Heart’s Desire

HeartsDesireMuffin

Rich & moist, chocolate banana muffins with dried cherries and bittersweet chocolate.

Heart’s Desire Muffins

Makes 5

3/4 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. granulated white sugar

1/4 c. natural cocoa

1 1/4 t. baking powder

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 t. baking soda

3/4 c. mashed overripe banana

1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted

1/4 c. buttermilk

1/2 c. dried cherries

1 1/2 oz. fine bittersweet chocolate, broken into small pieces

2 T. confectioner’s sugar, stirred together with a pinch of cinnamon.

Cinnamon gumdrops, optional, or desired garnish

Paper heart-shaped muffin molds*

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together banana, butter, and buttermilk.
  4. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until no dry spots show. Fold in cherries and broken chocolate.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin molds. Smooth tops with the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake for about 22 minutes or until muffins are firm to the touch.
  7. Sift confectioner’s sugar blend over muffins. Garnish, if desired. Serve (either in paper molds or removed from them.)
  • Available through Wilton and speciality baking supply companies.

Enjoy!

May your heart be full  of happiness this Valentine’s Day!

HeartsDesireMuffin@

Orange Carrot Soup

A light, but flavorful and warming soup to start your new year!

OrangeCarrotSoup

Orange Carrot Soup

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

3 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 c. diced yellow onion

salt

fresh ground pepper

2 T. semi-dry white wine, divided

4 c. diced, peeled carrots

2 t. smoked paprika

1 t. ground cinnamon

4 c. vegetable (or chicken) broth or bouillon*, divided

3 T. honey, divided

1 – 1 1/4 c. fresh-squeezed orange juice, to taste

zest from one of the oranges (use a course-textured zester)

croutons or Greek yogurt, optional

*I use 2 “Not-Chick’n” bouillon cubes dissolved in 4 c. boiling water. “Not-Chick’n” can be found in the organic foods section of many grocery stores.

Directions

  1. Place 1 T. of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, a dash of salt, a twist of fresh ground pepper, and about 1 T. of the wine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender and translucent. Transfer to a stock pot.
  2. Place remaining 2 T. of the olive oil in the large skillet. Add carrots, paprika and cinnamon. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Transfer to the stock pot containing the onions.
  3. Add enough of the broth to the stock pot to almost cover carrots. Stir. Cover and cook over medium heat until carrots are tender enough to purée but are not mushy, about 15 minutes. Stir in 2 T. of the honey.
  4. Purée mixture with a stick blender – or transfer mixture to a food processor or blender to purée until almost perfectly smooth, then transfer mixture back to stock pot.
  5. Stir orange juice and remaining 1 T. of wine into carrot mixture, then thin soup to desired consistency with the remaining broth. Stir in orange zest. Taste. If necessary adjust flavor using honey, wine, orange juice, or salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for about 10 more minutes before serving to blend flavors.
  6. Stir soup before serving. Serve in small cups as a starter or light lunch – or in soup bowls for a heavier meal. If desired, garnish with croutons or a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Enjoy! Happy New Year!

Pumpkin Snack Cake

Image

Pumpkin Snack Cake

Ingredients

2 c. all-purpose flour (stir before measuring)

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. baking power

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground cloves

1/2 t. ground ginger

1/2 t. ground mace

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

15 oz. (425 gm.) canned pumpkin

3/4 c. granulated white sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/3 c. canola oil

1/3 c. buttermilk

1 lg. egg

2 t. vanilla extract

1/2 c. dried currants

1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe at bottom of page)
 
Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9×9″ pan with baking spray or with butter and flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together pumpkin, sugars, canola oil, buttermilk, egg, and vanilla until smooth and well-blended.

4. Stir pumpkin mixture into dry ingredients until smooth and no dry spots appear. Then fold in currants and walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Level top with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 38 – 48 minutes or until firm on top and a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack.

6. While cake is cooling, prepare cream cheese frosting. Once cake is cooled, invert onto a cooling rack, then re-invert onto a cutting board. Frost top of cake, then cut into squares. Enjoy!

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

6 oz. cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. + 1 T. confectioner’s sugar

1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1 T. + 1 t. milk

1/2 t. vanilla extract

Directions

Beat ingredients together until perfectly smooth.

 

Chocolat Chaud (French-style Bittersweet Hot Chocolate)

ChocolatChaud

The other day I was reading J. A. Brillat-Savarin’s The Physiology of Taste and his discussion of chocolate gave me the greatest craving for a rich cup of chocolat chaud. As we have been experiencing cool weather here in Manhattan, Kansas the past few days, the timing was perfect; but, of course, being Kansas, the weather is supposed back up into the 80’s by mid-week. That’s how it goes here. I hope that you are having a lovely autumn! Enjoy the recipe!

Chocolat Chaud

6 oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 c. boiling water

about 2 c. warm milk

cinnamon sticks for garnish

optional other ingredients & garnishes: brown sugar, Chantilly Cream, cinnamon sugar, chocolate curls

Directions:

1. Place chocolate in a 2-qt. sauce pan over low heat. Pour boiling water over chocolate. Stir until smooth.

2. Gradually stir in 2 c. of the warm milk. Taste. If the flavor is too strong for you, stir in more milk to taste. If desired, stir in a bit of brown sugar.

3. Once you have reached the desired flavor, continue stirring until smooth and hot – but not boiling.

4. If you have an immersion blender, whip the hot chocolate until frothy. Ladle into warmed serving cups. Garnish each with a cinnamon stick. If desired, top with Chantilly cream, cinnamon sugar and/or chocolate curls. Bon appétit!

Note: As with just about anything you make, the are a number of ways to make chocolat chaud. Some recipes omit the hot water. You can use more or less milk if you desire. (About 2 cups of milk is the minimum that I like to use without having to sweeten the beverage.) If you have the patience to wait, after you have warmed the hot chocolate mixture and balanced the flavors, remove it from the heat, transfer to a glass container and allow it to sit for several hours in order to thicken. Return chocolate to clean saucepan, then gently warm mixture and continue with step 4.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside + Masala (Chai) Spices for Tea

It is cool and dreary here today in Manhattan, Kansas – the kind of day that makes a person want to stay inside and curl up with a good book and a cup of tea.  So, I made some Masala Spice Tea. Hmm, wonderful!

ChaiSpiceTea

Masala (Chai) Spice Blend

7 T. granulated sugar

2 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

2 t. ground ginger

2 t. ground cardamom

2 t. ground cloves

1/2 t. ground allspice

1/2 t. ground nutmeg

1/2 t. ground black pepper, optional*

Combine sugar and spices in a 3/4-cup glass jar. Close the lid and shake the jar until ingredients are well blended. Store at cool room temperature.

Suggested Uses: sprinkle on top of buttered toast, or on top of muffins or coffee cakes before baking; use instead of sugar in Chantilly Cream, coffee, tea, hot cocoa, or hot cider.

* The black pepper yields a hot flavor that works well in coffee, tea and hot cocoa; but I omit it for use in baked goods, hot cider and Chantilly Cream. If you are not used to hot flavor in your beverages, the pepper might become an acquired taste.

To make Masala (Chai) Spice Tea

2 c. water

2 T. + 2 t. Masala (Chai) Spice Blend

2 T. + 2 t. Assam or Darjeeling black tea, Jasmine green tea, or Honeybush herbal tea

2 c. milk, almond milk, or soy milk

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add spice blend and tea leaves. (It your tea is bagged, leave it in the bags because the crushed tea is more difficult to strain.) Stir in milk, almond milk, or soy milk. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Strain tea into a warmed pot and then strain again into warmed tea cups. Enjoy!

More on this week’s photo challenge

Old-Fashioned Cocktail and Brandied Cherries

Recently, several people have asked me to post another cocktail recipe. So, friends, if anyone is planning to host a cocktail party, here is a classic …

OldFashioned2

Old-Fashioned Cocktail

• 1 cube of sugar

• 3 – 4 drops Angostura bitters (traditional in this cocktail) or Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters (also very good)

• 1 – 2 brandied cherries

• 1 orange slice or lemon slice

• ice

• 2 oz. good bourbon (such as Woodford Reserve)

• 1 oz. cold water, optional

Place sugar cube in the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and then splash with bitters. Add 1 cherry and orange or lemon slice. Muddle ingredients together in bottom of glass.  Fill glass halfway with ice.  Add bourbon and, if a  lighter drink is desired, water.  Stir before serving to mix and chill drink and to make sure that sugar is dissolved. If desired, plop another cherry in the cocktail. Cheers!

Brandied Cherries

• 1 1/4 c. fresh cherries that have been washed and pitted (or frozen dark sweet cherries if fresh aren’t available)

• 1/4 c. granulated white sugar

• 1/4 c. water

• 1/2 t. fresh lemon or lime zest

• dash of ground cinnamon

• pinch of ground nutmeg

• pinch of ground cardamom

1/4 c. good brandy

Place all of the ingredients, except the brandy,  in a medium-sized saucepan. Gently stir. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 7 minutes or until liquid is thick and syrupy. Remove from heat. Stir in brandy. Transfer to a clean glass jar. Refrigerate uncovered until cool, then tightly seal jar. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Happy Reindeer Daiquiri

In my previous post, as part of the Two Little Chefettes’ Cooking Challenge, I published a recipe for Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup. One way to use this syrup is in cocktails and mocktails in place of plain simple syrup. Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup imparts rich cinnamon and caramel flavors to drinks.  The Happy Reindeer Daiquiri is an excellent example. Cheers! Happy Holidays!

Happy Reindeer Daiquiri

2 oz. rum (or apple juice, for an alcohol-free drink)

1 oz fresh lime juice

1/2 – 1 oz. brown sugar cinnamon syrup, or to taste (recipe)

Maraschino cherry

Cinnamon stick

Pour rum, lime juice, and brown sugar cinnamon syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a coupe or martini style cocktail glass. Garnish with Maraschino cherry and cinnamon stick. Serve immediately.

HappyReindeerDaiquiriCheers!