Toffee Chocolate Chip Muffins

Toffee Chocolate chip muffins

One of our favorite bakeries makes a Toffee muffin that we really like.  It don’t get over there on a regular basis, so I had to come up with a recipe to make them myself.  Since they did not have enough chocolate in them to suit me, I “tweaked” it just a bit to add a little more chocolate flavor.  Hope you like them.

3 cups flour

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

6 tablespoons melted butter

2 tsp. vanilla

1 bag of Toffee bits

1 1/2 cup chocolate chips (you can use the mini chips or regular)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Fill muffin pans with liners.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Beat eggs with milk, sour cream, vanilla and butter.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just moistened.  Do not overmix, this will cause your muffins to be tough. Mix in toffee bits and chocolate chips.  At this point you can add chopped pecans if you want.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.  Spoon into muffin cups.  I use an ice cream scoop, it puts just the right amount into each cup.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  They will be a golden brown.  Do not overcook, this will produce a dry muffin.  If in doubt, insert a toothpick into one of the muffins and if it comes out clean, they are done.  Cool on rack.  Makes about 16 good-sized muffins.

Queso Blanco

Queso Blanco

Many make Queso with the “cheese food product” that can sit on the shelf through the ages, but I like real food and knew that there had to be a way to make “real” Queso with real cheese.  Tried all kinds of cheeses but wasn’t having much luck.  The dip would end out stringy or a great big lump of rubbery cheese.  I knew that Mexican restaurants had been making Queso for a long time and not all of them were using the stuff you get in a jar or the “cheese food product”, so started asking around, got several recipes and then “tweaked” it to make it the way I liked it.  Here is the final product.  Hope you like it.

1 cup of asadero cheese or chihuahua cheese, shredded fine – Some of the recipes used Monterey Jack and added 2 tablespoons of cream cheese to the recipe, but it was not as flavorful as using the Mexican cheeses.  In a pinch, if you cannot find the Mexican cheeses, you can use that option.

4 ounces green chilies, chopped

1/4 cup half and half

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped fine

Put all the ingredients into a double boiler and heat on medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted and well blended.  Keep warm and serve with chips or tortillas.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots

Roasted brussel sprouts

I grew up hating Brussels sprouts.  They were slimy.  They tasted bitter.  They were soft and squishy.  I would feed them to the dog under the table whenever I had to eat them.  I carried that distaste for Brussels sprouts into my adulthood, never thinking that it might have been the way they were prepared that caused my dislike.  But Tommy loves Brussels sprouts, so I decided I had to find a recipe that I could make and eat without gagging. I had seen them roasted on the cooking shows, but I wanted some additional flavor to cover up the horrible taste of these vegetables.  What better flavor than bacon.  So I found a recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts and followed it.  It was a complete disaster.  It told me to cut the bacon in lardons and sprinkle over the top of the sprouts and roast at 400 degrees until the sprouts were roasted and the bacon crispy.  Well, the bacon was crispy but the sprouts were seriously overcooked.  It tasted okay, but it was not acceptable to me to serve my family something that looked so overcooked.  So of course, I had to play with the recipe.  Here is what I came up with.

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoon butter

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Salt and pepper

4 slices of bacon, diced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and trim the sprouts, removing the outer leaves and trimming the bottoms.  Slice in half.  In a skillet, melt the butter and saute the garlic in the butter till tender.  Remove garlic slices and pour garlic butter over the sprouts.  Pour sprouts onto a baking sheet.  In the skillet fry the bacon until almost crispy, the bacon will finish cooking in the oven so you do not want to completely cook it.  With a slotted spoon remove the bacon and sprinkle over the sprouts.  Sprinkle the shallot slices over the top of the bacon and sprouts.  Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to turn.  This serves about 4 people.

Ham Cheddar and Green Onion Muffins

hamgreenonionand cheddar

I wanted a savory muffin for breakfast and since I love my bacon, chives and cheddar scones, I thought that ham could replace the bacon, and green onion replace the chives.  This is the outcome.  I think they turned out pretty good.  They passed the taste test with my family.

 

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tsp. salt

pepper (I just sprinkled a good amount on the batter)

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1/4 cup oil

1 cup ham, diced

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used  white sharp cheddar)

3/4 cup sliced green onion, white and green parts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place 12 muffin cups into the muffin pan.  Mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  Sift to make sure all the lumps are out.  In a bowl whisk egg, milk, sour cream and oil.  Mix well.  Pour over the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in the ham, cheese and green onion. Spoon into muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes.  Allow to cool on rack.

 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

chocolate chocolate chip muffins2

I love muffins. They are the ready to go breakfast that you can just grab and head out in the morning.  I like them to be moist and full of flavor but not overly sweet.  I had tried a lot of chocolate chocolate chip muffins and they tasted more like cupcakes to me.  I wanted to find a recipe that was not too sweet and just couldn’t seem to find the right one, so I started playing with the recipes I found till I came up with the right combination.  So if you like chocolate and moist muffins that are not too sweet, I think you will like the final combination I came up with.  I warn you, these are not “skinny” muffins.  I just won’t sacrifice flavor, I think you should enjoy your food.  If you are worried about calories, just practice moderation.  So here they are……

1 1/2 cup flour

3 tablespoon cocoa

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/3 cup cooking oil

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Put muffin pan with 9 muffin papers (I like the tulip papers)  Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda and sift gently to break up all the lumps.  In a mixing bowl whisk oil, egg, milk, vanilla, and sour cream until well combined.  Pour the egg mixture into the dry mixture and mix – be careful not to over mix, this makes the muffins tough.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spoon into the muffin papers.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Tops will no longer be wet and a toothpick inserted will come out clean.  These are easy to over bake since they are chocolate so do not leave them in longer than 20 minutes.   Transfer to a baking rack and allow to cool.  Enjoy

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Praline Sauce

pumpkin bread pudding with praline sauce

I was looking for a Thanksgiving themed dessert for our office Thanksgiving lunch.  Every year I make a pumpkin cheesecake which is very time consuming, and this year I was also making the turkey, so I needed something quick, easy and tasty.  I found quite a few Pumpkin bread pudding recipes.  They were all pretty much the same and had the same ingredients, so I picked one of them and followed the recipe with just two tweaks.  I used my favorite bread for bread pudding, brioche, and I added some bourbon to the praline sauce.  When I mixed it together I was already worried about the egg milk mixture to bread ratio, but since all the recipes had the same ratio, I thought it had to be right.  I was disappointed in the final product.  It was way too dry.  I really should have listened to my instincts.  I like my bread pudding to be moist and this was not.  The only thing that saved it was the sauce and I put plenty of that on it.  So I have gone back and tweaked the recipe to increase the egg milk mixture so that it would come out more “pudding” like.  Here is the final recipe.  I think you will like it.

 

1 (1 lb.) loaf of Brioche bread

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup half and half

1 15 ounce can of pumpkin

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons melted butter

6 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking with cooking spray.  Cut bread into cubes and put into the dish.  In a large bowl, whisk together the cream, half and half, pumpkin, sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.  Slowly pour the egg mixture over the bread pieces in the baking dish.  Make sure that all the bread pieces are covered with the egg mixture, push them down into the egg mixture if needed.  Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, do not let it get too dark.

For the Praline sauce you need:

1 cup butter

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup bourbon

3/4 cup chopped pecans

In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat , stir together the butter, cream and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and stir in pecans,  Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.  Add bourbon and stir well.  Pour sauce over bread pudding when serving.  Serves about 12-14 people.

 

Jellied Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce

I am not a big fan of that stuff in a can that they call cranberry sauce.  I admit it, I’m a food snob.    I prefer the cranberry sauce with the whole berries, but my kids love it smooth.  So had to make my own version.  This can be canned and brought out whenever you need it.  If you are like my family, we don’t just eat cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving.  If you do can it, make sure your use the straight, wide-mouthed jar so you can slide it out and slice it if that is what you are used to.  It is very easy to make your own sauce.  There are not a lot of ingredients and it is well worth doing yourself.

4 bags of fresh cranberries (12 ounce bags)

4 cups sugar

1 cup orange juice

3 cups water

2 tsp. orange zest (optional – but it really makes it pop)

Combine the sugar, juice and water in a big stockpot over high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Add the washed cranberries and return to a boil.  Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and boil gently for about 10 minutes.  The cranberries will start to pop open.  Pour into a food mill and process or if you do not have a food mill, pour into a fine mesh sieve and press with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the sieve as you go.  You will end up with a paste like mixture.  The sieve strains out all the seeds and skins of the cranberries.  Pour into sterile canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space.  Wipe the rims and place hot lids on the top and screw the rings onto the jars.  Place in water bath canner and process for about 15 minutes.  Remove the lid, turn off the heat and allow the jars to sit in the canner for 5 minutes.  Transfer jars to a rack and allow to cool overnight.  Wipe off the jars and label.  Stores for up to 1 year.  Or if you don’t want to can it, just pour into a container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.  This makes about 4 1/2 cups of cranberry sauce.  For those who do want to can and store, I have doubled this recipe and it does fine.