Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hearty Sunday Breakfast

Upon waking up, one of our first thoughts is about breakfast. Tom & I are big fans of breakfast, from simple to fancy, it doesn't much matter. I've never quite figured out skipping breakfast. I usually wake up hungry, and though I'm a coffee drinker, I much more useless without food in me than I am without coffee.

Last weekend, while pondering our breakfast options and ruling out eggs (tired of them),  cereal  (too mundane), and oatmeal (had it earlier in the week) Tom came up with the brilliant idea of pancakes with walnuts, banana and blueberries. With this idea, we sprung in to action.

Tom headed out to the store, as we were out of maple syrup. I poked around for a good pancake recipe. I ended up using the multi-grain pancake recipe in Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. Once I had the pancakes on the griddle, I added the chopped banana, toasted walnut and blueberries. These were hearty pancakes, they held us through a 3.5 mile walk and til mid-afternoon. I had some left over batter, which I've frozen (without the add-ins). I'm not sure how well it will thaw and cook, but it's worth a try.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One of my faves - Blackbird Baking

 A co-worker of Tom's turned us on to Blackbird Baking last fall. This one-woman baking company is located in South Portland Me, offering "the simple goodness you've been craving." Stacy posts and/or emails her menus regularly. You order and then later in the week,  voila!  A pie is delivered unto you. It is like pie magic.

We've had a couple of different pies, most recently a delicious 3 Berry Pie with blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, topped with a butter-oat-sugar crumble. Since the menu noted this pie was ice-cream worthy we had to oblige. We paired this local pie with some locally made ginger gelato.

She also makes muffins, quickbreads, cookies, and baked squares. We've only tried the pies, but I have no doubt the rest of her treats are just as good.

I'm not absolutely sure of her pie delivery range, but definitely in the Portland / South Portland area. When she dropped off our most recent pie she told Tom she is trying to get in to some local markets and restaurants, so it looks like we'll have more access to her treats.

Connect with Stacy on Facebook or via email at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Yummy Birthday Cake

Over the weekend I was trolling around different sites, looking for a tasty birthday cake option for Molly's b-day. I didn't want a standard layer-frosting-layer-frosting kind of cake, but was looking for something a bit different.

My go-to site for this search was Smitten Kitchen. One of my favorite cooking blogs - great recipes, great pictures and an approach to food that I can relate to - good food, cooked well and deeply appreciated. I quickly came across this recipe for strawberry summer cake. Up here in Maine, our strawberry plants still have flowers on them, while down south in NY they have fresh berries at the Farmer's Market already. Even though we are a few weeks from berries, this recipe had me, well, smitten.

I can only imagine how this would be with late season Maine strawberries, oozing with juicy-goodness. While I'm decidedly biased about most things Maine (except maybe February), close, if not at the top of my list of "things that are better in Maine," are strawberries. Our berries work hard up here in the slow, often cold spring. You can taste their hard work in the concentrated flavors, that are just sweet enough and just tart enough.

Since I knew I'd be going with store-bought berries, I decided to go with a berry mix instead of just strawberries. I landed on strawberries, blackberries and raspberries for my mix. I also decided to try SK's suggestion of using some barley flour.

As described at SK, this recipe is "short on steps." Easy to make and delicious to eat. Served with some brown sugar whipped cream we had unanimous yums all around.

I'd like to try it with some other summer fruit combinations - peaches & blueberries, strawberry & rhubarb - I think most any juicy summer fruit would work.

I going to send you over to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe, cause I think you'll love her site.

Friday, June 3, 2011


This is not baking.

It barely involves fire, but it is very good.

Years ago in my house we were on a microwave s'mores kick. Don't know how we got off this kick, or why because a microwave s'more is really a very a good thing.

From a variety of different baking I've done recently, including Congo Bars and Coca Cola Cake, I found myself with the appropriate fixings for these easy tasty bites.

What you need:
Chocolate chips (or a thin-ish chocolate square would do)
Mini Marshmallows (or Fluff would do)
Graham crackers

What you do:
Put chips on graham cracker and microwave on high about 30 seconds.
Check how melty the chips are, and microwave another 30 seconds if needed.
Put mini mallows on top of chips and microwave about 20 seconds or until the marshmallows puff up so much that they scare you.
Optional: If you have a kitchen torch, torch the marshmallows to the desired level of brownness (or burnt if that's how you roll).
Another option - top with another graham cracker. Personally, I like mine open face.

Tasty adds:
Peanut butter under the chips
Banana on the chips, under the marshmallow

The best thing about these - no large fire required, no risk of the whole thing dropping in the sand because you've been sitting around the bonfire drinking way too many sombrero's, nice melted chocolate. I'm sure there are s'more purists out there completely aghast that one should make a s'more in a less than authentic way. All I'm saying is that I can enjoy s'mores in February in Maine, barefoot in my kitchen this way. Can you?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Coca Cola Cake

Who knew that mini-marshmallows and Coca Cola would make for a great cake?

I was a deep skeptic of this cake. I'm not a soda drinker, let alone a Coke drinker. Truth be told, I think Coke is pretty wretched. Baking with sweetened carbonated beverages was something I never encountered. The first time I had this cake was at an vegetable lasagna  "cookout" in Boothbay Harbor, ME. A good friend of my husband's is a Southerner and this cake is a southern classic.

A quick side trip about the vegetable lasagna. For a couple summers, we'd go to this cookout in Boothbay. There was no cooking out involved, but the party did include the best lasagna I've ever eaten. This lasagna was about 5 inches tall, and it baked for about 3+ hours. The cheese on top was baked to dark brown delicousness. The chef extraordinaire of this lasagna has moved back south. One of these days I'll attempt to replicate the lasagna....sigh.

Ok. On to the cake.
This is a surprisingly light (as in not dense, not as in low fat or low calorie) cake. Like the Congo bars from my last post, it is a picnic, pot-luck, crowd pleaser. Both the batter and the frosting has Coke in it, along with lots of butter, sugar and cocoa powder. You don't taste the Coke, but this is a very sweet cake.

This is the chocolate cake you loved as a kid, and smeared all over your face as you ate it. This would be a great cake to serve to kids who do not live in your house, since they will be completely strung out after eating this. You can pack them full of sugar, chocolate and caffeine and then send them on their merry way.

It's probably one of the easiest cake recipes you can make. It isn't quite pantry-ready, as the ingredients include Coke, Buttermilk and Mini-Marshmallows, but it is worth the trip to the store. Enjoy!

Coca Cola Cake
1 cup Coca-Cola
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup butter (softened)
1 3/4 cups cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup Coca-Cola
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 box confectioner's sugar, (16 oz)
1 tablespoon vanilla
Topping options: This cake is great with frosting only. If you want to spiff up the top a bit, try:
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted or chopped heath bar candy, or chopped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups....

What to do:
Combine coke and buttermilk, set aside.

Beat butter at low speed with electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beat until blended. Add egg and vanilla, beat at low speed until blended.

Combine flour, cocoa and soda. Add to butter mixture, alternating with coke mixture. Begin & end with flour mixture. Beat on low until just combined.

Stir in marshmallows. Pour batter into greased & floured 13x9 pan. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Pour frosting over cake and garnish w/ toppings of choice (or not). Let frosting set (at least an hour) before cutting cake.

Bring butter, coke and cocoa to boil in large saucepan over med. heat, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat, whisk in sugar and vanilla. Pour over slightly cooled cake.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Congo Bars

Is this even considered baking?

This recipe involves melting butter, sprinkling sugar laden toppings, pouring a sweet liquid and then 30 minutes in the oven. I suppose technically I'm baking, but it is more like baking-lite.

You've had these chewy, sweet, guilty delights. They are Congo bars, treasure bars, glop bars....they have many aliases (aliai?). They consist of butter, graham cracker crumbs, chocolate and butterscotch chips, coconut and sweetened condensed milk. If you have been to a pot-luck, bake sale or other "cripes I've got to pull a dessert together that everyone will love, and do it quick," event, then you have made these, sold these or eaten these.

I'm making these to take to Vermont for a pre-graduation pot luck (of course) for Molly and her roomies families & friends. We are at T-minus 47 hours and 27 minutes til graduation. Zoiks!
If you would like to hire a bright, charming, and witty Philosopher, please let me know.

Congo Bars
1/2 cup butter

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1- 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1- 1/2 cups butterscotch chips
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts (as usual, I passed on the walnuts)
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 

What to do   

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Melt the butter or margarine in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the butter. Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. Cover with the flaked coconut. Sprinkle the walnuts on top of the coconut layer. Finally, pour the condensed milk over everything as evenly as you can.

Bake at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Elvis Muffins

While I don't think there is any direct connection between Elvis and Easter, I was inspired to make an muffin for our Easter brunch that the King would enjoy. That would be a muffin enjoyed by the latter-year's, somewhat bloated King. The one you want to avert your eyes from while you think longingly of the Elvis from "Blue Hawaii." When I was little, I thought Elvis was plastic and lived in the TV. I'm not so sure I was wrong.

The ingredients for these muffins are obvious....
Over-ripe bananas - check.
Peanut butter - check.
Chocolate chips - check.
Tom asked, rhetorically I think, 'you know what would be good on top of these muffins?' ....BACON! Even better, candied bacon.
Truly a muffin fit for a King.

Candied Bacon
6 slices thick-cut bacon
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. pure maple syrup
1-1/2 Tbs. light brown sugar

Put a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and put bacon slices on it. Drizzle both sides with the maple syrup and then sprinkle both sides evenly with the sugar. Bake until browned and crisp, 20 to 22 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool, then chop into small pieces. Try not to eat an excessive amount.

We didn't have maple syrup (how did that happen?) so we used rice syrup (why we have rice syrup but not maple is a mystery of impulse shopping I guess). We mixed the rice syrup with some whiskey.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used no salt/no sugar added)
2 eggs
2 tbs canola oil
3/4 cup milk
2 ripe bananas, mashed.
1 additional ripe banana (optional) 
1 cup (and some more if you like) dark chocolate chips

What to do
This first step is optional, but it does give you a bit of an extra kick of banana flavor. 
Put the milk and the extra mashed banana in a small saucepan. Bring to just under a boil and turn off the heat and let banana steep in the milk for 15 to 30 minutes. Strain the milk into the peanut butter mixture (below) and discard the banana that steeped in the milk.

Preheat oven to 375. 
Mix flour, sugar, powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, peanut butter, the other 2 mashed bananas, milk, oil and eggs until well mixed. Add the peanut butter mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon into well greased muffin tins. Sprinkle chopped bacon on top, and gently press into the batter a bit. I used mini-muffins tins, and the recipe yielded 42 mini muffins. In regular muffin tins, you'll get 12 muffins.

For mini muffins, bake 8-10 minutes. For regular muffins, 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

These are yummy little two bite morsels, with a definite banana-y, peanut butter-y taste. I read recently that the royal wedding reception next week will feature 2-bite appetizers, in case you need to greet a passing Monarch. I doubt we will have that need at brunch tomorrow, but you never know.

While these were baking, Jackson did a neat trick with his ear: