Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Muffins

Lately, I’ve been on a muffin kick… I’m not sure why.

Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Muffins

Perhaps because it’s winter and my mornings have been lazy lately. Muffins satisfy the desire for something warm to go with my coffee. Additionally, muffins are very flexible creations. They can be plain or you can add your favorite fruit. They can have chocolate chips! Try muffins with lemons and homemade ricotta for a special treat! Add nuts, vegetables, grains, whatever your heart desires! They can be topped or left alone. No matter what you like in or on your muffin (wait… does that sound bad? 😉 ) be creative and have fun!

This morning, the forage through the pantry found a half box of raisins, some oatmeal and a small bag of pecans. Perfect muffin makings!

And since I was feeling fancy, I added a quick cinnamon struesel topping! Isn’t breakfast much more fun with one of these?

Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Muffins

Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Muffins with Cinnamon Struesel Topping!

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup oat flakes
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBLS baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Lightly grease a muffin tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and spices. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the milk, vegetable oil and eggs, until well blended.

Add your wet ingredients to your dry ingredients. Mix with a fork until just incorporated. Add the raisins and pecans, also mixing until just incorporated.

Combine all the struesel ingredients in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Alternately, you can mash the ingredients together in a bowl using a pastry blender or fork. Alternately, you can also just smash everything together with your fingers!

Fill your prepared muffin tin two-thirds of the way. Spread 1 TBLS struesel topping over each muffin. Place muffins in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Let the muffins cool slightly before popping them out of the pan, slathering them with butter and dipping in your coffee. Oh wait. That’s just me.

You will have extra topping! Toss what is left in a plastic bag and place in the freezer until the next time you make muffins!

Oatmeal Raisin Pecan Muffins

Happy Breakfast Foodie Friends!

Delicious Dumplings! A.K.A. Why you should never say “Boba” again!

Hi Foodie Friends!

The first culinary adventure of 2013 was a walking tour in Arcadia, California! The “Delicious Dumplings” Tour from Six Taste, focused on Taiwanese cuisine. I know nothing about Taiwanese culture or cuisine, so for me, this was a serious foodie adventure. I can tell you though, when they say delicious dumplings, they mean DELICIOUS dumplings!

My tour guide, Michael, was wealth of historical and culinary information. Even after the tour, he’s continued to answer my questions via E-mail. What an awesome guy! Here he is… Hi Michael!!
Tour Guide Michael
I’m quite certain he’s going to love that I posted his picture… 😉

On the tour, we had juicy pork dumplings, pork and crab dumplings, sweet taro paste dumplings, Shanghai style stir-fried rice cakes, pork chop fried rice, sautéed string beans with garlic, fried daikon radish cakes, beef noodle soup, celery salad, handmade grilled Taiwanese sausages – traditional Taiwanese street food, we learned tea etiquette and the difference between dark tapioca pearls and crystal pearls (the crystal pearls are sweeter!), had great fun exploring a contemporary Taiwanese bakery for caterpillar bread, pork song bread and hot dog bread, we had dessert dumplings and finished with a very addictive Taiwanese shaved ice!

The tour started at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House. They are famous for their dumplings! Seriously, this place is listed as one of the top ten restaurants in the world! There was a line before they opened!
Din Tai Fung

We had many delicious things! Here is a small sample…
Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung Dumpling

Did you know, in a dumpling house, there are two kitchens? There is a completely separate dumpling kitchen, that ONLY makes dumplings! Fascinating! There are four chefs in the dumpling kitchen. The first Chef is responsible for the dough. He rolls it out and cuts it into serving sizes. The second Chef is responsible for filling the dumplings. The third Chef is responsible for sealing the dumpling so it doesn’t split during the steaming process and ensuring there are exactly 18 pleats in each dumpling. That’s right, 18 hand pleats in every single dumpling. The fourth Chef, double-checks the work of the third chef. He makes sure there are 18 pleats or it doesn’t even go into the steamer! The fourth is also responsible for cooking each dumpling. From there, they go out to the serving floor. You can imagine in a place that serves thousands of dumplings a day, those Chefs are BUSY!
Dumpling up close!
Yep! 18 pleats. I counted. Crazy, right? Crazy, but delicious!

After Din Tai Fung, we went to Sin BaLa, a Taiwanese sausage house! We learned they served more traditional street food. All the sausages in Sin BaLa are made fresh every day and the sausages are grilled instead of steamed. Usually eaten while out and about in the night markets, these tidbits were very tasty. Here is a picture of the sausage with raw garlic!
Sausage and sliced raw garlic
We had spicy dumplings (Look under all those red pepper flakes, there IS a dumpling there, I promise!) Spicy Dumplings
Then, there was beef noodle soup! Apparently this soup is one of those dishes everyone serves and everyone thinks theirs is the best!
Beef Noodle Soup
When we walked in to the restaurant, there was a sign that said “Fresh Radish Cakes!” We thought it said “FREE Radish Cakes!”, so the owners let us try some. I think this was one of my favorites, but I am partial to Daikon! These are deep-friend Daikon cakes. Simple and OH SO GOOD!
Deep Fried Daikon Cakes
Lastly, there was Taiwan Popcorn Chicken! A night market street favorite, this chicken has a sweet crunchy coating that apparently goes very well with beer, good friends and loud conversations!
popcorn chicken

We stopped at Bun Bun Teahouse, Cozy Cafe and Chang’s Garden after Sin BaLa, but didn’t go inside any of them. Michael explained the food displayed in each window though and the historical and cultural significance of each. It was very informative!

The next stop was Tea Bar Starry for Grapefruit Juice and Jasmine Tea with Aloe Vera Pearls!
Grapefruit and Jasmine Tea with Aloe Vera "pearls"
We had a lesson on traditional dark Tapioca Pearls and the Crystal Pearls…
Tapioca Pearls
Then sampled a sweet treat made with thick sliced toast, spread with chunky peanut butter, toasted, then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. MMM!
Texas Toast

J.J. Bakery was next and sadly the only picture I have from here, is the menu. Go ahead… pick something and I’m certain it will be delicious!
J.J. Bakery Menu

The last stop on our tour was Bin Bin Konjac. This sweet treat shop had several delicious offerings but the BEST was the Taiwanese shaved ice! OHMYGOODNESS!
Shaved Ice
Traditionally, this dessert is served with 4-8 different ingredients, including but not limited to, red beans, mung beans, mochi, aiyu jelly, grass jelly, stewed peanuts, pearl barley, and some type of tropical fruit. Ours was topped with diced mango and jello cubes, drizzled with a brown sugar simple syrup and topped with ice-cream. Wow!

I am looking forward to going back to Arcadia on my own very soon. Din Tai Fung Dumpling House is an experience I must have again! Thankfully, I also know where to get a great dessert afterwards and perhaps pick up a pastry or two for the ride home. Get out there and discover the great hidden gems in your area, Foodie Friends! Your very own culinary adventure awaits!

By now, you may be curious about the sub-title of this post. “Why you should never say Boba again!” Remember my awesome tour guide Michael? He told us a hysterical story about his first trip to Taiwan. He recounted asking his Aunt for some Boba when he first got off the plane. She gave him a very quizzical look, with no reply. He persisted saying he knew there was Boba in Taiwan and that was what he wanted. Still no reply. Later, during that same trip, he told the woman giving him a foot massage, how much he loved his time in Taiwan and how much he loved Boba! He told her how easy it was to get Boba, that Boba was everywhere in Los Angeles and it was one of his favorite things. The woman smacked him and scolding told him Boba was a very bad word and he should *never* say it! I think Michael had to go back and apologize to his Aunt after that. So what does Boba mean? Well, I’ll let you look it up on your own, but if your Taiwanese grandmother ever hears you say it, you’re going to be in trouble! 😉

And if you want to know more about Michael and HIS foodie adventures, he has a blog too! Check it out… Stories of Food and Travel!

With lots of new-found love for dumplings,


~ Paying It Forward ~

We are almost ten days into 2013! Can you believe it? One of my goals this year is to develop an “Attitude of Gratitude!” This is a daily process. My Jar of Gratitude sits on the desk, getting a slip of paper every night before I go to bed. On it, I write what I am most thankful for that day.

Jar of gratitude

Today, I wanted to share with you, a few folks in the blogging world for whom, I am thankful. These people inspire me daily through their stories, their photography, their food, and their obvious passion for the things they love!

I hope to make this a monthly post. I can’t possibly list all my favorite bloggers at once, so let’s start with some fun foodies!

Michele from La Belle Quisine Michele lives in NOLA and her food reflects her love of local cuisine! You have to try her Cajun Sausage and Chicken with Beans! I was blessed to visit New Orléans and I can tell you it is a vibrant and passionate city! Michele is just as vibrant and passionate about her food and her faith! She is the inspiration for my “Attitude of Gratitude!” because she lives it every day!

Becca from It’s Yummilicious – Becca has the most generous spirit of anyone I’ve ever met. Her picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of “Pay It Forward.” She is genuine, always ready to help ANYONE who asks, she has great food and is easily distracted by Bacon and Nutella.

Maya from Alaska From Scratch – Maya takes stunning photography of the world outside her door, does simple delicious recipes and is as down-to-earth as they come. She doesn’t know me from Adam but I continue to be inspired by her! Plus, she always posts what the weather is like and what she is listening to as she cooks! I love that!

Lynne from 365 Days of Baking – Lynne is my cookie cohort! We can often be found leaving cookies and treats on each others Facebook pages. She spent a year (a little bit more than a year – life gets in the way sometimes) baking something every single day! Now that is dedication! She also has this copycat recipe for Olive Garden Breadsticks that is SPOT ON!

Jenni from Pastry Chef Online – Jenni has a wonderfully wicked sense of humor, loves her four-footed friends and has a tremendous wealth of knowledge about baking! You can ask her anything! She will always answer and help figure things out! (She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to ask her to help with my first Creme Brûlée!) Check out Jenni’s Irish Coffee Panna Cotta and Pepperoni Bread! MMMMMmmmmm!

Jackie from The Beeroness – Jackie cooks and bakes with craft beer! I was already a fan of hers from Domestic Fits! How she manages two huge blogs at once, I will never know! Jackie’s beer book is coming out soon and I plan on being in line to get it, then hunting her down for an autograph. I mean… ask politely if she’d sign it! How about a little grown up Hot Chocolate and Bacon Pecan Bars?

Melinda from Kitchen Tested – Melinda is very sweet! She was one of the first people to share something of mine when I was a new blogger. Her kitchen is completely Kosher and her motto is “Testing the Limits of Your Kitchen and Your Imagination!” She is very encouraging and makes her own Cara-Mels and does stunning cakes!

These are seven wonderful women whom I hope you will get to know and learn to love as much as I do!

P.S. It’s not too late to start your own Jar of Gratitude either. No one says you have to start on January 1st. Every day is a new day and a new start! Focus on the fabulous and have a delicious day!

I love you and I appreciate you reading. Thanks for being here!

Monday Morning Muffins

Mondays can be a real bummer. People have to go back to work. Traffic is terrible. The weekend is a full five days away! The first cup of coffee doesn’t seem to cut through the morning haze as easily as it does the rest of the week. In my “I need more coffee” mode this morning, I decided I needed muffins too. Not just any muffins, but muffins that would make Monday better. After digging through my pantry, I discovered a few ingredients that might work very nicely! There was half a bag of Dark Chocolate chips and a bag of Pomegranate infused Craisins. Those flavors together are fabulous and thus, my Monday Morning Muffins were born!

Dark Chocolate and Pomegranate Muffins

Dark Chocolate and Pomegranate Muffins

Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Monday Morning Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBLS baking powder
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup dried pomegranate infused Craisins (I used Ocean Spray!)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin (or use cupcake liners) and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, salt and baking powder. Add the chocolate chips and pomegranate seeds, tossing well to coat them with flour. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the milk, vegetable oil and eggs, until well blended and a light yellow color.

Pour your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients. Mix with a fork for about 20 seconds – seriously NO MORE THAN THAT! Just until everything is barely incorporated. Most people make the mistake of over-mixing muffin batter. Stopping after just a few seconds will make them light and fluffy! You’re going to have to trust me on this!

Fill your prepared muffin tin two-thirds of the way. Place muffins in the oven and immediately drop the temperature to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

When you put your muffins in a super hot oven, then drop the temperature, it creates lovely high peaks!

Yield: 6 mega-muffins, 12 muffins, or 24 mini-muffins, depending on the pan you use!

Monday Muffins
I hope these make your Monday better. They certainly made mine delicious! Enjoy!

A Culinary Bucket List for 2013

For the past two years, Samantha at The Little Ferraro Kitchen has created a culinary bucket list. I think this is a fabulous idea! It made me wonder… what do I want to accomplish in MY kitchen this year? How can I push myself out of my comfort zone and become a better cook? I’ve spent the last few days pouring over cookbooks and blogs, putting a few ideas to paper!

So here we go! In no particular order, my Culinary Bucket List for 2013:

Master the Five Mother Sauces (with the help of Julia Child and a few of my Chef friends!) Bechamel, Veloute, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato Sauces, here I come!

Hot and Sour Soup The ultimate comfort food when I am feeling sick. I’ve got to learn how to make this myself!

Creme Brûlée This might have something to do with the mini kitchen torch I got for Christmas. Doesn’t every girl needs her own blow torch AND a reason to use it? 😉

Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding A favorite from my childhood and an excuse to finally use the popover pan I bought several months ago!

Lava Cake


Seafood Paella

Eggs Perfected technique in every way! Baked, shirred, poached, soft-boiled, scrambled, hard-boiled, fried, over-easy, rolled omelette (Julia’s way!), custards etc.

Homemade dressings/marinades/pickles/condiments We are trying to break away from store-bought cans and bottles. I am really looking forward to the challenge of how to do this permanently (and deliciously!)

Homemade sausages Breakfast, Chorizo, Italian… Mmmm!

Springerle Cookies I know! It’s hard to believe there is a cookie out there I HAVEN’T made, but here it is. I will find a fun mold and make them this year!

And as a side note:
Improve my Knife Skills What did Chefs do before food processors? Does it make me a kitchen nerd to want to learn all the spiffy techniques and proper cuts the old-fashioned way?

I’d love suggestions from all my foodie friends too. What would YOU like to see me make? Challenge me! Let me know in the comments or on Facebook which things are on your culinary list. Let’s learn together this year!

A Delicious Opportunity! Boozy Eggnog Bread Pudding!

There is a scene from the movie “Evan Almighty” when God is talking to Evan’s wife about “opportunities.” He advises her, “When people pray for patience, do you think God gives them patience, or opportunities to become more patient?” I’d been thinking and praying about how to get more creative with recipes and dishes…

Do you remember this?

Imperfect Banana Bread

This was my “opportunity” to become more creative in the kitchen!

I couldn’t just toss away the Boozy Banana Bread that fell apart. Immediately after sharing my mistake with my Sundays with Joy group, it hit me! Bread Pudding! Even better, Eggnog Bread Pudding!

I crumbled that broken loaf into a big bowl and let it sit on the counter for a few days to dry out. This morning, I warmed some eggnog and brown sugar on the stove, whisked in some eggs, vanilla and a bit more bourbon. In an 8×8 pan, I put the bread crumbles and covered it with the warm eggnog mixture. After it sat for about 15 minutes, it went into the oven for 35 minutes. This is how it turned out…

Bread Pudding

What do you think?

Eggnog Chocolate Banana Bourbon Bread Pudding

Here is how you can make your own!

Boozy Eggnog Bread Pudding

3 1/2 cups of your favorite banana bread, cut or torn into chunks
1 banana, sliced into discs
1 1/2 cups eggnog
1 cup milk
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 eggs
2 TBLS bourbon
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 TBLS chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray an 8 x 8 square pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Place torn banana bread chunks into the prepared pan. Add 1/2 of the banana slices, tossing well to combine.
In a medium pan over low heat, combine the eggnog, milk, sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir to dissolve sugar. Heat only until eggnog mixture is warm. Do not let it boil! Set aside to cool a bit while you prepare the eggs.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs together. While you are whisking, slowly add the warm eggnog mixture. Go slowly so you don’t scramble the eggs! Continue whisking until all the eggnog is incorporated. Finally, whisk in the bourbon and vanilla.
Pour the eggnog mixture over your banana bread. Press down on the banana bread until all the pieces are submerged. Let the bread sit and soak in the eggnog for at least 15 minutes before putting it in the oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the bread is no longer jiggly in the center. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve warm topped with the remaining banana slices and the chocolate chips!

This was a great learning experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to turn a near disaster into something delicious. Plus, what a sweet way to ring in the New Year!

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