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.

Cake:
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.

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.

Muffins:

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
Add:
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.

Topping:
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

Glaze:
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.

Cheesy Bread

Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryMmm.  Cheesy Bread.  Just absorb that thought for a second.

It is spectacularly comforting which is why I am posting my favorite, easy version of this now.  It is the perfect food for the cozy theme I am following during the duration of my Pine Tree Goods Giveaway!  Melted cheese on chewy bread paired with a green salad or bowl of soup?  Yeah baby!!

As you may have guessed from my previous postings of Garlic Toast and Herbed Garlic Bread, I like having a carbohydrate to dip in my food.  I may or may not make noises like a crane on a construction site when I scoop with tools of bread.  One of my favorite hot lunches when I was a kid was the dunkers; big slabs of bread with melted mozzarella on top served with a scoop of spaghetti sauce.  Scrumptious.  Essentially, that is what I make this bread for.  The salad just makes me feel less guilty about eating a dinner centered around bread.

I was reading a recipe by Pioneer Woman recently and she mentioned that she freezes hers.  This never once occurred to me, but you can bet I am going to be doing that from now on!  Smear on the cheese mixture, wrap it up tightly, and pull out to thaw and toast whenever it is needed.  Genius.  And speaking of smart ideas, whoever paired bread and cheese together the first time (probably someone French…) and warmed it up and called it a meal, well they are my forever friend.

Here in South Carolina, I am learning about Southern Caviar (aka Pimento Cheese) and all its versions, uses, and adaptations.  In some ways this recipe is a simpler version of that.  I have been holding out on making my own pimento cheese but since it is everywhere down here, I am sure I won’t be able to resist for long.  Then, of course, I may just have to smear it on bread and toast it up.  That recipe and this recipe can be buddies.  Hehe!

Oy vey…I really shouldn’t blog when I’m tired….
Easy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's PantryEasy Cheesy Bread | Brittany's Pantry***Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win some one of a kind accessories from the top rated Etsy Shop, Pine Tree Goods!  FREE STUFF FOR THE WIN!!!  There are still a few days left to get your name in and it is just so darn easy, there is no excuse!!  Want to get your Christmas shopping done early?  Hannah, the artisan behind the goods, is offering a free shipping code just for Brittany’s Pantry readers!  Simple enter BPGIVEAWAY14 to get your items shipped free!  She does special orders too, so be sure to contact her if you want something specific!  Click here to zip over to the post to enter and see official rules.  Good luck!!***

Simple Cheesy Bread

1 large loaf french bread (not baguette-you want it softer than that)
8 oz grated colby-jack cheese
1/2 c good mayonnaise
1 stick (1/2 c) softened butter

Combine the cheese, mayo, and butter in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Cut the bread in half down the side lengthwise and open like a book.  I cut it in half crosswise as well so that the pieces fit on my pan butter, but whatever works for you is fine!  Divide the mixture evenly between the pieces of bread and smear evenly all the way out to the edges! Don’t forget the edges!  **If you are freezing this for later, gently sandwich the bread together, wrap well in plastic wrap, and then again in foil, or place in a zip top freezer bag.  Defrost in the fridge and proceed with recipe.**  Preheat the oven to 375.  Place the bread cheese side up on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan (because burnt cheese is a major bummer to clean off of metal) and toast for 10 minutes.  Check the bread to see how it is melting and proceed at 5 minute intervals until it is toasted to your preference.  Some like their cheese barely melted, other like it to be bubbling and turning brown.  Your choice!  Pull it out and let it set for a minute-if you can wait that long-before slicing and enjoying!

Sweet Orange Knots

Sweet Orange Knots | Brittany's Pantry - Frozen bread dough make these fun little treats quick and OH so easy!I have been making these darling little pastries for years and I have yet to get sick of them.  Who would turn down bread coated in orange flavored sugar?

I learned how to make these when I was catering during the earlier years of my life.  I thought they were the most ingenious thing I had ever seen.  So easy, yet so impressive.  I learned a lot working with professionals in the food industry, but I think one of the things that stuck with me the most is that it just doesn’t have to be so hard.  Case in point, these babies.  Four ingredients.  Four.  And they are absolutely de-LIGHT-full.  I have made them for bridal showers, baby showers, brunch, and even just for a fun snack on a weekend.  These are also a great recipe to make with your kids!

As you may have guessed this is the first recipe in a series of recipes I am making to continue the ‘cozy’ theme that I started with a giveaway a few days ago.  If you haven’t entered yet (*gasp* For SHAME!), check out the post here and see the loot I am giving away from the top rated ETSY shop, Pine Tree Goods.  Remember, there will be two winners and you have a chance to add your name up to 5 times!  If you don’t want to wait and see if you win (And you totally want to get some Christmas shopping done ahead of time!) take advantage of the free shipping code provided just to Brittany’s Pantry readers!  Enter BPGIVEAWAY14 at checkout and it ships free!!

And while you wait for your warm and cozy accessories to arrive, you can enjoy filling your house with the smell of warm bread.  Mmmmm…..
Sweet Orange Knots | Brittany's Pantry - Frozen bread dough make these fun little treats quick and OH so easy!Sweet Orange Knots | Brittany's Pantry - Frozen bread dough make these fun little treats quick and OH so easy!Sweet Orange Knots | Brittany's Pantry - Frozen bread dough make these fun little treats quick and OH so easy!Sweet Orange Knots | Brittany's Pantry - Frozen bread dough make these fun little treats quick and OH so easy!IMG_0746IMG_0771Sweet Orange Knots

1 lb frozen, refrigerated, or homemade bread dough
1 c sugar
zest of 1 large orange
1 stick (1/2 c) butter, melted

If your dough is frozen, defrost in the fridge overnight.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and set aside to rest.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the melted butter in one medium bowl and the sugar in another bowl.  Be sure to zest the orange directly over the sugar so that the oils and flavor from the zest all go into the sugar!  With clean hands, combine the zest with the sugar, rubbing to break up any clumps and to evenly distribute the orange flavor throughout.  Working one ball of dough at a time, gently roll the dough to create a ‘breadstick’ shape 6-8 inches long.  Dip the dough in the butter, then toss in the sugar mixture, coating well.  Tie the dough into a knot and place it on a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan.  Continue with the other pieces of dough until all are done, spacing evenly apart on the pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Baking time will vary depending on your dough, but make sure to check them after 15 minutes so they don’t burn on the bottom.  Don’t over bake them or the sugar will scorch!  Let cool slightly and then remove to a cooling rack.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

Sweet Northern Cornbread (Yankee Cornbread)

Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantryIf you read my blog with any regularity, you know that my family moved to South Carolina a few months ago.  I am finding it a bit of a trial to keep a balance between my Northern upbringing and wanting to experience and immerse myself in my new region of the south.  Case in point-cornbread.

So why, you may be asking, am I not posting a good southern cornbread recipe where the batter is poured into a cast iron skillet and baked to a perfectly crusty disc?  The kind of cornbread that practically thirsts to be doused in black eyed peas?  Cornbread that is to gravy as Curly is to Moe?

Because I haven’t perfected it yet.  Everyone makes their cornbread a bit different around here and since I have Mississippi ‘family’ that influences me as well, I need to cover all the bases and possibilities.  This requires more testing to come up with the final version and it will be, I assure you, coming soon.  It will even be baked to the perfect state of crustiness in my cast iron skillet.

That said, I am, as you know, from the North.  We Minnesota folk like our cornbread tall, fluffy, and sweet and I am not ashamed of it!  That is how I grew up with it, and, if I may be so bold as to say, it is still my favorite way to eat it.  *gasp*  Its true.  This is a safe place, friends.  We accept fans of all kinds of cornbread here.  No judgement.

Often called Yankee Cornbread, my version has flour in it, as well as cornmeal, to lighten the batter a bit.  Most traditional southern cornbread recipes I have come across, either researched or those served to me by southern women, have little or no flour in them and much less baking powder, if any at all.  The Northern version gets flack for being more cake like, while its counterpart is often criticized for lack of flavor.

Never one to discriminate against food (I am an equal opportunity eater), I like them both.  In turn, I like to eat them in different applications.  Today’s recipe is fantastic served with breakfast or brunch, spread with butter and jam.  Generally though, my kids and I like to eat it plain.  The texture and flavor is enough to warrant only a glass of milk on the side.  It is great baked into muffins as well and is a nice balance between crumbly enough to still be cornbread but firm enough to eat out of hand.  Since cornbread is just so darn easy to mix up, this is SO much tastier-and better for you-than reaching for a box of processed mix.  Occasionally, those come in handy, but for straight up cornbread, there is no substitute.

So below is my staple, straight-up, no messing around, no frills recipe for sweet cornbread.  Use it well and enjoy.  No matter which side of the Mason-Dixon Line you call home.
Sweet Northern Cornbread | Brittany's PantrySweet Northern Cornbread
Equal parts flour and cornmeal have always been my standard for cornbread.  My mom made it that way, so I make it that way.  I add a bit more baking powder to mine because I like it extra fluffy.  The white sugar forms just a bit of a sweet crust on the top that I can’t resist.  Makes great muffins too!!

1 c flour
1 c cornmeal
2/3 c sugar
pinch of salt
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 c milk
1/3 c grape seed, canola oil, or even melted butter

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl with a whisk.  In a large measuring cup, mix the egg, milk, and oil together with a fork.  Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients with the whisk, careful not to over mix!  Pour into a greased, 9X9 glass or metal baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in pan until just barely warm.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Spice Muffins via Brittany's PantryI should warn you.  I will never have enough pumpkin recipes.  Muffins, quick breads, dip, pie, shakes-everything.  I.  Love.  Pumpkin.

You will probably never find me with a pumpkin spiced latte as the sweetness level is a bit much for me, but other than that, I happily submit to all the pumpkin craziness that ensues from Labor Day to the end of the year.  And beyond, as I make pumpkin muffins and quick breads year round.  These Pumpkin Pie Muffins are my go-to, make ALL the time, never fail, can’t-get-enough-of-them-type of recipe.  So much so that I only ever so briefly stray from my loyalty to them.

Until now.  (Cue dramatic music)

I saw a version of the following recipe on the food network website.  I did my usual changes and tweaked things to make it a bit more streamlined, shave off a few steps, and make it ever so more healthy.   More healthy means I can eat more of them, yes?  But the point here is that I made these up and thought I may have just found my new favorite pumpkin muffin.  Then I made another batch and was sure I had found it.  The tang and chewiness of the cranberries make these extra special and just so darn irresistible.  They have been inducted into the Brittany’s Pantry hall of fame, which may sound prestigious, but actually just means they are a recipe that I make on a regular basis.  High praise for my family.  And since these adorable muffins are a kind of dressed-up, boss is coming to dinner, pumpkin muffin, they make  a great quick bread to give as a gift this season.

Or just do as I do and eat them all yourself.  I won’t judge.Cranberry Orange Pumpkin Spice Muffins via Brittany's Pantry Cranberry-Orange Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Inspired from Food Network

Preheat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, whisk together:

1/3 c canola or grape seed oil
zest of one orange
2 eggs
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c pumpkin puree
1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c milk
Combine ingredients until smooth.  Add:
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
Gently fold in the dry ingredients.  When nearly combined, add:
2/3 c dried cranberries

Continue to gently fold batter together until JUST COMBINED!  Do not over mix.  Portion the batter evenly amongst 12 sprayed or paper lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle each muffin cup with just a pinch of granulated sugar, raw sugar, or casters sugar, if desired.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a moist crumb  or two.  Let set for a few minutes then remove to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

Honey Cinnamon Slow-Cooker Peach Crisp

Honey Cinnamon Peach Crisp for the Slow Cooker | Brittany's PantryRecently, my husband and I purchased a large parcel of land in the middle of the South Carolina midlands.  We have been busy getting ready to build, filling out paperwork, marking trees for removal, pouring over the floor plans, and all the other tasks that accompany a project the size of ours.  A few weeks ago, that access road was built to our property.

Chapin, South CarolinaPicturesque, don’t you think?  The clearing for construction has begun and we are starting to actually see a location for the homestead.  Since it is solid forest as far as we can see, any type of clearing goes a long way toward visualizing everything!

So, after playing out on the land all day, this crisp was pretty great to come home to.  It took hardly any time to throw it in the slow cooker and I didn’t have to worry about having the oven on when I was out of the house.  Of course, the smell  when we opened our front door was mouthwatering.  You can smell the cinnamon from down the road!  When I decided to create this recipe I messed around with different spices, but ultimately, returned to just plain cinnamon.  There is just something about peaches and cinnamon that works just as good (or better) than apples and cinnamon.  It all seems warmer somehow.  Err go, it is quite possibly the most comforting thing to make this time of year.  The honey brings out the peachy-y ness of the fruit without making it too sweet.  If you top it with vanilla ice cream, it kinda melts and mixes with the honey-peach juices and creates this sauce that makes you drool and when you scoop it up, its all warm and melty and oat-y and…*sigh*  Truly fantastic.  It smells and tastes just like home.  No matter where that may be or what stage of construction its in.  :)
Honey Cinnamon Peach Crisp for the Slow Cooker | Brittany's PantryHoney Cinnamon Peach Crisp for the Slow Cooker | Brittany's PantryHoney Cinnamon Peach Crisp for the Slow Cooker | Brittany's PantryHoney Cinnamon Peach Crisp for the Slow Cooker
Depending on the flour you use, this recipe can be gluten-free or not.  I created it using an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix that can be exchanged for regular wheat flour cup for cup.  A few of my testers thought that the different flours made the filling too thick, but others didn’t mind.  The flavor is slightly different if you make it GF, but still great.  Either way you make it is scrumptious!

Fruit:
5 or 6 large peaches, pitted and sliced into 12ths
2 level T, gluten-free or all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 T honey, preferably raw

Topping:
3/4 c gluten-free or all-purpose flour
3/4 c rolled oats, gluten-free or regular
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 c (1 stick) room temperature butter, divided

Pinch off 2 T of the butter and evenly smear it on the inside of a regular sized slow cooker crock.  Gently combine all the fruit filling ingredients until evenly coated and pour into slow cooker.  Be sure to use a spatula to scrape out all the cinnamon honey juice in the bowl! Combine all the dry ingredients of the topping and then add the remaining 6 T of soft butter.  Using a fork or your fingers, combine all ingredients until evenly distributed and mixture is wonderfully clumpy!  Evenly spread over the fruit in the crock and cover.  Cook crisp on low for 4 hours or until fruit is bubbly.  Cool slightly and serve with a big ‘ol scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Garlic Toast

Garlic Toast | Brittany's PantryA few days ago I posted a quick, weeknight worthy recipe for a simple Pasta Puttanesca.  It is essentially foolproof, is made with all things from your pantry, and if  you make it with whole wheat pasta, is actually quite healthy.  Like the main dish, the garlic toast that accompanied it was easy and fuss free.  My secret?

The freezer.

An earth shattering revelation, I know.  You see, my freezer and I have a special, mutually beneficial relationship.  I keep it organized (usually) and clean, and in turn, it provides me with quick meals and the occasional pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie.  When I am pressed for time or simply lack the energy and drive to make dinner, pulling something out of the freezer that requires little or no action is the best feeling in the world.  Am I right?  It is like winning the lottery.  Its 5:30 pm on a Tuesday and you are digging through bags of frozen edamame and blocks of ground beef when suddenly you find a quart container of Chicken & Barley Soup, ready to be microwaved.  I can’t be the only person out there who would hold it up in victory and shout Eureka!!  And it is equally gratifying if you are pulling out dinner for one or two people at eight o’clock at night after a long day of work, or if you are a stay at home mom without the time to whip something up between laundry, grocery shopping, homework checks, piano lessons, PTO meetings, and ballet rehearsal.  It is for these exact moments in life that I keep certain items in my freezer.

In this case, it is pre-sliced french bread.  Every once in awhile, I rifle through the day old section of baked goods in the bakery of my local supermarket.  When I find the big loaves of thinly sliced french bread for 1.99, I buy two!  I bring them home and toss them right in the freezer.  They aren’t perfectly wrapped to store long term, but it is enough to let them slowly dry out over the next few weeks.  Then, when I need a quick dinner, I have stale, frozen bread that I can use to make french toast, panini, bread crumbs, bread pudding, croutons, and in this case, garlic toast.  The smaller, chewier baguettes are better for crostini or bruschetta and can be a bit tough for just toast.  So for this, you want the softer, country type loaves that aren’t so crusty on the outside.  Perfect to slather with garlic butter.

Garlic Toast

thinly sliced french bread, preferably slightly stale
1/2 stick (4 T) of soft, salted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced finely

Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the butter and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.  Arrange your bread in a single layer on a dry sheet pan and oh so very thinly spread with garlic butter.  You want this toast to get crunchy and crispy, so be sure to spread the butter to the very edges and use it sparingly.  Just a VERY thin layer.  Be sure the bread is butter side up on the pan and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Check the toast.  If it is firm and overall golden brown, then it is done.  If not, rotate the pan 180 degrees and let it go for a few more minutes.  Watch it closely!  Toast can go from nothing to burnt in a short amount of time.  Essentially, toast until your preference and enjoy!  This is fantastic served with chili too!  Leftover garlic butter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge to be used for more garlic toast but is also good spread on the outside of panini, stirred into mashed potatoes, rubbed on chicken before roasting, or anything else you can think of!

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

Inside Out Carrot Cake CookiesI can’t help but smile when I think of this recipe.

When my husband was in the Navy, I often volunteered to cook for our unmarried or otherwise unattached friends.  I have mentioned this before; that I used to use them as guinea pigs in the early days of my cooking career, completely taking advantage of their willingness to eat just about anything while I tested my way through experimental dishes and recipes.  During deployment, food on a nuclear submarine is very….well…I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you.  Know that it is less than perfect.  Any home cooking was much appreciated and the guys actually made a very diverse test group, since those young men came from every walk of life and from every part of the country.  Sailors from the big city, the south, midwestern farms, tropical islands-everywhere.  I cooked food from the north and a good friend and fellow Navy wife contributed southern expertise.  And we fed them.  My favorite way to show that I love and care.  Food.

That is why these sweet little cookies make me grin.  Not because they are wicked good (they are) or because the thought of eating one right now makes me want to weep with joy (it does) or the fact that anything filled with some type of cream is on my ‘for sure’ list (it is).  But because the very first time I ever made them was for a bunch of sailors off the USS-Topeka.  I had ripped the recipe out of an issue of Bon Appetit and taped it into a notebook filled with other recipes that I had saved, scribbled down from friends, or pilfered from the magazines in the dentist office waiting room.  My San Diego kitchen was rather minuscule, but that didn’t deter me from trying new recipes, no matter how complicated or advanced they seemed.  I assumed this recipe was a bit of both and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered it was just cookies and frosting.  Easy peasy.

The recipe has since moved to my computer, but I clearly remember adding a special note in the margin of that old notebook.  **Sailor Approved**  That first time I made them we all oohed and aahed over how good they were.  But again, that isn’t what makes them special.  It was the fact that when we were all thousands of miles from home, missing our families and aching for something familiar, these cookies made the house smell like home.  It smelled like a crisp fall day in the north woods even though it was actually 85 and sunny on the coast of the south Pacific.  These sweet little treats were part of the conversations, laughter, teasing, and warm hugs of that day.  The memories of those men are very dear and while we are all now scattered to the far corners of the world, I hope just like for me, certain things trigger fond memories of our times together.

And who knows?  Maybe carrot cake will forever make them think of a tiny apartment in San Diego filled with good friends and good food, too.
Inside Out Carrot Cake CookiesInside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
I have two favorite things about this recipe.  One: That the filling is just cream cheese and honey.  Genius.  And totally something I would do.  And two: They are freezable.  Make them once and enjoy repeatedly.  Hello time saver!

1 1/8 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 stick (1/2 c) butter, softened
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 c grated carrot, about one large or two medium
3/4 c walnuts, chopped
1/2 c raisins
1-8 oz pkg cream cheese
1/4 cup honey

Preheat the oven to 375.
In small bowl, mix the first four dry ingredients and set aside.  Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.  By hand, gently mix in the carrots, raisins, and walnuts.  Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls onto a sprayed or parchment lined sheet pan.  Give them a bit of room to spread a bit between cookies.  Use two sheet pans or bake cookies in two batches.  Bake 12-14 minutes until just springy to the touch.  The cinnamon makes it hard to see if they are browned enough but if you can tell, they should be lightly browned.  Let the cookies cool on the pan until firmed up enough to move with a spatula to a rack to cool completely.  My kitchen always seems to be warm so for me this took a good 3 or 4 minutes for them to set up enough without destroying them when moved!  While cookies are baking, blend the cream cheese and honey together.  Once cookies have completely cooled, spread a heavy tablespoon on half the cookies and top with a second cookie.  Enjoy, or wrap individually in cellophane and freeze in a gallon zip top bag. These make excellent after school snacks!!

Pistachio Granola

Pistachio Granola|Brittany's PantryWith the exception of that strange, green instant pudding from my childhood, my experience with pistachios was rather limited until I married my husband, Mike.  My Aunt Mary used to make this awesome dessert called Watergate Cake and it was a lovely shade of pistachio green and it contained that same pudding.  Recipe coming soon!!  But thats not what today is about!  Granola.  Today is about granola.

So.  My husband loves pistachios and has always preferred to buy the ones roasted, salted and cracked in the shell.  He snacks on them regularly and he has passed that nutty love of lime green nuts onto our children.  They eat them whenever they can get their hands on them and when I came across a recipe that made them the star player in granola, I couldn’t pass it up.  I always add them to my favorite granola bar recipe for color and flavor, but this recipe takes the obsession one step further.  One tasty, crunchy, healthy, and addictive step further.  So good in fact, I passed some of this along to my neighbor when I was testing and tweaking this recipe, and even though I sent it with yogurt to eat as well, she skipped the dairy and just inhaled the granola by itself.  Then she pestered me for more!  Good indication of a winner, don’t you think?
Pistachio Granola|Brittany's PantryIn general, I prefer to save a buck or two and crack them myself.  Or rather, I give them to Mike and he cracks them for me.  (Some of those suckers are tough!)  Pistachios are on the expensive side so when they are on sale, I buy what I can and enjoy them.  I always plan to buy ahead and freeze them, but we eat them too fast!  Like most nuts, pistachios are incredibly good for you and contain a wealth of nutrients.  Just a handful can give you your daily allowance of more than a half dozen vitamins and minerals, in addition to healthy fats and antioxidants.  I would love to mention all of the benefits of these fantastic nuts, but I think that we should really just stick to the most important factor: They are GREEN!!!  You faithful readers know about my obsession with all things green, afore mentioned here and here.  How do you pass up such a cheerful color?  Pistachio green paint is so popular, the 60’s and 70’s had people painting their entire kitchens with it.  Those people knew something groovy when they saw it, huh?
Pistachio Granola|Brittany's PantryIf you are not familiar with the taste of them, this granola is the perfect segue into discovering your love of happy, green, pistachios.  Healthy, nutty, crunchy, and incredibly toasty, we love it sprinkled over yogurt or poured in a bowl with some milk and eaten like a cereal.  Absolutely fantastic.  And much less of a commitment than painting your cabinets green.
Pistachio Granola|Brittany's Pantry Mixed and ready to toast in the oven!
Pistachio Granola|Brittany's PantryAll done!  Perfectly toasty and delicious!

*Todays recipe is the second part of a healthy eating series I am doing over on J Rose Fitness, a healthy living Facebook page!  Jessica McKenzie is an online Beach body coach and you can check out her page here.  Be sure to like her on Facebook to get regular healthy living tips and inspiration!  Click on the links below to see the other recipes in the series.

Green Tea Smoothie

Pistachio Granola
Recipe adapted from Mountain Momma Cooks
I do double this recipe, but most of the time I like enjoying this small batch.  I make this often, but it isn’t my regular go-to formula for granola so we treat it as something special.

1 1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped if desired
1/3 c sliced almonds
3 T grape seed or canola oil
3 T honey, preferably raw
1 tsp vanilla
small pinch of salt (if your nuts come salted, omit this ingredient)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine nuts and oats.  In a large measuring cup, microwave the remaining ingredients until just warm enough to soften the honey and stir the mixture smooth.  Pour over the oats and pistachios, mix thoroughly, and spread on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Be sure the mixture is in a nice, thin, single layer so that the heat can circulate well and toast your granola evenly!  Bake for 10 minutes, then gently stir the mixture well, spreading it evenly out on the sheet pan again.  Toast for another 5 minutes, stir again, then toast for a final three minutes.  Granola should be golden brown and don’t worry-it will crisp up as it cools.  Remove and let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Buttermilk Bread

Buttermilk BreadInevitably, when I leave for vacation, I seem to have a container of buttermilk left.  You would think I get hip to this fact over time and take the necessary measures, using it up in waffles and pancakes the week before we go, but I never do.

Now, if this were ice cream, I would be all over it.  I would gladly sacrifice my healthy lunch to finish off that lonely quart of mint and chip.  The fact that ice cream would easily last until I returned in a week or so is irrelevant.

But buttermilk?  You obviously can’t just drink it down to use it up.  I always keep it in my fridge because I use it to bake with so much, but when I am packing 5 people for a trip (one of them who is still in diapers) time is of the essence.  Yes, I could freeze it, and occasionally I do.  Unfortunately, my freezer real-estate is limited and much sought after (the blueberries usually win) so that isn’t always an option.  Especially now in our little rental house.  My solution?  This bread.  Aptly named, Buttermilk Bread.  You may have already deduced the main ingredient…

This earns a spot on this blog because it is just so darn versatile.  I am all about multitasking so anything that serves more than one purpose is on my ‘I like you’ list.  Believe it or not this isn’t a sweet bread, but it can certainly be served that way.  Baked ahead and tucked in the freezer, this bread is great to pull out and slice up to put out for breakfast or brunch; slathered with butter and jam of course.  The mild, neutral flavor also lends itself to savory applications.  Added to the dinner table in lieu of dinner rolls, no butter needed, is a great way to change up your menu without a lot of effort.  Think of it alongside soups, stews, main dish salads, and even Thanksgiving!

I’ll post the recipe below.  You know…just in case you are going on a trip soon.
Buttermilk BreadButtermilk BreadButtermilk Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light
This quick bread comes together with minimal ingredients and even less steps, making this a great recipe to use when you are short on time!

Preheat your oven to 350.  In a large mixing bowl, add:
2 c all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
Whisk dry ingredients together to combine.  In a large measuring cup, whisk together:
2 egg whites
1 1/2 c low fat buttermilk
2 T honey
1/4 c canola or grape seed oil, or melted butter

When wet ingredients are whisked until smooth, add to dry ingredients and stir and fold both together until just combined.  No need to whisk or beat this.  Pour batter into a sprayed, standard sized loaf pan (about 8X4 or 9X5) and bake for 45 minutes.  It will be nicely browned on top and a toothpick or skewer should come out clean when inserted near the center.  Cool slightly in the pan for 10 minutes or so until the bread has a chance to set a bit, then turn out onto a cooling rack.  Cool completely!!  Slightly warm is ok, but slice it too hot and it isn’t as good. Great bread to freeze ahead and just thaw on the counter before you serve it.  Enjoy!