Pumpkin Muffins

Canned pumpkin is a whole new thing for us.  Downunder you could probably track it down in some American specialty store but generally pumpkin is served savoury. However, this muffin came from my daughter’s middle school cooking option and she loves making them and more importantly likes them in her lunchbox.

Pumpkin Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ginger (ground)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional – I never have cloves…)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Line a 12 cup muffin pan with liners

Place flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda into large mixing bowl and whisk together.

Add remaining ingredients and mix to combine but be gentle and do not overmix.

Spoon the mix evenly into the 12 liners and bake for 20-30 mins until toothpick comes out clean.  Eat warm if you can or cool and freeze for lunch boxes.

 

Easy Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is a favorite of mine, even before we moved to the States.  I love all types of nuts so a sugary, nutty pastry delight called my name from a young age.  I must admit I have usually purchased this pie piece by glorious piece and had never tried to make it but no longer my friends. This recipe is a winner and is perfect for a picnic if you can take it in it’s dish. Delicious with cream, yogurt or sour cream.

Pecan Pie
  • 1 x Pie pastry (either bought or home made) line and parbake pie dish – usually 400F for 7-10 mins making sure you use baking paper and pastry weights to hold down the pastry – do not brown
  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup golden syrup ( available here at Amazon or at World Market – see note)
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped pecans ( mixed sized pieces)
  • 1 1/2 cup whole pecans ( best to do more than needed so your design is not half finished)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla essence
  • splash of whiskey, rum or bourbon if that’s your thing
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Heat oven to 350 F

Lightly toast  your pecans pieces (1 1/4 cups) by dry frying in a large non stick frying pan being very careful to keep moving them and DO NOT BURN. 5-6 mins but be careful!

Place sugar, butter, golden syrup and salt in pan and simmer over a med heat for 2 mins stirring all the time.  Remove from heat and add the toasted chopped pecans pieces  (1 1/4 cup), vanilla, liquor, vinegar and set aside to cool for minimum of 15 mins. After cool add one egg in at a time and beat well after each.

Pour the filling into your par-baked pastry shell and then go about decorating the top using the whole pecans.

Bake for 45 mins, edges will be firm and middle will be set but may still wobble slightly, you may need to cover the pie edge crust with a tinfoil or a protector if it gets too brown too early

NOTE:  This recipe calls for Golden Syrup, a very popular sugar syrup throughout most Commonwealth countries.  This is to replace the usual corn syrup component to this dish as it has become an unpopular ingredient lately. However, the tinned versions available on Amazon may be thicker than the bottled dessert version from World Market so as I only had the dessert version to hand I did add 2 Tablespoons of corn syrup to firm things up a bit.

Enjoy!

Berry Hand Pies

 

Pies, pies, pies.

How can someone not like a filling encased in flaky layers of deliciousness.  We have a saying in our house, “You could wrap anything in pastry and it would taste darn good.” Although you could be a domestic diva and whip up a block of homemade puff pastry but who does that? Or should I say who does that more than once!  Just pick up some pre-rolled puff pastry and you are good to go.

I used raw fruit rolled in raspberry jam and a spoonful of corn starch because I had so little time but you could lightly cook the fruit down with a touch of sugar and again, a thickening agent to stop an overabundance of liquid spurting from the seams whilst cooking. Talking of seams, my trick is to wet the pastry, add the second layer over the filling, and press to seal but the final step is then to use a cookie cutter to cut through both layers of pastry but make sure you you cut well away from the filling.

 

It is important not to overfill the hand pies as they will always want to burst and always make a vent for steam by cutting some holes in the top before baking which also helps with this.  Also check your pastry’s packaging for a recommended oven temperature. My kids love these in their lunch box but are also perfect for picnics as they are yummy hot or cold.

Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

 

Although I am a true chocolate fan my second favorite sweet preference is anything lemon.  Luckily our lemon tree has gone crazy this last year and produced so many lemons I had to send the children out delivering them to the neighbors so I could reduce the poor tree’s load! It is nice to have the natural zest to add to your sweet delight rather than the waxy covering on many citrus you buy.

This was a delightful recipe which turned out perfectly, it yielded exactly 12 regular cupcakes and cooked nice and evenly.  Topped with a simple frosting and a fresh raspberry they were so appealing and delicious.  The two colored frosting made the presentation pop and I was so happy to package them up and give them to friend for her birthday.

The lack of a huge amount of frosting was made up for by the little burst of raspberry jam/preserve cooked into the cupcake and makes it a bit sturdier and less messy for transporting to a picnic or pot luck dinner.

Lemon and Raspberry Cupcakes
  • 1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s/powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Raspberry jam/ jelly/conserve, seedless or strained if you prefer, enough for 12 teaspoons. I don’t mind the seeds so just used straight from the jar

Heat oven to 350 F

Line the cupcake pan with the cupcake cases.

Using an electric beater cream butter, powdered sugar and lemon zest, until the mix is pale and fluffy.

Add eggs 0ne at a time, beating very well after each one, it may look curdled or split if the eggs are too cold.

Add one cup of the flour and the baking powder, add the milk and lemon juice, mix lightly and then the other cup of flour gets folded in.

Spoon a large tablespoon of the mix into each cupcake case. Using the back of a spoon, make an indentation in the middle of each and then dollop a teaspoon of jam into each spot. Carefully top the jam with the rest of the batter equally, and make sure to seal the jam in around the edges to stop the jam escaping when cooking.

Bake for 23 mins.

Remove from tins and cool completely.

Simple Frosting
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tsp fine lemon zest (no white pith if you can)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon raspberry or berry preserve/jam
  • Fresh raspberries for top

In a small saucepan melt the butter and then add sugar, zest and finally the lemon juice slowly until frosting is how you like it and then frost 6 of the 12 cupcakes.

For the pinkish frosting just add the strained tablespoon of the jam into the remaining frosting and frost the remaining 6 cakes.

Pop a fresh raspberry on the top of each cupcake and bite into one immediately!!

Date Scones

In the Commonwealth countries the scone looks very different to an American scone, they resemble a ‘Biscuit’ but can be sweet or savory. They are a hardy wee number and they can travel well.  Date scones are best served warm with butter slathered on but can also be refreshed slightly in the microwave.

TIPS:  It is important to have a light touch when mixing the milk into the dry ingredients. Use very cold butter to cut into the flour. Feel free to use self rising flour, I rarely have it.

Date Scones ( Biscuits)
  • 6 Tblsp very cold butter ( chopped into small pieces)
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tblsp sugar
  • 8 dates medjool are nice but dried are good too  ( I often soak the chopped dried dates in the milk mix to soften for 15 mins)
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

Heat oven to 400 F and arange the top rack 1/3 from the top of oven.

If you have cold hands you can cut or rub the butter into the sifted dry ingredients but if like me your hands are as hot as Hades use this trick. Place half the flour into food processor with the the sugar and baking powder and add the butter, pulse until breadcrumby and pour out into your mixing bowl. Quickly add remaining flour and mix with a knife to incorporate.

Add the dates and milk and again mix with the knife. The dough may be sticky but not sloppy.

Scrape out onto well floured bench and quickly press together into a manageable dough, just a few turns and presses and the the briefest roll with a rolling pin to  1 1/2 inches thick. Do not over handle!!

I use a 1 1/2 inch fluted cutter but cutting into squares is attractive also. Make sure you dip your cutter or knife in flour between each cut as micx will be sticky within.

Place on a tray lined with baking paper, with only 1/4 to 1/2 inch between them. When they bake they will just touch and keep softer on the sides.

Brush with a milk/ egg wash if desired

Bake for 10 – 12 mins until top and bottom are light brown and when you pick one up it doesn’t feel heavy.

Remove from oven and place in a basket lined with a clean tea towel which also covers the top. Serve immediately with butter. They are still delicious cold in your lunch but cut in half and buttered is highly recommended!

Oat Berry Muffins

Ahhh the old faithful muffin. It is easy to see why they are still so popular, easy to make and so easy to switch out flavours, they are a crowd pleaser as the young and the not so young love them.  To save cleaning my muffin pan I use cupcake cases and it also helps with keeping them nice and neat within the lunch box. Good for a picnic,  a school snack and even a breakfast on the go. The inclusion of rolled oats and the fruity tart berries makes it a little healthier and are a snap to whip up and store in the freezer until needed.

Easy Berry and Oat Muffins
  • 1 1/4 cups sifted plain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups oats  (I use the Raley’ s store brand)
  • 3 level tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 canola or similar baking oil
  • 3/4 cup mixed berries, frozen is fine but cut any large berries smaller

Preheat oven to 410 F

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and rolled oats in one bowl.

Mix egg, milk and oil in another bowl and then pour into dry ingredients and gently mix.

Lastly, fold berries in and spoon into a 12 muffin pan, either greased lightly of with a liner.

Bake 20 – 25 mins but don’t overbake.

I also cooked mini sized but they were tough as I cooked too long and they were tough as boots.

Crispy Risotto Cakes

Rice is my fave and my best, I could eat it happily for every meal. The versatilty of this grain makes you realise why it is a staple in so many countries around the world. Obviously because of its widespread popularity different types of grain are available to suit different dishes. In this instance Arborio rice is used as it short starchy personality makes the risotto cream and stick togerther nicely.  You do not usually want to rince arborio rice before cooking as you want to keep that starch hanging around.

As a Mom I appreciate this recipe as it does not involve all the stirring you associate with Risotto making. The trusty microwave does all the work until the shallow frying at the end transforms the rice into a crunchy cheesy hot delight.  These are yummy cold also but you could try them in a thermos to retain the warmth (if not the crunch) or microwave gently. Serve with a tomato relish and a zingy green salad and your lunch box never looked better.

 

Crispy Risotto Cakes
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped very finely
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine ( or extra stock)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • Extra butter and oil for frying

Place onion, oil and butter in a large microwave proof dish. Cover and microwave on full power for 4 mins. Stir in the rice, cover and microwave for 1 1/2 mins. Add the wine plus 2 cups of the stock, stir, cover and cook for 10 mins. Stir in remaining stock, cover and cook a further 5 mins or until rice is tender and creamy.

Allow to cool and stir in parmesan and eggs, then place in fridge till completely cold. Shape mixture in small balls and then roll in panko crumbs flattening slightly.

Shallow fry in a mix of butter and oil until crispy and golden.

Pulled pork wrap or baby baps

In my last post a shared the simple recipe for a pulled pork and today just a couple of ideas for using them in lunchbox friendly ways.

Our family loves wraps as an alternative to regular sandwiches and they are perfect for encasing sticky pork, coleslaw and a slather of extra mayonnaise. I have started to use sandwich picks to stop these unravelling within the box.

 

Equally delicious on rolls or baps, the flavorful pork is a winner. I find these mini hamburger buns from Trader Joes just adorable but are really just a bite sized snack. Larger softer rolls or Hawaiian sweet rolls are just the ticket.

Find the recipe here

Easy Peasy Pulled pork

I like the easiness of this pulled pork as it can be made with little effort, in advance to use in a multitude of lunch dishes.  Although, pulled pork is super convenient if cooked in a slow cooker I was lucky enough to be given a used Le Creuset lidded casserole which worked beautifully.

Dishes that are just thrown together, left to cook and then are versatile, ticks all the boxes as far as meal preparation. I am much better thinking about meals in the morning than at 5pm.

Although this pulled pork has its own light sauce at the end, you could add your favorite thicker BBQ sauce on reheating.  Also it may pay to chill the saucy liquid so you can lift off the set fat.

Pulled Pork

  • 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup or a mix of both
  • 1 heaped tsp smokey paprika
  • 6 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes or to your taste
  • 1 onion (red or yellow) sliced
  • Pork butt 4-5 lbs
  • Salt and pepper

Place the chopped onion on the base of your slow cooker or heavy casserole dish.  Place the salt and peppered pork atop ( I do cut any thick fat layer off first)

Mix all the remaining ingredients together and pour over pork, making sure all sides are covered. Place lid on and turn slow cooker on high for 5- 6 hours, turning halfway through. Or, lid the heavy casserole and place in 320 degree F oven for around 4-5 hours. Turn once.

The meat is cooked when it easily breaks apart with a fork. Drain if you like and chill liquid to remove excess fat. Add BBQ sauce if you like it saucy.

Enjoy with tortillas, sliders, on rice or in wraps. So many uses.

FYI, I would serve coleslaw and tortillas on the side, not in the the thermos and assemble as I ate. Don’t forget napkins!

Picnic Asparagus rolls

These are a snap to make for picnic boxes or a quick lunch. Asparagus rolls are good at using these healthy spears in perhaps a new way for you. Very popular at tea parties, they are quite robust once you get the knack of rolling and maybe securing. They are a splash of color and a good alternative to the usual triangle sammie.

You can find the recipe and more instructions here.

Your kids may be tricked it to trying a ‘new’ vegetable in its sassy new bread outfit. Served cold and the asparagus a tiny bit crunchy, it’s a taste of spring.

Make sure you don’t overcook the asparagus as it will be very limp, never good and also don’t prepare them the day before, soggy bread sucks also.