Brown Sugar Banana Nut Muffins

Brown Sugar Banana Nut Muffins I see Banana Nut Muffins as a pretty standard type of baked good.  When I set out to create this recipe, I wanted all the great flavor but with just a tweak (just a smidgen) of an update.  So I made it heart healthy but kept the classic brown sugar taste that I love with banana.  Nothing all that fancy; just a healthier version of a great muffin that just may become your ONLY version.  It is for me.  And I am not saying that just because I can’t stop eating them.  I generally like to eat my muffins the way I was raised to; sans butter.  But when I smeared a good ‘ol salty glob of the good stuff on these muffins, I nearly dropped to my knees in thankfulness.  Stellar.
Brown Sugar Banana Nut MuffinsOne Year Ago: Pork & Prune Stew & Ginger Chai Blondies
Two Years Ago: How To: Homemade Pumpkin Puree & Garlic Herb Bread & Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
Three Years Ago: Piggy Pudding & Broccoli, Bean, & Cheddar Soup

Brown Sugar Banana Nut Muffins
Of course these freeze beautifully and this recipe makes exactly 12 muffins.  If you are feeling particularly fancy, sprinkle the muffins with a pinch of extra brown sugar just before you bake them!

3 ripe bananas
1/3 c canola or grape seed oil
1/3 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 T ground flax seed
3/4 c brown sugar
1 c all purpose flour
1 c white whole wheat flour or standard whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c chopped walnuts-pecans would be fine too

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the first 7 ingredients until bananas are mashed and everything is evenly incorporated.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until barely combined, then add the nuts, stirring the last few times by hand to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 1 dozen count muffin tin or line it with baking papers.  Divide the batter evenly into the 12 muffins wells.  They will be full, but not overflowing.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until puffed, golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then turn the muffins out onto a cooling rack.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake W/Brown Sugar Streusel

Pumpkin Coffee CakeI wish…

Oh! How I wish…

…that I had found this recipe years ago!

Like so many of you, I love the pumpkin season.  Homemade pumpkin puree gets stirred into muffins and pies and even dip!  I don’t jump on the pumpkin spice latte bandwagon, but most everything else I am game for!!  I have a major soft spot for coffee cake and when I saw this recipe, I knew it was right up my alley.  For some reason, the fact that it gets cut into wedges is more appetizing to me.

I have no idea why.

Regardless of the shape of the pan it is baked in, this coffee cake would be excellent baked in a shoe box.  It is simple and classic, which is what I like most about it.  On Pinterest the other day, I saw a recipe for pumpkin glazed roast chicken and I wanted to strangle whoever created that.  Not EVERYTHING should be pumpkinified people!!  It should be limited to things like…well…coffee cake.

This isn’t too sweet and it is moist and lovely.  Add a hot cuppa tea and-gah.  I just.  I can’t even.

The recipe makes two round coffee cakes so that means I have eaten….a few.  We won’t go into details, but suffice to say that I can say with confidence that these bake up great every time and hold a full 24 hours and the streusel is still crunchy on top!  Defrosted from the freezer and warmed a bit in the oven is very nice so add these to the menu when guests are coming over the holidays.  Heck!  Bake one after dinner and eat it with hot cider for dessert!  Or as a mid day snack with that tea I mentioned.  I hear that it is also good eaten with your hands standing over the sink with a huge glass of cold milk, but thats just a rumor.
Pumpkin Coffee Cake Pumpkin Coffee CakePumpkin Coffee Cake W/Brown Sugar Streusel
Recipe adapted from here.
Note that this makes two coffee cakes.  You could freeze one, but I prefer the eat coffee cake two mornings in a row meal plan.

Coffee Cake:
1 stick (1/2 c) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 c sugar
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree-not pumpkin pie filling
2 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 T cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt

1/4 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T butter, melted
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all streusel ingredients together until well incorporated.  Set aside.

With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix until smooth.  Add the pumpkin and mix, scraping the sides of the bowl and mixing again to combine thoroughly.  Mixture will look curdled.  Add the dry ingredients and mix slowly until just barely combined, scraping the bottom and mixing by hand with a spatula at the end.  Spray and flour two, 8 inch round cake pans.  Divide the batter evenly between the pans and sprinkle with the streusel.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for at least 10 minutes to let the cakes set a bit, then run a thin spatular or knife carefully around the  edges of the cakes and turn out onto a cooling rack.  Serve warm or room temp.  If you want to freeze either of the cakes, cool completely and wrap well in cellophane and seal in a gallon ziptop bag.  Defrost and serve, or warm briefly in the oven before slicing.

Coffee Swirl Coffee Cake

Coffee Swirl Coffee CakeI am so in love with this coffee cake.

Adding coffee to baked goods at breakfast is nothing new.  But this recipe is fun, unique, and totally feeds my coffee cake addiction.  I really love coffee cake of any kind.  My Mom used to make it all the time when I was a kid and even though she was partial to making them with cinnamon and streusel, I try not to discriminate.  All coffee cake deserves a fair shot at my table and this one is my new favorite.  I have already added it to my holiday recipe list, marked as a make-ahead addition to brunch menus when family is in town.  I can bake it up long before I need it and stash it, wrapped tightly, in the freezer. Just pull it out, defrost, and slice it up next to some baked eggs, fruit, and enormous mugs of spiced tea.

Mmm.  Ushering in Autumn in a very tasty way.
Coffee Swirl Coffee CakeOne Year Ago: Veggie Enchiladas
Two Years Ago: How T0:Make Vinaigrette & Roast Broccoli
Three Years Ago: Roast Pork W/Peach & Mustard Glaze, Simple Soup

Coffee Swirl Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted from Mad Hungry
This is a basic sour cream coffee cake with a swirl of delightfulness.  Its not overly sweet and my favorite way to eat it is with a slice in one hand and a steaming cup of tea in the other.

In a small bowl, combine:
2 T sugar
1 T instant coffee
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
Mix thoroughly and set aside.

1 stick (8T) of softened butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 c sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add half the flour, the baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Gently mix until almost incorporated.  Add the sour cream, then the last cup of flour.  Mix just until barely combined, stirring with a spatula at the end.  Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray and add half the coffee cake batter.  Sprinkle the coffee/cocoa mixture evenly in the pan and pour the remaining batter over top.  Spread evenly and swirl layers together using a skewer or small knife.  Bake for 45-50 minutes  or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then gently turn out onto a cooking rack.  Enjoy warm, cool, or half frozen. 🙂

Oatmeal Raisin CookiesBack to school recipes still comin’ atchya!  Like many of you, lunches and snacks and make-ahead meals are on my brain. So here is another one to pin, tweet, bookmark, copy, or bake  that can help with some of that!

This post comes to you via Marriott hotel complimentary internet service in Indiana!  The hubs and munchkins and I are taking a much needed last minute vaca; sneaking it in just before my daughter starts second grade on Tuesday.  Currently, it is late and my kiddos are still avoiding sleep on the hide-a-bed across the hotel room so I am hoping the clicking sound of my laptop as I type this lulls them to sleep.  Fingers crossed.

Phew!  So finally!!  I’m done!  After 12 (no exaggeration) batches of cookies, I have finally settled on the final version!  A nice, even dozen attempts.  Seriously.  Ask my friends and neighbors.  I was so desperate for opinions that one day I had taken to leaving labeled bags of cookies in their mailboxes.  If I had any inclination that it would take me so many batches-spread out over a month and a half-just to finalize this recipe, I probably would have skipped it in leu of something less labor intensive.  But anything worth doing is worth doing right, right?  Right!

Somewhere around version eight, I started to lose momentum and…well…get kinda sick of oatmeal cookies.  (Months from now I will probably read that line and chastise my former self, scolding ‘What?  For shame!  How could you ever be sick of oatmeal cookies!  They are your favorite!  Suck it up, you pansy!’)  I had sent hundreds of them along with my husband to work, frozen hundreds more, and ate-er, um-a few.  In the end, I scrapped everything I was making and started over with a pencil and paper and just created my own.  Admittedly, the very thing I should have done in the first place.  Then it was just a matter of working out the kinks.

These are not, I should tell you, a healthy oatmeal raisin cookie.  Healthy was before with the zucchini muffins and will be again later when we talk homemade hummus.  No, these are just easy and good.  They have no fancy ingredients and no extra steps.  You will not be making browned butter or sprinkling the hot cookies with gourmet salt in the last 2 minutes of baking.  These are just straight up, hearty, oatmeal-y and raisin-y.  They have been made a dozen different ways (Ha! Literally!) and every ingredient has been adjusted at least once.  Right down to the amount of nutmeg. This recipe is now the only plain oatmeal raisin cookie recipe I will ever use.  I promise.  Cross my heart and spit on the floor.  Its the best that I can do.  It has earned a spot here in my back to school series because it is as classic as can be, tucked into a lunchbox or waiting on the table with a glass of cold milk when the cherubs burst through the door after school.  Here’s hoping the all the oatmeal will hold them off till dinner.

And look at that!  My kids are asleep!  Well, what do ya know….
Oatmeal Raisin CookiesTwo Years Ago: Keebler Cracker Bars & Cocoa Cake

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 c (2 sticks) softened butter
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 c rolled oats-not quick cooking
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 c raisins
3/4 c chopped walnuts

In the large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat until smooth with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine.  Add the salt and spices and mix.  Add the oats, flour, and baking soda and mix slowly, just until combined.  Slowly stir in the raisins and walnuts.  Drop dough by measured scoop or rounded teaspoonfuls onto a lined cookie sheet.  Press gently with flat fingers to make little hockey pucks and bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  Enjoy within 3 days or freeze, tightly sealed for up to 6 months.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice MuffinsHere we are again!  More back to school recipes and ideas!

This recipe came about fast and furiously.  Much like the way zucchini grows.  It sneaks up on you unexpectedly and then BAM!  You have a garden full of green bats that could feed a whole vegetarian army.

I was in the mood for a super healthy, plain, spiced zucchini muffin and I didn’t feel like searching through all the recipes in my archives to find one and test it.  So I just started from scratch with a pen and paper.  The first batch was just blegh!  Into the trash it went.  The second batch was much better  and the the third and fourth were perfect.  Boom.  There.  I did it.  Problem solved.  Then I went to the computer and erased all my other zucchini muffin recipes.  Into the virtual trash you go, inferior and less-healthy zucchini muffin recipes!

Recipe development is extremely satisfactory for me.  My husband thinks I’m crazy but doesn’t complain because he gets to take all the UN-perfect batches of food to work.  Like…um…I don’t know, say…the first 10 batches of oatmeal raison cookies that didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to.  Batch number 11 is slated for tomorrow, but thats neither here nor there.  The point is, I love it.  I love it love it love it.  And even though the challenge is against no one by myself, it is one of the things I love most about being in the kitchen.

I of course tackled this recipe with a plan.  I wanted to use honey as the sweetener, use all whole wheat, no dairy, and make it super spiced.  So I did!  I had to tweak the sugar a bit at the beginning as the honey just didn’t have enough umph to hold its own against the spices.  I was however walking around using my best Schwarzenegger voice and repeating the phrase, “I am da zucchini shreddah!” whilst filling bowl after bowl of the veggie ribbons in preparation.  Because cooking should be fun, right?  Or at least filled with 90’s movie references….?  But they turned out great and more batches have already collected in my freezer.  The plan?  Snack on them, eat ’em for breakfast, throw them at my hubby when his blood sugar gets low, and tuck them into my daughters’ school lunches when she starts a new year in a few weeks.  She loves getting muffins in her lunch (pulled right from the freezer, they defrost by lunchtime) as they fill her up perfectly when paired with some fruit salad and low fat string cheese.  I always send her with water to drink since she is getting milk at afternoon break, dinner, and sometimes breakfast.
Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice MuffinsThe kids rolled their eyes to the heavens when I presented them with these this morning.  I took that as a good sign.  Or maybe they were just glad I was done shredding zucchini…

Here are some other great, bake ahead, healthy lunch recipes!

Earth Bread: There is a reason this is one of my most popular recipes.  Its darn good!  Baked as muffins, they are just as yummy to pull from the freezer as these zucchini ones.  Baked in loaf form, it is a great snack or addition to a lunchbox.  But two slices with cream cheese between them, and you have one stellar sandwich!  My daughter’s favorite!

Blueberry Maple Muffins: Healthy and a fruity change of pace!

Apple Carrot Muffins-Gluten Free: These delightful little nuggets are addictive to just about anyone!  Bake them up in a mini-muffin tin and add 3 or 4 pop-able bites to your brown bag!  They also make the ideal afternoon snack!

Homemade Granola Bars: One of these babies can easily sub out for a sandwich.  After you cut them up, wrap them individually in cellophane and throw them all in a gallon zip top freezer bag.  Just pull from the freezer and toss in your lunch box!

Pumpkin Pie Muffins: These are easily up there in the #1 or #2 spot as the most favorite muffin in our house.  They are simply awesome.  Yes they might remind you of fall.  But make them anytime of year and after one bite, you won’t care.

Oatmeal Raisin Snack Bars: Despite the title of the recipe, they are great as the main attraction in a school lunch.  So healthy and soooo good.

Banana Bran Muffins: I have no words.  These are just so good.  A freezer with a bag or two of these inside makes for a happy household!

Also, if you follow Brittany’s Pantry on Facebook, you heard about the Muffin Caper in our house.  This all happened while I was trying to photograph this recipe!
Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice Muffins Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice Muffins Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice Muffins Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice MuffinsCutest thief ever if you ask me!

One Year Ago: Summer Salmon
Two Years Ago: Oatmeal Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Baked Pasta W/Summer Veggies
Three Years Ago: The BEST Margaritas, June Bugs, Herbal Iced Tea, BBQ Pulled Pork

Whole Wheat Zucchini Spice Muffins

In a large bowl, combine:
1/3 c canola oil
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c honey
1/4 c brown sugar or raw sugar
2 eggs
2 c shredded zucchini, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Mix till thoroughly combined.  Fold in:
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder

Gently fold dry ingredients until just combined.  Don’t over mix!  Portion into 1 dozen paper lined, or sprayed muffin cups.  Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly and enjoy. If freezing, cool completely before sealing.

Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scones

Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scones It is no secret that I like anything made with oatmeal. I try and work it into just about everything I make.  I use it as a binder in my meatloaf, bake it into my breakfast, cookies, muffins, and I have been experimenting with putting it in my drinks and smoothies. Naturally, it would migrate to my scones.

I have been making oatmeal scones for awhile now, but none of them were really all that fantastic.  I found this recipe from Gourmet a few months ago, stashed away in a folder after I had torn it from a magazine a gazillion years ago.  Who am I to argue with culinary geniuses?  Of course they were amazing.  Hearty, yet light.  Nice and flavorful with none of the bland heaviness of some.  These scones are just really…oatmealy.  One bite of these actually make you feel warm and comforted.  I’ve made them an embarrassing number of times lately, to…you know, make sure the recipe is perfect for all of you.  Originally, the recipe called for cutting them into little tiny triangles and even though I sometimes have great difficulty taking orders, I did it the way they recommended.  I liked them so much, I have been making all my scones that way lately.  Cute little mini scones that are perfect for snacking.  I mean, brunch. Perfect for brunch.
Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scones Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scones One Year Ago: Strawberry Lemonade
Two Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Blonde Brownies & Pan Fried Tilapia

Oatmeal & Brown Sugar Scones
Recipe adapted from Gourmet

1 2/3 c flour
1/4 c brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/3 c rolled oats-not quick cooking
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into cubes
2/3 c buttermilk

Pulse the dry ingredients exactly 15 times. 🙂  This gives you the perfect grind on the oates.  Add the butter and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal.  Pour the whole she-bang into a large bowl and add the buttermilk.  Stir the dough with a fork until it just starts to come together.  Dump it out onto a clean, floured counter and bring the mass together with your hands, kneading gently a few times to finish mixing-but don’t go crazy!  Pat the dough into a rough square, about an inch thick.  Cut the dough into 9 squares, and then cut the squares in half to make 18 small triangles.  Carefully transfer the scones to a parchment lined sheet pan and if desired, brush with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with extra brown sugar and oats.  Bake the scones at 425 degrees for 14-16 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cherry Galette

Cherry GaletteThe seasons first cherries are out and I am taking full advantage of them!!  I love to make this snack cake, or even these hand pies, but a galette is what is on the menu this week!

If you have never made a galette before (pronounced gah-let) then you are in for a big surprise.  They are quite possibly one of the easiest and most speedy desserts you will ever make.  They look so fancy but really are just a pastry topped with fruit.  The beauty of a galette is that they are designed to be a kind of free-form tart so the more imperfect they are, the more….charming, they appear!  You can’t screw them up and any recipe that is virtually foolproof is absolutely in my rotation!

So yes, I love galettes because they are quick, easy, and they make you look like a rockstar in the kitchen.  But I also love that they are the perfect size.  They aren’t so huge that they take days to eat, like a pie or big batch of bars would so you can make it as a special treat for your family, eat it and be done.  No lingering dessert around the house.  And you can easily cut the pieces smaller and add a scoop of ice cream when you have company over.  If you cut the pieces bigger AND add ice cream?  Well, then you are more on my level and I am totally giving you a virtual high five right now.

In the future I will share a ridiculously easy recipe for a homemade crust, but for today, I just want to make sure you get the method down so you can start making them!  This will take a bit. *deep breath* Are you ready?  OK.  Here goes: Unroll a pie crust, top it with fruit, fold in the edges, and bake it.  Huh.  I guess that didn’t take long at all!  🙂  So simple!  And the lovely thing is that you can use a huge variety of fruits depending on what is in season.

Enough talk!  On to the eats!
Cherry Galette Cherry Galette Cherry Galette Cherry Galette One Year Ago: Flank Steak W/Tangy Sauce & Far Eastern Salad 
Two Years Ago: Mocha Chocolate Chip SconesHow To: Freeze Berries, Cheeze-It Chicken, Strawberry Sauce

Cherry Galette
I don’t like to add a lot of sugar to my galettes; preferring to let the taste of the fruit be the star.  Eat a cherry or two.  It they are a little on the sour side, you can adjust the sugar as needed.  This exact recipe with 3 c of mixed berries is absolutely stellar.

1 refrigerated pie-crust, homemade is fine

3 c fresh sweet cherries, pitted
1 heaping T sugar
1 T cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and unroll the pie crust and press flat.  In a bowl, toss the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla together until there are no dry spots left.  Pour the fruit into a pile in the middle of the pie crust, spreading it gently out in a circle, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border.  Carefully fold one small edge of pastry over the fruit.  Fold over the next portion, and continue along the edge, until the whole galette is bordered.  Brush the egg wash over the pastry, and sprinkle with extra sugar if desired.  Slide the whole sheet pan in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, checking after 30, until the center of the cherries is bubbling gently and the pastry is nicely browned.  Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting into wedges.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

IMG_0471So, yeah.  Things have been pretty busy around my house this week.

My husband is off after a long crazy run at work and my daughter is finishing up first grade this week.  I have a birthday in a few days, my daughter has a birthday in a few days, and we are in the middle of completing several random house projects that have needed attention for about a year now!  Add in the fact that we still have to actually live our lives everyday with laundry, schedules, appointments, and plenty of playtime with a rambunctious 1 year old little boy, a blue eyed four year old that boomerangs back and forth between being a dinosaur, a ninja, and a race car…phew!

Oh!  And of course, I moved this little ‘ol blog to a new site!  DON’T FORGET TO ENTER THE AWESOME GIVEAWAY! Just comment on the previous post and you could win a great prize package!  Giveaway closes at noon, May 25th!

I could not be happier with my crazy, hectic, and wonderful life and with all this happening now I feel like I should be celebrating!  I do like to buck convention a lot of the time, but in this case I am sticking to the classics and making cupcakes!Not just any cupcakes.  Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream.  And lets see…how do I put this….they are freaking AWESOME!  *ahem*  I mean, super good.

IMG_0454What I think is interesting is that so many other blogs make it a point to post recipes for cupcakes because they are a major crowd pleaser.  Readers love a good cupcake recipe, wether they are actually turning around and baking them or not.  Put a cupcake recipe on Pinterest and you can just stand back and watch the craziness ensue!  Me?  I just don’t make them that often and this blog is a direct representation of what comes out of my kitchen.  But I do like to make sure I let you know when I have a good one.  That is why I have an ultimate Red Velvet Cupcake recipe on this site.  It is the best one I have ever made!  But I am always looking to master the basics, and I have been working on finding the perfect basic recipe for chocolate cupcakes for awhile now.

A few months ago, a friend approached me and requested chocolate and orange buttercream.  So really, it was about the best type of challenge ever!  When  I started testing recipes, I was kind of surprised at how picky I had become with my cupcakes.  If I was going to post a straight up chocolate cupcake recipe here, it was going to have to finally do the leg work and narrow it down to find my ultimate.  I have several cake recipes that I love, but cupcakes sometimes bake up differently, and therefore, often need a separate recipe all their own.  They have to be firm enough for you to pick them up and hold them and without being so moist that they just collapse under the weight of frosting!

And speaking of frosting, all I am going to say on the matter is that orange buttercream made with real orange zest and real ingredients does not compare to anything made with artificial flavoring and chemically dyed orange color.  My version is outrageously good.  Just take my word for it.  A fellow Mom, aka volunteer taste tester, tried it and rolled her eyes to the heavens, exclaiming, “Change nothing!  Its perfect!”  I took her advice.

So that outrageous buttercream is paired here with my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.  It is THE recipe I use when I want a plain chocolate cake that I can top with anything that suits my fancy.  They are moist, but not fragile; incredibly chocolatey, but not overly sweet. I love them way more than a person should love a cupcake.

So what is your favorite kind of frosting to put on a chocolate cupcake?IMG_0468 IMG_0435One Year Ago: Shrimp Cobb Salad
Two Years Ago: Sweet Potato Salad W/Vinaigrette

Chocolate Cupcakes W/Orange Buttercream
Cupcake recipe adapted from Zoe Bakes, Buttercream recipe by Brittany’s Pantry

3 c sugar
2 3/4 c flour
1 1/8 c cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 c buttermilk
3/4 c canola oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350.
Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a large measuring cup, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until blended.  Whisk into the dry ingredients until totally incorporated.  Slowly whisk in the hot coffee until smooth.  The batter will be thin.  Pour batter into paper lined, muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  The batch makes about 3 dozen cupcakes!

Orange Buttercream

1 c (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/2 c vegetable shortening
5 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
zest of 1 orange
1/4 c milk, more or less depending on desired consistency

Be sure to zest the orange directly over the mixing bowl!  Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the ingredients until smooth, only adding milk until you get the desired consistency.  Remember, you can always add milk, but you can’t take it back out again!  Frost the cupcakes and store any leftovers in the fridge.


A few weeks ago, I confessed my love of quinoa.  When I recently came cross a recipe that called for cooked quinoa in granola, I nearly fell off my chair.  I thought it was brilliant, and before I had even made any I was sold.  Granola is a protein, nutrient rich food anyway (check out our favorite basic recipe here!), but add a grain like quinoa to it and it becomes a full on powerhouse of a snack!  Pair that with vitamin and antioxidant rich berries, low fat, organic yogurt for an extra boost of calcium, and you have yourself a nutrient dense breakfast or lunch that will give you energy for your day or boost your recovery after a workout.  Truly powerful.


This recipe begs to be stirred into something.  This is not your, snack-out-of-the-bag type of granola that is all clumpy.  Um, no.  That would be crumby.

Get it?  Crumby?  Heh heh…

Nope, this is a crunchy and dry, sprinkle over yogurt or eat out of the bowl with berries, type of granola.  I like to leave this plain.   As in, I don’t add any kind of dried fruit or chocolate chips to it.  I want it straight up so that I can do with it whatever my mood calls for.  Obviously, you can add whatever you feel like and because it is granola after all, mix-ins are allowed and encouraged.  The picture above is how I like to serve it to my kids.  The plain glass, footed dishes are fun and they feel like they are eating something extra special.  Being able to see the layers just makes mealtime that much more exciting!  And if they eat it with chunks of ripe peach or apricot, fresh blueberries, or even bananas on the bottom, the rainbow just looks cool.  And whether you are a parent, kid, or a kid at heart, it is kinda nice to have your meal look cool.  Dontcha think?

And there isn’t anything crumby about that!


One Year Ago: Chocolate Cheesecake Bars
Two Years Ago: Grilled Pork ChopsStrawberry Ice Cream & Sweet Veggie Pasta Salad

Quinoa Granola
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
This granola is great sprinkled over frozen yogurt.  For breakfast, if yogurt isn’t your style, pour milk over it and eat it like cereal!

2 1/2 c rolled oats
1 c cooked quinoa (I freeze one cup portions of my leftovers)
1 c sliced almonds
1/2 c ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 stick of butter (4 T)
1/2 c honey
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.  Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the honey and vanilla.  Pour the warm mixture over the oat mixture and mix until evenly moist and well incorporated.  Spread out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes.  Stir well, and bake for 10 minutes more.  Continue to bake, checking every few minutes, until dry and crunchy.  The amount of time will vary based on the moisture in your quinoa and your particular oven. For me, it takes about a half hour total.  Remember, the granola will crisp up a bit as it cools.  When its done, let it cool completely on the sheet pan before storing in an airtight container.  The granola freezes great!

Layer with fruit and yogurt for a healthy parfait.  Enjoy!

I don’t know much in the way of sports jargon, but I will do my best.

These muffins came out of left field!  They gave me the one two punch!  They are a perfect 10!  Touchdown!  If I had to give this recipe a score, it would be Love:Love.

I can almost hear my husband roll his eyes right now.

Ok, so maybe all those didn’t make sense (I especially like the last one…:) but you get the idea.  I am always looking for recipes or ideas that are different from what I already do.  If they are healthy it is even better.  As it is the ingredient list is full of fiber, whole grains, natural sugars, and healthy fats.  The fact that they are spectacularly scrumptious just makes it even better.  These have become the current favorite in our house and I am afraid to admit just how many I have eaten or how many I have stashed in the freezer to eat later.  They are a great make-ahead breakfast muffin and all three of my munchkins devour them with fruit and yogurt or alone as a snack.  My oldest has been taking them in place of a sandwich at lunch.  Add a smoothie (this one or this one) and she is good to go!

When you read through the recipe you will notice there isn’t any added sugar; just the maple syrup.  Don’t worry.  You won’t miss anything.  With the fruit and orange zest, they are perfect.  And while we are on the subject of syrup, please please please make sure what you are buying is actual pure maple syrup and not maple flavored syrup.  One is the reduced sap of a maple tree, and the other is brown rice syrup or corn syrup with artificial maple flavor added.  These are different things, my friend!  And if you are one of those people who shrug and say ‘Ach!  Whats the difference?’ and buy the fake stuff anyway, then I don’t want to hear about it.  You are dead to me. *dramatic sigh*

You will also note that the orange zest in these muffins is listed as ‘optional’.  I have made this recipe several times, both with and without the orange zest.  So here is the unanimous take on it: make it with the zest.  If you don’t have oranges and it is the only thing stopping you from whipping these up, then by all means, leave it out.  If it is just a questions of effort, do yourself a favor and don’t skip it.  It lifts these muffins up from really good, all the way to spectacular.  The difference is shocking and since I am an honest gal and a good Christian woman and I would never lie to you, then you can trust me on this one.  I don’t joke around when it comes to orange zest.  Believe you me.

I would close with more sporty type phrases but I am tapped out.  It is nights like this that I wonder if I should even be allowed to blog when its late and I am tired.  I can’t be held accountable for what I write here.
Two Years Ago: Homemade Ketchup

Blueberry Maple Muffins
Adapted from Eating Well

In a large bowl, combine:
1/4 c ground flax
1 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
3/4 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Whisk together.  In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, add:
1/4 c canola or grape seed oil
1 c low fat buttermilk
1/2 c pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
zest of 1 orange, optional

Whisk until smooth and fold into the dry ingredients just until combined!  Do not over mix or they will be tough!  Gently fold in:

1 1/4 c fresh or frozen blueberries

Divide evenly among exactly 12 muffins cups that have been sprayed or are lined with paper liners.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out with just a crumb or two.

Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake At the risk of posting a fall themed recipe in March, I decided to throw caution to the wind and share this with you anyway.  It has become one of my favorite deserts and with Easter coming up, the thought of finishing of a ham and cheesy potato dinner with this pudding cake makes me want to weep with joy.  It also makes me drool a little bit…

Cranberries can be found frozen in your freezer section which is fortunate because most grocery stores don’t carry fresh cranberries year round, only in November and December.  I usually buy them up fresh and then throw 3 or 4 bags in my freezer for cooking during the winter months.  This recipe is the perfect example of that.  Add cream cheese ice cream and you can kiss those winter blahs goodbye!  Especially this year when spring seems to be dragging its feet!

This recipe doesn’t act like a regular pudding.  It is kind faking it actually.  When I think of a pudding cake, I think of the magic that happens when you bake a more traditional recipe, like Chocolate Pudding Cake.  This version is almost like a cobbler, but there is an actual batter that you pour over top instead of dropping dough.  However you classify it, it all adds up to fantastic-any season of the year.
Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake One Year Ago: Honey Cheesecake Bars 
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars & Lemon Spaghetti 

Cranberry Maple Pudding Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit
This pudding cake is great for breakfast or dessert.  Its richness is best cut with ice cream but whipped cream is scrumptious as well!

2 c fresh or frozen cranberries
1 c pure maple syrup
2/3 c heavy cream
Combine above ingredients in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down, letting it bubble slowly for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.

2/3 c all purpose flour
1/3 c cornmeal
3 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Whisk together above ingredients.  In a separate bowl, whisk together:
1/2 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c (1 stick) melted butter

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Pour the warm cranberry mixture into a glass 9X9 square baking dish or small casserole dish.  Pour the topping batter evenly over the top of the fruit.  Carefully place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 28 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbly.  Let the pudding cake cool AT LEAST 20 minutes before enjoying.  Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or cream cheese ice cream!

Apricot Scones

Sweet Apricot Scones | Brittany's Pantry I really love dried apricots-its the chewiness; it pulls me in-and the day I decided to randomly create this recipe…well…it was a happy day.  And all the other days that I made test batches?  Yup.  Those were happy days too.  I have to be careful when I make these because I end up eating a lot of them.  Like, a LOT.  They are simple and easy.  Not too sweet, but definitely special.  Nothing too crazy.  That is unless we are talking about crazy GOOD!

Ok.  That was cheesy.  I retract the last statement.  Just make them, mmkay?Sweet Apricot Scones | Brittany's PantrySweet Apricot Scones | Brittany's Pantry One Year Ago: Corn Cake Muffins & Sticky Chicken

Apricot Scones
The glaze here is totally optional.  They are killer without it.

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 T sugar
6 T cold butter, cubed
1 c chopped dried apricots
1 1/4 c heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 beaten egg w/a splash of water (egg wash)

1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T milk

Pulse dry ingredients in a food processor until combined.  Add the cubed cold butter and pulse until butter is smaller than the size of peas.  Dump the mixture into a large bowl and toss with chopped apricots, using your fingers to break up the sticky fruit and even distribute it.  Combine the vanilla and cream in a measuring cup and stir into the flour mixture with a fork, just until it starts to come together.  Dump the dough onto a floured counter top and press it together, kneading lightly, just until the dough barely forms a mass.  Press or roll into a rough square about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 equal portions and cut those portions in half to give you 12, roughly formed triangles.  Place on a lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash.  Bake at 375 for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown.

Alternatively, mix the recipe the same way, but use a pastry cutter for the butter, instead of a food processor.  Proceed the same way with the recipe.  Whisk together all glaze ingredients and drizzle over just warm scones.  Enjoy!

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread

IMG_7467 So, I am told there is some kind of big deal football game coming up.  Did you hear about this?

I actually had to google it to find out when it was happening!  My husband and I don’t really follow sports, unless you count the Olympics.  I do, of course, love the food that is associated with the Super Bowl.  I can put away my share of chicken wings, let me tell you!  But in the interest of serving something different, I love this bread.

Think of this as a savory monkey bread, if you will.  Just when everyone is expecting heavy, salty, gooey food, you can plunk this down on the table.  It is light and airy with just the right amount of garlic.  No, this isn’t health food (note: there is butter in the recipe below 🙂 but it doesn’t weigh you down like a lot of other snack bread.  And is it just me or is there something decidedly satisfying in ripping off hunks of bread?  Of course, you can serve this with marinara sauce for dipping, but I have also made it to go alongside a big pot of tomato soup.  Dare I say it was better than croutons?  Its neutrality lends itself to just about anything you can think of to pair it with so be creative.  Or heck!  Just stick with plain marinara.  Because in the end, warm garlic bread is just plain great.
Garlic Pull-Apart Bread IMG_7505 One Year Ago: Banana Snack Cake, Black Bean Salsa
Two Years Ago: Vegetable Couscous, 5-Minute Meatloaf, Enchilada Pie

Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread
Adapted from The Pastry Affair
If you are short on time, or the thought of making bread from scratch makes your knees weak (and not in a ‘Oh my gosh, I just saw Tom Selleck!’ sort of way) just use a purchased 1-1 1/2 pound loaf of bread or pizza dough.

1 pkg (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
1 1/3 c warm water
2 T olive oil
2 tsp salt
3 1/2 c bread flour or all purpose flour
1/4 c butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 T dried parsley
grated parmesan

In the bowl of a mixer with the dough hook attachment, combine the warm water and the yeast.  Let bloom for 5 minutes, or until a few bubbles appear.  Add the olive oil and salt and with the mixer on low, add the flour, 1/2 c at a time until all the flour is mixed in.  Turn the mixer up to medium and let the hook knead the dough until elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should bounce back when pressed with a finger.  Alternatively, just mix with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Knead by hand on the counter with a bit of flour to keep from sticking, about 8 minutes.  Drizzle the dough with a bit of oil, turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise on the counter for an hour or until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the butter, garlic, and parsley.  Pinch off pieces of dough about the size of an un-cracked walnut.  Dip the dough in the butter mixture and line the bottom of a bundt pan with a single layer of dough pieces.  Sprinkle generously with parmesan.  Use the second half of the dough to make another layer, drizzling any leftover butter over top.  Sprinkle again with parmesan.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise a second time on the counter until puffed, about 1 hour more.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes, or until evenly golden brown.  Let the bread sit for a few minutes and then invert onto a serving plate.  Serve plain, or with marinara for dipping.

White Chocolate Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake is a showstopper of a holiday dessert! {Brittany's Pantry}Sometimes you see a picture of a dish and say to yourself “Self, I must make that.”  That was my exact thought when I saw a recipe for this cheesecake in a Cooking Club of America magazine.  This was several years ago and if I remember correctly, I made it twice that holiday season.  When I made it again recently, scrounging up the recipe from deep within my archives, I was thrilled that it was just as easy and just and fabulous as I remembered it.

Generally, I am not a fan of white chocolate.  It is way too sweet for me (shocking, but true) and is, of course, not even actually chocolate.  About the only time I ever have it is when ordering a tuxedo mocha at a coffee shop.  But this was one of those pairings that I knew would be successful.  The rich, sweet creaminess of white chocolate cheesecake, punched with tart fresh cranberries cooked in orange juice; a winning combination!  And it is festive as heck, no?  A beautiful dessert to present for Christmas, New Years, or even a birthday!

Not only is it beautiful, it isn’t as hard as you think, as cheesecakes go.  You can make the cranberry sauce well in advance, making this a bit easier to put together if you are pressed for time.  Also, it will last for a good three days, so go ahead and make it a day or two before you need to serve it.  And even though I haven’t tried it myself, I don’t see why you couldn’t freeze it.  Wrap and seal it will and it would keep for a good month, I should think!  Just defrost it in the fridge.

The first few times I made this I made a mental note to cut the amount of cranberries in half.  Well, that mental note got lost somewhere on the desktop of my mind.  So needless to say, the pic you see above is with the whole amount of cranberries.  After I made (and then ate…) the cheesecake again, I thought gosh I should cut this in half.  The recipe below reflects that change.  It is really good, but a little too tart with so much fruit.White-Chocolate-Cranberry-Swirl-CheesecakeWhite-Chocolate-Cranberry-Swirl-Cheesecake One Year Ago: Potato Gratin & Chai Hot Chocolate
Two Years Ago: Indian Chili, Mini Corn Muffins, Brown Sugar Shortbread 

White Chocolate Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake
Adapted from CCA

If you feel like equal portions of fruit to cheesecake, and you really like tart cranberry sauce, double the cranberry part of the recipe.  It will still be fantastic, but be aware that it may take an extra few minutes to finish in the oven.

1 c fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c orange juice
zest of 1 orange
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

40 vanilla wafer cookies, crushed to crumbs (1 1/4 c)
1/4 c melted butter
1 T sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

8 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 (8 oz pkg) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c sugar
2 T flour
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 c cream

Put all cranberry sauce ingredients, except vanilla, into a small sauce pan and put over medium heat.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook gently until the berries pop.  Stir well and set aside to cool.  Once cool, add vanilla and stir.  Set aside until ready to make the cheesecake.  You can make this a few days ahead of time and store it in the fridge.  Just bring it to room temp before you use it in this recipe.

To make the crust, mix all ingredients together until it looks like wet sand.  Press evenly into the bottom of a standard, 9″ springform pan and bake at 375 for 8 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely.

For the cheesecake, melt the white chocolate in 20 second intervals in the microwave, stirring until JUST MELTED. Alternatively, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Meanwhile, beat remaining cheesecake ingredients together until smooth.  Beat in white chocolate.  Pour cheesecake mixture over the cooled crust.  Drop the cranberry sauce in small spoonfuls over the surface of the cheesecake.  Swirl gently with a toothpick.  Bake at 300 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until just set.  The center of the cheesecake should shift just a bit, but not ripple as if liquid.  Remove to the counter and let cool slowly until nearly room temp.  Chill until VERY cold-at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.  Slice and enjoy!

Note: As long as it is sweet, any kind of simple, homemade cranberry sauce would work here.  If you have leftovers from Christmas dinner, save some and make this cheesecake for New Years!

Rum Banana Bread: Fruit & Booze

Rum Banana Bread Did the title of this post reel you in?  I must admit…that was my secret plan…. (or not so secret if I am telling you)
*Evil laugh* while ringing hands…

The first time I tried this bread I was intrigued.  The extra step of cooking the bananas in the rum was kind of a red flag, given the fact that I like to keep my quick bread recipes…well…quick.  Duh.  But the obvious pairing of bananas and rum (i.e. bananas foster) sounded so blasted scrumptious I decided to go for it.

And a new traditional holiday bread was born!  I mean, don’t get me wrong; regular banana bread is great.  I make it every once in awhile.  See?  Cream Cheese Banana Bread, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Earth Bread, and Banana Bran Muffins, Double Chocolate Banana Bread… Oy.  But this bread is special enough to add to your holiday platter of sweets.  I tell you, the flavors just makes sense.  And people will look at you and say, “What IS this?” and you will just smile and continue to mingle amongst your guests, secure in the knowledge that you were smart enough to make an extra loaf and get to eat all you want for breakfast in the morning  You are so smart…

And while we are on the subject of intelligence, it would be a fabulous step in the right direction if you wanted to wrap up a loaf of this in a clean, Christmas tea towel, tie it gently with a big ribbon and gift it to a friend or neighbor.  Gratitude will abound and fruitcake will never be mentioned among your circle again. 🙂
Rum Banana Bread Rum Banana Bread Rum Banana Bread One Year Ago: Sun-Dried Tomato Dip, Baked Doughnuts, Rosemary Orange Mixed NutsParmesan Dip & Butternut Squash Crostini

Rum Banana Bread (Bananas Foster Bread)
Adapted from Cooking Light
Bananas with dark spots that are just starting to go soft are perfect for this or any other kind of banana bread.  Don’t be tempted to use under-ripe fruit.  It has little or no flavor for baking.

3 bananas, mashed
1/2 c brown sugar
5 T butter
3 T dark rum
Combine the above ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until the butter and sugar are melted and the whole thing just starts to bubble.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.  In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl, add:
1/3 c plain, low fat or fat free yogurt
2 eggs
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp rum extract
Beat till smooth and add banana mixture.  Mix till smooth.  Add:
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1/4 c ground flax seed
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice

Mix until ingredients are just incorporated.  Pour into large (about 9X5), sprayed loaf pan and bake at 350 for about an hour, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Note: If desired, add 1 T of melted butter & 1 T of dark rum to 1/2 c of powdered sugar and drizzle over top of warm bread.  This will make you swoon, but hang in there.  Cool completely.  You can also add a few drops of rum extract in place of the rum in the glaze.  Just add a bit of water or milk to get it to a nice, pourable consistency.