Slow Cooker Dip Trio – Dessert!

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Basically, it’s cream cheese glazing for cinnamon buns, in a slow cooker. This is definitely a fun dip to make for parties, and there’s plenty to go around. We also served cut up fruit and there was a ton of sauce still left at the end. If you have a large slow cooker, follow the instructions in the original recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron for making the fondue in a separate container within the slow cooker. If you have a wee one, you can just plop all the ingredients straight in (as we did) and go from there.

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Start by grabbing a bowl and using it and an electric mixer to beat together 1 8oz package plain cream cheese (room temperature) and 1/2 cup butter (also room temperature) until mixed and fluffy.

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Tip in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract and beat that up too.

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Then slowly add in 2 cups icing sugar and beat it (carefully) until fully combined.

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Dump that whole thing in your slow cooker and leave it on low, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

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When you’re ready to serve it, you probably want some cinnamon buns to go with it. If you don’t have any pastries handy, but want some, grab some of those rolls of pre-fab biscuits.  The Pie did not know that the rolls kind of exploded when you opened them, and even though I warned him in advance he was still startled by it, so exercise caution. Preheat your oven to 400°F and spray a muffin tin or two with cooking spray.

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Grab one of the biscuits from the tube and flatten it into an oval.

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Dip it first in melted butter, then in a mixture of cinnamon and granulated sugar.

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Plop.

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Roll the oval into a tube.

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Then roll the tube into a spiral. Give it a squeeze in the hopes that it will stay together.

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Plop the spiral into your muffin tin. For the record, the Pie made all the ugly ones.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the rolls are golden and no longer gooey.

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Serve them hot with your fondue and a couple forks.

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And some napkins!

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Jammy Bran Muffins

These muffins are a little bit different from your usually brown bran muffins. As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with bran, so I’m always looking for new ways to ingest fibre without feeling like I’m eating sawdust. It’s a never-ending challenge. The additional challenge of these is that for some reason I have four jars of jam in my fridge and neither the Pie nor I is eating a lot of toast at the moment. So I decided to use it as my sweetener in this shindig.

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Start by setting your oven to preheat at 350°F and spray a muffin tin or rub it with butter. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, feel free to sour some milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon juice to every cup of regular milk. Give that a stir and leave it for 5 minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/4 cup bran, 1/4 cup ground flax (because it’s good for you – make sure it’s partially ground before you add it in), and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda.

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In a smaller bowl, scramble together 4 tablespoons melted butter3/4 cup of your favourite jam (this one is serviceberry), 1 large egg, and 2 cups buttermilk (or alternative).

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Now pour the liquids into the solids and gently whisk until only just combined.

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Dump in 1 cup raisins (or not, if you’re not a fan of raisins) and whisk until just combined again – never over-mix muffins. If you do they end up flat. And that’s lame.

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Divide the batter in your tin. Bake those puppies for 20-25 minutes, until the centre muffin tests clean when stabbed with a toothpick.

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Leave them in the pan for about 5 minutes to cool a little bit before digging them out and eating them or letting them cool completely.

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We always like our muffins hot, with butter. Because, well, butter.

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Fast-Tip Friday: Drying Herbs

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If you’re lucky, you still have time to run out and grab the rest of your late-summer herbs from the garden and do something with them before it’s too late. If you’re me, then while you were out of the country for work the temperatures dropped below zero and now all your basil is a disgusting black mess.

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HOWEVER, there’s still hope for a good number of your other hardier herbs.

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Since the summer, I’ve been hauling baskets of herbs inside to process. Some end up in butter (because mmmm, butter), and some, like the lemongrass stalks you see in this basket, go in the freezer. But most of them, I dry. It takes almost zero effort on my part and then the herbs are there for me to mix and package as gifts: spice rubs and herbal teas are quick and easy to make.

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What makes it easiest is this handy-dandy herb dryer that I picked up from Lee Valley. Hang it somewhere out of the way with good air circulation (for us, that’s over the side of our main staircase), and then just shove it full of fresh herbs.

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The mesh will allow air to circulate on all sides, meaning nothing gets mouldy or soggy, and some of your herbs, like lemon balm, will dry in a matter of days. And you didn’t have to do ANYTHING!

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Added bonus: for the few days it takes these herbs to start to dry up, the hallway smells like pizza or lemons or whatever we’ve got in the shelves.

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Cinnamon Rhubarb Muffins

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My mother foisted off some of her bumper crop of rhubarb on me so today’s and Monday’s recipes are both going to be rhubarb-related, and I think you’re going to like both of them if you are a fan of the sour stalks of not-fruit-not-vegetable. This recipe comes from Fine Cooking and the original recipe involves a streusel topping but I decided to skip it this time around. You can do what you like. But before you do, position a rack in the centre of your oven and preheat it to 400°F. Grease a muffin tin or line it with cupcake cups.

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Chop up 1 1/2 cups’ worth of fresh rhubarb into 1/4″ pieces. Set that aside for a few minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.

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In a small heatsafe bowl, melt 1/2 cup butter and then let that cool slightly.

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In another bowl, whisk together 2 large eggs, 1 cup sour cream (I replaced this with 1 cup buttermilk), and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add in the slightly cooled butter and mix that well.

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Make a well in the centre of your flour mixture and pour in the liquids.

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Stir that with a fork until just combined. Let it be lumpy.

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Tip in your rhubarb and stir that in, again, until just combined.

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Scoop the muffin batter into the prepared tin until each cup is full, then bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre muffin comes out clean.

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Let the muffins cool in the pan on a rack for about 5-10 minutes before scooping them out and eating them still warm with a little bit of butter.

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Oh my!

Mini Wonton Quiches

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I finally did get to have that finger-food brunch I was trying for. These wonton mini quiches were a big hit.

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I enjoyed cutting up all the vegetables super small to fit in the tiny muffin cup spaces.

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I did scoop the seeds out of the tomatoes to avoid mushiness.

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And I couldn’t decide on cheeses, so I went with both.

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I grabbed some fresh herbs from my very own backyard, because it’s actually spring now.

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In the end I had one set of quiches with mushroom, spinach, chives, and goat cheese, and the other was tomato, onion, cheddar, and cilantro. For amounts I kind of winged it, sorry.

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Anyway, preheat your oven to 350°F and line your muffin tins with two wonton wrappers each. Align them so they are at 45° angles to each other for the largest surface area. I didn’t do this but I would recommend greasing the muffin tins before you do this.

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Then I stuffed the tins with my vegetable-cheese mixtures.

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Then I started cracking some eggs. For 24 mini quiches I used about 14 eggs. I also added in a few tablespoons cream, some salt and pepper, and some grated parmesan. Gave that a good mixing.

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Then I ever so carefully poured the egg goo into the muffin cups.

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It’s hard to get it so it doesn’t go around the seal of the wonton.

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I baked them for about 15 minutes, until they were cooked through.

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Because I didn’t grease the pan it took some persuasion to get them out.

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But they were so good!

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And even great for a cold quick breakfast or lunch the next day!

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Taco Cups

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To celebrate the success of our Bench Cover Thingy, Cait and I held a wee taco party afterwards. These are inspired by Kevin & Amanda, and I think I’ll be cooking these up pretty often. They’re easy and provide a tidier option to those of us who like hard-shelled tacos. Plus kids will love being able to make up their own custom tacos in advance. Also tacos always remind me of my favourite joke, but I don’t wanna taco ’bout it. You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean. This recipe makes enough for 24 taco cups, which feeds four hungry adults quite nicely.

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Start with half a large sweet onion and dice that up.

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Grab 2 tomatoes and dice them too.

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Why yes, that IS dog hair on my tomatoes. Thank you for asking.
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I swear that I removed the dog hair before dicing. I promise. Maybe.

Scoop up some spices: 2 tablespoons chilli powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle, and some ground black pepper.

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You’ll also need some meat. I used about 3/4 kilogram extra lean ground beef.

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Sauté your onions in about 1 tablespoon olive oil until translucent and amazing-smelling. Tip in the meat and stir, breaking it up into little pieces, until it’s browned all over. Drain it if necessary (the bonus of extra-lean is you don’t need to drain).

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Remove the meat and onions from the heat and tip them into a large bowl. Dump in your spices and mix them around.

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Tip in the diced tomato as well and give that a good stir. Set that bowl aside for a spell.

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Now preheat your oven to 375°F or thereabouts. Grate up about 2 cups cheddar cheese (you can use more or less if you like).

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Grab a muffin tin and generously brush the whole thing with olive or vegetable oil (or use cooking spray). I did the 24 taco cups in two separate batches so they were fresh and hot, so I only needed the one tin, but if you’re doing them all at once you will obviously need two tins.

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Now you need some wonton wrappers. Square ones are probably best.

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Press a wonton wrapper into the bottom of each hole in the muffin tin.

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Spoon a small amount of meat, onions, and tomatoes into the spaces as well.

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Top with a wee bit of grated cheddar.

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Then jam on ANOTHER WONTON WRAPPER. Press everything down underneath it so you still have space to put stuff.

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Spoon in some more meat/onions/tomatoes and top with additional cheese.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the wonton bits that you can see are brown and the cheese is melty and bubbly.

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Cait and I found that about five minutes on a cooling rack after baking made them a bit more solid and easier to handle. Just be careful when you’re scooping them out and run around the edges with a spoon to make sure nothing is still attached to the tin.

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Top with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chives and you are golden.

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Banana Oatmeal Bran Muffins

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I’m not a huge fan of bran muffins, to tell the truth. I mean, the older I get the more I appreciate their functionality in my diet, but they’re still not a favourite. The Pie absolutely LOVES them, though. I swear he’s actually seventy. So I thought I’d play around with the mixture a bit and see if I could come up with something that still had all the benefits of bran with a bit more of a flavour, and these not-too-sweet muffins did the trick.

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These can also be frozen in their unbaked form for cooking up later, which is handy for me as I am yet again filling up friends’ freezers in anticipation of future little ones. All you do is scoop the mixed batter into cupcake liners, freeze them, and then add five minutes to the baking time when you bake them from frozen. Easy peasy.

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But of course you want to try some of these puppies right away. So preheat your oven to 350°F and line some muffin tins with liners (or give them a good spraying or buttering, whatever suits). I doubled this recipe (so I could freeze some) so don’t be alarmed at the massive amounts in the pictures. Deep breaths.

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In a bowl, whisk together 2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour, 1 cup oats (rolled, not steel cut), 1 cup bran, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. That’s your dry bowl.

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For your liquids you’ll likely need a bit more preparation. First, I had some bananas in the freezer that needed thawing out, but when they were good and squishy I went ahead and mushed up 3 ripe bananas.

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You’ll also need some buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk you can simply sour regular milk by adding 1 tablespoon lemon/lime juice or vinegar to every cup of milk you use and letting that sit for about 5 minutes. For this recipe you’ll need 2 cups buttermilk/soured milk. I also opted to switch out the traditional molasses used in bran muffins for 1/2 cup honey. In addition to that in your liquid bowl you’ll need 1 large egg and 4 tablespoons melted butter.

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Mix both the liquids and the dry stuff well, but SEPARATELY. The whole trick with muffins is not mixing them too much. I think in this case with me trying to incorporate the bananas I ended up overmixing but you should try not to do that.

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Your batter should still be pretty lumpy when you tip in 1 cup raisins or nuts (optional).

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Scoop your batter into your prepared tins and either freeze them or bake them for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre muffin comes out clean.

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Let those cool in the pan about 5 minutes before scooping out to a wire rack to cool completely.

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I like eating them still-hot with a wee bit of butter. So good!

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