Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Zucchini Bread is as amazing as it looks and super easy! {Brittany's Pantry}Just a quick entry to pass this recipe along.  So here it is!  I promised you a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini bread, and this gal delivers.  Yes, this tastes a lot like cake, but because it is baked in a loaf pan and very much resembles the other zucchini bread recipes you have seen-but with chocolate-I am calling it a bread.  Feel free to use this excuse to justify eating it for breakfast…”But its bread!  Practically health food!”

In other news, I found my recipe for double dark chocolate tea bread.  This is a very good thing…

In case you are looking for other ways to use up your zucchini, some of these might help.  Try Earth BreadZucchini & Corn with Basil, Vegetables with Pasta, and Shepherd’s Pie.  And don’t forget to try the One Year Ago recipe.  So mouthwatering!Chocolate Zucchini Bread is as amazing as it looks and super easy! {Brittany's Pantry} One Year Ago: Tortellini W/Shrimp, Zucchini, and Tomato Cream Sauce

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
This bread tastes even better the next day.  It also freezes beautifully so go ahead and make a double batch to use up even more zucchini.  Cool the loaves completely and seal in a freezer bag.

1 c flour
1 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3 eggs
1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 c grated zucchini (about 1 medium)
3/4 c chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and carefully combine with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Fold in zucchini and walnuts, if using.  Divide batter evenly among two, 8 inch loaf pans that have been sprayed.  Smooth out the tops and bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes, or until center is dry and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Cornmeal Pancakes W/Maple Blueberry Sauce-Brittany's PantryDon’t let this picture fool you.  No matter how good you think this looks, it tastes even better.

Usually, when my husband works regular hours (which is almost never), Saturday morning is the only day of the week that we get to really indulge in a nice big breakfast.  With the exception of the occasional ‘breakfast for dinner’ plan, we are just too busy Sunday mornings before church to do anything other than cereal or a quick pancake or muffin I have in the freezer.  On the days when he is at home in the mornings, I get to take my time and experiment with all the recipes that are in my Breakfast & Breads stack.  And it is a biiiig stack!

This weekend I was in the mood for something other than eggs and bacon but I didn’t have time to make something extremely labor intensive.  Trust me, I wanted to.  I have had cinnamon rolls on my mind for weeks now and one of these days-or actually, evenings because the recipe I have has you make them the night before-I am just going to buckle down and do it.  But it soooo hot!  Turning on my oven right now is at the bottom of my list of fun things to do.  The VERY bottom.  Right next to running for recreation and painting my nails.  So, pancakes it is!!
Have I ever told you that I am a sucker for just about any recipe that contains cornmeal?  I love the stuff!  Corn bread, casseroles, muffins, you name it.  Sooo good.  And these pancakes are perfect.  Not so grainy that they taste gritty, and just sweet enough to be kind of special.  The blueberry sauce has all natural sweeteners and goes so well with the pancakes, you don’t want to skip it.Cornmeal Pancakes W/Maple Blueberry Sauce-Brittany's PantryCornmeal Pancakes W/Blueberry Sauce
Recipe adapted from Cooking Club of America

1 c cornmeal
3/4 c white whole wheat flour
3 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 c buttermilk
2 T canola oil

Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl.  In separate bowl, beat the buttermilk, eggs and oil together with a fork, just until the eggs are lightly beaten.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir carefully, just until evenly mixed but leaving a few lumps.  Let batter sit for a few minutes before frying them in a little butter over medium heat.  Serve with blueberry sauce.

Blueberry Sauce
1 pint (2 c) fresh or frozen blueberries
Splash of water
1/4 c maple syrup (recommended) or honey
1 tsp, rounded of cornstarch

Put first three ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Turn down heat just so that it barely bubbles, letting it cook until the berries burst-about 5 minutes.  Mix the cornstarch with just a tiny bit of water (1T or so) to make a slurry and pour into the berries, stirring and cooking till thick, about another 30 seconds more.  Serve over pancakes and store any leftovers in the fridge.

Oatmeal Raisin Snack Bars

Oatmeal Raisin Snack BarsFor several years now, a friend of mine has been dealing with issues in relation to food.  Like, major stuff that would totally bum me out if I was her.  Heck! Lets be honest.  I would cry if I had to give up the things she has had to give up.  Cry a lot.  She on the other hand, has handled it much better than me or anyone I know ever would have.  So now, after a very long wait, she is slowly starting to expand her menus again.  Its a tentative process and still limited, but nevertheless improving.  We converse quite often about food; the science of it (why are my brownies boiling?!), how recipes can be altered and changed to include certain ingredients, what processed foods can be made at home with good results, that kind of thing.  Knowing that I generally like to cook healthfully for my family, I don’t cower in horror when she brings up the price of keifer (she actually makes her own, the superwoman), the availability of spelt flour, or the continuous search for 101 ways to use applesauce in baked goods.  I admire her very much as a person and as a cook, so I decided to create some recipes for her.  This is one of them.
Oatmeal Raisin Snack BarsNow, I should make it clear that oatmeal raisin is one of my favorite combinations.  I usually choose it over chocolate chip.  I mean I love oatmeal, but its the wholesome, nutty, chewy goodness that pulls me in.  These hit all those marks without tasting ‘flat’ like healthy snacks sometimes do.  They are very quick to throw together and freeze great.  Pull one out of the freezer for breakfast on the go or a quick snack.  I already know they are going to be a regular part of my daughters lunch box this year!  That is if I don’t eat them all first!

Oatmeal Raisin Snack Bars
Recipe updated 7/2012

In a medium mixing bowl:
1/2 c canola oil
1/2 c applesauce
1 c raw sugar
1/4 c egg substitute or 1 egg
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients until well blended.  Add:
1 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
2 c rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon(opt)
1 c raisins

Combine all ingredients well and spread evenly into a sprayed 9X9 glass or metal baking dish.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until firm in the middle and lightly brown around the edges.  Cool before cutting and removing from pan.

How To: Freeze Berries - A Step by step guide on how to do it! {Brittany's Pantry}Berries!  Specifically, blueberries!  Tis the season for these healthy, antioxidant rich fruits to hit the shelves of your local market in abundance.  And while I know we all love to enjoy them fresh and right out of the container, it is definitely worth it to save some of that goodness for those times of the year when summer berries are a distant memory.  When food is in season, any food, it has better flavor, is less expensive, and in some cases, even has more nutritional value.  The environmental impact is less as well when you are buying fruits picked a few days prior from the next county(or if you are blessed enough to have a local farmer’s market nearby, that same day) instead of the grapes you buy in January that are shipped in from Peru.

I am generally a big fan of freezing foods for future use, but I really love to freeze berries.  I fold them into muffins and coffee cake all winter long and their superior flavor exudes summer when I dump them into a smoothie while the snow falls out my window.

So plan ahead!  You will be so glad you did.  Follow these steps and avoid the block-o-berries that may result if you just pop them in the freezer as is.  This is how you do it.How To: Freeze Berries - A Step by step guide on how to do it! {Brittany's Pantry} Pick over the berries as soon as you get them home.  Toss or compost any that are moldy or crushed.  Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries work the best and there should be no need to wash them first.  As always, buy organic if you can.  Due to their thin skins, berries absorb pesticides more than other fruits, but that is a lecture for a different day.How To: Freeze Berries - A Step by step guide on how to do it! {Brittany's Pantry}
Dump the berries onto a dry sheet pan in a single layer.How To: Freeze Berries - A Step by step guide on how to do it! {Brittany's Pantry} Freeze for several hours or overnight.  The berries will move freely and become individual little ‘rocks’ that won’t stick together.

Transfer the fruit into resealable freezer bags and label.  I like to make sure I know at a glance which ones are the oldest in my freezer so the phrases ‘use first’ and ‘use last’ are often scribbled on the bags somewhere.How To: Freeze Berries - A Step by step guide on how to do it! {Brittany's Pantry} Enjoy!

Mocha Chocolate Chip Scones


Mocha Chocolate Chip Scones via Brittany's PantryMy sister-in-law must be psychic.  I made these scones just when she requests a recipe for anything coffee flavored.  I didn’t want to waste any time posting this for her, and well, all of the rest of you that are just a little bit addicted to the brew!  I don’t blame her one bit, but usually prefer my coffee, in any form, accompanied by chocolate.  Truthfully, I prefer just about anything accompanied by chocolate…hence, these scones.

Yes, for those of you who follow this blog regularly, this recipe was part of my ‘scone phase’.  My husband especially was beyond thrilled when I started to develop a recipe for a coffee pastry, but I surprised myself by dreaming about them in my sleep.  If I was a fan before, I am a down right stalker now!  Everything changed when I decided to add cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and my test testers (and a few lucky ladies at the local salon) agreed.  Honestly, I feel like there may still be something missing with them, but I eat them too fast to really contemplate changing the recipe any time soon.  And once I came up with a combo that worked, I stuck with it.  These are moist, decadent, and the perfect treat to serve with brunch.  I wonder how well they would ship to my sister-in-law in MN…

Mocha Chocolate Chip Scones
Recipe modified 7/24/12
The key is to work the dough as little as possible, and you will have a tender scone.  However, this recipe is pretty forgiving so don’t stress out about it.  If you find the dough a little dry at first, let it rest a minute to allow the liquid to absorb some of the flour and then continue.

2 c flour
1 T cocoa
1/3 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 c chocolate chips
1 1/4 c c heavy cream
1 tsp instant coffee powder

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the cream and instant coffee.  Set aside, stirring occasionally to dissolve the powder.  In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients.  Add chocolate chips.  Pour the cream and coffee mixture in (I scrape the cup with a rubber spatula to get every drop!) and stir carefully with a fork, just until clumps start to form.  With clean hands, gather the dough together in a ball, turning and pressing to mix it completely, but as gently as possible.  Put the dough onto a sheet pan covered with parchment paper and flatten into a large disc about an inch and a half thick.  With a knife, cut the dough into 8 pie shaped pieces and separate evenly on the pan.  Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes, or until raised and evenly golden brown.  *Optional:  Before popping the pan in the oven, brush the tops of the scones with a bit more cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Homemade Breakfast Burritos | Brittany's PantryIf you have ever had these beauties at a restaurant but never made them yourself, don’t be intimidated!  I am pretty sure there are only two real requirements and those are tortillas and eggs.  After that anything goes.

Years ago I had my first breakfast burrito at a Sonic, and I have never been the same since.  They put tator tots in it!  Well, not exactly tator tots, but whatever kind of fried potato round that they serve there.  And I thought, ‘Man!  This is brilliant!”  I haven’t had one at Sonic since, but I make my own all the time; infinitely healthier, easier, cheaper, and in my opinion, tastier.  I make these for breakfast (it never hurts to state the obvious), lunch, and dinner.  Especially in the summer when we are outside playing until the very end of the day and I don’t want to come in and heat up the kitchen by using the oven, or take a lot of time to put together supper for the family.  And hey!  Perfect for picky eaters!  Each one is made to order!Homemade Breakfast Burritos | Brittany's PantryHomemade Breakfast Burritos | Brittany's Pantry Breakfast Burritos
Remember.  This is not rocket science.  Just build what you like.  This is how we usually make them.

Tortillas, white or wheat
Scrambled Eggs
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Cream Cheese
Tator Tots
Sometimes Spinach
Hot Sauce, optional

Cook the tator tots according to package directions.  Through experience we have discovered that it works well if you start by spreading some cream cheese on the tortilla first.  Then sprinkle with cheese.  Add your sausage and chives (we just snip them over the eggs with a scissors) to your eggs just before they are set and ti will all hold together a bit better.  Dump the egg mixture onto the cheese and top with tator tots.  Top with hot sauce, if desired.  Wrap and enjoy!

Freezer Coffee Cake

Make-Ahead Freezer Coffee Cake is perfect on a holiday morning! {Brittany's Pantry}And I’m not talking toaster waffles, my friend!  I am talking coffee cake.  That dessert-for-breakfast-but-we-all-pretend-like-its-ok type of deal.  My Mom made coffee cake all the time when I was a kid and I am happy to pass down the unhealthy tradition to my kids.  There was that time my brother thought he would make it with 3/4 brown sugar topping and 1/4 cake and it turned out like a sugar brick, but other than that it was usually plain and simple.

Of course I always, sometimes, rarely, never eat regular cake for breakfast, (not a word Michel!) but somehow coffee cake is allowed.

What is that Bill Cosby routine about cake for breakfast?  “Eggs!  There are eggs in cake!  Milk!  There is milk in cake!”  But I digress…

When we were expecting our first child, I searched and searched for good, tasty, make-ahead meals that I could freeze for those days that cooking was about as possible as world peace.  I was extremely skeptical about this recipe, but tried it anyway.  Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I pulled it from the freezer, threw it in the oven, and it baked up moist and full of flavor.  Now, I usually make it before out of town guests arrive.  It makes busy holiday mornings stress free and easy.  Add some bacon and a pile of scrambled eggs and you have brunch!  While we don’t currently have visitors schedule anytime soon, my kitchen is about to disappear.  I want to be able to eat something other than cereal when I am surrounded by exposed sub-floor, numerous wires, and emptiness where I used to have a kitchen.  And, that time is now.Make-Ahead Freezer Coffee Cake is perfect on a holiday morning! {Brittany's Pantry} Mmmm.  Looks yummy, huh?  And its not even baked yet!Make-Ahead Freezer Coffee Cake is perfect on a holiday morning! {Brittany's Pantry} Freezer Coffee Cake
Recipe adapted from
This recipe is great to tuck in the freezer of a grieving friend or family with a new addition!  Feel free to leave out the fruit completely, creating a plain cinnamon coffee cake.

1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 c sour cream
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 c fresh blueberries or 2 c apple, peeled and diced or grated

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix till smooth, scraping down the bowl when necessary.  Add the sour cream.  Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Carefully fold in the fruit.  Spray two 8X8 pans (I use the foil disposable ones) and divide the batter equally between the two.

Mix together:
2 T soft butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 c chopped nuts (optional)

Divide topping in half and sprinkle each cake evenly.  Wrap well with plastic wrap and then tightly with foil.  Freeze flat in your freezer for up to a month.  Bake right from the freezer (remove plastic and foil first) at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs attached.

Oatmeal Pancakes

Healthy Oatmeal Pancakes | Brittany's PantryFirst of all, I want to clarify that we love these pancakes.  No matter what you read in the following paragraph, know that we think they are awesome and there are numerous exclamation points written in the margin of the recipe.  I wouldn’t post it here if I didn’t think that you would love them just as much as we do and want to add them to your regular Saturday morning routine.  That said, the pictures posted here are from this summer and I haven’t actually made them recently.  *GASP*  I took these photos and ended up not blogging about them before and now, when my kitchen is covered in sheet rock dust and I served my family roast chicken from the deli for dinner, I am pulling the ‘home renovations’ card and posting it now.  Just as a heads up, you may here this excuse a few more times in the future.  I will put some pics of my demolished kitchen and family room on here soon, but in the mean time, trust me when I say these are awesome.  When my husband saw these pictures pulled up on the monitor, he said “Are those the Oatmeal Pancakes?  Oh man, those are good…”  We especially loved them with Spiced Peach Jam, but my children at them right off the plate while zooming around the kitchen.  I highly recommend them, minus the construction residue.Healthy Oatmeal Pancakes | Brittany's Pantry Oatmeal Pancakes-Recipe updated 8/2013
Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2 c flour, whole wheat flour, or white whole wheat flour
2 c quick-cooking oats
2 T sugar or honey
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  In a separate small bowl mix:
2 c low fat buttermilk
1/4 c canola oil
2 eggs
1/3 c raisins, optional
1/4 c chopped walnuts, optional

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined.  Fold in the raisins and walnuts, if using.  Let batter rest and heat a griddle or non-stick pan over medium heat.  Lightly coat with canola oil or butter and drop batter by 1/4 c portions (or so).  Cook until lightly browned on both sides.  If you have any, freeze the leftovers.

Honey Waffles

Honey Waffles-So light and fluffy you won't believe it! {Brittany's Pantry}My husband is home all week and that means big breakfasts!   I grew up having huge Saturday morning breakfasts with the works.  Towers of toast, a huge plate of bacon or sausage patties (my parents used to make their own), stacks of pancakes, and a platter of eggs, always over-easy.  My Dad has this cast iron pan the size of a saucer.  It was smooth as a baby’s bottom and could have been used without butter, it was so seasoned and non-stick.  It held two eggs perfectly and you could slide them onto a plate with perfectly pink tops, just ready for toast to dunk.

But this week, I was on a waffle phase.  I make waffles every once in awhile, but I haven’t been very impressed with any of the recipes I have come across.  Great flavor, but the texture wasn’t what I was looking for.  Waffles should be crispy on the outside and light and fluffy inside.  They should be fantastic with just a drizzle of maple syrup, but still be able taste great if you pile on bananas and walnuts or a mountain of strawberries and whipped cream.  And I guess I just haven’t been in the mood to create my own waffle recipe.  UNTIL NOW!!  Man I have been craving waffles and a week later, I have some results to be proud of.  Instead of sugar, I love to add honey as the sweetener to my recipes-the two quarts I got from my parents in September is almost gone- and it makes these waffles absolutely fantastic.  This is my new basic waffle recipe.  Seriously.  I couldn’t stop snacking on them as I tried to take these pictures.  I mean, come on!  Look how fluffy they are!  I don’t mean to toot my own horn here people, but these are hands down the best waffles I have had or made, ever!  Toot, Toot!Honey Waffles-So light and fluffy you won't believe it! {Brittany's Pantry} Honey Waffles
Feel free to use all white flour in this recipe.  I like to sneak a little extra vitamins and minerals in where I can, but that is totally up to you.  On that same note, you can use all regular milk in place of the buttermilk as well.  I use 1% and it turns out great.  I loathe skim milk, but the results should be the same.

2 eggs, separated
1 c buttermilk
1 c milk
1/3 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 T honey
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, milk, oil, vanilla and honey.  Add the dry ingredients and whisk gently, just until combined.  A few lumps are just fine.  By hand, gently fold in the beaten egg whites.  Pour into a hot waffle iron, about 3/4 c in the center, or 1/4 c in each of the squares to make little ones.  Don’t over fill your waffle iron!

Note: This recipe is great on its own, or with small variations.  Feel free to give these a try!  Add 1 tsp of cinnamon, 3/4 c crumbled bacon, 1/2 c raisins, 1/2 c dried blueberries (fresh are sorta messy), 1/2 c chopped walnuts or pecans,  1/4 c creamy peanut butter (top with jam for PB and J waffles!),the zest of a lemon or orange, 1 mashed banana, 1/2 apple, grated…endless possibilities!

Sweet Cream Biscuits: Hello, Old Friend


Sweet Cream Biscuits from Brittany's PantryEvery once in awhile, I come across a recipe that I wonder how I ever did without.  It becomes an instant classic, a regular, a staple that I make over and over again and never get sick of.  It turns out the same every time and you can count on its predictability.  If it happens to be fast, versatile and soooo good that I wish I could eat it every day…*sigh*…even better!  Raise your hand if you knew I was talking about carbs!

Sweet Cream Biscuits.  Dozens of batches and many years later, I still love these things!  OK.  I may have said this before but I am totally serious this time.  If there was only one recipe you ever make off this blog, let it be this one.  They are ridiculously easy.  They taste heavenly!  And you can modify them for endless possibilities.  You can call them scones, you can call them biscuits-whatever!  The beauty of these is how versatile they are.  They are perfect for breakfast, a great addition to a brunch menu, and in my experience, a sure way to win kisses from the man in your life.  Every time I mention them, my husbands eyes light up like a marquee.  And I am not exaggerating.  This recipe started me on my ‘scone’ phase.  I think I made scones three or four times a week for months, creating new recipes, testing out different ingredients, and generally enjoying all the bread!  I still make tons of biscuits and scones the old fashioned way, cutting in butter and rolling them out.  But this is my favorite method and much more conducive to my lifestyle.  Hope it becomes a favorite of yours too!

Sweet Cream Biscuits-Recipe Modified 2012
Make these!  I am not kidding!

2 c flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c sugar
1 1/4 c cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 425.  In a medium bowl, mix all dry ingredients together.  Add cream and vanilla and mix with a fork until moisture is evenly distributed.  Using your hands, gently press the dough against the side of the bowl just until a ball forms.  The less you handle the dough, the more tender the biscuits will be.  Divide the dough into 6 equal parts, gently forming each into a flat disc.  Place onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.  Bake for 15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

And if you want to vary it a little…Cranberry Orange Scones!Sweet Cream Biscuits from Brittany's PantryAfter you mix the dry ingredients, toss in 1 c of dried cranberries.  Before you add the cream, add the zest of two oranges to it and mix it in.  Or use lemon zest and dried blueberries.  Both are awesome.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins via Brittany's PantryI ‘heart’ Ina Garten.  And these muffins!

I have said it before and I will say it again.  The woman is awesome.  For those of you that have missed my references to her in previous blogs (and there have been many) she has a show called Barefoot Contessa on The Food Network.  She used to own a specialty foods store in the Hamptons with the same name and has several cookbooks under her belt.  I truly believe that we could be close friends if we were to ever meet.  I’m fun!  I’m charming!  And I like to cook from her recipes.  That should be enough to guarantee me a Christmas card, at least!  Don’t worry, I won’t continue to gush, but will get right to the task at hand.  Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins.  Ooh baby.

When you find a great recipe and it works out well, the flavor is good, and it consistently produces fantastic results, you know you have a winner.  At this point I stop looking for more of those recipes.  I have dozens of different coffee cake recipes, but this is my ultimate blueberry coffee cake recipe.  I have found nothing better, so this is the only one I make when the fruit is in season or I have bags of blueberries frozen in the freezer.  It is perfect for company and they taste better than anything I have had from a bakery.  They have a moist, delicate crumb, and are simple to mix up the night before and bake off in the morning.  And who doesn’t like breakfast that you can make ahead of time!  Sign me up!  So Ina, if you are reading this, I just want to say…thank you.  Thank you for your recipes.  Thank you for your inspiration.  But most of all, when you mail your Christmas cards this year, my address is…Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins via Brittany's Pantry Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake Muffins
Recipe by Ina Garten

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.  Scoop the batter into muffin pans lined with paper liners, filling each cup just to the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

Tip #1: To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place in a bowl with warm water for 15 minutes.

Tip #2: These are great to mix up the night before, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, and leave in the fridge over night. Bake as directed the next morning! Baked muffins freeze wonderfully!

Tip #3: When blueberries are in season and inexpensive, freeze them for later use. Place dry blueberries on a clean dry sheet pan in a single layer and place in the freezer. Once frozen, dump into a plastic freezer bag. This makes it very easy to scoop out just what you need for baking. This freezing method works great for all other berries and sliced peaches too!

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.

Piggy Pudding & A Word About My Kitchen

Piggy Pudding is an Apple Sausage, Cornbread breakfast casserole that is perfect for a crowd! {Brittany's Pantry}It recently occurred to me that I am making a few assumptions about you, my readers.  The more I read and research different kinds of blogs, I noticed that mine is pretty basic.  And I like that.   I don’t feel the need to crowd the page with irrelevant distractions or pictures of every step of my cooking.  If I am posting a recipe for cookies, I am going to assume that you do not need me to show you a picture of my mixing bowl with butter in it, and then with sugar in it, and then with eggs in it.  In my opinion, this is a lot of  wasted space and a lot to scroll through.  It makes it hard to just read through a recipe and decide if it is something you want to try or something that you would never make.  That said, things about cooking and baking which I feel as if I have known forever (ie. what it means to cut in butter to dry ingredients), might not be something you have ever done if you haven’t ever made biscuits or pie crust from scratch.  So I will henceforth make a stronger effort to be clear about my steps.  And if you ever need clarification, please comment or email me and I will remedy the situation.

Speaking of cutting in butter, it is the process of breaking cold butter down into small pieces to be distributed through out the dry mixture.  If it was softened, like when making cookies, you would have a dough with the fat completely incorporated-not the goal.  When making biscuits or pie crust, you want them flaky, with layers, right?  If the butter stays cold and is ‘cut’ into small, pea sized pieces, the heat of the oven hits it and it melts.  When it melts, it forms a little pocket of steam and puffs a bit, creating the flaky layers we all desire to pull apart in wonderful biscuits.  A food processor will quickly cut the butter of recipe into the dry ingredients, but I usually use it if I am making a decent sized batch.  A pastry blender is easy to use and perfect for a small batch for your family.  They are very inexpensive and probably available in your local grocery store.  You can also cut in butter by using two butter knives.  Keep your butter cold and everything should turn out great.

As an individual who loves to cook, my kitchen is one of my favorite places to be.  This may not be very apparent right now, as I live in a kitchen that is slowly going through a complete renovation and it is anything but functional or inviting.  But it will be!  Let me also take the time to apologize for the erratic blog entries.  I am recovering from bronchitis and pneumonia, my kids are a bit sick, my husband is changing shifts at work, and, of course, the ever present home renovation.  Please be patient.  The entries should pick up again soon.

Anyway…my Mother saved everything.  What does this have to do with my kitchen, you ask?  A lot.  Off the top of my head, I know that my Mom has at least one box in her basement full of nothing but old picture frames.  Lots and lots of picture frames.  No glass, just the frames, mostly old, dusty and broken.  She has kept them for decades just because she may need them someday.  Her desire to hold onto interesting things for the future has proven extremely useful over the years.  But, I am not like this.  If I haven’t used it recently or it does not have extreme sentimental value, I get rid of it.  You won’t find a ton of clothes in my closet; my entire year-round wardrobe fits in a two foot space.  You won’t find boxes of memorabilia in my attic.  And you won’t find a kitchen full of items I don’t use.  It is not pleasant to work in a space where you have to dig to find what you want.  Now, I don’t really care what is in your closet, but what is in people’s kitchen cupboards intrigues me.  Why, may I ask are you still storing that deep fryer you got as a wedding present 10 years ago and have never used?  Why do you have 9 different casserole dishes, but you only use 3 on a regular basis?  When was the last time you purged your utensil drawer?  These are questions I wish I could ask all home cooks everywhere.  And I urge, you…please!!  Get rid of it if you have no use for it.  I apply this philosophy to my whole house.  I have a continual bag in my hall closet that is headed to Goodwill.  Items from my kitchen are frequent deposits.  As my family and my tastes change, so does what I use from my cupboards.  Mind you, its not like I am replacing my dishes every year.  But if there is anything that moving 7 times in 6 years taught me, its DON’T KEEP STUFF YOU DON’T USE!  Clean out, reorganize, make some room, and write it off on your taxes!  You will breathe easier, your home will function better, and you will be a more efficient and productive individual in the kitchen.

My final note for today is about my compost bin.  Now, I am not going to lecture you about the importance of recycling (which you all should be doing) or which foods you should be buying organic (the dirty dozen), or the easiest way to conserve water in your home (low flow shower heads).  But my compost bin is particularly cool.  My husband, my children and I continually strive to reduce the amount of waste our house produces.  In addition to purposely buying items in packages that I know are recyclable or reusable, we cut our kitchen waste by using a rotating barrel compost tumbler.  We compost tea bags, coffee grounds, apple cores, banana peels, lettuce that has gone bad, and all manner or raw foods.  Mixed with shredded newspapers, grass clippings, chopped up dead leaves, pulled weeds, last years annuals, and the trimmings from my iris bulbs, I end up with free fertilizer for my gardens and less waste for the garbage man.  There are lots of different kinds of compost bins out there for every yard regardless of available space or effort you want to put forth.  I have even seen counter top bins made only for coffee grounds and filters!  Think about it.  It may be a change you want to try this year.

And now, because I hate to do a blog entry without a recipe, here is a quickie that is perfect to whip up for breakfast or brunch when you have a house full of people during the holidays.  This might sound a bit strange, but it is excellent, trust me.  I saw Paula Deen make something like this years ago, and while I have no idea if this is anything like her original recipe, this is how I make it.  And the picture below is how I serve it, with scrambled eggs and fruit.  A big glass of juice and coffee with a bit of extra maple syrup for drizzling and mmmmmmm.Piggy Pudding is an Apple Sausage, Cornbread breakfast casserole that is perfect for a crowd! {Brittany's Pantry} Piggy Pudding
Serve this drizzled with honey or real maple syrup.  If you have Apple Cider Syrup on hand, its even better.

1/2 lb breakfast sausage, browned, crumbled and drained of fat
2 apples, such as granny smith or golden delicious, peeled cored and sliced thin
1 T flour
1 T of sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix

Spread the sausage in the bottom of a 9X9 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Toss the apples, flour, sugar and cinnamon together and layer on top of the sausage.  Mix the corn muffin mix according to package directions and pour evenly over the top.  Bake at 375 for 20 -25 minutes, or until golden brown all over the top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.
Note: I like to brown the sausage ahead of time and keep it in my freezer or fridge.  That makes throwing this together in the morning sooo much easier.

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.

Overnight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Overnight Crockpot Apple Cinnamon OatmealTonight is a great night to pull this recipe out.  Sunday mornings can be a bit of a rush, trying to get us all ready on time and out the door for church.  This is the perfect solution!  A warm, hearty, healthy breakfast, just waiting for us when we wake up.  I am unsure of the origin of the recipe, but it was cut from a magazine. I don’t know which one or how long I have had it, but I didn’t come up with it.  We LOVE oatmeal in my house and we eat quite a lot of it.  And with the apples leftover from apple picking last week, this is going to be easy and quick.  I can’t wait to wake up to a bowl of it in the morning.
Yup.  Pretty great.Overnight Crockpot Apple Cinnamon OatmealOvernight Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Recipe Modified 6-21-11

4 C water
1 1/2 c apple juice
1 c steel-cut oats
1/2 c regular barley (not quick cooking)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c coarsely chopped pecans
2 medium apples, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
Honey and Milk (optional)

Place first 6 ingredients in the slow cooker, combine, and cook, covered, on low heat for 7 hours.  Just before serving, stir in sugar, cinnamon, apples and pecans.  Or add it to each bowl individually, which is what we did.  Serve with honey and milk.