Apple-Cheddar Corn Muffins

Looking for a few bakers away from altitude (I’m at 6,800 ft.) to test drive this recipe and let me know how it did by commenting at the bottom of the post. Altitude bakers are welcome, too, of course–but I mostly need folks at sea level or not too far above. American east or west coasts, south, midwest –all fine. Countries abroad at sea level, you know who you are. Thanks!!

My mom, born and raised near McComb, Mississippi, was the cornbread maker in our family. Black as coal on the outside and yellow like salty sunshine on the inside, her no-recipe cornbread — hot or cold — gave shape to our days. The cast iron pan graced the table at a tomatoes and green beans summer suppertime and then you could sneak into the kitchen of a morning and cut yourself a little piece for breakfast to keep from getting coffee tummy. If you were lucky, there might be an afternoon snack of cornbread topped with sour cream and honey. (And if there wasn’t cornbread, you’d do the same with biscuits.) In the evening, my dad would crumble a big slice into a glass and then fill the glass with buttermilk, eating the whole kit and caboodle with a big spoon.

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Bruschetta for Dinner

Who said dinner couldn’t be fun?!

Bruschetta (broo-SKET-ta), the incomparably attractive Italian appetizer, is simply too big of a starter come the dog days of summer. I mean, it’s like eating pizza for hors d’oeuvres before Thanksgiving dinner when the temps are 95 F in the shade–like today. Typically grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with chopped silky ruby-ripe tomatoes and a scatter of fresh basil slivers, I like to instead offer it up with a variety of toppings for an al fresco dinner and let everyone make themselves happy. And while I thought I was being somewhat imaginative this July, when I dug out some of my Italian cookbooks to get a little background, I of course discovered that while not everyone, certainly certain someones have been there before me. (Curses, foiled again.) Folks like one of my favorite food writers, Lynne Rosetto Kasper.

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Cream Cheese-Avocado Toast with Scrambled Eggs

It’s a rather sad fact, but most people choose to eat the same or nearly the same breakfast every day — or at least several times a week. There are scientific, sociological, and emotional reasons for this (We have less time, don’t want to waste energy, need healthful food to balance other meals, desire a lot of consistency…) You can ask anyone, “What do you eat for breakfast?” The answer will generally be one thing or at the most two. “I eat oatmeal.” “Eggs and toast.” (And the eggs will be cooked the same way each time, I’d wager.) Whereas should you ask the same person what they eat for lunch or dinner, the answer will be long, varied. Lots of folks are continually looking for something new to cook. It’s funny (peculiar), but understandable.

Perhaps because I love cooking, my breakfast changes regularly. I find that fact fun, entertaining, and encouraging. I’m sure I come out of it with a wider variety of nutrition, too. It’s also true I’m retired from a full-time job requiring my presence on the desk at 8am every morning. I don’t even have kids at home needing a helpful shove out the door. Dogs? Yes. They’re however generally fed and walked by my better half, leaving me to spend any amount of time I’d like sussing out sustenance like Cream Cheese-Avocado Toast come morning. If you have a toaster and a skillet, you have the equipment necessary for this lovely, filling, and pretty breakfast. (Grill the toast in the skillet and you don’t need a toaster.) Let’s face it, you could eat this morning, noon, or night. Add some fruit, a Mimosa or Bloody Mary and you have brunch if you’d like. Sweet.

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Strawberry Jam Filled Blueberry Bread

Makes a perfect gift loaf for a new neighbor, a sick friend, a birthday, or even the Memorial Day cookout.

It is not yet the height of blueberry season, but we’re getting closer. If you watch the labels on your blueberries closely, you’ll notice during our winter months they first come from South America, then Central America, followed by our southern U.S. states, and on northward until we get to Canada come early fall — when we must wait a bit to begin the cycle all over again. I’ll eat this gorgeous fruit anytime of the year, but am especially berry in love when it’s time for the berries from the northern spots like Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Michigan, or Canada. That’s because berries like cool nights and I think those cooler northern places grow top shelf fruit. When blueberries are especially plentiful and the tastiest, they’re also at their least expensive. That lets me know it’s time to buy a bunch and freeze enough to last until next summer. And while we’re not there yet, I had already bought more than my husband could eat at breakfast on his yogurt with my homemade granola. They were beginning to soften and were even thinking of getting those stinky little white rings of mold on their bottoms. Two cups of near-heaven superfood needed to be saved. So one cup is enough for a dozen muffins; two cups calls for a loaf of blueberry bread. In this case I had a little strawberry jam called my baking name out loud as well, so I thought I’d tuck that into the center of the loaf and call it Strawberry Jam Filled Blueberry Bread, which is (you’re right) a mouthful. But no other name seemed to fit and I’m stuck with it. Thank goodness, because the name says exactly what it is and if that’ll make you preheat the oven and stir this up, I’m good. I do think any jam would do — even blueberry — but I happened to have the tail end of a jar of Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, which served royally well. (TIP: I reuse their jars as storage containers for months or even years as they are glass, go through the dishwasher, and come with tight, long-lasting red and white picnic-checked lids.)

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Alyce’s Cheese Bread

Late to the date this week due to travel and weather, it seemed a good time to share something so simple and homey that it might not deserve space? But it does. Totally yummy small sides that make a thrown together meal or a bowl of soup into something you can’t wait to eat are worth knowing about. Plus! Any way I can tell you about using up the bread on your counter is well, not priceless exactly, but definitely a fun talent to have in your back pocket. Waste not, etc. I call this “Cheese Bread.” I think it’s a cooking game changer because its method will take any number of meals up the proverbial notch.

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Banana-Zucchini Bread with Chocolate Chips

Dave’s mom Lorna + brother Bill, newborn

When my husband Dave was a kid, he tells me there were nearly always bananas in the house. With three growing and active boys, there was likely to be a big bunch, I’m guessing. Boys do eat. But no matter who hankered for a banana or how badly, if there were 3 bananas left, no one touched them. Because from an early age, they all knew it took 3 bananas to make their mom’s banana bread. And they wanted banana bread. And who doesn’t? It’s a great family story and most likely a common one. (Do you have a banana bread story?)

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Pumpkin-Pepita Muffins

Before moving to Colorado, I don’t remember eating pepitas, but I certainly got to them as fast as I could upon arrival. The tiny, full of health “pumpkin seeds” we eat for snacks, add to salads, tacos, omelets, or granola, and what I put on my muffins (above), aren’t like the pumpkin seeds you remove with all of the gloppy mess inside the typical Halloween jack-o-lantern. I mean, you could open up those big fat seeds (which have their own happy uses–see below at MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO READ) and try to get at the little inner seed, but that’s not where pepitas come from. Read on:

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KIDS BAKING THANKSGIVING: Cheddar-Cornmeal Muffins (Gluten-Free)

Thanksgiving Basics — Start Early Finish Late

Thanksgiving Starters, Soups, Sides, and More

Thanksgiving Baking

Thanksgiving: Gluten-Free and Vegan

While Thanksgiving seems like a lot to plan and execute, perhaps it’s the day we should, instead, plan on sharing the work and the fun. Someone brings only wine, but offers to help clean up or play a board game with the kids after dinner. Another spends all week baking grandma’s favorite pies and does nothing that afternoon but pour New Mexican sparkling wine–namely, Gruet. (No French Champagne on Thanksgiving, please!) There’s also the real possibility of skipping the pig-out buffet and planning a curated — and maybe more healthful — meal. Making it somewhat more dinner party-ish, we could think in terms of one vegetable instead of 4, two pies rather than 10 desserts, a single perfect potato dish, and maybe someone’s favorite aunt’s cranberries. Ok, you have to have stuffing. Would it still be Thanksgiving without twenty casseroles? You bet your little tom turkey it would. And could we talk a little less in the way of dishes and leftovers here? But of course!

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Whole Wheat Biscuits and Gene’s Sausage Gravy for Father’s Day

Brunch, and maybe especially Father’s Day brunch, is one of my favorite meals! This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan, a good cook who makes the very best of all Sausage Gravies.

Gene, after a lifetime career in nearly every sector of the grocery store arena, knows the food business.  Just ask him about how long green beans are picked before they’re canned, when a melon is ripe, where sugar beets are grown in the world, how coffee is stored in the warehouse, or what H.E.B. actually stands for.  He’s a fair hand in the kitchen, too, and can keep dinner coming. In fact, the man can bake when he wants to. What he’s really famous for, however, is his sausage gravy.  Well, that and being just about the biggest Illini (University of Illinois) fan in the state of Illinois. He once sported an Illini ROOM in the house, in fact, all decorated and gussied up by his wife, my mother-in-law, Lorna, who joins right in year in and year out with the Illini devotion.

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