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!

Pioneer Bread

Pioneer Bread | Brittany's PantryCan I just, say something…crazy?
In my head, that request was stated like Princess Anna in Frozen.
Ok.  Here is the crazy thing.  Are you ready?

This bread tastes like history.  Like the Old West.  Like The Oregon Trail.

I TOLD you it was crazy, and although I am not a woman prone to exaggeration (*cough cough* ahem), I promise you this is true.  It makes you think of covered wagons, sod houses, and Little House On The Prairie.  I take a bite, close my eyes, and I no longer hear the beep of the microwave timer, but instead, the clang of the iron cookstove door as my husbands adds more logs to the fire.  I can almost smell the waist high grasses blowing outside of the open kitchen window.  My calloused hands bring the still warm slice of bread to my lips for another taste and a sudden bellow from Mazy in barn reminds me that its almost time for evening milking.

Don’t you love it when food does that to you?  Transports you to another time and place or evokes a thought or feeling with just a taste?  I do.  That is one of my favorite things about food.  Perhaps a little of it is the name, but I feel stronger, more independent, and more adventurous just mixing up a batch.

The recipe-or a version of it-has been handed down through families for generations.  It relies on the acid of sour milk to do its leavening and contains no refined sugars and no butter or oil.  Certain items have been changed over time, such as the use of  wheat flour, but I think it still stays true to its name.  It is hearty and a bit heavy, due to the denseness of the ingredients, but it isn’t TOO heavy.  The dried fruit helps sweeten the bread but the honey flavor comes through and results in a bread that nearly tastes like sunshine itself.  We like to eat it sliced thick, plain, right out of the hand.  When you get to the end of the loaf after a day or two, toasted with butter is down right excellent.  Milk cow and covered wagon optional.Pioneer Bread | Brittany's PantryPioneer Bread | Brittany's PantryPioneer Bread | Brittany's Pantry One Year Ago: Pomegranate Sorbet W/Mini Chocolate Chips & White Sangria,
Two Years Ago: Classic Buttermilk Biscuits, The BEST Strawberry Rhubarb Jam,
Three Years Ago: Lemon Chiffon Pie & Outrageous Grilled Pork Chops

Pioneer Bread
Adapted from Americas Test Kitchen
The little boost of sugar is not necessary, but I found that it makes the honey flavor a bit stronger in the finished bread.

3 c white whole wheat flour, or regular whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose flour
1/4 c sugar (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 c buttermilk
1/2 c honey
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c chopped dates
1/2 c raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine dry ingredients in a bowl.  In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and honey until combined.  Gently stir into dry ingredients, folding together until not quite mixed.  Add the nuts and dried fruit and gently fold together until completely combined.  Pour the batter into two, well greased or sprayed 9X5 inch loaf pans.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and let cool the rest of the way.  Store well wrapped on the counter for a day or two, or freeze.

Granny’s Buttermilk Pound Cake

Granny's Buttermilk Pound CakeSometimes things come along in life that you just know are special.

The first time I tasted this pound cake was one of those times.  Not special like the birth of my children or my wedding day, but something that you know is different.  Lovely.  My best friend makes this pound cake and yes, as you may have guessed, it is her Granny’s recipe.  The same Granny, I might add, that is also responsible for this wonderful casserole of deliciousness.  The Granny who’s granddaughter introduced me to some of my most favorite southern foods; this classic pound cake among them.  Once I tried this, I have never really cared to try anyone else’s.  It is just simply-the best.
Granny's Buttermilk Pound CakeThat specialness I was speaking of, is love.  Yeah yeah.  I know.  *eye roll*  Sappy right?  What I mean is love, as an ingredient.  There is something about this cake that makes people stop and smile.  It is velvety and moist and perfect and…well…special.  Just like chicken noodle soup can taste like home and comfort, so can this cake remind you of something familiar and warm and loving.  Which, as I experienced the handful of times I personally got to spend with Granny, is exactly the kind of woman she was.  I may make different kinds of pound cakes over the years, but nothing beats this traditional, classic version that has been through the hands of generations of southern women and made (literally) hundreds of times.

With this move to South Carolina coming closer and closer, I know I will be able to hold my own at the church pot-luck dinners and any school bake sale that comes my way.  I may still throw a Tator-Tot Casserole or Wild Rice Soup at them once in awhile, just to remind them that Yankees can cook too.  But you just can’t argue with tradition.

Granny would approve.
Granny's Buttermilk Pound CakeGranny's Buttermilk Pound Cake Two Years Ago: Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Three Years Ago: Lemon & Herb Deviled Eggs

Granny’s Buttermilk Pound Cake
Adapted, ever so slightly, from Jewel Amason (Granny)
This recipe originally called for Crisco but I rarely ever keep it in my house.  For the sake of convenience, I use butter.  If we are being totally honest here, I actually prefer the taste of this cake with shortening (gasp!) but butter works well too.  It is the ONLY thing I have changed from the original recipe as given to me by the family so I hope they can overlook it! :)  This cake is not fussy or temperamental which makes it very reliable.  It freezes WONDERFULLY and that is one of my most favorite things about it!  Because it makes a full bundt pan, I usually serve half the cake and then wrap the second half well and store it in the freezer.  Give it a bit to thaw on the counter and it is just as good-even a bit better!-than freshly baked.  Being a simple pound cake, it is fantastic with just a dusting of powdered sugar and eaten out of hand.  I am sharing it with you now because it is also the perfect vehicle for spring berries!  The pic above is smothered in a strawberry/rhubarb sauce and that is hands down our favorite way to eat it.  Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream isn’t too bad either!

The recipe format is a bit different because I am going to write it exactly how it was given to me.  I have never deviated from the directions for fear of it turning out different!

Add ¼ tsp baking soda to 1 c buttermilk and stir.  Set aside.
Cream:
1 c Crisco (or softened butter)
2 ½ c sugar
Add 5 eggs one at a time.
Alternate adding 3 c flour and buttermilk mixture until blended.
Add 2 T boiling water and 1 tsp vanilla.
Blend well.
Pour into greased and floured bundt pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Let cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out to cool completely.
Slice and enjoy!

Super Quick Peanut Butter CooPeanut butter is a funny thing.

You can turn it into a savory sauce for noodles, no-bake confections for the holidays, or the ever classic favorite, straight up peanut butter cookies.  Speaking of cookies, peanut butter needs little in the way of help to bake up as such.  The following recipe is a kind of classic formula that has recently become popular again due to the demand of gluten-free, dairy free, and grain free recipes.

But this isn’t some fancy schmancy new development.  I remember making something like this when I was a kid and maybe rolling them in sugar before baking?  Not sure.  But throwing together treats with few ingredients is old hat in the foodie world and these cookies are a prime example.  They just happen to be naturally gluten and dairy free.  Which, in turn, makes them great for the masses, just in case you need something that covers all your bases with guests.

In the end, what is really important here is that they taste good.  They taste awesome, actually, and may just replace your classic peanut butter cookie.  They are just so much more….peanut-ty…than other cookies.  Like, the essence of peanut butter in cookie form.  I still kind of marvel that you can put so few things together and have them bake up so perfectly cookie-like.  Because they are so wonderfully simple, they are the perfect platform to use in other applications.  For example, I highly recommend putting a scoop of chocolate and vanilla swirled ice cream between two of these.  I mean, its just…*sigh*…outrageously good.  Crumbled up and added to a bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt?  Also not a terrible idea.  Neither is using them as a scooper for applesauce.

Do YOU do anything special with your peanut butter cookies?
Super Quick Peanut Butter CooOne Year Ago: How To: Basic Quinoa
Two Years Ago: Freezer Fajitas
Three Years Ago: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins & Mexican Rice W/Black Beans & Pasta W/Zesty Bolognese

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies
I have never tried making this with almond butter, but I have no doubt it would be fantastic.

1 c creamy peanut butter
1 c sugar
1 large egg
3/4 tsp baking soda

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a sprayed or parchment covered sheet pan and bake at 350 for 9 minutes.  The cookies should be just barely golden around the edges.  Let cool on the pan until set enough to remove with a spatula.

Honey Cardamom Snack Cake

Honey Cardamom Snack CakeA year or so ago, my friend Thea and her family stopped by to visit on the way through town.  Aside from the fact that I have know her more than 20 years and she remembers what I looked like in the mid 90’s, she is a professional baker.  She has been mostly special occasion cakes for the last 8 years, but recently opened up a store front, giving the general public a chance to enjoy her creations on a day to day basis.  Needless to say, we talk flour, butter, sugar, and eggs whenever we are together.

On this particular visit, I was baking something.  For the life of me I canNOT remember what it was, but I assure  you, it wasn’t cake.  Of all the things to feed a professional baker, I avoid baked confections as much as possible.  Usually I lean toward things like creme brûlée, fruit bars, and puddings.  Whatever it was I was making, Thea walked into the kitchen, sniffed, and her eyes lit up.  “Are you using cardamom?” was her immediate question.  Yes, I told her.  Why?  “It is one of my favorite spices,” she declared.  “But it is so under-used!’

I agreed.  Even though it is a warm flavor with an almost herb-y quality to it, and is often mixed with Christmas spices, you don’t often see it used completely on its own.  I happen to love it.  I add it to my plain banana bread, shortbread cookies, and most recently, as the feature flavor in snack cakes!
Honey Cardamom Snack CakeHoney Cardamom Snack Cake As you can see, my two year old wasn’t willing to wait until I was done photographing.  The honey is the only sweetener in this recipe so please please PLEASE use local, raw honey if you have the chance.  The flavor is incomparable to the stuff from the grocery store.  It also gives it the perfect level of sweetness.  Paired with a simple, sour cream snack cake base and the warmth of the cardamom, it is just homey.  If you want to use it as a dessert, fresh strawberries and sweet whipped cream are outstanding with this cake.  But generally, I just like to pick it up and take a bite.

Thea would approve.
Honey Cardamom Snack CakeIMG_9145IMG_9102 One Year Ago: Loaded Black Bean Quesadillas

Two Years Ago: Cream Cheese Banana Bread

Three Years Ago: Honey Carrots & Non-Traditional Shepherd’s Pie & One Bowl Chocolate Cake

Honey Cardamom Snack Cake
This tastes great on day two so whip it up when you have time and enjoy as an after school snack!

1/2 c (1 stick) butter, room temp
1 c honey
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c white whole wheat or whole wheat flour
1 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
large pinch of salt
3/4 c sour cream

Preheat the oven to 325.
Using a hand or stand mixer, combine the butter and honey until creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and add half of the mixture to the honey mixture.  Mix slowly until starting to combine, and add half the sour cream.  Still mixing slowly, add the last of the dry ingredients and the last of the sour cream.  Mix until just barely combined, finishing by hand and scraping down the bowl at the end.  Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 inch cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool on the counter for 10 minutes or so, and then turn out onto a rack and let cool the rest of the way.  Slice into wedges and serve!