Breads

Chocolate Muffins

chocolate-muffins

Ayayayay. Today has been a day. Any day where I have to unexpectedly take my twins to the doctor solo is an ‘ayayay’ day. There is just no graceful way to manage it. From bringing them into the building, to keeping them from falling off the exam table when they’re on their together (today I adopted a goalie stance), to holding one while helping the doctor pin down the other so she can look in his ears, to getting them dressed again, and finally to physically getting out the door on my way out. Yes generally people are helpful, but in the end I’m in it alone (when John is not with me). Also, my dad used to use the term ‘snot-nosed little kid.’ (in good fun, of course).  I didn’t really take that term seriously until I’ve had two with sinus infections for 4+ weeks. How does such a tiny baby make so much snot? The good news is my clothes do a really good job of wiping off their noses.

Onto more pleasant topics, my neighbor did the best thing in the world for me recently. She went to Wisconsin to visit friends, and she brought me back CHEESE CURDS. My most favorite thing in all the land. Honestly it was the best day.  So I finally got a chance to repay her, and I decided to make her these chocolate muffins. They’re no cheese curd, but they do give you a nice little kick start to your day.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (a little less if using regular)
  • 1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg, vanilla, yogurt and milk. In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix ONLY until combined (over mixing is a great way to make dry muffins). Stir in the coffee, then the chocolate chips.  Divide into 8 greased muffing tins for larger muffins, 12 for smaller. Bake for about 23 minutes.

Chocolate Banana Bread

chocolate-banana-bread
Nothing makes me think of home more than banana bread. Silly, I know, but it’s my favorite comfort food and I spent most of my life thinking my mom invented it (that and graham crackers).  When I was little, my mom and I would play board games and on special days she would give me a piece of freshly baked banana bread. That feeling of comfort and excitement has stuck with me through the years and now that I am a mom, it makes me think of all the little things our moms have done throughout our lives that have had such a lasting impact on us. My mom did a million different things every day that turned 4 little babies into 4 strong, happy, confident women.  It’s a feat that I don’t take lightly now that the challenge is upon me, and I only hope that I can live up to the same accomplishment.

And with Mother’s day approaching, it also made me reflect on her mother, my grandmother, who we lost this year at the grand old age of 97. She was a bright, fiery spirit that I admired my whole life. She was a strong, witty, outspoken and independent woman, who even in her final months very seriously claimed that ‘God must have forgotten about her.’ But nobody could have forgotten Georgia Carr; she was a woman who we all knew was special and we didn’t need her passing to remind us.

The truth is I always wanted to be as extraordinary as my grandma, but it looks like I’m not going to be. I know this because by the time she was my age, she had literally been involved in the prisoner liberation in Dachau, Germany at the end of World War II, when the concentration camps and POWs were released into the streets.  I giggle even as I type that because it’s so unbelievable – she was in her early 20s and accomplishing such big, worldly things.  She was a proud member of the Red Cross and served soldiers during WWII in Austria, Germany, and England. This was an extraordinary thing for a woman in that time, but she carried this passion and determination with her throughout her entire life.  She was the first person to swim all the way across the Detroit Lakes in Minnesota (at the age of 15). She took flying lessons because she wanted to learn to fly a plane. She graduated from college with a teaching degree in math and phy ed. Once her 5 children were born, she was a Scout leader, PTA president, UNICEF volunteer, and church leader. At her funeral, I was so touched by the clear impact she had on members of the church; her old pastor came back to give the sermon and so many women came to help with the lunch and talked about Georgia’s impact.

She also had a fun, competitive streak. As kids, we never once won a game of scrabble or checkers against her (why on earth would she let us win, she would ask my mom).  She was part of a bridge club that was far less about socializing and eating/drinking with other women, and much more about winning. My grandma had a spark, a determination about her; And as amazing as her time in the Red Cross was along with her other accomplishments of swimming, flying, and a college degree in the mid 1900s, it’s her lifelong activism that really inspires me. I feel like once she settled down, married my grandfather and had 5 kids of her own..she still managed to make an ordinary life extraordinary. Her leadership in her kids’ activities and schools, in the church, volunteering..and still finding time to have fun (sort of) with the bridge club. That’s what I find truly awe inspiring; to maintain that level of passion and activism with everything you do, quite literally from WWII to the PTA. She was one of a kind, truly. We could all be a little bit more like Georgia, and if her funeral taught me anything, it’s that I need to get moving.

So happy mother’s day to all the moms and grandmas out there. It’s a holiday that is truly deserved..and a time to feel proud of what we do and the little people that we are molding into big people – hopefully happy, content, and full of life.

And while my mom may not have invented banana bread, the fact that I thought she did for so many years really says it all. She was a supermom who made everything great; from games of Trouble to school lunches to our family dinners that I am now trying my best to replicate. The impact both my grandma and my mom had on me is clear; now fingers crossed I can do the same for my own children.

And on that note, onto the recipe. Banana bread, but with chocolate, so hopefully my boys will think I invented it.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 medium bananas
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a bread pan.  Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer. Add the egg and vanilla.  Mix together the baking powder, soda, flour, and cocoa powder in one bowl, and mash the bananas and milk in another. Add a little of the flour mixture to the butter mix, then add a little of the banana, alternating until all is incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and bake for about 45 minutes.

Banana Bread for Two

banana-bread-for-two

People warned me before I got married that I would inevitably find out traits about my husband that  I didn’t like, that I didn’t know existed. In my soon-to-be-newlywed bliss (and ignorance), I thought no way! That can’t be true!

But after we returned from our honeymoon, about 3 weeks into our marriage, my worst nightmare came true. I got up early one Saturday morning, made my coffee, and decided – I’ll make my banana bread and bring some to John in bed! He’ll love me! I’m such a domestic person! I made it, let it cool down to a nice warm melty temperature, topped with a little butter, and brought it upstairs with a napkin. His response? “Thanks, but I don’t really like banana bread.”

A small part of me died that day.  But I had to move forward, forge on. So now I do one of two things: I either make a loaf of banana bread and freeze the leftovers, or I make this recipe which is just enough for two people. Or two days worth of banana bread for one person. Or one day’s worth if you want two muffins.

Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 small ripe mashed banana
  • 1 tablespoon beaten egg (beat egg in a cup, and do your best to get ~1T.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • ~1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • Dash vanilla
  • Dash salt
  • Handful of chocolate chips or nuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients together. If you need help mixing in the banana, heat it in the microwave for 20 seconds and it will mash right up with a fork. Divide into two greased muffin tins, and bake for about 22-25 minutes.

Sweet Potato Rolls

sweet-potato-rolls

How is that photo for artsy? Artsy, or, that was the only photo I could find with evidence of the sweet potato rolls. Sorry guys.

Growing up, our family dinners ALWAYS included one thing: bread. Or carbs, as some call it. Bread, dinner rolls, popovers, etc were a staple in our family since my birth and I’m pretty sure it’s part of our DNA. I looooooove love love it. In fact, I never even started using butter until a few years ago. I like bread so much I prefer to eat it plain.  And if a dinner doesn’t include bread, my stomach shrinks into nothing and I pretty much die of hunger afterwards.

But, the real star amongst all of the dinner rolls/breads/popovers in our family has been my mom’s sweet potato rolls. Every Thanksgiving, we had these. So I had to continue the tradition and include them in my Thanksgiving dinner this year as well.

Now, when I asked my mom if these were hard she replied, ‘No! Really easy!!.’  I was thrilled, it seemed too good to be true. And it was.  Not that these are necessarily super difficult, but when she sent me the recipe the generational difference was glaringly obvious.  To me, ‘really easy’ means 3 ingredients, no mixer, no rising, and under 20 minutes. Maybe even the inclusion of some kind of pre-made mix.  To my mom, I think ‘really easy’ must mean no grinding your own grain and churning your own butter.

These are not ‘really easy!’ .  They’re not hard, either, but they’re not ‘really easy.’  Love this recipe all the same and will make them forever.

Recipe

  • 1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons sugar, plus a pinch
  • 1 cup milk, room temp
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4.5-5 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan, and boil until fork tender. Drain and mash.

Using a standing mixer, whisk together the water, yeast and pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the potatoes, milk, 1 stick melted butter, and salt. Slowly mix in the flour to create a slightly sticky dough. Transfer dough to a large buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it doubles in size – about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400.  Punch the dough down, and line several large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough into 2-3 inch balls and drop on the baking sheets. Brush with remaining melted butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 30 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes.

applesauce-bread-with-cinnamon-swir

I have had a life long obsession with these applesauce muffins that my mom used to make, and I find most Sunday mornings I wake up wanting one.  But, making the same thing every weekend doesn’t make for good blogging material, now does it? I added a few twists this past weekend, and %$%^ $$%#. Pardon my language, but this was good.  So moist, great flavor, loved the cinnamon swirl. In fact next time I might add two swirls.

Recipe

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup original applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves

Cinnamon Swirl

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, beat the egg and sugars together. Add the buttermilk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix into the sugar mixture, just until combined.  Prepare the cinnamon swirl in a separate bowl.

Grease a 5×9 bread pan, and pour in half of the batter. Sprinkle the cinnamon swirl on top, then add  the rest of the bread batter. Loosely cover with aluminum foil (the bread rises quite a bit, so make sure you tent it). Bake for 45 minutes, then uncover the foil and bake for 10-15 more.  If your bread rises into you aluminum foil like mine did and ripped off the top when you removed it – don’t panic. Baking uncovered the last 10 minutes will undo most of the damage. Mine is gone already, shoot.

manchego-and-sea-salt-popovers
Popovers, in my mind, are the perfect bread. Crusty on the outside, soft on the inside, and fun to look at. Add cheese, and they’re even better. I just made my standard old popover recipe, but sprinkled cubes of Manchego cheese and a pinch of sea salt on them before popping them in the oven.
Recipe (serves 6)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • ~24 small cubes of Manchego cheese (about 1/2 in each)
  • Sea Salt
Preheat the oven to 425. Spray a popover pan with Pam. Mix the flour, milk, eggs, and butter in a bowl. Pour the batter into 6 popover cups. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and 4 cubes of Manchego cheese on top of each one.  Bake for about 30 minutes (check around 25).
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