Posts Tagged With: whole wheat

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. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

supper tonight – 6.5.12 – leek & mushroom pizza

Vision:

Musing, wishing, dreaming…

     …conception, imagination, anticipation…

…an overall idea of how you hope something will turn out.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a prophecy.

Some written recipes include an indication of their creator’s vision. Maybe a grab-you-by-the-tastebuds blurb at the top of the page, a charming anecdote that invites and entices you, a photo that captures one stylized representation of what your mouthwatering result should look like.

But mostly, the recipe is a plan–a straightforward description of ingredients and materials, steps and procedures.

A recipe is the map that helps you navigate to your cabin in the woods, not the relaxing thrill of the forested hike you look forward to taking when you get there, not the buzzing and chirping and humming of nature all around you, not the sweet warmth of the hot cocoa you’ll sip on the porch when the evening chill sets in.

The recipe is not what makes your mouth water, not what you’ll look forward to.

The recipe is concrete, explicating (hopefully in careful detail) the very real process of creating your vision or someone else’s. But it is abstract, too, because you as you’re reading, you don’t yet smell it, taste it, experience it in any tangible way. It is only a string of words and numbers, measurements and imperative sentences, that can lead you through–and to–that sensory experience.

The vision blurs these lines, too. It is abstract because it does not exist yet–it is only your dream of what will be (or what could or should be), not what actually is. But it is concrete, too, because the vision is what you can smell and taste, see steaming, hear sizzling–even if only in your mind.

When I cook, I might follow a recipe. But I’m more likely to adapt a recipe, ignore a recipe, forget a recipe, create a recipe as I go along.

Recipe or not, I almost always have a vision. I know what I want my food to look like on the plate, to taste like when it touches my tongue, to feel like as I chew.

I know how I want to feel when I eat it.

But when you’re cooking with someone else, someone you love, and you have a vision but no recipe, how do you communicate that vision to the person cooking with you?

*      *      *      *      *

Tuesday night, Micah and I cataloged the contents of our refrigerator, brainstorming pizza topping combinations. Some items–the squash and peppers, the ham and brie–were off-limits, already earmarked for other purposes. What was left?

For several minutes, we stood, stared, chatted, considered.

I saw the creamy-white button mushrooms, round and plump, still dotted with specks of dark soil. I saw the young, slender leeks, their stalks delicately stretching from small ivory bulbs to sleek green leaves. I saw a deli tub of fresh mozzarella, moist and elastic, floating in cloudy, salty brine, ready and waiting and eager to melt.

And then, I had a vision.

Brown and beige and shades of green. Warm, mellow, earthy flavors. Nothing bright and flashy, nothing showy, no punch-in-the-mouth heat or tang or bite.

I didn’t have a map, but I knew where this pizza was going and what it would do when it arrived. I pulled the mushrooms, leeks, and mozzarella out of the refrigerator, plucked garlic powder and thyme from the spice rack, gathered flour and salt and yeast for the crust.

Micah greased a pizza pan with olive oil while I mixed the dough. Then I pressed the dough into the pan, thinner and thinner, spreading it to the very edges.

As the crust prebaked on its own, unadorned, for maximum crispiness, Micah melted butter in a skillet. I cut up the mushrooms and leeks, which Micah sauteed while I sliced the cheese. The recipe was created as we worked, every ingredient and action working together towards the vision I had in mind.

When our crispy crust came out of the oven and off of the pan, I spread the softened, buttery vegetables over it.

Micah looked again into the fridge. “How about some of these?” he asked, picking up a tub of mixed green, kalamata, and oil-cured black olives.

I love olives. We both do. But I thought about my vision and decided: not on this pizza.

“No,” I said as I worked, eyeing my distribution of leeks and mushrooms, looking for spots that still needed to be filled in. “I don’t really want olives.”

“But what if I do? Could we put olives on half?”

“Olives don’t go on this pizza,” I said. “I’ve got a vision.”

“I think they’d go just fine.”

“But I don’t want olives.”

“I do,” Micah said, clearly exasperated.

With good reason.

I was being stubborn. Of course I knew that. Even then, I realized I wasn’t communicating my vision very well, wasn’t justifying my choices, definitely wasn’t convincing Micah that olives were a topping for another pizza, another time.

“No olives,” I said. I carefully placed the wobbly ovals of sliced mozzarella, spacing them evenly, tweaking the design as I went along.

Micah, sweet and patient as he is, compromised. And by compromised, I mean that he let me have my way.

Micah isn’t what you’d call whipped, isn’t a doormat, doesn’t just give in to my whims any time. But he does pick his battles, and he knew this one wasn’t worth fighting.

I, on the other hand, am hard-headed enough that I would’ve argued about it, not for the sake of fighting, not even because it was that important to me, but just because I wanted to be right (and, of course, I felt sure I was).

The pizza, now dressed, went into the oven. Without olives.

Soon, scents of crisping crust and bubbling cheese, garlic, herbs, sweet leeks and warm mushrooms diffused through the kitchen.

A few minutes later, the pizza was done.

a vision, realized

We sliced. We tasted. The crust crunched between our teeth. The mushrooms and leeks were buttery, delicate, and tender. Each bite was warm and mellow, brown and green, earthy and rustic and exactly what I had envisioned.

“Do you still think it needs olives?” I asked Micah.

“No,” he said. “It’s good.”

“Like I said, I had a vision.”

What’s in it:

  • For the crust:
    • 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water (about 100-110°F)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • For the toppings:
    • 1  tablespoon butter
    • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    • 4 leeks, washed and sliced, white and light green parts only
    • 6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • salt and pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  • Put the yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve the sugar into the water, then pour over the yeast. Let stand for about 5 minutes.
  • Add both flours, salt, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Mix until the dough comes together into a ball, then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes (or use the dough hook on your stand mixer). Flatten the dough into a disc.
  • Brush 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil on a large pizza pan.
  • Put the disc of dough in the center of your pan. Press it with your fingers to spread it all the way to the edges of the pan. (It will be very thin! If you accidentally tear the dough like I did several times, just do your best to smoosh it back together. :))
  • Brush the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough.
  • Bake the crust for 7-8 minutes.
  • While the crust is baking, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, leeks, and dried thyme. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the leeks are slightly translucent. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Once the crust has baked for 7-8 minutes, remove it from the oven and slide it off the pizza pan and onto a large cutting board (or your kitchen counter, if it’s clean enough–mine never is!).
  • Top the pizza with the vegetables, then the mozzarella.
  • Return the pizza to the oven and bake it directly on the rack for another 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble a little bit.
  • While the pizza cools for a few minutes, sprinkle it with just a tad more salt and pepper. Then slice and enjoy.

the vision, close-up

If When your dinner turns out amazing (it will), please don’t gloat and say “I told you so.”

Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to be sharing this pizza with someone who understands your vision, or (more importantly) someone who understands your stubborn need to be right all the time–and loves you anyway.

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

an impossible quest, and lazy brunch – 6.2.12 – baked chocolate doughnuts

My brother Dave is getting married in July, so I made doughnuts for breakfast last Saturday.

This makes sense, I promise.

Please, follow along.

(Or, please feel free to skip the next 1,000 words or so and scroll on down until you get to the photo of the doughnuts. I’ll admit, this is a long story, longer than it needs to be for you, but as long as I needed it to be to indulge my need for confessional therapy–and it really will make sense if you follow along.)

My brother Dave is getting married in July. His fiancee, Kim, is a wonderful, beautiful woman–clever, creative, and quirky enough to fit in perfectly with the rest of our family. We love her!

don’t they make an adorable couple?

(Dave’s daughter, Lilly, loves Kim, too, and the affection is mutual. Again, perfect.)

I’m a bridesmaid. This will be my third bridesmaid gig in less than a year. When it rains, it pours, they say. Or maybe this is just what happens when your best friend, your husband’s best friend, and your brother get hitched within ten months of each other. 🙂

Of course, one of my bridesmaid duties is working with the other bridesmaids to plan the shower, which is coming up this Saturday. More about that later (because, of course, I’ll be cooking).

My other responsibility is buying a dress.

Kim picked a pretty, peachy petal pink for us to wear.

She’s not picky about the style, preferring instead that we each choose a dress that suits and flatters us. (This, fortunately enough, has been my experience with all three of the beautiful brides who’ve asked me to be in their weddings and buy dresses for the occasion–no bridezillas here.)

She’s not even picky about the precise shade of peachy petal pink, as long as we’re all pretty close.

Finally, Kim really wanted us to be able to buy these dresses without spending a ton of money, so she scoured the web for links to some very pretty–and very economical–options.

Armed with ideas, Kim and I took a shopping trip near the end of April. First we visited H&M, where another bridesmaid had already found her perfect dress in the right color. There, I tried on this lovely number:

pretty, right? as soon as I saw it on the web, I knew it was the one…

What you can’t tell from this photo is how translucent the fabric is. But when I put the dress on, I wasn’t even really comfortable enough to leave the fitting room and show it to Kim. Through this wispy little frock, I could see my bellybutton, the tattoo on my hip, even a few of the freckles on my back. Easy solution: a slip. The only problem is, a July wedding in Georgia isn’t ideal for wearing multiple layers of clothing, especially layers with sleeves. Indecent transparency aside,  the dress didn’t fit me well anyway, as blousy styles like this often don’t.

Goodbye, Dress #1.

Moving on, we visited Forever 21, a store I’d heard of but never been inside. Very cute, trendy, of-the-moment styles in lots of colors. But while the website had advertised plenty of peachy pink dresses, none of them were available in the store for me to try on.

I returned home from this shopping trip empty-handed but convinced nonetheless that I could just order a dress via the internet–or even order several, keep my favorite, and return the others.

That’s exactly what I decided to do. I chose three dresses from the Forever 21 website that appeared to be the right color (or at least close to it). I ordered all three, eagerly anticipated their arrival, tracked the package every day until it arrived, wondered which one would be perfect and which two I would send back.

Dresses #2, #3, & #4 from Forever 21

Dress #2 was the right color, but it looked too much like lingerie to even consider wearing to a wedding. Dress #3 was a little light, a bit boxy on top, and scandalously skimpy on bottom, despite my petite frame. Two returns.

Dress #4? Much less pink and much more beige than I’d hoped, so it won’t work for the wedding. But, I loved it. So I kept it. And I wore it out on a date with Micah the other night, because he liked it, too.

I didn’t panic, because at this point it was only mid-May. Still two months to find a dress.

After a long afternoon of shopping downtown and several hours of online searching over several more days, I discovered Dress #5. It was–it had to be–the one:

pretty, peachy, perfect

I had tried it in a size small at one of the cute little dress boutiques downtown, but it was much too snug. So I ordered the medium with alterations in mind, anxiously awaited its arrival, tracked the package obsessively, squealed when it finally arrived.

Of course the medium was too big, as I had expected, but that’s what tailors are for, right?

Wrong. The very nice woman at the alterations shop informed me that because of the location of the zipper, darts, and pleats, and because of the delicate latticework at the top, there was no way that she could take in and shorten the bodice of this dress.

Dear readers, I wept. Tears of frustration–helpless, hopeless tears–welled in my eyes, then spilled from my lids. Right there in the middle of the alterations shop, while I stood staring at that shapeless, saggy, sad sack of a dress.

At this point, it was now a month and a half before Dave and Kim’s big day. The other three bridesmaids had all purchased their own perfect dresses, while I had four frocks hanging in my closet that wouldn’t work for the wedding (and three that wouldn’t work for anything).

Having visited every store in Athens that peddles dresses–new, secondhand, and vintage; trendy and classic; spendy and thrifty; sundresses, work dresses, formal dresses–I knew I needed to expand my search area.

Which brought me, one drizzly afternoon, to Commerce, Georgia. Originally a mill village, this little town eventually incorporated itself as Harmony Grove during the late 1800s. But in 1904, the city reincorporated, renamed itself, reinvented itself. Harmony Grove, folks said, was too countrified, too old-fashioned. Commerce sounded modern and fresh, would encourage businesses to come here, stay here, grow and flourish here. And that is exactly what business has done. I hear there is still a classic, charming, homespun downtown area of Commerce, which I’ve never visited myself. What has put Commerce on the map, besides its proximity to the interstate, is its impressive collection of chain restaurants and retail locations, including a staggering strip mall mecca of Tanger Outlets.

You can read a fictionalized account of the Harmony-Grove-to-Commerce transformation in one of my very favorite novels:

Cold Sassy Tree
by Olive Ann Burns

Surely, in the vast commercial wasteland that is Commerce, Georgia, I could find one dress. Preferably one that fit, one that was the right shade of peachy pink, one that didn’t resemble a nightie.

I wish I could tell you I bought the perfect dress that afternoon. I wish I could tell you that I squealed with delight and sighed with relief when the zipper slid into place. I wish I could tell you that, after visiting every single store that sold women’s clothing, I located even one single dress that day that was the right color.

I wish I could tell you this, because it would mean that my harrowing quest was finally over.

What did I come home with that day instead of a dress?

A new green rain jacket from the Eddie Bauer outlet.

An old-fashioned hand-crank ice cream churn from the antique shop.

A big bag of toys from the kitchen store:

  • New tongs
  • A bag of corks and bottle stoppers for Micah’s boozy infusions
  • One single-handed pepper-grinder with a little magnet on it so it’ll stick to the fridge
  • Eight long, metal skewers for the grill

And this:

too bad I can’t wear doughnuts to the wedding

Yep.

My brother is getting married in July, so I made doughnuts for breakfast last Saturday.

Really good doughnuts, in fact.

Chocolate doughnuts. Because, why the heck not? I earned them.

glazed and gooey, rich and delicious

Having never made doughnuts before, I looked for a recipe on the web to model mine after. And then, like always, I changed it. 🙂

What’s in it:

  • For the doughnuts:
    • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 teaspoon melted butter
  • For the glaze:
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon milk

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease your doughnut pan if you’d like. (My 6-doughnut vessel was nonstick, so I took a risk and didn’t grease or spray. It worked out just fine!)
  • In one bowl, stir together the flours, cocoa, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.
  • In another bowl, whisk the milk, coffee, vanilla, and egg.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then stir in the melted butter.
  • Divide the batter among your six doughnut rings.
  • Bake for 13 minutes.
  • While the doughnuts bake, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze in a wide, shallow bowl.
  • Set up a wire cooling rack over a piece of foil, parchment paper, newspaper, etc., unless you want sticky drops of glaze to drip onto your counter.
  • Let the doughnuts cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then gently remove them from the pan to a wire cooling rack. (I used a flexible silicone spatula to help me with this.)
  • Dip each doughnut in the bowl of glaze, then stick it back on the cooling rack while you dip the others.
  • Take a picture–they’re pretty!
  • Enjoy with coffee. Try not to eat all of them in one sitting–but, if you do, it’s okay.

As Micah ate his doughnut, I asked him for an assessment. Rich, just sweet enough, really good.

Then I revealed my changes to the original recipe–less fat, less sugar, half whole-wheat flour. Apparently, not bad modifications, though Micah did remark that he’d like to try the full-fat version. 🙂

Since our Saturday doughnuts, three more pink dresses have arrived in the mail:

Dress #6: cute on the model….not so cute on me

Dress #7 – too big, not really peachy enough,
and too low-cut in the back for my strapless bra

Dress #8: peachy pink, pretty, a perfect fit

Yes, you read that correctly. After six weeks of shopping and seven dud dresses, I have finally, miraculously, triumphantly found something to wear in Dave and Kim’s wedding.

The best part? My chocolate doughnuts are healthy enough that even if I eat a whole bunch of them before the big day, I’ll still fit into this fetching little frock. 🙂

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

muffins for….uh, Thursday – 5.24.12 – Lilly’s strawberry nectarine

Who’s Lilly, you ask?

My smart, silly, beautiful six-year-old niece!

Lilly and I have a lot in common. We both love to read. We both love school. We’re both, well, not super coordinated. And we both like to cook!

So when my brother Dave asked if Lilly could hang out with me this morning for a couple of hours, of course that was fine by me.

For most of Lilly’s visit, I was a pretty boring hostess. I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. I washed, dried, and folded two loads of clothes. I scooped out the litter box.

Lilly had more fun. She decorated a bookmark with scented markers (which I didn’t even know I had!), and she read a few chapters of Charlotte’s Web (one of my very favorite children’s books), and she snuck up on me a few times while I was working and yelled, “Boo!” This was funny while I was folding clothes. Less funny when I was hand-washing our three sharpest knives–but I didn’t get cut, so I guess it’s okay. 🙂

Anyway, the other thing I needed to get done today involved nectarines. Three pretty little nectarines from Daily Grocery that I saw the other day and couldn’t pass up. Three not-as-pretty little nectarines once they sat in the fridge for a week. (Yes, they got a little mushy, just like my bananas and pears seem to do most of the time.)

I showed Lilly the wrinkly nectarines. “These aren’t really good for snacking on anymore, but they’ll be great if we smoosh them up and put them in some muffins. Wanna help?”

Of course she did!

Once I cut the mushy fruit away from the pits, it was Lilly’s job to press the button on the food processor to whir those faded beauties (peel and all) into a red-flecked golden puree. Standing on a step-stool, of course.

“Can we have strawberries, too?” she asked.

So I cut up some strawberries while Lilly cracked two eggs into the fruit, then stirred it all up with some Greek yogurt.

While Lilly worked the wet ingredients (singing “Muffins, muffins, muffins” the whole time), I measured most of the dry stuff. Lilly did the salt, baking soda, and baking powder. (Her Granny, my mom, has taught her well–she knows to scoop with the measuring spoon, then level it off before adding it to the bowl.)

One of Lilly’s charming quirks is that she wants to taste everything, even stuff you wouldn’t think a kid would like. I’ve seen her grind fresh black pepper into her palm and lick it up, sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon directly onto her tongue, eat a piece of raw lemon (including the rind), and now–lick baking powder straight from a measuring spoon.

“It tastes salty,” she informed me.

“I’ll bet!” I said.

Lilly mixed all of the dry ingredients, dumped them into the bowl of wet ingredients, added the strawberries, then stirred it all together. (I helped with this because the batter was pretty thick.)

I started to let Lilly spoon the batter into the muffin tin, but since it was almost time for her dad to pick her up, I asked her if she would mind my doing it instead. (“That way, they’ll be ready before you leave!”) She agreed that this would be the best course of action. 🙂

The finished muffins were too hot for Lilly to eat one before she left, but I did send a few home with her so she could have one after it cooled.

I ate one just a few minutes ago, and it was fabulous.

of course I couldn’t resist brightening up the picture with a few of
the fresh strawberries (from a little farm stand near Anderson, SC)

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 ounces raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2-3 nectarines, pureed (with the peel is fine)
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • about 3/4 cup diced fresh strawberries

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready. (“Now you’ve got to use the non-stick spray,” Lilly told me. I showed her my rubbery red silicone muffin pan and told her it didn’t need any. “What if it was made of tin?” she asked. “Well,” I said, “then I guess I’d need some non-stick spray.”)
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, sunflower seeds, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Let your niece lick the measuring spoon if she really wants to. 🙂
  • In a larger bowl, stir together the pureed nectarines, yogurt, and eggs.
  • Add the dry ingredients and strawberries to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t forget to take turns!
  • Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, then bake for about 20 minutes. Visit the oven every few minutes to peek through the window and see how your muffins are doing. Comment on how good they smell!
  • Remove the muffins to a rack to cool.
  • Make sure you share these sweet treats with someone you really love. ♥

 

Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

muffins for Monday – 5.12.12 – carrot zucchini

He moved too quickly. I couldn’t warn him. By the time I realized what he was doing, it was too late.

His teeth sank into the warm muffin.

I waited.

He didn’t gag, didn’t choke, didn’t make a face, didn’t spit it out.

In fact, he gobbled up the whole thing and washed it down with a glass of milk.

Who? My stepdad, Chuck, whose favorite foods include steak, ice cream, Mountain Dew, and Oreo O’s cereal.

What? A whole-wheat muffin packed full of oats, nuts, and…da da DUM!–vegetables.

If you knew Chuck, you would realize how much this doesn’t make sense. At all. At least 47 different laws of nature were defied when that fresh breakfast bread entered his digestive system without being rejected and hastily ejected.

Granted, when Chuck snatched that fresh-from-the-oven muffin from my cooling rack last Saturday morning, he didn’t know at first what he was eating. He was hungry, needed breakfast, saw a muffin. It was only on closer inspection that he noticed this particular muffin “had, like, sticks and twigs in it.”

And so it was that a veggie-filled whole-wheat muffin worked a miracle. Chuck ate something healthy. And liked it.

(And I’ll bet you’ll like it, too!)

the muffin that made the miracle

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup grated zucchini

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and nuts.
  • In a large bowl, beat the two eggs. Add the yogurt and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, then fold in the carrots and zucchini until just combined. (The batter will be pretty thick–this is okay. The veggies will release more moisture as they cook.)
  • Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes.
  • Let cool and enjoy!

Based on a recipe from Marcus Samuelson’s website, these veggie-flecked miracle muffins were warm, moist, and delicious.

My mom loved them, too, by the way–but this was much less of a surprise as she’s always been a pretty healthy eater. 🙂

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muffins for Monday – 4.30.12 – pears galore!

Pears are tricky.

Like bananas, pears are at their best for a very specific window of time. Try to eat one before it’s ready, and your teeth and tongue will fight a losing battle against that tart, hard rock of a fruit.

Let your unyielding pear sit out on your counter for a few days to mellow, and mellow it will. If you catch that pear at the peak of its ripening, you’ll be rewarded with bite after juicy bite of pear perfection. Your hands and face will be rendered a moist mess with every nibble of that soft, sweet fruit, and you’ll gnaw away every little scrap of pear until all you have left in your hands is a sticky, skinny core.

Let that perfectly ripe pear sit out on your counter for a few more days, and….well, you’ll have a mess.

My pear problem started three weeks ago when the Athens Earth Fare emailed me a coupon for one free pound of organic red Bartlett pears with a five dollar purchase. I printed two, one for me and one for Micah, and our regular grocery trip later that week earned us two free pounds of rock-hard pears.

Another week passed, and those babies were perfect. I took some to school the next week, which made for a delicious (albeit sticky) addition to my lunchbox.

And then we were out of town all last weekend for Jessica’s wedding, so the last four pears sat on our kitchen counter for about a week longer than they really should’ve.

When we came home, one moldy pear got a one-way ticket to our compost pile. The other three were pretty mushy–too soft to pack in a lunchbox, or slice for a snack, or bake into a pie–but not quite rotten yet.

What to do with too-far-gone fruit? Make muffins, of course! (Good timing, too, since we were about to eat our last two crumbly granola bars. :))

pears + dates + oats + pecans + a touch of cinnamon = mmmm…..

What’s in it: 

  • For the muffins: 
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup rolled oats
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 3 overripe pears, mashed
    • 3 dates, pitted and finely chopped
    • 2 eggs, lightly beaten (I actually used 5 egg whites that I had leftover from making pastry cream)
  • For the topping:
    • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
    • 3-4 tablespoons rolled oats (I tackled mine with the mini-chopper, just to make them a little finer)
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready with cooking spray or paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1 cup oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
  • Add the pears, dates, and eggs. Stir until just combined.
  • Divide the batter among your 12 muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the pecans, oats, and brown sugar for your topping.
  • Sprinkle the topping evenly over the muffins. You’ll probably have enough to pretty much completely cover each muffin. (At this point, I also lightly pressed the topping into the batter to hopefully prevent it from all falling off.)
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, then let cool.
  • Enjoy!

Not only are they extra moist and juicy from all that fruit, but because I mashed the pears instead of pureeing them, the muffins also have some nice chunks of fruit inside them. The cinnamon and dates give these sweet treats a warm, cozy flavor, and the oats and nuts in the topping are nice and toasty and crunchy.

This is definitely one of my favorite batches of muffins so far!

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supper tonight – 4.3.12 – arugula, goat cheese, and tomato pizza

Last night, I wanted to make Growandcook’s cauliflower soup for dinner.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup.

I said I could make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup and sandwiches.

I said I could save the soup recipe for later and make some nice, hearty pasta with arugula, goat cheese, and tomatoes.

Micah thought about it for a minute, agreed that pasta would be okay…but then said, “Just make the soup. I’ll eat something else if I’m still hungry.”

Argghh!

At this point, I was already a bit hangry (hungry+angry, see previous post about this here), and no matter how whole-heck-of-a-lot-much I love Micah, one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when he disagrees with me until I change my mind…and then decides to change his.

“So what are you in the mood for, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Pizza or something?”

Eureka! This conversation might’ve only taken you a minute to read, but I’m transcribing the condensed version. The actual exchange took at least five or six excruciating minutes.

My normal recipe for pizza dough (and bread, and dinner rolls, and calzones) takes a good three to four hours, as do many yeasty-dough-type procedures with mixing, rising, shaping, rising, and (finally) baking. No way in hell was that going to work.

So, my good friend Google helped me find many, many recipes with titles that combined the words “quick” and “pizza dough.” Some that required instant yeast (which I don’t keep around), and several that weren’t as expedient as advertised. Then, I found this little gem at Oven Love and decided to give it a shot.

The verdict? Although not quite as chewy-crispy-crusty as the long-rising recipe I know and love, this pizza was freaking awesome. And just as quick and easy as Natalie promised it would be.

I might've gone a tad OCD with the spacing of the toppings...

If you ever need to make a pizza from scratch in an hour or less, I highly recommend this recipe. Or even if you’ve got all the time in the world and just want to make a pizza really fast….well, this recipe rocks.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm (105-115°F) water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 4 ounces fresh arugula (we used whole leaves, but would chop it next time for easier biting)
  • 4 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on how big they are
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Grease a pizza pan.
  • Put the yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl (if you have a stand mixer, use the bowl for that).
  • Add the flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until the dough comes together, then knead for 5 minutes (by way of your stand mixer’s dough hook, or by hand on a lightly floured surface).

The dough really does turn out this beautiful! (image by Natalie from Oven Love - click to visit)

  • Press the dough onto your greased pizza pan, spreading it all the way to the edges. 
  • Brush with the 3rd tablespoon of olive oil.
  • If you like a not-so-crispy crust:
    • Go ahead and add your toppings (arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for about 15 minutes.
  • If you like a crispy crust: 
    • Slide your pizza pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. 
    • Remove the partially baked crust to a cutting board. 
    • Top with the arugula, tomatoes, and goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for 8-10 more minutes directly on the oven rack. 
  • Stuff your face with piping hot, delicious pizza! 

The last step: give your husband a big hug and apologize for being so cranky earlier about cooking dinner. And plan to cook the cauliflower soup the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow night, you’ll want to eat the rest of this pizza. 🙂

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muffins for Monday – 4.2.12 – peanut butter banana

Bananas. I’ll buy a big bunch of five or seven when they’re nice and green around the edges, and I always think I might eat them all before they turn on me.

I’m always wrong.

I never mean for this to happen. But I’m really picky about my bananas. A perfect specimen has a bright, golden peel with a splash of lime green still at both ends and firm, light-colored flesh. The problem is, if a bunch of bananas is at this stage on Monday morning, they’ll be well past it by Tuesday at lunch. That makes for a pretty short window of enjoyment.

You might like bananas best when they get to the freckled, super-sweet stage. I have several friends who will only eat them once they’re brown and spotty. But for me, these mushy, sugary fruits are well past their prime.

And that, my friends, is when it’s time to make muffins.

(Yes, my muffins tend to all look alike...but at least the backgrounds are ever-changing.)

For this week’s batch, I’m continuing my Childhood Lunchbox series, a poignant exploration of the food memories that evoke bittersweet nostalgia for younger days gone by. We all must grow old, we all must die, but these muffins might recapture, just for a moment, the joy of forgotten youth.

Sorry. That was a bit much.

(I do seem to like making muffins based on 80’s breakfast cereal commercials and kiddie sandwiches from my childhood…)

What I really meant to say (instead of that driveling psychobabble) was that this week’s muffins were inspired by a time-honored combination that I’ve loved since I was a wee lass, the classic peanut butter and banana.

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 super-ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup milk

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and get 12 muffin cups ready.
  • In one bowl, mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In another bowl, mix the eggs, bananas, peanut butter, yogurt, and milk.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients, scoop into muffin cups, and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  • Cool and enjoy!

These muffins turned out super moist, almost gooey, and they were a little hard to get out of the pan. Before I tasted one, I was afraid they were a little bit too soft and mushy. But Micah and I sampled them for breakfast this morning, and I’m pleased to tell you that they were delicious!

Besides having a slightly squishier texture than I had planned, these also didn’t have quite as much peanut butter power as I was hoping. The peanut butter flavor is overpowered just a bit by the banana. So, if you make these, try adding extra peanut butter and let me know how it turns out!

What are some of your favorite childhood foods? Maybe they’ll inspire a muffins for Monday post one day soon…:)

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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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muffins for Monday – 3.18.12 – pb&j

Today’s muffin experiment: capturing the magic of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich–but in a muffin!

(No, my green cutting board isn't the most pristine background--but I sure do like the color.)

 

I love peanut butter. Probably more than I should. I can eat it by the spoonful straight from the jar, and often do. I love peanut butter sandwiches, peanut butter cookies…even peanut butter and bacon burgers, which I first got the guts to try a few years ago at Clocked here in Athens. (It sounds weird, I know, but they’re amazing!)

I could eat peanut butter every day, maybe at every meal, and be perfectly happy…

…so why on earth have I never thought to make peanut butter muffins?

Well, now I have, and let me tell you, these things are delicious, and despite the whole wheat and oats, they don’t taste healthy at all. They’re almost like dessert. (Actually, I did eat one for dessert tonight.)

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite jam or jelly

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • Prepare 12 muffin cups. (You might want to make a point to use paper liners or a little extra cooking spray/butter for these because they’re a tad stickier than my normal recipe.)
  • Mix the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar in one bowl.
  • In another bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the peanut butter, then the yogurt, then the milk.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then divide the batter into your 12 muffin cups.
  • Top each muffin with a spoonful of jelly. Then, use a toothpick to swirl your jelly around in the batter.
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Let the muffins cool (at least a little), and then enjoy (preferably with a tall glass of milk).

About the jelly: I didn’t swirl mine enough, and it kinda sunk from the tops of my muffins down to the bottoms, making for some pretty gooey, messy undersides. They were still delicious, but the jelly wasn’t really dispersed throughout the muffin like I wanted it to be, and my fingers did get a little sticky.

Again, about the jelly: I used FROG jam. It isn’t made of frogs, I promise!–just fig, raspberry, orange, and ginger. These would be delicious with regular old grape or strawberry, though, or any other jam or jelly.

I’m really looking forward to breakfast this week. 🙂

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