Cranberry orange muffins

This is based on a muffin recipe by Mark Bittman; I tweaked it to use some orange juice and — shocker — some Crasins. These are so good for breakfast, brunch, or even a snack! The Mickey Mouse muffin pan is not required, but certainly adds some cuteness. It does not, however, convince the Kiddo to eat any; your mileage may vary. Recipe made one dozen Mickey muffins.

Cranberry orange muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup milk, plus a little more if needed
  • 1 cup Crasins, fresh cranberries or frozen cranberries (no need to defrost first)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. Mix dry ingredients together, then either mix egg through milk separately or in a well in the middle of the dry ingredients (my preferred method). Add in berries and gently fold everything together till it’s just barely incorporated; lumps are your friends
  3. Bake in a well greased or paper lined muffin pan for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. Cool in a metal or glass pan pan for 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack, longer for a silicone pan (wait for silicone to be cool to the touch for best results)

Parmesan crisps

These were so much fun! Now, they’re complicated so take a minute to prepare yourself for the giant shopping list. I kid! Obviously. My awesome sister rocks a lower carb diet, but we felt the need to have a chips and salsa night so I made these as a chip alternative. As with most things I make, they’re ridiculously easy.

Parmesan crisps

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat
  2. Put 1 Tbsp. cheese on the mat and tap a little with the back of the spoon to flatten it out a bit; repeat, leaving a couple inches between your little piles of cheese
  3. Bake at 350F for 4 to 5 minutes, watching for the edges to start browning; this will happen quickly so don’t go anywhere. Either pull them when the edges are brown, or let them go a little bit longer for even crispier, um, crisps
  4. At this point you can either leave them to cool on the tray or you can drape them over an overturned glass or a rolling pin (as above) to give them a little shape (the better to hold your salsa with, obviously). If you go the draping route, let them cool on the tray for a minute or two till they start to harden up a bit; when you can get a spatula cleanly under them then you can move them without turning them into a ball of cheese

Enjoy!

Buffalo chicken bites

I always command beg ask my sister to make buffalo chicken dip for football parties, and she does — what a good kid. I wanted to make it for Vanessa’s birthday but I wanted a way to make it a little more portable, so I came up with this!

Buffalo chicken bites

 Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Redhot sauce
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella cheese, plus a little extra shredded mozzarella
  • one chicken breast cooked and shredded
  • 2-3 packages mini phyllo shells

Instructions

  1. Put cream cheese in a bowl and stir it up with a wooden spoon or something up to the task, then add dressing, hot sauce, cheese and shredded chicken and stir well
  2. Just before you’re ready to serve preheat oven to 350F and put shells on a cookie sheet. Scoop chicken dip into shells (I used a small cookie dough scoop) and top with shredded cheese
  3. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until shells are just barely browning at the edges and chicken mixture is hot

Hello? How easy is this? Go! Go make it now! They’re so warm and yummy when one is snowed in…. which, like me, you probably are.

Hummus

The first time I tried hummus? Not. A. Fan. I couldn’t even tell you now what I didn’t like about it (it was years and years ago) but I can for sure tell you I didn’t like it. Fast forward to this month when Kiddo’s BFF’s mom made it at her house. Seeing as how it’d been years and years I wanted to try it again, so I sort of held my breath and took a bite. YUM! I don’t know what the difference is, but now I can’t get enough of the stuff.

Vanessa sent me her recipe so I made a big batch of this for last night. Halloween night at our place is hanging out with the neighbors on the front porch with food and wine while we hand out candy; we don’t go trick or treating because Kiddo doesn’t like candy (of course) so we just make it into a party (and I LOVE it!). In the three and a half seconds I spent looking in the grocery store I couldn’t find the tahini Vanessa’s recipe called for so I used natural peanut butter instead, a la Alton Brown.

Hummus

Ingredients

  • Gather up:
  • 1 can chick peas (drain, keep 1/3 c of liquid)
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (or tahini)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled or a couple spoonfuls of jarred minced garlic
  • Healthy pinch of salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Put everything but the chickpeas in a food processor and process till garlic is well chopped
  2. Add in chickpeas and process till smooth and give it a taste — adjust salt and cayenne as desired
  3. Chill; eat with pita chips and/or baby carrots

Simple crackers

The Yankee and I love to have snacky suppers every so often; just some crackers, some cheese, maybe some salami or dried fruit or nuts. Browsing through How to Cook Everything today I came across a recipe for crackers. Did y’all have any idea how fast it is to make crackers? I certainly did not. I gathered:

Simple crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour and salt, then cut in the butter like you’re making biscuits or pie dough (a few pulses in a food processor will do this nicely; I used a pastry blender this time), then add in milk
  2. Either pulse till combined in the food processor or stir in with a fork or dough whisk in a bowl
  3. Roll out 1/8 inch thick and cut out into shapes, or just score it with a knife if you want to simply break them apart later
  4. Bake at 400F on a lightly floured baking sheet or on a pizza stone for about ten minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or save for later

With limitless shape options, these crackers also make a very fun kid snack.

Have fun!

Guacamole

On a trip to Hilton Head Island the Yankee and I discovered this dish: guacamole topped with crab meat. This is a win. I set out to recreate it as soon as we got home, and I’m pretty pleased with the result! This is a huge party hit, too; I highly recommend.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • Two ripe avocados
  • Two Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste, but about 1/2 tsp.
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (or some onion powder if you hate the crunch of raw onion)
  • Eight ounces lump crab meat, drained
  • Chips (obviously)

Instructions

  1. Scoop out the avocado into a bowl and mash with a fork
  2. Stir in tomatoes, pepper, cumin, pepper, salt and lime juice, plus onion if you’re using it
  3. Top with crab meat and serve with chips

Russian tea

Russian tea recipe

Can I just say, for the record, I have no idea why this is called Russian Tea? I don’t. But I DO know why I’ve kept this recipe, written on orange construction paper, for so long: it is SO GOOD. I used to be a preschool teacher, and the teacher in the next room over gave me this recipe forever ago. Every year I make it it’s just as good as I remembered! There are a lot of versions floating around out there, but this one has never failed me. You will need:

Russian tea mix

  • 2 cups Tang mix
  • 1/3 cup lemonade mix
  • 3/4 cup instant tea (recipe says decaf; I use fully leaded because I have a 3 year old)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves

Then just mix it all in a bowl and store in a jar — so easy that this is a great project for the kids to help with. To serve, pour one cup of hot water over 1 Tbsp. of tea mix (grownups only with the boiling water, obviously).

This mix looks very pretty in little jars for presents, along with some sugar spice craisin nuts.

I must confess, though, my favorite thing to do with this tea is to enjoy a steaming cup of it in the afternoon with a little plate of cookies. It’s downright civilized, I tell you. My two favorite accompaniments for Russian tea this year are these buttered rum meltaways from Erin’s Food Files, and these shortbread cookies from The Novice Chef, my two bloggie sisters in crime. Try them… you won’t be sorry!

Russian tea