Morning Glory Muffins

Have I ever told you about my love for breakfast?  I’ve raved about granola and pear bread, and I’ve told you about my affection for avocado and whole wheat toast. But, I have to tell you a secret. There’s one breakfast treat that has never been on top of my favorite list: muffins.

I just really don’t like muffins.

Why, you ask?  Well, I’ve eaten a lot of muffins that are too gummy, too sweet, and, to be honest, not all that flavorful.  I want a muffin with substance, with pizzazz, with “oh my god, I just ate three of those muffins” power.  The morning glory is my muffin!

This muffin packs a big nutritional punch.  Carrots, apples, raisins, pears, and coconut all float in a sea of whole wheat and spelt flour.  Unlike your typical muffin, the morning glory will keep your stomach satisfied and your taste buds smiling.

Morning Glory Muffins
For some reason, I like these muffins even better the second day. I leave them on the counter for hungry hands to grab for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Variation: Omit the almond garnish, and toss in 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts with the raisins.  Makes 12 muffins.
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, grated
1 Granny Smith apple, grated (I kept the skin on for extra fiber)
1 ripe pear, peeled and grated
1 egg
1/4 cup plain yogurt (low-fat is fine)
1/2 cup melted butter or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
12 almonds, for a decorative kick! (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or line a 12-cup muffin pan.
Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Let the raisins sit in the water to plump for 15 minutes. Drain.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the spelt flour, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together the carrots, apple, pear, egg, yogurt, melted butter/oil, vanilla, raisins and coconut.
Add the carrot mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined, being careful not to overmix.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling to the top (the batter will not rise very much). Top each muffin with an almond, if using.  Bake 40-45 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Remove from the pan, and let cool on a wire rack.

Pear Bread

As you have probably been able to figure out, my true passion for food lies on the sweet side of the kitchen.  Although I am confident in my savory cooking abilities, an extra splurge of creativity and excitement arrives when I am baking.

One of my favorite things to make and to eat is banana bread.  Over the years, through much trial and error, I think I have (finally) created one of the tastiest banana bread recipes around.

I had at the huge pile of bananas on the kitchen counter for a while, assuming that my family could not possibly eat that many bananas, and that I would be able to make banana bread at the end of the week.  However, when I glanced at the pile yesterday, there was only one brown-speckled beauty ripe enough for baking.

Still having an itch to bake, and with four extremely ripe pears sitting in the fruit basket, I decided to try baking pear bread.  After all, the method has to be pretty similar to banana bread, doesn’t it?

Inspired, I remembered reading about pear bread on another one of my favorite food sites: Smitten Kitchen.  So, using her recipe as a starting point, I quickly whipped together the batter, poured it into a Bundt pan, and gently slid it into the oven.  One hour later the entire house smelled delightfully of spiced bread, and my craving for banana bread was quickly forgotten.  I promise that this bread will not disappoint!

Pear Bread
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
If you look at Deb’s site, you’ll notice that I decreased the amount of sugar quite a bit.  I still found the bread to be plenty sweet, however, and the texture remained perfectly moist.  The key, I think, is to use overly ripe pears.  Also, I imagine the bread would make a lovely dessert for a party if slathered with cream cheese frosting.  Makes 10 generous servings.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 ripe pears, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a Bundt pan.  Set aside.
Combine all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.
Place the pears in a small bowl and mash.  Add the oil, eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl and mix well.
Add the pear mixture to the flour mixture.  Fold the mixture until no specks of flour remain, being careful not to overmix.
Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.  Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes.  Turn the bread out on a wire rack and cool completely.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread with Streusel

This past summer, I spent much of my time experimenting in the kitchen with my dear friend Melika, whose passion for both food and life exudes happiness on everyone she meets.  Although we often cooked together several days a week, it was a tradition to hold Thursday morning breakfasts before we strolled off to work.  These, however, were not your ordinary college student’s breakfasts, rather elaborate creations that evoked minutes of silent savoring on our sunny porch.

Frittatas with beet greens, goat cheese and caramelized onions, yogurt with freshly picked strawberries, Greek honey and homemade granola, homemade lemon and raspberry muffins, the list of delicious food goes on and on.  At the end of the summer, however, Melika had to move back to NYC for school, thus ending our much-cherished Thursday morning tradition.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure to spend an afternoon in the kitchen with my Thursday morning friend once again.  In place of an elaborate breakfast however, we decided to make a fall classic—pumpkin chocolate chip bread.

The recipe is based on the pumpkin bread recipe in my favorite and always-reliable baking book, The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.  After two years, I have almost cooked my way through its entirety without a single disappointment; this pumpkin bread is no exception.  Extremely moist, with a spicy core of pumpkin, dots of chocolate chips, and a cream cheese streusel, this bread certainly deserves a spot in your list of favorite fall recipes as well.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread with Streusel:
(Adapted from The Martha Stewart Baking Handbook)
Note: This pumpkin bread freezes quite well, so don’t be turned off by the amount of bread this recipe makes.  Plus, I always find that people welcome baked goods with open arms and empty stomachs.

Yield: 2-8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaves and 5 mini loaves or 3-8 x 4 ½ inch loaves
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup pecans (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 oz. cream cheese, cut into small pieces
3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour*
1/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup barley flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups canned pumpkin purée
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
4 large eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 2/3 cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat the pans with butter; set aside.

To make the streusel, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, nuts and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the butter and cream cheese until the mixture resembles a very coarse cornmeal.  Refrigerate.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and salt; set mixture aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the pumpkin purée and both sugars.  Mix on medium speed until well combined, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time to the bowl.  Mix until incorporated, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl after you add each egg.  Mix in the oil until incorporated.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk (beginning and ending with the flour), until just combined.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter among the prepared loaf pans and top with the streusel mixture.  Bake for approximately 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean (you can expect some melted chocolate, simply make sure there isn’t any batter).  Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from the pans and cool completely.



*Feel free to use only all-purpose flour, or 2/3 all-purpose and 1/3 whole wheat flour if you don’t have millet or barley flour in the cupboard.

Spiced Bread with Ginger and Chocolate

My taste buds change with the seasons.  When the leaves start turning and the breeze regains its chill, I trade crisp salads and cold sandwiches for the comfort of warm winter soups, deeply spiced baked goods, and steaming pasta.

Today, this quick bread was exactly what I wanted–candied ginger and dark chocolate swimming in a pool of spices.  Try it toasted, slathered with a knob of salted butter, with a side of piping hot black tea or coffee.  You won’t find a better breakfast on a cold, fall day.

Spiced Bread

Spiced Bread with Ginger & Chocolate:
(adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches)
Note: Feel free to use any combination of flour that you have available, as long as it adds up to 2 full cups.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup barley flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sorghum
1 cup dark beer (such as Guinness) or buttermilk
2 eggs
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup diced crystallized ginger
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, spices, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Mix well.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the oil, sorghum, beer or buttermilk, eggs and orange zest.  Pour into the well of the dry ingredients.  Stir together the wet and dry ingredients, only until combined.  Fold in the  crystallized ginger and the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake approximately 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.