Apple Walnut Streusel Muffins

(Ha, spellcheck tried to turn ‘streusel’ into ‘stressful’. I can’t imagine muffins being stressful. Really? They are anti-stressful if you ask me. The cure for stress. A couple of these and some tea? Or a glass of milk or even coffee…)

First, Happy Mothers Day to all Mothers, grandmothers, foster mothers, God mothers, and anyone involved in mothering. 

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Since it was Mothers day, I figured I would make some of my own personal favorite muffins, apple walnut, although I do not have a go-to recipe really, like I do for some other recipes. This one is always hit and miss. So I dug through some of my favorite baking books.

This one is a hit! Continue reading “Apple Walnut Streusel Muffins”

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Blueberry Muffins with a side of earthquakes

Wellll, I have to admit, these muffins did not turn out quite like I planned. But they are mighty good. Why write about muffins that did not turn out quite like I planned? So you can learn from my mistakes of course!

I should have called this post “Blueberry muffins before the big one hits”.

I rarely make muffins around here because I have a tendency to eat them. And eat them. And eat them. But after the exhilarating earthquake Friday night and about a hundred tiny tremors since then, I have had a change of thought. If I am going to go down, I’m going down full of muffins.

The very yellow look is, I think, from the very yellow yolks from our very fresh chicken eggs. They turn everything yellow when I use them.
The very yellow look is, I think, from the very yellow yolks from our very fresh chicken eggs. They turn everything yellow when I use them.

I imagined these muffins with lots of streusel topping actually on top. But once they started rising, the streusel shifted, like soil moving aside for a sprout to pop out of the ground. (Ahh yes, its spring, when a young persons mind becomes twitterpated and a middle-aged mind thinks about gardening. Or muffins.)

Where was I? Earthquakes. No, muffins, wait, sprouts.

Okay, lets talk earthquakes for a minute. I tell my kids, if you are in bed when an earthquake hits, just stay there and cover your head with a pillow, in case things go flying off the walls or dressers. I hear of more people getting hurt running through the house during a quake than holding still. Unless you are next to a large bookcase or china cabinet or plate-glass window, then dive under a table.

One time we had a quake when I was not home and I hear my older son, who was taking  a geology class in college, and had heard a professor talk about quakes, went diving out his bedroom window. Just ‘boom’ kicked out the screen and jumped out. He claimed it was safer than staying inside. Wish I had seen it.

I, on the other hand, had just finished an inspection of a vacant home south of here somewhere, like Lake Forest or some such place. It was a 2 story home, nice. I measured, took my pictures, wrote the notes and headed out the front door, making sure to lock it and replace the key. Suddenly I heard a rumble. Thats strange, it was coming from the ground. Everything, including me, starting shaking.

I heard a couple of screams from down the street and looked around quickly to assess my chances of survival, in case this turned out to be ‘the big one’. It was just me and a little sapling tree. So we hugged each other, to stay upright and rode out the rocking. Nothing really exciting happened though. No wires coming down, no cars jumping around, thankfully. No big cracks with magma appearing in the middle of the rode. Guess I watch too many movies. (Of course I do.)

That was several years ago. I haven’t felt a big quake since then, not that it was that big even then. This one we felt the other night wasn’t big either. But you can’t really tell when you are close to the epicenter. It feels big enough. You just kind of sit there, holding real still and alert, like a prairie dog, waiting to see if you should jump into action. Things rattled and rocked. Would they come crashing to the floor? Would we lose electricity? Would we, God forbid, have to turn off the gas?(That means knowing where the tool is to turn it off with.) Are we in fact, earthquake prepared?

Not so much.

We occasionally go through and make our plans. Put food and water in the trunks of the cars. Make sure there are flashlights under all the beds. The good kids get ones with batteries in them.

Umm, thats about it really. I guess we figure if ‘the big one’ hits, there’s not much we can do for it anyway. Either the house will crash down around our ears or it wont. Its been around for 60 odd years so far, so my bet is its going to hang around a bit longer.

Now, when I say we sit still and alert, I realize not everyone treats quakes this way. Loads of people go running outside, go running for doorways (which I am still not convinced will do any darn bit of good.) Or just go running.

Afterward its nice to either try to call our relatives to share in the excitement, or if that fails, actually go out and make human contact with the neighbors and rehash the experience.

Which brings me back to muffins. Finally.

Lets get this recipe rolling. Only do not use the dinky frozen wild blueberries I used. Use either fresh ones or frozen larger ones that will have a blueberry impact. The dinky ones just didn’t.

Other than that, I am not really complaining. I didn’t complain much through my first muffin. Only complained a bit through the second muffin. And tried to look inconspicuous while I picked at a third muffin. But that is only between you and me.

I didn’t use muffin cups, but just sprayed the muffin tins. You often loose part of the muffin with the paper cups. Besides, then people can count how many you have eaten. (People meaning myself)

I will also give you the streusel recipe. I just sprinkled some sliced almonds on top, almost as an afterthought, to make it prettier and give it a crunch.

Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted, or vegetable oil or a combination of the two
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream, plain yogurt (or maybe blueberry?) or a combination of the two.Or half buttermilk and half yogurt…
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, rinsed and waiting in the strainer in the sink, turning your sink purple.

Streusel topping

  • 3 Tablespoons each brown and white sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Cooking Directions

  1. First, mix the sugars and cinnamon for the streusel. Add the flour, whisk with a fork and then pour in the melted butter, stirring with the fork until it is crumbly. Too wet? Add a teaspoon more flour. Too dry? Add a bit of melted butter. Set aside
  2. Preheat the oven to 375.
  3. Oil a muffin pan or two. This recipe that should have made 12, actually for me made 15 muffins.
  4. In one large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. This means the flour, baking powder and soda and the cinnamon. (Not the sugar).
  5. In another bowl, put the fats (oil and/or butter) the sugar (also considered a liquid) the egg and yogurt/sour cream/buttermilk. (Todays was a matter of finishing off the yogurt and topping it off with a little buttermilk. I had the sour cream on stand-by but didn’t need it.)
  6. At this time, I, using frozen blueberries, mixed them in with the dry flour mixture.This way the flour helped absorb some of the wet from the thawing blueberries. I did not want to add them to the wet bowl because it would turn the batter grey.
  7. Now mix the wet and dry together. Mix just until the dry does not show and the batter comes together. There will be lumps, thats okay. Of course the lumps could be blueberries. Either way, lumps are okay, while over mixing is not okay. Mixing too much toughens up the muffins.
  8. I use a Pampered Chef scoop to dish them into the muffin cups. Fill the cups up.
  9. Then put the streusel topping on top with a small spoon. Pat it a bit.
  10. Top with a sprinkle of sliced almonds.
  11. Pop into the oven and wait about 18-20 minutes. When you can poke a toothpick in and it comes out fairly clean, they are done.
  12. Remove them from the oven and remove as soon as possible from the pan. Best served warm. Then great when cold. Wonderful the next day.

Now that I am thinking on it, why didn’t the dog bark or the chickens act weird? So much for animal intuition.

Irish Soda Bread, version 1, 2 and 2.5

(Some of the pictures are missing but this is the time of year for the Irish Soda bread recipe. Here is the recipe I used last year…and the year before.. So rather than reinvent the wheel, and because I dont have time to start from scratch, what with brownies in the oven and 8 loaves of bread cooling on the table, here is the re-run:)

“She’s sharp as a marble!”

“He’s tick-as-a-brick”

These are a few of the more polite sayings I picked up from an Irish gal I used to work with before the flood. She was a hoot, and so different, like a space alien to me.  She definitely took me outside my box. I wonder if she even had a box.

But thats as close to the Irish I have ever gotten. I love their breads though. So if you are in the mood to try some Irish Soda bread, give this a go…

There is one thing my family can all agree on and that’s our love for Irish Soda Bread. The plain kind, craggy, warm, creamy on the inside with a hint of sweet.

You can serve this up with a corned beef, potato and cabbage dinner (also called a New England dinner), or a stew or pot roast or shepherds pie. Leftovers are great warmed up in the morning and slathered with butter.

Below is that recipe. I will tell you about the other 2 ways to modify it at the end.

Today is the Thursday before the Sunday of St. Patrick’s day. This means I step into high gear, stocking up on buttermilk, getting the candied orange peel ready and stoking up the stove. I expect to be making 8-10 loaves in the next couple of days. Some for the Friday night soup kitchen night at church, some for friends and at least 1 for us. But this is a quick bread, with no raising involved, no proofing. Just mix and bake.

It calls for whole wheat and white all purpose flours. I also put in some ground oats. I have never seen an Irish soda bread recipe with oats, but first off, I love the flavor and texture some oats contribute and secondly, oats are very Irish, aren’t they? Scottish too.

For the wheat flour I have used regular whole wheat, white whole wheat and even whole wheat pastry flour, which is whole wheat ground from a softer lower protein winter wheat grown in the more moderately warmer southern states. It has lower protein which means less gluten. For cookies, biscuits, scones and so forth, you do not need a high gluten content. So whole wheat pastry flour works. Okay, I just erased a whole paragraph on flours. I realize that I will have to dedicate a post just to flours, or I will go on like this all day.

If you do not have a food processor, you can cut the butter in with a pastry cutter. I lost my favorite one and keep forgetting to buy a new one, so I am using the food processor.

I have a new food processor I am not really used to yet. I did not think there would be very much difference between them, but there is. This one is a Kitchen-aid and it seems to miss the outside edges. So pulsing is not as effective as just high speed for a bit. If I wanted it ground finer, I would get out my mini grinder that was designed for coffee grounds but I use for grains. It turns them virtually into dust! But I wanted some texture to the breads this time.

Continue reading “Irish Soda Bread, version 1, 2 and 2.5”

Basic Banana Bread

I have been making so much banana bread over the last 3 years that I think I could do it with my eyes closed. (It would make an interesting experiment anyway. I wouldn’t want to have to clean up after it).

Come my beauties. These are perfect for baking. Or if is not baking say, I would peel, bag them up and freeze them.
Come my beauties. These are perfect for baking. Or if is not baking say, I would peel, bag them up and freeze them.

Sometime I use the recipe with cream cheese. Other times I use the buttermilk one. Or the sour cream or yogurt. The fact is, you can use almost anything you have in the house to make a wonderful loaf of banana bread.

Add to this the add-ins, such as chocolate chips, pecans, chopped dates or chocolate hazelnut spread and you are set to make banana bread extravaganza! There must be a new word for this. Like Bananaganza!

Now, I realize most people do not need to make 3 loaves at a time. These loaves are little tiny ones, about 7″x31/2″.  I will give you a reduced recipe which will make either 2 small loaves or 1 larger 8″ loaf.

If you have any experience with baking, feel free to improvise. The main thing is a liquid to dry ratio. While I don’t know what the exact number of the ratio is, I can tell my looks and feel of the batter. For example, lets say the recipe calls for 1 cup of milk. But I want to make it richer and add sour cream. I might put about 1/2 cup of sour cream in a measuring cup, add milk to make 1 cup and whisk this together. It will make the dough a little thicker. I can just bake it that way, for a slightly denser, richer loaf, or add a tad more milk to thin it out. Same thing with using yogurt or buttermilk. The idea is to add enough liquids to the dry ingredients to make a proper banana bread batter, which is pretty thick.  If you accidentally make the batter thinner, guess what? It will still bake, it just might rise higher.

Cream cheese is another matter and I would wait to follow a specific recipe that uses cream cheese. (Which I will give you later).

(Okay, I’m back, did you miss me? I had to go move the sprinkler watering the garden. I move it every 10 minutes. Its amazing what you can get done in 10 minutes. Do I have a sprinkler system? Yes. Do I use it? No. I like the control of a little attachment at the end of our hose. It is watering the tomatoes, peppers and little fruit trees right now. I actually picked my first ripe tomato today too! It was  a tiny Roma tomato. The plant is hugging a shrub and not getting the sun it probably should, so it is little.)

Oops, got sidetracked.

Well, this recipe is ancient, from a Farmers Journal baking book back when. (Wayyy back when.) I copied it out and do not have the book anymore. Got rid of it during one of my purging moods. I have several other banana bread recipes, but this is simple and satisfying. (Who am I kidding, I have dozens of banana bread recipes!) It did not originally call for oats. But I have a tendency to toss oats into all kinds of recipes where it isn’t called for. Such as Irish Soda Bread and muffins.

While the recipe calls for quick oats, if you don’t have them, you can use old-fashioned oats and just either give them a bit of a chopping or put in a little grinder to ‘smaller’ them up.

Now if I am correct, the left loaf is chocolate chip, the middle one is pecan or walnut and the right loaf has dried cranberries in it.
Now if I am correct, the left loaf is chocolate chip, the middle one is pecan or walnut and the right loaf has dried cranberries in it.
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banana, egg and vanilla
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Mix with dry ingredients.

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Now see recipe below.

Basic Banana Bread

  • Yield: 1 8
  • Prep: 15 minutes mins
  • Cook: 1 hour 15 minutes min
  • Ready In: 16 mins

Here is a basic banana bread recipe that lends itself to all kinds of variations from nuts and chips to dried fruits and spreads.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Bake in a 350 oven for 1 hour 15 minutes (for an 8×5 pan) or until golden brown. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan. Cool on rack. Better the next day.
  2. Peel the bananas and put in a bowl. Using either a fork or a masher of some kind to mush up the bananas. Add the egg to it, the milk and the vanilla. Stir it all up.
  3. Put the dry ingredients in another bowl. This would be flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and oats. Whisk together.
  4. Cut the butter in little pieces and put in the dry ingredients bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mix until it is tiny pieces.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Make sure there is no dry parts left. Fold in the add-ins. (flavored chips, dried fruit, diced dates, chopped nuts.)

Baptist Pound Cake

(Just made this today for Easter dessert of strawberry shortcake. It was so easy and turned out fabulous, so I am re-posting it. It was either this or toffee sticky pudding cake, another of our favorites. Of course neither one has chocolate, so our chocolate lovers are left in the lurch. But even they took notice when they got some of this cake covered in strawberries and whipped cream. I love it all naked on the plate too)

This came from a beloved and ragged, well loved book put together by Home Ec. teachers of Alabama back in the day.

Mrs. Blair told me some stories about this recipe.

“One Mothers Day her and her husband heard a commotion in the kitchen from the children. James (her husband), said to just let them be and see what happens. They were maybe 8 and 6 years old. Darned if they didn’t successfully make this Baptist pound cake all by themselves! We’ll never know how they did it. They were so proud and excited. I guess they saw me making it often enough.” Continue reading “Baptist Pound Cake”

Still here in Alabama, Chicken Parmesan and some amazing homemade pound cake

I’ve got my spies. Minions who tell me what is going on.

And mama ain’t happy with some of the news about a dirty house, about letting the dog in, about chips and stains on the floor while she is Alabama!

Mama is very happy to see some pictures of the new kitchen, almost done. But I am not heading home until the dishwasher is installed, just so you know.

Day, what is it now? I lose track. Day 5.

We are preparing for dinner guests. I get to play in this nice big kitchen today, making dinner for 8 of us. Easy-peasy. I hope.

First, here are some photos I took around the inn this morning while I walked around looking for pecans to pick up. I plan to raid Aunties freezer of pecans, which cost more than gold back home, so I want to help contribute by harvesting them. Good thing I don’t make a living at it. I hardly had a pocket full.

Here is my helper. His name might be Pudgy, but I’m not sure. As you can see, he/she is very timid.
Here is his brother, socks, on guard duty, watching for squirrels that might steal our pecans. “Just make my day.”
Here is part of the wrap around porch.

Originally built by a Jewish Banker, this door piece is one of the few remaining relics of its time.
There is going to be a wedding out here this weekend. It will be my first time being here for a wedding.

Okay, now back to dinner. I will give you the recipe here for my chicken parmesan. Then the homemade pound cake recipe will have a link to where you can find it on my new site, “chicken wings n apron string”. More on that in a moment.

Chicken Parmesan: for 4

2 chicken breasts, slice in half such that you have two thin pieces.

some parmesan, grated, about 3/4 cup

2 eggs

flour, some for dredging

salt and pepper

favorite spaghetti sauce, your choice

mozzarella cheese, grated, about 1/2 cup

1 lb. pasta of your choice

It is easier to slice the chicken if it is partially frozen. Slice carefully and watch the fingers. Slice it through the skinny way.

Put the flour in a plate.

Put the eggs, mixed up in a bowl.

Put the parmesan in another plate.

Get a skillet hot and put some oil in it.

Dip both sides of the chicken in flour, then dip in the egg, then the parmesan. Set aside on a plate. When the skillet is hot, lay the chicken in it, not overlapping. I cooked 2 at a time, so they wouldn’t crowd. You only need to fry them about 2-3 minutes, then turn them over and fry another 2 minutes.

In the meantime, while they are frying, get out a baking pan. Put some spaghetti sauce, either homemade or jarred, into the bottom of the pan. Just  few spoonsful, not much, but enough so that the chicken is laying on some sauce. As the chicken is fried, lay it in the pan, spooning some sauce around the sides. I do not cover with sauce.

Put the pan  into a 350 degree oven and allow to bake 20 minutes. Too long and it will dry out. Too little and they may not finish cooking. Just as it comes out of the oven, I sprinkle on some mozzarella and pop it back in oven for another 5-10 minutes.

While this the chicken is baking, boil some water for pasta. When boiling, cook your pasta of choice. I made mostaccioli pasta which are like penne. When they get done, I drain them and rinse them a little to keep them from sticking. You can also spoon some sauce in with the pasta and it will keep it from sticking. Then hold it until everything is ready. If need be, heat back up my mixing in with the bubbling sauce.

Then I spooned some al dente pasta in a pasta bowl, then some sauce, topped with a piece of chicken.

On the side we had a salad and a slice of Italian Cheese bread. I will have to see if that recipe is posted yet.

This is the first time I made this using regular Gold Medal unbleached flour and not my usual high protein flour and it made quite a difference. Usually the recipe fills the springform pan and puffs up to double the pans height. At least double. But here it is, same recipe (imprinted in my mind) and it barely reached the top of the pan. But you know, it came out alright anyway. A little softer. I liked it this way. It did not have the big hollow swirl inside it usually has.

For the sauce, I just took a bottle of Ragu, with veggies. But first I browned some diced onions in olive oil. Then added a big heap of garlic. Sizzle, sizzle. Sprinkled in some Italian seasoning, then poured in some wine. I wish I could say it was red. It should have been. But you know, white works just as well. And we had a bottle handy. So I glugged in about..mm…1/3 cup of wine and let it reduce down as it simmered. Then I added a large can of crushed tomatoes and then the Ragu. Some salt, some pepper. Voila! Red sauce madness. Or is it Mad Men Red Sauce? Or Men Mad for Red Sauce?

Earlier in the day, Aunty did what she does best, gets the table setting ready. She has an eye for a lovely table.

With that glow about her I would say she had some holy divine inspiration.

Of course it wasn’t the food or the setting that really made the dinner, but the people sitting around the table.

I will share a picture of the dessert, but you will have to go follow the link to find the recipe. It is an old tried and true recipe, just the kind I like to use. And take my word for it, it was even better the next day. Moist, soft, sigh…

So my new friend, Mrs. Linda Blair made this Baptist Pound cake to share with dinner. Seems she has been making this recipe for her family forever. It comes from an old church cookbook. I have made it several times now and it has come out perfect-EVERY TIME! Great to have with strawberries and whipped cream. Thank you Linda dear!

Chocolate Chip Banana bread

Okay, here is the alternate recipe for this bread using butter, flour, milk.

This one came out wonderful and moist with pretty much the same or similar ingredients as the last gluten free one. It baked for 45 minutes.

2 eggs

1/3 cup of milk

1/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 ripe bananas, mashed

2 cups flour

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 handfuls of chocolate chips

Prepare the loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the eggs, milk, bananas, sugar and other wet ingredients together in one bowl.

Mix the dry ingredients in another bowl and blend the two together until just mixed.  The batter will be thick.

Put half the batter in an oiled 9×5 loaf pan. Sprinkle with a hand full of chips. Spoon the rest of the batter in and sprinkle another hand full of chips on top. Then pop into a 350 degree oven.

Test with a straw or other thin thingy to see if center is cooked.

Then try to let it cool before cutting. It didn’t work with me…