Chewy Ginger Cookies

Chewy Ginger Cookies from Brittany's PantryAh!  Cookies from Joy!  ‘Joy’ refers to The Joy of Cooking , the source of the modified recipe below and an excellent cookbook for every one-experienced or not-to have on a shelf in their kitchen.  ‘Ginger’ is in reference to the main flavor of these fabulous cookies.  And calling them ‘Jewels’ is because I am pretty sure you could use them as currency in some countries.  Yup.  They are that good.  I don’t know what the exchange rate would be because I would rather give up money than these cookies, but it has got to be pretty high.  Maybe 3 cookies on the dollar?

Now I must explain myself, as ginger is a spice I love, but…well…it isn’t my absolute favorite.  Chocolate, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin; all of these are cookies I am more likely to choose before picking up a ginger cookie.  I suppose the main reason is because I grew up not really liking ginger snaps.  You know, those hard as a rock, kinda bitter, spicy cookies that are the size of a silver dollar?  No thanks.  Never being a fan of food with the texture of cement, I generally ignored these types of cookies.  And ginger was not a flavor my parents incorporated into the menus of my youth very often.  Asian food, a cuisine that uses ginger on a regular basis, wasn’t exactly prevalent.  Chow mien was about it, which, incidentally I actually loathe.  Yes, Mom and Dad, I still hate chow mien.  A lot.  I wasn’t kidding all those years when you made me eat it for dinner.  Its one of the only foods in existence that I absolutely can’t stand and the memories of it make me shudder.

Chewy Ginger Cookies from Brittany's Pantry But back to ginger, the one exception in eating it was these cookies.  My Mother has been making them for years and I think that the original recipe even has frosting included.  But I am not really sure because my edition of The Joy of Cooking does not have the recipe in it.  I think my Mom got the cookbook as a wedding gift sooooo….30+ years later, the editors apparently thought it was expendable.  For SHAME!!  Obviously they never made them or they would give these cookies their own page.  Their own chapter!  *sigh*  You may think I am over exaggerating and if you know me personally…well…that isn’t so much of a stretch.  But seriously!  They are quite fantastic.  And I have never had anyone disagree with me.  They have a bite of ginger without being overwhelming, and they turn out thin, chewy and perfect EVERY TIME!  Without fail.  My favorite feature?  They freeze beautifully.  Why is this such a perk, you ask?  The recipe makes about four dozen so you have enough to fill a gallon freezer bag and save them for later.  And when you take them out and defrost them they are just as chewy and wonderful as the day you baked them.  I like to make a batch to tuck in the freezer for families with a new baby.  Its a little treat for when company comes over to visit the new addition and it is instant calories in the middle of the night when you have been up for 36 hours straight.  Sharing is something they taught us in Kindergarten so spread the love!  And maybe.  Just maybe.  Someday, I will be able to pay my cable bill with them.  Fingers crossed.Chewy Ginger Cookies from Brittany's Pantry Chewy Ginger Cookies (updated w/new pic 12/5/12)
These are perfect for the holiday season, but I make them all the time.  You should too.

Cream together:
3/4 c butter
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c molasses
2 tsp white vinegar
3 3/4 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Mix until combined.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  If desired, roll each ball in granulated sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for exactly 11 minutes!  Cool on pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.

Honey Buns

Honey Buns are made in a muffin tin and perfect for Christmas morning! {Brittany's PantryHoney is the star ingredient here today and it takes these sticky rolls to a whole new level.  I have always loved honey and any food that highlights its fantastic flavor always has a place in my recipe box.  I have a recipe for honey cheesecake bars somewhere.  Creamy, delicate, and the honey gives is just the right amount of sweetness.  I will dig that out and share it sometime soon.

Anyway, when I was a kid, my Mother used to crack an aspirin half, put it on a spoonful of honey, and give it to me when I had a fever.  And let me tell ya!  When you have a mouthful of honey, you don’t even notice the bitterness as you chew up an aspirin.  Speaking of my parents, among their many talents is Beekeeping, so I always get a few quarts of the golden syrup when they visit from MN in the fall.  This is very fortunate for us because we use a lot of honey in our house; in tea, in our homemade bread, when we make granola, on yogurt, and my husband even likes to drizzle honey over his Cheerios in the morning.  Don’t ask my why, but its actually really good.  A quart of honey, like the one below that was produced in my parent’s backyard, does not last long.
These Honey Buns are the best way to enjoy the fantastic flavor of honey.  While I love a warm, carmel roll as much as the next person, these are a nice change of pace.  The are just the right size, not too heavy, and not as rich as a traditional sticky bun.  It took me three days and four batches, but I finally got it right.  My daughter wants me to be sure to tell you that they are really good.  She was adamant that I inform you of this.  But beware.  Eating these will make you want to start your own bee colony.  Just be sure to share a quart or two of honey with your friends!!Raw-HoneyHoney Buns are made in a muffin tin and perfect for Christmas morning! {Brittany's PantryHoney Buns are made in a muffin tin and perfect for Christmas morning! {Brittany's PantryHoney Buns
If you are in a time crunch, don’t have a bread machine, or just plain don’t feel like fussing with it, use a 1 lb loaf of frozen bread dough, thawed, in place of the dough in this recipe.  It won’t be as good, but it will be faster, easier, and you will get to eat sooner!

3 c bread flour
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, softened and cut into chunks (it mixes in easier that way)
3/4 c milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp yeast

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Add all dough ingredients to your bread machine according to manufacturers directions.  Mix on ‘dough cycle’ and proceed with the recipe.  Alternatively, mix all ingredients in your kitchen aid with a dough hook until a smooth ball forms.  Knead dough by hand until dough springs back and is elastic, about 10 minutes.  Let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in size.  Proceed with recipe.

Honey Glaze:
1/2 c honey
2 T butter softened
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix all ingredients and divide evenly among the 12 muffin cups, pouring about a tablespoon in each one.  Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and place on top of the honey in each cup.  Its OK if the dough is in several pieces in each cup.  Actually, it seems to be better that way, but it doesn’t really matter.  Make sure it is about even and let them rise in a warm place until puffed, about 30 minutes.  Bake for 12 -15 minutes or until the rolls are evenly golden brown.  Remove from the oven and immediately invert the pan onto a sheet of wax paper, parchment paper, or foil, letting the honey glaze drip down the rolls.  Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Easy Sweet Potato Biscuits | Brittany's PantryMmmmm sweet potatoes.  How do I love thee?

Many ways.  And I hope that all of you do too!  I have discovered that there are really two kinds of people out there.  Those who ate sweet potatoes growing up and those who didn’t.  I, you may be surprised to learn, did not grow up eating sweet potatoes.  I think I had them a time or two, smothered in melted marshmallows at my aunt’s house at Christmas time.  Of course, I loved them.  Who wouldn’t love a thick, creamy, unidentifiable orange vegetable, sweet as candy and and covered in melted sugar goo?!  Seconds please!!  While I always considered myself a sweet potato lover, this was really the extent of my experience.  We didn’t eat them in our house and now that I think about it, I am really not sure why.  I should ask my parents one of these days.

I was introduced to sweet potatoes by a close friend who is originally from southern Mississippi.  At the time, we were living in Hawaii because out husbands were assigned to the same nuclear submarine.  When you are thousands of miles away from your family (and most of the time apart from your spouse as well), any little bit of home is welcome.  The first time she made her Granny’s Sweet Potato Casserole, it was a revelation.  It was outrageously good, as most food made by southern women is, and remains one of my favorite ways to eat them  But what really struck me was that she made them with fresh sweet potatoes.  Everyone else I knew just dumped them out of a can.  When I mentioned this to her, her jaw dropped.  In the south, I was told, they are so common they sell them on the side of the road in paper grocery bags. In more recent years, I have become profoundly grateful for this, as she frequently brings back several pounds for me when she makes the trip home.

So on that fateful day in Hawaii, I was hooked.  She taught me how to buy them-no large blemishes or moldy spots, nice and firm-and how to eat them.  I have been making them dozens of ways ever since.  This is one of my favorite creations.Easy Sweet Potato Biscuits | Brittany's Pantry Sweet Potato Biscuits
Sweet potatoes are a bright, versatile tuber that contain a wealth of nutrients.  If you haven’t experimented with them lately, this time of year is perfect.   They are cheap, plentiful in the super markets, and recipes for inspiration abound!  There is a reason they are the favorite first food of babies everywhere!  Feel free to use pumpkin or squash in place of the potatoes if you like.

Lightly butter or spray an eight inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl mix together:
2 c flour
2 T  brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Using a pastry blender, food processor, or two knives, cut in 6 T cold, unsalted butter that has been cut into small chunks.  Once the butter is the size of small peas, add:
1 c mashed sweet potato & 1/2 c low fat buttermilk, mixed together

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix lightly with a fork.  Using clean hands, continue to mix dough with your fingers, just until everything is incorporated and dough starts to come together in a ball.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  The less you handle the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be.  This dough will be very sticky.  Dust your hands with more flour as needed when handling the dough.  At this point you could roll and cut the biscuits, but I rarely do this due to time and mess.  Especially for this recipe.  I recommend dividing the dough into 7 equal parts (just eyeball it), patting each of them gently into a disc, and snuggling them into the greased cake pan.  They will hold each other up as they rise.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the biscuits are firm.  Let cool in the pan 10 minutes.  These are incredible plain, but with honey or apple butter, they become absolutely fabulous.
Note: You can make mashed sweet potatoes several ways.  Bake or microwave the potatoes and then scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork.  You can also peel the sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and then steam them.  I usually don’t like to boil the potatoes for this recipe because it adds too much moisture, but use your own judgement.
Honorable mention:  These are great for brunch.  To make them really over the top, add 1/2 c finely chopped cooked bacon and one green onion, diced.

Apple Crisp

Classic Apple Crisp via Brittany's PantryIts that time of year when you just want to grab a sweatshirt and head outside!  I love fall and I am fortunate to live in a state where it lasts until Christmas!  We don’t have any autumn colors starting yet, but after a week of nearly 90 degree weather here (central IL) I am thrilled to finally have a high of 68 today.  WOO HOO!  I love it!  I love it!  I am sorry for the sporadic blog entries, but we are continuing to gut the main part of our house and yesterday the fireplace came down.  Needless to say, we ordered take-out last night in the interest of trying to keep sane in a very messy house.  Demolition doesn’t always leave much energy for cooking, no matter how much I love to do it.  But then…

In the middle of all the chaos, I get a text from my friend, Sara.  She wants to make an apple crisp and would I, by chance, have a good recipe for one.  By golly Sara, yes I do!  I immediately emailed her the following recipe, confident that she would love it.  My family made apple crisp all the time when I was a kid and it is one of my favorite comfort foods still today.  I love the smell that fills the house, I love the way it looks, I love it for breakfast!  It is truly a simple dessert to do, even on a weeknight.  So.  Lets get started.
Classic Apple Crisp via Brittany's Pantry This recipe is sort of pieced together.  I have made apple crisp, or any kind of crisp for that matter, without a recipe nearly my entire life.  The apple filling is super easy and when it comes to the crisp on top, I just throw ingredients together and everything turns out great.  That is the way my Mother always did it and I am a good enough cook that I can wing it.  The one bummer is that I rarely write down my recipes.  I just rely on memory to make them the same every time.  I make these grilled teryaki beef skewers and every time I make them, they turn out the same.  Even though I almost never really remember what goes in the marinade, it all seems to come together.  Unfortunately, my apple crisp never seemed to do that.  Sometimes the crisp would turn out dry and crumbly, sometimes soggy and soft.  Sometimes perfectly crunchy and toasted.  So, I decided to search for an actual recipe for the topping so that I could have it turn out perfectly every time.  Maybe I would find a recipe that contained something different that I hadn’t though of.  Anyway, my search led me to a name you might have heard me mention before.  Ina Garten.  And she did not disappoint.  Turns out, I was doing just fine on my own, I just needed more butter.  So go apple picking and whip this up.  I promise it will make you think of fall, even if it is 90 degrees outside.
Classic Apple Crisp from Brittany's PantryApple Crisp

6 c apples peeled, cored, and chopped, such as Golden Delicious-or however much it takes to fill a medium sized baking dish
1 heaping T flour
pinch of salt
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Gently mix all ing. together and spread evenly into a sprayed, 2 quart baking dish.
3/4 c flour
3/4 c oatmeal
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick of cold butter, cut into cubes

Mix all topping ingredients together until butter is completely incorporated and mixture starts to stick together.  Crumble evenly over apples.  Bake at 350 for 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden brown and center is bubbly.  Let sit for 15 minutes after removing from the oven.  If you like, add a scoop of frozen yogurt or vanilla ice cream.  Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Dippin’ Biscuits

Quick Dipping Drop Biscuits | Brittany's Pantry - The perfect bread to whip up when you need something to go with dinner!Yummy comfort food.  That is what has been on my mind everyday for the past week.  Its calling to me when I sleep.  Mashed potatoes, savory, slow roasted meats, hot carmel rolls fresh from the oven…its all good.  So the other night I threw together chicken and gravy over biscuits with some fresh green beans.  I made the biscuits with a pinch of herbs to give the whole dish an extra special flavor.  My Mom used to make drop biscuits all the time when I was a kid; as a matter of fact, I don’t ever remember her making them the old fashioned way, rolled and cut.  With a large family, it was faster and less messy to just mix them up and throw on a sheet pan.  Drop biscuits are just what they sound like.  The dough is usually a bit more sticky, and instead of turning it out onto a floured counter, rolling them out and cutting with a biscuit cutter, they are spooned right from the bowl and ‘dropped’ on a cookie sheet and baked.  To be true, they aren’t the smooth, puffy, flaky buns you may think of when biscuits come to mind, but they are a rustic, easy and quick alternative.  And perfect to smother in gravy.   This is what I threw together before dinner and with the addition of sage and pepper, the flavor is perfect for dipping into the gravy at Thanksgiving.  Easy to throw in the oven while the turkey rests and you get the rest of the food on the table.  Wow!  I am thinking about the holidays already?!  Sheesh.  Without the spices, they are just a plain, everyday, all purpose bread.  Add a spoonful of sugar, and you could top them with strawberries and cream.

Dippin Biscuits (note: recipe has been updated since original post)

2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c cornmeal
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried sage
pinch of salt
6 T cold butter
1 c milk

In a medium sized bowl, mix dry ing. with a fork.  Add butter, cut into small chunks.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender, fork, or two knives till butter is the size of small peas. (Alternatively, pulse all ing in a food processor till butter is the size of small peas.  Dump into a med sized bowl.)
Add milk and mix with a fork just until it comes together.  Dough will be sticky.  Drop dough into 6 portions on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until puffed and golden on top.  Biscuits can be baked and cooled and frozen for up to 1 month.

Banana Bran Muffins

Banana Bran Muffins are whole grain and Oh so tasty! Be sure to freeze any leftovers! {Brittany's Pantry}In the short time I have been writing this blog, the majority of recipes included have been baked goods.  While this won’t always be the norm (not everyone likes to bake and I like to cook just as much) I have been whipping up a lot of muffins and breads lately based on ingredients I have in my house.

For example, I had three sorry looking bananas that were way past their prime for snacking, but perfect for baking.  I made a batch of banana bran muffins and I MUST share the recipe with you.  They are so good, it boggles the mind a bit.  They don’t taste like your run-of-the-mill traditional bran muffin, so those of you who are wrinkling your nose at this-HALT!  These are sweet and moist and do not taste like what they are; an extremely easy, fast, and healthy option of breakfast or snacking.  This recipe comes from my good friend Michelle, and I think she got it from a Bed and Breakfast cookbook.  Ultimately, who cares?!   They are a favorite muffin in our house and I hope they become one you can count on too!

Banana Bran Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen

In a large bowl, mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula:
1 egg
3/4 c brown sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1/3 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 c bran
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

Mix all dry ingredients into the wet ingredients carefully, JUST UNTIL COMBINED.  Bake in greased or papered muffin cups at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until browned on top and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Baked muffins freeze beautifully.

Earth Bread

Earth Bread by Brittany's Pantry - A quick bread full of healthy ingredients!Yes, its that time of year again.  The time when you realize that you should have planted only one zucchini plant instead of four.  And while this year I am without any veggies due to the deer who keep eating the blossoms off the plants (the little jerks), I have been stocking up at my local farmers market.  No shortage of summer squash here.  And with this in mind, I would like to post my FAVORITE zucchini bread recipe.
Earth Bread by Brittany's Pantry - A quick bread full of healthy ingredients!There are so many of them out there and all seem to be about the same (I do have a chocolate zucchini bread recipe that is amazing) but this one has a few twists.  By all means stick to what works for you, but if you are in the mood for something a little different give this one a try.  This bread is OH so good for you and freezes beautifully for several months.  It also makes a great sandwich with cream cheese for a child-or adult-lunch!  It took at least a dozen tries (and more zucchini than you can imagine) but I finally nailed the recipe.  I have been making it year round and now that its zucchini season again-bring it on!  I’m ready.  And who knows?  You may find yourself at the farmers market too.  In need of more zucchini perhaps?
Earth Bread by Brittany's Pantry - A quick bread full of healthy ingredients!Earth Bread
Makes 2 large loaves or 4 small ones or ALOT of muffins
Recipe Modified 6/21/11

In a large bowl combine:
3 eggs
1/2 c oil
1 c sugar
1 med. banana, mashed
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 large zucchini, washed and grated (about 1 1/2-2 c)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

Add and mix just until blended:
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour
1/4 c wheat germ
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c chopped walnuts (opt)
1/2 c raisins (opt)

Pour evenly into two large, sprayed, loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for about an hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.  Cool in pans for about 10 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  If making four mini-loaves, bake for 35-40 minutes and 20-25 minutes for muffins.

O.K. Its official. I started a blog. And, may I add, that I did it all by myself. The appearance may change over time as I figure out what all the computer jargin means, (Figure out? Who are we kidding. I’ll ask my husband.) but until then, this is what ya get!
The subject? My favorite thing to talk about, after my family. Food. Glorious food. My heart beats a little faster just thinking about it!

For those of you that don’t know me well, I like to cook. A lot. And after several bouts of good natured pestering, I have started this blog to talk about what I am cooking. I will post recipes as time allows-I have two children and it IS summer-and will try to keep the culinary chit chat interesting.
Basic Wheat Bread For Bread Machine | Brittany's PantrySo my first recipe is one that I get requests for the most. It is the basic wheat bread that I make all the time and try to keep loaves of stocked in my freezer. Its my own creation, but as with all recipes, feel free to change what you like.
Basic Wheat Bread For Bread Machine | Brittany's Pantry Basic Wheat Bread-for a bread machine
This recipe makes a 2lb loaf. Use the basic wheat bread setting. If making the bread on the rapid cycle, increase the yeast to 1 T. All bread machines seem to be pretty reliable and I use mine all the time. It is an incredible time saver and who ever regretted making homemade bread? No one! If you are in the market, give this version a try. It works well for our family.
Note: This recipe has been adjusted since the original post date. 5/31/11

Place all ing. in the bread machine in the order given. If your bread machine loads with all the wet ing. on the bottom, just flip flop the order.
2 c bread flour
2 c white whole wheat flour
3 T wheat germ
2 T ground flax, optional
1 tsp salt
1 c fat free or low fat plain yogurt
2/3 c water
3 T canola oil
3 T honey or maple syrup

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Note: White whole wheat flour is milled from white whole wheat, instead of the traditional red wheat. As a result it has all the nutritional benefits of regular whole wheat flour, but is lighter in flavor and texture. You can use it in all your recipes that ask for whole wheat flour, but they wont be as heavy or grainy. King Aurthur makes a great one. Its also really easy to sneak it into cookies or baked goods. Replace half of your regular flour with white whole wheat, and your kids will probably never know the difference. Happy baking!