Pears + honey + fall spices = Honey Pear Spice Muffins! by Nikki

It's Autum... and time for muffins!

It’s Autum… and time for muffins!

It is officially Autumn. The seasons have changed from warm Summer sunshine to crisp, cool Fall mornings. It is the time of year when the pumpkins and other squash varieties show up in the grocery store. The farmer’s market is full of deep, rich colors as the end-of-summer growing season has been recently harvested and is now available for our purchasing! When the daylight hours grow shorter and the rain begins to fall, I crave time in my kitchen, and I crave muffins. I LOVE muffins!  Experimenting with my basic muffin recipe brings my taste buds (and my friends) a lot of joy! A little flour, a few spices, one egg and a variety of “fillings”, and you have got yourself a tasty baked treat.

Thanks for the pears friends...

Thanks for the pears friends…

I have a new teaching colleague on our Kindergarten team this year. I am really enjoying working with and getting to know T… as well as her husband and family! In the first few weeks of school, T showed up in my classroom with a handful of pears that her husband, D had stopped to pick while on a bike ride with their daughter. I always appreciate good, fresh fruit… and these pears were gladly accepted! Combined with honey, fall spices and my favorite baking ingredient- buttermilk, these pears turned my standby honey spice muffin recipe into a pear-y good experience. And with only a 1/2 cup of sugar (and a whole lot of honey), these muffins were sweet with a hint of spice… and the verdict was they were  oh, so, nice!

Pear-y delicious

Honey Pear Spice Muffins

dry ingredients: 2 cups spelt flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

wet ingredients: 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 egg, 1/4 cup butter (melted), 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup buttermilk

fruit: 1 cup pears (peeled and diced)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 375 degrees F and line a muffin tin with muffin papers, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients then set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients until well blended.

Pour over the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.

Gently fold in the pears.

Spoon batter into the muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden brown or a knife comes out clean from the middle of the muffin.

Let cool for 5 minutes then serve warm with a pat of butter.

Store muffins in an air-tight tupperware for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months!

ENJOY!

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Gluten-Free Blueberry Buckle by Allison

Blueberries by the basket you say? Yes indeed, I’ve been buying blueberries by the basket! Why not? Being from the Pacific Northwest I grew up with being able to have fresh berries at my fingertips. I can remember back when I was in college and seeking out “U-Pick Farms” and I got bucket loads of raspberries for 50 cents a pound! I made cartons of freezer jam that night until the wee hours of the morning! Now I’m in the Czech Republic which is also “Berry Land” and I’m lucky to be able to have access to local farmers who grow the berries. They just taste better than the kind you buy in large stores let me tell ya! So here’s one way to get some more antioxidants in your system, eat blueberry buckle!photo (4)

This is my Mom’s recipe and it is certainly a family favorite. You can use frozen blueberries as well just be sure to thaw them out before-hand and make sure they are without extra moisture. My crumbly topping sank to the bottom as I used a bit more butter than needed but they turned out great and they were very delicious!
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Blueberry Buckle Coffee Cake
slightly adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook

Ingredients

2 cups gluten-free flour ( I like Schar Mix C gluten-free flour)

¾ cup sugar

2 ½ tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 c. butter

¾ cup milk

1 egg

2 cups well-drained blueberries

 

Topping:

½ cup sugar

1/3 gluten-free flour

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup soft butter

Mix and sprinkle over batter in pan.

 

Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease round layer pan, 9 ½ inches or square pan, 8″ x 8″ pan or pour into a muffin tin.  Blend all ingredients except blueberries and topping.  Beat for ½ minute.  Spread in pan.

Sprinkle topping over batter and bake for 45 to 50 minutes if baking it in a pan or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. My muffins baked about 20 minutes.

 

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Gluten-free Cinnamon Yogurt Muffins by Allison

This muffin recipe is a keeper, let me tell ya! I remember tasting these muffins at dear friend’s home when I was in Elementary school way back when. This recipe has withstood the test of time. One of my Mom’s best friends, CW, used to make these for camping trips, snacks after her kids (my dear friends then and now too) and I got out of the pool, post softball games and for breakfast. I loved them then and I loved them now (gf of course) and they have that same taste I can remember from way back when. I needed to make some food for some friends of mine here in Prague who just had a baby and these muffins popped into mind! I whipped up a batch and placed them into two bags, one for the freezer and one for them to eat right away. These are a yummy, anytime kind-of-a-treat!

muffins 1
GF Cinnamon Yogurt Muffins
 slightly adapted from Cindy W’s recipe

3/4 cup margarine (Hera here in Prague)

1 1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

8 oz. plain yogurt

2 cups GF flour (I use Schar Mix C)

1 tsp. GF baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

 

Cream together margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Add yogurt and blend well. Combine dry ingredients, then add yogurt mixture (stir only until all dry ingredients are moistened). Fill greased muffin tins or cupcake liners half full. Combine 3 Tbs. sugar with 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon; sprinkle half of this mixture over batter in each cup. Fill with remaining batter; sprinkle muffins with remaining cinnamon mixture. Bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 14-17 minutes. Enjoy! 

muffins 2 muffins 3

Last Minute Sunday Morning Banana Muffins by L

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“Mommy, I want muffin,” those were the first words out of little P’s darling little puckered lips this morning.  “Mommy, I want muffin.”

Mommy wanted another hour of sleep. Although waking up at 8:10 on a Sunday morning shouldn’t be anything to complain about, especially if you are living with two toddlers. However, for someone who used to sleep until 10am on the weekends BK (Before Kids,) these “early” morning wake up calls are a heavy adjustment. I’ve never been a morning person.

Children do change you. They really do. That change happens so quickly, in a very natural way and for me, this parenthood journey continues to be a positive one. So, when my almost 3-year-old requested muffins for breakfast, I quickly set off for the task. When you have such a precious little person in your life, all you want to do is make them feel happy and loved. If it was muffins she wanted, it was muffins she was going to receive. Request granted!

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Where does one go for the quickest, healthiest and most reliably tasty muffins? The Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook for their Banana Bread recipe which can also be used to make more than a dozen muffins. This dairy free muffin recipe also includes whole wheat flour, wheat germ and just 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Fortunately, we had some very ripe bananas for the job and the rest of the ingredients on hand. It was a go!

After whipping up the recipe, scooping the batter into the muffin tins and taking them out of the oven 25 minutes later, I presented lil’P with her muffin. Can you guess how many bites she took? Go ahead, make a guess! Ok, I’ll tell you…THREE. Yes, THREE bites and she walked away from the table and asked her dad for some grapes. The story does have a happy ending. Her twin sister, lil’T, after eating her own muffin, reached over to her sister’s plate and happily enjoyed eating the rest of her sister’s abandoned baked goods.

The End.

Banana Muffins (adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen Cookbook)

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup wheat germ

Optional – 1 cup dates or 1 cup nuts or 1/2 cup chocolate chips (we chose the latter)

Preheat over to 375F or 170C

Grease or line muffin tray.

Mash bananas until smooth.

Cream oil and sugar, then add bananas and stir well.

Sift together flour, salt baking powder, and baking soda.

Mix in wheat germ.

Add this to the banana mixture and stir in any of the optional ingredients if you choose to use any of them.

The batter will be quite stiff.

Scoop into muffin tray, just halfway if you want smaller muffins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick of knife in center.

If it comes out clean, it is done.

Enjoy!

 

 

These Zucchini Muffins are Jussssst Right! by L

The Chosen One

The Chosen One

On Fridays, at the Andel Farmers’ Market, there’s a stand I find a bit daunting because I haven’t mastered the Czech language. The vendor sells different kinds of bio flour, as well as a wide selection of bio dairy products. When I say “different kinds,” we’re talking about 7 varieties, from spelt to rye to whole wheat. However, it’s not just plain ol’ “Whole Wheat.” There are three to choose from and yes, I bought them all: “Hruba,” “Polohruba” and “Jemne Mleta.” I’d like to be able to ask a thousand questions about the range of available flours. Unfortunately, actually I should say embarrassingly, (after 8 years of living here) I can’t speak Czech well and so I am limited to the language translator app on my iPhone. My trusty translator tells me that “Hruba” is the coarsest of the three, “Polohruba” is medium coarse and “Jemne Mleta,” is finely ground.

One of these days I’m really going to have to get the skinny on all these flours. Many of the recipes I use call for whole wheat flour, but never do they specify how coarse the grain should be. Here in Prague, I have yet to find an all-purpose whole wheat flour. The unfortunate result has been a number of baking disasters and wasted hours in the kitchen. I kind of feel like Goldilocks, trying to find out which flour is “just right.” If anyone in the Prague area is an expert in flours, please feel free to rescue me!

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Ours come in Mommy size and Toddler size

I’ve been on the hunt for a healthy zucchini muffin that I could share with my two tots. One that uses whole wheat, a natural sweetener and of course it had to be both delicious and moist inside. I took a gamble and tried this new recipe using the whole wheat polohruba flour. Luckily, my muffins turned out “jusssst right!” My girls and I have been enjoying these for breakfast and snacks on the go. It’s perfect!

Just Right Zucchini Muffins (adapted from Weelicious)

1 cup all-purpose flour (for our Prague readers: I used hladka white flour)

1 cup whole wheat flour (for our Prague readers: I used polohruba whole wheat)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, whisked

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup vegetable or any other neutral oil

2/3 cup honey

1 1/2 cups zucchini, shredded (about 2 small zucchini)

(If you aren’t worried about nuts or added sweeteners, feel free to add a 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds or chocolate chips.)

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These didn’t last long in the muffin jar!

Preheat oven to 180/350 degrees.

Grease or line your muffin tins.

Place the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture.

Stir until mixture is well combined.

Pour the batter into large or small muffins cups. (I made 24 mini’s and 5 in large silicone baking cups)

Bake 15-17 minutes for small muffins and 20-25 minutes for large ones.

Cool for 10 minutes and then serve.

The Breakfast Battles by L

Zucchinis at the Andel Farmer’s Market in Prague 5

I’ve only been a parent for 14 months, but I quickly discovered that nothing, NOTHING remains constant for too long when it comes to raising a baby. Actually, I should now be using the word toddler. Once I thought I got the whole “Eat, Sleep, Play” routine down, my two toddlers go ahead and twist the whole game around.

Breakfast time is where our current struggle lies. When my daughters first began “eating” solids, they sloppily, but happily, took their baby cereal first thing in the morning. Lately, one of the girls has begun to refuse her daily bowl of porridge. Her favorite food to break her fast is plain ol’ natural yoghurt. She doesn’t seem to tire of it, but I do. As a new mother, it concerns me that yoghurt is all she will consume. Therefore, I went on a search for new breakfast ideas that might entice her appetite and keep the door open for variety.

One of the things I didn’t want to do is trade her natural yogurt for something sweet and unhealthy. I looked to my trusty and much-loved cookbook, The Laurel’s Kitchen for help, but none of the recipes met my needs. So, I turned to their other book, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book and that was where I found my pot of gold: Zucchini Cheese Muffins.

This was a meal in one. A savory muffin made with whole wheat, oats, a veggie and protein. Then there was the added plus of NO sugar. It seemed like the perfect breakfast food to bake. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m the sugar police! My daughters do enjoy a cookie here and there for a snack. However, my conscience feels better knowing that the food they eat is packed with sensible nutrients and the right kind of calories.

This is quick and easy to prepare. These days, having hassle free recipes on hand is essentially important for maintaining a household with a set of toddlers. It only took one bowl to mix the ingredients together and very little preparation was needed.

Is your muffin bigger than mine?

So, what did my daughters think? Well, Ms. Picky Eater wouldn’t let her muffin go after she got her hands on it! We even had to wrestle the wrapper out of her hand. I read that as a good sign.

Can you guess who Ms.Picky Eater is?

Zucchini Cheese Muffins (adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book)

As I was trying to photograph the muffins…

2 tablespoons minced onions

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup oat flakes

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon grated mix of Swiss, Cheddar and Parmesan cheese (to save time, buy the pre-grated packs)

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini

2/3 cup of water

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of nutmeg (optional)

…they kept disappearing!

Pre heat oven to 375/190 degrees

Prepare your muffin tin.

Saute the onions in the oil.

In a large bowl, add the egg, cooked onions with the oil and the oats.

Mix.

Then add the cheese, zucchini and water. Stir.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.

Stir until well mixed.

Pour a few spoonfuls of the batter into each muffin wrapper.

Top with remaining pieces of cheese.

It should be enough for 12 muffins.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Cool before serving.

Your muffin will taste even more delicious if you find an adorable little toddler to share one with!

Very Berry Baking! by Nikki

My Czech Basket…

Don’t you just love the season of summer? I do, and not only because I am a teacher and get the summer for a long holiday, but also because summer means I get to fill my Czech basket with such goodies as berries, apricots, and sweet corn! On Wednesday I woke up around 9:00- fairly late for me even during the summer holiday! My good friend Melissa called and said she was bringing over some perishables before she ventured off traveling for two weeks weeks. Before she headed off to the airport with her sister and dear friend, we walked to our local Farmer’s Market. She was going to stock up on dried strawberries to snack on during her train journey! My mission was to find blueberries.

blueberries are so colorful in muffin batter

The evening before, I had returned from The Hague, Netherlands where I spent a rainy weekend with two of my favorite people. It was nice to just spend time together chatting, relaxing, touring a cheese town and making rainy day muffins. Needless to say, I had muffins on my mind when I went to the market that next morning!

one of my favorite foods…

Blueberry muffins are one of my favorite foods. Last year, I found a recipe that I love from the blog the Smitten Kitchen. The muffins turn out fluffy and bursting with blueberries and there is just a hint of lemon zest. Perfect Blueberry Muffins Recipe

these blueberry beauties melt in your mouth

These muffins are best enjoyed warm with a generous pat of butter on the day they are made. And you can always share them with a friend like I did with EC! But these blueberry muffins are not all I have baked this week with my Farmer’s Market goodies… My cycling friend Anne and I are headed out on the road this week. I thought it would be a good idea to use the rest of my berries to bake Raspberry Almond Scones for our ride.

mmm… triangles of raspberry goodness!

Tea time is always better with fresh scones! So I will take a couple of these in my backpack for us to enjoy on our mid-morning tea stop. The rest, I will freeze for later consumption.

All you need is love… and a few other ingredients!

I used my favorite recipe for the scone base found on the blog Joy the Baker. I omitted the coconut, and substituted 3/4 cup raspberries for the chocolate chips listed in the recipe. Raspberries will make the dough sticky and wet so have up to 1/2 cup extra flour handy to mix in! Instead of using my circle pastry cutter, I just cut these scones into triangles with a knife. Depending on your oven they might need to bake shorter or longer than the time given in the original recipe.

I enjoy my scones with a hot cup of black tea with milk!

I hope you are enjoying your summer as well as your local farmer’s markets and gardens! – Nikki