amazing muffins and crazy ice cream part I

The raisins-in-baked goods question seems to divide folks and I’ve always found myself on the side of the not so muches. A handful as-is makes me very happy, but keep them out of my cookies, quick breads, scones, etc. thank you very much. (Don’t even get me started on sour cream raisin pie.)

But I baked with a friend recently and when she suggested we make Super Muffins, I couldn’t say no. (Super Muffins? How often do you get the chance to make Super Muffins?) I overlooked the fact that there were raisins involved as well as that the recipe looked much like that for the ever-popular Morning Glory muffins. (Never a fan–too chock-full-of-goodness for me.)

But I was baking with a friend and willing to try something new. And things didn’t look all bad–outside of raisins, the other ingredients were winners: oats, bran, whole wheat flour, shredded carrots, applesauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger. I was willing to look past the raisin thing and give these a try.

And it’s a good thing I did or I would not have been able to tell you that these were the Best Muffins Ever: full of flavor, dense but not in a doorstop way, just sweet enough. The raisins? They melted into the muffin’s structure, only making themselves known so far as their hit of tangy sweet.



out of the oven

out of the oven

Super Muffins cooling

Super Muffins cooling

These muffins are prize winners on so many levels. My baking friend and I enjoyed one for lunch, though they’re also no-brainers for breakfasts and snacks. And I imagined they’d also make a fine dessert warmed, then drizzled with caramel sauce and served alongside vanilla ice cream.

definitely yum

definitely yum

Thinking ahead, we talked about mixing pumpkin or sunflower seeds into the batter. Or chia seeds. Or flax seeds. Or subbing pumpkin puree in for part (or all) of the applesauce. Adding freshly grated nutmeg and upping the ground ginger seemed smart. But I wouldn’t touch the carrot amount–it was perfect. And despite what I thought going in, I’d keep the raisins. (Though perhaps they could be plumped in bourbon rather than boiling water?  😉 )

The muffin recipe follows, but note that I took my suggestion of serving these muffins drizzled with caramel sauce and alongside ice cream very seriously. (or as seriously as you can take something as fun as Super Muffins, caramel sauce, and ice cream 🙂 ) There’s more to say about that ice cream, but seeing as how this is getting long, I’ll leave you with a picture and ask you to come back later in the week for the second half of this divine dessert pairing. (There will also be beer chocolate sauce, so well worth the wait.)

super muffins, DIY ice cream, and salted caramel sauce--it doesn't get any better than this

super muffins, DIY ice cream, and sea salt caramel sauce–it doesn’t get any better than this

Now for those muffins…

Super Muffins

Credit for these absolutely above-average muffins goes to my friend Stephanie’s grandma–thanks for sharing!

1 to 2 cups raisins
3 cups all-bran cereal
1  (23-ounce) jar unsweetened applesauce
2 1/2 cups milk
3 large carrots, grated (about 2 cups) or more if desired
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil (we used coconut oil)
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon salt

2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease muffins cups.

In small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add raisins; let stand 5 minutes. (DO NOT DRAIN.)

In large bowl, combine cereal, applesauce, milk, carrots, brown sugar, eggs, and oil; mix well. Stir in raisin mixture. In separate large bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients except for walnuts. Gently stir wet ingredients into dry; mix just until combined. Stir in walnuts if using.

Ladle batter evenly into muffin cups, filling each completely. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Refrigerate to store. Can also be frozen, which is good as this recipe Makes 40 Muffins!

for kids of all ages: minty ice cream shake

One of the joys of having young kids around–whether yours or someone else’s–is the built-in excuse to indulge your sweet tooth more often. While true that I’d probably buy cases of Marshmallow Fluff and place (alarmingly) frequent Plush Puffs orders even if I didn’t have little ones underfoot, it might be a bit harder to explain.

So, when my 10-year-old brought me the recipe section of her American Girl magazine (yes, the AG doll empire includes a magazine) and asked me if we could please make the Grasshopper Shake because didn’t it look a lot like a McDonald’s shamrock shake, I was all over it. We happened to have mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer, so it was easy to whip up a creamy, minty batch of delish.

Because we were going for a shamrock shake clone, we tweaked the recipe a bit, nixing the Oreos and adding a bit of vanilla extract for flavor depth. As well, the green food color was skipped as it didn’t seem necessary.

Whipping the shake up was easy-breezy as we loaded ingredients (2 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon mint extract, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract) into the cup of an Oster My Blend. A quick twist of the cup set the blender whirring and when finished, it was as simple as unscrewing the blade and pouring the shake into a glass. Had it been a to-go drink, a separate lid could have been snapped on for drinking on-the-run.



taking it to-go

taking it to-go

We were staying put, though, so poured the thick shake into a malt glass and topped it with whipped cream and green sugar sprinkles. Our “shamrock” looked nothing like the fluorescent-hued fast-food shake. The chocolate pieces (they’re not chips, no matter what the label says) muddy the color, though they also add a bit of texture and lots of sweet chocolate. As for the mint flavor? It’s there in spades. Feel free to cut the amount of extract in half if you prefer your mint flavor a bit more subtle.

I’m hoping that my daughters pick up on my love for healthier fare as well, but for now, they have my number: My inner child isn’t all that Inner when it comes to sweet treats.

homespun shamrock shake

homespun shamrock shake

wrapping up deLizious loose ends

This has been a week of some culinary success as I wrapped up loose ends on three projects. Because the projects were started here, with you, I wanted to report back on what went down.

First, the caramel sauce: In an earlier post, I’d learned how to avoid crystallization by covering the pot while the sauce boils down. Because the water is trapped in the pot, the evaporation and browning occur much more slowly than if the pot boiled uncovered. (But if it boiled uncovered, I’d have to wipe down the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush, and that method rarely ends well for me.) The result of my four (yes, I made caramel sauce four times in a row) trials was light caramel, followed by just a wee bit darker caramel, bit darker yet, then my final batch of still blonde caramel.

four (very blonde) shades of caramel

four (very blonde) shades of caramel

The book I took my recipe from mentioned an ultra-dark, nearly burnt caramel sauce that sounded divine. This is what I wanted. I tried again this week and was thrilled with my final batch of deep, dark, caramelly caramel that was just this side of smoky in flavor. Sea Salt Caramel success could finally be checked off my list. The difference this time? A digital thermometer ensured the recommended end-point of 355°F. With my closed-pot method, this took over half-an-hour to achieve, but so worth it. The sauce was finger- and bowl- and spoon-licking good.

Salted Caramel Sauce (finally) done right

Salted Caramel Sauce (finally) done right

Since there’s finally an amazing caramel sauce in the house, I needed ice cream. After enjoying buttermilk ice cream from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones (this was quite an adventure–read about it here if you like tales of intrigue, loss, and ultimate triumph), I wanted a shot at the book’s crème fraîche flavor.

First step was making crème fraîche–already a favorite kitchen project of mine. Recipes are easy to find online, but my version whisks together 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup buttermilk, and 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and lets it sit overnight in a warm place before refrigerating for storage. Next, the ice cream: The recipe mirrors the one for the buttermilk version except for losing one egg yolk and replacing the buttermilk and vanilla (stirred in just before churning) with 1 cup crème fraîche and 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice. It’s a tart little number, slightly sour but still sweet. More decadent than the buttermilk, which had a simpler flavor, the crème fraîche was second on my list. That said, it’s a fun flavor and I’d make it again.

homemade crème fraîche ice cream

homemade crème fraîche ice cream

My final wrap-up was the launch of my new deLizious website. Fifteen years ago I started Food Communication Services; last year I decided it needed freshening up. This blog was a part of the re-launch, as was a new name, new logo, and facebook page (all fun food and drink all the time!). The biggest piece of the pie was a new website and I’m thrilled to finally see it live. Many thanks to all followers and readers and commenters and likers. deLizious wouldn’t be as much fun without you! With gratitude, I send you crème fraîche ice cream and caramel sauce wishes:-)

twice as good together

twice as good together

peach. bourbon. ice cream. tarts.

Next Monday I’ll attend the annual business meeting of Les Dames d’Escoffier. I’ve written of this group before, and always look forward to being a part of their events. The company is good for sure and the conversation almost always revolves around food. And then there’s the food itself: always spectacular. Often the group meets at a restaurant or has a meal catered in, but the September meeting is traditionally potluck.

Because Les Dames membership is made up of those who enjoy being in the kitchen, you’ll never find a bag of chips and storebought dip at their potluck. This is a group of women who will make their own chips and dip or, better yet, offer up a whole-grain salad, basket of homemade biscuits and jam, or an amazing fruit-and-cheese platter. Because of the high bar that’s been set, I admit to being intimidated when bringing that “dish to share.”

It’s not that I don’t think I can turn out decent fare, but I tend toward basic (the biscuits and jam mentioned above? mine) while many of the Dames kick it up a notch and bring dishes that wow. Today I’ve given a test run to what I hope will pass muster at Monday’s meeting.

With the help of my new ice cream maker, I made a batch of Bourbon Peach Brown Sugar Ice Cream (again, thanks, Accidental Locavore for passing on the link!). With so many fun ingredients, it seemed appropriate for this group. But ice cream isn’t made for a potluck spread, so to turn it into a servable dessert, I started by pressing graham cracker crumbs that had been mixed with enough melted butter to moisten into mini muffin cups. Next in was a small spoonful of homemade cajeta sauce that was leftover from another project. A small scoop of the softened ice cream went on top after which the “tarts” were frozen until solid. Before serving, a dollop of bourbon-kissed whipped cream went on each along with a dusting of graham cracker crumbs. They turned out prettier and tastier than I’d hoped. Yay! They’ll go well with whatever wonderful dishes the Dames bring.

bourbon-peach-brown sugar tart shells with bourbon whipped cream

pretty, tasty, heavenly!

food (and wine) for fun

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Credited to Confucius–much-quoted Chinese philosopher–this line first grabbed me shortly after college. What would it be like to enjoy your profession so much that it didn’t seem like work? Choosing a job didn’t seem an option; I was a new grad and just wanted someone to hire me.

Someone eventually did and I went on to hold a number of positions (food scientist, baker, coffee shop manager) before going out on my own. Yet through it all, I’ve only worked food jobs. And I can say without reservation that following your passion leads to doing what you love. And when you do what you love, it rarely seems like work.

My opening quote came to mind as I thought back on my day. Lunch was spent with a good friend, also a former client, at Wilde Roast Cafe, a Minneapolis spot known for first-rate food. My open-face tilapia sandwich was tasty and the creamy pumpkin soup plenty creamy. The kicker was dessert: carrot cake and a scoop of Surly (as in beer) gelato. Wow. (Not had on this visit, but highly recommend any of the Alaskan beers.)

The fun continued at tonight’s Twin Cities Home Economists in Business meeting. This professional organization held its kickoff fall meeting at Warehouse Winery and because it seemed the perfect date venue, I asked my husband to accompany. We enjoyed nibbles and sips as the winery staff led us through six food-and-wine pairings. From a white wine paired with cheese and crackers to a deep, dark Cabernet alongside Parmesan-stuffed mushrooms, the wines were robust and bold. The winery itself was a hidden Minneapolis gem. Housed in an industrial park (and what was formerly a motor-repair shop), its walls sported crazy-fun art along with plenty of product.

Warehouse Winery wall

pop art looks right at home alongside wine-making equipment

Next stop was a Costco next to the winery (what’s a date night without a Costco run?) and I was thrilled to find Kerry Gold butter. After this butter was recommended by a foodie colleague, I’ve tried to always have it on hand. When our neighborhood Costco stopped carrying it, I was dreading the opening of our final package. But tonight I go to sleep knowing we have six more boxes stacked in our freezer.

Irish butter–pure gold for baking or spreading

The food fun continued when I returned home to a gift of European chocolate bars from my Wilde Roast lunch friend. She’d recently taken a trip to Ireland and was kind enough to bring me two stunning postcards and six amazing candy bars. Thanks, Mary!

pretty postcards from Valvona & Crolla–famous Edinburgh food market

candy bars from UK and Ireland–can’t wait to dive in

I’ll finish the day off by reading a chapter or two from Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man, a biography of Clarence Birdseye, the man credited with inventing the frozen food industry we know today. This may not sound like a page-turner, but Birdseye was a thinker, innovator, and all-around adventurer. I’d consider myself lucky if I accomplished even one-fourth of what he did in his lifetime.

My accomplishments will likely be less momentous than Birdseye’s, but I still count myself lucky to be surrounded by all things food. In my world, there are few lines between work and play and the same can be said for colleagues and friends. Confucious would most certainly approve.

the List and the dari-ette

Today my youngest and I waved my oldest daughter off to Girl Scout camp, then made plans to check off another fun food spot on my List.

Most folks seem to have Bucket Lists and for good reason. It’s smart to be purposeful about what you hope to accomplish in a lifetime. No Bucket List for me, though. My List comprises all of the many restaurants and food trucks in Minneapolis/St. Paul that I hope to visit.

This List isn’t written down, but mention of a restaurant that intrigues puts the spot on my List. I’m fully aware that I’ll never make all of the places on my List. I’ve also seen restaurants shutter before I’ve had a chance to stop by. But over the past three or four years, I’ve slowly ticked off a fair number of new restaurants. And for someone with young kids, it pleases me very much that I’ve made the effort to get out there.

So about today: The weather was amazing; it seemed a good day for a drive-in. I’ve read reviews of the Dari-ette, said to be one of the last remaining true drive-ins in the area, and figured this was absolutely the day to hunt it down.

The building was on the rickety side, but had plenty of character. My daughter wanted spaghetti (the menu leaned heavily toward old-school Italian-American), so I ordered a side of that with my turkey sandwich. The best part was the ice cream, of course. My Heath bar flurry had ribbons of hot fudge sauce and my daughter’s root beer float was lovely.

turkey sandwich, side of spaghetti, Heath bar flurry

We ate on a step near our car as the four outdoor tables were taken, and when I looked up at the vintage Dari-ette Drive-in sign with the amazingly blue sky behind it, I was crazy happy. Something about making it out to another fun, independently owned food venue, and sharing these moments with my daughter, thrilled me. An overly intense reaction to lunch at a drive-in, maybe, but for me, trying a new restaurant is something that matters.

Perhaps my List is simply a Bucket List for someone who loves all things food. Definition aside, I look forward to continuing to move through this list and am glad today offered me (and my daughter) another chance to explore.

cookies cookies everywhere

Should you need a reason to throw a party next week, note that the Girl Scout organization turns 100 on March 12. This bit of trivia doesn’t exactly rock my world as my Brownie days are long behind me. But as mom to two scouts, today found me at the second largest shopping center in the United States with my girls. Also in attendance were seemingly most of the Girl Scouts of Minnesota along with their families. It was nuts with the crowds, but also a lot of fun with activities and the like. We didn’t spend much money (yay) and it was fun to run away from responsibilities at home for a bit. One of the biggest draws was the Girl Scout Shop, which was hosting a Cookie Booth. The line was out the door.

Cookies are where I was going with this as food is always my point. While Girl Scout cookies are lovely to munch on as-is, it’s fun to think of them as ingredients. Why not build a dessert on these humble cookies? Some ideas…

Crumble over ice cream for a sundae.

  • vanilla ice cream, Trefoils, honey, whipped cream
  • raspberry, strawberry, or lime sherbet, Savannah Smiles (lemon-y), fresh mint sprig
  • chocolate ice cream, Samoas®, mini marshmallows, caramel sauce
  • chocolate ice cream, Tagalongs®, chocolate sauce, crushed peanuts
  • vanilla ice cream, Do-Si-Dos®, butterscotch sauce, sunflower seeds
  • vanilla ice cream, Savannah Smiles, chocolate sauce

Layer with vanilla yogurt for a parfait. (Use Do-Si-Dos  and call it breakfast.)

Process with a bit of melted butter and sugar (not much) for a crumb crust.

  • Thin Mints for mint chip ice-cream pie
  • Trefoils for cheesecake or lemon bars
  • Thank U Berry Munch or Do-Si-Dos for oatmeal bars

Sandwich Dulce de Leches around layers of caramel and ice cream for a frozen treat. Roll in butter brickle bits for added crunch.

Crumble over pudding just before serving.

Replace graham crackers with Samoas or Trefoils for an updated s’more.

I understand that the type–and even name–of Girl Scout cookies available depend on where they are sold. I’ve included the cookies I know. You can learn more about all of the cookies on the Girl Scout Cookie website.

s’mores Samoa-style

ice cream sandwich with Girl Scout Trefoils and sprinkles