Join Me In the Kitchen

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Contributing Writer
Vicki McGraw

Happy end of February! By now, I do believe most of us are really, REALLY sick of cold weather…I know for a fact my patience has run out on old man winter and I am anxiously awaiting gentle spring breezes. That being said however, I have really been enjoying having my oven on! Let’s face it; when the temperature is in the 80’s, the last thing we want to do is heat up the house by baking anything, but when its -20 or so, lets crank that bad boy up!!
Over the last few weeks we have been filling our freezers with cookies of every variety, freshly baked muffins and quick breads…bring on a big old cup of coffee! I love to stock up when we have time and having it cold outside is a terrific time to bake. The cool thing with most of these yummy treats is that I can make them using a very simple “base” recipe and ‘kick it up” however I’d like. Basic cookies and quick breads or muffins start with simple ingredients…flour and sugar, butter or other fat, eggs or baking powder or soda…the fun part is all the different stuff you can add in!
One of my very favorite (and easiest) cookie recipes starts with an ordinary box of cake mix. You can use any flavor you would like, and add anything to it that sounds tasty…my personal favorite is a cherry cake mix with slivered almonds and a dash of almond extract. The varieties are limitless when you look at the different cake mix flavors out there. Similarly, a basic muffin recipe-or mix- can be tweeked to a multitude of different kinds of muffins or breads. Bananas and chocolate chips make chunky monkey bread, pineapple, coconut and a dash of rum extract make a terrific pina colada muffin, cocoa powder and red food coloring create everyone’s favorite red velvet muffin, and don’t get me started on the advantages of adding crushed candy bars to anything…mmm mmm good!
Most baked goods like cookies, muffins and quick breads freeze really well when they are packaged in air tight containers or zipper bags. As soon as they have cooled after baking, I wrap muffins and quick breads in plastic wrap, and then store in air tight containers in the freezer. The same goes for cookies; once they have cooled, I place them in zipper bags and freeze. I have found that the trick to all of this is, however, that I must do my baking when my kids aren’t around, or there won’t be anything left to freeze anyway!
Stay warm and bake away, my friends!!

Basic Muffins or Quick Bread

Wisk together in a large bowl:

2 C flour

1 T baking powder

½ t salt

Wisk together in a separate bowl:

2 eggs

1 C milk

2/3 C sugar

½ C melted butter

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix together with just a few strokes. Do not over mix, batter needs to be lumpy! Gently fold in desired mix-ins**

Divide batter among 12 muffin cups or between 2 small loaf pans. Bake muffins at 400* for 18-24 minutes (until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean) or bake loaves at 375* for 30-40 minutes (testing for doneness with a toothpick)

**Try mixing in:

1 ½ T poppy seeds and 1 T grated lemon zest

1 ½ C fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries

1 C drained crushed pineapples, ½ c coconut, ½ t rum extract

1 C chunky applesauce 1 t cinnamon

1 C grated cheddar cheese and 1 t garlic powder

1 T each oregano, basil and crushed rosemary