Category Archives: quick breads

Funfetti Pancakes

(Alternate title: Have you eaten your hydrogenated oils today?) 

I may or may not be known to have some rather strong opinions about certain foods.  Ask me my opinion on butter vs.margarine, for example, and you will never wonder how I feel about the issue…or sugar vs. aspartame, or bacon vs. just about anything. I also have been known to picket in the grocery aisles that contain pre-made mixes of any kind, and to spend hours on end making something I could buy simply based on the principal that homemade is always better.  Yes, I’m “that girl” and I sometimes hate me too.

Except sometimes, I break my own rules.  Sometimes for good reasons, other times not.  Some might say I’m fickle; I say I’m human. Shh, don’t tell anyone, ok?

In case you don’t believe me, here is an excerpt from real conversation R and I had recently:

Me: (babbling intelligently discussing something of high importance)

R: You’re so funny.

Me: Me, funny?!?!  What’s that supposed to mean?!?! I’m not being funny!!! I’m being serious, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

R: You’re very funny.  All the time. Including right now.

Me: I don’t agree.

R: Well, you are.  You’re always either “haha funny” or peculuar funny.

Me. Hmm.  Please pass the margarine.

(end of conversation, beginning of heart disease)

In all seriousness, while I DO believe that homemade is best, I also sometimes cheat and use something out of convenience, cost, and/or Scottish guilt.  This recipe I’m about to show you is what happens when all 3 of those things get together for a party (In other words, when sleeping in is important, cake mixes are on sale for 88 cents each, and you feel guilty throwing something out). Go ahead, put your pride, common sense, and health-conscious ego aside and join me for breakfast…you know you want to!


Go ahead and raid your pantry for Bisquick, cake mix, milk, eggs, vanilla, sprinkles.  Don’re pretend you don’t have those items on hand at all times!  

Pre-heat your griddle to medium-high heat while you introduce all of the batter ingredients to each other.

 1 c Bisquick, please meet 1 c cake mix, 2 eggs, 1 c milk, and 1 t vanilla.  Go ahead and mingle, but don’t get too friendly.

Oh look, the sprinkles are here!  All 3T of them!

You know the drill from here on in – ladle the batter onto the preheated and greased griddle, being sure to have some touch the sides of the griddle and therefore diminish any hopes, dreams, or aspirations of perfectly round pancakes.


And when the surface is dotted with bubbles, flip the pancakes over and continue cooking until they’re golden brown.



Stack these babies up high, and dust with icing sugar and more sprinkles (obviously) before digging in.  Or, if you’re not watching your girlish figure, drizzle with an icing-sugar glaze, too.

Oh look, it’s a party on my plate!


 And a perfect breakfast in celebration of a certain someone’s 1 month birthday…

… even if this post is 2 months late going up and the birthday girl doesn’t have teeth 🙂

And on that note, please pass the margarine and Diet Coke. I’m a little thirsty.

P.S. If you feel guilty serving your family cake for breakfast, give them Cheerios and eat these once they’ve all left the house.  Take it from me, it’s sometimes worth it.

(Wannabe Vegan) Zucchini Bread

My name is Jaclyn and I’m a wannabe vegan.

(Hi, Jaclyn)

Sigh…it’s true.  Sometimes, I flirt with veganism.  In fact, just last night, R* and I had a conversation about it.  It went a little something like this:

Me: I think I’m going to become a vegan.

R: Oh no, not again…(rolls eyes)…why on earth would you want to do that?

Me: Oh, I think it would be good for me. And the environment.

R:  So you wouldn’t eat any dairy, eggs, meat, or fish? Wouldn’t that be difficult?

Me: Well, I’m not supposed to eat dairy, so that’s one less thing to give up.  How hard could it be?

R: True.  But what about bacon and butter?

Me: Good point.  Can I still be considered a vegan if I eat bacon and butter?

R: No.  That doesn’t count. If you eat those things you’re not a true vegan.

Me: Hmm.  Fine.  Guess I’ll be a wannabe vegan then.

*True story; names have been changed to protect the innocent.

In all seriousness, I do think that I could adapt to a vegan diet, or a mostly vegan diet with the occasional slice of double-smoked bacon and smear of fresh creamery butter, of course.  It would be an adjustment, but not an impossible one.

However, as you may have picked up on by now, I love to bake.  I’ve been unsure about how to adapt many of my favourite recipes and create new ones that don’t include eggs or dairy and are still mouth-watering good.  There are many vegan substitutes for dairy (soymilk, almond milk, and the like), but eggs? That’s a whole different animal.  Literally, I suppose.

However, I am never one to back down from a challenge.  I am also never one to allow a 69-cent zucchini perish in my fridge, so I did some experimenting and here’s what I came up with.  Wannabe vegan with me?

Oh good, I was hoping you’d say yes! Here’s what we’ll be playing with today:

Flour (I’m using all-purpose and whole-wheat spelt), baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ground flax-seed, buttermilk, coconut oil, applesauce, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, zucchini, winter squash (optional), walnuts or pecans (optional).

In my extensive research on vegan baking over the years, I’ve found that many sources recommend using a “flax egg”.  Essentially, ground flaxseed is mixed with warm water and left to sit for 10 minutes or so until it becomes gelatinous.

Easy enough, right?

I dutifully ground up my flaxseed, using my trusty Magic Bullet.  I used to use my coffee grinder, but after a few rather nutty cups of Pike Place I learned my lesson.

However, I’m a wannabe vegan, not a full-blown one.  I am, however, full-blown Scottish, so I wasn’t going to let the buttermilk in my fridge go bad while I used (gasp!) water.

Buttermilk flax egg? Don’t mind if I do.

I whirled up 3 T of ground flaxseed meal with 9T of buttermilk (that’s 1/2 c + 1T, in case you’re wondering), and began to doubt whether or not I should quickly run to the store for eggs while the oven was pre-heating.

(Side note: maybe this bread should be called “I’m too lazy to run to the store since its raining and too frugal to let my buttermilk go bad and what on earth am I going to do with this zucchini that is knocking on death’s door? bread”.  I think that has a nice ring to it, don’t you?)

One look at my fuzzy slippers and sweats and the decision was easy.  I left the buttermilk and the flax-seed to its own devices, and got started on the dry ingredients.  With fingers crossed, of course.  And toes.

Sorry, true vegans.  I promise the rest of the recipe doesn’t contain any more dairy, eggs, or bacon.  At least, not this round.  Can’t make any promises for (Wannabe Vegan) Zucchini Bread 2.0.

Since I like to complicate things, I figured since I was making something practically vegan, I might as well also make it almost healthy.  So, I used a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flour, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

I’m trying to deplete my 13 types of flour, can you tell?

In the mix:

1.5 c AP flour
1.5 c whole wheat or spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

Give it a stir and set it aside.

Next, the wet ingredients!

Grab yourself some coconut oil and melt it down – 1/3 of a cup or so.  If you’d prefer, you can use a neutral flavoured oil instead.  If you’re feeling particularly rebellious, you can use melted butter.  Off the record, of course.

Add the oil to a bowl, and then dump in the rest of the wet ingredients:

If you’re thinking that’s not a lot of oil, you’re right – I wannabe healthy, after all! Besides, I had exactly ⅔ c of homemade (cinnamon) applesauce in my fridge that didn’t want to be left out, so I figured I could cut the oil down considerably from a typical quick bread.  I also wanted to be mindful of the sugar, as many quick breads are deliciously sweet but sometimes more cake than breakfast material.  I ended up adding 2/3 c each of brown and white sugar, and found the bread perfectly sweetened for my (terribly jaded) taste buds.  Throw the buttermilk-flax (wannabe) egg in with this, and you’re good to go.

Oh yes, and I also added the about 2 t vanilla. Obviously.  Everything is better with vanilla.

Before I introduced the wet and dry ingredients to each other, I grated up my zucchini – all 69-cents of it.

Houston, we have a problem: apparently I needed $1.38 worth of zucchini, as I could only get 1 c worth and I knew just by looking at it that I probably needed double the amount for the amount of batter I was making.

Kabocha squash (aka Japanese Pumpkin) to the rescue!

I chose this because it’s sweet and mild, and I figured it would blend into the bread well.  And also because it was sitting on the counter and the thought of another bowl of squash soup is about as appealing as going for a 10km run in a torrential downpour.

Just a heads up: the next recipe you’ll see on here will probably be for squash soup.  Consider yourself warned.

However, if you like leaving your house more than me, you could use grated zucchini (2 c total), or a combo of zucchini, butternut, kabocha, or pumpkin. I won’t judge.

Time for the magic to happen.

Love at first sight?

Not quite; still shy.

Everybody play nice now…just because the eggs didn’t show up doesn’t mean you have to rebel.

Ahh, that’s better.

(I’m not going to lie, I was completely nervous at this point. Embarrassing but true.  Had I made a mistake by not running out to the store to get more eggs????)

After about 50 minutes at 350-degrees, I would soon find out.

Hmm….smells delicious and looks promising, but how will they hold up once they’re out of their pans?

Dare I say I’m impressed?!?!

The bread rose just fine, and held together beautifully.  It is perfectly moist with really nice warm spice undertones.  Wannabe vegan or not, this sure is a winner in my books.

Wannabe healthy? Try this bread for breakfast or a quick snack instead of an oil and sugar laden bakery muffin or quick bread.

Wannabe frugal? Experiment with what you have on hand instead of buying more.

Wannabe vegan? Yes please!

Chocolate Swirled Peanut Butter Banana Bread

When you were a kid, did your parents ever tell you that TV would rot your brain? I can’t remember if mine did or not – does that mean my brain has already rotted? Either way, I watched more TV than I should have as a child, and (most days) my brain works alright.

A few years ago, I made the decision to go without a TV.  Criticized by many and understood by few, it was the right thing for me at the time.  Truthfully, I haven’t really missed it, with the exception of a few odd times.  Besides, I always told myself that if I really wanted to watch TV, I could just go to the gym.

Let’s just say I haven’t watched much TV since my days of “Who’s The Boss?” and my gym membership has remained mostly unused since 2007.

The other day, I made a grave mistake: I plugged my TV into the wall, and – lo and behold – I have cable. Who knew?!?!

Naturally, I did what any good Martha-wannabe would do and I turned it to the Food Network.  “Recipe for Riches” was on – have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but it is a reality show of sorts.  Contestants were competing for the best cake in Canada, and the winner will have their product reproduced under the Presidents Choice Brand.  They also win $25,00o in prize money, if you’re into that kind of thing.

One of the final 2 contestants made this cake called Banana Chocolate WOW cake, or something to that effect.  It was a banana cake with a chocolate filling, and a white chocolate cream cheese icing.  One of the judges commented that her cake was good because it wasn’t as dense as banana breads usually are (clearly, banana cake shouldn’t be as dense), and I’ll admit that while at the end of the episode neither she or the cake WOW’d me (or the judges; she lost so you can save yourself the hour it would take to watch the episode), it made me decide to share my version of banana bread with you sooner rather than later.

What are your thoughts on banana bread? Mine are that it is usually too dense, too greasy, too light, or not enough banana flavour.  I know, I’m so fickle! Don’t you agree though? Many quick breads suffer from the same ailment, but many have not yet achieved the perfect flavour/texture balance.

Until now that is.  Enter my new love – chocolate swirled peanut butter banana bread.  Because really, isn’t everything better with peanut butter and chocolate? 

Oil (canola or grapeseed), buttermilk, bananas, brown sugar, peanut butter (I like natural), vanilla, AP flour, WW flour, eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, chocolate chips.

In a large bowl, mash 3 large bananas.

Add 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/3 c oil, 1/3 c buttermilk, 1/3 c peanut butter, 2 eggs, and 1.5 t vanilla, and beat until everything is well acquainted.

In a separate bowl, stir 1 c AP flour, 1 c ww flour, 3/4 t baking powder, 3/4 t baking soda, and 1/2 t salt together.

Stir the dry ingredients in by hand until everything is just barely incorporated.

No one will eat your banana bread if you don’t.

Wondering when the chocolate joins the party? Grab yourself about 1 c of batter in a separate bowl, and sift in 2 -3 T of cocoa powder.

That, my friends, is why we sift. Use a spoon to smoosh the cocoa pebbles (is that a cereal? I was deprived as a child so I’m not sure) through the sieve, then use the spoon to do a little QC on the batter.

But wait! There’s more:

In this instance, “more” refers to about 1/3 c of chocolate chunks.  Did I measure? Ya right.

Stir the batter together, and set it aside.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans (I doubled the recipe when I took pictures – this bread is in high demand – so please don’t stretch this 4 ways unless you have a hidden talent for multiplying banana bread), and pour about 2/3 of the regular batter in.

Dallop most of the chocolate batter on top…

Top it off with the rest of the regular batter, and whatever you left in the chocolate bowl.  Unless of course you thought the rest of the chocolate batter was for sampling, in which case you go right ahead.

Gently swirl the two batters together.  Make sure you use a clean skewer for each pan so the swirls are equally distinct.

Bake at 350-degrees for about 40-50 minutes.  These babies took exactly 42 minutes in mine.  Aren’t you proud Mom? I used a timer!

In the pan, they smell delicious.

But once I sliced into them?

To me, this is the quintessential banana bread – not too light, not too dense, hints of peanut butter, and a rich chocolate swirl.

Claimed by some to be the best banana bread they’ve ever had, all I can say is WOW.

(Note: Recipe adapted from the wonderful Julie.)

Ponderosa (aka Banana-Chocolate-Chip) Cake

Despite what you may have thought, I haven’t forgotten how to blog.  I’ve actually missed it like crazy! Unfortunately, I was out of commission (literally) for almost 2 months with mono, and then dealt with a stubborn laptop.  Anyways, all is right in the world once again and I should be able to resume a (semi) regular posting schedule 🙂

Let’s talk about cake, shall we? I love it.  Chocolate, Vanilla, Carrot, Lemon…you name it, I love it. This, of course, is no surprise, but if you’d like to act shocked I’d be ok with that.  I also adore a good banana cake, and while it seemed like every one and their mother had what they consider to be the perfect recipe…I was still searching.  Oh sure, I’ve made – and subsequently eaten – many great banana cakes – including a great one with peanut-butter icing that my Mom makes –  but my search continued.  For a while there, I just figured that banana cake perfection didn’t exist, and had resigned myself to trying something different every time.

Then, when I was least expecting it, there was light at the end of my banana cake tunnel! About a year ago, I tasted an absolutely delicious version…one bite and I was hooked.  Was the search over? Would the hostess part with her recipe? Thankfully, yes – she told me the cake was called a Ponderosa cake, and after a short Google session I had the recipe at my fingertips.  And now, my friends, I’m sharing the recipe with you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

The All-Star Cast:

Butter (duh!), white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour, bananas, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, cinnamon, and chocolate chips.

To start, cream together 1/2 c butter and 3/4 c white sugar.

While the butter and sugar are getting to know each other, get the rest of your ingredients ready.  The fancy term for this is mise-en-place (“everything in its place”), and I can guarantee that it will make the cake come together quickly and effortlessly.

* 1 egg + 1/2 t vanilla

* 2 banana’s, mashed

* 1.5 c flour +1 t baking soda + 1 t baking powder + pinch salt


* 1/2 c sour cream

* 1/4 c brown sugar + 1/2 t  cinnamon

* 3/4 c chocolate chips

Add the egg and vanilla to the creamed butter/sugar mixture, and beat until well combined.

Add the mashed bananas.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and gently mix in until just combined.

Next, stir in 1/2 of the sour cream.

Repeat the process until all of the dry ingredients and sour cream have been incorporated.

Now, this is where I diverted from the original recipe.  If I had actually taken the time to read it properly, I would have known that I wasn’t supposed to add all of the chocolate chips at once.

I didn’t read the recipe, and I’m here to report that the only thing that was harmed in the consumption of this cake were my hips.

Oh well, all in the name of research, right?

Spread half of the batter in a greased 8 x 8 ” pan.

Sprinkle evenly with half of the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Repeat with the remaining batter and cinnamon-sugar.

Bake at 350-degrees for 40-ish minutes.

If you can wait for more than 5 minutes after it comes out of the over…well, I commend you.

I couldn’t.

I’m not sorry.  This cake is light and moist with a great texture, and is chock-full of flavour.  I think my search for the perfect banana cake is over – is yours?

Until we meet again…


Love (aka Cranberry-Lime) Muffins

You may or may not be aware of this, but today is Valentines Day.

Today is also Monday.

And it’s raining.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?!?!

Yes, we should make muffins. I think that’s the best idea I’ve had all day.

Next dilemma: what type of muffins?  I make a batch almost every week, but I haven’t told you about them for a while because I feel like they’re too common most of the time…and well, let’s face it – banana-blueberry-bran-oatmeal muffins are good, but sometimes you need to shake things up a bit.

A few months ago, I came across a recipe compliments of the lovely Joy that jumped out at me because while I often make blueberry-lemon muffins, I’ve never tried cranberry-lime. I filed the recipe away for a rainy day, and went about my business.

Today was that day, folks. The day where the muffins were made. Since I have an inability to follow a recipe exactly as printed,  I changed a few things from Joy’s original recipe but the result was quite good so I wanted to share them with you.

Unsalted butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, lime, AP flour, spelt flour, cane sugar, baking powder, salt, and cranberries.

Measure out the dry ingredients, and set them aside:

3/4 c AP flour, 3/4 c spelt flour, 3/4 c cane sugar, 1/2 T baking powder, 3/4 t salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:

1/3 c milk, 2 eggs, 1 t vanilla, and the zest of 1 lime.

Set it aside while the butter works its magic…and not only on my hips.

Seriously my friends, I believe the secret to these muffins is the browned butter.  Most muffins use either oil or softened butter, but browning it first takes things to a whole other dimension of flavour.

Curious? Here’s what you do:

To start, melt 7T of butter in a small pot over medium heat.

I suggest you keep an eye on the butter, and not walk away to check your voicemail with people declaring their undying love for you.

I consider it my job to save you from burning your butter.

It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.

Once it melts, keep cooking the butter until it separates and turns light brown…almost like its being toasted.  Resist the urge to stick your finger in to confirm that it doesn’t taste burnt.

Whisking constantly, pour the browned butter in a steady stream into the wet ingredients.  If you don’t whisk constantly, you might end up with scrambled eggs or coagulated butter so be careful!

Add the wet to the dry ingredients, and stir gently to combine.

Fold in 1 1/2 c of fresh or frozen cranberries.  Raspberries would also be delicious – yum!

Portion into muffin tins – Joy says the recipe makes 12 muffins, but I only got 10 out of it.  I suggest you live on the edge and make 11, just for the fun of it.

Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with some extra cane sugar…or raw sugar…or cinnamon sugar…

But whatever you do, since it’s Valentines Day and all, don’t skimp on the sugar.

Please and thank you.

Bake the muffins until they’re golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean…this will take about 18 – 24 minutes at 350-degrees.

Let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes while you find a use for the (naked) lime sitting on your counter.

(I made a bean salad with cilantro, red onion, garlic, and peppers with a lime-cumin vinaigrette if you’re curious.  Please don’t ask me for the recipe though, because you should know by now that there isn’t one.)

Muffins are ready!

Don’t be shy, let’s dig in together.

These muffins are light, fluffy, sweet, and tart all at the same time.

Love, love, love!

Until we meet again…



Strawberry And White Chocolate Stuffed Eggnog French Toast

(I hereby give myself an award for the blog post with the longest title – oy vey!)

I am not a fan of breakfast.

There – I said it. I don’t know if it’s the fact that 95% of the time I’d rather be sleeping or if I have a legitimate distaste for the traditional breakfast foods, but the idea of steel-cut oats just doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning.  Or cereal, I’ve never been a fan of cereal.  Soggy grains in milk? No thanks, I’ll pass. In the summer I’ll whip up a quick smoothie, but when I look outside and see snow that is just about as appealing as spending 3 continuous hours on the StairMaster, followed by running a marathon.  Besides, I hate feeling rushed in the morning, and if I actually make myself a “real” breakfast I tend to be more rushed than normal.  Not quite the best way to start my day, if you know what I mean.

Now brunch, on the other hand, is a completely different animal.  I can handle brunch.  In fact, I quite enjoy it!  I think brunch is the new coffee date, and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly.  I love lingering over brunch with a good friend (or 5), catching up, and not feeling any time pressure to be anywhere or do anything else.  Brunch feels special, since those types of days don’t happen super often.

As you may have picked up on by now, one of my favourite things to do is to open up the pantry and/or fridge and just start combining.  After all, it’s how I first learned how to cook and it is what comes most naturally to me.  On top of this innate desire to play, I also hate to waste food.  What can I say – I’m Scottish!

(It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?!)

Unfortunately (or is it?), I get bored pretty easily and so leftovers are often abandoned in favour of their newer, more exciting cousins.  So…when I looked out the window and saw 2″ of snow (which, by Vancouver standards, is enough to paralyze the entire city…CRAZY I know), opened up my fridge and saw eggnog that was begging for one last chance to shine before being dumped down the drain, and a hunk of french bread on the counter I knew what had to be done.

Brunch on a snow day? Yes please!

Eggnog, egg, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, strawberries, white chocolate, bread.

In a shallow dish, whisk together 3/4 c eggnog, 1 egg, 1/2 t vanilla, 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 t nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

Bonus points if you can find your nutmeg in the abyss of your pantry and grate it fresh.  If you can’t…while, you’ll just have to make this 3x as penance.

Now, I’d like to provide you with a little MDM-style disclaimer: I am fully aware that it’s January, and that in January most people make resolutions to cut back on their fat and sugar consumptions.  I thought about showing you something healthy and delicious…but when I saw the snow all of my logic went out the window and I started for looking for ways to add more fat and sugar to an already-rich dish.

I’m twisted, I know.  I also know that many of you live vicariously through me, so please don’t send me hate mail.

So I thought to myself, while regular eggnog French Toast is good, why not stuff it with chocolate? So I did.  But I added strawberries too, just for good measure.

Since strawberries that are in the grocery stores taste like cardboard aren’t seasonal, I quickly pureed some frozen ones.

One of the most beautiful aspects of French Toast is that it turns out better when it’s made with stale bread.  Love that!  You could use whatever type of bread you have lying around, but I had the last of a loaf of French bread to play with. I sliced it into thick slices, and then made a pocket in each slice.  Don’t cut all the way or the filling will escape!

Put a spoonful of the strawberry puree into the pocket…

And then stuff some good-quality white chocolate in there too.

And please remember, if you wouldn’t eat the chocolate as-is, DO NOT USE IT FOR COOKING!

I’m sorry for yelling, but I feel very strongly about this.

If you had eaten the same melting wafer that I did, you would understand.

Repeat the bread-stuffing process until you run out of bread, filling, or get bored.

Dip the (stuffed) bread into the eggnog mixture, one side at a time.

And then place each slice into a hot skillet.  Not too hot though – the trick with French Toast is that you want it to brown on the exterior, but also to not taste like raw egg (nog) when you take your first bite.

After a few minutes, gently flip each piece.  Looking good!

When you’re ready to eat, dust each piece with some icing sugar.  This is brunch after all, we might as well get a little bit fancy!

Dip in the leftover strawberry puree, if you feel so inclined.

Or maple syrup.  Up to you.  This is pretty rich, but a nice change of pace from your basic French Toast.  Whatever you do, if only for today, please linger and enjoy.  If there’s one thing that I know for sure, it’s that snow day brunches are a very good thing.

Love and best dishes!


P.S. Don’t be surprised to see a mango-coconut French Toast in the future…or a blueberry-cream cheese one…or peanut butter and chocolate filled…

P.P.S.  Have more eggnog than you know what to do with? Try these scones – they’re delicious, I promise!

Gone Crackers!

Last weekend I heard someone say that the most resilient parasite in the world is an idea.  I agree – I haven’t been able to stop thinking about crackers all night.  I know – weird right?!?!  I’m not even sure why…I wish I could start to obsess over the StairMaster.  Now, a normal person would either (a) go to the store and buy a box of crackers, or (b) stop thinking about crackers, but by now we’ve long since established that I am not normal.  So, what do I do? Make crackers.  As if there is any other choice!

Besides, it’s snowing and clearly not safe to drive without snow tires on so my options for entertainment are limited.

So, how do you make crackers, I hear you ask?  Allow me to lead you through the simple and easy process.

Step 1: Open fridge, and wonder what on earth possessed you to make gluten-free bread last week, and therefore have 7 different types of expensive specialty flours in your fridge.  Pull out barley and quinoa flour, and then put quinoa flour back after deciding that it would be better used in cookies.  Contemplate making gluten-free crackers using the special GF flour blend you made last week.  Also contemplate making cookies.  Remind yourself to stay focused on the task at hand.

Step 2: Attempt to find spelt flour in pantry.  Climb on counter, carefully maneuver around cupboard doors, and pray you don’t fall to your death, at least not before eating crackers.  Contemplate calling M & asking when he’ll be home to reach items that you long since buried (hello, Christmas 2009 chocolate!). Sample said-chocolate, to see if it’s still good or not.  And to reward yourself for not falling off the counter.  Yet.

Step 3: Find spelt flour in lower cupboard, but not with other flours.  Go figure.  Make mental note to re-organize pantry.  Make second mental note to turn laundry room into walk-in pantry instead.

Step 4: Remember that you put your spray bottle in your storage room when M  moved in and bathroom space had to be shuffled, and contemplate changing out of PJ’s and into real clothes to go find it.  Decide that that sounds like a lot of work, and instead devise a story so if any neighbours see you, you’ll be prepared to deliver a convincing and heart-wrenching monologue about saving a cat or helping the elderly.  Or just run really fast.

Step 5: Make crackers!

Spelt flour, barley flour, table salt, olive oil, flax seeds, poppy seeds, fleur de sel.

To get things started, mix up 1/4 t table salt, 1/2 c water, and 1 T olive oil.

Dump in 1 c spelt flour and 1/2 c barley flour, and stir until combined.

Et voila!

Generously dust a piece of parchment paper with flour, and start to roll the crackers out.  If you’re planning on sprinkling any seeds on top, now’s the time – the seeds will get embedded into the dough and help prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin.

Prick the dough with a fork…

And spray with water.

Score the dough using a pizza wheel if you’re feeling fancy.

Or if you just don’t want to break the giant cracker apart.

Transfer to a cookie sheet (or, in my case, a pizza pan) and bake at 350-degrees for 15 – 25 minutes (depending on the thickness of the dough).

FINALLY!  Sorry for yelling but WE HAVE CRACKERS!!!

The verdict?

I like the taste of these, but not the texture – despite baking them for about 30 mins, I couldn’t get them to crisp up sufficiently.  Next time, I’ll leave the olive oil out and roll them thinner. Or maybe just wait until they’re cool to eat them.  Patience may not be my strong suit.

Despite their shortcomings, these crackers still made a fine vehicle for soft-ripened cheese and bruschetta.

Now if you’ll excuse me, dinner is calling my name.

And I shall answer.

I’ll check back in tomorrow and let you know if they’re better after cooling off.  That is, unless I start obsessing about the StairMaster.

If that happens, please send help.  And cookies. They’ve been known to snap the afflicted back to reality.

Until we meet again…



(aka the one who does not know how to adjust her camera settings)

(Better than) Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

My flight out of Calgary was a bit delayed yesterday, which meant that I had time to stop for a beverage/dinner pre-boarding.  Conveniently, there was a Starbucks about 10 ft away from my gate so that’s where I ended up.  No sooner did I join the line of people addicted to overpriced drinks than I saw THE sign.  You know, the one advertising the return of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and of course, the new Toffee Latte.  Or something like that.  I debated over beverage choices, and while I was ordering my $5.49 Vivanno smoothie (aka dinner), I noticed that their pumpkin cream cheese muffins were also back.  Or maybe they never left the Calgary airport? I was too tired from my spontaneous jaunt through the airport to pay attention to the details, apparently.

Total sidenote, but how is it even possible that someone thinks they can get away with flying with knives in their carry-on bags?!?!  Thanks to those kind souls who considered it their national duty to ensure that the metal detectors at the security check-point do in fact work, I began my training for my 5K race at the airport.  Awesome.

So back to the muffins. I don’t particularly like Starbucks baked goods, and besides, the Scottish in me has a hard time paying $2.95 for a muffin (why does airport food always cost more?!?!).  However, I do love all things pumpkin (except for pumpkin pie), and said to myself “Jaclyn, you can make muffins that taste better! And then you can blog about them!”

I didn’t say that outloud by the way.  I try to avoid talking to myself in public places, especially airports.  It tends to make everyone by the gate uncomfortable, and they all avoid eye contact as if acting captivated by something else will make you sit as far away from them as possible.

I’m not speaking from experience, of course.

After that mini-conversation, I Googled a Starbucks clone recipe as a starting point, and then healthified and personalized it a bit. Cause you know, I’m the Modern Day Martha after all.

I’ll stop talking now.

Go ahead and grab the following:

Flour (I used all-purpose + spelt), cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking soda, eggs, brown sugar, white sugar, canola oil, applesauce, vanilla, cream cheese, icing sugar, and salted pumpkin seeds.  Whew! I practically need a nap after pulling out all of the ingredients.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin tin with 10 liners.

Measure out the dry ingredients first:

* 1.5 c of flour – I used 3/4 c each of spelt flour and all-purpose flour, but you can use any combination of AP, whole-wheat, spelt, etc. I think I’m going to try baking with quinoa flour next.

* 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and baking soda

* 2 t of pumpkin pie spice.

Next, the wet ingredients:

* 1 c canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling. I’ve made that mistake before, and never will again.)

* 2 eggs

* 1/2 c white sugar

* 1/2 c brown sugar

* 5T applesauce

* 5T canola oil

*1 t vanilla

Something about brown sugar makes me want to build sandcastles.  Anyone know what I mean?

No? Liars.

Before we combine the wet and the dry ingredients, we should make the cream cheese filling. I used 1/2 a block of cream cheese for 10 muffins and found that they could have used more cream cheese filling, so I suggest you use up to a full 8-oz block if you want to live dangerously.

I also added 2T of icing sugar and about 1/2 t of vanilla since I like things on the sweet side, but I suppose you could leave that out.  Oh, and I used full-fat cream cheese.  It’s what I had in the fridge, and besides, I don’t like baking with the low-fat stuff.  It’s against my religion.

Hey, I said these were HEALTHIER, not healthy.  Everyone needs a break from steel-cut oats and tofu now and then.

Smoosh the cream cheese, icing sugar, and vanilla together…

Put the cream cheese mixture into a piping or Ziploc bag for a few minutes while the muffins are finished.

Whisk the wet ingredients together, and pour them over the dry ingredients.

Stir gently to combine everything.  Don’t overmix your muffins or else I will hunt you down and make you repent of your muffin making sins!

In all seriousness though, over-mixing your baked goods makes them tough, so please be gentle!

Do you have one of these?

It’s a disher/portion scoop, and if you don’t have one or 12 of these, please buy a few ASAP. I suggest you buy at least 3 of them in varying sizes. It will make baking muffins and cookies and meatballs and truffles beyond easy, which will make your stomach sing and your lovehandles rebel.

I still think its worth it though.

Now, I’m about to show you what I did, and give you a variation on what you can do. Pay attention please; it’s for your own good.

I scooped the batter into 10 paper-lined muffin tins like so:

And then squeezed a small portion of the cream cheese filling onto each one…

I know it doesn’t look appetizing. Sorry. Stick with me; it gets better. I promise.

I used my fingers a spoon to push the cream cheese filling down and cover it with the pumpkin batter as best I could without making a royal mess.

I failed.

If I had had more time (HA!), I would have made 10 portions of the cream cheese filling and frozen them so they could be pushed into the batter easily.  If you don’t have the time and have an aversion to using your fingers when you cook, you could always fill each muffin cup half-full, drop the cream cheese in, and then cover with more batter.   There are multiple routes to pumpkin cream cheese muffin bliss, my friends. Just because I like to choose the most complicated way of doing something, but that doesn’t mean that you have to.

Sprinkle some salted and roasted pumpkin seeds on top of each muffin before sliding them into the oven.  This will give a bit of textural interest, and help you use up the 38 bags of random things you have in your pantry.

Once again, I am not speaking from experience.

Twenty-two minutes later, look what happened:

The hardest part of making these muffins is giving them a few minutes to cool before eating.

I AM speaking from experience on that one.

Wanna see what they look like, up close and personal?

An interior shot, for your viewing pleasure:

See what I mean about the cream cheese filling? Next time I’m making double the amount of filling.

Speaking of next time, I’m going to go bake another batch of these right now.  You know, for research purposes.  Why wait on a good thing?

(P.S. I just made batch #2 and found the original amount of cream cheese filling to be perfect for 12 muffins.  Weird I know. I must have somehow picked the one muffin with the lowest amount of filling to photograph earlier.  Smaller muffins = better ratio of muffin to cream cheese. I changed my mind about the doubling after all! )

Glutton for Punishment

Look what magically appears when I decide to clean out my fridge:

Meet you in therapy,



Rhubarb Muffins

This past weekend I was very generously gifted a very large quantity of rhubarb, with the stipulation that it be used to feed 17 hungry children and 7 hungry adults. I debated what to do – a crisp? a pie? a chutney? – but when I got up early one morning it seemed like the answer was obvious: muffins.  Last time I made rhubarb muffins they were a disaster in every sense of the word, so I knew I had to do several things differently. Namely, adding more sugar and oil and at least some white flour.  Since I don’t remember liking rhubarb as a kid – I think it was probably too tart for my palate – I also figured that if these were going to be kid-friendly, a cinnamon-sugar topping would be a good idea..  I followed my instincts and made a batch, and since they were given the kid (and adult) approved label very quickly, I figured I’d tell you about them too.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera in the kitchen with me that morning so I had to make another batch today.  All for the sake of the blog, you see.

Let’s round up the troops!

All-purpose flour, spelt flour, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, cinnamon, white sugar, canola oil, vanilla, rhubarb, buttermilk (or milk + vinegar).

Let’s make the topping first. Grab yourself about 2T of butter to get things started.

Melt the butter, inhale deeply, and give thanks for all good things.

Add 1/2 c of white sugar and about 2t of cinnamon to the melted butter:

Stir it all together.

Now, before we move on, go make yourself a piece of toast and slather some of this stuff on top. After all, quality control is very important!

Now that you’ve eaten your toast, we can make the buttermilk. Obviously, if you have buttermilk in your fridge you can use that, but I didn’t so instead I made my own by measuring 1T of vinegar into a measuring cup and then adding milk until it reached 1c.

We should let the buttermilk sit for a few minutes to thicken up, so we might as well continue on our prep work. What else has to be done?

Well, for starters, we need to dice up some rhubarb:

And get our dry ingredients ready. Never one to repeat things twice, I made a few very minor tweaks to the original recipe that I used on the weekend.  For the kids, I used all-purpose flour, but today I wanted to experiment with a combination of all-purpose and spelt flours, plus some oat bran.  So I did.

I used 1c of AP flour, 1c of spelt flour, and 1/2 c of oat bran. On the weekend, I used 2.5 c of AP flour.

What is a muffin without sugar? I didn’t bother trying to reduce the amount used, so I added 1.5 c of brown sugar. I also threw in 1t of cinnamon, 1t of salt, and 1t of baking soda. You should too, unless you’re into eating rocks.

Build a sandcastle, and then whisk everything together to break up the clumps of brown sugar.

Buttermilk should be ready by now, so go ahead and add 1 egg, 2/3 c oil, and 1t of vanilla to it.

Whisk the wet ingredients together, and add to the dry ones.

Stir the batter gently to incorporate everything together, like so:

And since rhubarb muffins wouldn’t be complete without rhubarb, add 2c of it:

Stir it together, and then distribute it amoungst 24 muffin cups/silicone liners.

Remember the cinnamon-sugar topping? Now is the time to sprinkle it on top of each muffin like so:

Bake the muffins at 375-degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Let’s check them out!

Yummmm! These are quite sweet and tender, with a hint of spice. These are almost too sweet for me for breakfast, so I may make this into a coffee cake next time or cut back on the sugar. In any event, it looks like rhubarb muffins are a good thing after all!

P.S. Look what happens when you overfill mini-muffin tins…