Poppyseed Plum Muffins

Plum Poppyseed Muffin
So, this sudden increase of muffin recipes on my blog is due to the alarming realization I had the other day when I searched for muffin recipes on my blog, and I realized I only had a handful here. This is so strange, because I make muffins all the time. Like, once or twice a week. Where have I been putting all these recipes? I’m not sure, but I’m going back and cataloguing them all, so that in the future when I search for my favorite muffins, they will all be here.

This is a recipe I worked long and hard at getting right for high altitude. I loved the idea of a plum muffin, but the original recipe (from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook), had great flavor and a disastrous texture. In fact, the muffins just blew across the top of the pan, as only muffins baked at high altitude do. So, I worked long and hard to get it right. Feel free, of course, to look up and use the original recipe, as this recipe is quite a bit changed. But if you do seek out the original, I still highly recommend 1/4 c. more sugar and some almond extract. It really makes them, well, a favorite here.

Poppyseed Plum Muffins

6 T. (3 ounces or 85 grams) unsalted butter, melted (and browned, if you have inclination)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. (50 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 c. (180 grams) rich, full-fat plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 c. (60 grams) whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 c. (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 t. baking powder (2 t. if not at high altitude)
1/4 t. table salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 t. almond extract
2 T. (20 grams) poppy seeds
2 c. pitted and diced plums, from about 3/4 pound (340 grams) Italian prune plums (though any plum variety will do)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Butter twelve muffin cups or line with cupcake liners.

Whisk the egg with the sugar in the bottom of a large bowl. Stir in the melted butter, then the sour cream (yogurt), and almond extract. In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and poppy seeds, and then stir them into the sour cream mixture until it is just combined and still a bit lumpy. Fold in the plums.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the tops are golden and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Rest muffins in the pan on a cooling rack for 2 minutes, then remove them from the tin to cool them completely.

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Dulce de Leche Pear Muffins

Dulce de Leche Pear Muffins
I have some firmer pears that my kids just weren’t eating, so I decided to bake them up, and see if that helped their appeal. I found this recipe in a darling British baking book called Family Baking, and I’ve changed it a bit, but loved the results. Very beautiful muffins, not very sweet, and the dab of dulce de leche on top seemed to be the perfect thing. A nice little treat to welcome in the almost-here fall weather.

Dulce de Leche Pear Muffins

8 T. butter
2/3 c. milk
3 large eggs
6 T. dulce de leche (I used Trader Joe’s)
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 c. spelt flour (you may also use wheat, oat, or white flour, if you prefer)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
2 large, firm pears, cored, peeled, and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a muffin tin with liners.

Microwave the butter for twenty-five seconds (or until melted) and let cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, and using a balloon whisk, whisk together the milk, eggs, 2 T. of the dulce de leche, the sugar, and the melted butter.

Sift the flours, baking powder, salt, and spices and whisk together. Scatter the chopped pear over the top and, using a wooden spoon, gently fold it in until just combined.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins. Sprinkle each muffin with a little bit of sugar, and bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out of the center clean.

Let muffins cool slightly on a rack, then remove from the tin and place about a teaspoon of dulce de leche on the top of each muffin.

A Great Grown-up Cookie

Whole Wheat Cookies with Currants
This healthy little cookie is such a nice package: nuts, cocoa nibs, and currants (think, sweet like a raisin but not nearly as big, so not quite so much chew). I loved that it works so well with whole wheat. It’s just such a nice afternoon snack, both for me and the kids. Definitely one you could have on hand all the time, especially because it keeps well in an airtight container for up to two weeks. You could also swap out the nuts and fruits for other favorites, but Alice Medrich imagined it well how it is. This recipe comes from her book , which I love.

Whole Wheat Hazelnut Cookies with Currants and Cacao Nibs

1 c. (5 oz.) whole hazelnuts
1 c. (4 oz.) white-whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)
1 c. (4.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 sticks (14 T.) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar plus 1 T.
3/8 t. coarse or fleur de sel salt
1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. roasted cacao nibs
2/3 (scant) c. currants

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until they smell toasty and are golden brown in the middle when you cut one in half. Once cool enough to touch, rub the nuts together to remove as much of their skins as possible (using a towel, if you want). Chop the nuts medium to small.

Combine the flours in a medium bowl and mix with a fork. With a mixer or a strong wooden spoon, beat the butter with the sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth but not fluffy. Mix in the nibs and nuts. Add the flours and mix until just incorporated. Finally, mix in the currants. Scrape the dough into a mass and knead it with your hands a few times to make sure the flour’s incorporated evenly. Form the dough into a 12 x 2-inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into slices 1/4-inch thick. Place cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on lined or greased cookie sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges. Rotate cookie sheets halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Whole Wheat by Lucy

This is the picture my daughter Lucie drew for the cookie. Love it!

Allow cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before moving them onto a wire rack where they should cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Two Summery, Kid-Friendly Drinks

Brazilian Lemonade
With warm weather, it makes a little more sense to have an after-school drink rather than an after school snack, and these two were big hits this last week! These drinks were also the result of buying a huge bag of limes and lemons from Costco, and feeling like I shouldn’t make them all into curd 🙂

Strawberry Lime Slushie

3 c. frozen strawberries
2 c. club soda
3 limes, juiced

Blend these three together. The club soda gives a little kick, but you could replace it for water or milk or lime soda, if desired. If you want even more lime flavor, zest the limes before juicing them.

Brazilian Lemonade or Limeade
pictured above

4 c. ice
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 whole lemon (or lime), cut into quarters (omit if you don’t like pulp, or just use the zest)
1 1/4 c.  fresh lemon or lime juice (or substitute with Real Lemon or concentrate)
1/4-1/2 c. sugar
4-5 c. water

The bigger the blender, the easier!

Unfortunately, I had to blend this drink in 3 batches:
Batch 1: sweetened condensed milk, 2 c. ice, 1/2 c. lemon juice, 2 c. water

Batch 2: another 1/2 c. lemon juice, 2 c. ice, 2 c. water

Batch 3: whole lemon, 1/4-1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. water

Blend together in a large pitcher. If not using immediately, make sure to stir before serving.

Chocolate Pecan Grahams


Chocolate GrahamsOn Mondays, I’ve been trying to bake something that I can use all week as a healthy-ish and filling after school snack, pairing it with cut fruit or vegetables or the like. So, I baked these this last Monday, I even baked a double batch, hoping I would have enough to last through the week. Well, we had enough to last through early-morning munchies on Tuesday. So, the bad news was I had to bake a new after school snack on Tuesday (which actually isn’t bad news to me! I have two new cookbooks I’m trying to bake through: Bouchon Bakery–which will take me a few years–and Payany’s Better Made at Home. So delightful!), and the good news was that we have another winner for after school snacks! I’ve adapted this recipe from one on King Arthur Flour (I’ve reduced the sugar and added pecans. The full sugar amount is delicious, but tastes more like a flat brownie than a cracker. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Just wanting a little less sugar before dinner).

Note: these grahams are quite crumbly out of the oven, but firm up within an hour of cooling. Also, I scored them before they went into the oven, and then again right out of the oven. And thanks to Bouchon, I now want a bicycle for scoring. I think that’s what he calls it. Anyway. Big dreams. Another note: my kids had no idea these grahams had pecans in them (Lucie just reading over my shoulder commented on this!). Now, that’s success.

Chocolate Pecan Grahams

1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c.  whole wheat flour
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. pecans, finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor till finely chopped
1/2 c. (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
3-4 T.  honey (I like more, plus I needed it for moisture)
2 T. cold milk
2 T. granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Cut out two sheets of parchment as large as your cookie sheets.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, cocoa, sugar, and baking powder. With a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until evenly crumbly. In a separate bowl, combine the honey and milk, stirring until the honey dissolves. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and toss lightly with a fork until the dough comes together. Add additional milk, if necessary.

[Alternately, place the dry ingredients in a food processor, pulse 5 times, add the pecans, pulse 2-3 times. Then, add the butter, and pulse until mixture looks like sand, then add the wet ingredients and pulse until the mixture comes together, adding more milk or honey if needed. ]

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and fold it over gently 10 to 12 times, until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Work with half the dough at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered.

Transfer one piece of dough to a piece of parchment. Roll it into a rectangle a bit larger than 10 x 14 inches; the dough will be about 1/16-inch thick. Trim the edges and prick the dough evenly with a dough docker or fork. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar. Repeat with the remaining dough and parchment. Place the rolled-out dough pieces, on their parchment, onto baking sheets.

Bake the crackers for 15 minutes, or until you begin to smell chocolate. Remove them from the oven, and immediately cut them into rectangles with a pizza wheel or knife. Transfer them to a rack to cool. Store the cooled crackers tightly wrapped. Yield: thirty-two 3 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch crackers.

Best Granola Bars I’ve Ever Had/Made

Puffed Rice Bars

Well, I’m sure almost anyone who has googled “energy bar recipe” like I did has seen this bar, since it comes from the first hit, but it’s time for me to publish how much I like them! After making them the first time, I went to the store the next morning to buy all the ingredients to make them again, in case my kids finished them off after school. They are so good, I’m a little embarrassed I’ve ever purchased a granola bar. And though I’m sure I’ll buy granola bars again, I will always wish I had taken time to make these instead. Soooo good. So Good. This recipe comes from beardandbonnet.com, but I’ve altered it a bit for our taste.

Sweet Pine Nut and Puffed Rice Bars

  • 1 c. pecans, chopped
  • 1 c. oats
  • ⅓ c. pine nuts
  • ¼ c. flax seeds
  • ⅔ c. light brown sugar
  • ½ c. honey
  • 4 T. unsalted butter
  • ½ t. salt
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 4 c. puffed brown rice cereal (also could mix in puffed Kamut or Millet)
  • 1/4 c. water
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans, oats, pine nuts, and flax seeds on the sheet and bake about 8 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, honey, butter, water, and salt to a boil over medium heat, making sure that the sugar dissolves before the mixture boils. Simmer until a light brown caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Pour the caramel over the nut and oat mixture. Stir in the brown rice cereal until evenly coated.
  4. Line an 11×17 inch baking pan with parchment paper, extend the paper over the sides of the pan to use as a handle later. Pour the cereal mixture into the baking dish and spread out into an even layer. Cover the pan with a second piece of parchment and press down to compress the bars. Let the mixture stand for about 2 hours until firm.
  5. Discard the top piece of parchment and use the “handles” from the second piece of parchment to gently remove the cereal square from the pan then cut into bars and serve.

Brown Bag Caramel Popcorn

Brown Bag Caramel PopcornI couldn’t believe this recipe would work, but I was in a time crunch, so it was worth a try. Amazingly, it works! And it’s delicious! I first made it for my Lucy to take for a class treat, but I have since made it several times, including for 4th of July firework shows. It takes a little less than half an hour, start to finish, and is really as delicious as other, more time-intensive, versions.  This recipe is adapted from AllRecipes.com, but I’ve changed it here to reflect many of the great suggestions from the readers, as well as eliminate the margarine. 

Brown Bag Caramel Popcorn

8 quarts popped popcorn
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. light corn syrup (honey can also work)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. baking soda

Spray the inside of a large (grocery-sized) brown bag with cooking spray. Place the popped popcorn into the bag. Set aside.

In a 2 quart casserole dish, or other heat-proof glass dish, combine the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and vanilla.

Now to the potentially tricky part. The original directions say to heat for 3 minutes in the microwave, then take out and stir until well blended. Return to the microwave, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave, and then stir in the baking soda, but I thought it would burn in my microwave (as other cooks had noted it did in their microwave), so I adapted it to microwaving it first for 90 seconds on high, then stirring it to make sure it’s completely combined, then I microwaved it for another 90 seconds on high, and then added the baking soda. I would recommend going with the lower time amount first, because you can always cook it longer, if needed.

Pour syrup over the popcorn in the bag. Roll down the top once or twice to close the bag, and shake to coat the corn. Place bag into the microwave, and cook for 1 minute and 10 seconds (I only did 1 minute). Remove, shake, flip the bag over, and return it to the microwave. Cook for another 1 minute and 10 seconds (again, I just did 1 minute). Dump the popcorn out onto waxed paper, and let cool until coating is set. Store in an airtight container.

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

Rosemary Raisin CrackersI’m obsessed with Trader Joe’s Rosemary Raisin Crisps, but Trader Joe’s isn’t very close to my home, so I’m committed to figuring this recipe out myself. This is my first attempt, and it’s good, although not an exact likeness (not quite as dry and has wheat germ–tastes a little more like a graham cracker, and also wasn’t sliced in squares). The flavor is so similar, though, that I have to write this down, so I remember it, even if I continue tweaking it! 

Rosemary Raisin Crackers

 

  • 1 1/4 c. whole-wheat flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 c. toasted wheat germ
  • 1/4 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 c. raisins, minced
  • 1 T. fresh (or 1 t. dried) rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 T. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 c. nonfat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray; set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour, wheat germ, sugar, sunflower seeds, raisins, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (you may also just do this with a whisk, by hand). Add butter; process until mixture resembles coarse meal (or use your fingers and do the same). With machine running, gradually add buttermilk; process until dough comes together and is moist (if doing by hand, switch to a wooden spoon and mix until the dough just comes together, adding a little extra buttermilk, if needed).

Transfer to a lightly floured surface or to a sheet of parchment paper precut to the size of a baking sheet. Allow the dough to rest for 5 minutes. Roll until 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.

Cut dough into diamonds or rectangles using a pastry knife (or butter knife). Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. Pierce each cracker liberally with a fork. Bake until hard, about 16 minutes. Transfer crackers to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight plastic container, at room temperature, up to 1 week.