Cheddar Chive Beer Bread

March 17, 2013

Cheddar Chive Cheese Bread

Fresh bread has a way of transforming any meal into something special, but add cheese… and beer… and you have something to get really excited about.  Combine that with the fact that this bread takes only minutes to put together and it is hard to come up with an excuse NOT to make the bread.

Cheddar Chive Beer Bread is moist, cheesy, oniony goodness with just the right amount of tang from the beer.  A quick brush of butter over the top before baking makes for a crunchy buttery crust.  Any kind of beer will do.  I have made this with everything from a light pale ale to a rich Guinness.  Keep in mind that the more flavorful the beer, the more of the beer taste will come through in the finished loaf.  The alcohol however cooks off in the process, so do not hesitate to serve this up to the kids.  My kids love it! Read the rest of this entry »

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Muffins can solve many problems: a hungry house full of weekend guests, a last minute snack for preschool, quick and easy breakfasts through the week (from the freezer), or as I recently found myself, with double my usual number of hungry children running underfoot.  While not all muffins hold well enough to serve after they have been left to cool, these muffins are still moist and flavorful hours after they have cooled or even reheated from the freezer.

Apricot Almond Bran Muffins are adapted from a recipe in Supernatural Everyday by Heidi Swanson that I have come to love.  If you are seeking a super dense. chewy style of bran muffing, this is not the one.  Though this recipe is whole grain with a healthy dose of bran, the texture is incredibly light and tender.  The taste of butter is unmistakable.  I added apricots to take advantage of the beautiful fruit found at the market.  Almonds, always a friend of the apricot, flavor the muffin and add a crunch to the top. Make these for a crowd, or just for a few and freeze the rest.  They reheat beautifully.

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Banana-Lovers’ Muffins

October 1, 2011

The other day when a friend offered me a whole tub of over-ripened bananas, I knew immediately what to do with them.  For a couple of years, I have been eying this recipe for banana muffins.  We enjoy banana bread fairly often, but I rarely have the 5 ripe bananas this recipe requires to dedicate to baking. This was a perfect opportunity.

These truly are Banana-Lovers’ Muffins.  With a base of five whipped  bananas and only the simplest of ingredients (flour, butter, salt, baking soda), these muffins sing of bananas.  The effect is quite different from the standard banana bread that is more bread than banana.  The bananas also lend an incredibly creamy quality to the texture of the muffin.  Indeed, though creamy is admittedly a strange descriptor for muffins, it is absolutely apt here. These muffins are moist without being dense making it easy to take down more than one with the morning coffee.

Banana-Lovers’ Muffins is adapted from a recipe from the Kona Inn.  The only thing I changed was to reduce the sugar by half.  I am not a fan of super sweet morning food.  To our family they still seemed plenty sweet with the reduced added sugar and the natural sweetness from the bananas.  We will definitely make these again.

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Oatmeal Jam Bars

April 22, 2011

With Easter around the corner, the house is a buzz with preparations for the Easter bunny.  The chickens are busy laying eggs, the kids are dying them and collecting greens from the garden to leave for a bunny snack.  As the Easter bunny’s executive assistant, I have collected some items for the bunny to present the children.  We  (the grown-ups at least) are not big on candy in our house (especially when the kids would presumably start eating it upon rising and discovering their baskets.)

So this year, there are books, stickers, and as a compromise, a small cache of jelly beans.  I wanted there to be something special as well, something beautiful, exciting, sweet, but not so over the top that I would cringe as my kids ripped into them at 7 am.  Ah ha!  This year the Easter Bunny takes up baking!

Strolling through the supermarket aisles, I found a large cookie cutter in the shape of an egg.  Inspired, I sought out a recipe for an oat bar which I would top with jam to create a colorful egg-shaped cookie bar.  After an extensive search, I settled on a recipe for Raspberry Breakfast Bars from Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  Since my pantry is still full of jam, I adapted the recipe to skip the raspberry filling (though it looks quite good and I may revisit it in raspberry season) and use my homemade jam instead.  I also added coconut flakes to the crust, just because I am on a coconut kick right now.
The real trick here was to figure out a way to make sure the jam would show through.  The original recipe calls for the crumb topping to cover the entire bar, but I wanted colorful polka dots of jam.  To accomplish this, I  tried multiple methods and settled on dotting the top of the crust with jam.  Once cool, I cut them into egg shapes and bagged them individually for the Easter bunny to present.  Mmmm, the smell of these bars is out of control.

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Buttermilk Berry Scones

April 20, 2011

My little man turned 5…  I know, its huge!  His preschool honored him with the sweetest  (and most scientific) of ceremonies in which he holds a globe and walks around a candle, representing the sun, the number of times the earth has circled the sun since his birth.  Ah, the true meaning of a birthday!  Love it.  Of course, after the ceremony he shared a birthday snack with his friends.  This is always a challenge as the school has a no-sugar policy.  Actually, I love that they restrict sugar and encourage healthy, organic, whole foods.  I am glad that he is not gorging himself on sweets every time a classmate has a birthday.  Still, I wanted to make him something that still felt and tasted like a treat.  Though he asked for berry muffins, I opted for Buttermilk  Berry Scones.  Scones are easier to adapt for low or no sugar than muffins.

This scone recipe is my favorite, I have made it many, many times with different fruit and nut additions.  Once, years ago, I accidentally made it without the sugar.  They still tasted great!  That is what gave me the idea to make these delicious scones, packed full with berries, but without the forbidden sugar.  Wait, don’t get scared off, I have included the sugar in the recipe below for those of you with a sweet tooth.  Plus, these are nowhere near guilt free.  They are made with a literal pile o’ butter.  See…

The beauty of this recipe is that it is incredibly versatile.   Mix the batter with fresh fruit or dried.  Add seeds and nuts on a whim.  Include the sugar for a traditional breakfast scone or leave it out to make a savory dinner scone.  You can cut them up in many different ways.  Usually, I make a rectangular shaped slab and cut the scones into triangles.  This time my little big guy used a biscuit cutter to make mini scone circles to share with his classmates.  These scones are really easy to make and always turn out great.  Plus, despite the aforementioned pile o’ butter, this recipe is actually lighter than others you may find that keep the butter and use cream in the place of the buttermilk.  This biggest reason to make these though, is that they are delicious, no matter what you do.  Serve them for your friends, they will thank you!

Buttermilk Berry Scones

adapted from Bon Appetit

makes 12 scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar- plus 1 1/2 Tablespoon to sprinkle on top (omit for a savory scone)

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, diced

1 cup buttermilk- plus 1 Tablespoon to brush on top

1 1/2 cup frozen berries (or other additions)

1 1/2 Tablespoon Meyer lemon zest

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or baking mat.

Sift together dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt)in a large bowl.  Work the butter into the dough until pieces are the size of small peas.  You may use your hands, a pastry cutter, or pulse using a  food processor.  Toss berries in flour mixture.  Mix lemon zest and buttermilk.  Pour buttermilk mixture into flour/berry mixture.  Use a spoon to mix until a dough ball forms.  Turn dough out onto a board and gently knead one or two times to fully incorporate the ingredients.  Flatten into a 1 inch tall slab and cut to your desired shape.  (For a traditional triangular scone, press into a slab 4 x 12 inches.  Cut the dough at angles across the shortest width of the rectangle to create triangles.)

Place scones on prepared baking sheet. Brush tops with reserved buttermilk and sprinkle with reserved sugar (for sweet scone).   Bake for 18-22 minutes, depending on the size of the scone.  Pull from the oven when scones are lightly golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Here is a printer friendly version of the recipe: Buttermilk Berry Scones

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Crepes with Lemon Curd and Warm Berry Sauce

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We all have those meals that are burned in our memory for one reason or another.  These are the meals that when we recall them, define a time in our lives.  Though I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, chicken pot pie is one of those meals for me.  Occasionally my parents would leave me at home to go out for the night.  I was always excited, because I could have a frozen dinner (those were not common fare in our home).  One of my favorite dinners was always a chicken pot pie.  I loved the creamy chicken and the flaky crust.  Invariably, I burnt my anxious tongue on the steaming hot sauce.  Those hot little pies were the highlight of my night. Even so, I always knew that the dish was not quite right.  The chicken and vegetables were too small and uniformly cut.  The sauce was too salty.  The crust too bland.  At that time, it never occurred to me that this special meal could be made at home!

Biscuit-topped Chicken Pot Pie is my effort to right the wrongs of pot pies of my past that missed the mark.  Every ingredient and every step come together to create what I imagine a pot pie should be like.  The chicken is poached in broth, then cut into large tender pieces, so there is no mistaking its presence.  The vegetables are abundant and fresh.  The potatoes are creamy. The sauce is based on a homemade chicken stock that is reduced and mixed with fresh thyme and cream.  The potential of this dish is dependent on the quality of the broth used.  I highly recommend using your own stock.  It is so easy to make and the flavor is incomparable.

Oh, and the topping.  Though I do love pie crust atop meat pies, biscuits are my favorite.  Floating the biscuits on the pot pie allows the tops to brown and puff and the bottom to saturate with the rich gravy.  It is the best of both worlds.  This is definitely a comfort food.

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Cheesy Onion Corn Muffins

February 3, 2011

Cornbread may be the ultimate quick bread.  In under 45 minutes, basic pantry staples- flour, cornmeal, milk, and eggs- turn into hot, tender, crumbly goodness.  Cornbread is a natural accompaniment to chili, but is also great with any other bean based soup or grilled meats.

This recipe is one of my favorites, I have made it many times.  The onion and cheese add deep flavors to the bread.  This combination not only tastes great, but the additional moisture also increases its shelf life.  While most cornbread is best eaten right out of the oven, these muffins will stay moist through the day.  For added color, try green onions in place of the white onions.

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