Rum Raisin Cranberry Muffins

You know something?  I’m not happy  when certain behaviors (on my part) become expectations.  You do something say, twice, and suddenly it becomes your job and other people now expect it from you.  Does this happen to you?  What I do to try to prevent this is to change things up frequently.  For instance just the other morning Mr. D. asked me “got any scones?”  Now, why would he expect me to have scones available—because in the past few weeks I made two or three different kinds of scones, and now he wants them all the time.  See what I mean?   BUT this week, there are no scones!   No, we are taking a break for a while, because I am off in a new direction.  This week it’s muffins.

Rum Raisin Cranberry Muffin

Rum Raisin Cranberry Muffin

Muffins are the replacement for scones.  Not just any muffins.  Ones in which the raisins and cranberries have been soaked in rum for a while before adding to the batter.  And there’s orange peel and spices in there, too.  After one of these with your morning coffee, you’ll be whistling a new tune as you leave for work.   ” Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work I go.”  or “whistle a happy tune, whenever you’re feelin blue”, or, “whistle while you work, Tra-la-la-la-la-la.”   OH, my,  I think I’m getting into my happy Christmas Spirit a little early here.  But seriously, these muffins are way good, and  healthy too, so its OK to have one and not have feelings of guilt..

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When I decided to make these I did not have a recipe, just an idea of what I wanted to create.  So I turned to my King Arthur Baking Sheet for a basic cranberry  muffin recipe and then did some major modifications to come up with this combination of flavors. Heating the rum mixture causes the alcohol content to evaporate, leaving behind a faint rum flavor, but also plumps up the raisins and cranberries.  However, if you would prefer not to use rum, you may substitute either apple cider or apple juice, or even orange juice.

RUM RAISIN CRANBERRY MUFFINS

YIELD:   1 dozen muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1  1/2 cups regular or white 100% whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk powder or non-fat dry milk powder
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
  • 1 Tablespoon finely grated orange zest (orange peel)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease the wells of a muffin pan, or line with papers.

2.  Combine the rum, raisins and cranberries in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let cool for 10 minutes or so while you continue with the recipe.

3.  In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients.  In another bowl whisk together the  eggs, orange zest, milk, and oil or melted butter.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until barely blended, add in the cranberry/raisin mixture with their juice, and continue to blend them into the batter without over mixing.   Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.   Divide all the batter evenly among the cups–they will be almost full.

5.  Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until they’re golden brown, and test done with a toothpick.  Remove from the oven, leave in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.

Rum Raisin Muffins after baking

Rum Raisin Muffins after baking

GLAZE     Not necessary, but it really puts the finishing touch on these muffins. (It’s the frosting on the cake! )

  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice, apple juice or apple cider
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan (or use the microwave), stir together the glaze ingredients.  Bring just to a boil to dissolve the sugar.  Dip the tops of the warm muffins into the glaze.  As it cools is becomes a sweet, crunchy little cap on the muffins.   Cute!

Muffins with Glaze

Muffins with Glaze

So good with coffee!

So good with coffee!

SOURCE:  based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Several weeks ago we had dinner out and one of the side dishes offered was Lobster Mac and Cheese.  My husband chose this option as part of his dinner and when it arrived it looked soooo good.  On tasting it he said it was the best he had ever had, so of course I had to try my hand at making it.  What could be so difficult about adding some lobster to basic mac and cheese?

Well, before I got around to trying it out a new issue of Food Network Magazine arrived, and in it was a recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese by Ina Garten from her newest cookbook Barefoot Contessa, Foolproof.  So there was no need for me to develop a recipe when I now had one from a well-known celebrity chef.

With some minor modifications, and making only half the recipe,  I made it last week and my husband said it was the best he has ever eaten.  ( He always knows just the right thing to say!)  Without his having said that, I would have said the same thing:  it is THE BEST I have ever made.  Not only does the addition of lobster elevate it above the ordinary, but the cheeses used made a velvety smooth sauce. I used Panko crumbs and butter for the topping instead of white bread crumbs, and they browned up nicely for a crunchy topping. Served with a hearty mixed greens and vegetables salad,  it was a most satisfying meal.

LOBSTER MAC AND CHEESE

SERVES:   6 – 8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups grated Gruyere cheese ( 12 ounces )  I used Gouda cheese.
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar ( 8 ounces )
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 pounds lobster meat, 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs ( 5 slices, crusts removed)

DIRECTIONS

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a large baking dish, or several individual gratin dishes.

2.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package .  Drain well.

3.  Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t allow it to boil.  In a large saucepan, melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter and add the flour.  Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth.  Remove from heat, add the cheeses, 1 Tablespoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese melts.

The rich cheesy sauce.

4.  Stir in the cooked pasta and fold in the lobster.

Fold in the lobster!

Pile the mixture into the prepared baking dish, or dishes.

5.  Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter;  combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top.  Bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

Now that’s Comfort Food!

SOURCE:  slightly adapted from  Ina Garten, via Food Network Magazine