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!

bakedfrenchtoast-5001

“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.

bakedfrenchtoast-4951

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.

Challah French Toast with Mascarpone + Blueberry Meyer Lemon Compote + 5 French Toast Links for Easter Brunch!

 

cft0027

If you love French toast you must try this recipe! Is it the challah bread that makes this recipe stand out or the blueberry Meyer lemon compote? I’m not sure if it matters! The combination of the two along with the slightly sweet and tangy mascarpone makes this breakfast a treat. Give it a shot this Easter. While your family happily scarfs it down you can quietly sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee. A bit of silence and a cup of coffee in my hand is my idea of a perfect morning.

cft06

Challah bread is so pretty and so damn delicious. I bought this bread at our local Whole Foods. This bread is perfect for French toast, because it is sturdy and won’t fall apart when you cook it. Also, it is spongy so it will absorb the custard really well. If you want to make your own bread head to King Arthur Flour for the recipe. Are you worried you might screw up the French toast on Easter morning? Head to Bon Appetit for the 7 most common French toast cooking mistakes. Read and learn…I did.

cft0025I made a blueberry Meyer lemon compote, because I feel like I need more compote in my life. No, just kidding. I saw a chef make a compote on Chopped and I thought: I should try that. So I did. I used frozen blueberries, but I can’t wait until blueberries are in season. Fresh blueberries will really make this standout. The Meyer lemon juice and zest adds a nice brightness and acidity to the sweet berries.

cft0031I love mascarpone because of its subtle flavor. I added a little lemon juice, lemon zest, confectioners sugar and salt to the cream cheese. I then stuffed the French toast with it. I wouldn’t eat this everyday, but a decadent breakfast once in a while is necessary. Treat yourself…and your family!

cft0046The kids and Bubba loved it. Happy spring and happy Easter!

Challah French Toast with Mascarpone and Blueberry Meyer Lemon Compote

Serves 4 or 8 large pieces

recipe barely adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients for French Toast:

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp. Meyer Lemon zest

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. agave nectar or honey

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 large loaf challah bread

unsalted butter

canola or vegetable oil

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, lemon zest, vanilla, agave nectar, and salt.

Slice the challah in 3/4-inch thick slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for about 5 minutes, turning once. I did 3 at a time.

Over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp. butter and 1 tbsp. of oil in a large sauté pan or skillet. Cook the soaked bread for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.

Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Fry the remaining soaked bread slices until it’s all cooked. Add more butter and oil to pan if necessary.

Serve hot with mascarpone cheese and blueberry lemon compote. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Blueberry Meyer Lemon Compote:

recipe barely adapted from Ellie Krieger

2 cups frozen blueberries

3 tbsp. water

1/4 cup sugar

zest and juice of one Meyer lemon

Directions:

Mix 1 cup of the blueberries, water, sugar, lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan. Cook the berries over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining cup of blueberries and cook for 8 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Serve warm. If you have any leftovers; save and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Use the compote as a topping for vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt!

 Ingredients for Mascarpone Sauce:

1 8 ounce container Mascarpone, slightly softened

Confectioners’ Sugar, to taste ( I used about 2 tbsp.)

pinch kosher salt

zest and juice of one Meyer lemon

Directions:

In a small bowl mix together the Mascarpone, 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, pinch of kosher salt and the zest and juice of one Meyer lemon. Mix until smooth. Spread a heaping spoonful on a piece of cooked bread, top with another piece of cooked bread. Pour as much compote as you like all over it and enjoy!

5 French Toast Recipes to Try for Easter!

One of my favorite food blogs is Dash and Bella. I love the recipes, writing and photography. Check it out if you haven’t already! Phyllis’ recipe for Baked Baguette French Toast is on my must try list. The photo alone will make you want to save your baguette scraps for next weekend’s brunch!

Need or want a vegan French toast recipe? What’s Cooking Good Looking a recipe for vegan eggnog French toast. I think I will make this next Christmas. Yum!

Need to prep breakfast the night before? Head to How Sweet It Is for Cinnamon Sugar Sourdough Bake with Whipped Greek Yogurt Cream. Yes. You read that right. Whipped. Greek. Yogurt. Cream.

French toast can be healthy! Cookie and Kate has a whole grain banana baked French toast recipe with a peanut butter drizzle. Sounds amazing! If you want to avoid peanut butter, because of an allergy sub in Sunbutter. It tastes just as good!

I love chocolate and bananas together. I love oatmeal. This recipe by FoodieCrush is making me drool.