Hello! Happy Armed Forces Day! It’s really starting to feel like summer now, right? It’s wonderful. I’ve been able to go on some great bike rides these past few weeks, and I’m loving the fresh air and sunshine. Pretty soon it’ll be time to cut and bale hay, which reminds me, I need to replace those work pants . . .

Anywho, this month’s recipe I’m sharing isn’t so much a dish as a condiment (although there are people out there who have wanted to eat it as one): Caramel sauce. I’ve made caramel candies before, which don’t last long, but this is a sauce that’s really great for drizzling over apple pie or dumplings (and don’t forget the hunk of cheddar), as an ice cream topping, I used some on a batch of turtle brownies I made for Mother’s Day last week, and there have been times when I’ve taken a scoop cold from the fridge and had it as a dip for apple slices instead of peanut butter. It’s really versatile in the ways you can dip, drizzle, and dollop this amazingly buttery-caramely sauce, and it’s a breeze to whip up, too!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. butter*
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (or almond, or rum, or . . .)

Instructions

  • Gather all the ingredients and tools you’ll be using, because this is a quick process and once you get going you don’t want to stop, or you’ll burn the sugar, and that would be sad. As a heads-up for the tools you’ll be needing: heavy bottomed 2 or 3 quart saucepan, wooden spoon, whisk, glass jar (for the finished sauce).
  • Cook the sugar in the saucepan over medium-high heat until melted and golden/dark amber in color. Stir at the beginning, but as it liquefies you can just swirl the pan. Once all the sugar is dissolved add the butter and stir with a whisk until melted and smooth. The sugar and butter will foam up some, hence the big pot, we don’t want overflow. That’s a hot mess.
  • Once butter is melted and mixture is smooth, remove pot from heat and wait a couple of seconds (a slow count to three should work) before slowly adding the cream, whisking as you do. It’ll foam up again, but keep whisking until it’s smooth. Add the extract, stir, and then pour into the jar. Handle with care, please, this stuff is hot. Let it cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.

*To switch it up a little, use salted butter, and switch out the extract for salt, making salted caramel. It’s pretty good.

Pumpkin Season Isn’t Over Yet!!!

Hey, everyone! Can you believe April’s almost over already, and we’re still waiting for spring to . . . you know, spring? I hope this means we’ll have a nice, long autumn ─ but it is what it is, right? All we can do is make the best of each day we’re given, snow or shine.

Anywho, since the heat hasn’t kicked in yet, cold-time food is still in season. This isn’t so bad, I have an easier time figuring out warming foods than what to serve in the summer. Today I’m sharing one of my new favorite muffin recipes. It’s muffin-y (which is a plus, because let’s face it: muffins are amazing). It’s pumpkin-y (which is a double plus, because I love pumpkins and (so far) everything involving that wonderfully orange puree). It’s also spicy (the warm, cinnamon kind, not burn-your-mouthhouse-down kind), and nutty with a wonderfully sweet-nutty streusel topping.

Mouth watering yet? I know I could go for another one of these babies.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cold butter

Instructions:

  • Gather all your ingredients. I have a set of tiny ramekins that I like to use (once I remembered that I had them). Grease a jumbo muffin pan (one of the best inventions ever, really), and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Combine all the dry ingredients except the pecans into a large bowl (what I did this time was replace both the white and brown sugar with a scant 2/3 cup maple sugar, because we have a lot of it after this past season).
  • Combine all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth, then add to the dry ingredients and mix only until everything’s all wet (lumpy batter makes tender muffins). Now you can fold in the chopped pecans. I didn’t have quite enough, so I made up the difference with walnuts (don’t tell my older brother, maybe he won’t notice). Pour into prepared muffin cups about three quarters full.
  • Now for the streusel topping, because who doesn’t love a nice streusel topping? I used maple sugar for this, too, and white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. Combine the sugar, pecans, and flour in a bowl, then cut in the butter until crumbly. I rubbed it in with my fingers because the pecans make cutting in with a fork (the only way I know how to cut in butter) too complicated. Sprinkle the topping onto the batter and pat in, to help make sure it sticks to the muffin during and after baking. It’s kind of pointless to put a topping on only to have it fall off at the first opportunity, right?
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Best served warm (but then, isn’t just about everything?)

* Don’t have buttermilk? Don’t worry, I don’t usually, either. A neat trick I learned is to put 2 tablespoons of vinegar (usually white distilled, but any kind will work, really) into a measuring cup and then add milk to the 1 cup line (that’s 1 tablespoon for every 1/2 cup, like in this recipe). Let it sit for a few minutes to let cool science happen, and you’ll end up with soured, thickened milk. I use this just about all the time. Another substitution I use is an equal measure of yogurt or sour cream. Those three ─ buttermilk, yogurt, and sour cream ─ are pretty interchangeable, so it’s easy to use whatever’s on hand, but since the yogurt and sour cream we have at home are both super thick, I’ll use the vinegar/milk mixture if I want it a little thinner.

These muffins are so yummy with warm spices and crunchy nuts on the inside and a sweet, nutty topping. They go well with dinner (had these with a roast) or breakfast! This recipe is also easy enough to switch up, too. Don’t have or don’t like pumpkin? Try it with squash puree instead! (Or, you could try replacing it with applesauce, although I haven’t tried that and I’m not entirely sure what the texture will be like. You could also just switch it out with sour cream or yogurt, too). Change the pumpkin pie spice to just cinnamon, or any of your favorite mix of spices. I’m thinking of trying chai spice next time, a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and ground black pepper. I bet coriander would taste good, too. If you don’t have or don’t like pecans, you can nix the nuts altogether or switch them out for your favorite nut as well (like walnuts).

Try them out and tell me what you think, or what flavors you played with ─ I’d love to hear about it!

March in With Apples and Cinnamon

Happy Saturday, everyone! And guess what? Happy Spring, too! As of this past week, the calendar season of Spring has finally arrived! We’re so close . . .

A week ago today was St. Patrick’s Day (if you missed my post on Celtic reads, check it out here), and my family celebrated with an hearty meal of Irish dishes. Today I want to share one of them with you: apple cake. A little sweet and plenty delicious, this is great with a cup of tea or coffee, as dessert, breakfast, or afternoon snack. Really, it’s good whenever.

Ingredients:

  • 1lb baking apples
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising flour*
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, plus more for greasing
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Streusel Topping

  • 3/4 cup self-rising flour*
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:

  • Gather all your ingredients. I’ve just recently learned that there’s a fancy French term for this: mise en place (mee-zhan-plahss (or something to that affect)) It basically means getting your stuff together. There’s a special word for everything it seems, these days.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9in round springform cake pan (but, I mean, if you have a square springform pan, go for it)
  • To make the streusel topping, sift the flour into a bowl and rub the butter in with your fingertips until it resembles coarse crumbs (or you could use a fork, if you don’t feel like touching lovely, soft flour). Stir in the sugar and then set aside. (I’m thinking about trying brown sugar next time for a deeper color and flavor).
  • Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples; you might want to dress them with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning, too, while you prepare the rest of the batter.
  • Sift the flour into a bowl with the cinnamon and salt (I’m thinking of increasing the cinnamon by at least 1/2 a teaspoon next time, because I love cinnamon bunches and tons). Place the butter and sugar in a separate bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time, adding a wee bit of the flour/cinnamon mixture with the second egg. Fold in half of the remaining flour mixture (be gentle, don’t fold too hard or you’ll make it cry). With the second half of the flour add the milk and keep folding until combined.
  • Spoon the batter into the cake pan and smooth the surface, then cover with the apple slices, then sprinkle the streusel over the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about an hour (60mins) or until browned and firm to the touch. Let cool in the pan.

Serve this wonderfulness all by itself or with a dollop of vanilla ice cream ─ and don’t forget a hot cup of tea or coffee! The outer edge of this cake is crisp, like a crust, and the center is softer and apple-y.

*If you’re like me, and don’t have self-rising flour on hand, you can make some super easy! For every 1 cup of flour add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Voila!


Try this recipe at home and tell me what you think! Did you switch it up with the sugar and spices? Pears instead of apples? How would you tweak it to your own taste? Recipes are amazing for their flexibility, very gracious to catering to the cook’s preferences ─ that’s one of the ways that makes cooking and baking so much fun!

Hey, everyone! Happy Last Saturday of the Month! How’s your week been? Over here in the Writing Corner we’ve watched the Olympics just about every night since it began ─ there has been some amazing comebacks, shocking defeats, and glorious victories all across the globe, no? And now it’s just about over. It’s a little sad, but after so much excitement and activity (at least for the athletes, coaches, and staff) it’s probably about time for some R&R . . . until all those competitions for the year begin again. I don’t think I would survive all that those people do; it’s simply amazing.

Here in the Writing Kitchen we do things a little differently, concocting delicious meals (sometimes. Come on, people, we can’t win all the time) instead of higher speeds and technical scores. Today I’m going to share a biscuit recipe that’s so easy and yummy you’ll want to make it for every pot of soup, grilled chicken, and roasted meat dish from now on.

Whole Wheat Maple-Butter Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter
  • 7-8 tablespoons milk

Glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup (I used the stuff we make at home, and since it’s maple season now it’s about as fresh as it can be!)

Instructions:

  • Gather all the ingredients; set the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  • In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter (if you have a pastry cutter: swell; for those of us who don’t: I’ve read that people use scissors, a pair of knives, or their fingers. I’ve only ever known to use a fork, myself.) Cut the butter in until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the milk only until moistened, then turn onto a floured surface and lightly knead a few times to make a cohesive dough. Try not to handle it too much because it’ll make a tougher crumb, and we’re aiming for fluffy.
  • Pat or roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness (if you like a thinner biscuit roll it to about a quarter inch or third, however you please).
  • Here’s where it gets fun. Normally you’d use a regular biscuit cutter and make nice rounds, and that’s fine. Or you can shape the dough into a square and cut out blocks. But since I learned that you actually can use cookie cutters on non-cookie dough I like to make shapes, and my all-time favorite is the gingerbread man cutter. So here I made man-shaped biscuits, but you can use whatever tickles your fancy. For holiday dinners you could use Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, even St. Patrick’s Day themed cutters. Makes me want to make pumpkin and leaf shaped ones for autumn. Anyway, reroll the scraps and keep cutting until the dough is used up, then place on the baking sheet.
  • For the glaze, melt the butter and syrup in a small pan (or microwave, if that’s your thing), then brush a layer onto the raw biscuits. Bake in the preheated oven for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and promptly dab any and all remaining glaze over the biscuits while they’re still hot. Serve warm or room temperature.

These biscuits are super good, with a light texture and slightly nutty flavor (because of the wheat flour). The glaze adds a touch of sweet and delicious maple flavor, too that’s different from your usual butter and jam. Give this recipe a try and tell me what you think!


Notes:

  • The number of biscuits you’ll get depends on the size you cut them; I got six out of this recipe.
  • This is an easy recipe to dock and double, whether you’re cooking for 2 or 80 (bless you for feeding 80 people, though . . .)
  • If you’re not a fan of maple syrup (I’m sorry) or just don’t have any you can use honey (that version is a favorite around this house). Or just good-old plain butter. This is a super versatile recipe.

New Favorite for the Dining Table

Hey everyone! We’re already entering into the last week of January! Raise your hand if you feel this month’s just flown by. (We were always told that time moves faster as you get older, but who knew those old people could be right? The wisdom of our Elders knows no bounds). All the more reason to savour each day as it comes and to live in the moment, to be present. Which is hard for me because I often go off daydreaming and fantasizing.

On the other hand, fantasizing is what a writer does, no? Daydreaming, imagining, wondering . . . it’s all part of the job and it’s wonderful.

But writing isn’t the only thing I do (although there are times that I wish it were!) The kitchen and its culinary magic, the artful-science of cooking and baking, holds another almost-if-not-equal place in my heart. So today I’m going to share with you a new recipe that I’ve just tried: Crock Pot Honey-Glazed Chicken. You can find the original recipe here (Chef Savvy is an awesome website filled with simple and easy recipes. There’s no excuse not to cook with stuff like this). The following recipe is how I made it.

Crock Pot Honey-Glazed Chicken

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (I had a combination of white and dark meat. White meat is ‘lighter’, but dark meat is the jucier of the two)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey (raw and local, right from the farm! I never liked honey until I tried this stuff. So good.)
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar (the original recipe calls for rice wine vinegar, but alas, the regular rice vinegar was all I had on hand. In the end, it doesn’t really matter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (a little is all you need because baby is that stuff STRONG)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 4+ cloves of garlic (as a rule, I always add more garlic. I made half of the original recipe, because it was only two people for dinner, but did not cut the garlic in half. If this is supposed to be honey-garlic, by Jove will there be garlic. And why not? It’s awesome in so many ways)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Sesame seeds, for serving

Instructions:

  • Place chicken in the crock of a slow cooker.
  • Mix together the soy sauce, honey, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Pour over chicken and mix to coat. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (I cooked it on high for approximately 1 1/2 hours, because I was pressed for time, but the original recipe says to cook on low for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your chicken).
  • Whisk together cornstarch and about 3 tablespoons of sauce from the cooker until smooth, then return to the crock and cook until thickened. Garnish with sesame seeds (I have black seeds but white ones will work just as well) and serve.

I served mine with fried rice (another recipe I got off the site, although tweaked to fit the ingredients I had on hand). This chicken was super delicious, a little sweet, a little savoury, and a whole lot of YES. This was a double score and will most certainly be making it onto the table again.

Why don’t you give it a try and tell me what you think? Or why not share one of your own new favorites? I’d love to hear about it! New recipes are so much fun to try.

Warm up with a Skillet – and Meat and Potatoes and . . .

Hello everyone! Can you believe December’s halfway over already? Christmas is almost here! Please tell me I’m not the only one running the USPS ragged with packages coming in almost every day. It’s so exciting! I can hardly wait to give these gifts to my loved ones.

Now, I know that usually people cook up some special recipes for Christmas, but believe it or not ─ we don’t! Outside of gingerbread men, chex mix, and haystacks, my family doesn’t make fancy food for the holidays (Christmas Eve we’ve eaten pizza and wings at my grandparents’ for as long as I can remember, and our traditional Christmas dinner is your basic lasagna. Nevertheless, they’re both family favorites).

So today I’m going to share with you another of my favorite dinners: Cajun Kielbasa Skillet. It’s a simple dish with a handful of ingredients that packs some great flavors and a bit of bite (yes, I’m in favor of spicy food. The only one in the family, too, it seems). I hope you’ll give it a try sometime ─ and don’t forget to tell me what you think of it!

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes

1 large onion

2 medium sweet peppers (any color, or try a mix! I like to use red and orange ones)

1 lb. beef kielbasa

1-2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (depending on your taste)

Instructions:

Gather all your ingredients. (This is an important step that I don’t practice as often as I should when both cooking and baking. It’s worth the extra step, believe me).

Cube the potatoes and chop the onion. Slice the sweet peppers into strips and then cut the strips in half. Cut the kielbasa into 1/2 inch or so pieces.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the vegetables and kielbasa. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft. Add the seasoning and stir to coat, then it’s ready to serve!

I made this last night and served it with a batch of baking powder biscuits ─ super delicious!

Citrusly Delicious

Hello, my lovelies! How has everyone’s November been so far? Can you believe it’s halfway over already? I have been so busy with NaNoWriMo that I keep losing track of the time! Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week??? Pretty soon people all over the country will be gathering around the dinner table with friends and family to enjoy a good time and gorge themselves on many, many, many delicious dishes.

Do any of you have a favorite Thanksgiving food, one that you wonder why you don’t get more often? My mother makes a wicked cranberry salad, and my grandma makes the lightest and fluffiest rolls I’ve ever had. One of my personal favorites, though, is a squash apple bake. Just an handful of simple ingredients thrown together to make something positively gobstopping. Perhaps I’ll share it with you sometime here in the Reynwood’s Recipies blog tab.

Last month I posted a recipe for Pumpkin Rice Krispies, but today I want to share with you another combination of two of my favorite things: bundt cakes and gingerbread. I can hardly get enough of either of these two, bundt cakes are so much fun with all the different shapes you can make with the pans, and gingerbread is a warm fussy for me, full of mildly sweet molasses and spicy ginger. This cake has an extra zing added with lemon zest, giving it a citrusy kick.

Maybe instead of (or in addition to!) the traditional pumpkin and apple pies for dessert, you’ll want to surprise your family with this baby.

Are you ready for this?

Lemon Gingerbread Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 egg
  • 2 2/3 cup all-purpose or cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel*
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
Lemon Glaze:
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice*

Instructions:

Turn oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10 or 12 cup fluted tube pan (I used the  Heritage Bundt Pan from Nordic Ware, made in the USA!) and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy (this will take about 2 or 3 minutes). Add the molasses and water, beat well. Add the egg and beat well. Sift together the remaining cake ingredients and add to the batter; mix well, then spoon into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the glaze, in a bowl combine confectioner’s sugar and butter. Gradually add juice until it reaches the desired consistency, then drizzle over the cake.

*For those of you who aren’t big lemon fans, you can easily substitute the lemon for any other citrus fruit. Try an orange (which I might next time), or even a lime or grapefruit, if you’re feeling particularly wild.