is horribly old and run down, the science classrooms are from the dark ages (unlike her current school that was renovated a few years ago, and is beautiful) – and there won’t be an orchestra room (we are still crossing our fingers for an orchestra – there are 5 in her current school).  She said at one point the principal asked them to write down what they like about their current school – and one of her friends wrote this:

MY FRIENDS

Thanks for taking them away from me

I almost burst into tears.  I guess the principal saw this, and told the girl that they were supposed to be focusing on the positives, and to please turn that piece of paper over.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  My daughter said they are just looking for a way to get out their feelings – and I completely agree with her.  They need to be a little sensitive about this change…geez.

So – as you can see, I am in fine form right now, and trying to get out of this funk in preparation for tomorrow.  So now it is time to switch gears and talk about something that puts a smile on my face.  Indian Parantha.  The other week I took a class at my favorite Community Kitchen - all about making Indian breads.  One of my very good friends is from India and when I was pregnant she would bring me to her house so she could cook for me.  This was one of the things she would make – and she make them so easily – and beautifully.  I have to admit – they were not that difficult to make, and boy did they taste delicious – particularly with some ghee brushed on top.  Maybe if I can get through tomorrow, this will be my treat afterwards.  Personally, I think I will need something a little stronger, but this will be a nice accompaniment…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (Chapatti Atta in the indian grocery stores)
  • 3/4 cup cool water

Preparation

Using your hands, bring this together in a large mixing bowl to form a ball.  Knead it in the bowl for a minute until the dough comes off your hands.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Preheat a cast iron griddle on medium low.  You will have to adjust the heat after the first roti depending on how fast or slow it is cooking, every stove is different.

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions.  Place one portion of dough in the palm of your hand and knead it with your other hand 10 times, roll it into a ball and flatten it slightly.  Pinch it into a flat disk about 3″ in diameter, lightly dust it in dry flour. On a lightly floured wooden cutting board or smooth countertop roll out to a 6″ diameter circle. If it starts to stick, pick it up and dust with more flour. Place the roti between the palm of your hands and shake off any extra flour. Place the roti on the grill for approximately one minute.  When the color of the roti has changed to a slightly deep tan flip the roti. There should be no brown spots on the other side. If there is, lower the heat until light brown spots appear all over the other side. Cook for another minute gently pressing down on the roti with a folded tea towel until light brown spots appear all over the other side.  Flip roti one more
time and cook for another minute gently pressing down with a tea towel slightly turning the roti. The roti should fill with hot air. Continue pressing gently, remove from heat and serve immediately with a dab of butter.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Indian Parantha

Dairy-Free Banana Bread

Dairy-Free Banana Bread 2

Sometimes you just need a little comfort.  This could be in many different forms – although comforting food seems to be what people gravitate towards when that need exists.  No wonder we have such an obesity problem in the United States – comfort food restaurants are everywhere, and unless you choose wisely when to indulge (and maybe balance it out with some exercise), it can be dangerous.

I definitely love my comfort good – but all in moderation.  Friday night we went to our absolute favorite restaurant/bar in Seattle, and ordinarily I would never order something like this – but it was calling for me.  It was a wonderful bowl of carbonara – with a perfectly poached egg on top.  I am telling you – this dish of homemade angel hair pasta with the smoky ham – it was decadent, and I enjoyed every single bite.  If that wasn’t enough, I had a piece of peanut butter pie for dessert with a small scoop of banana ice-cream.  I went all out.  The next morning, I couldn’t get to the gym fast enough.  Thank goodness for Tabata.  But everyone deserves an indulgent night now and then.

Most of the time what comforts me the most are the simple pleasures – like banana bread.  My mother’s banana bread recipe is just as perfect as it could be.  Although this time I decided to see if could survive the dairy-free challenge.  I substituted coconut milk for buttermilk – and you would have never known.  My husband and I couldn’t believe it – this was something he used to be nuts about, and when he gave up dairy, he had to give this up as well.  Not anymore though – this is now back in our lives, and better than ever.  Thank goodness for the small comforts in life…because seriously, sometimes that’s all you need.

Ingredients

  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Preparation

Pre-heat oven to 350.  Mash bananas with a fork and set aside.  Mix oil, sugar, coconut milk, vanilla and eggs well.  Add mashed bananas.  Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl, and add to banana mixture with nuts (optional) until just combined well.  Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 x 5″ loaf pans.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from pans while still warm and wrap with plastic.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Dairy-Free Banana Bread

Dairy-Free Banana Bread

Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Accountability.  What an important word.  Over the years, it has become more and more important for various reasons.  It was not a word I really focused on until I was an adult – and the word really made an impression on me with respect to work.  When you are a kid – you always want to blame everyone else for anything that goes wrong.  Mom gets a big brunt of these…but seriously, it is always someone else’s fault.  At times, that can be accurate – but it most cases, everyone has some aspect of accountability in the situation.

We are dealing with a tricky issue right now with my younger daughter.  There is a boy in her class that has been bothering her for quite some time.  At first it seemed innocent enough, and that maybe he had a crush on her – but unfortunately it has gotten a little more serious, and he has started to get physical.  There is always a part of me that wonders if she is egging him on – but at some point you cross the line.  Even some slight antagonism does not deserve physical violence or disparaging language.  Fortunately we are on a good path forward though with the teacher’s support.

Some adults though never really learn to hold themselves accountable – and it can be extremely damaging.  Sometimes all it takes is just a little humility – to let the other person see that you are not perfect.  Sometimes though you wait too long to hold yourself accountable, and by the time it hits you, it is too late.  The damage is done, and there is no going back.

When I started this blog, one of my hesitations was around accountability.  If I was going to post recipes, tell you how great they turned out – then you try them and they are bust – that wouldn’t make me feel very good.  Now I know like everyone else – cooking is as much of an art as it is a science.  Ingredients have a lot to do with how the recipes come out – and ingredients can be different depending on where you live, how fresh they are, etc…  Just last week I got a comment on my banana bread recipe – the person’s banana bread didn’t rise, and she didn’t understand why.  I suspected it had to do with the baking soda/powder she used – and maybe one of them had gone bad.  She tried it again with fresh baking soda/powder, and fortunately – it came out perfectly.  One of the reasons why I post so many recipes from Cooking Light and Bon Appetit – is they have a team of testers that make these recipes before they are published.  Then I make it myself – and if it turns out good – usually I put it on the blog.  I hold myself accountable to posting good quality recipes  – and if you can follow directions, you will come out with good results – but that doesn’t always happen – and when it doesn’t – I am truly sorry.

I know people were eyeing the biscuits that I posted last week with the Broccoli-Cheese Soup – so here they are.  I make a lot of biscuits, but this recipe from Cooking Light is really a keeper.  I loved how quick and easy these were – and that they were seriously light as a feather.  They were by far some of the best biscuits I have ever made – and you can hold me accountable if you don’t agree.

Ingredients

  • 5.6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 3.6 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups very cold fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk to combine.

Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute or until completely melted. Add cold buttermilk, stirring until butter forms small clumps. Add oil, stirring to combine.

Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated (do not overmix) and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. (Batter will be very wet.)

Drop batter in mounds of 2 heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 450° for 11 minutes or until golden. Cool 3 minutes; serve warm.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Zucchini Mini Muffins

Zucchini Mini Muffins

I am tired – and I am cranky.  That is not a good combination for a blog post…but I am going to plow through it anyway.  Cooking often helps alleviate my stress, let’s see if writing about it does the same.

Do you ever have hunches that you can’t substantiate?  For me, it happens all the time.  For a very analytical person, I tend to sense things extremely well.  The problem is, because I am so analytical, unless I have data to back up my suspicions, I don’t often act until I can find the proof.  Of course this doesn’t always work to my advantage – sometimes I wait until I am too far deep into the hole – and it is hard to climb your way out at that point – proof or no proof.  I am finding myself in one of those situations right now, and it is not pretty.  I need to find some foot holes, and create a plan to crawl out.  I am about half-way there, and there are two paths to take.  I sure do hope I take the right one.

I have mentioned this before – but I also have a good sense about recipes.  I remember talking to friend about that – I felt that I was very lucky with recipes.  Most of the recipes I try actually come out quite well.  She told me it wasn’t luck – I was good at reading recipes.  I didn’t realize that was a skill – but I am starting to realize that it is.  While I am reading a recipe, I am making it in my brain, and there are times when I can actually taste it.  Now – back to reality – not everything turns out tasting like it did in my head.  There are times when I am off – for the better, and for the worse.  Sometimes I tear out a recipe thinking it will be good – and it turns out to be just amazing.  I love when that happens.  The opposite is not such much fun.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - and I knew they would not be as good as my tried and true Zucchini Bread recipe, that I have been making for 20+ years – but I thought these would be good – and they were terrific.  Mostly because they were bite sized.  They were so easy to pop in your mouth, that they didn’t last long in our house.  I think the girls ate about 5 each for breakfast the next morning, they just couldn’t stop.  I can’t complain when they are getting a green vegetable in first thing in the morning.

Well – that’s it for me – thanks for the diversion – I need to go work on my exit strategy.  I wish I could just cook my way out of this one…unfortunately not this time.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2/3 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten
  •   Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a large bowl. Combine zucchini and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Add zucchini mixture to flour mixture, stirring batter just until combined. Divide batter evenly among 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Zucchini Mini Muffins

Pistachio Pound Cake

Pistachio Pound Cake

Wow…what a weekend!!  It was spectacular – blue sky, warm temperatures.  You would have thought it was July.  Seriously – this is nicer than any weekend that we usually get in June.  We get these days here and there – and you know who I feel sorry for the most?  Those poor people who have just moved to Seattle, and think that we are all under a conspiracy here with our weather.  They are all thinking that we just make up the fact that it’s raining all the time.  I wish it were true…but sadly, it is not.  Just wait until Junuary, and you will see.

I love pistachios – no, I mean really LOVE pistachios.  I cannot just eat one, in fact, I cannot just eat ten.  Once I start, I can’t stop.  They are definitely my weakness, especially those crunchy salty ones. My daughters love pistachios too, and are always asking me to buy them.  I seriously say no only because I know I will be eating most of them.  Every once in a while I buy a big sack though, and we all sit around the table cracking open those shells and popping them in our mouths.  So, when I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, I knew I had to give it a try.  Fortunately for me, Trader Joes now sells bags of pre-shelled pistachios – and they are not salted.  It makes baking with pistachios such a pleasant experience.  I remember the first time I wanted to make something with pistachios – my husband and I spend hours shelling the nuts so I had them ready.  At first it was one for me, one for the bowl…but I soon realized if I kept doing that, I would run out of nuts – and I needed to have enough for the recipe.  Boy was that a test of my will power.

This cake was delicious – it was densely populated with pistachio nuts – and they didn’t just float to the top or bottom.  It was rich and buttery as well – as you would expect when you are using two sticks of butter.  The girls loved it, as did I – it was quite a treat – and so easy to make – that is, if you have a Trader Joes nearby.  Otherwise – good luck with this.  If you can get through shelling the pistachios, with enough left for the recipe – a big gold star for you – and a beautiful pound cake to celebrate…

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, divided

Preparation

Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325°. Coat a 9x5x3″ loaf pan with nonstick spray. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess.

Whisk 2 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Add sugar; beat until well incorporated, 1–2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Add juices and zests; beat until well combined (mixture will look curdled), 2–3 minutes. Add dry ingredients; reduce speed to low and beat just until blended. Fold in 3/4 cup pistachios. Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup pistachios over.

Bake cake, rotating halfway through, until a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan. Run a sharp knife around sides to loosen; unmold cake.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pistachio Pound Cake

Streusel Quick Bread

Streusel Bread

Sometimes I like to think that Christmas and New Year’s are the chocolate cookies of the Oreo, and the time between those two holidays is the cream filling.  For me, this is the best part. You have one holiday down, one to go – and now you have a week in between to enjoy yourself.  There was a time when I liked to work during those days – it was nice and quiet as most people were on vacation, and you could get a lot of stuff done.  Now that both of my kids are off from school – I like to be home with them.  Some years we go away, other years we are home just doing nothing.  Those are the days that baking usually ends up being the activity.

I have been on this kick lately to have my older daughter make Banana Bread all by herself.  I have a ton of frozen bananas and so whenever I know she has some free time, I pull some bananas out of the freezer and send her on her way. The last batch she made was terrific.  So – when does a sweet bread turn into a quick bread?  I have wondered this for a long time.  So – I decided to Bing it and find out.  The first thing that came up was a definition from Wikipedia:

“Quick bread is a type of bread which is leavened with leavening agents other than yeast. Quick breads include many cakes, brownies and cookies, as well as banana bread, beer bread, biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, and soda bread.”

Well, now that makes a ton of sense.  Technically most of the sweets I make without yeast can be considered a quick bread.  So now that we have settled, we can move onto this latest recipe from Cooking Light.  This was definitely a quick bread, and a delicious one at that – and completely suitable for kids to make.  It is great for dessert with some whipped cream on the side, or with a nice espresso in the morning.  It is definitely quicker than making a coffee cake, but then again, without yeast, isn’t that just another quick bread?

Ingredients

Streusel:

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Bread:

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fat-free buttermilk
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare streusel, combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, stirring until well combined. Stir in nuts. Set aside.

To prepare bread, weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 5 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla. Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.

Scrape half of batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray; sprinkle with half of streusel mixture. Spread remaining batter over streusel; swirl. Sprinkle remaining streusel on top of batter. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Streusel Quick Bread