Carrot Cake Muffins with Maple Icing + 5 Muffin Recipes for Spring!

Tess had just finished feeding her cat when a familiar face appeared in the window of the old wooden door that had kept her safe inside her home and the world safely outside for so many decades.  The face was framed by the molding on the door her father installed when she was a child, and backlit by the sun, making it hard for Tess to discern who was outside looking in.  Dark eyes, thick, unkempt eyebrows, long, messy hair pulled away from a woman’s face was all she could make out.

The face watched her. Tess hated being observed by anyone, especially by someone she couldn’t place in time, though certainly, this familiar face had existed in one moment or more, in one place or many, together they had gazed at each other briefly or for many hours. Tess now forgot.  She hated the forgetting that came with age, and even more, she detested unannounced visits.

A worried face, much like her own, and yet, she couldn’t place it. Was she hallucinating…again? And if she was? Good, Tess thought.  It was time for this miserable process of dying to get on with it.  The waiting had become unbearable, leaving her restless and angry.  Angry with cancer that took its time eating away at her; angry with her dead husband, envious of fast-moving cancer that took him away many years ago leaving her to deal with this alone, and angry with her remaining family for their visits and calls.  Their concern felt half-hearted, as she knew, as the almost dead do, the living just want you to go.  They are waiting, anticipating the tsunami of grief.  And like Tess, they wanted to get on with it.

If Tess were a dog, she would have walked to the woods that surrounded the back of her property, curled up on a pile of dead brown leaves under the black maple tree and stare at the bluebird sky.  Alone, free, ready.  Why is it so damn hard to die?  Tess thought as she reached for the doorknob.  She figured she would let the face in, see what she wanted.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Mom! I’m freezing out here.”

“Come in, come in.  Watch out for the cat.” Tess said.

“It’s time to put that cat down, Mom.”

“Like, hell.  When I’m gone, do what you want with it.”

Her daughter was back again, this time with muffins.  Carrot muffins.  Muffins Tess would thank her for, but not eat because eating did not make much sense anymore.  She never cared much for carrot muffins anyway.  Tess would keep this to herself.  The last thing she wanted was for daughter to feel useless.  And she certainly didn’t want another visit from the hospice nurse, poking at her or asking her stupid questions.  How are you feeling today? Are you in pain? On a scale of 1 to 10, one being no pain and ten being the worst pain where do say you are?  Assholes.  All of them.  I’m dying and I just want to forget it.  

Tess moved slowly to her favorite chair and sat down, grateful to be off her feet.  The walk to the door felt like a mile.  Her daughter sat in the chair next to her and grimaced when the matted cat jumped into Tess’ lap.

“I know he is pretty sad lookin’,”  Tess said.

Her daughter smiled, let out a small laugh.  Tess had forgotten her face at the door, misplaced it in time, let it dissipate from her memory in just a matter of days.  It must be part of the dying process, Tess thought.  How could she leave while still holding on so tightly?  Damn near impossible.  Tess loved her daughter’s smile, knowing laugh, dark eyes.  She was a good girl, always had been.  She would miss her.  Tess couldn’t say that about many people.

Tess’ eyes felt heavy.  “I’m so tired.”

“Rest, Mom.  I’ll stay for a while.  I need to pick up the kids in a couple of hours.”

As Tess dozed off, she watched her daughter holding on tightly to her little computer, tapping away a message to the outside world, a message to the rest of Tess’ family.  Soon Tess would be gone and maybe before she left, Tess would take a bite of the muffin.

Carrot Cake Muffins with Maple Icing

recipe adapted from My Recipes

makes 12 muffins

Ingredients for muffins:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon maple extract

3 medium rainbow carrots or regular carrots, finely grated, about 2 cups

1/2 cup of golden raisins optional

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Lightly coat muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.   Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.  In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, egg whites, extracts and grated carrots.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture.  Stir until just combined. Do not overmix!

Spoon batter into baking cups, about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes.  Be sure to check the muffins at 22 minutes.  You do not want to over bake them.

Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Spoon icing over muffins and serve.  Muffins taste best slightly warm the day they are made but will taste great for breakfast the next day as well.  Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.  Enjoy!

Maple Icing

Ingredients:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 or 2 tablespoons of milk, any kind

Directions:

Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup.  Add 1 tablespoon of milk and whisk.  Add more milk to reach desired consistency.  Spoon icing over muffins.  Enjoy!

5 Spring Muffin Links

If you love berries in your muffins check out Baker’s Royale strawberry muffins recipe and Diethood’s raspberry muffins recipe.

Looking for a gluten-free muffin option for your next spring brunch?  Head to Dolly + Oatmeal for Lindsay’s strawberry, oat, cacao muffin recipe.

Chocolate muffins are always a good idea. Head to A Brown Table for a sea salt chocolate muffin recipe that is sure to make you smile.

Do you remember the department store, Jordan Marsh?  Me too.  I spent many weekends tagging along with my grandmother to Jordan Marsh, but I never did try their blueberry muffins.  NYT Cooking has the recipe for you.  Check it out!

Baked Strawberry French Toast with Oat Crumble Topping + 5 Can’t Miss French Toast links!

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“I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us…” Mary Oliver

I sat on the cold hardwood floor in my office furiously sifting through a box of photos as if my life depended on finding this one particular image taken so many years ago.

Photographs.

My husband’s  worry-free face 14 years ago [oh how I miss you!], my girl, maybe three? curled up so small sifting through wet sand, weddings, sunsets, Fenway, misty beach mornings, graduations, forced smiles and genuine ones, baby boy 1, big chocolate-brown eyes [ you haven’t changed yet…] baby boy 2 smooth cheeks, a big under-bite, almond blue eyes [ a compilation of many generations all present in your sweet, chubby face], drunken fun with best friends, worry, innocence, love, in love and love past, Christmas, Mama [happy?] surrounded by her 3 ducklings circa 1989, Dad in the old orange rocking chair, beer in hand, absent yet physically present, school pictures of my littles…I sink momentarily into these memories, my heart full, blessed, nostalgic and then I let them go and take a giant, slow breath.  I had stopped breathing.

I didn’t find the picture I was looking for, nor is it relevant I tell you about the photograph, or the people captured in it.  It is gone just like the moments captured thousands of hours ago, the photos now scattered on the creaky wooden floor in our tiny home office.  I sat and stared at the mess of memories, grateful for almost all of them. And yet.  I carelessly tossed them back into a nondescript, beige box because that is where they belong.

Hours later I wash the kitchen floor, scrubbing away at the faint paw prints, yogurt droplets and strawberry stains left marking the events of another day.  One pound of fresh strawberries gone, consumed by my hungry little monsters before dinner.  Another pound still in the refrigerator.  I’ll need to hide them.

I empty the bucket of dirty water into the sink.  A small spider, no bigger than my pinkie nail scurries to the lip of the sink and willingly crawls in, brave yet unaware of the possibilities.  The spider explores for a bit, his movements becoming more cautious each second.  I turn on the faucet, pull out the hose and aim it right at him.  The current sweeps him off his minuscule legs, pushing him towards the drain.  I turn off the faucet. He fights, finds his sea legs, tries to avoid the impossible.  With a half jealous smile, I turn on the water.  One final flush and he is gone.

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Baked Strawberry French Toast with Oat Crumble

Recipe adapted from NYT Cooking

Serves 12

Ingredients:

9 cups good quality French bread cut into 1 inch cubes (challah or brioche will also work)

Cooking spray or butter for baking dish

8 large eggs

2 cups whole milk

1/3 cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon cloves

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound strawberries, cored and halved

Ingredients for topping:

½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup old fashion rolled oats

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup or 1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into cubes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Cut bread into 1 inch cubes and spread out on a baking sheet.  Toast the bread for about 12 minutes.  Cool and set aside.

Spray or generously butter a 9×13 baking dish.  Add bread cubes to baking dish.

Next make the custard.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, honey, vanilla, ginger, cloves and salt until smooth and well combined.  Pour custard over bread.  Toss with your hands until all the bread is wet.  Press down gently on the bread so it forms an even layer.  Spread strawberries over the top.  Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to 48 hours.  Overnight is best!

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Prepare oat crumble.  Grab a large bowl.  Add the flour, oats, brown sugar, ginger, cloves and salt and stir together.  Add the butter.  Work the butter into the flour mixture using your fingers until the mixture resembles wet sand and is crumbly.  (Topping can be made 48 hours in advance.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.)

Sprinkle topping over the strawberries/bread.  Bake until golden brown about 40-45 minutes.  Turn on the broiler for the last two minutes for crunchier crust.  Serve warm with real maple syrup.  Enjoy!

5 Can’t Miss French Toast Links!

Traditional French toast dipped a subtly sweet Panko breadcrumb mixture, fried to perfection and topped with lots of butter and syrup sounds like a bit of heaven to me. Head to Pioneer Woman for her crunchy French Toast recipe.

French toast in sandwich form? Yes it exists.  Head to Handmade Charlotte for Sarah Kieffer’s French toast sandwiches with peaches and mozzarella.

Lemon French toast topped with in season strawberries screams spring.  Head to Simply Delicious for the recipe.  Yum!

Want to wow your brunch guests?  Make Smitten Kitchen’s morning bread pudding with salted caramel.  This is on my must make immediately list.

If you a more of a savory than sweet person, head to Food 52 and check out their recipe for crispy salt and pepper French toast.

Granola Sticky Buns + 5 Scrumptious Sticky Bun Links!

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Though their initial encounter was brief, he thought of her often: big brown eyes, short wavy hair, long legs and a generous smile.  She appeared to him mostly at night when the cold Belgium air chilled his blood and bones, the foxhole barely sheltering his nineteen-year-old untouched, gangly body.

Big breath in, small, quiet breath out and a million stars shimmering overhead.  And it was in that small, silent breath out, a tiny crystal cloud formed, floating its way to the heavens. He watched the cloud disintegrate, tiny atoms floating further and further away from him. This is not the end of me.  No this tiny life-saving foxhole in the dense Ardennes forest would not be his final resting place.  The universe would graciously offer more: the beautiful brunette would take his hand, two sons and, eventually, a handful of grandchildren would make his heart full.

This boy didn’t know his good luck as he prayed for his life, to a god he wasn’t entirely sure existed.

Many months later, when the leaves glowed crimson and gold he would step off a train, in a small town with no one waiting to great him and thumb a ride home.  Changed.

Decades later, with the first snowfall of the season, memories of the war would resurface. Perhaps a tear fell when he thought of Belgium and, now, the simple yet perfect life he created for himself.

In the spring, when the first tulip buds emerged from the soil, he would take his grandchildren to a nearby golf-course with a small pond and a few, uninhibited, white-haired ducks.  There, under the spring sun and cerulean sky, they fed the ducks day-old sticky buns.

Granola Sticky Buns

makes 10 large buns

granola recipe adapted from Cookie and Kate

sticky bun recipe adapted from David Lebovitz  

Ingredients for granola:

4 cups old-fashion oats

3/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of ground ginger

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup of dried sour cherries, chopped if large

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Grab a large bowl and combine oats, coconut, wheat germ, salt, ginger and cinnamon.  Stir thoroughly.

Pour in the olive oil, maple syrup and vanilla.  Mix until all of the oat mixture is coated.  Pour granola onto prepared baking sheet and spread it in an even layer.  Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Remove the granola and allow it to cool completely.  It will crisp up as it cools.  Once cool, add the dried cherries.  Store in an air-tight container, at room temperature, for a couple of weeks.  Enjoy!

Ingredients for sticky bun dough:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

2/3 cup milk (any kind)

3 tablespoons sugar

1+3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 large egg

2 + 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients for honey caramel:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 light brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup of prepared granola

Ingredients for filling:

1/4 dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons all-spice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons of coconut oil, at room temperature

Directions:

First make the dough.  Using a small saucepan, over low heat,  warm the butter, milk and sugar until the butter has melted.  Pour into the bowl of your stand mixer and allow to sit until just warm to the touch.  Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and stir gently.  Let sit in a warm place until it starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add egg, flour and salt.  Knead the dough with paddle or dough hook attachment at medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy, about 5 minutes.  Remove the dough and knead with your hands until it is a smooth ball.  Place back in the bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Allow to rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 1 to 11/2 hours.  *The time can vary.  It may take more or less time, use your best judgment.*

Next, make the honey caramel.  Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan or 8-inch square pan.  Using a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, melt the butter, brown sugar, honey and salt and continue to cook until the mixture comes to a boil.  When it starts to foam and the bubbles start to get larger, remove from the heat or when the temperature reads 212F.

Pour the honey caramel into your prepared pan and sprinkle a cup of granola over the caramel.  Set aside.

Now, make the filling.  Mix the brown sugar, all-spice and salt in a bowl.  Set aside.

Once the dough has risen, knead the dough a couple of times on a lightly floured work surface.  Roll into a ten inch square.  Spread the coconut oil over the dough and sprinkle the filling mixture evenly over the dough.  Roll the dough as tightly as possible.  Grab a serrated knife and cut the dough into 10 slices. Place on top of the caramel, cut side up.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour or so.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place pan of sticky buns on baking sheet.  Bake until the center roll is golden brown and no longer feels soft, about 25-30 minutes.

Remove rolls from oven and cool for about 5 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside and then tip the buns onto a serving platter, dish or wire rack.  Serve warm and enjoy!

*Sticky buns are best served warm the day they are baked, but they still taste good the next day.  If you have leftovers, keep them well-wrapped at room temperature.  You can re-warm them wrapped in foil at 200F until heated through.*

5 Scrumptious Sticky Bun Links

Looking for a whole wheat version of sticky buns? Bon Appetempt has the recipe for whole wheat brown sugar sticky buns that looks divine!

If you love bananas, head to Heather Christo for her caramelized banana sticky buns.  I want to eat one or five of them right now.

Impress you friends and family with this creative riff on sticky buns.

Gooey. Turtle. Brownie. Sticky. Buns.  Yes they exist.  Head to Willow Bird Baking for the recipe.

How about sticking with the classic? Deb at Smitten Kitchen has a pecan sticky bun recipe that will not disappoint!

Blueberry Ricotta Turnovers + 5 Turnover Links!

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We were such a nice surprise, you said,  and a reminder that things could still keep popping up.” – Dear Mr. You, Mary-Louise Parker

I stare down at my long list of weekly groceries: bread, yogurt, milk, cream cheese, blueberry jam, ricotta (fresh)… I’ll stop there, it goes on until is reaches about $300. (Hard gulp as I swipe my card once at Stop N’ Shop, and again at Whole Foods.)  

“Hey, Kelly.”  I look up and there he is, my grocery store buddy, with a big, bright smile on his face, no kids in tow. I think: lucky, as I wrestle the belt around my chubby two year old’s waist, pleading with him to sit.  Please. Just. Sit!  We chat briefly about running while I reach for the cream cheese. (Generic or Philadelphia?  Does it matter?  Focus for a second on the conversation you are having with another human.  Actually, Mr. Smiles I’d like to run right out of here.  Will you take my toddler for a few hours?)  We part ways, but I carry a little bit of that smile with me, as I grab a few boxes of whole grain pasta and make my way down the fluorescent lit aisles.

I stand in the check out line, methodically loading my groceries on the 10 inches of belt in front of me, hoping the bagger will keep the cold with the cold, while also stuffing a Kashi strawberry cereal bar in my toddler’s mouth.   What is the hold up?!  I feel stressed.  I need to get out of here before N melts.  Almost done Buddy!  Deep breath.  

Finally, the line moves.  K., a pretty, middle-aged brunette, checks us out quickly.  I see K. every week because I choose her, no matter how many people deep the check out line.  I like her. She has kind eyes and a whole face smile, and I’m guessing a good story I could listen to for hours.  She coos at N and offers him a high-five, asks about my weekend plans, though I am more interested in her plans.  She has 2 boys, both grown.  The weekend belongs to her; how liberating and I’m sure a little strange to be in that place again.

“See you next week,” she says with a laugh.  She knows I don’t waiver much from my weekly routine.  I smile back.  Wave.  On to the next store.

Blueberry Ricotta Turnovers

makes 6 large or 12 small

pastry dough recipe from Gourmet 2004

Filling inspired by Food 52 Baking Cookbook

Ingredients:

2 sheets of an all butter pastry dough like Dufour or 1 recipe of rough puff pastry dough

6 ounces of whole milk ricotta drained and at room temperature

2  eggs

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

pinch of ground ginger

pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup wild blueberry jam ( I used Bonne Maman.)

1/4 cup raw sugar for coating

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 375F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.

Using a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 egg, lemon zest, confectioners’ sugar, cardamom, ginger and salt.  Whisk until completely incorporated and smooth.  Set aside.

Flour a clean work surface and roll out one sheet of puff pastry (or the dough you made) to about an 1/8 of an inch.  Cut into 6 rectangles.

If making small turnovers, spread a spoonful of the ricotta on the pastry, followed by a spoonful of the jam, leaving a small border around the edges, about 1/4 inch.  Fold the pastry over to enclose the filling and press the edges firmly together with a fork.  This will seal the turnover.

If making large turnovers, spread 2 spoonfuls of the ricotta on the pastry, followed by 2 scant spoonfuls of the jam, leaving a small border around the edges, about 1/4 inch.  Roll out second sheet of puff pastry, cut into 6 rectangles of same size.  Top the first pastry with the second, making a pastry sandwich.  Press edges firmly together with a fork.

Carefully place turnovers on prepared baking sheets.  Beat remaining egg with a splash of water just slightly to make an egg wash.  Brush the egg wash over the pastries and sprinkle generously with raw sugar.

Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 25-30 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy immediately because they taste best just out of the oven.

5 Turnover Links You Must Check Out!

Looking for a quick and easy sweet treat for your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? Head to Averie Cooks for her cherry and cream cheese turnovers with vanilla cream cheese glaze.  Wow!

Still have a bag of frozen cranberries left over from the holidays?  Head to Fork Knife Swoon for Laura’s cranberry pear turnover recipe.

If you prefer a savory turnover check out Handmade Charlotte’s easy ham and cheese turnovers.  This would be a great addition to any brunch!

Savory and sweet? Ok, Savory Simple has a recipe for apple, sweet potato and bacon turnovers that sounds divine!

One of my favorite blogs, Local Milk, has a recipe for lavender blueberry ricotta turnovers that is now on my must try list.

 

Vanilla Bean Popovers + 5 Scrumptious Popover Links

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He sat up in bed, hair tousled, fuzzy, sleep still in his eyes and said: “I had a dream about…popovers.”

“What? Popovers?” My voice raspy, on auto-pilot, not fully connected to the day ahead.  I turned over, pulled the sheets up over my head and thought about the last time I ate a popover.

Jordan Pond House.  Acadia National Park, blue sky, a few clouds, 70 degrees.  Riding a tandem bike with my son and getting lost on trail that should have dropped us at the parking lot where we started.  

“Mama, why is this taking so long?  I’m hungry.” 

Um, ya me too buddy.  My thighs are burning, I feel old.  I guess 30 plus miles of running a week is different than biking for two on a rocky trail with a slight incline.  Damn it.  I can’t wait for a cold beer. 

“Almost there!” I say, lying.  We backtrack, yet are still lost.  I stop a family that looks like they know this space, a space, a place that is so foreign to me.  We turn down the trail the nice, athletic family gestured towards.  There is an opening, a light at the end of the trail and finally I see Jordan Pond House. 

We reunite with Bubba, my oldest and my newest inside the restaurant.  We cheers with bottles of Maine Lunch IPA and blueberry soda.  Giant popovers, still warm sit in front of us with plenty of salted butter and strawberry jam on the side.    

“It’s after 7,” he says and gives me a quick kiss.  His cheek is smooth, morning stubble washed down the drain.  He smells like Dove soap.  I wish I could carry his smell with me all day and take a hit of it when I need more of him.

I pull on a fleece and head downstairs.  The kids sit at the island arguing about ??? and sort of eating a healthy breakfast.  Another gray January morning here.  I pour a cup of coffee, stare out the kitchen window and think of blue sky, mountains and popovers.

Vanilla Bean Popovers

recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

makes 6 large popovers

Ingredients:

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 + 1/2 cups whole milk, at room temperature

1+1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup raw sugar for dusting

cooking spray for pan

Directions:

Allow eggs and milk to come to room temperature.  (If you forget to set them out, place eggs in a bowl with warm water for 10 minutes and gently heat the milk until just warm to the touch.)

Pre-heat the oven to 450F.  Place popover pan or muffin pan in the oven on the lowest rack.  Measure out your dry ingredients and set aside.

When the eggs and milk are ready, whisk them together in a large bowl until well combined.  Add the vanilla and continue to whisk until frothy.

Next add the dry ingredients and whisk until all the ingredients are incorporated and the texture of the batter is like heavy cream.

Take your popover pan out of the oven and coat with cooking spray.  Fill cups about three-quarters of the way full.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350F and bake until the popovers are golden brown and dry, about an additional 20 minutes.

Turn the popovers out on a wire rack.  Grab a paring knife and make a slight hole on the side of each popover so the steam can escape.

Brush melted butter over the tops of the popovers and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Serve immediately.  Popovers are best the day they are made.  Enjoy!

5 Popover Links You Need To Check Out!

This popover found only at Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park started my popover obsession.

Looking for a savory popover that requires no mixer? Head to Damn Delicious for Chungah’s easy garlic Parmesan popovers.

If you have a sweet tooth head to Joy the Baker for her cinnamon sugar popovers or try Martha’s tried and true dark chocolate popovers.

Hate to fail? King Arthur has a recipe for never-fail popovers that promises to…never fail. 🙂

 

Overnight Oats with Pumpkin Granola and Apple Crunch + 5 Overnight Oats Recipes

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oats1605Three months ago I carved out one morning a week for myself and volunteered as a chef’s assistant at the Boston Public Market. The kids were up, fed and dressed by 7am; bright-eyed, sort of, for our saint or, rather, sitter who agreed to come at such an ungodly hour.

Showered and caffeinated by the time our sitter walked into the house, I was ready for my morning.  Bubba and I drove into the city together, alone.  Sometimes we chatted. Other times there was nothing left to say so we just sat, quietly, listening to the radio, his hand reaching for mine while I stared out the window.  The traffic which normally would stress me didn’t phase me at all.  We were together and still.  Nothing left to do but wait..for the next part of our day to start.  A quick kiss and we parted for the day.  He off to his world I know nothing of and me running to the kitchen.

I spent my time at the market prepping food, discussing recipes and chatting with other volunteers.  I didn’t reach for my phone or check the clock. I was present, in the moment, happy to be away from favorites, my one and only(s) for just a few hours.

When my shift ended I walked straight to my favorite vendor: Mother Juice.  Every week, without fail I ordered the same damn thing: overnight oats with almond milk, banana and dates, topped with almond butter, granola and fresh fruit.  Being someone who likes food, you would think I would try something new each week.  Nope.  I craved the oats.  Licked the spoon when I was done.  I couldn’t get enough of them.  If someone offered me an another bowl, I would say yes without a bit of hesitation in my gut.

The banana and dates made the oats slightly sweet.  And then a surprise as I swirled my spoon around: bits of almond butter covered oats!  I was as delighted as a child who finds the hidden marzipan in the holiday cranberry stollen.  Yet, the texture blast that followed is what really sold me on the oats: crunchy granola topped with fresh, bright berries.  Amazing!

My weekly shift in the Kitchen ended two weeks ago, but my craving for overnight oats remains strong, just as my need for some time away. The delicious, creamy oats satisfied my hunger.  But the time just sitting with Bubba and then, alone soothed and sustained my soul. I made my version of overnight oats with some inspiration from a few fellow food bloggers. It’s a start, it’s a step, it’s something.

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Overnight Oats with Pumpkin Granola and Apple Crunch

Oats recipe from Oh She Glows

Apple Crunch adapted from Green Kitchen Stories

Pumpkin Granola adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen

Serves 4, 2 generously

Ingredients for Oats:

2 large bananas, mashed until smooth

4 tablespoons of chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup old-fashion rolled oats

1 + 1/2 cup milk of your choice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Using a small bowl, mash the bananas until smooth.  Add the chia seeds and cinnamon and stir until well combined.

Add the oats, milk and vanilla.  Stir.  Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

When ready to use, stir the oat mixture.  If the mixture is too thick, add a little milk.  If it is too soupy, add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and refrigerate until it is thicker.  Oats, stored in an air-tight container and refrigerated, will last up to 2 days.

Ingredients for Pumpkin Granola:

2 + 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 pumpkin puree

2 cups old-fashion oats

1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped

3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds or pepitas

1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 325F.  Using a large mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon, maple syrup and pumpkin puree.  Add the oats, almonds and pumpkin seeds and stir until well coated.

Spread the oats on a baking sheet, leaving some of the clusters intact, so you will end up with yummy, crunchy clusters.  Bake granola for until golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. **Be sure to stir the granola once or twice during baking time.** Remove from the oven and allow the granola to cool completely.  Add cranberries and a sprinkle of sea salt.  Mix and store in air-tight container for 2 weeks.

Ingredients for Apple Crunch:

1 large apple, small dice

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup raw almonds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of ginger

pinch of cardamom

sprinkle of sea salt

Directions:

Chop apple and set aside.  Heat coconut oil and maple syrup in a skillet.  Add apple, pumpkin seeds, almonds and spices.  Cook, stirring often, until the apple are soft and the nuts and seeds crunchy, about 8 minutes.  Remove apple crunch from pan and store in an air-tight container at room temperature until ready to use.

Assembly, Finally!!

Grab a jar or bowl, whatever suits you and add the oats.  Next add a dollop of almond butter (optional, but yummy) followed by a handful of granola.  Lastly, top this bowl health with heaping spoonful or two of apple crunch.  Sit down and enjoy!

*I like my oats at room temperature.  They taste great cold, room temperature or warm.  You decide!*

5 Overnight Oats Links!

New to overnight oats for breakfast? Head to the Food Network’s blog for a tutorial by Min Kwon of the food blog The Adventures of MJ and Hungryman.

Peanut butter lovers everywhere must check out Minimalist Baker’s recipe for peanut butter overnight oats.  Yum! Have a nut allergy? Use Sunbutter instead!

Steel cut oats can also be made the night before for a healthy and hearty breakfast.  Head to the Lemon Bowl for overnight refrigerator steel-cut oats. 

The kitchn’s recipe for blueberry pie overnight oats is on my must make list.  Pie crust topping, fresh blueberries, oatmeal? Yes, please!

If you don’t want to follow a recipe, head to Food 52 for their tips on how to make overnight oats without a recipe.

Cranberry Maple Breakfast Cake + 5 Quick Breads for Christmas Morning!

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Yellow sticky notes decorate our refrigerator most days; notes to myself, to do lists, don’t forget this, don’t forget that, pick up here, drop off there.  When the holidays come my lists double.  Before I went out last night for dinner with two of my oldest, dearest friends I wrote yet another list and stuck it on the fridge.

“Why so many notes, Mama?” C asked.

“Because I have a lot to remember.” Me.

“You better not forget!” C said as she shoveled another bite of Annie’s mac and cheese into her mouth.

I thought about what she said on my drive into the city.  What about if I did forget my list? What if all the balls I keep juggling in the air came crashing down?  Would they be ok?  Would I be ok? I think so, I hope so.  After all, they are just lists.

cbc015When I feel overwhelmed, I bake. I stop my busy mind and focus on the present.  I accomplish something, sometimes with great results and other times, not so much.  A few days ago, I baked a breakfast cake and it was delicious.  I found a recipe in Joanne Chang’s Flour Cookbook (love her!) and altered it a bit.  Her recipe calls for maple-pecans. I know what you are thinking: why take out maple pecans? They sound amazing.  I agree!  My older boy has a nut allergy, so we are a nut-free house.  I replaced the pecans with dark chocolate chips and orange zest.  The ratio of the dark chocolate and tart cranberries was perfect.  The maple syrup infused the tender, buttery cake and the orange zest just worked, subtly complimenting both the chocolate and cranberries.

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The icing on this holiday cake made me swoon.  A little confectioners’ sugar and a few tablespoons of maple syrup bring this breakfast/anytime of the day cake together in one perfect bite.  Enjoy and happy holidays!

Cranberry Maple Breakfast Cake With Maple Glaze

Makes 3 mini-loaves or 1 9-inch loaf

recipe adapted from Joanna Chang’s Flour

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups cake flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 6 pieces

1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature

2 eggs

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

zest of one medium orange

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/2  cup dark chocolate chips

1 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped

Maple Glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 or 3 tablespoons of maple syrup

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Butter and flour mini loaf pans or 9×5 inch loaf pan and set aside.

Using your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or hand-held mixer, beat together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes.  The mixture should look like sand.  (Beat for about 5 minutes if using a hand-held mixer.)

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, orange zest and 1/3 cup of maple syrup.  Once thoroughly combined, add half of the buttermilk mixture to the flour/butter mixture and beat on medium/high-speed for about 1 minute or until light, fluffy and pale.  Stop the mixer and scrap the sides of the bowl.  On low-speed add the rest of the buttermilk mixture.  Be sure the buttermilk is fully combined with the flour mixture!

Fold the chopped cranberries and chocolate chips into the batter.  Pour the batter into prepared pans and smooth out the top.  Bake the mini-loaf pans for about 35 minutes, but I would start checking them at 25 minutes.  (If using a 9×5 inch pan, bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes.)  Let cool in the pan for about a half hour.  While the bread(s) are cooling, make the maple glaze.

In a small bowl whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup.  Spread or pour the glaze over the still warm bread.

The cake will last, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days at room temperature.  I think the cake tastes better the next day because the flavors really soak in!  Make this now and it will be perfect for Christmas morning.  Enjoy!

5 Quick Bread Recipe Links For Christmas!

Need a citrus kick to get you through the holidays?  Check out Two Peas and Their Pod’s recipe for lemon almond bread.  Sounds like the perfect quick bread to make all winter long!

Cranberry season is almost over so grab a bag and make Cake Duchess’s cranberry streusel quick bread.  I love a good streusel topping and this one looks delicious!

Love banana bread? Check out Zoe’s bakes Nutella swirled banana bread, Joy the Baker’s brown butter banana bread and Cookie + Kate’s banana trail mix bread.  Choices, choices…