Monthly Archives: February 2010

MAKE YOUR OWN SALAD DRESSING!

A bottle of salad dressing often isn’t very expensive – and frequently can be found on sale (plus I am constantly finding coupons for salad dressings in my Sunday paper) but what if you would like to make your own salad dressings (for a fraction of the cost) and It won’t contain any artificial ingredients or additives?

I went through some of my files today searching for easy salad dressing recipes. Once you get the hang of these, or find one you really like – you can double or triple the ingredients to make a larger amount. I always save small glass bottles and jars, generally for my homemade fruit liqueurs but the washed bottles are ideal for storing your homemade dressings, as well.

So, here is an assortment (over a dozen!) of homemade salad dressings.

To make Parsley Vinaigrette you will need:

2 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 TBSP minced parsley
Salt, pepper
6 TBSP olive oil

Combine vinegar, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over salad; toss and serve.

To make Mustard-Shallot Vinaigrette, you will need:

½ cup vegetable oil
3 TBSP red wine or sherry vinegar
1 shallot, diced
1 ½ TBSP Dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
3-4 TBSP anchovies, mashed (also optional)
½ tsp salt or to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl; whisk together until well blended – or place in a tightly covered jar and shake for a few seconds – or blend in a blender. Taste the vinaigrette for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired. Makes about ¾ cup.

To make French Dressing, you will need

½ cup catsup
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup sugar (or Splenda)
1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 small green onions
1 clove garlic
½ tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together; beat well. Add equal amount of mayonnaise and 2 TBSP chili sauce to the French dressing. I split the clove of garlic and place it on a toothpick and drop it into a jar of dressing.

To make Creamy Asian Dressing, you will need:

3 TBSP peanut butter
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground red pepper

Whisk all ingredients. Nice served over Napa cabbage. Dressing will thicken as it chills; to thin just add a few drops of water.

To make Maple Dressing you will need:

½ cup refrigerated raspberry juice
1 TBSP maple syrup
2 TBSP thinly sliced green onions
1 tsp lemon juice
2 TBSP light flavored olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients. If dressing starts to separate, whisk together again before serving over greens.

To make Lemon Zest-Champagne Vinaigrette you will need:

3 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP chopped fresh ginger*
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
½ cup champagne
2 TBSP honey
1 cup grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
zest of 1 lemon

Place all ingredients in blender except lemon zest and puree until they emulsify. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon zest. This is a great recipe to make up if you have some leftover champagne from a wedding or New Year’s Eve party!

*Sandy’s cooknote: I have heard various ways of keeping fresh ginger on TV cooking shows but MY favorite way is to peel the ginger and drop the pieces into a jar of sherry.
It keeps FOR-EVER in the frig. Gets a great flavor from the sherry, too.

To make Simple Cider Vinaigrette you will need:

½ cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 TBSP sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk in a small bowl. Drizzle over your favorite salad.

To make Mustard Dressing, you will need:

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 TBSP white balsamic or rice vinegar
1 tp salt
1 ½ sp Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, crushed

Whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss with vegetables and add salt and pepper to taste.

To make Chile and lime dressing, you will need:

3 limes
2 fresh jalapeno chiles
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp sugar

Squeeze enough juice from the limes to measure ¼ cup. Wearing protective gloves, coarsely chop chiles. In a blender, puree chiles with lime juice, oil, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep chilled in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make 1 minute French Dressing you will need:

2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp mustard (prepared)
½ cup vinegar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil

Combine and shake well in covered jar. Shake again before serving.

To make Pomegranate Vinaigrette you will need:

1 quart pomegranate juice such as Pom brand
2 cups apple juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
1 TBSP chopped thyme
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup olive oil
½ cup Canola oil
Salt to taste

In a wide sauté pan over high heat, reduce pomegranate and apple juices to ½ to ¾ cup, about the thickness of pancake syrup. Remove from heat; transfer to a stainless steel mixing bowl and cool to room temp. When cool, slowly whisk in remaining ingredients. Makes 2 cups.

To make Dijon Vinaigrette you will need:

5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP chopped shallots or onions
2 TBSP white wine vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid; cover and shake well. Serve immediate, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If refrigerated, let stand 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

To make Classic Caesar Salad Dressing you will need:

¼ cup lemon juice
1 ½ tsp olive oil
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp pepper

Whisk together all ingredients and serve over a Caesar salad. Top with Parmesan cheese for a more authentic Caesar Salad.

To make Balsamic Orange Vinaigrette dressing you will need:

¾ cup frozen Florida orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
3 TBSP honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid (a quart canning jar is ideal for most of these recipes) – cover and shake well to combine. Can be used as a salad dressing OR as a marinade.

To make Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette you will need:

1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid; shake until well mixed.

BROWNIES…HOW DO I LOVE THEE?

BROWNIES…HOW DO I LOVE THEE?
LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!

I love thee made with walnuts
Or a cup of chocolate chips,
I love thee made with chocolate syrup
Or those toffee bits;
I love thee with a glass of milk
Or a cup of tea,
I love thee when you’re hot or cold;
It’s all agrees with me;
Brownies that are cake-like or
Brownies fudgy, dark and dense,
Flavored with vanilla too,
Makes a lot of sense;
Nobody knows from whence you came,
Or who was your creator
You’ve been around a hundred years,
And just keep getting better;
You’ve changed a lot since way back when
Though some parts are the same
But since you were invented,
Baking hasn’t been the same!
— Sandra Lee Smith

Brownies…I’ve been making them since I was about 10 years old. Who doesn’t love brownies?

Personally, I like my brownies best loaded with ingredients – chopped nuts, chocolate chips, some chopped up Hershey’s miniatures if I am out of chocolate chips, some dried cherries – I love it all. (If I am making brownies for my sons, I have to leave out the chopped nuts. They all LIKE nuts but not in their food. Go figure – they didn’t get that from me). I made a great discovery not long ago; I keep a candy jar filled with Hershey miniatures but the little Mr. Goodbars are always the last to get eaten – so one day when I was out of chocolate chips, I chopped up about a dozen little Mr.Goodbars and tossed them into the brownie batter. Oh, yum! For special occasions, my brownies are topped off with a dark chocolate glaze .

I have been working on my recipe file collection while watching the Olympic Coverage in Vancouver this month—if you clip recipes, chances are you stick them into a junk drawer and then forget about them. Well, I don’t stick the clippings into a drawer – but I collect them in a box, one of those fairly large boxes that reams of computer paper come in. The box is overflowing; when the Olympics roll around so I take it out, stock up on 3×5” or 4×6” file cards and buy a lot of Elmer’s glue—and start pasting the recipes onto cards. One of the fringe benefits of doing this – aside from watching all the Olympic events – is reading through recipes and setting aside interesting ones to try and maybe write about as well. I get a lot of inspiration this way. I knew I didn’t have enough recipe boxes for all the newly pasted cards so today we went to Michael’s and I bought 3 of those boxes designed to hold 4×6” photographs. They’re just the right size for 4×6” recipe cards too! (And the boxes were on sale, 3 for $5.00 – whoohoo!)

You may know that I collect recipe boxes – and love finding a “filled” recipe box (one filled with the previous owner’s recipe collection) but I don’t like to change anything about those collections, even if they have space to hold more recipe cards. I think I will have to go back on Ebay and search for some more small recipe boxes—meantime, I will be busy as long as the Olympics are on, pasting clippings onto cards.

So, today I have been setting aside brownie recipes even though I think my fudgy-wudgy brownie recipe, previously posted on my Blog, is about as good a brownie as you can make. But you may not care for a brownie that is more like candy than cake.

One of the things I love about brownies is that the ingredients are all pretty basic, generally what you would already have in your kitchen cupboard. But as much as we love our delicious brownies, the history of brownies is somewhat obscure. And although they are baked in a cake pan, we think of the brownie as a bar cookie. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes for brownies—just going through some recipe cards this afternoon I found about 40 brownie recipe cards. This doesn’t include all the brownie recipes in my cookie cookbooks. Just for the heck of it, I checked some of my earliest cookbooks—one of the first I owned was my mother’s copy of Meta Given’s Modern Family Cookbook first published in 1942, and as a wedding present I received a copy of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook. Both provide basic Brownie recipes that are fairly similar. Also in my possession is one of the very FIRST Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks published in 1950. This is in slipcase and was one of a limited edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbooks presented to General Mills Employees. The father of a friend of mine worked at General Mills and received the cookbook, as did other employees. The point I want to make is that the brownie recipe in the 1950 edition is the same as the one published in a ring binder a decade later. **
There are a number of stories explaining the history of brownies–Extensive information about brownies can be found in my favorite cookbook author Jean Anderson’s 1997 “The American Century Cookbook”, and a little blurb of information is in John Mariani’s “ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN FOOD & DRINK”. What is particularly intriguing is a paragraph in James Trager’s FOOD CHRONOLOGY which provides a timeline for food going back to prehistoric times. Trager’s comment on Brownies can be found on page 354, under the year 1897. He writes “The first known published recipe for brownies appears in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. Probably created when a careless cook failed to add baking power to a chocolate-cake batter; the dense, fudgy squares have been made for some time by housewives who received the recipe by word of mouth…”
But then a brownie recipe was published in the 1906 edition of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, edited by Fannie Merritt Farmer. This recipe is not as rich and chocolaty as the brownie we know today, using two squares of melted Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares. No one knows if Fanny Farmer obtained the recipe from another source and food historians will probably continue to debate the issue ad nauseum. As for Fannie Farmer! That’s another story I have been planning to share with you! Look for it in an upcoming post on my blog! She was a most interesting woman.
Jean Anderson refers to Lowney’s Cook Book, another cookbook in my collection, written by Maria Willet Howard and published by the Walter M. Lowney Company of Boston in 1907. Ms. Howard was a protégé of Ms. Farmer and added an extra egg and an extra square of chocolate to the Boston Cooking-School recipe, creating a richer, more chocolaty brownie. For reasons only known to Ms. Howard, she called her recipe Bangor Brownies. Anderson also notes that Betty Crocker’s Baking Classics, published in 1979, credits Bangor Brownies as the original chocolate brownie—in any case, Lowney’s brownie recipe was richer and perhaps tastier. You can decide for yourself –

To make Bangor Brownies, you will need:

¼ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ tsp salt
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
½ to ¾ cup flour
1 cup nut meats

Put all ingredients in a bowl and beat until well mixed. Spread evenly in a greased baking pan. Bake and cut in strips.

To make Lowney’s Brownies, you will need

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 squares Lowney’s premium chocolate (use 2 squares of any unsweetened chocolate. I usually have a box of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares on my pantry shelf)
2 eggs
½ cup nutmeats
½ cup flour
¼ tsp salt

Cream butter; add remaining ingredients; spread on buttered sheets and bake 10 to 15 minutes. Cut in squares as soon as taken from the oven*.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: The above is typed as originally directed; most brownie recipes today suggest you let the pan cool completely before cutting the brownies into bars.
**
Jean Anderson also notes that in 1916, Maria Parloa, one of the founders of the Boston Cooking School, developed a number of recipes for Walter Baker & Company (of chocolate fame), with all the ingredients worked out by Fannie Farmer in level measurements* to meet the needs of the demands of the time;. (*Fannie Farmer is credited with being the originator of level measurements. Prior to her creating exact measurements, such as 3 teaspoons equal one tablespoon and 8 ounces equals one cup) – early cookbooks might call for “butter the size of a walnut” or “a tea cup” of flour. Before Fannie Farmer, measurements were terribly imprecise).

In any case, brownies became enormously popular—possibly because they were so easy to make with ingredients commonly found on any pantry shelf, and now we have brownies to suit everybody’s palate.

So, here are some of my favorite Brownie recipes. This first one is a recipe I have been making ever since my sons were little boys.

SAUCEPAN BROWNIES

To make saucepan brownies, you will need:

4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter or margarine (but don’t use a soft spread)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour

Grease a 9” square pan and dust with flour. Set aside. Combine chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat. Remove from heat, add sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Stir in walnuts. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Pour into prepared pan and bake in pre heated 350 degree oven about 50 minutes. Cool thoroughly in pan on wire rack before cutting into 16 squares. Store, covered, in a cool place.

This next recipe has been in my files for so many years, I no longer remember where I found it. One bone of contention – her name is misspelled in the original printed recipe. MOST people misspelled her name. It was KATHARINE with an “A” not an “E”. The recipe is great.

KATHARINE HEPBURN’S BROWNIES

To make Katharine Hepburn’s brownies, you will need:

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
¼ lb sweet butter*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts
Melt chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Add
Eggs and vanilla and beat like mad. Stir in flour, salt and walnuts. Mix well. Pour into a buttered 8×8” pan and bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool and then cut into 1 ½” squares. NOTE: Because the recipe calls for only ¼ cup flour rather than ½ or ¾ cup most brownie recipes call for, these brownies have a wonderful pudding-like texture.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: ¼ pound = 1 stick of butter. I assume sweet butter means unsalted. Also, Hepburn’s brownies are similar in preparation to saucepan brownies which translates into less cleanup in the kitchen.

Baker’s Chocolate One-Bowl Brownie Recipe, prepped in the microwave, only requires a bowl and a baking pan – and something to stir with. Another easy recipe. To make

BAKER’S CHOCOLATE ONE-BOWL BROWNIES, you will need:

4 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)

Microwave chocolate and margarine in a large microwavable bowl on HIGH 2 minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is melted. Stir in sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and nuts. Spread in greased 13×9” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes (DO NOT OVERBAKE). Cool. Makes 24.

*Rangetop: Stirring constantly, melt chocolate and margarine in a 3 quart saucepan over very low heat. To make CAKELIKE brownies, stir in ½ cup milk with the eggs and vanilla. Use 1 ½ cups flour.

The following cookie recipe is my friend Mary Jaynne’s signature dessert dish, often requested by friends and family. WE request it when there is a cookie exchange.
To make MJs Meltaway Brownies, you will need:

1 package brownie mix
½ cup each coconut and walnuts

Prepare brownies according to package directions, adding coconut and walnuts. Bake and cool thoroughly. To make 1st topping you will need:

3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2 TBSP milk

Mix together powdered sugar, margarine or butter, and vanilla. Add milk a little at a time until spreading consistency. Frost brownies and refrigerate until firm.

To make 2nd topping you will need

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 TBSP margarine

Heat chocolate and margarine to melt. Pour over frosted brownies and spread evenly. Refrigerate until cool and firm.
**

PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIES.

To make peanut butter brownies you will need:

¾ cup shortening
¾ cup peanut butter
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips*
¾ cup chopped peanuts

In mixing bowl, cream shortening and peanut butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts. Spread into a greased 15x10x1” baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 3 dozen.

*Sandy’s cooknote: For a more intense peanut butter taste, try substituting peanut butter chips for the semisweet chocolate chips—or use half and half, ¾ cup of peanut butter chips, ¾ cup of chocolate chips.

To make Hershey’s Syrup Snacking Brownies, you will need:

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup Hershey’s syrup
4 eggs
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 cup Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9x2” baking pan. Beat butter and eggs in large bowl; add chocolate syrup, eggs and flour; beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minute o until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes about 36 brownies.

To make BROWNIE MACAROONIES you will need:

Bar:
2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa

Topping:
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
8 ounce package (2 2/3 cups) coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 15×10” jelly roll pan. Cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Add flour and cocoa to sugar mixture and mix well. Spread in prepared pan.

In a small bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and coconut. Spread over batter, spreading evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until coconut topping is lightly browned. Makes 48 bars.

Philly Marble Brownies also starts out with a box of brownie mix but dresses it up for special occasions.

To make Philly Marble Brownies, you will need:

1 pkg (21 ½ oz) brownie mix
1 pkg Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Prepare brownie mix as directed on package. Spread batter in greased 13×9” pan. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Blend in egg. Pour over brownie batter; cut through batter with knife several times for marble effect. Sprinkle with chips. Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned. Cool n pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. Makes 2 dozen.

There is one more brownie recipe I want to share with you—and I admit, I haven’t tried making these yet, but I WILL very soon. I found this while working on my recipe collection and was intrigued by the addition of a particular ingredient – PEPPER!
To make Black Pepper Brownies, you will need:

¾ cup butter or margarine*, softened
1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
1 tsp EACH: instant coffee, black pepper, and vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
3 eggs
4 squares (1 oz each) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
¾ cup flour
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped coarse

In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, coffee, pepper, vanilla and salt; beat until well blended, scraping bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each only until incorporated. Slowly beat in chocolate, then flour, scraping bowl and beating only until blended. Stir in nuts. Turn into greased foil-lined 9” square pan; smooth top. Bake in lower third of preheated 375 degree oven 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out only barely moist. Remove from oven; cool in pan 15 minutes; remove from pan. Peel off foil; cool completely on rack. Chill slightly before cutting into 32 small brownies or 16 cake squares.

*Sandy’s Cooknote: I almost always bake with real butter. If you are using margarine always make sure it is a solid stick good for baking. The soft spreads won’t work and I am telling you this from personal experience. Also want to mention, the previous recipe is the only one that requires using a foil-lined pan but I always make my brownies in foil lined pans. It’s so much easier to remove them from the pan and then cut into nice tidy squares.

Happy Cooking!

BLAST FROM THE PAST & OTHER FAVORITES

What made me think of beer bread? I can’t imagine. I was cooking a beef stew in the cast iron Dutch oven and heating some water to cook noodles.
“Beer bread,” I thought, “would really go well with this stew tonight”.

Beer bread, I believe became popular in the 1970s. One of the recipes I have on a 3×5” card was sent to me by a penpal and is dated 1979. I also think Beer Bread was one of the very first 3-ingredient recipes to make an appearance. Many recipes would follow until there are slews of cookbooks for 2-3-4-5 or even 6 ingredient recipes. I know because I have a lot of them on my bookshelves. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Beer Bread was one of the very first three ingredient recipes to become popular – and why not? There were only three ingredients – some self-rising flour, a little sugar, and a 12-ounce can of beer. I dug into my bread recipe file and whipped up a batch of beer bread. I tried it out on my youngest son last night and didn’t tell him it had beer in it until he had finished eating a big slice and declared it tasty. My curiosity was piqued so I began searching for other beer bread recipes.

One more thought about the beer bread which calls for self rising flour. I never buy self rising flour. I knew there had to be a way to convert regular all-purpose flour to self-rising and there is (Thank you, Google) – for each cup of flour called for in the recipe, remove 2 level teaspoons of flour and replace it with 1 ½ teaspoons of baking powder and half a teaspoon (1/2) of salt. Mix it up and you’re ready to go.

To make Victoria’s Beer Bread, you will need:

3 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 12-oz can beer

Mix all ingredients well. Pour into a buttered loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until done.

While digging through recipe boxes I found another beer bread recipe made with whole wheat flour – I am going to make this as soon as I get to Trader Joe’s to buy whole wheat flour.

To make Whole Wheat Beer Bread, you will need:

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
4 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 12-oz can of beer

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan (Personally I prefer the spray can of Crisco that already has flour in it). In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Add the beer and stir until it becomes a stiff batter. If necessary mix the dough with your hands. Transfer dough to prepared pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

In my file, I have one other beer bread recipe which is similar to Victoria’s – except for the addition of ½ cup butter or margarine. You make it the same way but melt the butter and pour half of it over the dough. Bake the loaf at 350 degrees 20 minutes, then pour the remaining butter over the loaf and continue baking another 40 minutes. (Truth is, since I have been on Weight Watchers, I tend to avoid recipes with too much fat or oils. Why add it if you don’t need it? But if you are feeling reckless or craving something special, why by all means add the melted butter. Personally I would rather toast the bread after it’s baked and then slather on some butter). Ok, a little bit of butter. Maybe some of my homemade jam.

I have one more Beer Bread recipe to share with you and you will notice that the basic ingredients are the same as the original recipe above – it just has a few added ingredients to make the bread more of a savory-type of bread. I am wondering how this would be made as a savory muffin and think I will give it a try the next time I feel like baking.

MEXI-STYLE BEER BREAD

3 cups self-rising flour*
2 TBSP granulated sugar
1 12-oz can beer (any kind. Bob drinks Pabst so that’s what I used to make my beer bread)
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ cup canned green chile peppers, chopped
¼ cup finely diced red bell peppers
6 TBSP butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan (or spray it with Pam)
In a large bowl stir together all ingredients. Transfer batter to loaf pan and spread to make it even. Pour melted butter on top. Bake about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Sandra’s Cooknote: *To convert 3 cups of regular flour to self-rising:

Measure 3 level cups of flour into a bowl.

Remove 6 level teaspoons of the flour (2 teaspoons for each cup) and put it back into the flour canister
Now add 4 ½ level teaspoons of baking powder (1 ½ teaspoons for each cup of the flour)
Then add 1 ½ teaspoons of salt (1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of flour)

Your three cups of regular flour has now been converted to self rising flour. Or go buy a sack of self-rising flour.

The first thing I ever made, as a little girl (or to be more accurate, attempted to make) were some muffins. I think I was about 8 years old. I wanted to learn how to cook! My mother let me follow the recipe in her cookbook and mix the ingredients but told me to leave the yellow bowl on the table while I stirred. Oh, no, I had to hold onto it, put it in the crook of my arm, like I had seen her mix ingredients in the bowl. I dropped the bowl, it broke and I fled to my room in tears. I didn’t make muffins that day. It took about a year to save up enough money to replace the yellow bowl which was part of a Pyrex set; meantime I was not deterred from an interest in cooking and baking. I read through the pages of mom’s Ida Bailey Allen Service Cookbook, focusing primarily on cookies and muffin recipes. If we had all the necessary ingredients, I could make it. (We never went shopping just for certain ingredients; everything had to be on the shelves of my mother’s pantry). I made a lot of brownies and peanut butter cookies and muffins. To this day I love muffins and one of my favorites is cornmeal muffins.

To make cream-style corn muffins, you will need:

1 ½ cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
¼ cup milk
2 Tbsp shortening
1 cup cream style corn

Sift dry ingredients; beat egg and add corn, milk and shortening. Combine two mixtures, stirring just enough to dampen the flour. Fill greased* muffin tins 2/3 full and bake at 375 degrees 25-30 minutes.

*Sandra’s Cooknote: It may not be quite kosher but I almost always use paper cupcake liners whether I am making cupcakes or muffins. Then you always know that the muffins aren’t going to stick in the pan.)

Here is a very old recipe for making corn bread and if you prefer, you can use this recipe to make cornbread muffins. To make corn bread you will need:

2 cups cornmeal
½ tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP sugar
1 egg, well beaten
2 cup milk
¼ cup melted shortening

Combine all dry ingredients. Mix together with shortening, eggs and milk; don’t overbeat. Bake in a greased pan* 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Will make one dozen muffins.

*Sandra’s cooknote: Back in the day, I used to make cornbread and beans about once a month to satisfy the craving of my then-husband whose parents came from Bluefield West Virginia where corn bread and pinto beans were a staple on the dinner menu. Back then you just poured the cornmeal batter into an oiled cast-iron skillet. I think I could make cornbread with my eyes closed in those days—and I still cook with an assortment of cast iron skillets and a Dutch oven that are now over 50 years old. You can’t bean a well seasoned cast iron skillet for frying anything.

Here is another muffin recipe – this one originated at Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles. In 1946 when my parents flew to Los Angeles for the ABC Bowling Tournament, they enjoyed a meal at Clifton’s and my mother talked about it for years. Clifton’s is long gone but their Orange Muffin Recipe lives on:

To make Clifton’s Orange Muffins, you will need:

4 eggs
1 cup oil
6 2/3 cups flour
3 ½ cups sugar
6 TBSP baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
2 oranges, finely chopped (unpeeled)
3 cups milk
orange glaze

Beat the eggs 5 minutes. Slowly beat in oil. Continue to beat 1 minute. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture, chopped orange and milk to egg mixture. Mix until blended, then beat 2-3 minutes. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin cups, about 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Brush with orange glaze while still warm. Makes about 4 ½ dozen.

To make orange glaze, you will need:

7 TBSP powdered sugar
2 ½ TBSP milk
1 tsp grated orange peel

Combine sugar, milk and orange peel until smooth. Brush over muffins while still warm.

*Sandra’s Cooknote: The above recipe appeared in the SOS column of the Los Angeles Times in 1981 – and YES, this recipe makes a lot of muffins. But back then, four dozen never seemed like too much if you were raising four sons and they were always bringing their friends home for dinner. I also took many, many containers of cookies and muffins and cupcakes to work to share with coworkers.

Before I close, I wanted to share one of my all time favorite muffin recipes. I love a muffin with oatmeal in it and I also love anything with a streusel topping (I keep a plastic container of streusel topping in the ‘frig so it’s one of those things I have on hand all the time).

Best Oatmeal Muffins

Streusel

1/3 CUP oats, uncooked
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons margarine or butter, chilled

MUFFINS
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ tsp salt (optional)
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 13 medium muffin cups with paper baking cups or lightly grease bottoms only. For streusel, combine dry ingredients; mix well. Cut in margarine (or butter) until mixture is crumbly; set aside. For muffins, combine dry ingredients; mix well. Add combined milk, oil and egg; mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Sprinkle streusel evenly over batter, patting gently. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let muffins stand a few minutes; remove from pan. Makes 1 dozen.

VARIATIONS:

Chocolate Surprise Muffins: increase sugar to 2/3 cup and add ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder to dry ingredients. Add 1 tsp almond extract to liquid ingredients. Fill muffin cups ½ full. Spoon 1 tsp cherry or raspberry preserves in center of each muffin; top with remaining batter. Omit streusel; sprinkle tops of cooled muffins with powdered sugar, if desired.

Cranberry Orange Muffins: Add 1 cup (8 oz) coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries and ½ cup chopped nuts to dry ingredients. Omit streusel. Drizzle Citrus Glaze over slightly cooled muffins: Mix together ¾ cup powdered sugar, 4 to 5 teaspoons orange juice and 1 teaspoon grated orange peel until smooth

Harvest Apple Muffins: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg to dry ingredients. Substitute apple juice for milk and stir 1 cup chopped apple into batter.

Carrot Spice Muffins: Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to dry ingredients. Stir in 1 cup shredded carrots and ½ cup raisins with liquid ingredients. Omit streusel. Spread tops of baked, cooled muffins with cream cheese frosting: Mix together one 3-ounce package cream cheese, ½ cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth.

Ok, I sort of segued from beer bread to muffins; it must be these chilly winter days in the high desert; it makes me want to turn on the oven and start baking something every morning. Doesn’t warm bread baking in the oven on a cold morning smell just wonderful?

Happy Cooking – and baking!
Sandra