Posts Tagged With: pecans

bacon, pecan, & chocolate chunk muffins

What do you get when you cross crispy, pan-fried, home-cured bacon with locally harvested pecans and sweet, creamy milk chocolate?

Muffins, of course!

I don’t know if you guys have missed my muffins for Monday posts, but I sure have missed making muffins!

Where have all my muffins been?

Well, here’s the thing. Since I’m a teacher, I have summers off. And during the summer, I don’t usually drag myself out of bed in time for much of a breakfast besides a big, strong cup of (possibly spiked) coffee. And Micah is perfectly happy smearing jam on some homemade whole-wheat sourdough or topping a bowl of creamy Greek yogurt with some sweet summer blueberries.

So, when I’m on vacation, the muffin recipes go on vacation, too.

But school has started back (with a vengeance–I’m crazy busy and kind of exhausted!)–so the muffins are back, too.

I wasn’t sure what yummy mix-ins I wanted to put in this week’s batch, but Micah suggested the perfect ingredient: bacon.

A quick scan of the cupboard revealed a container of pecan halves and a bar of milk chocolate.

Thus, this recipe was born.

And despite being full of bacon and chocolate, these muffins really aren’t that bad for you. Thanks to the whole wheat flour, they’ve got a little bit of fiber. Pecans, bacon, and Greek yogurt add protein. And using fat-free yogurt and no added oil or butter makes these relatively low in both fat and calories.

So I won’t feel guilty at all about devouring one of these tasty pastries for breakfast every morning this week. 🙂

a little bit o’ bacon in every bite

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
  • 1 1.55 ounce milk chocolate bar, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a larger bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk and yogurt.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet stuff, then fold in the bacon, chocolate, and nuts just until everything’s incorporated.
  • Divide your batter among your 12 muffin cups. If you’re not scared of raw eggs (I’m not), then feel free to lick your spoon clean of all batter remnants, which will taste just a little sweet and just a little salty (just like these muffins will be very soon).
  • Bake the muffins for 13-15 minutes or until they’re golden brown and spring back a little if you press the tops.
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and cool to room temperature.

These yummy treats are fluffy and full of flavor, with just a hint of salty bacon and a touch of crunch from the chopped pecans, punctuated with little pockets of sweet, creamy chocolate.

I might add a bit more bacon next time, but these are fantastic just the way they are.

In fact, I have to tell y’all that while Micah pretty much always enjoys my muffins, he does usually prefer to slather them with a little bit of butter–but he said that this batch doesn’t need any. 🙂

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not-so-quick lunch – 6.29.12 – a tasty salad (and why I shouldn’t tempt fate)

Some foods just don’t make sense.

Some are oxymorons, like jumbo shrimp.

Others are food products that don’t exist in nature, like fat-free cheese, meatless chicken nuggets, and non-dairy creamer.

And then there are foods that flat-out laugh in the face of the laws of science: baked Alaska, fried ice cream, fried mozzarella sticks, Paula Deen’s deep-fried butter balls.

How do you heat something that’s supposed to melt–a substance that should barely survive room temperature, much less a 400-degree oven or a vat of bubbling oil–and end up with a cooked item that retains its shape like a solid rather than oozing like the liquid it rightfully should be?

I’ve never trusted myself to cook any of these nature-defying treats because, frankly, I have a hard enough time avoiding kitchen disasters when I follow recipes that do make sense.

The more I cook, the better I succeed at averting catastrophe, but some rules just weren’t meant to be broken.

At least, not by a klutz like me.

I’ve dropped entire pans of cookies on the floor; turned out many a busted Bundt cake or pan of crumbled cornbread; shredded wooden spoons with the whirring blades of my blender; burned my hands, arms, and face–yes, my face–making mashed potatoes.

Kitchens are minefields, and it’s a wonder I haven’t yet blown off my legs.

Over the years, I’ve come to terms with my kitchen clumsiness, often taking extra precautions to compensate for being accident-prone.

I make Micah pick up heavy things like Dutch ovens and cast-iron skillets.

I stand on stepstools instead of tiptoes to reach glass items on high shelves.

And I tend not to cook things like baked Alaska or fried cheese because, really, why push my luck?

So when the folks at Putney Farm shared gorgeous photos of a salad topped with golden brown and crispy baked goat cheese,

  1. I should have stopped before even reading the recipe.
  2. I should have definitely not commented on their post about how intimidated I am by science-defying baked cheeses, which only invited an encouraging reply from the friendly folk at Putney Farm.
  3. I should have absolutely not let the thought cross my mind that we happened to have goat cheese in the refrigerator and panko bread crumbs in the pantry.
  4. And, once instilled with ingredient excitement and a false sense of security, I should have without a doubt NOT attempted to bake that goat cheese myself.

Especially while also juggling a salad spinner full of greens, a pile of tomatoes and pickled beets to slice, a vinaigrette to whisk, a cast-iron skillet of bacon to crisp and pecans to toast and peaches to roast.

But I did read the recipe, did comment on it, did receive warm encouragement, did scan the contents of my kitchen for the needed ingredients, did bake my own goat cheese in the midst of all my other salad prep.

I tempted fate.

And when you test the kitchen gods, you’d better be prepared to deal with the consequence.

The consequence should’ve been a golden brown and crispy disc of firm but gooey cheese, solid enough to pick up and place atop my crisp, cool salad, but baked just enough to ooze creamy goodness into every green bite. A delicious trophy rewarding my culinary bravery.

Instead, my consequence was a searing hot baking sheet flowing with a lava-like lake of breadcrumb-speckled, melted, messy goat cheese.

My cheese didn’t defy the laws of science.

It followed them precisely.

Not pretty.

But damn it, I wanted goat cheese on my salad, and I hadn’t endured that harrowing trial just to scrape my cheesy clustercuss into the trash.

Instead, I scraped that gooey, gloppy puddle together into two misshapen globs and slapped ’em onto our salads anyway.

It wasn’t pretty, but we ate it.

And it was good.

well, okay, the salad was pretty…but the goat cheese was not

What’s in it:

  • 4 ounces goat cheese (use something kind of firm, NOT Humboldt fog  this is where I went wrong)
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • a handful of your favorite herbs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3-4 cups salad greens
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/4 cup halved pecans
  • 2 small peaches, quartered
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 cup pickled beets, sliced into slivers
  • a quick vinaigrette (2 teaspoons brown mustard, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 4 tablespoons olive oil, salt & pepper to taste)

Step-by-step:

  • Cut or mold your goat cheese into discs. Sprinkle the discs with herbs, drizzle with olive oil, and let marinate while you preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Dredge the discs of cheese in the breadcrumbs to lightly coat them on all sides, arrange them on the pan, and bake for about 6 minutes. Pray your cheese doesn’t spread like frosting all over your pan. 🙂
  • Meanwhile, heat the bacon in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Cook it until it’s nice and crispy, then remove the bacon to cool–but leave all that tasty bacon fat in the pan.
  • Add the pecans to the skillet and cook ’em in the bacon grease until they start to smell warm and toasty–just a few minutes–then scoop out the pecans and add the peach quarters, cut sides down.
  • By this time, your cheese should be out of the oven. That’s good, because now it’s time to put your skillet o’ peaches into that 400°F oven and roast the fruit for about 10 minutes while you assemble your salad.
  • Divide your greens between two really big plates. Artfully decorate the greens with tomatoes and beets. Crumble one slice of bacon over each salad, then sprinkle on some toasted pecans.
  • Whisk together your vinaigrette if you haven’t already, then drizzle it over the salads.
  • Top your salads with warm peaches and your (hopefully lovely) baked goat cheese crouton.

What this salad wasn’t: easy to make, stress-free, boring.

What it was: a tasty mix of hot and cold, crispy and gooey, sweet and salty, light and hearty. Delicious, and pretty perfect for a summertime lunch.

Even if it was a disaster.

you know how people turn their Christmas trees to “the good side”?
yeah, same with a sloppy mess of a baked goat cheese salad.

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lazy brunch – 4.7.12 – oatmeal with apples, dates, and pecans

I wasn’t a big fan of cereal for breakfast when I was a kid. Partly because my mom only bought the very plain varieties, and partly because I was such a slow eater that I refused to put milk on my cereal lest it become a soggy, sodden mess. So I would snack on dry Cheerios or Kix like they were potato chips, but I didn’t usually eat them for breakfast.

My childhood morning meal of choice? Oatmeal, of the instant-from-a-packet variety. And for some reason, Mom didn’t insist on buying plain oatmeal. Instead, she either bought the variety pack (which inevitably included a few packets of unflavored oats), or she would buy whole boxes of my very favorite flavor, maple brown sugar. Mammaw would microwave me a bowl of this stuff just about every morning before school, from kindergarten until sometime in middle school (which I think is when I discovered how much I love bagels).

I remember the first time I tried real oatmeal: slow simmered on the stove…thick with big, fat rolled oats instead of the quick-cooking variety…lightly seasoned with butter, a pinch of salt, and just a touch of sugar. That old-fangled oatmeal was substantial and creamy, and it didn’t taste like maple or brown sugar, and I had to chew because the oats actually had some texture.

It kind of grossed me out.

But as I grew up, I somehow figured out along the way that this was how oats were supposed to feel and taste. Now, I prefer my oatmeal made from real whole grains, and it’s been a while since I revisited the done-in-two-minutes-oats of my youth. While old-fashioned oatmeal takes a lot longer to cook, it might be just about the most satisfying thing to warm up with on a crisp spring morning.

So when I rose well before Micah last Saturday and decided to wake him with breakfast in bed, and it was a little cool in the house, and we had an apple and some dates and pecans in the kitchen just begging to be cooked…well, how could I resist?

Don't you feel warm and cozy already?

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 2 dates, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

Step-by-step:

  • In a small saucepan, bring the oats, milk, water, and salt to a low simmer. This will cook for about 20 minutes until it’s nice and thick and creamy.
  • In a small skillet, melt the butter on medium heat.
  • Add the pecans and cook until lightly toasted.
  • Add the apples, dates, maple syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thick glaze.
  • Stir half of the cinnamon into the pot of oatmeal and half of it into the skillet of fruit.
  • Divide the oatmeal into two bowls and top with the fruit and nut mixture, or go ahead mix the fruit and nuts into the oatmeal before serving.

How did it turn out? The oatmeal was thick, creamy, and just a touch salty (exactly how I like it), while the apples and dates added just the right amount of sweetness. The best bites were the ones with some crunchy toasted pecan, and when I make this again, I’ll probably add more nuts.

What’s your favorite oatmeal add-in?

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muffins for Monday – 3.25.12 – nut & honey

Anyone remember this commercial?

Or this one:

Or this one:

Well, this morning, Micah asked me what kind of muffins I was going to make for the week. I’d been eyeing a jar of honey and a bag of pecans in the pantry and considered replying like a sane person with “honey pecan.” Then my mind flitted to the phrase “honey nut,” like in Honey Nut Cheerios. Even that would’ve been a reasonable response.

But in the end, my terrible sense of humor and love for bad puns overcame my better judgment, and I replied, “Nut ‘n’ honey.”

Groans ensued, and I immediately needed to find those old cereal commercials to see if they were as dumb as I remembered. They were. But back when I was a five/six/seven-year old kid watching them on TV for the first time, I remember laughing. Hysterically. In fact, I always wanted my mom to buy that cereal so I could have conversations like the ones in the commercials with my little brother, or my Mammaw, or whoever would give in and play along. (Have I mentioned that I was kind of a strange kid?)

I don’t think my mom ever bought Nut and Honey Crunch, though, mostly because she insisted on a pretty regular rotation of plain cereals: plain Corn Flakes, plain Rice Krispies, plain Cheerios, plain Chex. The sweetest cereals we ever ate were Kix and Life (though never Berry Berry Kix or Cinnamon Life–just the unflavored varieties).

Our friends probably hated spending the night with us. Where are the Lucky Charms? What about Cocoa Puffs? Can we at least have some sugar to dump on this cardboard??

My Mammaw, though in a perfect position to be a food role model, wouldn’t eat any of the cereals at our house without a healthy dose of added sucrose. (Which, given some of the other things she liked to eat, shouldn’t come as a surprise.)

Besides sleepovers at friends’ houses (friends with cool parents, that is), the only time we ever got to indulge in overly sweet breakfast monstrosities like these was at Christmas, when we would find an 8-pack of these wrapped under the tree:

Gee, whiz! Thanks, Mom! Er, I mean...thanks, Santa Claus!
(image from Amazon.com)

At the time, though of course I ate my mom’s boring cereal choices without complaint, I was convinced that her low-sugar rule was horribly unfair. Just like it wasn’t fair that all the other kids at school got to play on the Nintendo (we didn’t have one) and drink soda with dinner (you can imagine my mom’s thoughts about that one).

Now, I’m glad Mom made us eat unsweetened cereals and drink milk instead of soda, because as an adult I am absolutely unable to eat a bowl of Froot Loops for breakfast (ugh!), and I rarely crave a Coke. It’s a lot easier to make healthy choices when the unhealthy ones kind of gross you out. 🙂

(I do wish she’d caved on the Nintendo, though. My video game handicap is about the same as your average five-year-old’s, thanks to my lifelong lack of eye-thumb coordination.)

But I digress. Rewind to this morning’s conversation:

“What kind of muffins are you making today?” asks Micah.

“Nut ‘n’ honey!” I chirp.

Groan.

The name of this week’s muffins for Monday might echo the silliest 80’s commercial pun ever penned, but they did turn out nice:

A muffin so pretty, even our blooming camellias want a taste.

I can’t tell you how the taste of my nut ‘n’ honey muffins compares to Kellogg’s Nut & Honey…Crunch! because I’ve never tasted the stuff, but how ’bout you make the muffins on your own and compare for yourself?

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F, and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients (flour through pecans) in one bowl. Mix the wet ingredients (everything else) in another. Then combine.
  • Spoon into your muffin cups and bake for 12-15 minutes, then let cool.

The batter for these muffins is a little thicker than you might be used to if you’ve tried some of my other muffin recipes, because when I substituted honey for some of the brown sugar, I decided to leave out the milk (lest my batter become too runny). But the chopped pecans yield a nice crunch, and the honey flavor is perfect: light, a little floral, but not too sweet. Just like my mom would prefer.

What kind of cereal did you eat growing up?

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