Monday, January 13, 2014

Corn Dog Muffins: Bringing the County Fair to Your Kitchen!

To all my fellow corn dogs, have I got a great recipe for you!Corn Dog Muffins! Who doesn't love corn dogs? They're so familiar, so homey, so nostalgic. And these days, you can buy vegetarian and even vegan corn dogs in mainstream grocery stores. They're a popular food item!

I was browsing Pinterest one afternoon and saw someone pin a recipe for Corn Dog Muffins. I couldn't believe my eyes. It combined a food I love (corn dogs!) with a shape I love (muffins!). And in particular, mini muffins.

If you ask my family, they'll all tell you that I make everything tiny. I prefer making my cookies bite-size, cutting my brownies and blondies into tiny morsels, shaping bread rolls into small rolls, and using a mini muffin pan for everything from mini muffins (duh) to mini quiches, mini appetizers, and mini cheesecakes. I don't know if it's that I like to be able to eat the whole thing in one bite, or if I think mini just looks cuter, or if I feel like I can justify eating the whole thing because it's a smaller portion size (which doesn't really work in the end because I end up eating more than one), but whatever the reason, I'm obsessed with mini treats. The idea of reshaping a corn dog into a mini muffin is, therefore, pure brilliance.

It just so happened that we had a bunch of leftover uncooked hot dogs in the fridge from a recent barbeque. We had purchased a gigantic package from Costco and figured we'd find a way to use up whatever wasn't eaten that day. Well, turned out we had so many leftover hot dogs after the barbeque that we would be eating hot dogs for a long time if we didn't find a recipe or two that involved them. So, we not only made corn dog muffins, but another hot dog-themed dish that I hope to blog about soon! And we even tossed leftover hot dog slices into some quinoa one night. Sounds weird, but made for a great dinner! Good thing I really like hot dogs.

If you don't feel like making the batter from scratch, I bet a corn bread or corn muffin mix would work just fine, and follow the instructions for placing a hot dog slice on each muffin cupful of batter. And if you are vegetarian, or you keep kosher, use fake meat hot dogs (since the corn bread batter calls for buttermilk). This recipe made a LOT of mini muffins...far too many to eat in one sitting without a tummy ache. So we enjoyed them for a few more days to go along with lunch or dinner. To serve warm and re-crisp them (which is definitely the way to go), simply place the muffins in the toaster oven on a foil-lined tray for a few minutes. Works like a charm!

This is for all you kids out there. And by kids, I mean everyone.

Corn Dog Muffins
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Makes 36-48 mini muffins or 12-18 standard muffins

1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted and cooled
1 cup yellow or white cornmeal (I used white!)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I used Saco Buttermilk Powder)
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature (I used nonfat milk powder and it worked great!)
1 egg
4-6 hot dogs, sliced (see note in recipe instructions below for size of slice)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. In a separate, medium size bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, and egg. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until incorporated. Add the melted shortening to the batter and stir until the batter is smooth. Be sure the shortening has cooled off first or it will clump up into solid bits from attempting to mix with colder ingredients.

Grease or spray muffin pans. If using mini muffin pans, you'll probably need two pans of 24 cups each. If using standard muffin pans, you'll probably only need 1 pan of 12 cups. I made mini-sized. Fill each muffin cup a little more than half full. Drop one piece of hot dog in the center of each muffin cup. (For mini muffins, cut up the hot dogs into about 1/4-1/2-inch rounds and you'll probably only need 4 or 5 hot dogs; if using standard muffin pans, cut hot dogs into 1-inch slices and you might need all 6 hot dogs ).

Bake the muffins until the cornbread looks done and slightly golden on top, about 11-15 minutes. You want that crispy outside edge so it resembles a corn dog! Remove from the pan and serve warm with ketchup and mustard!

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.

Whisk the egg...

Add the buttermilk and milk to the egg, then add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients, then stir in the melted shortening...

Fill each greased muffin cup a little more than half full...

Chop up the hot dogs...

Carefully place a hot dog piece into the center of each muffin cup. Bake at 425 degrees F for 11-15 minutes, until golden...

Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes...

Dunk the corn dog muffin in ketchup and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Literally Cheesy, Literally Corny Broccoli Polenta Spoon Bread

Ever heard of spoon bread? It's a casserole that's light and fluffy and airy, similar to a souffle or bread pudding. The word "bread" in the name is a bit misleading since it really doesn't resemble bread to me. But then again, bread pudding doesn't really resemble bread to me either. So maybe there's a second meaning to "bread" we all should learn? You certainly can eat spoon bread with a spoon since it's soft and scoopable. A fork would do well, too. But fork bread doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Ahh, such profound thoughts...

Anyways, this is a really fun recipe because it uses a polenta log in an all new (at to me!) way! Rather than slicing the log up and pan-frying or grilling the slices, blend them up in the food processor to create a filling! The dish also makes great leftovers, so you could make it on a Sunday night and have it all week during your busy schedule. It's also a great base for modifying. If you feel like adding steamed cauliflower, or other types of cheese, or some peas, or even some chopped turkey, there are so many options! Go through your pantry and fridge and use up whatever you have lying around. This spoon bread can handle it!

And with a hefty helping of cheese and creamed corn in the recipe, there's no denying, this is one cheesy, corny casserole.

So I'll leave you with some cheesy, corny words in the form of the worst limerick of all time:

There once was a delicious spoon bread
Full of cheese, corn, and broccoli heads.
Though bread's in the name,
Souffle's more the game.
So don't blame me if you feel misled.

Literally Cheesy, Literally Corny Broccoli Polenta Spoon Bread
Recipe adapted from the Changing a Life blog, originally published in The One Pot Cookbook
Serves 6-8

16 ounce tube polenta, cut into chunks (Trader Joe's sells this!)
2 tablespoons water
12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) broccoli florets, steamed (make sure to cut up any really large florets)
8 1/2 ounces creamed corn
1/2 cup milk (nonfat or 1% work great)
4 slices Swiss or Jack cheese, torn into small pieces (or you can use shredded cheese)
1/4 cup flour
2 large egg yolks (reserve the whites...see next ingredient)
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease or spray a casserole dish. Set aside.

Place the polenta chunks and the water into a food processor and pulse several times until the polenta has broken down and the mixture is smooth. Should take about 15 seconds.

Transfer the polenta mixture to a large mixing bowl and add in the broccoli, creamed corn, milk, cheese, flour, and egg yolks. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Test with the back of a spoon to make sure you've reached soft peaks. Carefully stir 1/4 of these beaten egg whites into the polenta mixture. Now gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined. Do not overmix and do not stir in circles because you'll deflate the egg whites!

Gently scrape the batter into the greased casserole dish and bake for 45-50 minutes, until slightly puffed up and golden brown on top. Serve warm.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Whip up the egg whites...

Start by folding just 1/4 of the egg whites into the polenta mixture...

Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold until the batter is well combined...

Spread into a greased baking dish...

Bake at 400 degrees F for 45-50 minutes...

Serve warm!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins: The Triple B!

After a bit of an unplanned 5-month hiatus from the blog (read this), I'm back and ready to share more baking stories with you!

First stop on the Happy Go Marni Returns Choo Choo Train are these delicious, hearty blueberry buttermilk bran muffins! My favorite thing about them is the use of coconut oil. It adds a really great texture and flavor to an already classic baked good, and seems to make the muffins a little sweeter than using just boring vegetable oil. Feel free to play around with different combinations of flour. I used a combination of white whole wheat flour and regular all-purpose flour. You could also go for some pure whole wheat flour, but be forewarned that it will be a denser, heavier muffin.

Lucky for most of us, even if you can't find fresh blueberries in the store or it's not the right season, blueberries are available frozen year-round, and work great in baked goods. You don't even have to thaw them; just toss the frozen berries into the batter and they bake into delicious, plump bursts of juice. You can also buy tons of fresh blueberries when they are in season, and then freeze them yourself for the off-season.

I made a lot of people really happy with these muffins. I hope you try them and enjoy them as much as my taste-testers all did!

Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins
Adapted from a recipe in The Kitchn
Serves 12

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled (although still liquid)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups bran cereal (such as All-Bran)
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw first)
1 cup pecan halves, optional (for the tops)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl or a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, salt, baking soda, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and sugar. Add the bran cereal and flours (whatever combination of flour you choose), and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Do not overmix or your muffins will bake into a dense brick...blech. Finally, gently fold in the blueberries, and again, don't overmix (if you stir too much, your batter will become an ugly grey color).

Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners or grease/spray each cup. Fill each cup all the way to the top. Place some pecan pieces on the top of each muffin cup. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are firm and a light golden brown. I found that 28 minutes was the perfect baking time for my oven. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before removing muffins from the pan. Serve at room temperature or warm. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or store in the fridge to last a few extra days.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Mix together the eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, salt, baking soda, vanilla, lemon zest, and sugar...

Add the bran cereal...

Add the flour...

Gently fold in the blueberries...

Stir just until combined, but do not overmix...

Fill each muffin cup all the way to the top and scatter some pecan pieces on top...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack...


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yes, I'm Alive, and Will Be Back to Recipe Blogging Soon!

Hi everyone! Happy almost-Halloween! So, as some of you may have noticed, my last blog post was in late May. That's a whopping 5 months ago. Sigh. I've been acutely aware of this for awhile, and was hoping (surely, in denial), that no one had noticed. But then I got an email yesterday from a lovely reader in Michigan who essentially wanted to know if I was still alive, and OK, and what's going to happen to the blog. All great questions. And that email solidified my worst fear that my blog neglect hadn't gone unnoticed.

So, I'm here to tell you...yes, I'm alive, I'm fine, I'm still baking, I'm still breathing, I'm still happy, I just got really busy and am trying to figure out how to adjust my schedule to fit in this food blogging/baking passion of mine and still get sleep at night! :)

Just a few days after my last post (way back in May), a life changing event happened to me...a really great one...and it's been a whirlwind ever since!

I got engaged!

And then shortly after that, I moved!

But enough with the excuses. Blogging will return. I'm prepping a post this week. Talk to you then!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fleur de Sel on Top

I was sifting through Leite's Culinaria (one of my favorite recipe websites of all time; definitely go there after you're done reading my entire post ;) ) when I happened upon a chocolate chip cookie recipe that claimed to be the ultimate version. I was intrigued by the recipe because first of all, it was making quite the claim, and secondly, it had just enough interesting changes from a more traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe that the claim actually seemed possible. Notice the cake flour and bread flour called for in the recipe. Neither of those ingredients is standard in a basic chocolate chip cookie. Maybe those are the two top secret ingredients that put a chocolate cookie over the edge into Cookie Stardom. I had to know for sure!

So I whipped up a batch of dough, tossed the bowl of dough in the fridge, and waited anxiously for a miserable 24 hours to bake it the following night. If you're wondering why I had to wait a night, it's because the recipe said to wait (it's not because I'm into self-inflicting pain), and I wanted to follow this recipe to a T so I could give it a proper assessment of its worthiness to be called "Ultimate." Fast forward to the next night, and I scooped mounds of dough onto my baking sheet, sprinkled fleur de sel on top of each mound, and baked them for no more than 10 minutes.

It might sound ridiculous, but even just looking at them when they came out of the oven, I could tell these were a special breed of chocolate chip cookie. They had exactly the right coloring, the right thickness, and a heavenly aroma. Of course the first bite was what truly did me in and sealed the deal.

These cookies deserve the "Ultimate" title. A cookie doesn't get any more perfect than this.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fleur de Sel on Top
Adapted from a recipe in Leite's Culinaria, originally from Jacques Torres
Makes about 4 dozen small cookies

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped (can use disks, bars, or chips), at least 60 percent cacao content
Fleur de sel or other sea salt for sprinkling on top

Sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and kosher salt in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until light and smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients just until combined. This should only take about 10 seconds; do not overmix or you'll have tough cookies. Add in the chopped chocolate and mix to incorporate. Cover the dough with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap directly over the surface of the dough in the bowl and chill in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours. Feel free to use only a portion of the dough at a time for up to 72 hours. That way you can keep making fresh small batches of cookies as you desire them!

To bake the cookies, first preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper.

Scoop heaping teaspoon-sized balls of dough onto the baking sheet, leaving at least an inch between cookies. Flatten any chocolate pieces that are sticking straight up so that they are lying horizontally. Then sprinkle the top of each mound of dough with fleur de sel. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until a very light golden brown, but pale enough that they look a little underdone. That will ensure they are chewy! Remove from the oven and place the cookie sheet on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies from the sheet directly to a wire rack.

Enjoy this perfect cookie with a tall glass of milk!

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Cream together the butter and sugars...

Add the eggs, one at a time...

Beat in the vanilla...

On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients...

Mix in the chopped chocolate, then chill the dough in the fridge for at least 24 hours...

Scoop mounds of dough onto the baking sheet...

Sprinkle each mound of dough with fleur de sel...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes...

Take a bite!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins: Breakfast or Dessert?

My aunt and uncle gave me a cookbook for my birthday back in January called Peanut Butter Sweets, and every single recipe in the book uses peanut butter. They know the way to my heart (or is it mouth or stomach?).

So, one recent sunny Sunday afternoon, I was craving a peanut butter snack, as is often the case, and I decided to head to my peanut butter cookbook. I had all the ingredients on hand to make these simple and totally scrumptious peanut butter muffins. I added chocolate chips to them because the only thing better than peanut butter is when you pair it with chocolate.

I cut into a muffin, hot out of the oven, and it not only took care of my craving, but it was impressively moist and peanut buttery, with chocolate chips that were ooey gooey, and a cross section featuring a perfect crumb. And that makes it something I'd do again without hesitation.

Thank you, Aunt Debbie and Uncle Phil, for the cookbook!

And now to stump you with what's stumping me, I must ask, is a peanut butter chocolate chip muffin a breakfast item? Or a dessert?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
Adapted from a recipe by Pamela Bennett in Peanut Butter Sweets
Makes 12 large muffins or 36 mini muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (I recommend using Skippy rather than a natural brand)
2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or grease or spray each cup. I prefer greasing the cups over using paper liners.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Transfer these dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the peanut butter and butter and beat just until you see coarse crumbs forming. Add the milk and eggs and mix just until well combined. Don't overmix. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. The batter will be thick and gloppy.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup 3/4 full. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Add the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir together...

Add the peanut butter and butter and blend...

Once coarse crumbs form, stir in the milk and eggs...

But don't overmix!

Gently stir in the chocolate chips...

Fill each greased muffin cup about 3/4 full...

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean...

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