Tag Archives: food

Bran Muffins (and brief update on my vacation)

Another delay in posts, I know!  But a friend of mine and I were traveling in Scotland for two weeks, hiking the West Highland Way, and I just couldn’t post from the trail.  And last week was jet-lag recovery so cut me some slack (ahem, mom).

The trip was amazing, once we actually got there.  We departed the day the volcano in Iceland errupted, and since we were flying Icelandair, our flights were canceled.  This resulted in an unanticipated stay in Toronto for a day where we ate the best chocolate and gelatto ever (Well, for me.  I’ve never been to Italy so that opinion is subject to change.)  If you ever find yourself delayed in Toronto, head down to the Distillery District and go to Soma Chocolatemaker for some tasty treats.

Best chocolate ever. Soma chocolate maker, Toronto

Anyway, when we finally did get to cross the pond over to London, our flight to Scotland was canceled because the ash from the volcano had drifted over our destination.  Thankfully, (mostly) reliable train transportation exists in the U.K. so we took a train to Glasgow, found a hotel, and then the next morning took a train to Balloch and bus to Balmaha so we could get caught up on the trail.  Of course, the train to Balloch was canceled but by day 3 (or was it 4?) of our vacation, and still not at our actual destination, this didn’t really phase us.

Just let us get to the trail!!

After a brief encounter with what we can only assume was a crazy Scottish woman who insisted that we were deaf since we couldn’t understand anything she said, we really did finally get on the trail.  And we walked and walked and walked.  And though we were delayed in getting there, it was worth the wait.

Loch Lomond

Not a bad view, right?  I must also share these pictures of “wildlife” I took for my parents.  Sheep for my mom, the knitter, and beef for my dad the beef farmer.


Highland Beef

I should note that we were not standing in a cow pasture when we took the picture of the beef.  Rather, they were on the trail.  My friend calmly stated, “Alyssa, I grew up in Chicago and this is scaring the crap out of me.”  To which I replied, “I grew up on a farm.  Our beef do not have horns like that.  This scares the crap out of me!”  But we had nothing to worry about.  Apparently these beef are used to hikers and ignored us as we gingerly walked on by.

Shortly after passing the beefers, I thought to myself that it would be really nice to have some delicious food that night after hiking.  Most of the food we had since arriving was sort of blah.  Turns out my wish was granted when we arrived at the Bridge of Orchy hotel.  The only eating establishment in the town, the Bridge of Orchy served up some very tasty treats.  Upon the advice of a group of Scottish hikers we met on the trail, we were daring enough to try the Crisp Haggis and Chicken Money Bags which were quite tasty.  We were not yet willing to commit to the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, though (that’s haggis, turnips and potatoes if you don’t speak Scottish).  All in due time.

After such a satisfying meal, we hit the trail the next day only to be pelted by hail.  You wouldn’t believe it for some of the pics I took that day, but the weather was horrendous (make sure you roll the ‘r’ as much as possible when you read that.  Think Sean Connery times 10).  It took a lot of energy just to stay on the trail and not be blown off the side of the mountain.  Good thing we had that haggis in our bellies to weigh us down.

Between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse, Scotland

Despite the beautiful pictures we took that day, it was the last day of our hike. The weather forecast wasn’t in our favor for the remainder of our hike, so we cut our losses and left the trail alive and well.  We embarked on a new adventure – eating haggis, neeps and tatties anywhere it’s served.

Haggis, neeps and tatties are good.  Haggis on nachos are also decent.  (Yes, you read that right.  Haggis + nachos.)  But one should not eat too much haggis.  It will make your belly hurt.

Which brings me to today’s recipe.  If you find that you’ve eaten too much haggis, or too much of anything for that matter, I recommend eating some bran muffins.  Activa yogurt? Bah!  Fiber One bars?  Double bah!  Just bake up these bran muffins and I promise all will be right in your tummy.  I found this recipe a few months ago and have been meaning to share it with you for ages, but alas, just as I had to wait to finally arrive at the West Highland Way, you too needed to wait for this recipe.  But I promise, in both cases, the wait is worthwhile!

Bran Muffins (from Susan at Farmgirl Fare.  I love the name of her blog.  And all of her recipes.)
2 c. wheat bran
1 c. oat bran
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 c. yogurt
2/3 c. milk
1/3 c. molasses
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. frozen fruit (I usually use cranberries, but see Farmgirl Fare for other delicious options).

Heat oven to 375o.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk the wet ingredients together in a bowl.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Add fruit to batter.  Scoop into greased muffin tin.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Bran muffins


MMM Day 6: Maple Pecan Salad Dressing

To celebrate the warm weather (it’s over 50º!!), I think a light salad is in order for day 6 of March Maple Madness.

I’ve been enjoying this salad dressing over greens and roasted vegetables like sweet potatoes and beets.  Add a little goat cheese, some dried currants or whatever else suits your fancy and you’ve got yourself a meal!  Or a nice side salad at the very least.

Maple Pecan Salad Dressing
1/3 c. pecans, finely ground
1/3 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic

Whisk together all ingredients except pecans and garlic until smooth.  Stir in garlic.  Stir in pecans.

Salad with Maple Pecan Salad Dressing


March Maple Madness Day 4: Maple Butter Cookies

I have a confession to make.  I did not make these cookies today, but rather mixed them up and had my two friends cut them out and bake them in preparation for the Staycation Party a couple of weeks ago.  Note in the picture below that they are alligator shaped.  The whole idea of the Staycation is to go on a trip without ever actually leaving home, and I thought some Australian wildlife – we ate koala maple cookies and kangaroo maple cookies, too – would do the trick.

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.  I’ve been adding whole wheat flour to a lot of baked goods lately, party to free up some space in my cupboard, and partly to give my baked goods a more nutty, hearty quality.  For this recipe in particular, I think the whole wheat flour was a good addition that made for a richer tasting cookie that’s not too sweet (I know what you’re thinking Dad – why bother, right?  But really, these are pretty good!).

Maple Butter Cookies
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Mix in maple syrup and egg yolk.  Fold in salt and flours until combined well.  Divide dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350º.  Remove one ball from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/8″ thick (or thicker or thinner depending on your preferences).  Cut cookies out using fun cookie cutters from your friends in Australia (or whatever fun cookie cutters you have).  Chill scraps.  Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake cookies for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on your oven.  Repeat steps with remaining ball of dough.  Gobble up them up within a week!

Maple Butter Cookies

Sort-of Mahnomin Porridge

3 days into March Maple Madness, and I’m already slacking.  If I had planned better, I would have make a delicious maple flavored pie in honor of Pi Day. But alas, I just am not that on top of it.  Instead, I’m going to share with you a delicious breakfast treat – Mahnomin Porridge – that you should make before it gets too warm out.

I first had Mahnomin Porridge at Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis.  Hell’s Kitchen chef Mitch Omer developed his recipe after reading journals of 1800’s fur traders.  Those fur traders described a tasty treat with wild rice, nuts, berries and of course – maple syrup.  You can find Omer’s original recipe at the Minnesota Historical Society Press website.

My recipe differs from Omer’s in that I used brown rice in addition to wild rice.  Although I would have been perfectly happy to make this with only wild rice, I happened to have some leftover brown rice on hand that I didn’t quite know what to do with.  Enter porridge!  I also substituted yogurt and milk in lieu of the heavy cream.  Again, I have nothing against using heavy whipping cream – bring on the fat! – but I didn’t have any on hand.  But my fully loaded plain Greek yogurt turned out to be a suitable substitute.

The one thing I did NOT mess around with though was the inclusion of maple syrup.  I mean, skipping the maple syrup really wouldn’t be in the spirit of March Maple Madness, now would it?

Sort-of Mahnomin Porridge
4 c. rice (I used about 2 each of brown rice and wild rice)
1 c. milk
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. dried cherries
1/4 c. dried blueberries
1/2 c. pistachios

Stir all ingredients together and heat over low heat for two to five minutes, or until thoroughly heated.  Enjoy!

bowl of Mahnomin Porridge

Pumpkin and Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches

Day 2 of March Maple Madness brings you a dessert recipe with flavors that remind you of how wonderful the past fall was, how sweet this spring is, and how refreshingly cool and delicious the coming summer promises to be.  Though these little gems may not be the most photogenic item I’ve ever made, they are pretty tasty.

Pumpkin and Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches (adapted from Cooking Light)
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2  c.  all-purpose flour
1  tsp.  baking soda
1/2  tsp.  salt
1/2  tsp.  pumpkin pie spice
3/4  c.  granulated sugar
1/2  c.  butter, softened
1/3  c.  brown sugar
1  cup  canned pumpkin puree
1  egg
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

For the filling:
1  quart vanilla ice cream
1/3  cup  maple syrup

1.  To prepare filling, combine ice cream and syrup.  Cover and freeze 30 minutes or until firm.
2.  Preheat oven to 350°.
3.  While filling freezes, prepare cookies.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and pie spice, stirring with a whisk. Beat granulated sugar, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, stirring just until moist.
4. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. With moist hands, flatten cookies into 3-inch circles. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until set. Remove cookies from baking sheet; cool completely on wire racks.
5.  Spread about ice cream onto the flat side of each of 15 cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down, pressing gently. Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap; freeze 4 hours or until firm.

Pumpkin and Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches

Introducing March Maple Madness with Waffles!

I’ve been anticipating this moment for a few months now.  MARCH MAPLE MADNESS!!! Yeah, yeah, I know that the NCAA has a basketball version of March Madness, but trust, me this is way, way better.   I mean, by a lot.  This version involves Liquid Gold (aka Maple Syrup) and is sure to keep your sweet tooth satiated…basketball’s got nothing on this version of March Madness.  Trust me.

But what is March Maple Madness, you ask?  Well,  from the day my dad taps the trees on our farm in Central Wisconsin to the day he takes the taps out, I’m going to post a recipe that features maple as an ingredient.  That’s right.  A recipe every day that the taps are in.  Depending on how the season goes, that could be upwards of 20 maple recipes.  Or, it could be 7, depending on the weather. Ah, the suspense!!

Anyway, it all starts now because I got the call (ok, so I made the call) and learned that the taps are in!! So, for my family and friends who were worried that my life as a blogger had ended, fear not!  It’s about to get maple maddening!

I think the best way to ring in the March Maple Madness season is with some waffles with pure, unadulterated maple syrup on top.  Yum!

Whole Grain Waffles (from Food Matters by Mark Bittman)
3 Tbsp. butter
1 2/3 c. whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, separated
2 c. milk
Maple Syrup

1.   Melt butter.
2.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt.
3.  Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over beat.  In a separate bowl, beat the yolks, milk and 3 tbsps melted butter until foamy.
4.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture and give a couple of stirs but do not over mix.  Fold in the egg whites until the batter is evenly colored and relatively smooth.  It’s ok if there are some lumps.
5.  Add batter to pre-heated waffle iron and cook until done.
6.  Drizzle with warm maple syrup and enjoy!!

Whole Grain Waffles with Maple Syrup

Grandma saves the day with Crazy Cake!!

Today one of my students, who happens to be from a South American country, a place with a hot climate, noted that it was pretty warm out today so I took the opportunity to explain the word balmy to the class.  We all had a good laugh at the fact that we live in a cruel, strange world where we think 30º is warm.  Even those of us from South America.  But compared to the cold temperatures we endured last week, it is downright balmy out!

When the temperatures climb above 15º, I usually try to walk home from work.  Yesterday was just such a day.  On my leisurely walk home I remembered that I had book club later in the evening and that I should really bring some food to share.  I was thinking of making a nice citrus salad, but alas, didn’t have many of the ingredients on hand.  That, coupled with the fact that I was feeling pretty lazy – too lazy to chop a few oranges – left me with few options.  I mean really.  If you can’t handle chopping a couple of oranges, the cooking options are looking a little bleak.  I considered baking something, but that lazy component kept rearing it’s ugly head.  I didn’t want to make cookies – too much work!

But then, wouldn’t you know, Grandma came to the rescue.  I was flipping through the cards, hoping for some inspiration and there it was – Crazy Cake!  “Sift flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt in an ungreased pan”.  Wait a second!  No bowl?  I can mix this thing up in the pan?!  And it will be ready in 40 minutes?  And be delicious?!  Crazy! I always wondered why this was called Crazy Cake, when for all those years I thought it was just a good chocolate cake with a delicious caramel frosting.  Nothing too outrageous or anything, but now I know the real reason for it’s name.  Between the ingredients and the method, it is a little crazy!

Grandma used to make this cake for us all the time.  One bite into this last night and I remembered just how much she made it.  I haven’t had it in years, but it tasted exactly like I remembered.  Rich, moist, chocolaty, and that caramely frosting…so good!  Actually, it’s VVG!

Crazy Cake
3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. oil
2 c. cold water

Sift flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan.  Make 3 holes in the dry ingredients.  Pour vanilla into one, vinegar into another, and divide the oil between all three.  Pour cold water over the entire mixture.  Blend with a fork.  Do not beat.  Bake at 350º for 35 – 40 minutes.

Quick Caramel Frosting
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
2 c. powdered sugar (sifted ??)*

Melt butter in sauce pan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk, continue stirring until it comes to a boil.  Remember to cool.  Then add powdered sugar, beat after each addition.

* I’m not sure why Grandma had these questions marks after the powdered sugar.  She sifted everything.  There was no question in that.  And she measured everything perfectly.  I’m also not sure what the underlining was all about on this one, but I definitely remembered to let it cool.

I only used one cup of powdered sugar last night because I felt I was going into some sort of hyperglycemic shock just thinking about all of the sugar in that frosting and guess what – it was still good.  Yes, Dad. I wrote this for you.  Minus one cup of sugar and still edible!  In fact, tasty!  Believe it!!

Crazy Cake with Caramel Frosting