The Ultimate Gluten Free Zucchini Spice Muffins W/Walnuts & Cranberries via Brittany's PantryMy sister is staying with us for awhile.  Did I mention that before?

We get her as a house guest for a few months while she finishes settling into employment here on the East Coast.  We kind of love it and while there are always adjustments with long term visitors, most of the adjusting is happening on her end, I assure you.  To go from living on your own in downtown Seattle, to sharing a house with three kids in the steamy South is quite the change of scenery.  My sister is a very healthy eater, skipping dairy due to an allergy and avoiding gluten because she just feels so darn better when she does!  She does regular workouts, she runs, and is currently training to be a personal trainer while simultaneously working full time.

In short, she is my hero. :)

Here at our house, we generally eat…okay.  My husband and I don’t drink pop, we limit fruit juice with our kids, and the majority of bread in our house is whole grain.  We like natural sweeteners, low fat dairy, and snack on whole fruits and fresh veggies as much as we can.  Ultimately, we just do our best, because that is all we can do, right?  And most of the time, thats good enough.

But I know that my sister misses her pristine diet.  She never complains, but I kinda like the gal so I try to accommodate her as well as I can.  The dairy free thing is no problem, but cooking gluten free is not my normal practice.  I do it, but not exclusively.  Enter-THESE MUFFINS!  Everyone should be able enjoy a good spiced muffin in the fall and these darlings are my contribution.  I bake them up (beat my kids away from the kitchen with a stick because they try to steal them) and tuck them in the freezer just for her!  My next gluten-free endeavor? Pumpkin muffins!!The Ultimate Gluten Free Zucchini Spice Muffins W/Walnuts & Cranberries via Brittany's PantryGluten Free Zucchini Spice Muffins

1 c sugar, granulated or  raw
2 eggs
1/2 c canola, coconut, or grapeseed oil
1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together above ingredients until smooth.
Fold in:
1 1/4 c all-purpose GF flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp EACH of ground ginger, cloves, and nutmeg
Mix two or three times (it will not be combined yet) and add:
1 small zucchini, shredded
1/2 c dried, unsweetened cranberries
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Continue to fold together until combined but JUST MIXED!  Bake in paper lined muffin cups at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Swirl Brownies! {Brittany's Pantry}Sometimes, there just aren’t adequate words to describe something.

I could tell you that these brownies are the chewiest, gooiest brownies you will ever eat, but that wouldn’t do them justice.  I could tell you that people gasp when they see them (they are that decadent) and that they will be devoured faster than any other treat, but you need to see that for yourself.  I could tell you that while they look a bit complicated, they really are fairly easy with only an extra step or two, but you should just make them.

Well, hey!  Look at that!  I guess I did have adequate words to tell you all of that! :)

But gosh darn it, its true.  I have been making these brownies for over a decade and they have come along with me to many a pot luck and game day party. I have tucked them in lunches and sent whole batches with my husband to share at work.  I have served them at Christmas parties and barbecues.  Always the same.  Always good.  Always scrumptious.  I don’t cook with mixes all that often (Actually, I just realized I have another recipe coming up that uses a mix… :) ), but sometimes I need the time saver and convenience the most at that moment.  Ere go, one of the reasons I have been making these for so long.

I figured it was time that you got to make them too!  Yes?
Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Swirl Brownies! {Brittany's Pantry}Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Swirl Brownies! {Brittany's Pantry}Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Marshmallow Swirl Brownies
Inspired by Cooking Light

3/4 c sweetened condensed milk, divided
1/4 c canola or grape seed oil
1/4 c milk
1 box devils food cake mix
1 egg
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow fluff
3/4 c peanut butter chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 inch baking pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, combine 1/4 c of the sweetened condensed milk and the next 4 ingredients.  The batter will be VERY sticky!  Spread 2/3 of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan.  The layer will be thin, but keep at it! :)  Bake for 10 minutes, until just set.  Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/2 c of condensed milk and the marshmallow fluff until smooth.  Fold in the peanut butter chips.  When the crust comes out of the oven, pour on the marshmallow mixture and carefully smooth and spread to the edges.  Drop the remaining chocolate batter evenly over the marshmallow stuff.  Gently swirl with a toothpick, if desired.  Its all pretty thick, so you just want to make sure everything is even.  It will all bake together anyway.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, or until dry and set in the middle.  Let brownies cool almost completely and cut into SMALL squares.  These are UBER rich so resist the urge to make them giant and ere on the smaller side. Besides….you know you are going to eat two anyway….

My Favorite Peach Cobbler

The Best Peach Cobbler Ever! The only kind I make anymore! {Brittany's Pantry}Confession.

I am having a major case of writers block right now.

I keep staring at this picture of sweet, warm, peach cobbler and all witty and inspiring thoughts are replaced with the desire to lick the screen. So far, I have resisted.The Best Peach Cobbler Ever! The only kind I make anymore! {Brittany's Pantry}Generally, cobblers have a biscuit or scone like topping on them, but many versions, including those seen here in the South, are topped with more of a batter.  My recipe is kind of a cross between the two.  I don’t like my topping to be hard like a biscuit, but I don’t want it cake-like either. This is a good balance that ends up wonderfully thick and crisp, but not heavy.  It is also fantastically easy to make and doesn’t require anything more complicated than just mixing.  SCORE!

But greatness (or great recipes) are not without their complications! My biggest issue with this treat was getting the underside of the topping completely cooked.  It kept turning out gooey and doughy and the edges would be too dark.  NOT good eats.  But after dozens and dozens of cobblers over years and years of baking, I fixed it. Now, easily one of my favorite desserts to make, this cobbler is perfectly delightful.  The fact that peaches are in season right now just happens to make this even better.  Take advantage of it, people!

Yes, you can make this with pears or plums, but anything firmer-say, apples- wouldn’t quite work.  The fruit wouldn’t be cooked in the time the topping was baked.  Stick to juicy stone fruits, but feel free to stir in a bit of berries to give it some variation. As for me, I like it classic. Classic and peachy.  Peachy and juicy.  Juicy and sweet.The Best Peach Cobbler Ever! The only kind I make anymore! {Brittany's Pantry}The Best Peach Cobbler Ever! The only kind I make anymore! {Brittany's Pantry}The Best Peach Cobbler Ever! The only kind I make anymore! {Brittany's Pantry}The BEST Peach Cobbler
I have no idea if cinnamon is a classic cobbler ingredient, but my Mom taught me to ALWAYS put a bit of cinnamon with peaches.  And so I do! Because she was right.  The warm spice isn’t overpowering or even really noticeable.  It just pairs so well here you won’t want to leave it out!

8 large ripe peaches, cored and cut into 8ths
1/4 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1 c flour
2 T cornmeal
1 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
large pinch of salt
4 T (1/2 of a stick or 1/4 c) of room temp butter
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 375.  Spray or butter a large, 9X13 glass baking dish.  In a large bowl, gently mix the filling ingredients, tossing until mixed and evenly coated.  The juices of the fruit will help it all coat. Dump into prepared baking dish and snuggle all the fruit down until its even.  In the same bowl, mix the dry ingredients of the topping together.  Add the butter and eggs and mix with a spoon until smooth and it forms a stiff batter.  Drop by large dollops all over the top of the fruit, spreading a bit to cover as much area as you can.  The batter will spread and cover wonderfully as it bakes!  If desired, sprinkle a tablespoon of granulated sugar over the top, just to give it a bit of sparkle!

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until evenly golden brown and bubbly in the center. Remove and let cook for at least a half an hour so that the filling sets a bit.  Too hot makes for a messy cobbler on your plate (not a bad thing, just not as easy to serve).  Serve warm, room temp, or even cold.  Vanilla ice cream on the side is always a good thing.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bars

These Chocolate Chip Banana Bars are moist and delightfully sweet! {Brittany's Pantry}This recipe will make your house smell amazing.

Yes, I am choosing to open this post with that statement because that is what immediately comes to mind as I write this.  It practically wraps your house in a hug.  As cheesy as that sounds, its absolutely true.  Make no mistake that it will totally lift your mood to have this baking in your oven.

Due to the fact that our household goes through a LOT of bananas, it stands to reason that we will occasionally have overripe fruit on our hands. I never count this as a burden… :) All you have to do is type ‘banana’ in the ingredient search option on the right side of this screen to find out how much I like to bake with them. Like, really enjoy baking with bananas. A few months ago, when trying to decide what to throw together with my extras, I decided to just start paging through my cookbooks to find something new.  My kids got into the hunt and they unanimously agreed that these chocolate chip banana bars were the obvious choice.

The flavor of these bars, though similar to a banana bread, have the added bonus of butter (mmmmm…..buttaaaaaaah…)  They are moist and rich and deserve a plate and fork.  I’ve made them several times in the last few months and they are reliable and delightful and wonderful. A fantastic treat to bring to a game night, pot luck, or to just bake on a rainy weekend!  Enjoy friends!

What is YOUR favorite banana baked good??
These Chocolate Chip Banana Bars are moist and delightfully sweet! {Brittany's Pantry} Chocolate Chip Banana Bars
Recipe adapted from BHG
These bars are so moist, they only last a day or two at room temperature.  Store them in the fridge to get an extra day out of them, or better yet, wrap each bar individually in plastic and freeze for later.  Usually, I make them for a crowd and make them the day of the event for best results. Or I bake them for no reason and just eat them all….

3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature butter
1/2 sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
3 small bananas
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 11X14 glass pyrex dish.
Cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the bananas, egg, and vanilla, and beat until fruit is mashed and mixture is combined.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl if necessary. Fold in chocolate chips by hand.  Spread the thick batter evenly into the prepared pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  These are great when they are just slightly warm, but room temp is good too!

Hot Cross Buns

Hot-Cross-BunsGood Friday is nearly here and I needed to finally share my most favorite recipe for Hot Cross Buns.

I did not grow up eating these at Easter and as a child, thought they were some foreign kind of food that was only mentioned in nursery rhymes. Now that I am older and have access to Google, I love the story behind them. I started making them Easter weekend several years ago, but that new tradition kind of disappeared. In the last six years, on, just before, or just after Easter weekend, I have had a baby (twice), moved (twice) or been out of the state due to celebrations of previous baby births. I am crossing my fingers that the drama during this holiday in the future is limited to the celebration of the risen Christ, since neither moving or additional children are in our plans.

This recipe happens to be from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. I followed it exactly with no tweaking. If you are new to yeast breads and regard them as a rather scary endeavor, this is perfect for you. No kneading or guessing about how much flour. It is straight forward instructions and a very forgiving recipe. I highly recommend giving them a try. I also suggest that you eat one right out of the oven, with no frosting. Yeasty and wonderful!

Hot Cross Buns

For The Buns:

2 c whole milk
1/2 c oil-I recommend canola or grapeseed
1/2 c sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (this is exactly one little package)
4 c flour + 1/2 c for later in the recipe
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 big pinches of salt
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c raisins or currants-I use raisins because I always have them on hand and they are easier to find in the supermarket

For The Icing:
1 egg white
powdered sugar

To make the rolls, combine the first three ingredients in a large saucepan. Place it over medium heat and stir occasionally, without letting it burn, until hot (not boiling please!) Remove from heat and set aside to cool until its only warm. When it is no longer hot, sprinkle the yeast over the top, add the 4 cups of flour, and stir until combined. It will be a very soft, sticky dough. Leave it in the saucepan and let it sit, covered loosely with a towel or plastic wrap, for an hour. Add the last 1/2 c of flour, the baking powder and soda, and the salt. Mix well.

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper, or very lightly oil it. Set aside. Lightly flour your VERY CLEAN countertop and pull the dough down onto the surface, pressing all around to flatten the dough a bit. Combine the last 1/4 c of sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle one third or so onto the dough, along with a little less than half the raisins. Fold the dough in half and press and flatten, squishing the raisins and cinnamon/sugar inside. Sprinkle on more raisins and cinnamon and sugar and repeat. Repeat a third time, pressing gently to ‘mix’ the raisin mixture in layers inside. Pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough and gently roll it into a ball, pinching the edges together at the bottom of necessary to form a smooth ball. Place on the prepared sheet pan. Continue until the pan is full, placing the rolls at least 2 inches apart, and cover lightly. Set aside to rise in a warm place until very puffed. I like to set them in the sunshine in front of a window!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a fork, beat together one egg and a splash of water to make an egg wash. Brush the tops and sides of the buns with the egg wash and bake for 20 minutes, or until the buns are a nice golden brown. They smell so good!!!

Allow to cool on a cooling rack, but only after you have eaten one or two of them warm. So. Amazing. Don’t frost them too soon, or it will all melt off! When they are just barely cool, combine the egg white with enough powdered sugar to make a super crazy thick frosting. How much will depend on the size of your egg. Add a tiny splash of milk until you get the consistency you want. Make sure the frosting is thick enough to stay on the buns! Spoon or pipe the frosting in a ‘cross’ shape on top of your Hot Cross buns. Enjoy!

Sweet Pineapple Casserole

Sweet Pineapple Casserole is a cross between bread pudding and pineapple upside down cake!  And it goes great with HAM! {Brittany's Pantry}Just a quick post to pass along a favorite side dish recipe.  Just in time for Easter!

About a bazillion years ago, a sweet southern woman served me this kind of baked, scalloped, pineapple, bread, thing.  I was hooked.  I have no idea what she called it, but we ate it with breakfast and I have been dreaming about it ever since.  With a holiday coming up that has a meal traditionally centered around ham, I thought this was the perfect time to bring that tasty memory to reality.

To be honest, I don’t really remember if this is anything like the version I ate all those years ago, but I love it so much I don’t really care anymore.  This stuff is addictive.  In the past few weeks, I have eaten it with burgers, breakfast, and yes, some roasted meat.  All good.  All very very good.  It is like the jack-of-all-trades of the side dish world.  I’ve seen this wonderfulness served with Thanksgiving dinner as well as brunch.  It is at home alongside quiche as well as barbecue.  And yes, you can be sure it will be crazy good with that ham you will be making in a few days.

Pineapple and ham?  Perfect.
Sweet Pineapple Casserole is a cross between bread pudding and pineapple upside down cake!  And it goes great with HAM! {Brittany's Pantry}Sweet Pineapple Casserole

1 stick of butter (1/2 c) of softened butter
1 c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1-20 oz can of chunked pineapple, drained
1 small loaf of french bread, cut into 1 inch chunks (4-5 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray or butter a small casserole dish or glass 9X9 dish.  In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until incorporated.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Fold in the pineapple and the bread cubes until well mixed and bread is coated.  Pour into greased dish and spread evenly.  Bake until bubbly in the center and golden brown on top, 35-40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Savory Chicken Chile Hand Pies

Savory Chicken Chile Hand Pies via Brittany's PantryOne of the things I realized after having children is that anything that is able to be eaten with your hands is golden.  Instant success, friends.

Come to think of it, this may be true across the board with adults as well as kids, hence our continued obsession with all things ‘on a stick’ at the summer festivals.  But there is something incredibly appealing about being able to walk and munch at the same time.  Is it because finger foods are so cute?  Its fun?  We like doing two things at once?  Whatever the reason, these cheesy little pockets of goodness satisfy that need we all have to multitask.

Made with convenient, ready-made pie crusts, this dinner/lunch comes together faster than you would think.  They are just a tiny bit spicy, but not enough to turn anyone off.  Crispy and gooey and warm and satisfying.  A portable little meal.  Perfect for to enjoy while vacuuming.  Or folding laundry.  Or walking the dog…

Find the recipe and more photos over on the Columbia City Moms Blog website.


Cornflake Cookies

Cornflake Cookies are a perfectly crunchy treat! {Brittany's Pantry}Cornflake cookies.  Have you heard of these?

My Mom made these cookies all the time when I was growing up and they were always one of my favorites.  The irresistible crunchiness of the cereal in them is incredibly appealing to a kid, but when I recently tested a batch and served them to a crowd of adults, the response was overwhelming.  Apparently, grown-ups like crunchy cereal in their cookies too!  I thought that everyone made them until recently when I took a very un-scientific poll and discovered that no one I knew had ever had one before.  So I decide to SHARE THEM WITH THE WORLD!

If you are wondering what they are like, imagine a chewy sugar cookie with LOTS of texture.  They have just a bit of oatmeal in them to give them a nice heartiness, but the crispy crunch of the cornflakes makes them fun and kind of addictive.  Like most cookies, these freeze particularly great so be sure to mix up a double batch and tuck a few away.  Snuck into a lunch box for school or nibbled on with a late night cup of tea, they are equally scrumptious for the whole family.  Don’t worry.  I won’t make you share yours with the world.
Cornflake Cookies are a perfectly crunchy treat! {Brittany's Pantry}Cornflake Cookies
You can use traditional rolled oats in this recipe, but the finer texture of the quick cooking just seems to work better here.  To crush the cornflakes, place 1 1/2 cups in a zip top plastic bag and crush with your hands.  You don’t want crumbs or powder, so just scrunch them up until there are no big flakes.

3/4 c (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c quick cooking oats
1 c crushed corn flakes (about 1 1/2 c from the box)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars.  Add the egg and vanilla and combine.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Scoop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a sprayed or parchment lined sheet pan.  Flatten slightly with your hands, then bake for 9-10 minutes, or until just golden brown around the edges.  Let cookies cool and set on the pan for a few minutes before removing them to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Quick & Easy Lemon Bars

Quick & Easy Lemon Bars via Brittany's PantryI have confessed previously-not sure when, but I know I did at some point in time-that I love all things citrus.  I take after my Mother in that respect.  It is true that I inherited her facial features and love of music, but my Mom also loves all things lemon, and that is what we are focusing on today kids.

When I was a young, we returned home from school to lemon bars, still warm on the counter, more times than I can count.  If Mom was craving something sweet, she made lemon bars.  They were the first treat I saw her make where you had to bake them twice and I thought that was just about the coolest thing ever.  The bars were quick to throw together and it made a 9 inch square pan.  With eight people in the family taking some, there were no leftovers for the next day.  And she wouldn’t just make lemon bars.  She made a killer lemon meringue pie (another scientific phenomenon that I though was so neat), but more often than not, she would pull out the recipe and just make the lemon filling.  We would all spoon hot, freshly made lemon pudding into our bowls and rarely get around to actually rolling out a crust, or whipping up the egg whites she had saved after using the yolks in the custard.  It was the rich, lemony-ness that she wanted and let me tell you.  It is hard to beat a rich homemade lemon custard.

I still think of my Mom any time I see or eat a lemon bar.  Which are generally at the same time because if I see it, you can sure as heck bet on the fact that I am going to eat it too.  The smell of them baking reminds me of our family kitchen, and eating them almost always prompts me to turn to my children and say, “Do you know who else loves lemon bars?  Namma!”  The kids cheer and I laugh, hopefully passing along the same sweet memories I had as a kid.  It is something special for my children to know; that they have things in common with their extended family, despite the dozen or so states that currently separate us.  It makes them feel closer.

Although I can’t help but wonder if my Mom somehow just knows when I pull a fresh pan of lemon bars, hot out of the oven, and set them on the counter as my kids arrive home from school…Quick & Easy Lemon Bars via Brittany's PantryQuick & Easy Lemon Bars via Brittany's Pantry Lemon Bars
I have said it before and I will say it again-I LOVE LEMON BARS.  I have been making different versions of them for as long as I can remember, but only recently settled on this recipe.  Go figure, it was the first one I ever scribbled down for myself to test, hoping that they would turn out since I had completely guessed at all the measurements.  Over the years I started adding a bit of cream to the filling, trying to mellow out the tang a bit.  I know there is no zest in here but trust me when I say that you won’t miss it.  These are not a super crazy, take you an hour to make, kind of bar.  They are as streamlined and simple as I could make them, without sacrificing flavor.  I may post another recipe sometime, making a fancier, more involved bar.  But for now, when I want lemon bars, I make these.  They never disappoint.

1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 stick of butter, barely melted

2 eggs
1 c sugar
1/4 c lemon juice (taste testers surprisingly preferred the flavor of the batch made with bottled lemon juice instead of fresh, but its your call)
1 T flour
1 T heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray or grease a 9X9 inch pan, preferably glass.
Combine all the of the crust ingredients and press into the prepared dish, making sure the crust is even.  Bake for 15 minutes.  While the crust bakes, whisk all the filling ingredients together until smooth.  When crust is done, remove the pan, give the filling one last whip, and pour the lemon mixture over the hot crust.  Return the pan (carefully) to the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the filling is JUST SET!  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Cut into bars and dust with powdered sugar if desired.  Store bars in the fridge for 2-3 days, tightly sealed.

Watergate Cake

Watergate Cake is a super easy, retro dessert that is right at home at  a church potluck or family dinner! Taste the nostalgia! {Brittany's Pantry}Once upon a time, there was a wonderfully sweet and precocious, curly haired little girl who had gone to visit her Grandmother’s farm.

This farm was a very special place.  It was often the location of summer family reunions and get togethers; the yard and nearby orchard overflowing with Aunts and Uncles and Cousins.  During one such visit, the little girl’s Aunt Mary handed her a small, white plate with a big square of moist, green cake on it.  It was covered with a fluffy cream that looked so light and airy it seemed to have been pulled right from the clouds above!  The girl slowly picked up a fork and took a bite.  As the rich, sweet confection hit her tongue, the little girl’s eyes grew round with wonder and delight!

“Aunt Mary!  Pray tell, what is this amazing treat you have passed to me that is the color of spring leaves and 70’s avocado kitchen cabinets?!  What angel led you to this enchanted cake made from magical ingredients?”

Aunt Mary smiled angelically and leaned down close to the little girl.  “My sweet, sweet child,” she said.  “This is, Watergate Cake.”

All of a sudden, the clouds parted and sunshine streamed down on us.  The chorus of ‘Hallelujah’ began to play and soon rose to a thundering crescendo of praise!  Watergate Cake!  The little girl’s life was forever changed for the better and from that day on, she would remember that day as ‘The Day of the Watergate Cake.’

True story.
Watergate Cake is a super easy, retro dessert that is right at home at  a church potluck or family dinner! Taste the nostalgia! {Brittany's Pantry}All right.

So maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that.  But its pretty close to my first taste of this fantastic dessert.  It doesn’t get much more retro and nostalgic than green cake made with instant pudding, so if you ever wondered about that dessert you ate years ago at the potluck in the church basement, this is probably it.  It is another one of the ‘cheater’ recipes, as I call them, because it is made with boxed ingredients.  However, in this case, there just is not a substitute.  The very essence of this cake is rooted in childhoods of my generation and one bite will give you flashbacks of denim bell bottoms and polyester collared shirts.  The fact that it tastes incredible is not lost on me and I STILL bring it to potluck dinners and serve it to crowds.

I also can still hear angels singing when I take my first bite.  I can’t be one hundred percent sure, but I bet I am not the only one.  :)
Watergate Cake is a super easy, retro dessert that is right at home at  a church potluck or family dinner! Taste the nostalgia! {Brittany's Pantry} Watergate Cake
I usually cut this cake into 15 pieces.

1 box white cake mix
1 (3 oz) box instant pistachio pudding
3 eggs
1 c oil
1 c gingerale, Sprite, or 7-Up

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly spray a 9X13 inch baking pan.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat all of the above ingredients for a solid minute until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  COOL COMPLETELY.  While the cake cools, make the frosting.

1 (3 oz) box of instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 c of milk
1 (8 oz) container of whipped topping, such as CoolWhip
chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)

Whisk the pudding and milk together until smooth and thick.  Fold in the whipped topping.  Pour it over the cake, spreading it smooth, and chill the whole she-bang until ready to serve.  Top with chopped pistachios if desired.  Enjoy!

Mini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Whipped Cream CheeseSometimes, inspiration just strikes.  Like lightening.  Or in my case, like cream cheese and bacon.

A few years ago I started adding bacon and chives to my regular Mini Corn Muffins.  I still make them plain all the time and usually serve them with chili, salads, or just as a snack to munch on. But filled with extras, they make the perfect addition to a brunch buffet or breakfast.  With the green of the chives and the chunks of bacon, they are more than a little tempting all piled up in a big basket.  A nice, savory change of pace.  And bite sized!  How cool is that?!  I decided to make them for a little get together I was at recently, but couldn’t shake the fact that they looked like they needed something extra.  Hats of cream cheese?  Yuppers.  Perfect.  All dressed up and ready for a party.  It was my husbands idea to top them with bacon.  I wanted to add some chives to the top for color, but bacon won out due to the enthusiastic and threatening insistent cries of my family.  Ultimately, you decide which you want to top them with!

These are so easy to bake up and top that you are going to want to make them for everything.  Parties are an obvious choice, but set out with a spread for a bridal shower or baby shower, these are a fantastic, non-sugary appetizer that are irresistibly pop-able.  They are also the perfect size for little fingers so try adding them to a table at a kids party, with or without the topping.  Bursting with flavor and fantastic textures, these little bites of wonderfulness are definitely ready for their close-up.
Mini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Whipped Cream CheeseMini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Whipped Cream CheeseMini Corn Muffins W/Bacon, Chives, & Spicy Cream Cheese Whip
Top the mini muffins no more than an hour or two ahead of time.  You can bake them up a day ahead and store them in an airtight container.  Mix up the topping and chill it in the fridge until you are ready to use it and everything will be ready when you are.

Cook 1/2 lb of bacon and chop.  Set aside several pieces for garnish.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly spray a mini muffin tin.


Mix together in a medium bowl:
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 c canola oil or grape seed oil
1 c white whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
1/3 c cornmeal
2 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients just until combined. Do not over mix.
Fold in 1 c frozen corn, thawed
2 T chopped fresh chives
Add most of the bacon, still reserving a bit for garnish on the tops.

Divide batter among the mini muffin cups and bake until puffed and golden, 9-11 minutes.  This makes about 40 mini muffins so it may take two passes through the oven.  Remove to a cooling rack.

4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T sour cream
1 tsp bottled hot sauce
1 T honey
1 tsp milk

Whip all ingredients together until smooth.  Pipe, spread, or dollop whip on the cooled mini muffins and garnish with reserved bacon, more chopped chives, or both!  Can be made and assembled an hour ahead.

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cookies

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cookies are the real deal! {Brittany's Pantry}Lets chat about chocolate, yes?

It needs no introduction.  Chocolate is good and chocolate is great.  Blah blah blah.  Nothing we don’t already know.  So when you find a Ghirardelli recipe in a magazine for a double chocolate cookie, you take note and trust them.  Who better to for me to listen to about chocolate cookies than chocolate experts?  And we all know that Ghirardelli is the real deal.  Also, I got this before Pinterest existed when people still read magazines for the recipes.  Which, amazingly enough, wasn’t all that long ago…

I have been making this recipe for years, exactly as it stands, with no changes.  When you want a fudge-y, brownie-like, chewy cookie, this is the ticket.  I keep looking for other versions, trying out other kinds of cookies.  I have posted a few of them; midnight chocolate, peppermint chocolate, triple chocolate.  But these are the only cookies that are basically solid chocolate barely held together by a few other ingredients.  As in, the high ratio of chocolate in these is pretty much just one step up from gnawing on a block of semisweet.  Ul-ti-mate, baby.  Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cookies are the real deal! {Brittany's Pantry}It is the texture of these that really gets me though.  The crispy edges give way to a chewy center that is all crackly with choclate-y goodness.  Not cakey.  Not too crispy.  Perfect.  Basically the perfect chocolate cookie.

Clearly we need to chat about chocolate more often, yes?  I also may have just set a record for number of times the word ‘chocolate’ appeared in a blog post.

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Cookies
The only thing I have changed about this recipe is the method.  Feel free to add a teaspoon of peppermint extract to the batter for, well, obvious reasons.  And it may be hard to believe, but this is not a sponsored post.  Ghirardelli knows nothing about it.  I just love their cookies.

1 (10 oz) bag of good quality, bittersweet chocolate chips
6 T soft butter
3 eggs
1 c sugar
1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

In a small microwaveable bowl, heat the bittersweet chocolate and the butter together in 20 second intervals, whisking after each one until the chocolate is smooth.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined.  Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and whisk together.  Whisk in the flour and baking powder.  Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.  Drop by large tablespoonfuls onto a parchment lined sheet pan and bake at 375 for 11-12 minutes, or until cracked and shiny.  The insides should be soft and chewy so DON’T OVER BAKE!  If you use a teaspoon scoop to make smaller cookies, they will only take about 9 minutes.  Let cool on the pan for a full 5 minutes or so before removing to a cooling rack.  Keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.  Enjoy!

Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread

Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread from Brittany's PantryNo doubt, the title of this post has you intrigued.  Or at least has you drooling.

I never get sick of quick bread recipes and this time of year is the perfect opportunity to branch out.  Bloggers go bananas trying new things and showcasing special recipes.  The list of recipes I had to share with you was epic.  I am talking EPIC here people!!  Alas, life gets in the way.  So does bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections, fevers, and all the other fun stuff that comes with three kids who obviously need to be washing their hands more.  Our whole family has been sick and in the moments of health, concentrating on the continuing construction of our new home.  I have not been in the kitchen nearly as much as I have liked and am sadly, setting aside cookie and holiday treat recipes for another year.

But.  I have rallied for one last hurrah-er, recipe.  We have been quite addicted to this bread, which you may have noticed on Instagram.  It is so darn easy to mix up, my kids have been doing it for me.  Which is why there are twice as many cinnamon chips in this batch than normal… It is definitely a snack bread and lacks the really super sweet taste of a dessert.  But the flavors are so special, you can serve it either way.  It will make anything it touches smell good.  Wrapped tightly, I store it in my fridge for a day or two and the whole thing smells like rum eggnog.  It is heavenly.  And just in time for Christmas.Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread from Brittany's PantrySpiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread
Recipe adapted from UniHomemaker
This bread is even better the next day so make plans to whip it up before you actually need it.  Your house will smell ah-MAY-zing.

1/3 c canola or grape seed oil
1 c eggnog
1/4 c spiced or dark rum (both are good)
1 egg
2/3 c sugar
1 c white flour
1 c white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 c cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 350 and spray an 8 or 9 inch bread pan.  Whisk first five ingredients together until smooth.  Fold dry ingredients into the wet until just incorporated.  Gently fold in cinnamon chips and pour into greased pan.  Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with just a crumb or two attached.  Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  Store, wrapped well, at room temp for a day or two, or in the fridge for up to three days.

Caramel Apple Ginger Loaf Cake

Caramel Apple Ginger Loaf Cake is the special treat you have been looking for! {Brittany's Pantry}Originally this recipe was classified as a quick bread.  I think that is hysterical and here are the reasons why:

1.) It is covered with a glaze that is thick and sweet and can only be described as pourable caramel frosting.  F-R-O-S-T-I-N-G.  Not a quick bread type of feature.

2.) I don’t call a baked good with a moist crumb as delicate as this a bread.  Definitely a cake.

3.) Its special.  You can tell by looking at it!

And finally…

4.) Because of the gooey caramel frosting type ‘glaze’, it is easiest to eat on a plate with a fork.  Do you eat bread with a fork?  Me neither.

See?  Cake.  LOAF cake, for obvious reasons.
Caramel Apple Ginger Loaf Cake is the special treat you have been looking for! {Brittany's Pantry}Yes this is a good as it looks and yes, you too can make it at home. :)  This is studded with diced apples (yeah baby!) and minced crystalized ginger (say what?) so there is a nice, full flavor with this recipe.  It is definitely the kind of thing you bake as an extra special treat.  Not because it is necessarily so bad for you, but because the extra effort in making it results in a particularly indulgent loaf.  This is the perfect thing to make for a beloved friend or neighbor around the holidays.  Wrapped up in wax paper and topped with a bow, it makes an incredibly appealing picture.  Besides gifting it to friend and family, this would be stellar sliced and put out on a breakfast buffet.  It tastes even better the next day so bake it up and glaze it an hour or so before you serve it so the topping has a chance to set.  Sliced on a plate with a hot cup of tea on the side makes the perfect, small serving, after dinner treat this time of year.  A piece of cake that is just right.

Of course, sneaking a bite or two as a midnight snack is ‘just right’ as well.  I did say this recipe was special, right?
Caramel Apple Ginger Loaf Cake is the special treat you have been looking for! {Brittany's Pantry}Caramel Apple Ginger Loaf Cake is the special treat you have been looking for! {Brittany's Pantry}Caramel Apple Ginger Loaf Cake
Recipe adapted from CCA
I have to say that even thought I really really love the caramel topping on this, it is just as good without it.  If you like, skip the final glazing step and just enjoy the apple-ginger bread as a snack.  Delightful.  Crystalized ginger is fresh ginger root that has been boiled in sugar. It is chewy in texture and covered with the crystalized sugar.  You can usually find it in the baking isle, or anywhere with dried fruit.

1 c brown sugar
1/2 c canola or grape seed oil
1/2 c sour cream
2 eggs
1 3/4 c flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 medium/large apples, such as granny smith, macintosh, or other firm, baking apple, peeled, cored, and diced small
1/3 c finely chopped crystalized ginger

1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c butter
1/4 c heavy cream
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 350 and thoroughly spray a large 8X4 loaf pan.  Whisk together the first four ingredients in a large bowl until thoroughly blended.  Add the dry ingredients and stir gently to combine.  Carefully fold in the apples and crystalized ginger.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a crumb or two attached.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn out onto a rack to cool further.
While cake is cooling, add all the glaze ingredients to a small saucepan and bring them to a bubble over medium hight heat.  Let boil 1 minute, the turn off heat and let set until it cools to a thick, but pourable consistency.  Drizzle generously over loaf cake and let glaze set.  Enjoy within 2 days or freeze, unglazed for several months.  Defrost and glaze as directed when ready to serve.

Cinnamon Apple Cake

Cinnamon Apple Cake | Brittany's Pantry - Poured into a big pan, this cake is a cinch to slice into pieces and devour!Last year, I had the fabulous privilege of sampling this cake at a meeting of our local Mom’s Group.  I am not ashamed to admit that it has filled my dreams ever since.  Apple cake.  Gooooood.

I have always loved apple cake and really really loved this version.  And not all apple cakes are created equal, mind you!  Sometimes apple cake is light and fluffy and then the chunks of apple weigh it down in a weird way.  Other times the apples are in big chunks that never seem to bake well.  Getting the crumb right with pieces of fruit mixed in is a balancing act.  Who knew it was such a delicate process with such a complicated formula?

This recipe gets around that by baking up a lot like bars.  Chewy and more dense that a traditional cake, it supports the chunks of apple perfectly, but it is still light enough to warrant a plate and fork.  Good gracious.  It is just awesome.  When I acquired the recipe from my friend, I learned that it is of course a family recipe.  I am thrilled she shared it with me and while I adjusted it to my taste just a smidge, it stays true to the original.  I dare you to bake this up and bring it to a gathering this holiday season.  Just be prepared to deal with the aftermath of praise, high fives, recipe inquires, and offers of marriage.  It is that good.
Cinnamon Apple Cake | Brittany's Pantry - Poured into a big pan, this cake is a cinch to slice into pieces and devour!I have no doubt that many other versions of apple cake will grace this little corner of the internet.  I am, after all, an equal opportunity eater.  But for now, I am having a hard time making it past this cake.  I have kind of hit the pause button on apple cake experimentation.  Maybe next year.  For now, this is my ultimate.

***This is my final post in the series of comforting and cozy recipes that I am featuring during the GIVEAWAY!  You only have a few more days to take advantage of my offer of free merchandise (yeah free!!) and enter for a chance to win loot from the top rated ETSY shop, Pine Tree Goods.  If you haven’t entered yet-and there ways to put your name in up to 5 times-click here and git er done!  Don’t forget to take advantage of the free shipping code just for BP readers!  Good Luck!***
Cinnamon Apple Cake | Brittany's PantryCinnamon Apple Cake | Brittany's Pantry - Poured into a big pan, this cake is a cinch to slice into pieces and devour!IMG_1260I couldn’t resist tucking in this last picture of Lane, my 2 1/2 year old photo-bomber.

Cinnamon Apple Cake
Adapted from MaryAnn Hillard, friend of Brittany’s Pantry
I am loyal to golden delicious as a baking apple, but a recent visit to an orchard in North Carolina had me taste testing an apple called Gold Rush.  It was awesome.  Great in a pie (or cake) and great to eat out of hand.  I highly recommend them if you can get your hands on them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together in the bowl of a stand mixer:
1 c (2 sticks) of room temperature butter
2 c sugar
When combined and smooth, add:
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
When combined and smooth, add:
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
Lastly, gently fold in 3 c of diced apple (peeled and cored).

Spread batter (it will be thick) into a sprayed 9X13 pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until evenly golden brown and set.  Cool cake until almost room temp before cutting and serving.  Cake is best the day it is made, but leftovers aren’t too shabby.