Category: everyday

Fall Comfort and Friends

In L.A. Halloween is the earliest we start to see Fall. For me it is also when I start looking to gather my family and friends together. There is no better way to get people together than a warm cup of soup and a comfort sandwich. So when the kids start collecting candy, I start making soups.

A soup and sandwich combo is perfect because it gives me an excuse to get up from the table and not be the only one in the kitchen. I love the idea of inviting everyone into the kitchen to ladle up a bowl of warm tomato soup and help themselves to my Panini bar, to make their own sandwich.

I found and interesting tomato soup mash up with French Onion Soup. It sounded great but had a lot of steps. Unless, it’s a holiday that is not how I want to spend my time in the Fall. I took the lead from Poole’s Diner in North Carolina and made it my own. The best is caramelized onions and the sweetness they add.

In addition to putting out a beautiful selection of meats, cheeses, breads and toppings, for the Panini bar, I also make these Grilled Cheese Roll-ups. They’re super easy and the kids love to be able to grab them and run out the door to Trick or Treat. Don’t tell the kids but I actually put a little bit of Dijon on the bread before it cooks.

I hope you all have a fabulous Fall season and a scary Halloween.

Roasted Tomato / French Onion Soup
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Servings
6 bowls
Servings
6 bowls
Roasted Tomato / French Onion Soup
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Servings
6 bowls
Servings
6 bowls
Ingredients
Servings: bowls
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 425°
  2. Toss together tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 20 - 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and add to soup pot with chicken stock, bay leaves and butter.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes.
  6. While soup is cooking: Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet, over medium heat.
  7. Add onions and 2 tsp. salt. Turn heat to high and stir for 1 minute to coat onions evenly with salt and oil.
  8. Reduce heat to medium/low and cover pan. Cook covered for 20 minutes.
  9. Uncover and continue to stir and cook until onions are thick and a deep brown color. Set aside.
  10. Remove bay leaves. Use immersion blender and blend to desired consistency. I like mine a little rustic.
  11. Add the caramelized onions and stir to incorporate and heat onions, if they've cooled. At this point you can add cream, if using.
  12. Stack 2 baguette slices in each bowl, with 1 T. of cheese between each layer and on top.
  13. Ladle the hot soup around the bread.
  14. Place bowls under the broiler and cook for 2 - 3 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and browned. This is easier if you put the bowls on a sheet pan.
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Grilled Cheese Roll-Ups
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Servings
6 sandwiches
Servings
6 sandwiches
Grilled Cheese Roll-Ups
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Servings
6 sandwiches
Servings
6 sandwiches
Ingredients
Servings: sandwiches
Instructions
  1. Use a rolling pin, to roll slices of bread to 1/4" thickness.
  2. Spread each slice with a tiny bit of Dijon mustard, optional.
  3. Place 1 lice of cheese on each bread and roll tightly.
  4. Melt 2 T. of butter in a large fry pan over high heat.
  5. Add roll-up to pan and cook until all sides are golden brown and cheese is melted. You may have to do a few at a time and add more butter if needed.
  6. Serve immediately
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Try Something New -Homemade Pasta Edition!

In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.

I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.

Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.

I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!

Homemade Pasta Dough
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Homemade Pasta Dough
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
  2. As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
  3. I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
  4. Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
  6. If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
  7. At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
  8. Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
  9. Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
  10. To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
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Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce

Picada is like a pesto. Made with chocolate and almonds it is lovely on the palate!

Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce
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Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven broiler to high
  2. Toss florets with 2 T. olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil, turning once, half way through, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat garlic and remaining oil in skillet an cook, over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch and stir, so garlic doesn't burn. Transfer oil and garlic to a a medium bowl an let cool.
  4. Stir almonds, parsley, chocolate, sherry, salt and pepper into garlic oil. Toss with cauliflower while it is still hot. Garnish and serve immediately.
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Try Something New! Graham Cracker Edition

When I read a post where the first thing the author does is make an excuse, I have to admit it is a huge turn off.  Julia used to say something to the effect of don’t make excuses for your food whether it’s bad or good, everybody already know’s. Well, Julia, true that but sometimes life just rushes by and you get behind.  The ironic thing is I have been writing like crazy, because I have so much to say!  It’s the cooking and picture that seem to set me back.  So here I am to catch up and I think this first one is a good one.

We finally got a little cold snap her in Los Angeles.  I love to think that means we can have a fire in the fire place and snuggle up.  I mean what else can you do when it is 50 degrees out (pause for groan from the east coast)? A fire in the fireplace almost always means S’mores.  So tonight it meant making my own graham crackers.


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I don’t know why I wanted to make my own graham crackers. There was something so intriguing to me. I imagined it would be very complicated so it never occurred to me that I would share it here, under try something new. It was super easy!

I went looking for “Graham” flour. Guess what? Its really just whole-wheat flour that is not sifted during the milling process and is ground coarsely. You can find graham flour in some health food stores. For my purposes I used plain whole-wheat flour. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour Company. I made the first batch exactly as directed. One of my daughters is not a big cinnamon fan and I thought it could be a little more “wheaty” so I made some adjustments and the following is my recipe. It really is simple.

My advice is to be patient when rolling out the dough. You do want to get them very thin. You also will want to have a ruler handy, if measuring out as squares, which is the proper graham shape. I admit I got bored of that and made some squares and some circles with a biscuit cutter. Finally don’t forgo the pricking with a fork. This helps them keep their shape, without puffing up.

Homemade Graham Crackers
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Homemade Graham Crackers
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. I used a stand-up mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, honey and milk. Blend into flour mixture, until a ball starts to form. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if necessary.
  3. Wrap and chill the dough for about an hour. Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured board an knead gently for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line with parchment, 2 baking sheets.
  5. Roll the dough to 1/16"; make sure the board stays floured so the crackers transfer easily.
  6. Cut the dough into 3X# square and prick them with a fork several times. Place on prepared pans and brush tops with a little milk. You can sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if you wish.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely, on rack. They will keep well wrapped at room temperature for a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
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Baked Kale and Rice

Baked Kale and Rice
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This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Baked Kale and Rice
Print Recipe
This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Cook the kale in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Then immediately drop in ice water.
  2. Squeeze dry and chop. Make sure all moisture is removed before you bake.
  3. Using the same cooking water, for flavor, boil the rice for 10 minutes. Drain and spread out to let cool. I use a baking sheet lined with paper towels. When cool, transfer to large a bowl.
  4. Preheat over to 375° and butter a baking dish. Dust baking dish with 2 Tbs. of parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in a small sauce pan and add almonds. stir until golden and add to rice bowl. Season with Salt and pepper lightly.
  6. Add remaining parmesan, ricotta, jarlsberg, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme an sage to rice. Add chopped kale and toss well. I use my hands to get every thing mixed in well.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Simple Pleasures

Swimming in Lake Tahoe.
Swimming in Lake Tahoe.

As a young mother, MANY years ago, I was very idealistic. My children were not going to eat chocolate, too early. High fructose corn syrup would never pass their lips and they would never have frozen or processed foods. Ha! Last summer we vacationed in Lake Tahoe, and were concentrating on the simpler pleasures. We hiked and spent days on the lake. Our nighttime activities were nothing more than dinner out and a movie in the hotel room.

One night, while we were waiting for our table, at dinner, my kids and husband were playing beanbag toss. I must have been in a dreamlike state, when I had a vision of those little girls and the meals I use to make for them. I don’t think there is a kid out there that doesn’t like chicken tenders or nuggets. In an effort to get my kids to be happy campers at dinner I developed my own recipe for chicken nuggets. It was a hit! I always served them with whatever fresh fruit was in season and some sort of potato. I admit that I was too lazy to make my own French fries so I often used a wholesome frozen variety.

As we get back into the busy days of fall, I hope you and your family will take a moment to slow down and enjoy a simple pleasure like homemade chicken nuggets. Oh and we are planning our next Lake vacation.

Chicken Nuggets
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chicken Nuggets
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken into 2 bite pieces
  2. In a large ziplock bag combine flour, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper.
  3. Add chicken pieces to bag a few at a time. Shake to coat and then set aside.
  4. In a shallow bowl stir milk and egg. Put crushed crackers in another bowl.
  5. Dip floured chicken pieces in egg mixture then crackers to coat well. Then place on baking sheet, in a single layer.
  6. Bake at 425° for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden brown
Recipe Notes

My kids love these with ranch dressing homemade or not.

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Camp Culinary

Last summer I got to spend many days cooking, teaching and hanging out with one of my favorite kids. The best part is it was all under the guise of cooking school or Camp Culinary, as I called it. Noah is a freckle-faced 11 year old boy that you will usually find in some sort of team t-shirt and matching everything else. Sports are Noah’s thing.   Cooking is his other thing. He asked for a cooking play set for his 3rd birthday and even though it wasn’t with me, this summer he continued his culinary education with more classes.

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Mom gave me carte blanche. Noah gave me challenges that upped my game.  I suggested we decorate cupcakes and make macaroni and cheese and maybe pasta al la checca. He said “What about Mother Sauces?”.

This kid is amazing. We started with mayonnaise, hollandaise and veloute. Did I mention he made me sharpen my skills? It is very hot here in Southern California and my mayonnaise got way too thin, too fast and my hollandaise got overcooked. He loved it, not because I messed up and he could giggle (which he did), but because it gave him another opportunity to learn. We remade both and they were great! Noah found heaven when dipping a piece of broccoli in the hollandaise, complete with eye roll and tummy rub.

Our first field trip took us to Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles. Noah had been to L.A.’s famed Farmer’s Market and his local farmer’s markets but never to Grand Central Market. The child that sat in my backseat peppered me with questions like he was on his way to Disneyland. How long will it take us to get there? What stand would we go to first? Did I think he would be able to hold a butcher’s cleaver? The questions continued the whole way. I don’t even think he noticed the traffic we were in. I told him our first visit would be to Bel Campo Meats.

I was so pleased at the time each of the vendors took to talk to my young charge and teach him. As promised, first stop was Bel Campo Meats. The butcher took the time to show Noah his meat cleaver and talk about the ways you can cut meat. Did you know that Japan has 200 MORE cuts of the same cow than America? We cut our meat much bigger and have a lot more waste. We learned that cuts, such as the Hangar, used to be used in ground meat or hot dogs. This is because there is only ONE Hangar on each cow. Often it can be cut into two portions but because it is not the tenderest cut it didn’t use to be so popular. The American palette has developed and now we demand flavor as much as the tenderness, so cuts like the Hangar, Flap and Skirt are becoming a lot more popular. After learning all about the different cuts, we decided on a Bavette Steak.

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After the butcher, we learned about seven different kinds of mole and the differences between double cream, triple cream and hard cheeses. We ordered noodles for lunch at the Chinese place and learned that meant soup! We went to the candy stand and the juice bar. Each vendor was another ride, without the long lines.

By the time we got back in the car, we were both exhausted but so satisfied. Before we ever left the parking garage, my little Noah was asleep. It really was a day at Disneyland for him. He was excited to get home and share his experiences and couldn’t wait for our next culinary adventure.  It was truly one of my most memorable summer experiences.

Here is a great way to prepare Bavette Steak. If you can’t find Bavette you can use skirt or flap steak too.

Bavette Steak with Romesco sauce
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I love romesco sauce! It's bread and almonds and deliciousness! It also happens to be super easy to make.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Bavette Steak with Romesco sauce
Print Recipe
I love romesco sauce! It's bread and almonds and deliciousness! It also happens to be super easy to make.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Heat a non-stick pan (I like to use a cast iron skillet) over medium high heat and add 1 T. oil then add onion. Cook until browned. Transfer to a food processor, but don't process yet.
  2. Return same pan to heat and add another T. oil to pan. Toast bread and almonds until just golden. Watch carefully. When ready, add to food processor.
  3. Add roasted red peppers, water, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. salt and red pepper flakes to processor and pulse until well combined.
  4. With processor running add 1 T. olive oil, through top and blend until smooth.
  5. Season the steaks with t teaspoon salt and some fresh ground pepper. Reheat your pan over a medium high heat and add the last T. of olive oil.
  6. Cook steaks until they are brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip steaks, reduce heat and continue cooking until desired doneness. A thermometer inserted that reads 130°, will be medium rare after resting. This should take about 12 minutes. Let cook an additional 4-8 minutes for medium to medium well.
  7. Let meat rest, covers with foil, on cutting board, for 10 minutes. Slice very thinly against the grain and serve with Romesco sauce drizzled over it or on the side.
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A Pantry in Three Parts

To paraphrase Julia Child you should never makes excuses for your food.  Whether it is good or bad everybody already knows.  After a five month absence, I’m back.  This is for you Carl!

My pantry is my comfort zone, a larder that has evolved over twenty years of cooking every day. It is my haven and where I go to feel safe. I can look at my pantry and see nothing; my sister looks in my pantry and thinks, “This is where I’m going after the apocalypse.” My pantry is where I go to get my creative juices flowing. It is often where I go to have fun. I can always find a spice, or some ingredient that will spark whimsy and often a party.

There is no one size fits all. You have to start with a few rapid-fire questions. I mean it! Don’t think about your answers. Say the first thing that comes to your mind.

1- what is your (family’s) favorite home cooked meal?

2- what is your breakfast, every morning?

3- what is the meal you cook every week? This may not be the same answer as #1.

4- when asked to bake for a bake sale or office party, what is your go to recipe?

5- when you stand in front of your pantry or refrigerator, what do most often eat as a snack?

6- what is the one recipe that gets the most reaction, wow factor, when you serve it?

Write the ingredients from all your answers down. This is where you will start building your pantry. Be honest with yourself, too. When I was single I may never have thought of turkey burgers. I sleep soundly, now, knowing I have my go to ingredients on hand.

Now I face the conundrum of the well-stocked pantry. Mine is in three parts: Everyday, Panic and Entertaining. Everyday- Here I am a Mom that feeds her family. I can make lunch, snacks, and dinner for my family. This pantry makes me feel nurturing. Panic- this pantry may well have some overlap with Everyday.   It has the most basic of ingredients for a quick breakfast and at least chocolate chip cookies for a last minute bake sale. This pantry makes me feel safe. My last pantry is for Entertaining. Here you may find an atypical ingredient, like cherry preserves or capers, in mine. This is the pantry that may get stocked when a specialty ingredient is on sale or as the holidays approach and you know you will be living it up. This pantry excites me. For me some days are utilitarian and on other days I just want to have fun. My pantry in three parts lets me indulge any mood.

Your Everyday pantry will be very personal to you. Here is a glimpse into my Everyday pantry

A quick breakfast item – For me this is grits. For you it may be cereal or pancake ingredients. I like to keep these items at waist high level. That way the kids can be a part of the decision.

We always have PB&J at home – that means not only the best quality peanut butter, but also an almond butter to swipe on a banana for a snack. Because this gets used so often it is on the same shelf that includes the snack items, like dried fruit, or pita chips (for hummus)

A few dinner ingredients – I always have dried pasta on hand and some sundried tomato paste.   Sometimes you just have to throw it together quickly and that means dried pasta and jar sauce. I keep sundried tomato paste to stir into jar sauce and give it a richness and fresher taste. I try to keep my pastas, sauces and rice all on the same shelf.

Basics – I always keep cans of tuna (I like the Italian kind canned in olive oil). I like to keep chicken and vegetable broth on hand. They are both great for adding flavor to cooked rice, pasta and vegetables, instead of water. We love tomato soup with grilled cheese so there is usually a box or two of Pacific brand tomato soup. I also use the sundried tomato paste in here and maybe some Pomi diced tomatoes to doctor it up. These items I like to keep all on one shelf.

Baking – I always have flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder on hand. I also make sure there is always a bag of chocolate chips. This makes it easy to do a cake, muffins or cookies at a moments notice.

Spices – I am pretty selective about what spices I will keep on hand. I have small shelves built into the side of my pantry, just right for holding an array of small bottles and jars. However, spices can go bad or lose their potency, quickly. For that reason I try to only “stock up” on the ones I go through quickly. You can see I need to do a New Year purge.There are spice stores popping up that you can but in small, or customized quantities, even some farmer’s markets have spice vendors. I love flake salt so Maldon Salt is always on hand. I love the way a fresh grind of nutmeg can add a secret flavor to cheese dishes so I usually have a couple of whole nutmeg in the house. My husband loves heat so we always have a large container of chili flakes. My daughters love cinnamon and I love garlic so these are staples too. For the cinnamon I give in and buy the Cinnabon cinnamon. They love it so why not? I love a product called Garlic Gold. It is chopped, roasted and then freeze-dried garlic that has amazing flavor. You can buy it dry or packed in olive oil. I use both versions.

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Speaking of oils, here is my take. I always have a vegetable oil. I don’t really have a preference of canola or corn. I have a less expensive olive oil for cooking and I have a really high-end olive oil for dressing. When I say high end, I mean you would and could just eat a spoonful of it. It taste that good. One I really like is Laudemio. It has a beautiful green color and a peppery taste.

Alright, get started! To help inspire you, here’s my recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins. It’s one of my favorites from my everyday pantry.

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Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
Print Recipe
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
Print Recipe
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Ingredients
Topping
Servings: muffins
Instructions
  1. Soak oats in buttermilk, for 15 minutes, in a large bowl.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder,baking soda, salt and cinnamon, in a small bowl.
  3. Stir egg, sugar, oil and vanilla into oat mixture.
  4. Add dry ingredients to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Don't overwork.
  5. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Use an ice cream scoop to fill each cup so they are uniform size.
  6. For Topping, stir together butter, oats and brown sugar. Sprinkle over each muffin before baking.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.
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