The Sweet Smell of Cinnamon

Whether you smell it in a bakery, the airport or in your own kitchen, the sweet smell of cinnamon is one of the most enticing baking aromas. Southern bakers are well-known for their quick breads, but almost all have a favorite recipe for soft puffy yeast rolls like porterhouse or pocketbook rolls, as well as the all-time favorite cinnamon rolls. Although, not in her day-to-day repertoire, my mother made delicious cinnamon rolls on special occasions. Soft yeast dough pinwheels filled with butter, cinnamon and sugar – nothing smells or tastes better, especially warm out of the oven.  Even something as simple as cinnamon toast or a toasted, buttered biscuit sprinkled with cinnamon sugar has a comforting appeal.

savory apple cinnamon bacon breakfast cheesecake

The range of foods distinguished by the flavor of cinnamon is wide and varied – from classics like apple pie to ice cream. For a little twist on the apple cinnamon theme – one of our recipe contest winners created the Savory Apple Cinnamon Bacon Breakfast Cheesecake recipe which is sure to be a hit for your next brunch. The crust is made with Martha White® Apple Cinnamon Flavored Muffin Mix and filled with a bacon and sautéed onion cheesecake mixture – a sweet and savory delight.

french cinnamon muffins

French Cinnamon Muffins are an easy-to-make scratch recipe. Made with Martha White® Self-Rising Flour, the flavor profile is classic buttery cinnamon. And we cannot forget an all-time favorite family favorite – Snickerdoodles.

snicker doodles

A Twist on Chocolate Valentine Desserts

I’ve been debating about doing decadent chocolate desserts for Valentine’s Day. There are so many chocolate recipes that you have plenty of options. But what about white chocolate? Some chocolate experts feel that white chocolate is not true chocolate since it doesn’t contain   cocoa solids. White chocolate is actually made with cocoa butter, sugar and milk solids.

I for one, think white chocolate is delicious. I love the smooth creamy texture and rich buttery flavor. Judging from the number of products and recipes made with white chocolate, I would say I’m not alone.

white chocolate banana bread pudding

The recipe that made me think of white chocolate was the decadently delicious White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding finished with hot caramel sauce. The banana bread is easy to make with Martha White® Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix (you can make the bread in advance and refrigerate or freeze to get a head start). The custard mixture is made with white chocolate chips, cream, eggs and sugar. Pour custard mixture over bread, cover with foil and bake. No water bath needed.

blueberry white chocolate macadamia muffins

If bread pudding is not your loved one’s favorite food choice, there are many other options.  How about a Luscious Lemon White Chocolate Tart or Blueberry White Chocolate Macadamia Muffins? Any of these options would make a great Valentine’s Day breakfast treat or snack to share with friends and co-workers.  Any of these delicious white chocolate recipes will say “I love you” on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year.

2676 MW luscious lemon blueberry muffins

What’s in Your Pantry?

If you had to go home tonight and make cupcakes for the office or school the next day, would you have the required ingredients in your pantry? You may be surprised at how easy it is to have a few items on hand that can be used to make snacks or desserts at the drop of a hat without making a trip to the grocery store.

When I select easy recipes that have common ingredients, I’m assuming most people have basic ingredients on hand like butter, eggs, milk, oil, vanilla, powdered sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. If you do, add two packages of Martha White® Banana Nut Flavored Muffin Mix, a small can of crushed pineapple, cream cheese and bananas.

With these ingredients, you will be able to make Hummingbird Cupcakes or Banana Nut Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting any time.  Both recipes make moist and delicious cupcakes that no one will ever suspect you started with a convenient muffin mix.

The Hummingbird Cupcakes are a variation on the now classic cake recipe that traditionally includes bananas, pineapple and cinnamon. Our easy cupcake version is moist and delicious just like the original. Topped with cream cheese icing, you can take these cupcakes anywhere with pride.

hummingbird cupcakes

We only enriched the basic muffin mix package directions with some oil and an egg to make Banana Nut Cupcakes. Topped with delectable chocolate cream cheese frosting these are sure to become one of your “go to” recipes for all kinds of casual occasions.

banana nut cupcakes

I’d love to know what items you can make from the ingredients found in your pantry.

Sweet and Simple Upside-Down Skillet Cakes

I remember the moment of anticipation just before my mother turned a pineapple upside-down cake out of her cast iron skillet. I would think to myself, would it reveal those perfectly round pineapple slices in a shiny rich brown sugar topping or would it stick and make a gooey mess? Thankfully, it usually came out beautifully and I breathed a sigh of relief!

Although early settlers made upside-down skillet cakes with whatever fruits and nuts they had available, food historians agree that pineapple upside-down cake is a product of twentieth century America. Soon after canned slices became available in the early 1900’s, pineapple upside-down cakes, started turning up in cookbooks, ads and recipe contests and have continued to be a national favorite ever since.

pineapple updside-down corn meal cake

These days there is no limit to the flavors that can be combined to make a fun upside-down cake and convenient mixes can help you turn one out in a flashPineapple Upside-Down Corn Meal Cake is a delectable twist on the classic.  Pineapple packed in its own juice combines with a rich buttery corn meal cake to create a fresh flavor and moist texture that brings this favorite into a new age. Just right for brunch, Peachy Blueberry Upside-Down Cake is easy to make using Martha White® Blueberry Cheesecake Flavored Muffin Mix and fresh or frozen peach slices.

peachy blueberry upside-down cake

The upside-down cake – whether you select a classic recipe or one of the above-mentioned updated versions – is certain to be a sweet addition to your next family meal or festive gathering.

Do you make a traditional upside-down cake or do you make your own version?

 

 

Home for the Holidays: Tips for Freezing Holiday Treats

It would be wonderful if we all had a warm, cozy grandmother’s house to go to for the holidays.  But, we know that “home for the holidays” is not really about a place, but about being with family and friends. The big holiday dinners are typically the attention grabbers, but let’s not forget about the leisurely visits around the kitchen table.  For those times, it’s nice to have a few treats on hand to pull out and serve.

Stash Holiday Treats in the Freezer

Many cookies, cakes and breads freeze well. Keep in mind that baked goods without frosting, glaze or decorations are easiest to pack and freeze.  Below are freezer tips:

  • Quick Bread – Cool completely. Wrap in foil or heavy duty plastic wrap pressing out all air. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw, wrapped, at room temperature. Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread

Cranberry Walnut Banana Bread

  • Cookies – Cool thoroughly. Pack in sturdy freezer container.  If fragile, cushion with crumpled waxed paper.  If frosted, freeze then pack.  Freeze up to 6 months. Thaw unwrapped at room temperature, about 10 minutes. Pumpkin White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Pumpkin White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

  • Cakes and Coffeecakes – Cool completely. Place on foil wrapped cardboard, wrap in foil or heavy duty plastic wrap, pressing out air.  If glazed or frosted, freeze before covering (buttercream frostings freeze best.  Do not freeze egg white frostings or custard fillings).  Freeze unfrosted up to 6 months or frosted up to 3 months.  Thaw unfrosted cakes, covered for 2 to 3 hours at room temperature.  Thaw frosted cakes loosely covered in the refrigerator overnight. Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake

Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake

As a reminder, the delicious treats you have in your freezer make thoughtful gifts for friends, co-workers, teachers, etc.

 

 

 

Corn Puddings with Bistro Style

Looking back, I now realize what a creative cook my mother was. Not because she added a lot of exotic ingredients to the recipes she cooked, but because of the variety of recipes she prepared. She accomplished this by combining seasonal ingredients or produce that she canned in the summer and meats like chicken, beef and pork.

Although traditional, our holiday and Sunday meals evolved over the years. My mother’s vegetables were abundant and varied, but usually simply prepared. One of my nieces, who inherited a love for cooking from my sister and mother, added her touch to our menus with several vegetable casseroles – like corn and squash casseroles.

In recent years, many Southern cooks and chefs have started paying tribute to traditional comfort foods by enlivening them with bolder flavors. Macaroni and cheese, grits (or polenta) and potatoes, are all delicious in their simplicity.  However, their simplicity is what makes them the perfect backdrop for the addition of assertive cheeses, herbs, spicy peppers and other ingredients.  These additions provide the transformation into more contemporary styles.

Rich and creamy corn pudding is one of our traditional favorites, but Three Cheese and Chive Corn Pudding takes on a more dramatic personality with the addition of assertive cheeses and chives.  Cajun Corn Pudding can easily be enhanced by adding ground red pepper, onion, green pepper and ham. Here I’ve provided two great side dishes to help with your holiday menu planning.

Three Cheese and Chive Corn Pudding

Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy

Did you ever eat chocolate gravy? As a child I didn’t know anyone who had, but I now have a friend and her father has made chocolate gravy as part of their Christmas morning breakfast for as long as she can remember.

I find the tradition and roots of Southern cooking fascinating, so I did a little chocolate gravy research. According to my research, many food historians connect chocolate gravy to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and the hill country of Mississippi. I also found references to chocolate gravy in books about the Appalachian Mountain cooking of Tennessee and North Georgia. These geographical areas had limited resources, so cooks had to be resourceful and use what they had on hand.  Earlier recipes for chocolate gravy are a combination of sugar, cocoa and water thickened with flour. Pretty basic, economical and tasty for a hungry family.

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And although fascinating, I guess it isn’t really surprising that chocolate gravy would be served over biscuits. Southern culinary history abounds with uses for biscuits or biscuit dough to stretch more costly ingredients. Everything from toasted cinnamon-sugar biscuits, dumplings, bread pudding or a glorious biscuit topped cobbler, so why not cover biscuits with chocolate gravy?

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In the more modern chocolate gravy recipes, water has been replaced with milk. I’ve recently seen a chocolate gravy recipe that contains a hefty dose of butter – I guess this makes the gravy more like a chocolate dessert sauce.

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Is chocolate gravy a tradition in your family?  If so, where is the geographical origin of your family? Let me know.