whole-grain fruit bars

Wow, it’s been a long time.  Way back to August, right after school started.  What happened to September and October?  That’s a very good question.  I’m not sure about September, but October was fondly dubbed “The Month of Lisa,” by my family.  It was my birthday month.  A BIG birthday month, and my peeps surprised me with a long weekend in southern Utah in St. George and Zion National Park.  My oldest niece lives in Utah and she drove down to spend the weekend with us.  So grateful for her and for my husband and daughter.  They made it a really fun birthday.

If that wasn’t enough, I took a week and headed back to our house in Michigan…by myself!  It was a week of work, for the most part, gardening, doing some weatherizing projects before closing up the house for winter, and knocking around with some great friends enjoying the fall color, good food, wine, etc.  It finally culminated in a birthday celebration I shared with the son of some friends of ours who shares the same birthday.  He was game to do a combined party, so they came for dinner, cake, ice cream, and a quiet evening where he turned 10, and I turned…well…let’s just say it was a BIG birthday.

So, before I head off to the post office to mail my AARP membership application (ha ha), I thought I’d at least share a recipe.  These are really delicious fruit bars, perfect for lunch snacks, after school treats, or with a cup of coffee in the morning.  Unlike my last attempt at a granola-type bar (which I ended up using as crushed granola over yogurt), they held together really well.  They’re still flaky because of the crumble crust (and I probably could have pressed the top layer a little more firmly), but didn’t fall apart when eaten.

They’re not too sweet and I used Smucker’s Simply Fruit fruit spread, which has no added sugar, unlike typical preserves or jam.  Whole wheat flour and whole rolled oats keep them in the realm of “minimally processed.”  Will definitely make these again.  Enjoy!!

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Whole Grain Fruit Bars (recipe courtesy Two Peas And Their Pod)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp ice-cold water
  • 3/4 c fruit preserves or jam (your choice, I used strawberry)
  • 9×13 baking pan
  • parchment paper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine first four ingredients (in food processor or mixing bowl) and mix well, making sure brown sugar doesn’t have any lumps. (If using food processor, pulse for about 30 seconds.
  3. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in cold, unsalted butter and ice-cold water until dough just holds together.
  4. Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Dividing dough in about half, press half firmly into bottom of pan.
  5. Spread jam or fruit preserves evenly over pressed dough.
  6. Sprinkle remaining dough over top of jam, pressing down very gently.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Cool completely before cutting.

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no-bake apple and carob chip granola bars

A recipe caught my eye on Pinterest the other day and I thought I’d give it a go.  We go through a fair number of granola bars in any given week, between the husband’s lunches, Kat’s snacks, my pre-workout snack, etc., and let’s be real:  your garden-variety, store-bought granola bars can be the equivalent of eating a candy bar.  So, I spend a lot of time reading labels while I shop, searching out the healthiest options on the market.  Frequently, I’ll just make my own.   I have a great crispy granola recipe I’m pretty fond of,  but I’ve never tried to make granola bars.

True confessions?  These didn’t successfully turn out as bars.

More true confessions?  You might as well eat a candy bar as eat this granola.

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Don’t get me wrong.  It’s tasty.  And, although granola is pretty widely known for being very calorie dense, my go-to recipe had a lot of sugar in a variety of forms (brown sugar, molasses, honey, dried apples, etc.).  Even though I substituted a few ingredients, I wished later I’d cut down on some of the other sugar (see Cook’s Notes, below).

The finished product was sweet (a little too sweet for me), but deliciously chewy.

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The instructions were very strict about the 60 second boil, indicating less than 60 seconds would result in granola that fell apart, or more than 60 seconds would result in bars that ended up too hard.  I clearly failed to meet the required 60 seconds, despite my best efforts (how hard can that be, really?), because my granola didn’t want to stay in bar form.  While I managed to successfully cut and wrap a few to photograph, the rest we ate out of hand or I sprinkled over Greek yogurt and berries at lunch.  That was my preference with this particular recipe.  Give it a shot making bars, though.  I’d love to hear if anyone has any real success.  Enjoy!

 No-Bake Apple and Carob Chip Granola Bars (recipe adapted from My Small Potatoes)

 Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 2 c rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 c puffed brown rice cereal
  • 1/2 c dried apples, chopped
  • 1/3 c carob chips
  • 1/8 c sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/8 c chopped almonds, toasted

Directions:

  • Toast sesame seeds and almonds over medium heat, stirring regularly so as not to scorch.  Remove from pan when golden.
  • Combine oats, brown rice cereal, dried apples, carob chips, toasted sesame seeds, and toasted chopped almonds.  Mix well and set aside.
  • Line 9″ x 13″ baking pan with wax paper.  Spray with non-stick cooking spray to make removal of the bars easier.
  • Melt butter over medium heat.
  • Stir in brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, honey, and molasses.
  • Bring to a boil for 60 seconds then immediately remove from heat and pour over dry ingredients.
  • Working quickly, mix wet and dry ingredients until evenly combined.
  • Scoop into lined baking pan and spread evenly, packing the mixture hard with your hands.
  • Let cool before removing from pan and slicing in to bars.

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***Cook’s Notes – this granola was too sweet for me.  Don’t get me wrong, it tasted fine, but when I make it again, I’ll reduce the brown sugar to 1/2 to 3/4 cup.  I’d also probably reduce quantities of honey, as well, from six tablespoons to four, because I don’t think the additional two tablespoons add anything significant to the recipe other than more sweetness.  And honey is naturally sweeter than refined sugars, so you can use less of it.  Also note, when using dried apple rings, make sure you buy apples with no sugar added.  We’ll see.  This one definitely needs some tinkering to get it just right, but I think it would be worth it in the long run.

blueberry buckle

I didn’t take any pictures while we baked because a certain someone was eager to lick the bowl.  Also, we’re barely unpacked from a 2,100 mile cross-country trip and it was a small miracle just to find the camera.  This is just another classic summer fruit recipe.  Take advantage of fresh, local produce and do something good with it.  Personally, my favorite way to eat berries is right off the bush, but layered in cake batter and smothered in a crumbly topping isn’t bad, either.

There are a ga-zillion versions of blueberry buckle awaiting you on the internet.  I’m not sure this one is much different, at all.  It’s done in a spring form pan versus a cake pan, but that’s about it.  It would also be easy to adapt for baking in individual ramekins.  Eat it in the morning with coffee, or add freshly whipped cream or a little dollop of vanilla ice cream and call it dessert.  Versatile, but classically summer!  Enjoy!

Blueberry Buckle

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 c blueberries, washed and de-stemmed

Topping:

  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, cut in to mixture cold

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg to mixture.  Set aside.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with milk.
  5. Add blueberries.  Fold to combine.
  6. Place in prepared 9″  spring form pan, add topping, and bake for 35 minutes.

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***Baker’s Notes:  If you only have an 8 1/2″ pan, bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes longer.

strawberries with balsamic vinegar

So we’ve been away for a little while.  Two months, to be exact.  Tending to other things.  Our hearts, our souls, our peace-of-mind, our new (to us) cottage in Northern Michigan where we’ll happily watch the weather in the desert on our smartphones and say, “Oh, how good it is to be here in Northern Michigan.”

With two months of projects, including a white picket fence, I’ve been otherwise occupied with gardening, and beach walks and campfires.  The simple pleasures of life.  With that said, and with summer berries in abundance, I bring you another simple pleasure.  Some of the best and most simple pleasures of summer: strawberries and balsamic.  And vanilla ice cream.  Moomers, of course.

This is so easy to make and is so incredibly delicious, you’ll never want to put anything else on your vanilla ice cream, again.  Guaranteed.  Enjoy!!

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Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar (recipe courtesy Traverse Magazine, June 2012)

 Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring vinegar, granulated sugar and lemon juice to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Simmer until syrup is reduced by half. Cool.
  3. Toss berries and brown sugar in a bowl.
  4. Pour vinegar syrup over berries, add fresh black pepper to taste.
  5. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

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***Cook’s Notes:  Use the very best balsamic vinegar you can afford…which is true no matter what you’re making.

baked blueberry clafoutis

Since our decision to kick cable t.v., to the curb, there’s a lot less television-watching in our house.  We’re down to NetFlix and about 25 channels, twelve of which are in Spanish and of no use to anybody.  The other twelve or so are home shopping (still not useful), local affiliates (mainstream programming not my taste), and PBS.  So, I’m watching a lot of PBS.  And, hey, I’m a member, so no guilt trips, please.

One of the shows we see…well, I see pretty regularly as my partner-in-crime is snoozing away on the other half of the couch, is a great gardening show called Growing a Greener World.  One of the best things about it is the cooking segment at the end of each show.  Chef Nathan Lyon (Tweet him @chefnathanlyon – he even tweets back), always seems to be cooking up something fresh and easy-to-prepare with nutritious ingredients you don’t have to hunt down at a specialty store.  It’s nothing over-the-top.  Just healthy, simple fare you can throw together for a weeknight meal for your family, and always a little unique to impress your guests.  I don’t own his cookbook, but I’m definitely going to get it given the rave reviews I’ve gotten with his recipes, so far.

This one was from an episode we watched last night.  Again, I watched, hubby dozed.  I’d made a traditional cherry clafoutis at my mom’s one summer a number of years ago.  It was delicious.  How could it not be delicious?  It’s full of eggs and a tiny bit of sugar and fresh fruit.  And, it’s fun to say!  What I discovered after baking this one; blueberry, is the French are particular about their clafoutis.  It’s apparently only a clafoutis if it’s cherry.  If you bastardize it, as the French would undoubtedly claim, by baking it with blueberries, or any other fruit, it’s considered a flaugnarde – not nearly as fun to say, but equally yummy.  They’re not too sweet, since there’s really not much sugar compared to other desserts, and have a wonderful texture – more like a custardy-tart, since you use a minimal amount of flour to bind all the egg and creamy loveliness together.  The texture is creamy, a very thick custard, and melts in your mouth.  The berries hold their shape nicely, so there’s good texture in the fruit, as well.  Call it what you will: clafoutis or flaugnarde, it’s good eats!

Serve it warm, dusted with powdered sugar or a little heavy cream.  Personally, I found it just as delicious served cold.  Personal preference.  Enjoy!

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Baked Blueberry Clafoutis

Recipe Courtesy: Nathan Lyon, Growing A Greener World, Episode 116

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar, separated
  • 5 whole eggs, large
  • 1 cup half and half, or whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pint blueberries (12 oz)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. In a medium, oven safe, non-stick sauté pan, combine the butter with 2 Tbsp granulated sugar and place over medium heat. (Be careful not to let butter brown).
  3. Meanwhile whisk the eggs plus the remaining 2 Tbsp sugar on high speed until tripled in volume and pale yellow in color (about 5 minutes). Then, by hand, gradually whisk in the half and half or milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and flour until just incorporated. It should look light and foamy at this point.
  4. Pour this mixture into the hot pan, top with the blueberries, then transfer into the oven. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and the Clafoutis has puffed up.
  5. Remove from the oven, and turn out onto a cutting board. Slice, and serve with the optional powdered sugar.

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***Baker’s Notes:  Don’t try to skimp too much on the calories with low-fat or skim milk.  Your end product will be watery and unsatisfying.  At the very least, I’d say 2% milk, but whole milk or half and half are truly best.  I used the full pint of berries and, even though I love blueberries, I thought it was a lot of berries.  I might experiment with 8 ounces next time.  Mine baked for 24 minutes and I actually spun it under the broiler for a few minutes to give the top a more golden appearance.

nutella swirl pound cake

My local grocer had Nutella on sale the other day.  I stocked up.

Fortuitously, I also re-acquainted myself with this recipe while looking through some older pins on my Pinterest board.  At that very moment I was thinking, “I’ve got so many pins on this board I’ll never find anything to bake.”  And, then?  There it was.  Nutella Swirl Pound Cake.  And me having just stocked up on Nutella, and all.  It seemed like the only sensible thing to do.

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I have to admit I was sort of happy to be baking this by myself, because I don’t think I’ve ever tasted such creamy batter.  So delicious, I couldn’t imagine having to share the bowl with…anyone.  The yellow batter is spectacular.  Amazingly delicious.  I’m not sure why I was so moved by it other than the fact there was not a hint of granulated sugar to be felt on the tongue.  Truly the smoothest batter.  Ever.  Now add a couple of layers of Nutella and, well, there are no words!!

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Dip your knife or spatula in and swirl.  Make sure you do a good job of this.  I don’t think I swirled enough and my cake ended up a little bottom-heavy with Nutella.  Pop it in the oven and commence to bowl-licking.  Then, once it’s baked and cooled, pour yourself a tall glass of milk and enjoy a little slice of Nutella Nirvana.  Good stuff.  Good stuff.  Enjoy!

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Nutella Swirl Pound Cake (recipe adapted from Cake Keeper Cakes, Taunton Press, 2009)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 sticks (1 cup)  unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 13-ounce jar Nutella (see Baker’s Notes, below)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, tapping out any excess flour. In a glass measuring cup, lightly beat the eggs with the vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk the 1 1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the egg mixture until fully incorporated. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, beating at low speed between additions until just incorporated. Continue to beat for 30 seconds longer.
  3. Spread one-third of the batter in the prepared pan, then spread half of the Nutella on top. Repeat with another third of the batter and the remaining Nutella. Top with the remaining batter. Lightly swirl the Nutella into the batter with a butter knife. Do not over mix.
  4. Bake the cake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, turn it right side up and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut the cake into slices and serve.

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nutellaswirl©zouptonuts***Baker’s Notes:  I don’t know what the original recipe said in terms of the amount of Nutella, but the adapted version I found over at Food & Wine suggested using the entire jar of Nutella (13 oz).  I love Nutella, but I have to say it’s overkill in this recipe.  It’s just too heavy and wet.  Half the jar would have been more than sufficient to create just what the recipe title suggests:  a swirl of Nutella.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious, but given the quantity of Nutella, I’d have renamed it just plain old Nutella Pound Cake.  That said, it was really good.  The cake was moist and creamy and difficult to resist.  I’d definitely make it again with the mentioned adjustments.

blood orange olive oil brownies

A couple of years ago, we went to the Olive Blossom festival at Queen Creek Olive Mill, in….you guessed it, Queen Creek, AZ.  It’s a place I’d highly recommend visiting if you’re here from out-of-town, or live in the Valley and are looking for a unique day trip.  It was an oasis in the desert.   Not to mention, live music, great food, lots of shade, and wine!

While we were there, I had a slice of the most delicious Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake from the mill’s kitchen.  It was so delicious, I picked up a bottle of Blood Orange Olive Oil and a handful of recipe cards.  This was one of the recipes:  Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies.  Seriously!  Citrus and chocolate.  Heaven!

Like a lot of things, this one sat on the back burner for a while.  But this weekend, because our citrus is plentiful and I have an enormous bowl of fresh lemons on my kitchen island, I got it in my head to bake these brownies.  You don’t actually need Blood Oranges for the recipe, just get yourself a bottle of this olive oil.  If you’re not local, you can order online.  If you’re in Arizona, but can’t make it out to the mill, they have several shops in the Valley and one in Tucson.  Check out this link to find the location closest to you.

The end product was delicious.  The dark chocolate flavor is beautifully infused with citrus undertones.  We loved them and I’ll definitely be making these again, although probably more for a special occasion.  The kiddo was not as enamored with the citrus.  She’s a purist, I suppose.  But to a more sophisticated palette, they’re a real treat.  Enjoy!

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Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies (recipe courtesy Queen Creek Olive Mill)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 1 c walnuts, coarsely crushed (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Spray 9×13 baking pan with non-stick baking spray (i.e. Pam).
  2. On low heat, melt chocolate in sauce pan, stirring constantly.  Set aside to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  4. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter, add olive oil, and incorporate one egg at a time, whisking as you go.
  5. Add vanilla and then chocolate, combining well.
  6. Fold in dry ingredients and walnuts, being careful not to over mix batter.
  7. Pour mixture into pan smoothing off the top.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until brownies pull away from side of pan.

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***Baker’s Note:  There’s A LOT of sugar in this recipe. (It’s not a healthy treat by any stretch of the imagination.)  Don’t be discouraged if your batter seems gritty.  The sugar does bake down and the texture of the brownies is cakey and dense.  No grit.  Just lots of calories.  But they’re special occasion, right??

spice cake

This cake could be frosted, but there might not be enough left to frost after everyone discovers how yummy it is.  So, if you frost it, do so quickly.

There are no prep pictures of this cake because I threw it together on a whim one evening after a bout of tears in the grocery store parking lot.  We’d been decorating for Christmas and we opened up several boxes of things I’d brought from my mom’s house last fall.  It was hard.  Really hard.  Walk-away-to-get-my-car-keys-to-go-to-the-grocery-store-for-some-obscure-item-so-I-can-sit-anonymously-crying-in-the-parking-lot hard.

And if there’s anything to make me feel better in an emotionally charged moment, well, it’s a good cry in a parking lot and baking a cake!

As I said above, if you want to frost it, don’t let anyone near this cake until you’ve done so.  I planned on it (a nice brown butter drizzle would have been excellent), but it was sliced and packed into lunch boxes before I had a chance.  After that, consensus was just leave it be.  It’s perfectly delicious without frosting and frosting is messy in lunch boxes, anyway.  This cake would make a wonderful addition to a holiday brunch buffet, in which case I’d definitely frost it to give it that finishing touch.  I think you’ll love it either way.  Enjoy!

Spice Cake (recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 c low-fat buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Grease a 13×9 baking pan, or grease and lightly flour a 9″ bundt pan; set aside.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger; set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar and vanilla; beat till well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Add dry mixture and buttermilk alternately to beaten mixture, folding in after each addition just until combined.  Pour into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in a 350° oven for 35 to 40 minutes for the 13×9 pan, or 45 minutes for the bundt pan, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.  Cool sheet pan completely on wire rack.  If using bundt pan, cool for 10 minutes on wire rack.  Remove cake from pan and cool thoroughly on wire rack.

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***Baker’s Notes:  The original recipe suggested baking in either the sheet pan or 2 8 1/2 inch cake pans, but I wanted a bundt cake.  Mine is a 10 1/2″ bundt pan which can hold between 10 and 15 cups of batter.  This recipe makes about 8 cups of batter, so my bundt pan wasn’t anywhere near full to capacity.  Therefore, the finished cake was a little thinner than if I’d used a smaller bundt pan.  My baking time was 45 minutes.  If you use a smaller bundt pan, just make sure to check the cake at about the 45 minute mark.  It may need a little more time.  When the cake begins to pull away from the edges of the pan, you’re just about there.

java spice bread

So….clearly I’m in the throes of some sort of fall spice preoccupation.  But it’s fall.  Fall doesn’t last that long around these parts, and neither does winter.  And that means I have to strike while the iron is hot, or, in this case, cool and overcast.  Which it had been for the last couple of days.  Rain.  Low clouds.  More rain.  Flooded washes.  Fall’s full weight.  And I’m loving every minute of it; the inspiration to bake on a cool, gray Friday afternoon.

This recipe is delicious.  I opted to eliminate the pecans simply because I didn’t have any in my pantry and didn’t feel like going out for one item.  The bread is warm and spicy and aromatic.  It would make a wonderful addition to a breakfast or brunch buffet on Christmas morning.  I know I didn’t care for the raisins in my previous recipe, but they worked beautifully in this one, giving an added burst of sweetness.  This one comes highly recommended.  Seethe Baker’s Notes, below, for further suggestions in prepping this lovely bread.  Enjoy!

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Java Spice Bread (recipe courtesy Grand Temptations:  Recipes from the Junior League of Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 1 3/4 c + 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 c + 2 Tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 3/4 c honey
  • 1/8 c (= 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 c strong black coffee, cold
  • 1/2 c pecans, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine the raisins with water to cover in a small microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on High for 3 minutes; drain.  Remove the raisins to a paper towel and let stand until cool.  Place the raisins in a small bowl, sprinkle with 1/2 tsp flour and toss to coat.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
  3. Combine eggs, honey, butter, and coffee in a bowl and mix well.  Fold in to dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.  Stir in raisins and pecans (optional).
  4. Pour batter into greased and floured 9-inch loaf pan.  Bake for 55 minutes.
  5. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Store, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to 1 week.  The loaves also freeze well.

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***Baker’s Notes:  Use really strong coffee.  If your average daily brew tends to be on the mild side, brew an extra strong cup for this recipe to give your bread a nice coffee undertone.  Also, the original recipe instructed to bake for 1 hour, cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  That was way too long.  I adapted to 55 minutes in the oven, but I think you might even want to check it at 50 minutes to ensure maximum moistness.  This bread would make excellent hostess or teacher gifts.  Bake in mini loaf pans and wrap in pretty Christmas cellophane bags.  Re-calculate baking time for the mini loaves.

spicy pumpkin muffins

I had some leftover pumpkin puree in the refrigerator that needed to be turned into something before it passed its prime.  This recipe popped out at me while I was re-organizing my cookbooks.  On a side note:  Is it just me, or do cookbook collections seem to have a life of their own?   It’s as if I slide the door closed over them and they throw a dance party and drink too much and forget where they leave their pants!  Every time I reach for a cookbook I think, “I really need to reorganize these again.”  Anyway…

These muffins were average.  I’d make a few changes the next time.  First, they weren’t nearly “spicy” enough for me.  Obviously, not in a muy caliente sort of way.  But in a pumpkin-y, fall, seasonal spicy sort of way.  And I actually included allspice; a seasoning not called for in the original recipe.  Also, as much as I love golden raisins, I didn’t love them in this recipe.  Too mushy or something.  The texture was wrong.  See my Baker’s Notes below for some suggestions to improve this recipe.  It has the potential to be really good.  Feel free to comment, too, if you make them, and let me know what you did or didn’t do to change the recipe.  I might like to try it.  Enjoy!

2013-11-05

2013-11-051

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins (recipe adapted from A Literary Feast: Recipes From the Grosse Pointe Public Library)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c low-fat milk
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c golden raisins

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray such as Pam for baking.
  2. In a bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mix well.
  3. Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg, milk, and pumpkin puree, until smooth.
  4. Fold dry ingredients in to pumpkin mixture, about 1/3 at a time, being careful not to over mix.
  5. Stir in raisins (or, walnuts).
  6. Spoon equal amounts into muffin cups and bake 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes in pan, then finish cooling on rack.

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***Baker’s Notes – First, as you can see above, I used cupcake liners for my muffins.  If you do this, make sure the muffins are completely cool before removing the paper.  My first one (yes, I was anxious to try it) stuck miserably, but the paper on the fully cooled muffins did not.  Second, add more spice.  I’d double everything:  1 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, and throwing caution to the wind, 1/2 teaspoon ginger.  They’re pumpkin muffins.  They’re supposed to be overflowing with the flavors of fall.  The original recipe just fell flat.   Third, the raisins were too soft.  I’d use nuts next time; walnuts, pecans, or even roasted, unsalted pepitas, for some complimentary texture.  Last, what you don’t eat the first day, refrigerate.