Cherry Almond Chocolate Cardamom Muffins

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Lately Instagram has been a font of baking inspiration. 😉 I don’t remember where I saw it and they didn’t share a recipe, but someone’s delicious cherry chocolate muffin photo got my brain percolating.

I still have frozen cherries in the freezer from last summer’s u-pick adventures, and last week I found a good base recipe to riff on from King Arthur Flour. The original recipe says cherries and almonds are made for one another, and they definitely are, so that’s why I swapped in some almond flour. But you know chocolate and cherries are pretty amazing together too, and come on cardamom! These came out deliciously light and tender and just plain yummy.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped chocolate or mini-chocolate chips
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped cherries (drain before adding to batter)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • granulated sugar, for topping the muffins

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Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line with paper, or lightly grease a 12-well muffin pan.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients, including sugar and chocolate, together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, butter, buttermilk, and extract together.
  4. Blend wet ingredients with dry until just mixed. Gently fold in chopped cherries.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin cups, and sprinkle toasted almonds and granulated sugar on top.
  6. Bake for about 30 mins. or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

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Rhubarb Compote

It’s spring and I finally have productive rhubarb plants in my garden, so I’ve been making rhubarb dishes a couple times a week for maybe a month now? Anyway, I whipped up a rhubarb compote a few times lately, which it turns out is an awesome pancake topping, as well as makes a beautiful and yummy parfait. This almost doesn’t qualify as a recipe since it’s so easy! You can make this compote in 15 – 20 mins., and it keeps for about a week in the fridge, but I doubt it will stick around that long.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chopped rhubarb (sub some strawberries if you want)
  • juice of 1 small mandarin or orange
  • 1/4 cup sugar

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Directions: 

Add all ingredients to a wide sauce pan or pot over medium heat. Gently stir occasionally and cook for 10 – 15 mins. until rhubarb is tender, but not total mush.

Serve over pancakes or layer it with yogurt and chia seed pudding for dessert or a special breakfast treat.

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Sweet Potato Waffles (wheat-free)

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Sweet Potato Waffle with toasted pecans and buttery maple syrup and bacon!

These waffles turned out so delicious this morning, that I’m writing this up 12 hours later before I leave for an international flight tomorrow. 😉 I need to make these again next time I have sweet potato on hand, and you need to make them stat!

I happened to have some leftover baked sweet potato on hand, but you can also cut some potato into chunks and steam them pretty quickly and then mash them up. I’ve been trying to take a break from wheat recently, so I made these with a mix of gluten-free flours. I’m sure they’d taste just as great with all purpose flour, or a mix of whole wheat and all purpose.

If you have pecans and real maple syrup, you must toast the nuts and warm the syrup to complete the dream!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) of melted unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 1/4 cup almond meal or flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Yield: Two large belgian waffles (serves 4 to 6)

Steps:

  1. Mix all of the wet ingredients together in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together.
  3. Preheat your waffle iron and spray it with vegetable oil.
  4. Gently blend the wet and dry ingredients together. The batter will be fluffy. Use a measuring cup to scoop the batter onto the waffle iron.
  5. When the first waffle is done, place it in a 200 degree oven while you cook the remainder of the waffles.
  6. Serve the waffles with toasted pecans and warm maple syrup. If you dare, put a pat of butter in the maple syrup before you warm it!

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Cranberry Shrub

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Cranberry shrub with sparkling water and rosemary sprigs

I made my first shrub five years ago by way of a solid Sunset magazine recipe. (This was back when they used to include a lot of recipes in each issue and a subscription seemed worthwhile.) Shrubs are at least a few hundred years old and refer to a fruit syrup sweetened with sugar and cooked with vinegar to allow for longer term storage. When combined with water or alcohol, shrubs make a refreshing and tangy beverage.

Cranberries provide such a lovely color and bright flavor, but I’ve found this recipe works equally well with other berries, such as strawberries or blackberries. The vinegar is noticeable, but not overwhelming. You could also incorporate herbs or spices of your choosing.

The syrup can be stored in the fridge and then mixed with sparkling water or alcohol. It’s very easy, quick, and doesn’t require any special equipment. The syrup lasts for up to 3 months in the fridge. The recipe below makes around 24 ounces, so you could easily gift some small bottles if you like.

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Cranberries are just starting to burst

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups water

Steps:

  1. Bring all of the ingredients to a simmer in a mid-size or large pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally until cranberries start to burst.
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook another 5 – 10 mins.
  3. Strain mixture to remove seeds, pulp, and skin. I don’t press the fruit aggressively through the sieve, but I also don’t mind if there’s small bits of pulp in the syrup.
  4. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving, and then store for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
  5. To serve, pour a few tablespoons into a glass, and then top with sparkling water or alcohol. Stir and taste. Add more syrup or beverage to taste.
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Cranberry shrub syrup

Citrus Curd

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Curds are really easy to make, but so tasty, and they make impressive gifts! I had a bunch of mandarin oranges languishing on the counter this week, and curd is a great way to use them up. It doesn’t take that much juice or a lot of time to make a good sized batch.

A few weeks ago I made a lemon and lime curd and watched my family plow through about 12 oz. of it really quickly! My daughter in particular enjoys pairing it with pancakes, but you could also enjoy it on quick bread, scones, toast, and more. I also used the lemon lime curd as filling in little tarts, or you could also use it between cake layers. Yum!

This recipe works for a variety of citrus, but you will want to modify the sugar amount a little bit based on the relative sweetness or tartness of the juice. For example, 2/3 cup of sugar seemed barely enough for lemon and lime, but 3/4 cup of sugar was a bit too much for mandarin orange. If I could do it again, I would reverse them! You can also start with the lesser amount and add a bit to your taste during cooking. The recipe below makes about 22 oz., but I think you could easily halve it if you wish. Or just gift a jar of it!

Curds can be made in a regular pot on the stove, but I prefer using a double boiler. Either way, you have to be fairly attentive to make sure it doesn’t get too hot and curdle your egg mixture. I highly recommend the double boiler for making curds, chocolate fondue, etc. You still have to watch the temperature of the water in the bottom pot, but I think it’s easier to keep the curd from overcooking.

Keep in mind that curds need to be stored in the refrigerator and are best eaten within 3 weeks or so.

Yield: about 22 ounces, or fills three 8 oz. jars scantly

Ingredients:

  • 4 whole eggs, plus 2 yolks
  • 2/3 – 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of citrus juice, preferably from fresh fruit
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • (optional) 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest

Steps:

  1. Zest some of your fresh fruit if you wish to include the zest.
  2. Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Depending on the size and juiciness of the fruit, it may take about 6 to 8 lemons or mandarins to obtain 1 cup of juice.
  3. Whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together in a bowl until they are light and frothy in texture. Then stir in the zest.
  4. In the top of a double boiler on low heat, gently melt the stick of butter. When completely melted, whisk in the juice.
  5. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the pot and stir constantly. It will look thin and bubbly, as in the picture below:
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Curd at the start of cooking process

6. Continue stirring and cooking on low heat until the mixture has thickened to a custard-like consistency. This will likely take around 15 mins., but just keep stirring frequently!

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Curd when it’s done cooking

7. Remove from the heat and whisk to remove any lumps.

8. Ladle into warm dry jars, leaving about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch space. Seal and leave to cool on the counter; then refrigerate.

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Mandarin orange curd on buckwheat pancakes!

 

Banana Nut Muffins (wheat-free)

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I recently decided to take a break from wheat which has been challenging, but I’ve done it before for short periods. I don’t plan on giving it up permanently, because so many baked goods that I love are better with it! Anyway, so I’ve started to dabble a bit with wheat-free baking. (I’m not concerned with my food being entirely or strictly gluten-free, so to avoid misleading anyone, I’ll just say the following muffin recipe is wheat-free.)

Last week I made a super-healthy carrot spice muffin that was wheat free, but I was the only one in the family who was willing to eat them after the first try. They relied heavily on almond flour, and were lightly sweetened with honey and raisins, so it wasn’t too surprising that they were a little on the dry and crumbly side. But I kind of appreciated that I could eat one with an egg or yogurt for breakfast, and not feel totally deprived of my baked goods (or, you know, guilty).

So, today I decided to try another wheat-free muffin recipe. We bought some more wheat flour alternatives the other day — buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, etc., so I was curious to see how they perform.

(Yield: 12 muffins)

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas (the riper the better!)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup millet flour
  • 1/8 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/8 cup almond flour or meal
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease or line your muffin pan.
  2. Whisk the eggs, melted butter, vanilla, sugar, buttermilk, and mashed bananas together in a medium bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, blend together all of the dry ingredients, including the chopped nuts.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix just until all the flours are incorporated.
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and bake for about 25 mins., or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Peach Compote

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It was a great summer for peaches in the Portland area. I kept picking or buying 20 or 30 at a time (or 54!), and wondering how I was going to get through them all, and then before I knew it, they’d be gone!

We enjoyed peach cobbler, peach dutch baby, fresh juicy peaches eaten out of hand, and of course, my favorite way to preserve them is in a peach compote. Peaches go so well with warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and their juiciness makes them a great candidate for a saucy compote to spoon over waffles, ice cream, yogurt, and so on.

(Yield: 2 or 3 pint jars)

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of peeled peaches
  • 1 – 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

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Steps:

  1. Slice the peeled peaches into eighths and then halve or third each slice, so that you have roughly one inch chunks. Add the peaches to a heavy-bottomed large pot, along with the sugar and spices. You can adjust the sugar according to taste.
  2. Bring the peaches to a simmer over medium heat and stir occasionally. Continue cooking until the juices start to thicken somewhat, but don’t let it cook so long that it becomes jam! Total cooking time will be between 20 and 30 mins.
  3. While the peaches are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and wash your jars, lids, and rings.
  4. Spoon the fruit into the washed jars leaving about a 1/4 inch of headspace. Then attach lids and rings and place filled jars into pot of boiling water. Make sure tops of jars are covered by water.
  5. Process the jars for 5 mins. and remove from the pot and cool on a rack.

 

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