Monthly Archives: February 2015

Victory Bran Muffins

Fresh muffins, yogurt, toasted coconut. What's wrong with this picture? Yeah, nothing!

Fresh muffins, yogurt, toasted coconut. What’s wrong with this picture? Yeah, nothing!

It’s the weekend people. Regardless of our need to post more healthy, hearty fare and veggies, right now we need muffins. Why are these a victory? First, they come from my cousin Victoria, via King Arthur Flour, via Zella Lane who was the radio voice of Betty Crocker. So, yes, these have been fully vetted. Most importantly, these muffins are delish, whether made as mini muffins (Victoria’s favorite way—less commitment per muffin and way cuter) or as full-sized ones. I took them to a ski race recently and they were devoured by adults and teenagers alike. They are substantial enough to stand up to packing and travel, but still tender and awesome.

Perhaps the biggest bonus, however, is the fact that this batter can stay in your fridge, at the ready, for up to two weeks. They are a bit of a process to put together, only because they require three separate bowls, boiling water and a bit of cooling time. But none of it is difficult, and the reward for that time on the front end is being able to dole out muffin batter as and when needed, for fresh muffins anytime within a half hour. They will save your butt on a busy morning and make you look like a red-hot muffin-bearing kitchen goddess. That, my friends, is a victory.

Notes: Pay attention here to the bran cereal amounts. First, they depend on the type of bran cereal you are using, and second there are two places in the recipe where the cereal comes in, so make sure you have enough. Otherwise you might be subbing in whatever cereal you have in the pantry—doable for sure, but potentially risky (e.g. Raisin Bran vs. Capt’n Crunch). Coconut is an addition from Victoria that is totally good. If you are warming kids or bran-phobes up to these muffins, sweetened is the way to go. Unsweetened, while more virtuous, will dry out the batter more, so be more generous with your buttermilk. Finally, this makes a lot. You can easily halve the recipe if fridge space is at a premium.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup bran cereal (buds or twigs); or 1 3/4 cups bran flakes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut (Optional, sweetened or unsweetened).
  • 2/3 cup hemp hearts (Optional, but yummy in pretty much anything).
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (demerara or coconut sugar take these over the top)
  • 2 cups bran cereal (buds or twigs); or 3 1/2 cups bran flakes

 Method:

1) In a small mixing bowl, pour the boiling water over the 1 cup twigs (or 1 ¾ cups flakes) of cereal. Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm, 30 minutes or so.

2) While the water/cereal mixture cools, blend together the flour, soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. (Pro move here is to use a bowl with lid that can be used to store batter in the fridge). Stir in the cranberries, coconut and hemp hearts if using. Set it aside.

3) Stir the vegetable oil into the cooled water/cereal mixture. Set it aside.

4) Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and sugar. Combine this with the flour/raisin mixture.

5) Stir in the 2 cups twigs (or 3 ½ cup flakes) dry cereal.

6) Finally, add the water/bran/oil mixture, stirring till thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight, or HOWEVER THE HECK LONG YOU WANT!

7) Preheat your oven to 375°F. Lightly grease your muffin pan of choice, or line with paper cups, and grease as many wells as you like.

8) Heap the thick batter in the muffin cups; a generous 1/4 cup batter works, but feel safe knowing these are not exploding muffins.

9) Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, till a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

10) Remove from the oven, and tip the muffins in the pan to prevent their bottoms steaming and becoming soggy. Serve warm; or transfer to a rack to cool completely.

11) To bake mini muffins, heap the batter in the muffin cups, and bake for about 15 minutes, till the muffins test done.

Yield: at least 18 standard muffins, or 45 mini muffins.

Bringing it:

These taste great out of the oven but also when cool, and even if baked the day before. They have saying power! Victoria suggests the following for a hostess gift: “present your hostess with a gift bag filled with a container of the refrigerated batter, a mini-muffin pan, and a card that includes the recipe. Alternatively, just show up with those things and commandeer the oven while everyone else is still sleeping in — the fragrance beats an alarm clock any day!”

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Basic Lentil Soup, from the hip

Right from the hip....

Right from the hip….

We’ve shared a lot of desserts and drinks and appetizers lately and I thought, gosh…where are all the soups and stews? Then I saw this recipe for Basic Lentil Soup made “from the hip”, and I thought, it must be easy, now let’s just hope it’s good. So, I whipped up a pot and yes, in fact, it is very good! 

I got this recipe from a friend of mine, Michele Estes who works in health and wellness.  For a link to her Facebook page, click here.  She has wonderful, healthy recipes and can offer great advice, tips and tricks for leading a healthier lifestyle. 

Now onto the recipe which, is “from the hip”, so don’t stress about any of this…wing it… throw in whatever you have on hand….. and enjoy!

Ingredients

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, diced
3 celery stalks and leaves, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
Splash of wine (whatever you have on hand)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup lentils, rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Drizzle oil into a heavy bottomed pot, add onion and sauté for a few minutes and then add carrots and celery. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes (don’t let the garlic burn). Add kale and sauté for a couple minutes. Add wine and canned tomatoes. Add each spice and stir until you can smell the spices. Add vegetable broth and lentils bring to a boil, and then simmer for approximately 45 minutes, until lentils are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For a thicker soup, puree one cup of the soup in a blender and add back to larger pot.

Bring It!

To bring to a party or someone’s house for dinner, a crockpot is the way to go.  That mean no fuss for the hostess and you can keep it warm once you get there.

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Frosty the Snow Drink

Winter—if you can't beat it, put it in a cup and drink it!

Winter—if you can’t beat it, put it in a cup and drink it!

Before we do anything else this fine morning, let’s take a moment to honor Michele Ferrero, the inventor of Nutella (which we can now make ourselves), who prophetically passed away on Valentine’s Day. There is some comfort in knowing that he lived a long life and died an extremely wealthy man.

And now, we move on to the weekend. I have been commissioned by an undisclosed publication to create snow cocktails for an upcoming issue. For this, dear Bringiteers, I need your help. This is far too mighty a task for one drinker, especially one battling a tenacious, fun-sucking, taste-bud-negating head cold (scroll below for therapy and recipe that just may get me to turn the corner). I am hoping some of you will be kind and daring enough to take this on with me, to tirelessly fill, pack and refill your glasses with snow, mixers and hootch in whatever ways please you.

Of course, I’m not going to leave you totally out in the cold. Here’s some inspiration: You might want to try some classics adapted for winter, like the Snowjito, the SnowBreeze or the Snowgarita. I can’t disclose the names or exact ingredients that may appear in the aforenonmentioned publication, but I am working on something that riffs on frozen hot chocolate, perhaps with some peppermint schnapps, as well as some hopped-up versions of every kid’s favorite snow day breakfast—orange juice on snow.

Hints of springtime have me contemplating a “Frozen Poma” (like an Arnold Poma, but colder), involving lemonade, iced tea, vodka and snow. The reality of many more ski races compels me to consider pouring any leftover Parent Whisperer from the Thermos on snow to create the “Frozen Parent.” And let’s not forget last year’s foray into Olympic Snow Drinking for some starting points.

As you set forth on this mission keep in mind that snow dilutes a cocktail necessitating it to be a bit sweeter and a bit stronger than the proportions you might usually use, to get the same effect. Also, I urge you to remember that snow drinking is rarely done alone (though there’s no shame in that), so you might want to consider things that can be made with simple ingredients, in volume, and possibly prepared by a bonfire. Of course, virgin versions are always appreciated and will be happily slurped by the younger or simply wiser set.

Ok, my intrepid testers. Go forth, create, and let me know what you come up with. Then, when the next storm hits (or when the first storm hits in CA) we can get celebrate by sampling the finalists. Happy Weekend to all and thanks for playing!

But waiiiiiiiit. This just in. My awesome friend in New York just sent me a cocktail recipe from the Wall St Journal (a killer cocktail source, FYI) for a drink called the Panacea, adapted from another drink called the Penicillin. It was a slow, congested afternoon and I had the fixin’s so I gave it a try. I may have to cancel the doc appt tomorrow. This stuff is GOOD. The honey ginger lemon syrup alone is worth committing to memory. Check out the full story on the Panacea, or just make it from the recipe below!

The Panacea—way better than Nyquil

Make honey-lemon-ginger syrup: In a small pot over medium heat, simmer 1 cup honey, 1 cup water and ½ cup minced ginger until mixture cooks down to a thick syrup, 10 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on solids to extract liquid. Discard solids (or save them to put in tea later. Yum!) Add¾ cup fresh lemon juice to syrup and stir. Cover and chill.

In a tumbler half-filled with ice, stir together 2 ounces honey-lemon-ginger syrup and 2 ounces blended Scotch. Pour¼ ounce Islay single-malt Scotch over the back of a spoon so it floats on top of drink. Garnish with a slice of ginger and candied lemon peel (optional).

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowy Mountain Top Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Pure as the driven snow!

Pure as the driven snow!

You don’t need to look far to find snowy mountain tops in these parts. This winter has brought snow storm, after snow storm, after snow storm to the northeast. It just keeps coming and it’s great. Right out the front door is waist deep powder and more of the fine white fluffy stuff is on the way. I saw this recipe for ‘snowy mountain top’ chocolate crackle top cookies and I thought…. “bingo”! It says it all.

We took these cookies back country skiing this past weekend. They got eaten at the top of a run where it was hard to transition due to the waist deep powder (see photo below). But the cookies helped us power through and the skiing was phenomenal.

This recipe comes to you from one of my favorites, Whitewater Cooks, which is a collection of recipes from the Fresh Tracks Café in Nelson, British Columbia.  That is where I was supposed to be this week but due to the poor snow conditions out west and the great snow conditions here, we made a last minute change of plans and cancelled our trip. This is as close as I’ll get to the Fresh Tracks Café this week, but at least I’m skiing fresh tracks (literally!)

Ingredients

8 oz. semi sweet dark chocolate
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup milk
1 cup icing sugar

Method

Coarsely chop chocolate and melt over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter and light brown sugar until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add the cooled melted chocolate. Add flour alternatively with milk. When the dough comes together shape into flattened disk and wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours, until the dough is firm.

Using a heaping teaspoon of dough, shape into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in icing sugar until completely coated. If an cocoa colored dough is visible, roll in sugar again.

Place cookies on a parchment covered cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Make sure they don’t roll around when you put them in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees until flat and the sugar coating (snow) splits, 12 to 15 minutes.

Let them cook completely and then store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Truly waist deep

Truly waist deep

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Be your own Valentine

Put a little love on your plate.

Put a little love on your plate.

Valentine’s Day. So much pressure. So many expectations. So few scenarios that live up to the romantic ideal portrayed in the jewelry commercials. But on the plus side, Valentine’s Day always seems to involve chocolate. This year, instead of waiting for the right someone to do the right thing and get the right chocolate, make something chocolate for yourself—something you can put on toast, or on ice cream, or on a spoon or on something else chocolate. Yep, something like Nutella. But even better than Nutella because you made it yourself.

While you are waiting for your hot date to show up for that romantic dinner (or for the pizza guy to arrive) you might want to check out these 8 facts about Nutella. It’ll make for some  good conversation between those 5 overwrought and way-too-small courses at Cafe Shmancy.

This is not quite as silky smooth as the real thing, but it’s pretty darned close, and it’s so easy to make you’ll be bringing it to grateful hosts often. It’s also dang good in 3-3/2-2 Crepes.

Ingredients

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted*
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons coconut oil
10 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled slightly

Method

1. Toast the hazelnuts: Heat the oven to 350°. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast until the nuts are fragrant and slightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Let cool. *if you can find hazelnuts without the skin, get those. If not, roll the toasted hazelnuts in a towel after toasting to remove as much of the flaky skin as you can. If you have OCD about your hazelnuts and want them totally naked, try this technique.

2. Make the spread: In the bowl of a food processor, grind the hazelnuts with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt until the mixture begins to form a coarse paste.

3. Add the coconut oil and continue to process until the mixture is nearly smooth.

4. Add the slightly cooled chocolate and process until fully combined. Transfer the mixture to a large jar and cool completely (it may be a tad on the thin side until fully cool). The spread will keep in the jar at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Oh, and by the way, do not refrigerate this. If you forget to read this the first time, then put the jar in some warm water on the stove until it gets back to a speadable consistency.

Happy Valentines Day and be good to yourself!

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Very Vanilla Valentine Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes IIIMost people quickly answer the question, “chocolate or vanilla”? It’s like getting asked “puppies or kittens”, “skier or snowboarder”, Netflix or Prime”.  There is no hesitation…. no waiver…. it’s just an immediate response.  When I get asked “chocolate or vanilla”, the person asking doesn’t have time to finish the question before I respond, “vanilla”.  When I saw this cupcakes recipe, I knew I would love them based on the description. They are super easy to make and a fun valentine treat, or you can adopt for any holiday. If you want to go over the top vanilla, use Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract from King Arthur flour.

Have fun and Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Ingredients

Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract 

Frosting:
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/8 tsp salt
4-5 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/3 cup milk

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a standard muffin pan or line with greased cupcake papers.

To make the cupcakes, combine the dry ingredients, then mix in the butter with an electric mixer until crumbly (like sand).

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients in 2 additions.

Scoop about 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup.

Bake the cupcakes for 16 – 18 minutes, until they are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven; after 5 minutes turn them out of the pan and onto a cooking rack.

To make the frosting, beat together the butter, shortening, and salt. Add the sugar, vanilla, and 1/4 cup of milk, and beat until fluffy. Add more milk if the frosting is too stiff to spread.   Use a cupcake corer (who has one of these?) or a small spon to scoop out some of the center of each cupcake. Fill and ice with the frosting.

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The Parent Whisperer

Wrap your mitts around a warm cup of comfort.

Wrap your mitts around a warm cup of comfort.

If you have kids in a winter sport, this is the time of year when things can start getting a little squirrely. Not totally nutty (that comes in March) but just a little tense. The competition ramps up with qualifiers and championships on the horizon. Ski racers, hockey players, basketball players—you know what I’m talking about.

As parents this is when, against all impulses, it’s time to chill out. If we can’t keep our own blood pressure down how can we expect our kids to keep calm and carry on?

With this goal in mind I present to you, the Parent Whisperer, inspired by my article of the same name. It is an ideal slopeside, rinkside, bone-warming, parent-wrangling concoction. Call it glug or grog or gluhwein or whatever. We’re talking red wine with some hootch and some spices, all brewed together with very few instructions or limitations. This one comes from Julie G (I’m not going to out you, but you know who you are!), whose ample testing has proven that drinking it calms nerves, brightens moods, and elevates humor on cold winter days.

This particular recipe uses apple cider as the only sweetener, so it’s more business-like than dessert-like. If you want something that is more soothing than bracing, add some maple syrup or honey. Sliced oranges wouldn’t be a bad call either. Pomegranate seeds or apples? Ja Wohl! Above all, shhhhhhh and relaaaaax. Enjoy the fresh air, the company of hardy souls and the notion that every day is getting just a little longer.

The Parent Whisperer

Ingredients

1 cup red wine
1 cup apple cider
4 shots bourbon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
cloves, cinnamon, ginger and cardamon to taste (whole or powdered spices are both fine, but whole spices can be easily strained out for a clearer drink, if you care.)

Very Loose Method

Heat wine, cider and spices, letting them simmer and brew until you smell the spices (but fergawdssakes don’t boil away any of that power). Add bourbon and and let it all heat through a few minutes. Strain whole spices if using. Pour the whole shebang into a Thermos and enjoy on the hill before, during and after the race!

Note: There is no mention about how many this serves, which of course is because it depends on the situation. But let’s see…a cup of wine and 4 shots of bourbon…that calculates roughly to serve:

  • 1 parent who needs to be sedated.
  • 2 parents who really need to take it down a notch.
  • 3 parents who are hoping for a peaceful and pleasant ride home.
  • 4 parents who just need a little shot of warmth in their bellies.

 

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Whole Wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins

Super Sunday ski muffins

Super Sunday ski muffins

It’s cold outside (if you are in the north!) and breakfast is such a cozy time to be indoors, by the woodstove, sipping coffee and eating something warming. These whole wheat banana blueberry muffins are perfect when toasted with a dab of butter. They are healthy and tasty, not always a combination you get with a muffin.   This recipe has six (yes six) bananas in it. That is a lot of banana. You will be so happy when you bite into one if you are a banana lover like me.

And…since this blog is called Bring It, I thought I best bring them somewhere. I decided to pack them up as I headed out with some friends on a Super(bowl) Sunday ski. So while many were eating wings and nachos, we were enjoying these tasty muffins at the top of a run with a thermos full of hot ginger spice tea. Yummmmm…

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup honey
3/4 cup canola oil (I used 1/2 cup)
6 mashed ripe bananas
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Method

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl combine honey, oil, bananas, and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients mixing only until the ingredients are combined. A good muffin batter should be lumpy. Cover and refrigerate or bake now.

To bake, set your oven to 350 degrees F. While it preheats, bring your batter to room temperature and grease and flour muffin tins, or line with paper liners.

Gently fold the blueberries and walnuts, if using, into the batter. Fill each muffin cup at least 3/4 full. These muffins do not rise very much.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Test with a knife. The point should come out clean when the muffins are ready.

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