Saturday, October 29, 2011


I'm taking a one-time break from muffin posts (I don't bake most weekends, so there is nothing to share, anyway) to share a manicure I painted in honor of the snowstorm that is invading our beautiful October weather.

Last night, my daughter was so excited to go up to the attic with me to retrieve our snow gear from its box. She has been prancing and dancing around the living room all morning, in anticipation of our late evening field trip to "the back 40". But for now, we're enjoying a cozy morning in our warm little house, cuddled up in alpaca socks and hats, fuzzy pajamas and robes... sipping on hot coffee, eating breakfast sandwiches, and reading together. All the while, snow is blowing every which-way outside. It's a small-time blizzard out there, but the 'best' is still yet to come in an hour from now.

Back to nail color... I chose the same colors that are already on my toes: as an accent, Sephora by OPI's Shiny Dancer (charcoal) layered with Pure Ice's Heart Breaker (shimmery translucent green), and as a main color, Pure Ice's A List (ice blue) . Instead, though, I reversed the colors on my fingernails. I decided on the polka-dot pattern, because my sister recently endeared me to the idea. When I sat back to look at the results as a whole, I realized that it is much like the weather today: the charcoal and ice blue colors are icy cold, slick, and wintery! The polka dots are like a sleet or freezing rain. So, all in all, my last minute decision to repaint nails today turned out to be right in tune with the weather outside. Kinda cool. ;o)

**AN AFTERTHOUGHT: My child sees me painting my nails and casually sweeps over to my side of the couch, hands outstretched, peering down at her plain nailbeds. All at once, she raises her eyes to mine, as if to say, "Could you paint my nails, too? They've lost all the paint from last time." She makes her decision from my bucket of nail colors. I ask her if she is certain of that choice, because history has it that she changes her mind halfway through (or at the end!) and wants a rainbow array instead. But I don't mention the rainbow, because I know she'll then remember that that is what she prefers, and I would love to see something classy for a change. *wink* She convinces me that she is sure of her choice, Pure Ice's Outrageous (shimmery pinkish purple), and I paint five of her nails before she switches gears and tells me that she wanted rainbow (what? You never mentioned that!). I stick to my guns and insist that she not waiver constantly ("because  someone who has a habit of changing their mind doesn't ever get what they want." I quote the Bible *wink*), and I finish painting her nails.
In the end, we decide to use polka dots "like mom's." Her polka dots, though not perfect, are in Sally Hansen's Xtreme wear "Deep Purple", and in the end, my child is pleased with the outcome, as am I.  

Now it's time to take our freshly painted manicures out in the snow!
It has finally begun to accumulate on the ground. Bye!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


 This creation is probably my favorite to bake, simply because the batter is smooth and the outcome is so beautiful! Look at those muffin tops, how they peak and crust to a perfect brown in random spots. And they are SO dense, which is appropriate for the flavor! PB Chocolate, as I have labeled it in my recipe book, is my 3rd best recipe, not because it is in high demand (nut allergies have prevented that) but because I believe it is right up there with the Pumpkin Apple and Raspberry Chocolate, as far as quality is concerned!

Ready to go? Let's make muffins!
My favorite and most useful tip for this recipe is to lightly coat your measuring cup with oil (I used the spatula to spread a very thin layer of oil) before scooping peanut butter into it. Cleaning PB is my least favorite part of the process, and this step eliminates a lot of that! 

Allow your milk and lightly beaten eggs to reach room tempurature. Mix your dry ingredients, and pre-measure the chocolate chips, coating them in some flour mixture (it really does keep the chips from sinking to the bottom!).

Random photo insert: our daughter, doing schoolwork on her own. I said that I wouldn't post any face shots of her on random sites, but this was too difficult to pass up... While I toiled over the batch of muffins that had to get done before we began schoolwork today, she sneaked a peek at her book, took a pencil, and completed the alphabet maze without me. Then, single-handedly (lol), she finished the entire book of tracing uppercase and lowercase letters and successfully identified which objects began with those letters. I was SO proud of my preschooler for doing pre-K work on her own initiative.

Back to baking: I prefer to melt my butter at the last moment, right before I add it to my room-temperature wet ingredients. Recipe books have suggested letting the melted butter cool before adding it. I've found that this makes my butter clump, preventing it from thoroughly spreading throughout the batter. You will find what works best for you.

For my 'beginner' bakers, here is a series of photos, showing the progression of peanut butter and warm butter being blended...

Remember to add the chocolate chips BEFORE the batter is completely combined. LESS (mixing) is MORE (moist).

Every recipe differs in how it rises, based on whether baking soda or powder is used, how much is used, and other such factors. This recipe in particular rises very well, so I have no problem getting a decent dome top when I only fill 2/3 full or so. To add a great finish, throw a few random chocolate chips on the tops before placing in the oven.

Pardon me while I INDULGE in some personal photos! When your child shows such great interest in schoolwork and makes an effort such as mine did, you can't help but bring out the huge rewards!
Gelato for everyone while the muffins are in the oven: Double Dark Chocolate and Meditteranean Mint for my two chocolate fiends, and Carribbean Coconut for me!  Darn, I knew I should have bought the raspberry gelato. What better combination than mild (coconut) and tart (raspberry)??

And eating directly from the container is the ONLY way to eat frozen dessert in our house!


Now, follow the recipe below, and share your thoughts with us!


2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C brown sugar
6 T butter, melted
1/2 C peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 C milk
3/4 C chocolate chips*

* milk chocolate is the best match, but semi-sweet works also!

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar.  In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, peanut butter, eggs, and milk until smooth.  Pour into flour mixture and stir until JUST combined. Stir in chocolate chips.  Batter will be thick.  Fill paper-lined muffin pans 2/3 in each cup.  Bake for 20 minutes (about 25 for jumbo muffins) or until toothpick comes out clean and mfufin top springs back when lightly pressed.  Let sit 3-5 minutes in pan. Cool muffins on a wire rack. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Aside from the pumpkin recipe, this has to be the most requested and highly favored muffin I offer to date. Because of the combination of raspberries and chocolate, it tantalizes mostly women, but there are a select few men who cannot withstand the seemingly hypnotic power of this creation! Personally, I prefer muffins without chocolate, but I would be a fool to deny that it sells!And because it puts food on my table, I am obliged to spend time making a masterpiece of it! This is why Raspberry Chocolate muffins have made the #2 spot on my blog. (I don't really count the experimental orange chocolate recipe yet.) I'm anxious to hear whether this recipe has you hooked!

Rather than redundantly summarize the recipe that appears at the end of this segment, let's just go over some vital tips I've stumbled upon while perfecting my recipe.
I use a pastry blender tool to mix dry ingredients for recipes that involve brown sugar. It helps to break up the brown sugar more evenly.

Lightly coating add-ins will assist in keeping them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin. (Pictured right & above: chocolate chips and frozen raspberries coated in the flour mixture in a separate bowls.)

                                                        Making a well in the center of my flour mixture before adding wet mixture.

Placing the eggs (lightly beaten) and other cold ingredients (i.e. milk, oil, etc) in a bowl ahead of time allows it to reach room temperature. I usually complete this step in the beginning, before I measure the flour mixture. However, I don't melt the butter until I'm ready to pour it into the mixture, right before I combine wet with dry! This makes for a better consistency! Otherwise, if I melt the butter beforehand, it cools too much and hardens into tiny chunks. The baked result has a spotty look to it.

 I've used both pure extracts and imitation extracts. For personal use, I prefer the real deal, but for reasons of cost -and because the taste is the same- I use imitation extracts for bulk baking. I've found, too, that MY Walmart has quite a variety of these extracts for under $2 (2 oz).
Here's a random thought: Using brown sugar for this recipe is what gives the muffin its dark color. When using white sugar, I get a much more biscuit-like muffin. That's fitting for, say, an orange muffin, but not for a raspberry chocolate muffin. The lighter look just doesn't have the same affect (on me) for this recipe!
 Remember to fold in your chocolate and raspberries BEFORE your batter is completely moist. LESS (stirring) is MORE (moisture)! 

You can't have too many raspberries! Overfill your measuring cup, if you like extra! It won't alter the cooking time!

Again, use a measuring cup (1/2 or 2/3 cup) to scoop batter into your muffin cups. It makes for a tidy cleanup and eliminates much guesswork!

Don't forget that with muffins, you must bake it immediately in order to get the rise from the leavening agent. A batter that sits around too long will start to rise on its own, and it just won't bake to the best of its ability!

I top my muffin batter with a sprinkling of raw sugar, but as of late, it has cooked right into the top of the muffin. It only worked once for me, and OH, how beautiful that once was! When the sugar doesn't melt, it shimmers in such a fancy way! I'm open to tips on where to find "coarse sugar crystals" in the stores...

For these darker muffin recipes (and for citrus based recipes, such as lemon poppyseed & orange almond), you can place a cookie sheet on the top rack to keep them from browning too fast (if you find that to be an issue). Also, try reducing the oven temperature by 5 degrees. I find that helpful when the muffin seems to brown faster than it cooks inside!

This is one recipe that should err on the side of over-baking rather than under-baking. It doesn't dry out too easily from the oven, but if it is not cooked through, the berries can 'goop up' the surrounding area. That just blows the whole deal for me (but then, I have peculiarities in regards to textures)!

Viola! Here are the beauties that I've perfected over nearly five months! I just adore how the chocolate chips and raspberries peek through the tops! Please, try the recipe that follows, and share your results and thoughts with all of us!

(6-7 jumbo)
2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C milk
1/4 C butter (melted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp raspberry extract
1 1/2 C raspberries (frozen)
2/3 C chocolate chips
2 T coarse sugar crystals

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar. Make a well in center. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla, raspberry extract, and melted butter. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir together until JUST moistened. Fill cups 2/3 full. Top with sugar crystals. Bake about 20-30 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


   It's about time I share this incredibly moist recipe with you, before the season is so far gone that you can't find pumpkin puree to make it, much less find the desire to eat it! Before you scroll right to the recipe, follow me on a short journey on how to prepare it....

Pictured above is my sister's hand, toiling over the streusel topping (using a pastry blender). Left, my daughter is pouring the pre-mixed dry ingredients into a large bowl, which amounts to flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, & my own mix of spices.

The key to a better 'wet ingredients' blend is to lightly beat your eggs before adding anything to them. My daughter only just decided that this step isn't too gross anymore, and that she is now ready to take it on as her job!

When you measure and add the oil before the other ingredients (in this case, pumpkin puree), the residue helps it slide right out of the measuring cup! (It's the little things that matter!)
One of the most crucial steps to ensure moist (not tough) muffins is the blending of wet and dry ingredients. DO NOT OVERMIX! Only just combine them! So, for most of my recipes, when I'm instructed to fold the apples (or chocolate chips, raspberries, orange peel, etc) into the combined ingredients, I cheat a little. :o) If your goal is to stir as little as possible at this point, then don't wait until your dry and wet ingredients are completely combined before adding the remaining items!

     This photo shows the consistency that the batter should be when apples are added. The dry and wet are mostly combined, and I have but a few folds left to go. That's just enough to get those apples in there and keep my muffins from becoming tough!
Now you're ready to scoop into the muffin tins! All of my recipes are baked in jumbo tins (6-8 oz), using Wilton paper cups. Most recipes yield 6 jumbo muffins, but this pumpkin recipe yields 8 jumbo!

I've found that using the 2/3 measuring cup helps keep the guess work out of evenly-scooping and eliminates unnecessary mess. This fills them between 2/3 and 3/4 full, giving a nice dome shaped muffin in the end. Experiment, and see what works for you!

When adding topping, the tablespoon measure unit works great for these muffins. Again, less guesswork and less mess!


Pop them in the oven for 35 minutes (standard OR jumbo!), and await the mouth-watering aroma of pumpkin, cinnamon, and other delectable flavors that waft through the kitchen during the baking process! Recipe follows...

2 1/2 C flour
2 C sugar
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 C pumpkin
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 C apple (peeled, cored, chopped)

Streusel topping:
4 tsp butter
2 T flour
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven 350F. Line muffin tins with cups. For streusel topping, mix last three ingredients in small bowl, cutting in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Set aside.  In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and soda. In medium bowl, mix pumpkin, beaten eggs, and oil. Add this mixture to dry ingredients. Stir til just moistened, folding in apples towards the end of moistening process. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (or 3/4 full for domed tops). Sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes (or until toothpick comes out clean).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Orange Chocolate (this is for you, Julie O!)

The orange chocolate muffin is not for everyone. Even I, the self-proclaimed muffin maniac, do not crave more than a bite or two of this powerfully vibrant flavor, but there exists a select number who appreciate the marriage of tangy citrus and sweet, smooth chocolate.

While my sister visits us this week, she has asked me to be a guest on her blog, and I, in turn, have asked her to help me bake muffins. We chose the orange chocolate recipe, because I have long needed to experiment with it in order to improve it's shelf-life. Besides, my sister's husband is one of those people who delights in orange flavor melded with chocolate. In exchange for my newly revamped recipe, I think I'll have her cook dinner all week! Ha ha!

Here is the complimentary recipe. My only requirement is that you let us know how you enjoyed them! And if I tweak it further with success, I will be sure to inform you!


2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
1 C milk
1/4 C butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
2/3 C chocolate chips
orange peel from 1-2 oranges

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine milk, eggs, vanilla, and orange extract. Set aside. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Make a well in center. Melt butter in a small bowl and add to wet mixture. Pour dry ingredients into wet mixture and combine until JUST moistened. Fold in chocolate chips and orange peel (do not overmix). Fill cups 2/3 full*. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on rack.

* Note: for flatter tops, fill muffin cups half full. For dome-shaped tops, fill cups 3/4 full (only 5 muffin cups) and check them at 20 minutes. If toothpick comes out like batter still, check again in 5 minute increments. :o)