Fat Tuesday

Since last week’s accidental trip through Mardi Gras, I have a new appreciation for Fat Tuesday.

I tried a few different recipes for Traditional King Cake–even fashioning one myself–but this one from Southern Living was the best. I liked that it wasn’t too sweet, and it made two loaves. Part of my Lenten journey this year is to improve my passive-aggressive relationship with yeast, so with this recipe, I can start a day early.

Traditional King Cake
Traditional King Cake

Pair this with a pot of Cafe au lait–brew a pot of coffee with chicory, 1 tablespoon per cup of water–and then bring a small saucepan of whole milk to almost a boil. Fill the cup half with hot coffee and half with hot milk and then sweeten as desired.

It’s a warm way to start the next forty days.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Kitchen Love on Valentine’s Day

One of the best ways I know how to show love is with some extra effort in the kitchen. Whether it’s a batch of homemade cookies, cooking a favorite meal or even stopping by a restaurant to pickup a beloved dish, when Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, you have all weekend to spread the love.

Here’s some homemade “Pop-tarts” from a 2010 Bon Appetit issue that I’ve made a few times now. They are totally decadent and worth the effort and most certainly Valentine-worthy.

Seriously good homemade Pop-tarts.
Seriously good homemade Pop-tarts.

Scott’s Biscotti

Lately I’ve been making a lot of healthy brain food that doesn’t taste like salmon.

Here’s a biscotti recipe that I adapted from Ann Burrell that incorporates whole nuts, berries and dark chocolate in a not-so-sweet cookie for breakfast or dessert. She dips hers into a chocolate ganache, but I like the chocolate on the inside. It’s decadent enough without the dipped and extras.

And it’s a long way from lox and better than a bagel.

Scott’s Biscotti

1 stick of room temperature butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, plus 1 white for brushing on the top
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/4 c. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup toasted almonds, rough chopped
4-6 oz package of dried cherries
2-4 oz dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

A couple of tablespoons of raw or turbinado sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 300°. Beat together the sugar and eggs until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then almond extract until well combined.

2.) Stir in flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Fold in cherries, almonds and chocolate chunks until just combined.

3.) Divide the dough in half and shape two long, skinny logs on a piece of parchment paper about 12 inches long. You really don’t have to roll it out–it’s sticky but will shape nicely. Flatten the tops just slightly, and brush with the egg white until glossy and then sprinkle with the raw sugar.

4.) Bake for 35 minutes until somewhat firm–they bake again so it will be on the soft side at this stage. Remove from oven and cool 10-20 minutes before slicing into thick slices on an angle.

5.) Arrange the slices back on the cookie sheet and bake for another 10-12 minutes until hard. Cool completely on a rack.

©2013 Tracey Henry

I don't know how good it is for your brain, but it's certainly good for the soul.
I don’t know how good it is for your brain, but it’s certainly good for the soul.

Vegetable Witness Protection Program

My vegetables are in the witness protection program.

I fully admit that I will hide, disguise, camouflage, conceal, veil, cloak, bury, and otherwise transform vegetables into recipes that I can get myself my kids to eat.

So when son #2 came home and said he loved pumpkin spice bread, I seized the opportunity to get some beta-carotene seamlessly into his diet in the form of a mock Starbuck’s baked good.

There’s a million pumpkin bread recipes out there, but this one I’ve adapted to make two loaves and enroll some Greek yogurt in the calcium protection program as well.

Pumpkin Spice Bread

Alias: Trick your kid into eating something good.
Alias: Trick your kid into eating something good.

1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. water
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. nutmeg
3/4 t. ground cloves

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 and spray 2 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.

2.) Mix first 7 ingredients together just until blended well in a large bowl or stand mixer.

3.) Mix together dry ingredients together in a separate bowl; add slowly to batter, only mixing until combined.

4.) Bake in a 350° for one hour until firm in the center.

5.) Assume new identity–change names on passports and social security cards.

©2013 Tracey Henry

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

There are numerous examples of my craziness and the impending severity of it, but number 876 is my inability to throw away over-ripe bananas without promising no one except myself, that I will not let that beautiful fruit go to waste and will immediately bake a lovely bread or muffin.

The really crazy thing is that I don’t even like bananas.

But here’s a bread that I will even eat, packed with all sorts of wholesome goodness.

Banana-Chocolate-Chip Bread

3-4 over ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup chocolate chips

1.) Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2.) Mash bananas with a fork until smooth-ish. (Leaving some lumps is ok.)

3.) In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

4.) Into the mashed bananas, whisk in sugars, milk, egg, and vanilla.

5.) Gently fold in flour mixture just to combine, add chocolate chips and pour into the loaf pan.

6.) Bake for 55-65 minutes until a knife blade comes out clean. (Crazy people use knives, not toothpicks.)

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread
Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

©2013 Tracey Henry

New Neighbor Bribe

Blueberry muffins: perfect new neighbor graft
Blueberry muffins: perfect new neighbor graft

Dear New Neighbor,

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m your new neighbor. That neighbor.

Oh, I don’t plan any trouble, slights, inadvertent impoliteness, or anything to make you call your insurance company, emergency services or realtor; but chances are pretty good that you will at some point. I apologize in advance and offer these anticipatory peace offering muffins.

We have teenagers who park poorly and will probably impede your driveway access at some point. We have young kids that have cannot keep a ball in their own yard to save their life. We have a dog. Cute, but she’s a runner and a digger with a propensity for your fence line and begonias.

We have parties. And house guests. And a drum set. And inappropriate boundary issues.

But if you’re able to overlook these few flaws–and the tragic paint color experiment on your side of the house–we do have our good points.

Like you know the Bunco group with all of the popular people in the neighborhood? Well, I’m blacklisted from that one but I’ll bring you as my personal guest to the one formed by outcasts in dramatic protest.

And you know that giant nest of rabbits that live under your back porch? They used to live here before I chased them out after eating the biggest patch of basil this side of Tuscany. I’ll make you (and your exterminator) a batch of homemade pesto.

And since we are in a constant state of violation with the homeowner’s association, chances are you can get away with a plethora of infractions with their attention turned our way.  We are responsible for so many of the amendments to the covenants they refer to us as the Continental Congress. You’ll probably be able to skirt a fine for those bottle rocket casings littered all over your roof for at least six more months. (I’m sorry and you’re welcome.)

So while it may not seem like we make the best neighbors, we do make pretty decent friends. Join us for a BBQ this weekend and I’ll show you.

(And how that large bare patch in your lawn in the shape of a giant chicken wing got there.)

 

*******

 

Anticipatory Apology Blueberry Muffins 

Makes a dozen

 

1 1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon almond extract

 

1 pint fresh blueberries (They’re your new neighbors, make a good impression and splurge on fresh berries, for goodness sake.)

Turbinado sugar, if desired

 

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 Tablespoon and toss over blueberries in another small bowl. Set both aside.

2.) Whisk together sugar, sour cream, oil, egg and almond extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries.

3.) Line a muffin tin with papers and fill each with the batter evenly. Sprinkle each with a healthy sprinkle of turbinado sugar before putting in the oven.

4.) Bake for 20-25 minutes. Deliver to new neighbor. No mention of highjacked wifi needed.

 

©2013 Tracey Henry