Pork Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime Crema via Brittany's PantrySo.  There is this big game coming up.  Maybe you have heard of it.  Its called the Super Bowl.

I only mention it because I happened to be visiting some hardcore football fans the weekend the competing teams were selected and I actually witnessed the games.   Not being a huge sports fan, it may come as no surprise that this is the first time I have ever done that.  And I must admit, it was seriously cool.  I have no official affiliation with any team so I will be cheering for the Seahawks because my sister lives in Seattle, and because I thought their crazy comeback in the last game was pretty darn awesome.  Those are good reasons, right?

I might as well and just show my true colors.  My favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday (like this isn’t a teensy bit obvious) is the food.  Don’t judge.  The dips, the cheesy foods, the salsas and chips, the burgers and hot dogs…all winners.  This is the first year in awhile that I am not sick and pregnant, taking care of a baby, or alone with small children because my husband is working.  We are going to an actual, official, bonafide Superbowl party!!  I realize how pathetic that sounds and, no, I don’t get out much.

In the spirit of the upcoming game, I wanted to bring to the event something new.  Something outrageous.  And something goooood.  I recently discovered pork carnitas at our local Mexican restaurant and I cannot. get. enough.  How have I been missing these my whole life and why has no one told me about them before?  If you are unfamiliar with them, carnitas are usually pork braised in orange or lime, and then crisped up before nestled in a warm tortilla and slathered with toppings of choice.  I know.  Amazing, right?  No matter how many times I eat them, I still want more.  So I decided to experiment and make them myself.  Research shows very little continuity in recipes so I created my own based on the flavors I noticed when taste testing them at every Mexican place I could find.  Phew!  It was tough.
Pork Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime Crema via Brittany's PantryIn order to make them more party friendly, I decided to shred the meat over chips and turn them into nachos.  The mix of textures is incredibly satisfying.  Cunchy, creamy, tangy, meaty, cheesy-hard to resist, right?  I solve that problem by choosing NOT to resist them.

I love to squeeze a lime over my carnitas just before I inhale delicately enjoy them for a meal, but a cool dollop of sour cream is my favorite part.  I decided to combine the two (using plain yogurt instead as a healthy substitute) and just drizzle it over the whole darn thing.  Fresh lime + creamy yogurt = addictive sauce on every bite!  So much easier to munch on with a crowd!  Crema is just a fancy word for a Mexican sour cream, so my version is a very loose interpretation of that!  But tasty.  Very tasty.  These are just so darn good, you may be too distracted to watch the game.
Pork Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime Crema via Brittany's PantryThis picture is actually a different batch from the photos above.  Notice the crazy amount of cheese.  Ooey, gooey, goodness.

Carnita Nachos W/Chipotle-Lime ‘Crema’
You can easily make the pork on a weekend and either chill it for later in the week, or freeze it for later in the month.  Either way, it makes for a speedy meal to throw together.  Make sure to serve any extra crema on the side.  Its spicy and tangy and incredibly awesome with these nachos.  Feel free to slather it on anything else that sounds good too!

For the pork:
4-5 pounds pork butt, boston butt, or pork shoulder, trimmed of its large fat cap and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 c orange juice
1 c chicken broth, homemade or canned
1/4 c lime juice

Don’t trim the meat too much!  All that fat is flavor, baby!  Put all ingredients in a large slow cooker and turn on high for 4-5 hours, or low for 6-7 hours, or just until the meat holds it shape, but is tender and easily pulls apart with a fork.  Remove the meat with a large, slotted spoon and discard the cooking liquid.  Freeze, chill, or make nachos!!

For the crema:
1 c plain, fat free greek yogurt, such as Chobani
2 T fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
large pinch of salt
black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

For the nachos:
large corn tortilla chips (the hint of lime ones are stellar here)
shredded pork
1 c canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large tomato, chopped, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 green onions, chopped
2 c shredded cheese, jack, cheddar, or a mix of both
quartered limes for garnish
Chipotle Lime Crema

Layer the nachos in a cast-iron pan or another oven proof pan or platter.  Start with a generous layer of chips, then break up the chunks of pork, covering it with as much as you like.  Note: you will only use about half of the amount from the recipe above.  Next, sprinkle with the black beans, then the onions and tomatoes, and lastly the cheese.  Tuck the whole she-bang under the broiler until the cheese melts, remove (with hot pads!!) and drizzle generously with the crema.  Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on the nachos and any extra crema.  Enjoy!

Easy Veggie Spread

Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}I feel as though I would be remiss in my duties as a blogger if I didn’t share this recipe with you.  Is there some kind of foodie law enforcement that makes sure bloggers share the good stuff instead of keeping it to themselves?  Just to be safe, I will disclose all here.  I have been living off of it for several weeks now and I still can’t get enough. *phew*  Glad I got that off my chest.  I figured I could’t hoard the recipe forever… So simple.  And sometimes the best things are the simple things, right?

I always see veggie spreads in the store and just kind of skip over them.  I guess I like stuff either sweet, or at least dip-able.  I like to dunk and scoop my crackers and veggies.  But I have been on this kind of color kick with my cooking lately and I decided to experiment and come up with a pretty, veggie flecked spread that I loved equally on a cracker or a bagel.  A recipe that I could just throw together when I had company coming and not even give it a second thought.  A reliable, go-to version with minimal ingredients.  Min-i-mal.  This was actually a tall order and a bit of a challenge for myself as generally I like things like jam, honey, jelly, sweet butter, flavored cream cheese, or cinnamon-sugar on my bagels.  You may notice the sweet trend there.  What can I say?  I’m a ‘sweet’ kind of gal.  Heh heh.

But seriously.  Friends.  I haven’t even touched the sugary crap since I started making this.  Who knew so few ingredients could taste so glorious?  Love love love it.  And here it is, just in time for you to put out on New Years Eve.  A great snack to munch on while playing Scattergories, working on a puzzle, watching movies, or whatever it is that you do when you party down.  Just be sure to make another batch for latter, too.  Because who knows what the new year may bring!  Veggie spread instead of jam on my bagel is a good start.
Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Veggie Spread is gluten free, vegetarian, and super fast to mix together for a party or weekday snack! {Brittany's Pantry}Easy Veggie Spread
The good things you can do with this stuff is endless.  It is down right awesome on a whole grain cracker, pretzels, or bagel.  But it is great spread on toast, layered thin on a tortilla with fresh cucumbers then rolled up, dolloped on top of an omelette just before serving, spread on a roast beef sandwich, filled into celery sticks, and OH so much more!  Be sure to share in the comments below how YOU are enjoying this recipe!  As for the hot sauce, my test subjects were split 50/50 on wether or not to leave it in.  Everyone love the tiny bit of kick though, so you be the judge.

1 (8 oz) block  softened cream cheese (I use Neufchatel)
4 T (1/2 stick) room temperature butter
1 T freshly snipped chives
1 medium carrot, scrapped and grated
1 heaping T freshly chopped parsley
big pinch of salt and lots of black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp hot sauce, optional

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, adding hot sauce if desired and tasting for seasoning.  Let the flavors sit together to meld for an hour or so if possible.  Taste again and add more salt, pepper, or hot sauce if needed.

Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread

Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread from Brittany's PantryNo doubt, the title of this post has you intrigued.  Or at least has you drooling.

I never get sick of quick bread recipes and this time of year is the perfect opportunity to branch out.  Bloggers go bananas trying new things and showcasing special recipes.  The list of recipes I had to share with you was epic.  I am talking EPIC here people!!  Alas, life gets in the way.  So does bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections, fevers, and all the other fun stuff that comes with three kids who obviously need to be washing their hands more.  Our whole family has been sick and in the moments of health, concentrating on the continuing construction of our new home.  I have not been in the kitchen nearly as much as I have liked and am sadly, setting aside cookie and holiday treat recipes for another year.

But.  I have rallied for one last hurrah-er, recipe.  We have been quite addicted to this bread, which you may have noticed on Instagram.  It is so darn easy to mix up, my kids have been doing it for me.  Which is why there are twice as many cinnamon chips in this batch than normal… It is definitely a snack bread and lacks the really super sweet taste of a dessert.  But the flavors are so special, you can serve it either way.  It will make anything it touches smell good.  Wrapped tightly, I store it in my fridge for a day or two and the whole thing smells like rum eggnog.  It is heavenly.  And just in time for Christmas.Spiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread from Brittany's PantrySpiked Eggnog Cinnamon Bread
Recipe adapted from UniHomemaker
This bread is even better the next day so make plans to whip it up before you actually need it.  Your house will smell ah-MAY-zing.

1/3 c canola or grape seed oil
1 c eggnog
1/4 c spiced or dark rum (both are good)
1 egg
2/3 c sugar
1 c white flour
1 c white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1/2 c cinnamon chips

Preheat oven to 350 and spray an 8 or 9 inch bread pan.  Whisk first five ingredients together until smooth.  Fold dry ingredients into the wet until just incorporated.  Gently fold in cinnamon chips and pour into greased pan.  Bake 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with just a crumb or two attached.  Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  Store, wrapped well, at room temp for a day or two, or in the fridge for up to three days.

Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip

Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip from Brittany's Pantry is a sweet, make-ahead, holiday treat!  Perfect for a girl's birthday party too!My husband just walked by the computer and glanced at this photograph.  He stopped, looked closer, and stated. “Wow, Babe.  That photo is amazing.”  As he strolled away, I growled under my breath, “I want to eat it…”

The truth is, I did eat it.  Last week.  I snacked, dipped, nibbled, and devoured with gusto.  And it was good.  But I look at this and I want more.

Who can resist the classic combination of chocolate and cherries?  I blame my addiction on my Dad.  For as long as I can remember, he has received a box or two of Queen Anne Cherries at Christmas, wrapped and tucked under the tree at the last minute by the enthusiastic hands of his children.  He somehow managed to convince us that he was surprised to open them each year.  Christmas makes us gullible I guess… We aren’t often able to be together for Christmas these days but the tradition lives on.  I have never told him this, but I still buy a box every year and break into it on Christmas Eve, handing one to each of my kids just as he did to my siblings and I all those years ago.  One bite and I could be sitting Indian style on the living room floor of my childhood home, waiting for gifts to be passed out.

I feel as though I should mention that I am listening to Francesca Battistelli’s Christmas Album as I type this.  One of my most favorite holiday albums ever.  Beautiful music, coupled with writing the memory above is making my heart positively ache with missing my family this holiday season.  Who knew chocolate covered cherries could make this momma weep with nostalgia?

Anyway.  Enough with the sappy stuff.  Back to this dip.  It is officially my go-to, bring along treat of the Holiday 2014 season.  Its beautiful, simple, fun, and just kind of screams the word ‘party’, don’t ya think?  It is basically a low effort, less messy way to serve these familiar flavors.  I realize that there are a bazillion versions of this recipe out on Pinterest right now, but I felt the need to make it come together a bit faster and with less fuss.  I have enough things to do these next few weeks without wasting time on unnecessary steps in a recipe.  I would much rather channel that energy into something useful.  Like eating that recipe.
Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip from Brittany's Pantry is a sweet, make-ahead, holiday treat!  Perfect for a girl's birthday party too!Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip from Brittany's Pantry is a sweet, make-ahead, holiday treat!  Perfect for a girl's birthday party too!Chocolate Cherry Cream Dip
Adapted from Shugary Sweets
This can be made a day ahead and wrapped tightly in the fridge.  Keep cold while serving and dip whatever sounds good in it.  I am partial to pretzels.  The sweet and salty combo is stellar.

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, slightly softened
1/4 c (4 T) soft butter
1/2 chopped maraschino cherries
1/4 c maraschino cherry juice, right from the jar
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

Combine the cream cheese, butter, and cherry juice until combined and smooth.  Fold in the chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips.  Serve with pretzels, graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or anything else you can think of!

*This post contains affiliate links that may result in compensation for the author.

How To: DIY Sugared Almonds

How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's PantryI once asked a foodie friend of mine what her favorite part of a salad was.  Her response?  “The candy.”  I busted out laughing.

Of course, what she really meant was the toasted, sugar coated walnuts, almonds, or pecans that seem to crown so many restaurant salads.  While I am a fan of sugar (and nuts, for that matter) I never really liked them on my salad.  They were a hunk of sweetness when what I wanted to eat was supposed to be light, fresh, and wholesome.  Salad=guilt-free health food.  Yes?  Yes.

Enter the Savannah Chopped Salad at McAlister’s Deli.  I luuuuuuuurve it.  I have yet to tire of eating it and just writing about it now is making my mouth water.  I have been completely converted to a ‘nuts on my salad’ person.  My favorite part?  When I am almost done with it and the last bites are of cranberries, cheese, and the honey roasted almonds.  It is tangy and tart, creamy and sweet, and crunchy and chewy.  The best combo of textures and flavors from three little ingredients.  When I was at a food conference in Virginia a few weeks ago (Read: Mixed Conference. Best time ever!),  I had a salad with those exact same elements to it and thought to myself, “Self?  Why have you not made this before?”  So I did!  I started making it myself.  The salad I will post later, but the sugared almonds above are my nut of choice when it comes to topping my greens.  Sliced, to be exact, as they look pretty and add texture and crunch without sticking a whole nut in your mouth.

So how do you make these delectable slivers of deliciousness?  Ha! Say that three times fast…  It is ridiculously easy.  And fast.  And did I mention easy?  Wait, what?  I meant the recipe was easy, not repeating that three times fast.  Was that clear?  I’m so tired…

Sugared Almonds
The possibilities with these babies are endless.  Top a salad (duh) or ice cream (be still my heart) or a no-bake pie (MOMMY!) for a little crunch.  Or you could just eat them.  Add them to yogurt, pudding parfaits, trail mix, or garnish a smoothie!  Or just eat them.  Sprinkle these beauties over a bowl of fresh fruit to give it a bit of texture or crumble them over a dessert pizza just before serving.  Oh! And you know what?!  You could just eat them…

1 c sliced almonds
1/3 c granulated sugar
pinch of salt
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Place all ingredients in a small sauté pan and place over medium-medium high heat.
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Let warm and melt while stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  The sugar will start to melt and stick to the nuts.  If some of it never melts, that is ok.
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Keep going for another 5 minutes or so, or until the nuts are coated and toasted.  Spread out in a single layer on a wax paper or parchment lined baking sheet to cool.
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry Once cool, crumble into smaller pieces of needed.  Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  Be ready to make more than one batch due to snacking.  :)
How To: DIY Sugared Almonds from Brittany's Pantry

Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties!I owe my love of artichokes to my good friend, Dede.

Actually, I owe quite a bit to her.  Not the least of which is the fact that she taught me how to devein shrimp, sneak food into a movie theater, and even hosted our wedding at her farm.  Years ago, when I was younger, thinner, and less wise, she introduced me to the cheesy, gooey artichoke dip and I was hooked.  It was never something my parents prepared and we rarely ate out so I made it all the way to my teens before having my first artichoke surrounded by melty goodness.  I inhaled it; scooped with crispy chips and enjoyed with plenty of laughter.  Dede also taught me how to make it myself and it is on those experiences which my classic recipe is based.  Don’t you love it when certain foods make you think of someone or something that brings a smile to your face?  I do too.

This version is surprisingly different.  The flavor is light and tangy-a welcome difference from many of the heavy appetizers and snacks that can be served this time of year.  It is still creamy?  Oh yes.  But it has a much fresher taste.  Be prepared to stave off the praise, pats on the back, and the marriage proposals when you serve this.  It is just that scrumptious.

Bonus: It is not as unhealthy as you might think.  Artichokes come packed in water, and the spinach as well.  Did you hear that?  Spinach.  We are talking major health food here.  As for the dairy that gets mixed in, I generally purchase Neufchatel cheese, which is a lighter version of cream cheese with the same flavor.  The taste of Canola based mayo is the same as classic, but much more heart healthy.  Low fat sour cream works great in this recipe, so feel free to sub that out.  Just please do not use fat free versions of any of these products.  *shudder*  The chemicals involved give me the heebie geebies.

So.  The details?  This dip can easily be mixed up a day in advance and chilled, unbaked and covered until you need it, making it a time saving dish.  It also travels well so be sure to keep this recipe in mind when you need to bring something to a party.  Much easier to transport due to low risk of spillage.  :)  It tastes great with gluten-free rice crackers, tortilla chips, or just classic pita chips.  If you want to throw a veggie on with with, thinly cut celery sticks are especially good and look very nice on the plate.  It also makes a particularly good snack to share with that a good friend that brings a smile to your face.Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties! Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties!Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip is tangy and wonderful for holiday parties!Spinach & Feta Artichoke Dip
Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

1 pkg (8 oz or so) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts or quarters, drained of liquid and roughly chopped
1 pkg (8 oz) oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 c sour cream
1/2 c mayonnaise
6 oz crumbled feta cheese, divided

Preheat the oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, combine all the above ingredients, saving a small handful (about 2 T) of the crumbled feta.  Pour the dip into a small casserole dish, sprinkle with reserved cheese, and bake until cheese is golden brown on top and dip is starting to bubble, about 20 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips, pita, chips, celery, or crackers.

Cheesy Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simple Cheesy Bread

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

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

Sweet Northern Cornbread (Yankee Cornbread)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until now.  (Cue dramatic music)

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

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

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

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

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

Simple Artichoke Dip

Simple Artichoke Dip | Brittany's PantryAh.  Classic artichoke dip.  How I love thee…

There are some things in this world that you just need to know how to make.  Bread, poached eggs, really good chocolate chip cookies, and if I may be so bold as to add to the list-artichoke dip.  Its classic.  Its simple.  Its familiar to all.  It also happens to be cheesy and creamy and wonderful; all good things when it comes to food.

This version is nothing special and it has no fancy frills.  It is just straight up, good ‘ole artichoke dip.  It comes together in a matter of minutes and can be doubled very easily.  Such an easy appetizer or snack is a must-have recipe for game season, holiday party season, or just a saturday.  If you still aren’t convinced, I will leave you with this short, true, artichoke dip story:  This dip is so good, I once ate it off an oven door.  My pot holders slipped when I took it out of the oven and it flipped upside down on the open oven door.  It didn’t break the glass dish, but the smell of scorched dip fill the house pretty quick.  I kind of stared at it for awhile with my guests looking over my shoulder, and we unanimously decided to risk it.  I grabbed a big spatula from the counter and scraped the whole gloppy, cheesy, bubbly mass back into the dish.  Totally.  Worth it.
Simple Artichoke Dip | Brittany's PantrySimple Artichoke Dip
This recipe makes a small batch of dip.  Its perfect for 4 or 5 people.  Any more than that and you will want to double it.  If you like things with a kick, add a few dashes of hot sauce to this when you mix it up!

1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1/3 c mayo
1/3 c sour cream (I use light)
1/4 c grated or shredded parmesan cheese + 1 T
1 c shredded mozzarella
1 clove finely minced garlic
black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all ingredients (minus extra T of parmesan) in a small bowl and spread into a small sprayed glass dish.  An 8X8 or 9X9 would be fine, or even a deep glass pie plate like the one pictured above it good.  Spread evenly, sprinkle with reserved tablespoon of parmesan, and bake for 20 minutes, or until evenly browned and bubbly.  Serve with crackers, chips, toasty bread or these awesome garlic toasts!

Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's PantryAbout a year ago, when I still lived in central Illinois, I was given this recipe from a friend and fellow Mommy.  She was on a mission to get more fit and make some long lasting, healthy changes in her life.  One of her discoveries was this recipe that she got off Pinterest.  As a rockstar mom of boys, she was looking for a quick, homemade snack that she could make ahead and share with the whole family and this fit the bill.  (Personally, I think she just needed a quick bite of something that would keep her on the move.  Why are boys so exhausting?)  She was so surprised at how delicious they were, she made sure to share it with everyone she knew!  I recently started experimenting with all variations of no bake, granola-type, snack bite kind of recipes and thought I would start with this one.

Score!  I am a huge peanut butter and chocolate fan so this was one of the flavors that was top on my list.  Man, are they good!  I have several family members and friends that are gluten-free due to celiacs disease or other health issues so I am psyched to be able to pass this on to them!  My Mom used to make something similar to this when I was a kid so I can’t help but feel like these are kind of a retro snack making a comeback as a food fad.   There are so many recipes similar to this that are floating around the internet, I am glad to have narrowed them down to just one!  I am still working on another version; different flavors so that we all get some variety, but I’ll leave that for another day.  For now, know that these awesome little bombs of heart healthy flax and oats are a powerhouse of good things for your bod!

My initial taste testers of this recipe, who coincidentally eat GF and include at least one health professional, all gave a full stamp of approval.  They liked that you can really taste the ingredients, which in my opinion, makes them that much more scrumptious.  My kids went crazy for them and have requested they be tucked in their lunches, sent for snack, or both!  My husband is a runner and even though he has had them as a boost before and after his runs, the rest of the time I need to physically separate him from the container.  While they are healthy and full of good things, too many would really up your calorie intake.  So don’t eat them like popcorn!

Ultimately, they are just a smart, easy, kid and adult friendly food that is a good idea.  They are a faster, more simple recipe than making a full batch of granola bars and easy enough for your kids to make by themselves!  They last for quite awhile stored properly in the fridge and can be frozen too.  Very convenient if you are little, grown, single, married, new parents, old parents…or a rockstar mom of boys.
Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites | Brittany's Pantry**This recipe is fourth in the healthy eating series I am featuring over on the J Rose Fitness Facebook page!  It is a great resource for healthy living tips, ideas, motivation, and the occasional challenge!  Check it out and ‘like’ it to get your daily dose of information and humor.  I guarantee it will make your day!  Jessica, the brain behind the page is ready to answer questions, give support, and keep you going!  I am loving being a contributor and you can see all my submitted recipes on her site.  I don’t receive any compensation for contributing-I just really love her page!  Check it out!

Gluten-Free Honey Oat Protein Bites
Recipe via Danielle (friend of BP) via Pinterest
These can be altered a bit depending on your tastes.  I have specified substitutions where applicable.

1 c peanut butter or almond butter
1 c ground flax seeds
2 c rolled oats, gluten free if desired
1/2 c mini chocolate chips or 1 c raisins or dried cranberries
2/3 c honey, preferably raw

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon.  Cover and chill until the mixture firms up.  Scoop by level tablespoonfuls and roll between the palms of your hands until they are smooth and round.  Chill.  Enjoy!  Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for…I don’t know! We always eat them too fast! :)  I like to freeze them in bags of six to pull out later and make them last longer.

Garlic Toast

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

The freezer.

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

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

Garlic Toast

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

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

Green Tea Citrus Punch

Green Tea Citrus Punch | Brittany's PantryYes yes.  Green tea again.  Get over it.  Its good for you.

I love anything citrus even more than I love green tea so this recipe was a natural fit for me.  I was experimenting with juices and cold tea and when I was digging through my computer, I came across this recipe and realized I had nearly replicated it.  Simple and straight forward, this is full of Vitamin C and all the good antioxidants that come with green tea.

This is such a light, refreshing drink that I can’t help but want to make it continuously!  But be forewarned:  Inferior juices make for a rather icky drink.  Use a good, quality orange juice (pulp free would be best) or better yet, squeeze it yourself.  Fresh lemon juice too.  You can REALLY taste the difference if you cheat with this one.

If you are opposed to using refined white sugar, you can always steep the tea in plain water-minus the sugar-and sweeten the drink with raw honey while the tea concentrate is still warm.  Either way, green tea + fresh juice = the tastiest drink around.  Kids inhale it too so you may just want to start with a double batch.  Heck!  It would be great hot too!!

Next up?  Green tea omelets.  Or maybe green tea pancakes.  Oh oh!  I know!!  Green tea roast pork!!

Yes?  No?
Green Tea Citrus Punch | Brittany's PantryGreen Tea Citrus Punch | Brittany's PantryPlease know I was completely kidding about the green tea ideas above.  Depending on how well you know me, my sarcasm may not have been obvious…  :)

Green Tea Citrus Punch
Recipe kinda sorta adapted from Oxmoor House
This recipe is pretty cut and dry.  Nothing too fancy.  But OH so good on a summer day!

6 c water, divided
1 c sugar
16 green tea bags, regular or decaf
1 3/4 c OJ
1/4 c fresh lemon juice (Please don’t use the bottled stuff here!)
Orange slices for garnish if desired

Bring three of the cups of water and the one cups of sugar to a boil and stir, dissolving the sugar.  You are basically starting a simple syrup here.  Remove from the heat and add the tea bags to steep.  Leave five minutes.  Pull out the tea bags but DO NOT SQUEEZE THEM!  This results in a cloudy, off color tea!  Just let them drain a bit and discard them.  Cool the sweetened tea syrup.  Add the juices and remaining three cups of water.  Stir to combine, chill, and serve over ice with orange slices if desired.

Pistachio Granola

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

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

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

Green Tea Smoothie

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

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

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

Buttermilk Bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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