Muffin Mondays: Emily’s Spiced Carrot-Date Muffins with Cashews

Happy Monday readers! I’m Emily Cobb, author of art and lifestyle blog “emily’s eye.” It is quite the honor to be your Muffin Monday contributor for I must admit: I am not a professional baker or cook.

I love food though, and have been working in the restaurant industry for seven years so I’m not completely clueless. As an artist, I love combining the flavors of various ingredients as if they are paint on a canvas. When grocery shopping I’ll buy ingredients that interest me rather than having a specific recipe in mind. So when it comes time to cook or bake I become a pantry scavenger and will select items that I feel may mesh well. My goal is for the ingredients to accentuate each others’ best qualities without overwhelming.

Sometimes I come up with kitchen gems . . . sometimes I get laughable flops. The element of surprise when experimenting sure keeps things interesting.

Clearly the creative process is what I really love about cooking – well, the eating part is pretty awesome too. That said, lets talk muffins . . .

For today’s recipe: a medley of medjool dates, cashews, coconut, orange, fresh ginger and cardamom put a funky twist on the typical carrot-nut muffin rut. The spice combination makes these muffins downright mysterious while the dates, like nature’s caramel, add a serious dose of sweetness.

Warning: these muffins may be treading on carrot cake territory. . . not that there’s anything wrong with having dessert for breakfast. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to start your day. (Even if it is at the crack-of-noon, as is typically the case with me.)

As a true American my personal motto is “Go Big or Go Home:” I use a jumbo size muffin tin. This recipe will yield a dozen sensibly sized muffins or 6 big boys.

In closing, big kudos to Jen for creating the opportunity for local (and familial) foodie collaboration. Way to bring people together through baked goods. Viva Muffin Mondays!

Emily of Emilyseyelive.com

Emily’s Spiced Carrot-Date Muffins with Cashews

The Dry:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup coarse bran (miller’s bran)

½ cup brown sugar

1/3 cup coconut flakes (plus a bit extra to garnish)

3 tsp baking powder

1½ tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground clove

½ tsp salt

The Wet:

2 eggs

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup yogurt (plain or vanilla)

4 tbsp softened butter

The Delicious:

3/4 cup shredded carrot

½ cup chopped (& pitted) medjool dates

1/3 cup chopped cashews

2 tbsp shredded fresh ginger (for the best flavor use fresh, otherwise, substitute ½ ground ginger)

1½ tbsp orange zest

  1. Preheat the oven to 400, and use a food processor to shred carrots and a little nub of skinned fresh ginger. Prep the rest of the items by hand and combine each set of ingredients (the dry, the wet, and the delicious) in 3 separate bowls with the dry in the largest bowl (all the ingredients will end up here.)
  2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Then fold and stir the two forces together until everything is just moistened.
  3. Fold in the remaining ingredients (the delicious). The consistency should be lumpy and moist – do not over work! Spoon the batter into a greased muffin tin, and sprinkle the remaining coconut flakes on top of each muffin.
  4. Depending on the tin size and/or the oven the muffins need anywhere between 20-30 minutes to bake. Do the clean toothpick test every 5 minutes after 20 minutes of oven time have passed to determine when they’re done. Like most pastries these muffins are excellent when served warm or reheated in the toaster oven. Enjoy!
Advertisements

Muffin Mondays: Mom’s Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

This post begins a fall series on that best-loved of breakfast foods: the muffin. In all its varieties, the muffin captures special moments in the guise of the commonplace.

I am honored to present this inaugural guest post by my mother, Sheri Ward, whose solution to one of life’s transitions inspired the idea to devote my Mondays to muffins. I’ve invited some of my favorite bloggers and writers to share their most muffin-esque words and recipes, which I will dutifully post on Mondays throughout the coming weeks.

So if your mornings are lacking luster on these chilly days, check back often for new reasons to mix up a muffin or two.

Hello readers, this is Jen’s Mom writing. As I was thinking of how to begin my first (and hopefully not last!) guest post here on my daughter Jen’s food blog, I thought what better way to begin than this?

With the word “Mom” comes many things … gifts that have been lovingly passed down through generations of mothers before me, gifts that I have endeavored to pass on to my own children. For my love of cooking, and especially baking, comes from my own mother, and hers before that, and hers before that. It seems we all just can’t bake enough! It is almost a sacred thing to the women of our family: the dreaming and planning, then the creation of some warm and wondrous treat. And then of course the best part, the tasting — usually with a mug of freshly brewed coffee. We women have been known to curl up in bed with a favorite cookbook or food magazine, in search of another new recipe.

My husband Don and I recently embarked on a new stage of life: We are now “empty nesters” On the one hand it’s a lovely time of life, with a quieter household and a time of re-discovering each other. But after almost 30 years of baking and cooking for a family of 5, I found myself somewhat lost in this new chapter. Who would I bake for now? Yes, we both still enjoy fresh cookies, but a dozen muffins for two people? It was a real dilemma!

And then it came to me. I would start a muffin club with my Mom and sister Judi, also a recent empty nester. Every Monday morning we’d take turns baking a dozen muffins or scones, and deliver four of them to the others, keeping 4 for ourselves. And so, the “Monday Morning Marvelous Muffin Club” was born.

We are blessed to live within three miles of each other so this has made it somewhat easier. What a delightful treat is has been to open the door into my garage on Monday morning to find a basket of warm muffins waiting. We are all loving it.

Fall always draws me to the fragrant spiciness of all things pumpkin: pie, scones, and of course, muffins. And so it was that the first recipe I baked for our Monday Morning Muffin Club was Pumpkin Quinoa muffins, a new and healthy twist on what is no doubt a favorite with many of you. Quinoa, an ancient grain, is a comlete protein and gives these muffins a nice texture and a slightly nutty taste. The addition of pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, adds just the right amount of crunch.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that maybe I’ve inspired you to start your own muffin club with one or two close friends. Happy baking!

~Sheri Ward

Sheri and Jen

Pumpkin Quinoa Muffins

makes 12 large muffins

In a large bowl combine:

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup raisins
¾ cup cooked and drained quinoa (best made the day before, the grains fluffed with a fork).

Combine in another bowl:

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
¾ cup buttermilk or kefir
4 Tbsp melted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just incorporated. Spoon into muffin pan lined with paper liners or buttered. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 400 for 25 minutes (until nicely browned and passes the toothpick test). Let rest 5 min, then remove to a rack to cool.

Hi…I’m Jen’s Mom. As I was thinking of how to begin my first (and
hopefully not last!) guest post on my daughter Jen’s food blog,
freshcrackedpepper, I thought what better way to begin than this? For with
the word “Mom” comes many things….gifts that have been lovingly passed
down through generations of mothers before me, gifts that I have endeavored
to pass on to my own children. For my love of cooking, and especially
baking, comes from my own mother, and hers before that… and hers before
that. It seems we all just can’t bake enough! It is almost a sacred thing to
the women of our family…first the dreaming and planning, then the creation
of some warm and wondrous treat, and of course the best part…the
tasting…usually with a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee. In our
family, we women have all been known to curl up in bed at night with a
favorite cookbook or new food magazine, in search of yet another new
recipe…we enjoy this more than most novels!My husband Don and I recently embarked on a new stage of life…we are now
“empty nesters”! While it is a lovely time of life, with a (much!)quieter
household and a time of re-discovering each other, after almost 30 years of
baking and cooking for a family of 5, I found myself somewhat lost in this
new chapter of life. Who could I bake for now? Yes, we both still enjoy
fresh cookies and baking, but a dozen muffins for 2 people? I was in a real
dilemna! And then one day it came to me….I would start a muffin club with
my Mom and my sister Judi,also a recent empty nester! Early every Monday
morning, we’d each take turns baking a dozen muffins (or scones) and deliver
4 piping hot muffins to each other, keeping 4 for ourselves. We are blessed
to live within 3 miles of each other so this would make it easy. And so the
“Monday Morning Marvelous Muffin Club” was born! And what a delightful
surprise and treat is has been to open the door into my garage early every
Monday morning and find a basket of fresh warm muffins waiting for me on my
freezer! And it is so nice to bake one week, then have a surprise waiting
for me the next 2 weeks. We are all loving it!

 

The season of fall always draws me to the fragrant spiciness of all things
pumpkin….pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones, and of course pumpkin muffins. And
so it was that the first recipe I baked for our Monday morning muffin club
was Pumpkin Quinoa muffins, a new and healthy twist on what is no doubt a
favorite with many of you. Quinoa, an ancient grain, is a comlete protein
and gives these muffins a nice texture and a slightly nutty taste. The
addition of pepitos, which are pumpkin seeds, also adds a nice crunch.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, and that you are inspired to start your own
muffin club with one or two close friends…enjoy!!

Happy baking!
Sheri Ward

steel yourself for winter

Summer day after summer day out at our family cottage, us kids would wake at 6 every morning to our grandfather’s porridge. He had put it on the old stove long before then, and retreated to the forest to chop wood or “putter,” as our parents called it.

Slowly, we’d rise, assembling one by one by the fire he’d made.

I didn’t love oatmeal as a kid, but I loved him and so I ate it anyway.

I’ll always associate the storied three-bears’ dish with him—doling it out into bowls for our crew of cousins. We’d sit out on the deck around a cracked wooden table, us girls in our baby-doll nighties, and him hovering with pot in hand. I’m not sure if it’s a photograph I see or a real memory.

I guess we all come back to porridge, because lately it’s all I crave for breakfast. I’ve also recently discovered the steel cut, or Irish variety, which is less processed and more “whole” than it’s rolled and instant cousins.

Calorie-wise there is no nutritional difference between steel cut and rolled, but the extra steps in the processing of rolled oats does diminish some of the micronutrients (like Magnesium and Selenium) that oats have to offer. Steel cut oats are whole groats that have been chopped into two or three pieces. Rolled oats are groats that have been steamed and pressed. Quick or instant oats have been chopped, steamed, pressed, cooked, and dried. Even the littlest bear doesn’t want that in her bowl.

Oats are a superfood like no other. They stabilize your blood sugar, meaning you won’t get hungry as soon after eating breakfast. They also lower your cholesterol, and are high in fiber and protein.

But besides health, steel cut oats are just so much better than the instant ones. I can’t even begin to explain it. They create their own starchy sauce while they cook, and when their done still have an al dente chewy snap that other hot cereals don’t hold a candle to. They also keep really well in the fridge, so you can make a huge batch on Sunday evening and have it for breakfast all week.

Making this hearty breakfast is a snap. For two servings, dry toast 1 cup of oats to give them a nice, nutty taste. You can do this right in the pot you’ll be using, stirring constantly over high heat for 2 minutes, or until you can smell them toasting.

Then add 3 cups of water to the saucepan (remove it from heat while you do this, or it might splatter, and watch out for steam!), stir, and lower the heat to medium-low. DO NOT ADD SALT. Salt inhibits the release of starch, and will stop your oats from becoming as creamy as they were meant to be. Now you can go take a shower or do what you need to do for about 20 minutes, without stirring them once. You’ll find the heat setting on your element that’s right for you…the stew should gradually thicken and bubble gently. The higher the heat, the faster they’ll cook.

When you come back to your oats, they should be nice and tender, and just beginning to stick to the bottom of the pan. It’s no problem if they’re sticking a bit, unless you have the heat too high, they’ll scrape right off.

Scoop a generous portion for yourself into a bowl, and sprinkle with a little good-quality sea salt (we’re lucky to have some from Slovenia kickin’ around right now, a gift from a friend). Salt actually increases the natural sweetness of the oats: you might not even need sugar! If you want it, add brown sugar or maple syrup to taste, a shake of cinnamon, and some milk.

And once, promise me at least once, you’ll try it with whole milk or a splash of cream. To feed a bigger crowd or have leftovers for mornings ahead, simply increase your oats and water proportionally.

Spoony Sundays #5: Pluma Moos

Last summer my mom made a batch of pluma moos from one of her good friends’ recipes. One spoonful of the stuff was enough to catapult me into a childhood memory of eating the German fruit soup around a friends’ grandmother’s kitchen table. I don’t remember any details besides loving the smooth sweet slurp over my tongue and burst of cherries between my teeth.

When I finally found a source of large, affordable bags of dried fruit here (where I live a deprived life without regular access to Costco), I couldn’t wait to experiment with this bright, energy-packed breakfast soup. Before I had a chance to however, the whole bag mysteriously disappeared at the hands of a peckish partner.

The next time I bought two bags, and hid them.

When I came across a recipe for dried fruit compote (which is thicker than soup) in Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café, this blogger—always looking for ways to tweak even a near-perfect recipe—just had to give it a try. Maybe one day when I’m busier I’ll have a less “tweaky” kitchen. That’s why I’ve got to get the culinary lab scientist out of me now while I have the time and energy.

Here are two fruit soups that will inevitably take on your own stamp. Kinda like my granola recipe, they are, in the words of Blue Rodeo, never the same way twice. Sort of romantic, no? The first is care of one of my mom’s (and my) good friends, and bears the traditional low German namesake. The second is my own adaptation — perfect for adding to plain yogurt. And I promise you, when it comes to fruit, water, and sugar, errors are pretty much impossible.

Continue reading

bourbon banana bread

For all who shake in their boots at the prospect of yeast breads – weighing, mixing, rising, timing, punching and shaping – I’ve got something promising a more instant gratification: quick bread a la bananne. (Why I randomly insert French phrases in my food writing I do not know. Perhaps it’s some primordial desire to put some haute in my humble cuisine?)

Quick breads. The faithful easy-come, easy-go friends so unlike traditional yeast bread. (Who, let’s face it, can be a bit of a drama queen.) I know I know, banana bread doesn’t make a very good turkey dijon panini, but they more than make up for it when it comes to tea, unexpected guests, or cloudy mornings.

So you say you can’t bake. Quick breads are about to whisk you to lands flowing with cinnamon and molasses. Innocently pretending to be bread, the quick bread family is a cross between muffins and cake. Plus, they can be a lot healthier.

The recipe I’ve used most frequently for the classic quick bread (banana) is actually from Runner’s World magazine. I liked it enough to stick with it for a few months, but I’m not as loyal to recipes as I am to people, and I cheated.

It’s like this: when I stumbled upon a recipe with bourbon in the title, I abandoned my running shoes for the bottle of Granddaddy Bourbon I got for my birthday last year. I’ve always thought it tasted faintly of bananas anyway, and so the idea of having more banana in my bread – with highlights of caramel and butter to boot – seduced me.

If anyone asks, just tell them the bourbon made me do it.

It turns out there were things in the original I wasn’t willing to give up. Rather than making a complete switch, I let both recipes into the ring to duke it out for my affection. A tweak here, an addition there, and I had it. The shoes were back on.

My next project: a name. I couldn’t use “Runner’s World Banana Bread” as I’m sure that would turn many of you non-runners off, causing you to walk away from my site immediately. An’ I shur as hay-ell couldn’t tell it laik it was, wit that there bourbon n’ it n’ all, lest some of you think me lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.

And so I present to you, ladies and gents, a hot new recipe out of the NY State pseudo-south: my very own Bourbon Banana Bread. And, for no extra charge, the recipe that taught me how to make these quick-draw breads the right way.

Continue reading

Chameleon Granola

I often call it my favourite meal of the day. I love that delightful first crunch of that says “hello world.” I love cracking the shell of a boiled egg, exposing its warm, opaque flesh. I confess that I often fall asleep thinking about breakfast.

For some, breakfast is just fuel for the day. For others, it can be a reason to get up.

When I was cycling around Vancouver island in the Spring of ’06, breakfast was the only meal I’d eat out. I’d ride around a new town for an hour, looking for the perfect nook. I was often rewarded, like when I found these cinnamon buns at a rustic bakery, hidden away in cottage country forest, brushed inside with the slightest hint of raspberry.

It was so good, I didn’t even notice the plastic.

Breakfast with friends is a vulnerable meal to share; each rubs sleep from his or her eyes, and dips into the first morsels of a day full of senses. I have so many cozy memories of breakfasting: my grandfather’s porridge, fancy sweet potato pancakes at Fresh (a fantastic Winnipeg restaurant), a plate heaping with goodies at a greasy spoon, my friend Krista’s rum and banana crepes, poori bhaji in India.

Among all the ways to break a fast, granola holds its own. (Hey, I did live in Winnipeg’s ‘Granola Belt’ for 4 years.) It is a constant friend, showing up in our house at least every two weeks with new displays of taste and texture. This is the perfect recipe-in-flux, forgiving and even flourishing under the most brash of adjustments and tweaks. I think that trying to find new combinations of texture, chunkiness, sweetness, and health might just be one of my lifelong quests.

You can find much more straightforward granola recipes out there, but believe me, in terms of this morning delight I’ve played the explorer and the scientist. I can’t tell you how you’ll like it best, but I can tell you what to try. As the Chinese Proverb so goes, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Here’s to a lifetime of granola.

Continue reading