Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spiced Pear Muffins with Candied Ginger

I have a love/hate relationship with pears. Admittedly, they can be gorgeous to behold, all fall-like in their appearance. It makes me want to take a juicy bite out of one before I even leave the store. Unfortunately, I've been betrayed more than once by that beauty, ending up with hard or mealy fruit. Then, I luck into just the right one, and with juice dribbling down my chin, I fall in love with them all over again.

I had some of the good ones on hand the other day when I came up with another muffin recipe. This one combines those fresh, ripe pears with some ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg for a perfectly moist little cake muffin.

Spiced Pear Muffins with Candied Ginger

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus an additional 2 tablespoons for topping
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped, fresh pears (about 2 medium)
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons minced, candied ginger

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, spices, and salt. In another bowl, stir together the chopped pears, buttermilk, butter, egg, and vanilla. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, stirring until just mixed, being careful to not over beat. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Combine the remaining sugar and the minced candied ginger and sprinkle evenly over the muffin tops.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on a wire rack.

I had nearly forgotten about this little jar of candied ginger--it was perfect for the topping.

How do you like your pears?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Pie

Welcome to another Improv Challenge brought to you courtesy of Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. This month our challenge is to use Oatmeal and Raisins. Frankly, I was a little lost this time. I suppose that a good challenge would have been to use the oatmeal and raisins in a savory dish, but all I could think to make were oatmeal-raisin cookies. How boring is that? Boring might be the wrong word--I love Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, but I just wanted something different. So, I decided to change it up a little, by adding some walnuts and butterscotch, throwing in some booze, and pouring it into a pie crust. Voila! Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Pie!

Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookie Pie
Printable Recipe


2 tablespoons butterscotch schnapps (or sub bourbon)
1/2 cup raisins
1 unbaked 9" pie crust
3 large eggs, beaten
1 jar (12.5 oz) butterscotch ice cream topping
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 cup oatmeal


Combine the schnapps and the raisins in a small bowl and set aside for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.; prepare pie crust or line a glass pie plate with a refrigerated crust per package instructions.

In medium bowl, combine beaten eggs, butterscotch topping, melted butter, sugar, salt, walnuts, oatmeal, and raisins. Mix until well-blended; pour into prepared crust.

It was hard not to want to eat a little of the butterscotch batter...restraint was in order. Don't have butterscotch schnapps? Go buy some! It's great in hot chocolate, too.

I confess to using a refrigerated pie crust this time, but if you choose to make your own, check out this vodka pie crust recipe: Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge of pie comes out clean. Serve warm or cold, with cream if desired.

Every time I think I come up with some original, awesome idea, I Google it to see if it's been done. I'm a masochist like that. This time, I thought I would just throw caution to the wind and make it anyway. Then, in the course of putting this post together, I poked around Kristen's awesome blog, Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker (if you haven't checked it out yet--go!). Lo and behold, there it was...not just an oatmeal Oatmeal Scotchie Pie! Oy! How did I miss it? Oh well--there is room in the world for two versions.... and may I add that great minds think alike? :)

 Next time, I may sub the raisins for some chocolate chips. Gotta keep the schnapps, though!

Now, go check out some other Oatmeal and Raisin recipes!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

An Intense Chocolate Experience with Ghirardelli®

“Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world's perfect food. ”
― Michael Levine

Imagine, if you will, a time when you just need to escape for a few minutes to unwind from your hectic day. You choose a quiet, pleasant room. Perhaps the lights are dimmed and some soothing music is playing. There is a soft, comfortable chair to sink into, and within reach, is a cup filled with some warm, soothing tea and a selection of the world’s most comforting food….dark, rich chocolate!

Now, imagine that you're celebrating an important event in your life by having a few friends over for a relaxing evening. The conversation is pleasant and the atmosphere is joyous.  Glasses are filled with the best wine, and there are small plates of pleasing appetizers.  The food is as cohesive as the camaraderie—everything pairs well together. The main attraction? A selection of fine, flavor -infused, dark, rich chocolate!

The great thing about these different scenarios is that they aren't far-fetched. There are few who won't admit to the comforting effects of chocolate—especially if the chocolate is smooth, and full of flavor. Now, pair this beautiful chocolate with some other favorite foods and you have for yourself a chocolate experience….

Recently, I was invited to participate in the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker Program with Ghirardelli Intense Dark™.  No less than seven different Ghirardelli Intense Dark™ flavors showed up at my door, each one ready to be paired with whatever food or beverage I saw fit. This is the most fun I have had with food in a long time.

Savoring chocolate is a much about the texture as it is about the taste, wouldn't you agree? I had a lot of chocolate to taste, but one thing that each flavor had in common was the smooth, silky feel of the chocolate as it melted in my mouth. Since my favorite flavors always include nuts, the Hazelnut Heaven™ and the Toffee Interlude™ (which includes caramelized almonds), gave me some satisfying crunch, too. My vote for the best taste went to the Sea Salt Soiree™-- with coarse salt and slow roasted almonds, it gave a nice contrast of sweet and salty.

So, what kind of pairing did I do? Not nearly enough! I paired the Hazelnut Heaven™ with soft cheese, a fresh baguette, and some Merlot. The Toffee Interlude™ went well with sour apple slices and some Brie. I tried the Sea Salt Soiree™ with a few crispy spice cookies and a cup of green tea. Finally, I cooked up a few slices of bacon (!) and paired it with the Twilight Delight™ (72% Cacao). Can we say chocolate for breakfast?

Yes, I went there. That is bacon in the picture.

There's no shortage of nuts in the Hazelnut Dream (the bottom two pieces) or toffee and caramelized almonds in the Toffee Interlude.

So, I didn't have a chance to make all of the pairings that I thought about. Don't you think a little orange liqueur would go nicely with some of the darker chocolate, like the Midnight Reverie™ (86% Cacao)? And I didn't even touch the different coffees that would be so delicious with chocolate. Or fresh berries. The list goes on...I may have to have a tasting party.

What would YOU pair with chocolate?

This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cowboy Salsa

Who couldn't use an easy tailgating/appetizer recipe? The folks at Red Gold Tomatoes were kind enough to share this one with us---Cowboy Salsa!

It starts with a can of tomatoes!

Cowboy Salsa

Servings: 10   |   Preparation Time: 20 minutes   |   Cook Time: 0 minutes

1 (15 ounce) cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1 jar pimentos
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
1 (8 ounce) bottle Italian salad dressing

In a large bowl combine all ingredients; stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Serve with crackers or chips.

Calories 130, Fat 5.00g, Trans Fat 0.00g, Cholesterol 0.00mg, Sodium 750.00mg, Carbohydrate 18.00g,
Fiber 4.00g, Protein 5.00g, Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 35%, Calcium 4%, Iron 8%

Ok--I admit to changing things up, but just a tad. I subbed out the black-eyed peas for black beans. :) Actually, you could use the regular diced tomatoes and add some fresh cilantro and lime, if you were so inclined, but, why not just keep it easy--this is delicious! Seriously, just mix it all up in a bowl and let it marinate for a few hours. I promise, this will be the hit of your party.

If, by some rare chance, there are leftovers, simply tuck some into a warm tortilla for a quick lunch....

......or, if you are like me and you just love breakfast for dinner, top that tortilla with a couple of, so good!

Disclaimer: Red Gold Tomatoes provided me with some product and the recipe to share. All opinions  remain my own.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Apple Peanut Butter Muffins

So, I got to thinking---apples and peanut butter are really a tasty little treat, right? Well then, they would make a terrific combo in a muffin. Yes. Yes they would. Yes they do.

I've said it before...Minnesota has the very best apples. These are Honeygolds. They are a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Haralson. In 1960, the Honeygold was crossed with a Macoun. Their lovechild was the Honeycrisp!

You may recall that my husband and I went apple picking a couple of weeks ago. I still have apples to use! Not only that, we bought a couple jars of peanut butter at Costco. Jars may not be the best term. Drums. Drums of peanut butter. Apple Peanut Butter Muffins were meant to be.

Use a cookie scoop to get the batter in the tins..much less messy.

This time, instead of chopping up the fruit, I grated the apples, peels and all (I did core them). It's easy if you use a food processor...or a salad shooter. 

Apples and cinnamon = yum. Apples and peanut butter = yum. Apples, cinnamon, and peanut butter = Holy Cow!

Apple Peanut Butter Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded apples (about 2 medium)
1 cup low fat buttermilk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut or canola oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, stir together the shredded apples, buttermilk, peanut butter, oil, egg, and vanilla. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, stirring until just mixed, being careful to not over beat. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the muffin tops.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool on a wire rack.

Of course, twelve muffins are a few too many to have around the house. These freeze really well. In fact, they are almost better after a day or so...the flavors meld together. For a quick breakfast, just grab one from the freezer and nuke for about 30 seconds. 

Apples, peanut butter, cinnamon, coconut oil...these are on the road to healthy. A few more tweaks and we'll be there. Perhaps, next time I'll try some whole wheat flour and a little less sugar. Or maybe not. It's hard to mess with success. :)