Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eat: Muffins Galore!

Blueberry Muffins. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 9 Apr 2013.
Courtesy of Britannica ImageQuest
A few weeks ago, I shared a basic scone recipe that can be modified a number of ways depending on your mood and on-hand ingredients. Well, I've come to love that concept so much that I sought out something similar for muffins and quick breads. The possibilities are as limitless as your imaginationor your online searching skills. This recipe is much quicker than my scones, since you don't have to cut-in butter (I task I strongly dislike and often leaves me with sore wrists). When I'm feeling particularly lazy, I opt for the loaf version of this recipe instead of muffins. The differing instructions and baking times are included below.

Base Muffin Recipe (Betty Crocker Cookbook, 2005 edition)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 18 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins or 1 (9”) loaf 

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
Extras (see below for ideas) 

1. Preheat oven to 375° F if making muffins OR 350° F if making a loaf. Grease your pan. 

2. In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl combine the egg, milk and oil. Add the egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened and lumpy. Incorporate any extras (see list below). 

3. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups or loaf pan, (muffin cups should be two-thirds full). 

4. For muffins, bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.

For a loaf, bake 50 minutes or until golden and a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. 

6. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and transfer to wire racks to cool a bit more.

Easy Muffin/Bread Variations

Apple Cinnamon: Stir in one chopped apple (with or without the skin depending on your preference) and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Substitute packed brown sugar for the granulated sugar.

Bacon: Add 2-4 strips of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled, to the batter.

Banana-Nut: Decrease the milk to 1/3 cup, stir in 2-3 mashed bananas (around 1 cup) and 1/3 cup chopped nuts with the milk. Substitute packed brown sugar for the sugar.

Blueberry: Gently stir 1 cup fresh or frozen berries and, if desired, 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest into the batter.

Raisin Bran: Pour the milk on 1-1/2 cups whole bran cereal and let stand for 10 minutes. Add this to the egg and oil. Decrease the flour to 1-1/4 cups and add 1/2 cup raisins. Optional: add 1/4 cup of molasses.

Cheesy: Stir 1/2 cup shredded cheese. into the flour mixture. Great options include Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Feta.

Double Chocolate: Stir in 2-3 T cocoa powder and 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips. You can also add a splash of vanilla or almond extract.

Cornbread: (Do not use whole wheat flour.) Decrease flour to 1 cup and stir in 1 cup cornmeal with the flour.

Cranberry: Combine 1 cup coarsely chopped cranberries (fresh or dried) and 2 tablespoons additional sugar. Gently stir this into the batter. You can also add 1 T finely grated orange peel.

Date Nut: Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates (or raisins) and 1/3 cup chopped nuts.

"Donuts": Stir in 1/2 cup ground nutmeg with the flour. Once baked, immediately dip the hot muffins in about 1/2 cup butter, melted, then in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

Oatmeal: Decrease flour to 1 cup and stir in 1 cup quick-cooking oats, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon with the flour.

Pecan: Use 1/4 cup sugar. Add 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the batter. After filling the cups, sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and more chopped nuts. 

Poppy Seed: Increase sugar to 1/2 cup and add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the flour mixture.

Pumpkin: (Don’t use whole wheat flour.) Stir in 1/2 cup pumpkin puree and 1/2 cup raisins with the milk and 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice with the flour. Sprinkle the tops with sugar before baking if desired.

Spiced: Stir in 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and a pinch of ground cloves and ground nutmeg with the flour.

Zucchini: Stir in 1 cup grated zucchini (squeezed dry to remove excess moisture) and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts with the milk.

Many of these ideas can be combined, like Spiced Pecan, Blueberry Poppyseed, or Chocolate Oatmeal. So far, I've only tried the Double Chocolate (with a handful of oats thrown in), but I'm planning to make a batch of Spiced Pecan this week!

Friday, April 05, 2013

Make: Baby Shoes & Headband!

My friend Sarah is getting ready to have her first baby, which is exciting for a great number of reasons--the least of which is that I've gotten to make her a handful of cute baby crafts! The toughest part was narrowing down my long list of options. These oh-so-adorable shoes and headband were too sweet to skip!

 The best part? Both projects were super simple!

Felt Slippers

You can find several slightly different patterns online. I selected one by Martha Stewart found here. I had to print it out a few times while fine-tuning the scale. You want the sole to be roughly 3 inches long.

Then you use the stencil to draw and cut out both shapes on felt fabric.  Pin the top of the shoe (marked "upper" on the template) to the sole. Now slowly sew the pieces together. Don't worry if your seam is not completely straight!

Turn it inside out and voila! A baby shoe. Now you can decide what to do with the strap. I opted to sew a tiny button on one strap and carefully cut a short slit on the other strap. Other ideas include ribbon ties (short pieces sewn on each strap) or a small length of elastic (<1") permanently connecting the straps.

We've arrived at the best part: decorating! Flowers and bows are always fun, but I wanted something less common. I stacked two circles in contrasting colors then secured them onto the shoe with a white button.

Repeat for the second shoe.

Circle Headband

Once the shoes were finished, the headband pretty much designed itself. I sewed together 12 inches of narrow elastic and continued the circle-stack motif in a line of three along the elastic. I made sure to cover the elastic seam with one of the circles. To clean up the back of the headband (and hopefully make it more comfortable for baby), I glued a thin strip of white felt along the back sides of the circles (sandwiching the elastic).

Here is a quick overview of headband sizes for babies:
  • Newborn: 12 inches
  • 3-6 months: 13 inches
  • 6-12 months: 14 inches
  • 18-24 months: 16 inches

My only regret with this project is that both are sized for a brand spankin' new baby. She won't get to rock them for very long!