Food & Cooking · Summer Bucket List

Bucket List: Watermelon Pickles

So when I put “Make pickles” on my bucket list, I sort of meant traditional dill pickles. While I am hoping to make some of those, too, I was super intrigued by a recipe I came across in a Better Homes & Gardens canning magazine I picked up last summer for Watermelon Pickles. Earlier this week, I finally got around to making them, and I can’t wait to try them!

To be honest, making watermelon pickles is kind of a time investment (but what kind of canning or jamming doesn’t take a bit of time?). The recipe suggests that it takes about an hour of prep time, plus standing overnight, plus 45 minutes of cooking, plus 10 minutes of processing time. I figure that hour of prep time and the 45 minutes of cooking time can be combined with listening to your favorite podcast or music (I chose Dinner Party Download and Radio Lab 🙂 ), and the overnight part can just be spent sleeping!

IMG_20140707_123816_286To start, you’ll need a watermelon that weighs approximately 10 pounds. I cut it into slices, and then cut out chunks of the watermelon and put the chunks in a big bowl. I probably ate about half of the watermelon in between cutting it up and getting the rind ready, and I admit this openly.

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Next comes the tricky part of removing the pink flesh and the green outer portions of the rind. I found that placing the rind as flat as I could on the cutting board and sort of pulling the knife toward my hand was the easiest, but you’ll obviously want to be super careful and find what works the best and in the safest way for you.

IMG_20140707_132332_666From this point, things get quite a bit easier. You chop the rind into squares or other 1-inch shapes, put them into a large nonmetal bowl, and add water and pickling salt.

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IMG_20140707_133714_412Then it’s time to let the rind soak overnight…

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The next day, you’ll rinse and drain the rind, transfer it to a pot filled with enough water to cover the rind, bring it to boiling, and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, you can prepare your syrup. I used cloves and cinnamon sticks from a local spice shop in Grand Haven. It was so much cheaper than going to the grocery store, and I could choose exactly the amounts I wanted.

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Combine sugar, white vinegar, water, cinnamon and cloves, bring to boiling to dissolve the sugar, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

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Then strain the mixture through a sleeve, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Add the tender, drained rind to the syrup, and bring to a boil before simmering, covered, until rind is translucent. Above, you can see the stage my rind had reached before I canned it.

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Lastly, you pack the hot rind and syrup into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving headspace, and processing for 10 minutes. I got three pint jars out of my rind with some leftover syrup, though the recipe suggests using 6 half-pint jars.

My favorite suggestions I’ve seen online for eating watermelon pickles are trying them in a salad with goat cheese and walnuts, making hors d’oeuvres by wrapping a half a slice of bacon around them and baking them in the oven until the bacon is crisp, using them as a little decorations on sugar cookies or cupcakes, topping ice cream or yogurt with them, using them as a condiment, or just eating them straight out of the jar! I also found a recipe for Sparkling Pear Floats that I am going to try with some of my leftover syrup. I’ll keep you posted on how I consume my delightful watermelon pickles, and in the meantime, leave you with the recipe!

Watermelon Pickles

(from Better Homes & Gardens 2013 Canning Magazine)

1 10-pound watermelon

6 cups water

1/3 cup pickling salt

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

15 inches stick cinnamon, broken

2 tsp whole cloves

1. Cut rind from watermelon (you should have about 4 1/2 lbs rind). Trim off pink flesh and the green outer portions of the watermelon rind. Cut rind into 1-inch squares or other 1-inch shapes. Measure 9 cups rind.

2. Place the 9 cups rind in a large nonmetal bowl. In another large bowl combine the 6 cups water and the pickling salt; pour over rind (add more water if necessary to cover your rind). Cover bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight.

3. Rinse and drain rind mixture. Transfer to a 4-quart pot. Add enough water to cover. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

4. Meanwhile, for syrup, in a 6 to 8-quart stainless-steel, enamel, or nonstick heavy pot combine sugar, vinegar, the 1 1/2 cups water, the cinnamon, and the cloves. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a sieve, reserving liquid. Discard solids; return liquid to pot.

5. Add rind to syrup in pot. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes or until rind is translucent. Pack hot rind and syrup into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims: adjust lids and screw bands.

6. Process filled jars in a boiled water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks. Makes 6 half-pints.

Enjoy!
xx

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Maple Indian Pudding

Oh. my. DELICIOUS. For my next bookspiration, I decided to try out a new recipe related to The Song of Hiawatha, and it turned out amazing! But before I go into the recipe, I’ll explain why I chose it. The stories told throughout The Song of Hiawatha were pulled from Chippewa (or Ojibwe) Indian tales, and much of the Chippewa tribe lived in Northern Michigan. The Chippewa Indians used a lot of birch bark for making teepees, canoes, and baskets (I’m thinking I’d really like to try making a birch bark basket!). And since the Chippewa living in Northern Michigan had a relatively short growing season, a lot of their harvest consisted of wild rice and maple syrup. Ah, sweet, lovely maple syrup.

I have a few American Indian cookbooks and craft books, and so I was searching through them to find the perfect recipe for A Song of Hiawatha. Finally, after much deliberation, I stumbled across recipes for Maple Indian Pudding, not in any of my cookbooks, but online! Without further adieu, here is how this yummy treat is made according to the recipe I chose:

IMG_20140603_200429_551After preheating your oven, you bring milk to a boil over medium heat. Then you add maple syrup and cook for four minutes. I used maple syrup I had leftover from making my Chocolate Maple Roll Cake, and I may or may not have looked at Facebook while stirring the syrup. After the four minutes is up, you add cornmeal, stirring constantly for 6-8 minutes. Since I was busy trying to take a picture while stirring, I ended up with a few lumps of cornmeal, but it didn’t seem to really effect anything. Still, I would recommend not taking a picture and just getting straight to stirring 😉

IMG_20140603_201253_784Once 6-8 minutes have passed, you’re going to add butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and salt to the mix before letting it cool for 5 minutes.

IMG_20140603_201919_357After the mixture cools, it looks a bit thicker, as shown in the picture above.

IMG_20140603_202117_708Next you add beaten eggs, whisking as you go. I was worried that the mixture would still be too hot to add the eggs, but with immediate whisking I had no problems at all. Once the eggs have been incorporated, it is time to pour the mixture into a baking dish and stick it in the oven.

IMG_20140603_211151_314The recipe said to cook “until the center is set,” but as I had never made a pudding in this sense before, I had to check what that meant. According to several websites and youtube videos, the pudding should be a slight golden brown, and when jiggled, the center should move in relation to the rest of the pudding (just slightly like…well…pudding). Once again, you can see how mine came out of the oven in the picture above.

IMG_20140603_211752_875I was a little nervous about trying my first bite, as I really wanted it to be good. Not sure what I was worried about because Maple Syrup=delicious. And my Maple Indian Pudding? Fantastic!

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Maple Indian Pudding

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cups maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (I used Quaker Yellow Cornmeal)
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Whipped cream

Directions

  1. Prepare pudding: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 1-quart casserole dish with cooking spray**. In a large saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, stir in maple syrup, and cook 4 minutes. Add cornmeal and cook, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes. Add butter, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg while stirring well. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes. Whisk eggs into the milk mixture until well combined.
  2. Bake pudding: Pour into prepared casserole dish and bake until the center is set, about 1 hour. Serve warm and top with whipped cream, if desired***.

**I only had a 2-quart baking dish, so I used that instead. The cooking time was still just under an hour.

***Please desire to eat it with whipped cream. It is fabulous.

(recipe adapted from Country Living)

 

Enjoy! xx

 

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Chocolate Temptations

And now the finale to all the fun I’ve had with Uncommon Grounds: An adventure involving coffee and chocolate, which are two of my favorite things on the planet. I found a recipe in 1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World for Chocolate Temptation cookies, and decided to give the recipe a try. They. were. GLORIOUS.

IMG_20140516_073130_495To start the recipe, you preheat your oven, grease a cookie sheet or parchment paper, and melt some chocolate, coffee and butter into a heat-proof bowl until the chocolate is almost melted.

IMG_20140516_073400_808 IMG_20140516_073751_979 Then, in a separate bowl, you beat some eggs until they’re fluffy before adding some sugar.

IMG_20140516_074136_356 IMG_20140516_074348_783From that point, you add in the chocolate, butter and coffee mixture, stirring until smooth.  IMG_20140516_075104_172Next up you sift a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt into the mix, along with chocolate pieces and almond extract.

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Next, put tablespoonfuls of dough onto a greased baking sheet or greased parchment paper and stick them in the oven to bake!

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Once they’ve cooled, it’s time to pipe melted chocolate onto them (I used a ziplock bag!).

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I did the white chocolate first…

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…and then I did the milk chocolate!

The cookies turned out fantastic, though the coffee flavor was quite subtle. As you can see in the first picture above, I used Starbucks Breakfast Blend for my cookies, but that was just because that was what I had on hand. When I brought the cookies to work, we decided to do a tasting with a French press of Espresso roast, which goes well with nutty, chocolatey flavors. The pairing was FABULOUS, so I’m thinking that perhaps next time I make these cookies I’ll use a darker roast coffee brewed more strongly instead of the Breakfast Blend. Do you have a favorite recipe that incorporates coffee?

Chocolate Temptations (adapted from 1000 Chocolate Baking and Dessert Recipes from Around the World)

Ingredients

3 1/4 oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

12 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate

1 tsp strong coffee

2 eggs

scant 3/4 cup brown sugar

generous 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tsp almond extract

scant 2/3 cup chopped walnuts

scant 2/3 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 1/2 oz. white chocolate

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet or parchment paper. Put 8 oz of the semisweet chocolate with the butter and coffee into a heatproof bowl and heat in 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring in between each burst until chocolate is almost melted.

2. Meanwhile, beat eggs in a bowl until fluffy. Whisk in the sugar gradually until thick. Add the chocolate mixture and stir until combined.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir into the chocolate mixture. Chop 3 oz of semisweet chocolate into pieces and stir into the dough (or use semisweet chocolate chips to make things go even faster!). Stir in the almond extract and nuts.

4. Put tablespoonfuls of the dough onto a cookie sheet, transfer to the preheated oven, and bake for 16 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, or if using parchment paper, pull paper off cookie sheet and set aside to cool. To decorate, melt the remaining chocolate and spoon into pastry bags or ziplock bags with the ends cut off, then pipe lines onto the cookies.

Enjoy!
xx

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart

This weekend was full of Easter treats! I made some super easy, dangerously yummy Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Easter Eggs, some pretty pastel-colored deviled eggs, and a lovely lemon tart.

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Pretty Deviled Eggs ❤

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Sweet treats: top left and right: Chocolate Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (made for work, but definitely sampled at home!), bottom left: my mom’s amazing carrot cake, and bottom right: too many desserts! Carrot Cake, Lemon Tart & Cheesecake.

I decided to make the lemon tart in honor of Dame Eyola from The Neverending Story. The recipe is sort of a glorified lemon bar recipe, but I figured Dame Eyola grew fabulous fruit, so why not glamor up a lemon bar recipe with her in mind?

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Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart

Ingredients

1 1/4 c. chilled butter                                     2 c. sugar

2 c. all-purpose flour                                     1/4 c. lemon juice

1 c. powdered sugar (plus a little extra for dusting)

4 eggs                                                                candied lemon zest

                                                                          blueberries (for garnish)

IMG_04311. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Then cut butter into flour and powdered sugar until crumbly; press into an ungreased tart pan. Make sure you spread the crust high enough over the edges that you’ll have a high “wall” for holding in the lemon filling later. Bake for 30 minutes.

IMG_04352. Meanwhile, you can make your candied lemon zest. I didn’t take any pictures of the process, but it’s super easy and wonderful directions and pictures can be found by clicking here. Basically, you zest a lemon (the directions say to peel and slice the zest, but I just used my zester), boil the zest in a sugar-water simple syrup, drain it, dry it, and coat in more sugar. Can’t go wrong! Set your zest aside and make your filling. Squeeze out the lemon juice from your zested lemon (it should equal about a 1/4 cup, at least), or use lemon juice from a jar. Then blend eggs, sugar and lemon juice together.

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Here is my crust after pulling it out of the oven.

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3. Slowly pour lemon mixture over crust. (Be careful!–I got a little over excited and some of my filling spilled over the sides of my crust, leaking through the bottom of my tart pan and onto the counter! *cries*) Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes; cool.

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Here is the tart after cooling.

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4. Once the tart has cooled, sift some powdered sugar on top for decoration.

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5. Next, add your pretty candied lemon zest.

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6. Lastly, add some blueberries for a nice, colorful contrast. The tart will taste best chilled, so I recommend keeping it refrigerated for at least an hour before serving.

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Oo la la!

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Enjoy!

I had a lot of fun making and eating Easter delights over the weekend, and was happy to make Dame Eyola’s Lemon Tart: a spring treat that was book-inspired! Did you enjoy any special treats over the weekend?

Bookspiration · Food & Cooking

Bookspiration: Chocolate Maple Roll Cake

I was thinking more about A Tale for the Time Being, and how it takes place with Ruth in Canada, and Nao in her diary in Japan. I decided to make some sort of recipe that combined something common in Japan with something common in Canada, and after a few sad experiments with my takoyaki maker I had to give up for a night. However, that was yesterday, and this is today. I thought some more about my fusion experiment, and decided I should make a roll cake!

The first time I ever had a roll cake was in Japan, and I loved how light and subtly sweet it was. So today I asked myself, “What if I made a roll cake that had the airy, softly sweet elements that the ones I tried in Japan had, and somehow incorporated maple into it?” I did a little research, and came up with a recipe that created a lovely cake. I hope you like it!

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Chocolate Maple Roll Cake

Ingredients:

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Chocolate Sponge:

butter, for greasing

3 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cocoa

sugar, for sprinkling

rose from your hot husband (optional)

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Maple Cocoa Whip

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 Tbs cocoa

4 Tbs maple syrup

Directions:

IMG_03701. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and grease and line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Use an electric whisk to whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick.

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2. Sift together the flour and cocoa in a separate bowl before folding a little at a time into the whisked egg and sugar mixture.

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3. Once everything had been evenly incorporated, pour into your prepared pan and bake for 8-10 minutes, until cake springs back when lightly touched. (Be extra careful here–I got a bit distracted and cooked mine slightly too long!)

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4. Once the cake is finished baking, wring a clean dish towel in hot water and spread it on your workspace. Line the towel with wax paper or parchment paper (though wax is probably better! I used parchment and the cake stuck to it a bit). Sprinkle a little sugar along the paper, and then flip your sponge on top. Carefully peel back the parchment that was on the bottom.

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5. Cut off the edges of the cake.

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7. Carefully roll up the cake, “hamburger” style, and set aside with the seam facing down.

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8. Next it’s time to make some fabulous whipped cream! I was so pleased with how mine turned out. Pour the heavy whipping cream into a bowl and add the cocoa. Whip until fluffy peaks start to form and the cream gains a whipped consistency.

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9. Next, fold in the maple syrup. Try your best to resist sticking your face in the bowl once everything has been mixed together because the whip. will be. YUMMY.

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10. Carefully unroll the cake and spread ample amounts of the maple cocoa whip inside, leaving a little space at the edges so it doesn’t ooze out too much.

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11. Re-roll the cake, and add more of the maple cocoa whip on the outside.

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12. Drizzle a little bit of maple syrup on top.

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13. Sift a little cocoa powder on for a final touch (I got a little carried away on one end, but who’s going to complain about extra cocoa!?).

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14. And enjoy! My cake was cooked just the teeniest bit too long, so it wasn’t quite as spongy and light as I would have liked, but my maple cocoa whip cream was so heavenly that I didn’t mind at all. Let me know if you try the recipe and how it turns out! 🙂

xx

Food & Cooking · Monday Matters · Tried

Hina Matsuri Dinner

Today it’s Hina Matsuri in Japan, also known as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day, so I decided to make a Japanese meal to celebrate from Michigan.

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I was really excited to find a simple, pretty-looking recipe for chirashizushi using fresh, sushi-grade tuna. Chad went all over town in search of tuna I could use for the recipe, and finally found some at our local D&W supermarket. Chirashizushi is basically a bowl of sushi rice topped with fresh fish, and–in this case–a colorful salad mixture.

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Yes, I know this picture is blurry, but at least there are cute dolls decorating it.

In addition to the chirashizushi, I also made yudofu (recipe at my old blog, here!) and ichigo daifuku. Yudofu is basically tofu boiled with kombu (dried kalp), and ichigo daifuku is a lovely spring treat consisting of fresh strawberries wrapped in sweet red bean paste and mochi.

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Here you can see my colorful bowl of chirashizushi, as well as the plate of yudofu in the background. I used traditional white sticky rice rather than the brown rice for which the recipe called.

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So bright and cheery!

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Here are some up-close pictures of the ichigo daifuku. I had to do some conversions when using the recipe because everything was in grams and ounces, so I think I’ll be experimenting to make them look prettier in the future. When it comes down to it though, I didn’t care too much about how they looked because they tasted really yummy, and totally brought me back to Japan (they were one of my favorite Japanese sweets! Natsukashii!). You can find the recipe I adapted by clicking here.

We really enjoyed having a Hina Matsuri dinner, and I was so glad everything turned out! Hope you have a lovely Girl’s Day!

P.S. I know I had promised I’d be back last Friday, but something…unexpected came up. On the bright side, I’ve reserved the post I’d been planning to write, and should have it ready for you this Friday instead! 🙂

Food & Cooking

Banana Nut Muffins

Last Saturday was National Banana Bread day, so I decided to whip up some banana bread–muffin style! I brought most of the Banana Nut muffins to work, but I saved a couple to eat up at home, too.

20140226-130420.jpgThe recipe is pretty simple, and only takes about a half an hour. What I especially like is that there are so many options for add-ins. You could choose several different kinds of nuts, or even put in chocolate chips!

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My favorite way to eat banana bread is when it’s been warmed with butter. Mmmmm 🙂

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Find the recipe below (adapted slightly from my mom’s recipe), and enjoy!

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Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients

1 1/4 c. flour

2/3 c. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1-1 1/2 c. mashed banana (depending on your taste!)

1/3 c. butter

2 Tbs. milk

2 eggs

Optional: 1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 chopped walnuts (or hazelnuts, chocolate chips, etc.)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl (leave out the nuts for now!).

3. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients before slowly adding them to the dry ingredients. Fold in your choice of nuts.

4. Fill a muffin pan with cupcake liners and spray them with cooking spray before adding a good amount of batter to each one. Or, if you’d prefer to make a loaf of bread, grease a loaf pan and add the batter to that instead.

5. Cook muffins for about 20-25 minutes, or a loaf for 35-45 minutes. Use a toothpick to make sure the batter is cooked all the way through. *Tip: if the muffins or your loaf of bread looks like it’s getting too dark, but the inside hasn’t finished cooking, cover with aluminum foil for the remaining cooking time. Keep checking about every five minutes.

6. Let cool, and serve (or, eat one after a couple minutes with butter, because who can really resist warm muffins out of the oven?).