Quick Cinnamon Swirl Bread

This quick bread is perfect when you don't have time (or simply can't wait) for cinnamon rolls. Tom said it best when he told me, "Mom, you should make this more often."

2 cups flour (I like half whole wheat and half white)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk*
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tsp milk

*You can fake the buttermilk by mixing 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar and allowing the milk to "sour" for 5 minutes.

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Whisk butter and egg then buttermilk together; stir into dry ingredients just until combined. (Over mixing will result in a rubbery bread.) In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

2. Grease the bottom only of a 8"x4" loaf pan. Pour 1/3 of the batter into pan; sprinkle with almost half the cinnamon-sugar. Spoon another 1/3 of the batter and sprinkle with almost all the remaining cinnamon-sugar. Spoon last 1/3 of the batter, sprinkle with the last couple teaspoons of cinnamon-sugar; cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

3. Bake 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Combine powdered sugar and enough milk to reach desired consistency; drizzle over loaf and enjoy!


Healthier Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef (lean)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 clove garlic, diced)
3 tablespoons Worchestshire sauce
Salt to taste
12 oz. pasta

1. In a large pan, sauté onions in olive oil until tender. Add ground beef and brown.
2. In a sauce pan bring water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions. 
3. Add chopped cauliflower to onions and beef and sauté for a few minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes, or until broth has thickened. 
4. Remove from heat. Add Worchestshire sauce and yogurt. Stir. Add salt as needed. 
5. Serve on top of prepared pasta. 


Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Is there anything better than a mug of hot cocoa after playing in the snow on a chilly day? Not really. And now you can make your own mix! I usually whisk up two batches of this per winter for our family. So easy and no funny ingredients. 

2 1/2 cups powdered milk*
2 cups bakers cocoa
2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 tsp kosher salt (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

* I've found that the very fine powdered milk like Argason Farms (sold in a #10 can at Walmart) works better than the granulated powdered milk.

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 5 1/2 cups of dry mix.

Mix 3-4 tablespoons hot cocoa mix with a cup of boiling water. Stir very well and enjoy! Cool with a little milk or half + half if desired.


Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

ala Great Harvest... large, flat, chewy, buttery, addicting, etc.

2 to 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp molasses or honey
1 Tbsp milk
2 cups rolled oats
1 (12 ounce) pkg semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a medium sized bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until well combined. Add eggs, vanilla, molasses, and milk and beat well. Add oats and mix until just incorporated. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop dough and drop about 3 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

4. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until just starting to brown around the edges. Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheets then remove and cool on racks.


Autumn Harvest Apple Pie

5-6 crisp cooking apples, cored, peeled and sliced 1/2" thick or so
Juice from half of a lemon (1Tbsp-ish)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cornstarch (optional - for a less runny pie)

Mark Bittman's Flaky Pie Crust
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold unsalted butter cut into 16 pieces
3 Tbsp ice water

1. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare pie filling by tossing apple sclices in lemon juice, sugar, spices and cornstarch if desired, and set aside. OR if you prefer a par cooked filling: place apples in a saucepan, squeeze lemon juice over the top and stir to coat. Heat over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes until apples begin to soften. Add sugar, spices and cornstarch if desired, bring to a bubble for a couple minutes, and remove from heat.

2. Prepare pie crust by whisking flour, salt, and sugar together in a bowl. Add butter and quickly work it in by rubbing it between your fingers until mixture resembles a course meal. Add ice water and mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball. Form into 2 flattened balls, wrap individually in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate or at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).

3. Sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, put one ball of dough on it, and sprinkle the top with flour and roll out. Drape over pie plate and fill with apples. Roll out the second ball of dough for top crust.. Drape over pie, trim excess dough, and crimp edges with a fork or your fingers. Using a sharp paring knife cut several slits in the top to vent the seam (a star pattern is quite nice).

4. Bake 50-60 minutes or until the pie is golden brown. (It's not a bad idea to place a cookie sheet on the rack below in case any filling bubbles over.) Do not underbake. Cool on wire rack before serving warm or at room temperature.


Buttermilk Spice Cake

The perfect autumn cake and one of the reasons I love this season. (Happy birthday to me!)

1 3/4 cups cake flour
4 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temp
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups loosely packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp all spice
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened but still cool, cut into 12 pieces
1 recipe maple frosting (below) OR your favorite frosting

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350º. Generously grease two 8- or 9-inch round pans and line with parchment or wax paper circles. Grease paper circles and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork in a bowl and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt ans spices in the bowl of a mixer and beat for 30 seconds to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, add the butter one piece at a time; mix until the butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly with some pieces the size of peas after all the butter is added.

3. With the mixer still at the lowest speed, add approximately one cup of the egg mixture then increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the remaining egg mixture in a slow, steady stream. Stop mixer, scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl. Beat again a medium high until thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds.

4. Divide batter equally between two pans; spread to the side of the pans and smooth with a rubber spatula. Bake until cake tops are light gold and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 22-25 minutes (add ~5 minutes for 8-inch rounds). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen. Invert cakes on to a large plate, peel of the paper and reinvert to cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.

Maple Frosting
1/3 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch salt
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp maple extract

Beat butter in a small bowl until light a fluffy. Add 1 cup powdered sugar, salt, maple extract and 1 Tbsp milk. Mix slowly as the sugar incorporates then faster as is becomes smooth. Add remaining sugar and milk and repeat mixing. Beat until smooth and creamy. Add more sugar or more milk to achieve desired consistency (but no more than 1/4 sugar or 1 tsp milk).


Pickled Jalepeños w/ Onions and Carrots (Escabeche)

While these jars may not be as showy as the jewel-like peach jam, they are packed full of flavor and my favorite way to preserve jalepeños, not to mention carrots! Superb on tacos or as a garnish for mole.

1 lb (10-12 good sized) jalepeños
3 regular sweet onions (or 2 large)
4 medium carrots
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
4 cups vinegar (apple cider or white)
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp sugar

1. Prepare 5 pint jars, lids, and rims and a hot water bath for canning.

2. Remove stems from jalepeños, quarter and clean out seeds. (Wearing rubber gloves for this is very helpful.) Peel garlic and cut in half. Slice onions and carrots into thick slices.

3. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add jalepeños, onions, and carrots and sauté for 7 minutes. Add oregano and sauté an additional three minutes.

4. Add the vinegar, salt, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the jalepeños are cooked through (a dull olive green - no longer vibrant green).

5. Fill 4 - 5 pint jars with jalepeños and veggies. Pour vinegar mixture from the skillet equally into jars and seal. Process in the hot water bath fro 10 minutes.

Keep sealed jars on pantry shelf for up to one year. Once opened, keep refrigerated for up to 2 months.


Peach Jam w/ Variations

I am updating this from the 2012 post because I have achieved much better results using the regular pectin. I know it's more sugar, but it just sets up better. Also, I have perfected a couple of the variations below.

8 cups peeled and finely chopped ripe peaches (~12 good-sized peaches, Lemon Elberta peel the easiest)
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 boxes Sure-Jell pectin*
11 cups sugar (measured into a separate bowl)

- - Makes about 14 half-pints

1. Prepare canning jars and hot water bath / canning pot first. Blanch peaches by submerging each peach in a large pot of boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds; remove with a slotted spoon and submerge in an ice water bath. Remove skins and pits, and finely chop.

2. Pour peaches into a large, heavy bottom stock pot. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and stir until combined, then pectin and stir until combined.

4. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Bring to a full boil that cannot be stirred down (bubbles still rise while stirring well). Add remaining sugar quickly, bring to a full boil again and boil for one minute. Remove from heat.

5. Ladle preserves into hot, sterilized jars (a wide-mouthed canning funnel is oh, so helpful) and seal, allowing for 1/4-inch head space between the preserves and the rims of the jars. Use proper canning procedures if you would like to store jars outside of the fridge. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (half-pints).

• Bombay: add 4 tsp Garam Masala before the pectin
• Jalepeño: add 4 roasted, peeled, cored, diced jalepeños
• Ginger Lime: add 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger + substitute lime juice for lemon juice

* The directions in the Sure-Jell pectin box really emphasize measuring fruit and sugar exactly and timing the post-sugar one minute boil exactly for best results.


Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches

Freezer sandwiches that are surprisingly delicious!

Recipe makes 6 sandwiches, but I've found I can squeeze 12 sandwiches out of the recipe with ease.

10 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
6 slices Canadian bacon (optional)
6 slices cheese
6 English muffins

Heat the oven to 375°F

Whisk the eggs together with the milk and salt in a large mixing bowl. Film a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray, and pour the eggs into the pan. Place on the lower rack in the oven. Bake until the eggs are puffed around the edges with golden spots, and a paring knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely.

When the eggs are finished, place the English muffins cut-side-up on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for just a few minutes, until the edges are toasted. If desired, you can brush the muffins with butter before toasting.

Use a spatula to lift the eggs out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Using a large biscuit cutter or drinking glass (roughly the same size as your English muffins), cut 6 rounds out of the eggs.  I’ve found that I can get 8-10 rounds, so I can easily make 12 sandwiches using the scraps.

Top each muffin with an egg round, a slice of cheese, and bacon (if using). Finish by adding the muffin tops.

Wrap the sandwiches for freezing: Wrap each sandwich in a square of aluminum foil. Use a permanent marker to write the contents and date on the sandwich. Put all the sandwiches in a freezer bag or container. Freeze for up to 1 month.

Reheating instructions: Unwrap the frozen sandwich and place on a microwave-safe plate lined with a paper towel. (The towel helps absorb some of the melting ice so the bread doesn't get soggy.) Heat at full power for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the egg is warmed through. 

modified from this recipe


Layered Mint Chocolate Brownies

Remember when Brooke and Karin were dating in high school and Karin made these brownies for Brooke and dropped them of at our house before Brooke got home... and we ate them... ALL (and Brooke was furious)? Me too.

Brownie Layer
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla

Mint Frosting Layer
1/2 cup butter, room temp
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/8 - 1/4 tsp peppermint extract (you can always add more if you would like)
1 drop green food coloring (optional)

Chocolate layer
1 heaping cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
5 Tbsp unsalted butter

Brownies: Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 (glass) pan or line with parchment. Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl, set aside. Beat butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat at hight speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the cocoa powder; beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs and beat until combined. Add flour mixture and blend until a thick, smooth batter forms. Spread into greased pan pan and bake 28 - 30 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and after 5 minutes loosen edges with a butter knife; this helps prevent brownies from sinking in the center as they cool. Let brownies cool completely.

Frosting: In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add half of powdered sugar and  half the milk; beat for 2 minutes on low speed, then increase to high speed and beat for 1 additional minute. Repeat with remaining powdered sugar and milk. Add the peppermint extract and food coloring (if using) and beat on high for 1 full minute. Taste and add a drop or two more peppermint extract if desired. Frost cooled brownies and refrigerate for an hour. This allows the frosting to firm up, which makes spreading the chocolate layer easy.

Chocolate: Melt the butter and chocolate chips in a medium microwave safe bowl for approximately 2 minutes, stirring after each 20 second increment. Once melted and smooth, pour over mint layer and gently spread with the back of a large spoon. Place the brownies back in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

Cut quickly with a sharp knife while cold. These are decadent little brownies so small squares are just right.


Yellow Curried Lentils (slow cooker style)

This is an adapted recipe from The Indian Slow Cooker, a cook book that I would highly recommend. These recipes couldn't be easier or more satisfying since you get so much more than you put in. Having the right spices is a must, as in all Indian food.

2 cups lentils (I prefer red for their color)
1 onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium potatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 Tbsp salt
6 cups water
1 can coconut milk or 1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt

1. Sort and rinse the lentils. Put lentils, vegetables, oil, spices, salt, and water in a slow cooker.
2. Cook on low for 4 hours then on high for one last hour (lentils should be completely broken down). Turn slow cooker off.
3. Stir in the coconut milk or yogurt. Let the curry sit for at least 20 minutes to an hour allowing the flavors meld.
4. Serve over basmati rice or brown rice.

Feel free to add fresh or frozen peas before you stir in the coconut milk or yogurt for an extra veggie.


Honey Whole Wheat Bread

"Nothing is more certain than bread." - Dostoevsky

Use a heavy-duty mixer like a Bosch or Kitchen Aid to make this 4-loaf batch. See the Whole Wheat Bread By Hand recipe if you don't have a serious mixer (it's still worth it).

Four Loaf Batch
7 cups warm water (about 110º)
1/4 cup instant yeast (SAF or RedStar)
1/2 cup honey
3 Tbsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
- - - - - - - - - -
12 cups whole wheat flour (or a mix of whole wheat and white)

1. In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, combine the water, yeast, honey, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Stir until incorporated then let the sponge proof 5-7 minutes or until frothy-bubbly.

2. Add 6 cups flour and and mix until almost incorporated. NOTE: To keep the flour from flying out of the mixing bowl, use the lid OR turn your mixer on and off quickly at first to get quick, short rotations.

3. With the mixer on slow speed, slowly add another 6 cups of flour (and possibly more), one at a time until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Mix/knead for 5-7 minutes to make a moist, thick, soft, elastic, and rather sticky dough. NOTE: mix/knead for an additional minute or two if using part white flour.

4. Remove the dough hook, scraping off the clinging dough, and cover bowl with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 20 - 40 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 375º. Liberally grease four 8.5" x 4" loaf pans. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into four equal pieces with a bench knife or large knife. Gently knead about ten times and shape dough into loaf shapes and place in pans. NOTE: For a more rustic look, gently rub the tops of the loaves with flour before putting them in the pans. Let loaves rise until almost doubled in volume, about 15-30 minutes, or until the sides of the loaf are 1/4" from the rim of the pan.

6. Score the tops on an angle with a sharp serrated knife. NOTE: To avoid deflating the risen loaves, use a fairly quick motion when doing this. Bake for 38-40 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to a wire rack to cool. Cool completely (about 3 hours) before wrapping in plastic bags.

You can add sunflower, flax, millet and a variety of other seeds, raisins, cinnamon, cinnamon chips, dried fruit, nuts, cheese, etc. to make different kinds of bread. For an entire batch, add these ingredients at the end of step three.
Or for one or two loaves, add these ingredients during the second kneading (by hand). You can also do a mix of whole wheat and white flours to make a light wheat or white batch.

Jo's Faux Buttermilk Pancakes

Our family's new fave. Thanks Jo!

3 cups milk
1/4 cup white vinegar

3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt

1/2 cup melted butter
4 eggs

1. Combine milk and vinegar in a medium bowl let sit for 5 minutes to sour.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Combine melted butter and eggs then add to soured milk.
4. Combine wet with dry ingredients until incorporated. Do not over mix (or you'll get rubbery pancakes).
5. Cook 1/4-cup-fulls over medium heat in a skillet or on the griddle.