Monday, November 16, 2009

Sweetness and Light Muffins

Baking is not my forte but I've never had a batch of these muffins fail, and the recipe comes with variations that make it very versatile. It's from the Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread: A Country Inn Cookbook; and the pages are a mess with spilled ingredients from the many, many times I've used this recipe. I'm going to give you the basic recipe and then follow up with some of their variations, along with my favorite which I altered from the book (which just goes to show you can pretty much do what you want with the basic recipe).

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I just use ground nutmeg)
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled (I use Canola oil instead)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.
In a smaller bowl whisk together milk, butter (or oil), egg and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry, combine with as few strokes as possible -- just until ingredients are incorporated.
If you like, fold in additional ingredients as mentioned in Variation Options.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling to 1/2 to 2/3 full.
Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.
Cool briefly on racks until the smell and hunger pains drive you to eat at least one while piping hot.

Peach and Nut: Add a drop of almond extract to wet ingredients. Add 3 diced peaches and 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts to batter.
Ginger-Pear-Walnut: Add 2 partially mashed, diced pears, 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger root and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to batter.
Cranberry Nut: Use larger amount of sugar in basic recipe. Add 1 cup chopped cranberries and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts to batter. You can also add 1-1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest.
Piña Colada: Use smaller amount of sugar in basic recipe. Replace 1/4 cup milk with 1/4 cup thawed frozen pineapple juice concentrate mixed with 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add this to wet ingredients, then mix with dry ingredients. Add 1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (how about macadamias?) and, if you want, 3/4 cup diced fresh pineapple to the batter.
Banana-Chocolate Chip: (my personal favorite and the one I make most often) Add 2 mashed bananas,  1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/2 cup (at least) chocolate chips to batter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Green Chili Enchiladas

This was one of my son's all-time favorites when he was younger. It's from the Once A Month Cookbook (now expanded and revised) and back in the day I'd spend a day or two cooking up a storm and filling my freezer because life is busy when you've got two kids you homeschool and up to six others that you're houseparenting. I don't do the bulk cooking any more. It's just me and Ivan and we live in South America where there's a more relaxed pace of life (most of the time) and there's also the little issue of no longer having a freezer in which to put all the casseroles. The thing is, this is a great recipe for just any old day, especially if you're having company. You can make it a day or so ahead and stick in the fridge until time to put into the oven. Then you don't have to spend a ton of time in the kitchen when your guests are there, but can instead enjoy their visit.

Although I've never done it, it would seem this recipe could be tweaked to suit those who prefer poultry over beef. Which would make it a good way to use up some of that leftover turkey you'll soon have in your fridge. And a nice change of pace from the Turkey Tetrazzini we usually give our families after the holidays (not that there's anything wrong with Turkey Tetrazzini but year-after-year? Surprise your family with something new!).

  • 1 1/2 lbs ground beef (3 3/4 cups browned meat)
  • 1 1/4 cups onions, finely chopped (3/4 cup sauteed)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, grated (1 cup)
  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  1. Cook the ground beef, and saute onions until the meat is brown. Drain off fat. Add chili powder, salt and pepper. Reserve 1 cup cheese. Spoon enough meat mixture and remaining cheese on each tortilla to cover a third of it. Roll tortilla beginning at the filled edge. Place seam side down in a 13x9x2-inch baking dish treated with nonstick spray. Combine soup, sour cream, and green chilies to make a sauce; pour over tortillas.
  2. Bake uncovered in a preheated 375ºF oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chocolate Cinnamon Biscotti

When it starts getting cold (which is what most of you will experience once Indian summer is over) is there anything better than a hot cup of coffee or tea and some biscotti to dunk into it? No, I didn't think so either so this week I'm sharing a super easy biscotti recipe gleaned from the Chocolate Cake Doctor. This woman has taken a simple box cake mix and -- like Emeril -- KICKED IT UP A NOTCH! I haven't made it all the way through either the Cake Doctor or the Chocolate Cake Doctor cookbooks yet but I'm working on it :-) Simple ingredients and method, fantastic results. [Could also be made and given as gifts.]

makes 16-18
1 pkg plain German chocolate cake mix*
8 T butter (one stick)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fiinely chopped hazelnuts*
1/4 cup flaked or grated semisweet chocolate
1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In large bowl mix together all the ingredients on low speed until well blended, 3-4 minutes. The dough will be thick and come together in a ball.
Turn out onto prepared baking sheet. With floured hands shape dough into a rectangle about 14" long by 4" wide and 1/2 inch thick. Mound dough so it is slightly higher in the center (slightly, people, slightly!).
Bake until it feels firm when lightly pressed with finger and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 30-35 minutes.
Remove from oven and leave biscotti to cool for 10 minutes. (Leave the oven on; we're not done yet.)
Use a sharp, serrated knife cut one inch thick slices. You should end up with 16-18 biscotti. As you slice, carefully set biscotti on its side on the same baking sheet.
Return to oven and bake 10 more minutes. Turn oven off BUT LEAVE BISCOTTI IN THE OVEN for 30-40 minutes until they are crisp.
Remove from oven, transfer biscotti to a rack and cool completely (about 2 hours).
Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to several weeks.
* I substitute with regular chocolate cake mix since I cannot find the German chocolate here. 
Nor can I get hazelnuts, so I use walnuts instead.

Now how simple was that? And the taste? Riquisimo!