Sunday, March 24, 2013

Busy Meals: Pot Pies over Rice

A few days ago, we picked up a case of frozen pot pies at our local warehouse store. They were on sale, and are fairly tasty. To make a quick meal, I made a large pot of rice and put two pot pies into the oven to cook.

At dinner time, I put the rice on a platter, and upended the two pies over the rice. We broke the pies and dished the meal up. The kids quite enjoyed this! The rice makes the meal a bit more filling, and is slightly healthier than filling up on gravy and pie crust.

(To see more "Busy Meals", find the label in the cloud on the right. Enjoy!) 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Orange Bran Muffins

Brains....Branny, Beautiful brains!

Just me? Really? You don't see bunny brai....oh, never mind.

When I was in my teens, I used to love to visit my Grandma Mary and snitch every last one of her bran muffins. She always seemed to have a container of them, stuck behind the fruit bowl and if I sat at her kitchen table, I could sneak my hand back there and grab a muffin. Or three. Grandma wasn't a baker, per say, but she did have one small drawer in her little 1950's kitchen dedicated to her bran muffins, so I know she took them seriously. Bags of bran, half used bags of cereal, and boxes of dried out raisins. They were perfect. I never got her recipe, but I do remember that it involved bran cereal.

Probably thanks to her, I developed a love for bran muffins. They are always moist and sticky, and I just can't get enough. It's been years since I have been able to sample one of her muffins, and I finally decided to make an attempt to recreate her muffins at home. I didn't have any raisins, but I will add those next time.

The recipe I used came from Better Homes and Gardens, the red and white checked cookbook. I made a few adjustments, and I thought they came out really yummy! I replaced the buttermilk with orange juice, and the white flour with fresh ground whole wheat flour. I really like making mini muffins, so that's what I did here. Mini muffins can be eaten in a single bite, which means fewer crumbs on the floor. They also cook in half the time of normal sized muffins. If you'd like to make normal size muffins, or even jumbo, adjust the baking time accordingly.


Aunt LoLo's Bran (Cereal) Muffins
Makes 6 dozen mini muffins

3 cups bran cereal (such as Kellog's All Bran)
1 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (2 cups wheat berries, ground)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups orange juice (or liquid of your choice, being sure to include a little acidity*)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil

Grease 5 mini muffin tins, and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400.

In a small bowl, combine your bran cereal and boiling water. Stir to moisten everything, and then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients, then set aside. Make sure you get the baking powder and baking soda clumps broken up!

In a large measuring cup or medium sized bowl, combine your wet ingredients. Whisk to break up the egg yolks.

Add your bran cereal mush and your wet ingredients to the large bowl of the flour mixture. Stir until just combined, making sure to incorporate all of the flour. (This is where you could stir in dried fruit or nuts, if you like.)

Spoon your batter into your muffin tins, and bake for 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the largest muffin comes out clean. Awesome warm or room temperature.


*This recipe uses two leavening agents - baking soda and baking powder. The baking powder needs heat to work, which is why the muffins rise in the oven. The baking soda needs acid to work, which it would have gotten from the buttermilk in the original recipe. Orange juice is tart enough to make it go off, but a splash of vinegar or lemon juice in whatever liquid you choose would work just as well. Almond milk, soy milk, cow milk...probably even apple juice would be great! By using both leavening agents you get an initial fluff from the baking soda, and the last bit of oomph from the baking powder. This keeps these muffins from being too dense.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Welsh Cakes

Fact: My family has done quite a bit of genealogy, and has turned up ancestors in nearly every part of the Caucasian world. (I'm quite the mutt!) Including Wales.

Fact: March 1 is St. David's Day, a rather important day in Wales as St. David is the patron saint there.

Fact: On St. David's Day, it is traditional to eat welsh cakes.

It probably won't surprise you to know that, prior to seeing a delicious looking pin on Pinterest on March 1, I had no idea St. David had a day, much less a patronage, and I had never heard of a welsh cake.

Being the adaptable person that I am, I decided on the spot that welsh cakes must be a part of that evening's meal. They are absolutely delicious. Moist, chewy, dense, studded with fruit. Picture a pan-fried scone, and you are pretty close. I turned to Joy of Baking to find a recipe, as she has never ever steered me wrong. This time was no different. I made a few alterations, based on what I had on hand and some dietary preferences. While Joy of Baking used sultanas, butter and milk, I used Craisins, butter, and soy milk. (Next time, I think I will try coconut oil instead of the butter.) When you throw these lovelies onto a hot griddle, the butter melts out, frying the exterior to golden perfection. The inside remains moist and toothsome. I'm sure you won't think badly of me if I told you that we ate the entire batch for dinner and when my son asked to have these again the next morning for breakfast, I happily complied.

Welsh Cakes
(Adapted from Joy of Baking)

2 cups AP flour
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 dashes nutmeg
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup dried cranberries (ie - Craisins)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup soy milk, as needed

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in the cold butter until the entire mixture appears crumbly and pebbly (just like making a pie). Add your dried cranberries. Add the beaten egg, and enough soy milk to make a rollable dough.

Sprinkle a countertop or cutting board with flour, and throw your dough down. Knead it into a ball, and flatten it out with the palm of your hand to approximately 1/2" thickness. Using a 3" biscuit cutter or glass, cut out rounds. Cut straight down, without twisting, for the tallest cakes possible after baking. Gather up the scraps and re-roll as many times as necessary to use all the dough, handling it as little as possible each time.

Heat a griddle over medium heat (cast iron is traditional), and cook your cakes until golden on both sides and done in the middle, approximately 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar if desired. Can also be spread with jam, but that is completely optional. Best warm, but also quite delicious after they have cooled down!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Whole Wheat Orange Cranberry Muffins

I woke up this morning just craving a muffin. Something chewy and filling, sweet but not greasy. (Honestly, what I truly wanted was one of my grandmother's bran muffins. I have no idea what she used to put in those things, but they were amazing. Got the job done, you know? Unfortunately, I never got the recipe from her, and I didn't have any bran on hand anyhow. I'll have to see if I can figure those out later.)

I pulled out the recipe book that came with my blender, and came up with these. They use both fresh whole wheat flour and white flour, so they are filling without being overly crumbly. The liquid comes from an egg (fresh from our coop!), a little bit of olive oil, and an entire orange. All of the wet ingredients are combined in the blender and whipped up into an eggy orange smoothie, then folded into the dry ingredients. Finally, cranberries are folded in to give these some contrast. With all the fiber from the whole wheat and the whole orange, these are delicious and very filling!

The original recipe used a loaf pan. I wanted my muffins now, though, so I used mini muffin tins instead.

Orange Cranberry Muffins
(Adapted from VitaMix Orange Cranberry Loaf)

Yield: 1 loaf, 12 muffins, or 3 dozen mini muffins

Grease your pan of choice, and preheat oven to 350.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

In a powerful blender, layer:
1 medium orange, peeled and cut in half, plus a 2" piece of the peel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg

Blend completely, and then pour your egg/orange mixture into your flour mixture. Stir until just mixed, and then fold in:
1 cup dried cranberries (or other fruit/nuts of your choice)

Portion into your pan, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean.
(Bake 10 minutes for mini muffins, or 60 minutes for a loaf. I imagine normal muffins would require about 25 minutes.)