Cinnamon Swirl Quick Bread

Happy Friday! Today I brought in this delicious recipe to share with my co-workers. This bread is so easy to make and it smells divine. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the aroma of cinnamon and vanilla throughout your home. I truly love that this quick bread is moist and not overly sweet, and has the right amount of cinnamon in it. When the bread comes out of the oven there should be a cinnamon sugar crust on top. The recipe also calls for buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can easily make it by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a “1 cup” measuring cup and fill the rest of the cup with milk. Let it sit for 10-12 minutes and you’ll see it start to curdle. Voila, there you go. Instant buttermilk. The recipe is for 1 loaf, but you can double it to make 2 loaves.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

CINNAMON SUGAR

1/3 cup white sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter, 3/4 cup sugar, and egg

3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk

5. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and 1/3 cup sugar to make cinnamon sugar

6. Pour a third of the batter into a greased (use baking spray or butter generously bottom and sides) 9×5-inch loaf pan (TIP: Use a measuring cup to evenly distribute batter)

7. Sprinkle a third of the cinnamon sugar on top of batter

8. Repeat layers twice

9. Bake 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean

10. Cool in pan for 10 minutes

11. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely

 

 

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Ginger Carrot Cake with Pecan Filling

Oh wow, I am in love. I have met my match when it comes to cakes. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for the past year or so and this weekend I decided to try it out. And boy am I glad I did. I will admit, my arm did hurt after a while grating the damn carrots, but the result is worth it. Not only is this cake delicious, but it’s super moist and it’s got pecans and crystallized ginger in it to add extra flavor.. It smells lovely as it bakes. The pecan filling is a must. You have to make the filling for the cake or it’s a bust. The recipe called for toasted coconut to be placed around the cake, but I decided to skip that part because it was almost 9:00 pm Saturday night and the hubby and I were dying to taste it. The next time I make it, I’ll be sure to add the toasted coconut.

Thank you to Michael Recchiuti for sharing his recipe. Here is my adaptation and changes for the recipe.

CAKE INGREDIENTS

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs

4 cups grated carrot (about 8 large)

1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

PECAN FILLING

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

3/4 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups pecan, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Bake the Cake

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pan

2. Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil and sugar. Add half of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add the remaining dry ingredients into four parts, adding an egg in between each addition.

4. Fold in the pecans, crystallized ginger, and carrots.

5. Pour into the prepared pans, filling the pans 1/2-2/3 of the way high. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Make the Filling

1. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Gradually add the cream, stirring until blended.

2. Place the saucepan over low heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and then let simmer for 25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm before stirring in nuts and vanilla. Let cool completely until needed.

Make the Frosting

1. Cream the butter with cream cheese and beat until blended. Sift in the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla.

2. The frosting must be firm enough to spread without running. Refrigerate to firm as needed.

Assemble the Cake

1. Loosen the cakes from pan and invert on to a plate. OPTIONS: Split each cake into two horizontal layers using a serrated knife to make a 4 layer cake, or leave the cakes alone and make a standard 2-layer cake.

2. Spread the pecan cream filling between the layers of the cakes and then cover top and sides with cream cheese frosting. Finish by pressing the toasted coconut around the side of the cake.

***Make sure to serve the cake at room temperature.

Please excuse my crappy frosting style. Despite how messy the cake looks, it was so delicious. My hubby even said it’s the best carrot cake he’s ever eaten. Yay.

Chocolate Chip Cookie with Walnuts

Who can say no to homemade chocolate chip cookies? Certainly not me. I may be known for my baking, but among my friends and family, my chocolate chip cookies are legendary. They’re requested to be made all the time. Even days later these cookies will still be soft and chewy. There’s only one kind of chocolate chips I use and they are the Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I’ve been using their recipe for as long as I can remember and I add one additional ingredient to the recipe. If you don’t like nuts or are allergic, you can omit them from the recipe. But if you’re a nut lover, make sure to add the walnuts. I’d also like to try making these with chopped pecans in the future.

Also, after I take the cookies out of the oven, I leave them on the tray for 2 minutes prior to moving them to the wire rack. Enjoy!

Yield: 7 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups (12 oz. bag) Guittard Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

2. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until light. Beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in chips and walnuts.

4. Drop by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Once cookies are out of the oven, leave on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer them to wire rack to cool.

Panko Crusted Chicken Thighs

I wanted some fried chicken, but didn’t want all the calories you’d get from eating it, nor bask in the greasiness of it. So I wanted to make a somewhat healthy version of fried chicken using panko crumbs and baking it in the oven. This is the recipe to use if you ever have a fried chicken urge. The chicken crisped nicely and was still tender and juicy inside. Score!

WHAT IS PANKO? For those that don’t know what panko is, it’s a flaky bread crumb used in Japanese cuisine; it’s used as crunchy coating for fried foods. It is made from bread baked by passing an electronic current through the dough, yielding bread without crusts. It has an airier and crispier texture than other bread crumbs found in Western culture.

Panko has become very popular and is being used in both Asian and non-Asian cuisine. You can find these bread crumbs in any grocery store.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 tablespoon spicy mustard

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/4 teaspoon paprika

6 boneless chicken thighs (the meatier, the better)

DIRECTIONS

1. Set oven to 400 degrees. Rinse chicken and trim fat. Pat dry. In a bowl, drizzle chicken with olive oil.

2. In a shallow pan, mix eggs with mustard, salt, black pepper, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika.

3. In another shallow pan, add panko crumbs. (I added about 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper to the crumbs and mixed it)

4. Dip chicken into egg mixture, making sure to coat well on both sides, then roll the chicken into panko crumbs and coat well. Place the chicken on a wire rack placed inside a shallow baking pan lined with foil. This allows the heat to evenly cook the chicken and allow it get crisp as it bakes. Continue process until all chicken is on the wire rack.

5. Place in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

This year I decided to give baked goods as a gift. On Sunday I spent mostly all day making chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter blossoms – if you love chocolate and peanut butter, this is the cookie for you. This is one of my husband’s favorite cookie. In the past, every Christmas his sweet grandmother (we miss you Granny M) would make him a batch of these cookies. For the past few years I’ve tried making them but something never turns out right with the dough. The cookies get too hard or they don’t have enough of a peanut butter taste.

I finally found the right recipe and they turned out beautifully. The cookies were soft and delicious the next day. Hooray!

Thanks to BrownEyedBaker for sharing this recipe.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

INGREDIENTS

48 Hershey Kisses

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup peanut butter (use creamy)

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Set oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap Hershey’s Kisses.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended. Add sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat until well blended.

4. Gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mix. Stir after each addition until well blended.

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar in a small bowl. Place on cookie sheet about 2-inches apart.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Once out of the oven, immediately press a kiss into the center of each cookie and remove cookies to a wire rack. Cool completely.

Friday’s Focus Ingredients #3: MINT

Mint is widely used in commercially manufactured products, cooking and medicine for its aromatic and flavorsome qualities. Peppermint is one of the most popular species and can be found in toothpaste, chewing gum, mouthwash, soaps, sweets, balms or creams and cough medicine.

Apart from peppermint, spearmint is probably the most widely used species of mint. It is not as strong as peppermint in flavor and is therefore used in cooking and added to sauces, dressings, cakes and can be added as a garnish to dishes.

MINT HISTORY

Mint is known to have originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region. In many cultures, mint symbolized hospitality and was offered as a sign of welcome and friendship to guests as they arrived. In the Middle East mint tea is still served to guests on their arrival, while in ancient Greece, the leaves of mint were rubbed onto the dining table, which was a sign of warm greeting.

Mint was also often used as an air freshener and was placed in the rooms of houses, synagogues and temples to clear and freshen the air and rid the smell of unpleasant odors from the room. The Greeks and the Romans used mint as a perfume and bath scent, as well as using it in medicine and in cooking.

Mint was so revered by the ancient Greeks that they named the plant after the mythical character Minthe. According to Greek myth, Minthe (or Menthe as she is also known) was a river nymph. Hades, the God of the Underworld, fell in love with Minthe and wanted to make her his lover. However, Persephone, Hades’s wife found out and in a fit of rage turned Minthe into a plant, so that everyone would walk all over her and trample her. Unable to undo the spell, Hades gave Minthe a wonderful aroma so that he could smell her and be near her when people trod on her.

MINT & HEALTH

Mint contains a number of vitamins and minerals, which are vital to maintain a healthy body. Mint is rich in Vitamins A and C and also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin B2. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant and may help to decrease the risk of certain cancers such as colon and rectal cancer. Although mint may be consumed in small quantities, the vital nutrients obtained are still beneficial to one’s health.

Mint also contains a wide range of essential minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, potassium and calcium.

Mint has always been used medicinally to aid digestion and relieve indigestion. If you suffer from frequent indigestion, drinking a cup of peppermint tea after your meal may help.

The chemical compound menthol, which is obtained from peppermint oil, is well known for its healing properties on the chest and respiratory system.

Mint is also said and in many cases proven to:

  • Relieve symptoms of indigestion, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome by relaxing the muscles in and around the intestine.
  • Act as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body against the formation of cancerous cells.
  • Inhibit the growth of many different types of bacteria and fungus.
  • Ease and unblock the breathing and respiratory passages and airways.
  • Relieves the symptoms of colds and flu.
  • Mint can help with nasal allergies.
  • It can relieve congestion, head colds and headaches.
  • Act as a mild sedative and has calming properties.
  • Relieve minor aches and pains such as muscle cramps and sprains.
  • Combat bad breath.
  • Provides a cooling sensation to the skin and can help to treat minor burns, itching and skin irritations.
  • Mint is a very good cleanser for the blood.
  • Mint tea can help clear up skin disorders such as acne

MINT STORAGE

The two most popular types of mint that you may use for cooking are peppermint and spearmint, with spearmint being the milder of the two. Mint is extremely popular in Middle Eastern cooking, especially Iranian and Lebanese cuisine, where it is used in an extensive range of sweet and savory dishes.

Fresh mint can be bought from your local supermarket and should be stored in the refrigerator for the best freshness. If you buy a bunch of mint, it should be placed in a container of water, stems down, with a plastic bag loosely covering the top. Ideally change the water every two days and the mint should stay fresh for up to a week.

Dried mint can also be bought but the flavor is so much more diluted.

MINT COOKING TIPS & HINTS

Here are some minty flavored recipes to try, whether you’re in the mood for a hot or cold drink, or something sweet or savory. Enjoy.

MINT JULEPS

2 cups water

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

32 fluid ounces Kentucky bourbon

8 sprigs fresh mint leaves for garnish

1. Combine water, sugar and chopped mint leaves in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow syrup to cool, approximately 1 hour. Pour syrup through a strainer to remove mint leaves

2. Fill eight cups or frozen goblets with crushed ice and pour 4 ounces of bourbon and 1/4 cup mint syrup in each. (Proportions can be adjusted depending on each person’s sweet tooth). Top each cup with a mint sprig and a straw. Trim straws to just barely protrude from the top of the cups. Serve juleps on a silver platter.

FRESH MINT AND CILANTRO MELON SALAD

4 cups 1-inch chunks honeydew

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves and stems

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

white sugar to taste

Combine the honeydew, lime juice, cilantro, mint, and sugar in a bowl; toss to combine; refrigerate at least two hours before serving.

MASHED NEW POTATOES WITH FRESH MINT

2 pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in chunks

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and put them in a mixing bowl while they are still nice and hot. Add the chopped mint and mash so the potatoes are chunky and green in spots. Fold in the butter and stir everything together so the butter melts. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with a healthy amount of salt and pepper.

FRESH CHOCOLATE MINT DOUBLE CHIP COOKIES

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chocolate mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a baking sheet.

Cream the butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla slowly.

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and then add to the wet mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped mint and mix together until just combined.

Form the dough into 2 inch balls. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden, about 9 minutes for chewy and 12 for crunchy. Cool on rack. Store in airtight container.

Additional usages for mint:

  • Add chopped mint to sauces for red meat, particularly lamb.
  • Add several sprigs of mint to peas, green beans or new potatoes while boiling.
  • Add mint to ahomemade or store-bought chocolate sauce for a chocolate and mint sauce.
  • Use as a garnish for cool drinks and fruit desserts.
  • Use dried peppermint leaves, added to boiling water to make a refreshing and digestive tea.
  • Make a yogurt dressing with chopped mint leaves, natural yogurt, garlic and salt and pepper for salads especially cucumber salad.
  • Add to cold soups or hot tomato soups.
  • Use to make curries.
  • Use mint to flavor cakes, meringues and biscuits.
  • Use to make a marinade for lamb.
  • The Middle Eastern salad dish, Tabbouleh contains mint, bulgur, parsley, red onions, tomato and lemon juice.
  • Add chopped mint to rice, chickpea, couscous or bean dishes.