Carrot Wheat

Working through the book in chronological order works well for keeping me organized, but not so well when it comes to using ingredients I have on hand.

I should have done all the carrot muffins in the fall, for example, when I harvested our carrot crop and had literally dozens of carrots crowding my crisper drawer.

Oh well. Carrot wheat! These sound healthy! And like they might taste pretty good!

Carrot Wheat

Measure into large bowl

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Stir into dry ingredients

1 cup coarsely-grated carrots

1 tsp grated orange rind

Beat together

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup melted butter

Add to dry ingredients along with 

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup nuts

Mix until blended.

Bake at 375F for 15 – 20 minutes. Makes 15 muffins.

The method

After last week’s recipe, one of my readers said “but don’t you have a grater attachment for your food processor?” I DO NOT AND NOW I AM SAD. I had to grate them the old-fashioned way, with a box grater. Just like Ma Ingalls. Or Dorothy, for that matter.

I didn’t have either raisins or nuts on hand, because I made this on the spur of the moment one morning when I needed an activity for the kids. I threw in some sweetened dried cranberries at the last minute.

The results

The whole house smelled great while these were in the oven, so bonus! I love it when the big kids come home from school and ask “what smells so good?” as soon as they walk in the front door. They puffed up better than I expected for such a heavy batter and were a pleasing colour with flecks of bright orange and deep red.

They tasted… pretty good. Not a favourite, but they were nice and moist. I’m not sure why the orange rind is in here; it’s overpowering, I thought. My 5 year old agreed with me; he’s a baked-goods junkie and he loves muffins, but he didn’t even finish his first one. Although the rest of the test subjects professed to like them, after a week I ended up throwing away half a dozen uneaten.

Overall, I’d say these are not good enough as they are to make this recipe worth the effort. With some tweaking, I think they could probably be really tasty. If anyone tries, please leave your suggestions / modifications in the comments!

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Pioneer

No, I’m not dead. Yes, I’m back. I could list all the reasons why I haven’t updated in a couple of weeks, or I could just say that life happened, and life didn’t involve muffins. I’m going to do my level best to keep up with the schedule from here on in. I feel like I’ve let Dorothy down by slacking off. I don’t get the sense, from what I know of her, that she would ever have said she was too busy (or tired, or bored, or full of existential angst) for baking.

Anyway, I’m back on the horse. Here we go!

The recipe

Beat in large bowl

3 eggs

Add to eggs and mix well

1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups natural bran

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup applesauce OR mashed banana OR pureed fruit (Note: I used mashed bananas)

1 1/2 cups liquid – water OR milk OR apple juice (Note: I used milk)

Mix in medium bowl

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. powdered milk

Add dry ingredients all at once to wet ingredients, and mix well

Option # 1: Stir in 1/2 cup raisins (I didn’t because raisins, no thanks)

Option # 2: Add 2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 cup walnuts (Dorothy suggests this option only if you use applesauce for your fruit)

Bake at 375F for 20 – 25 minutes. Makes 23 muffins using 1/4 cup batter per muffin.

The process

Grating the carrots was as usual a messy icky task, but overall this was a pretty easy recipe thanks to my stand mixer. Side note: I love my stand mixer. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before just how much I love my stand mixer. It really does take a lot of the effort out of baking.

They were baked perfectly at the 20 minute mark, so check them – as always, your oven’s actual temperature will make a difference to the final cook time.

The result

They smelled SO GOOD while baking. My 7 year old insisted on taking several deep sniffs before bed. They rose just enough and are a pleasing molasses colour.

The first bite was almost disappointing, because my first thought was “oh damn, these are bland, AGAIN” but then I took another bite and before I knew it, the muffin was gone. The mouth feel is actually quite good, and I was surprised, because between the bran, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ, I figured these would be kind of grainy – but the texture is lighter than I expected.

I think the kids are going to enjoy these, and they are very healthy so hey kids! You’ll be having muffins in your lunch all week. Enjoy!

Next week

Another version of Carrot Pineapple. You’ll need a cup of finely-grated carrot and a cup of drained crushed pineapple.

Apricot Oatmeal

Well, I’m a day late and a dollar short this week. I managed to get the muffins baked last night, but then my 15 month old woke up screaming, his sleep totally disrupted thanks to a rotten early-spring cold, and by the time I got him settled again it was late.

So!

I also cheated on this recipe and thus probably totally missed the point. Dried apricots are kind of pricey if you buy them at the grocery store, and I kept forgetting to go to the Bulk Barn for the tiny quantity I needed. Take my review with a grain of salt.

The recipe

Mix together in large bowl

1 1/4 cups rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup white sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Blend in small bowl

2/3 cup milk

1 4.5oz jar of apricot puree (Baby food. All the ones I could find had sugar added.)

1 egg

1/4 cup oil

1 tsp. vanilla

Add wet to dry

Fold in

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup raisins (I just used all raisins, although I did use golden raisins, which I have to say I prefer.)

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes. Makes – and I couldn’t make this stuff up – 13 and a half muffins.

The process

Super-easy because I cheated and didn’t chop a half-cup of apricots, ha ha. Although someone told me that putting a little oil or non-stick spray on your knife before chopping dried fruit will make the whole process a little faster.

Also, I completely forgot the milk and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have batter so much as I had crumble. I threw the milk in at the last minute and it was fine.

The result

These are quite a pretty colour, thanks to the golden raisins and the apricot puree. The texture is really pleasant; it just has a good mouth-feel. So it’s disappointing that the actual taste is unremarkable. Like many of the recipes in this book, they are very bland. I think maybe palates just used to be less adventurous, and so some dried fruit plus a little vanilla was plenty.

I would try these again, but they’d need some seasoning help. If any of you decide to give them a try, please leave your changes or recommendations in the comments.

Next week

Carrot Nut (mmm…). You’ll need a cup of chopped walnuts and a cup of grated carrot OR a cup of peeled fresh cherries OR a cup of dried cherries.

Dorothy, with the variations! Holy smokes. For the record, I’ll be making carrot-walnut. I love carrot muffins.

 

 

Whole Wheat

This is the last simple recipe for a while, looking ahead; some of the upcoming recipes have long ingredient lists or time-consuming prep. So enjoy this easy one! After this, it starts getting more complicated.

The recipe

Beat together

1 egg, well beaten

1 scant cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

Add and mix in until blended

1 cup sour cream

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 scant tsp. baking soda

Dorothy neglected to note baking time or temperature. I went with 375F for 15 minutes and they were perfect. 

Makes nine muffins, for some reason. NINE. I find this weird.

The process

So easy. Easy like the classic Basic Muffins from week one. Chuck all ingredients into a small bowl, mix, done. No stand mixer or fiddling around required.

I used dark brown sugar because I forgot to buy light brown sugar on the weekend.

I also didn’t use quite a full cup of sour cream because someone had dipped into the container I bought. It was probably me. It was that kind of weekend.

Once all your ingredients are mixed, let the batter rest for a couple of minutes until air bubbles form. You’ll know it’s rested for long enough when the batter has a dry, foamy consistency.

I used 1/4 cup of batter per muffin, which again, made nine muffins. I’m guessing you could easily double or triple this recipe though.

The result

These muffins look more muffin-ish than any other batch I’ve made. They rose beautifully and have a very pleasing golden brown colour. They smell fantastic – faintly nutty – and overall yield a great result for minimal effort.

Texture-wise they are quite light; if you like a denser, heavier muffin these will not be for you. They are a touch bland, although you could easily fix that by adding spices of your choice, or fruit – I’m imagining these with double the vanilla and some blueberries, and getting pretty excited.

They are not too sweet, not too heavy – just a nice, simple whole wheat muffin that clearly would lend itself well to modifications. They take no time at all to put together and bake, and are a great addition to my go-to easy recipe repertoire.

Next week

Apricot Oatmeal. Ingredients to buy:

  • 4.5 oz jar apricot puree (Dorothy says “jar of apricot baby food”. I haven’t got a clue if one can buy a jar of plain pureed apricot baby food these days; guess I’ll find out).
  • 1/2 chopped dried apricots
  • 1/3 cup raisins

 

Date Sonja

Today I baked first thing in the morning, which proved to be a smart decision; as the day progressed I started feeling more and more unwell, and suddenly while I was making supper my 13 month old wandered into the kitchen, asked to be picked up, and promptly vomited all over his father, the floor, the dishwasher, and the fridge.

Two of us are now sick and I suspect the other two kids might be brewing something. My middle son is moodier than usual and my eldest has been yawning since dinnertime.

At  least tomorrow if we’re convalescing we’ll have nice, non-contentious muffins to eat.

The recipe

Simmer over medium heat until thick (this is your date filling)

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

***

Beat in large bowl until smooth

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. melted shortening

1 cup date filling

Add and stir to blend

1 1/2 cups bran

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

Add and stir until well-blended

1 cup sour milk or buttermilk

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and let stand for three minutes.

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

The process

This was by far the most complicated recipe yet. Chop the dates. Make the date filling. Sour the milk. Melt the shortening. It just seemed like an almighty fuss and bother for muffins, which are meant to be easy.

By the time I was done I had dirtied a lot of dishes, and the batter was runny and unappetizing. Also – did I mention – I hate dates?

The kids, however, asked to taste the dates and then promptly ate a couple handfuls each. Weirdos.

I was terribly afraid that a solid half-hour of effort was going to result in nasty, date-tasting muffins.

The result

You can’t even taste the dates, nor do you find pieces of them in the muffins. What you end up with is just a plain bran muffin – one with extra fibre, certainly, but a bran muffin just the same. Dorothy has given us easier bran muffins already, and so I very much doubt I will make this one again. It’s just not good enough to make it worth the extra effort.

Next week

Another date & bran muffin, although with a much easier method and fewer ingredients.

Blender Apple

Happy New Year!

Yes, this post is several days late. Both Michael and I were off work over Christmas and without all the extra-curricular activities and responsibilities of our normal, day-to-day lives, I promptly became a relaxed sloth who read several trashy novels and completely lost track of what day of the week it was.

It was nice.

But! Yesterday the dayhome reopened and I suddenly realized that I had not made muffins – my go-to snack solution for the kiddos. I spent half an hour painstakingly removing seeds from enough (discount) grapes to feed six kids – because today’s modern children are unfamiliar with the concept of fruit having seeds – and swearing that the minute they went to bed, I would get back on the muffin train.

The recipe

Sift in medium bowl

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix in blender

2/3 cup milk

1 egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 medium red apples, cored, unpeeled

1/4 cup nuts

Add wet to dry. Sprinkle unbaked muffins with cinnamon-sugar.

375F, 30 minutes. Makes 14 muffins.

The process

Because I got caught with my pants down this week, the whole process was frustrating. I had to turn the whole wheat flour canister upside down and shake it to get the full half-cup. I kept getting the 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon measures mixed up (and I’m still not sure I didn’t put in double the baking soda by mistake). I had to send Michael to the store to buy milk. The only nuts I had available to use were peanuts.

I was very skeptical about the whole-apples-in-the-blender situation. I don’t have an apple corer, so I cut my apples in quarters, crossed my fingers, and threw them into the blender on the “mix” setting, which is one of the higher speeds. This part worked great – within a minute the apples and peelings were completely pulverized, the peanuts likewise, and the wet ingredients had pretty red flecks from the peelings. Clever! I like it!

Aside: This feels very much like the kind of recipe that comes with the instruction manual for a new appliance. Can’t you see the ad copy now? The Housewife’s Deluxe Super EZ Blender! Not just for drinks anymore!

I completely forgot the cinnamon-sugar, although given that these are meant to be healthy snacks for young children that’s probably not a bad thing.

Dorothy’s recipe said this makes 11 muffins, which is just wrong – I had enough batter to make 14 large muffins and one smallish one, and if I’d filled the muffin cups halfway instead of three-quarters I’d have had 16, easily.

All in all by the time these were in the oven I had very little faith that these would work out.

The result

These muffins rose a ridiculous amount, thus fueling my conviction that I put in too much baking soda. Other possibility: I saw on some cooking show over the break that recipes with baking soda / baking powder need to rest for a few minutes after mixing, to give them time to form the air bubbles that help the batter to rise. Because I couldn’t find the right size muffin cups at first, this batter did rest and maybe that’s why they rose so much. No idea, although I am going to try that trick again to see if it works.

Thirty minutes was way too long; at the 15 minute mark they were already risen and starting to develop a crust. At 20 minutes they were basically done; I left them in for a couple of minutes more to let them brown up a little. Bottom line – watch these carefully.

When finished, they tasted just fine, if a trifle bland. I like the blender method; you get the fruit & fibre content of whole apples without any chunks or tedious chopping. That’s pretty slick.

Turns out I just do not like the taste of peanuts in muffins. To me, it was too overpowering.

Michael liked these just fine, and the texture is nice. I think I’d make them again, leaving out the nuts but maybe adding another small apple, and bumping up the seasoning all around – more cinnamon would be nice, and maybe a touch of vanilla.

Next week: Chunky Apple

Ingredients you may not have on hand: 1 tbsp. cream, 1/2 cup raisins

Christmas Morning Cranberry

A very Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all!

Christmas for me is really an excuse to cook and eat things I normally wouldn’t. Preparing food for my family and friends is my love language; if I enjoy your company, chances are I will find a reason to feed you something I’ve made. Our Christmas tradition is to have the big turkey dinner on Christmas Eve night, with good friends as our guests.

On Christmas Day I don’t cook. My husband cooks a big breakfast for everyone after the presents are opened; we have a vegetable tray, lots of savoury treats, cheese, crackers… we graze all day long and generally have turkey sandwiches for supper.

This year, we’ll also have these delicious muffins! I hope they become a part of your family’s celebrations, too.

The recipe

Coarsely chop

1 cup cranberries (not dried – I used fresh, although frozen would probably work too, as long as you thawed & drained them first)

Sprinkle the chopped cranberries with 1/4 cup white sugar and set aside.

Sift together in a large bowl:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. allspice

In a small bowl, combine

1 beaten egg

1/4 tsp. grated orange peel

3/4 cup orange juice

1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet all at once. Stir gently to moisten.

Once your batter is blended, fold in the cranberries and 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (I used walnuts).

375F for 15 – 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

The process

Probably the most painstaking part of this recipe is chopping the cranberries. They have a terrible tendency to leap out from under the knife blade and roll all over the kitchen floor. I found myself wishing for a Slap-Chop or something. Make sure that you chop them as fine as you’d like them to be in the finished product, because they do not break down during the baking process.

Otherwise it’s very straightforward, and it makes the COOLEST batter ever. It is a yellowish-creamy colour, studded with the bright red cranberries. It’s foamy and puffy, and when you scoop it into the muffin tin it holds its shape. You do need to stir with a light hand, though. You can see the air bubbles which I assume are formed by a reaction between the baking powder and the citric acid in the orange juice, and if you stir too vigorously you’ll pop the air bubbles, resulting in flat muffins. So go a little gently with this one.

At fifteen minutes these were not done, so I popped them in for another five and they were perfectly baked with golden brown edges on the tops.

The result

My two older kids wouldn’t even try them, after tasting the batter and finding the fresh cranberries too tart. The baby, on the other hand, has eaten two already today and loved them, so it will really depend on your kids’ palates.

Michael and I really like them. The muffin itself is faintly sweet, and the cinnamon / allspice combo comes through well. The bits of cranberry are tart kick but very fresh.

It’s hard to describe the taste, but it is certainly very Christmassy, and a plate of these on your festive table would look fantastic.

From my family to yours, all of our best wishes for a safe and happy holiday with the ones you love.