whole wheat cranberry orange muffins

I wanted to whip up a batch of healthy muffins that we could take for breakfasts-on-the-go this week.  There were a few lovely navel oranges hanging out on the counter, and I had picked up a fresh bag of whole wheat flour from Provisions yesterday - so I wanted to make something that would use both of those.  Cranberry was an obvious choice, so I set out looking for a recipe.  I ended up cobbling together my recipe from a few online sources I found.   My muffins turned out a bit too sweet for my taste, so I've decreased the sugar in the recipe below.  

Whole Wheat Cranberry Orange Muffins

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • grated zest of one orange
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups cranberries, roughly chopped (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease a muffin tin or use paper liners.  (This recipe makes 12 muffins)

Combine all ingredients, except cranberries, in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer.  Mix just until everything comes together, then stir in the cranberries.  Bake for about 20 minutes - until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and they look lightly browned around the edges.  

zucchini loaf

It's that time of year again - zucchini is everywere in abundance!  We were given a few large zucchini by my mother-in-law, so I knew I would be making at least one zucchini loaf.  Something about zucchini loaf reminds me of school lunches...I can remember enjoying a slice of with a little bit of butter as a treat in my lunch box when I was in elementary school.  Back in those days, if it had chocolate chips it was pretty much the best ever :)  I guess I must be more of a grown-up these days, because I decided to add walnuts to this one.

This loaf has really nice flavour and good texture, but I think the next time I make it I'll try to increase the zucchini and maybe experiment with using some whole wheat flour.  I really liked the background flavour from the cinnamon and toasting the walnuts definitely brings out their nutty flavour.  I think this is a treat worth enjoying whether it's in your school lunch box or as an afternoon snack at work.

Zucchini Loaf

  • 1 cup grated zucchini (with peel)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a 9X5" loaf pan.  Toast the chopped walnuts for about 5 minutes in the preheated oven - until they become fragrant.

Stir zucchini, eggs, cooking oil, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl.  Combine the dry ingredients and walnuts together in a medium-sized bowl, then add to the zucchini mixture.  Stir just to combine then pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only moist crumbs on it.

Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before trying to remove it.

Recipe adapted from: Biscuits, Muffins & Loaves by Company's Coming

bits and bites - june 2013

Hi friends!  It's definitely been a while... I guess you could say I've been on a bit of a 'pregnancy hiatus'.  I just didn't seem to have time to do everything that I wanted to over the last few months and, unfortunately, blogging was put on the back-burner.  This week was my first week of maternity leave - I'm about 8 1/2 months pregnant, so we're almost there.  I've been working on getting the house and nursery in order and managed to find a bit of quiet time to relax on the couch with my lap top.

This was taken last month when I was in Victoria

In all honesty, I haven't been doing much in the way of cooking or baking in the last several months (due to lack of energy, ongoing nausea and severe reflux) but I did take a few pictures that I can share along with some recipes.

Sweet Potato Skins

These make great appetizers if you're having friends over for movie/sports-watching or an easy light dinner (just add a quick side-salad).  The left-overs also warmed up nicely for lunch the next day too.  Depending on how many you want to make, slice 1-2 sweet potatoes into 3/4"-1" slices and brush with olive oil on both sides.  Bake at 375 F on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet for about 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through and lightly browned).  While the sweet potatoes are baking fry up a few slices of bacon, drain it on some paper towel then cut it into small pieces.  When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven, sprinkle on some grated cheddar/mozzarella cheese and the bacon bits then put them under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese.  Serve them up with sour cream and finely sliced green onion.  Easy and yummy - I love sweet potatoes.

Pizza is a pretty common dinner in our house.  It doesn't really take that much effort, it tastes great and we're both happy eating the left-overs for a few days.  I don't think I've found *the best ever* dough recipe yet (or baking method - I really want a pizza stone!) but this one is easy and pretty tasty, so I thought I'd share it.  For the pizza in the picture I topped it with tomato sauce, fried Italian sausage, wilted spinach, toasted pine nuts, sliced green olives, provolone and a sprinkle of freshly-grated parmesan cheese - definitely a tasty combo!

Food-Processor Pizza Dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 envelope instant yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 cups room-temperature water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour (it's best with bread flour, but you can substitute all-purpose if that's all you have)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil or cooking spray for the bowl

Combine the warm water with the yeast in a measuring cup and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, until it looks foamy.  Add in the remaining water and olive oil and stir together.  Pulse the flour and salt together in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the dough blade (if you have one).  Allow the food processor to run while you slowly pour the liquid ingredients in through the feed-tube.  Continue mixing until the dough comes together into a ball.  Continue mixing for another 30 seconds, then turn the dough out onto the counter and knead a few times to form it into a smooth ball.  Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise until doubled in sized, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Press the air out of the dough, then form your pizzas & top them (I found that it's best to roll out the dough as thin as possible).  I usually bake at 450 F until the bottom looks lightly browned.

This last one is just a photo - I can't find the recipe that I used.  Trevor and I made this cake together for a family dinner.  All I remember is that it involved poaching the pears in a bottle of wine (riesling maybe?) and spices then nestling them into a very thick, pound-cake like, batter.  It looked really pretty when sliced up and had good flavour.

So what else have I been up to?  We sold our first little house and bought a new one (to make room for our expanding family), so things were a bit hectic with packing, moving and getting settled again.  We both love our new home, and I really think it suits us perfectly, but we've decided to do a bit of renovation in the kitchen.  Trev just started tearing tiles off the existing backsplash and we've picked our new stone countertops, so stay tuned for kitchen-reno posts in the future :)

Pizza dough recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated.

rhubarb muffins - a taste of spring

This recipe is adapted from the blueberry muffin recipe I tried as my first baking project here in the Netherlands (here's the first recipe and the story that went along with it)  There has been fresh rhubarb at almost every farmer's market I've been to, so I had to make something with it.  I have excellent memories of eating rhubarb as a child...my mom showed us how to cut off a stalk (nice and red, of course) then dunk it in a jar of sugar before each bite.  So good, and a thrill to be able to eat sugar so freely.

These muffins turned out wonderfully - they rose up nicely, had a lightly browned crunchy top, a moist & flavourful inside with pretty bits of tangy-sweet pink rhubarb.  So they were super tasty, and looked good too (I think I'm starting to get my oven here figured out).  Actually, come to think of it, these would make a nice addition to a Mother's Day brunch.

Rhubarb Muffins

  • 2 cups rhubarb, chopped (about 4 stalks)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Chop up the rhubarb and toss in the 1/4 cup sugar and set it aside for at least 30 minutes, to help bring the juices out of the rhubarb and sweeten it up a bit.

In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients together.  In a smaller bowl (or large measuring cup) whip the egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla together with a fork until it looks frothy.  Add the rhubarb to the dry ingredients and mix to distribute the pieces, then add the wet ingredients, and stir just until mixed.

Separate the batter into a prepared muffin pan and bake at 375 F (190 C) for about 25 minutes, or until the tops look lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.

I love stopping at the little flower market just down the street to pick up pretty bouquets

an adventure in blueberry muffins

These blueberry muffins were my first baking attempt in the Netherlands, and they really were quite an adventure.  First of all, I had to find the ingredients that I needed.  The grocery store near our house is just a little one - they have the basics, but not everything.  I made a lucky guess and picked up all-purpose flour and white sugar (there were lots of choices).  All of the flour and sugar comes in 1kg packages - really small compared to home; I'll likely be going through a lot of those.  I couldn't find baking powder or baking soda, so when I got home that day I translated them so that I would know what to look for the next time.  Eventually I found 'bakpoeder' at a larger grocery store, but I still couldn't find 'zuiveringszout' (baking soda), so I found a British import grocery store and found a box of Arm & Hammer - good enough!  Ok, so I also needed to find buttermilk, which is common here.  The problem was more that I forgot to translate it before I went to the store, so I ended up guessing.  I did manage to find buttermilk, but it wasn't just plain buttermilk - it was raspberry flavoured.  The last thing I needed was blueberries, which I also found at the store.  I should have bought two packages because one package was barely one cup, so my muffins were a little short on berries.

So finally I had all the ingredients I needed, but actually making them was just as difficult.  Our house didn't have anything in terms of baking dishes when we moved in, so I bought a cake pan, cookie sheet and muffin tin as well as a covered baking dish and wooden spoons.  I was sooo excited about all my shiny new kitchen stuff, but I forgot to buy measuring cups!  Ok, so measuring out ingredients for the muffins wasn't going to be very precise - I used a coffee cup and hoped it was close to one cup.  Next they went into the oven.  Every new oven is different and takes getting used to.  This one has a variety of settings: heat from the top & bottom, only the top, only the bottom...I picked heat from the bottom and hoped for the best.  I don't think I let the oven pre-heat quite enough, so the muffins flattened out a bit more than I had hoped - now I know for next time.  

Ok, so the verdict on these blueberry muffins?  Not too bad, considering all the struggles involved in baking them!  They actually tasted really good - they were nice and tender and the blueberry-buttermilk combo is always tasty.  I'm sure I'll be making these muffins again...I noticed some rhubarb at some of the farmer's markets last week, which would make a good substitution for the blueberries.  

Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups of fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C) and lightly grease a muffin tin or line it with paper liners.  In a bowl stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest together.  Gently stir in the blueberries and set the bowl aside.  

In another bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk and oil.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir gently, just to combine, without overmixing.  Divide the batter between the cups of the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs and the tops look lightly golden.  Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  This recipe makes 12 muffins.  

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking