rustic pastry with preserves

This recipe totally cheats.
Just felt like I should start with that so you’re prepared when you see pancake mix on the list of necessary ingredients.
Like I said. Cheating.
If it bugs you, you can totally mix up your own dry pancake mix from scratch. In fact, I have a great recipe right here. Just leave out the wet ingredients!

There. That’s done.
Moving on.

I love this recipe for its simplicity. And yet the end result is gorgeous in a rustic, french-breakfast kind of way. I imagine myself enjoying a slice while on a balcony in Paris, early morning sunlight filtering through white curtains as I lounge about in a silk robe.

Clearly this is my imagination at work, because reality looks more like a mad rush of chaos between changing diapers and serving slices of this pastry up on paper plates, to small humans who are clearly dying of starvation (as evidenced by their whining for food before the sun rises).
A far cry from balconies and silk robes, but it’s nice to know we can whip up beautiful food that meets us where we’re at. So here. Here’s to pretty food that tastes good, nourishes, and meets us where we’re at. Cheers, and enjoy!

RUSTIC PASTRY

3 cups of pancake mix
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2-3/4 cup fruit preserves of your choice

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine butter, egg, and yogurt. Gradually stir in pancake mix until a thick dough forms. Use your hands or a dough hook to finish combining the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.

On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll dough out in a large rectangle, approximately 1/4 inch thick. With a spoon, spread fruit preserves down the middle of the dough and then cut notches along either side of the preserves, folding each strip up on top of the preserves as you go. A kind of braid will form with each new strip you layer. Lightly sprinkle the finished braid with cinnamon and sugar. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown across the top.
Allow to cool slightly and set before serving.

Ps. This would be super good with Nutella filling in place of the preserves. Just saying.

Cinnamon Rolls

Weekend food is not typically my favorite. Often I feel as though I get stuck in the kitchen while my tribe goes off galavanting.
HOWEVER. Sunday morning food traditions are an exception.

When I was a child, my Mom used to make a large pan of cinnamon roll on Saturday night. They would rise, gaining girth and height until she would pop them into the oven Sunday at dawn. The whole house would smell of baking cinnamon rolls and I swear to you, my spiritual life is wafted-over with the smell of baking cinnamon and brown sugar. It’s a beautiful thing. My mom is particularly good at recognizing both the physical and spiritual needs of her people. Food when we’re hungry, naps when we’re weary, prayers over all. It’s a motto she lives by, though I’m not sure she’s ever stated those words exactly. I’ve inherited some of that from her.
And also cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning.

These are so easy to whip up, I rarely make them Saturday night. Sunday morning before my tribe starts rolling out of bed is enough time. Thirty minutes or so and these guys are in the oven. Also, they rise as they bake, so no need to wait overnight.
Enjoy!


CINNAMON ROLLS

DOUGH:
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon quick-rising yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup very warm water
3 cups flour

FILLING:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon (or more) cinnamon

In a stand mixer or large bowl, combine warm water, melted butter, sugar, salt, and yeast. Whip vigorously until yeast mixture is foamy. Add in flour, one cup at a time, stirring until you can no longer work with a spoon or spatula. If you’re using a stand mixer, attach the kneading hook and finish the last cup of flour with that. If you’re using elbow grease, dump soft dough onto the counter top and work the last cup in by hand. Allow to rest for ten minutes.

Work dough on a floured surface into a large, long rectangle. Dough should be no more than 1/2 an inch thick. If the dough continues to shrink dramatically every time you stretch it out, allow it to rest a couple more minutes. Feel free to use a rolling pin if you like.

Spread the surface liberally with butter, then sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Roll up, working the long side of the rectangle closest to you toward the opposite side, smoothing and stretching as you go. When you reach the opposite side, pinch the open side onto the roll, sealing it up. Turn the roll seam-side down, and using a sharp knife, trim off the ends. Cut the roll in eighteen to twenty slices, about 2 inches long each.

Place rolls in a well-buttered pan (you should have enough small blunt-ended rolls for two round pans) and allow to rest for ten minutes or so. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown across the top. Serve warm.

Pesto

There are so many varieties to this gorgeous idea of herbs and olive oil blended and tossed over pasta. Parsley . . . Cilantro . . . Rosemary . . . I even whip up a batch of Balsamic-Lemon Spinach Pesto that’s really delightful! But truly, my favorite variety is the traditional one.
Basil.
The earthy sweetness. Crisp and almost acidic, but not quite. Green like fresh grass. It’s hard to find a meal I enjoy more than one that includes fresh pesto. And knowing this about myself, I planted ten basil plants in my garden this year. That’s right. Ten. And I might double that next year. I have no shame.

IMG_1475

My two oldest girls and I cut a bunch, washed them up, and whipped up a lovely batch of pesto this week. I spooned it generously over three-cheese ravioli and fresh grape tomatoes. Sprinkled with parmesan, only a loaf of crusty bread would have made it better. Next time.

IMG_1481

PESTO 
1 large bunch of basil—roughly 2 cups of leaves, washed, and stems removed
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 grated parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon garlic
dash of lemon juice

Pine nuts are traditionally part of a solid pesto recipe, but I’m not a fan, so I left them out. If you like them, roast two tablespoons in a hot sauté pan with a splash of olive oil and salt until they brown. Set aside on paper toweling and allow to cool.

In a food processor, whirl basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and parmesan, scraping down sides of the bowl frequently for about a minute, or until a thick, smooth paste forms.

IMG_1478

Everyone has a different opinion about the thickness of a proper pesto. The beauty of making your own, means you get to decide what that looks like! Feel free to add more olive oil if you prefer your pesto a little thinner.
At this point you would also add the roasted pine nuts if you enjoy them.
Whirl again, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Serve over pasta of your choice, hot or cold.

IMG_1483

To store: divide between small jars and freeze what you intend keep beyond immediate use.
Enjoy!

 

Blueberry-Banana Yogurt Muffins

August is the season of Blueberries.
Well, so is July, but it’s still early August and blueberry season kind of runs over into August around here. It’s glorious. I have six little blueberry bushes in my garden and this is the first year they’ve produced fruit. It feels like a real victory. I so look forward to what future summers hold in the blueberry department. Good things ahead, people.

IMG_1386

This morning, it seemed like a wise idea to do more than just nom those fresh berries straight from the bushes, so I picked what I could and decided muffins would showcase their sweetness best. Throw in a couple of over-ripe bananas and yogurt for consistency, and presto—muffins.
Enjoy!

BLUEBERRY-BANANA YOGURT MUFFINS

1/2 cup butter (1 stick, softened)
2 eggs
1 soft banana
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Greek Yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 pint fresh blueberries

In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, blend butter (softened), sliced banana, sugar, yogurt, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon until will combined. Feel free to really work the batter so no banana or butter lumps remain. Then mix in the flour, but don’t overdo it or the muffins will fall when they bake. A little visible flour in the batter is okay.
Fold in fresh berries with a soft spatula until they are well-dispersed.

Scoop batter into a greased muffin tin (about 2/3 full in each), and bake in a 350-degree preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden-brown across the top.

Refrigerator Pickles

Look at this. It’s the last day in July. I can’t even.
This summer got away from me in a flurry of summer storms, and random illnesses, old house issues, and remodel projects. Blogging had to take a necessary backseat to survival for a little bit. But look! Here are some pickles. The world is feeling right again.

IMG_1489

Women have been preserving fruits and veggies and meats and all manner of foods for decades. They learned from their mothers who learned from their mothers, and as a result, some of us were lucky enough to have mothers who canned. But the rest of us have had to try and pick it up on our own here and there, throwing in heathy doses of apprehension along the way. What if I do it wrong? What if I poison my family? What if I break jars while boiling them and get glass in everything?
Enter Refrigerator Pickles.

Refrigerator pickles are one of those preserving miracles that feel a little like cheating. Canning without canning! It’s awesome. It’s also a great place to start if you’re new to preserving and nervous about the process. No boiling jars, no bacteria fears, and yet, boom. Preserving!

I have a crazy batch of cucumbers in my garden this year and they produce the most adorable little cucumbers. But they are very seedy. I hate seedy pickles. So instead of slicing my cucumbers or even chipping them, I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, and sliced them up. Feel free to experiment a little when contriving pickling recipes. I like garlic dill with a hint of sweetness, but not sweet like bread-and-butter pickles. This recipe reflects my preferences. Try it and then adjust to your own likes and dislikes!

IMG_1487

I started with a dozen cucumbers, 6″ to 9″ inches in length. Once sliced, they filled five quart jars. The brine recipe is built for five jars of pickles, so adjust accordingly if you have more cucumbers.

 

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES

12 cucumbers, 6″ to 9″ inches in length.
4 cups of water
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons white sugar
Garlic (enough for 2-3 cloves per jar, or a heaping teaspoon of diced garlic per jar)
Big bunch of dill
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds per jar
1/2 teaspoon Black Peppercorns per jar

In a saucepan, boil 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, salt and sugar until they dissolve. Remove from heat and add the remaining water and vinegar—preferably cold so as to cool the boiled mixture down to room temp. If the brine goes into the jars over the cucumbers hot, they will get soft instead of staying firm and crunchy in your fridge.

Fill each jar equally with cucumber spears, or chips, or slices—whichever cut you prefer. Don’t pack them too tightly as the breathing room will make the pickling process more effective. To each jar add garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and several heads of dill. Just cram them right down in the jar with the cucumbers. Don’t worry about looks here. It’s more about making everything fit. Fill the jar with the brine (cooled to room temp) until the cucumbers are just covered. Tightly cover with either a plastic lid or a metal canning jar lid and band, and gently shake to distribute the dill, mustard and peppercorns. Repeat with each jar and then refrigerate for at least 7 days before opening a jar to sample.
The pickles will keep in your refrigerator for four to five weeks.
Enjoy!

 

 

 

rhubarb cake

I have this patch of rhubarb in my garden—the grandchild of a plant that has been growing at my house for more than thirty years, and it’s fantastically huge. In the height of summer it takes up a full 8-foot by 12-foot raised garden bed.
I love it.
I call it Gertrude.

It’s only the middle of May in Minnesota but I’ve already harvested two batches of rhubarb from Gertrude, and yesterday’s harvest was a whopper. I had to use a laundry basket to bring it all inside. A batch of rhubarb sauce ensued. Also this cake.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that baking is not more forte. I’m better with main dishes and soup. There’s just so much chemistry in baking and I’ve never been great with chemistry. But.
But. But. But.
This cake.
—Custard-like, loaded with fruit, and finished with a crisp sugared crust. The almond flavor adds a hint of something magic, and topped with a fresh dollop of whipped cream, it’s basically perfection.
Enjoy!

RHUBARB CAKE

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar-in-the-raw
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 3/4 cup flour
4 cups diced rhubarb

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. The larger grains of sugar give everything a different texture, but trust me, the end result is amazing. Add almond extract, salt, baking powder, and eggs. Mix well. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and add the flour. The batter should be thick, almost thicker than expected. No worries, the juice from the rhubarb will thin it out a bit. Add the rhubarb and mix again. It’s going to look like too much fruit for the cake. But not to worry. The eggs and flour will eventually hold everything together.

I have a deep 8x 12, casserole pan I use to bake this cake. It will overflow a standard 9 x 9 cake pan. If you have a 9 x 16 cake pan, that may work better. Grease the pan well and spread the batter evenly with a spatula.
Sprinkle sugar-in-the-raw generously over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees and then turn the heat down and bake for another hour and a half (yes, that’s correct) at 325 degrees. Keep an eye on it and cover the cake with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too darkly over the top. After it had been in the oven for a total of two hours, give the pan a light shake. If the center is still jiggly, continue baking at 325 until it sets. (The “insert knife until it comes out clean” trick won’t work on this one because the finished cake has an almost custard-like texture).
Allow the cake to cool once it has finished baking.
Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

oatmeal and flax breakfast muffins

Sometimes breakfast is about coffee.
Okay fine. Breakfast is mostly about coffee for me.
But once in a while, mornings call for something else.
Like muffins.
Sometimes they turn into cupcakes.
But other times they actually stay pretty darn healthy. And tasty. And if breakfast is going to be anything besides coffee (or cupcakes), then I guess this is a good option.
Enjoy!

OATMEAL AND FLAX BREAKFST MUFFINS

3 cups cooked oatmeal (steel cut is my favorite—great texture)
1/2 cup flax
1/2 cup applesauce
1 banana
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 1/2 cups flour

These little guys are heavy like whoa. But they are incredibly satisfying and stick with you the way a nice bowl of oatmeal does. They work great on-the-go because they aren’t super crumbly. Which means I can distribute them to my back-of-the-car clan on our way to school when we are running a little behind. Even better, the sugar content in these muffins is almost zero—maple syrup, applesauce and bananas provide all the sweetness needed.

Begin by cooking up three cups of oatmeal. Just as you would if you were serving it by the bowl-full. Allow to cool and then scoop into a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Add the flax, applesauce, chopped banana, cinnamon, and salt.Mix until incorporated. Then add the eggs, baking powder and yogurt. Mix again. Finally blend in the flour until the batter is smooth. It will seem quite wet and sticky. Not to worry, the oatmeal, flax and eggs hold everything together. Too much flour will dry these little muffins out.

scoop 1/3 cup batter into well-greased muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are golden across the top. Keep in mind they will not rise a great deal. Serve on their own or with a pat a butter and jam.