Monday Muffins: Cheddar, Herb & Sun-Dried Tomato

8759206723 156c98f305 z Monday Muffins: Cheddar, Herb & Sun Dried Tomato

What do you dream about? Do you remember your dreams? Lately, I have been dreaming about work. This tends to happen when I face a deadline or have a lot on my plate. I remember these dreams right away because I wake up feeling like I just quit working when, in fact, I have to get to work. It can be problematic.

When I dream about more nonsensical things, I typically remember them, but not until hours later in the day. As I turned on the television tonight, I remembered that last night I dreamt a hockey game I had on went into five (five!) overtimes. And Ohio State and Michigan had to play twice in the same season and the Buckeyes were down 72-6 (72-6!) in the third quarter of the first game. That dream was a nightmare!

The weirdest question anyone ever asked me about dreams was, “Do you dream in color?” Of course, I dream in color. My inquisitive friend, on the other hand, dreams only in black and white. Her question was no-doubt inspired by Pearl Jam. “She dreams in color, she dreams in red…” (Can’t find a better man…)

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I’ve been dreaming of some juicy red tomatoes. It started with Demeter’s Tomato Pick-Me-Up Cologne Spray (I have no idea what tomato perfume smells like, but consider me intrigued) and it ended with a bag of sun-dried tomatoes. After these muffins, I fully intend to transform my sun-dried leftovers into hummus and soup. Consider yourself warned.

But for now, it is just the muffins. The use of dill and thyme gave me a chance to cook from my tiny urban garden which, I am happy to say, contains both of those herbs and seven more. This means I am fairly certain chives and sage and basil and oregano and rosemary will make their way into future versions. I will leave the mint and lavender out.

These muffins were the perfect accompaniment to a warm bowl of soup I enjoyed on a rainy, gray day yesterday. As the weather heats up, I envision them pairing well with a light salad. Until those red tomatoes ripen on the vine, these will have to do. Enjoy!

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Monday Muffins: Cheddar, Herb & Sun-Dried Tomato
Serves: 12
  • Dry Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill or ¼ teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Wet Ingredients
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¼ cups milk
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Final Touches
  • ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  3. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Fold in the cheddar cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.
  5. Line a muffin tin with papers and lightly spray their insides with cooking spray. Alternatively, grease the wells of the muffin tin and forgo the paper liners.
  6. Pour the batter into the wells until about ¾ of the way full.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  8. Allow the muffins to cool for five minutes before removing them from the pan and then serve. They are best when enjoyed warm.


Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Scones…a.k.a Biscuits

SAM 5913 Edited 0001 Daring Bakers Challenge   Scones...a.k.a Biscuits

After neglecting to participate in last month’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge due to holiday hustle and bustle, I was very pleased to start the year off right with a new challenge. Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens! That’s right – scones (a/k/a biscuits). Say that again?

As it turns out, the Daring Bakers offers the opportunity to learn not only the ways of kitchen, but also the ways of the world. Or should I say the ways of the words? I learned, via a very thorough explanation from Aud, what I refer to as a biscuit in the States, he refers to as a scone in Australia. After baking such seemingly complicated dishes like Povitica and Sans Rival, I was now faced with a dish I knew how to pronounce and had eaten countless times before.

SAM 5900 Edited Daring Bakers Challenge   Scones...a.k.a Biscuits

A Flying Biscuit biscuit on the left. A Love & Flour biscuit on the right.

Because I was so familiar with biscuits, I fell right into the trap Aud warned of. He suggested such a simple recipe masked the complexities of making biscuits. The image above is evidence of this point. On the left is a biscuit served at The Flying Biscuit. On the right is a whole milk biscuit served in my kitchen. I’ve got a way to go…

I tried my hand at four biscuit varieties: whole milk, buttermilk, spicy cheddar, and sweet dried fruit. All of the varieties can be found in Aud’s recipe at the end of this post. To make the spicy cheddar biscuits, I simply omitted the chives  from the cheese and chive variation and kicked up the cayenne pepper a pinch. I used Craisins to make the sweet dried fruit variety.

SAM 5912 Edited e1327289345207 Daring Bakers Challenge   Scones...a.k.a Biscuits

I experienced the most success with the whole milk biscuits which, ironically, was my first attempt. I measured success (literally) by how tall my biscuits puffed. My buttermilk and sweet dried fruit biscuits were flat, though without further trial and error, I can’t explain why. If the whole milk biscuits weren’t my first attempt, I’d explain the flat biscuits to a lack of refined technique. But things just went downhill after my semi-decent first batch. Perhaps it was baker fatigue.

I do not cook a lot of full-on meals, but when I do, I like to serve bread. Biscuits offer a great option if time or funds are short. They are also very versatile. In addition to the many variations in the recipe itself, biscuits leftover from dinner can be re-purposed into breakfast sandwiches. I’ve also taken to eating the sweet dried fruit biscuits with a cup of tea. This recipe will likely require some experimentation, but even flat biscuits are delicious topped with sausage gravy, jam, or honey. Try them!

SAM 5982 Edited Daring Bakers Challenge   Scones...a.k.a Biscuits

Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich

SAM 5969 Edited Daring Bakers Challenge   Scones...a.k.a Biscuits

My Favorite – Biscuits with Honey

Recipe type: Bread
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) fresh baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
  • Approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
  • Optional – 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
  1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
  2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
  3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
  4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
  6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
  7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
  8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
  9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.
Variations on the Basic Recipe Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons, in Step 3 aim of pea-sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 fold and turn the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with buttermilk. Australian Scone Ring (Damper Ring) – follow the Basic recipe above but decrease the fat to 1 tablespoon, in Step 3 aim of fine beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, in Step 7 form seven rounds into a ring shape with the eighth round as the centre, glaze with milk. Cream – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with cream, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with cream. Cheese and Chive – follow the Basic recipe above but add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2 add ½ teaspoon sifted mustard powder, ¼ teaspoon sifted cayenne pepper (optional), ½ cup (60 gm/2 oz) grated cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives into the sifted ingredients, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are widely spaced in the baking dish, sprinkle the rounds with cracked pepper. Fresh Herb – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill, chives etc). Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar. Wholemeal – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour. Wholemeal and date – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour and after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) chopped dates and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.



Souper Bowl Sunday: Cheddar Beer Soup

SAM 5697 Edited Souper Bowl Sunday: Cheddar Beer Soup

I thought writing about the unseasonably warm weather last weekend might jinx continued warm temperatures, and sure enough, winter has arrived. The nice thing about living in the south is though it may be 27 degrees at 8 a.m., rarely does it stay 27 degrees all day like it does where I grew up. Though I suppose that statement is not entirely true. Where I grew up, it may be 27 degrees at 8 a.m. and drop to 7 degrees by noon. When that happens, this cheddar beer soup is sure to warm you up.

Cheddar beer soup is a recipe I typically make once per winter. Though I may make it only once a season, that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth making more often. I’m just the type of person who likes to experience something once, then tuck it away until next time. Rarely is a  recipe put into my regular recipe rotation like last week’s easy chicken and dumplings.

SAM 5709 Edited e1326583830604 Souper Bowl Sunday: Cheddar Beer Soup

It’s tough for me to decide if I like the vegetables in this soup, or if it would be better strictly as a smooth soup. It’s hard for me to accept carrots and celery in what I think should be a smooth soup, but the vegetables seem to give the soup a little bit of pizzazz that I’ve come to enjoy.  As for the cheese, a bag of pre-shredded cheese typically contains the 3 cups needed for the soup. Reserve about 1/4 cup of the cheese if you wish to garnish your soup.

Since the recipe calls for one, 12-ounce bottle of beer, I’ve nicknamed this soup the “now or later”. If I purchase a 40,  I have 28 ounces of leftover beer to enjoy now, while making the soup. If I purchase a six-pack, I have five bottles left to enjoy later. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy myself while making this soup.

After reading that, you may get the impression I’m a bit of a lush, but in reality it had been so long since I’d bought a six-pack that I forgot how to open one.  I spent at least 3o seconds rifling through my utensils looking for a bottle opener with which to attack the top before I realized it was a twist off. If you do not particularly care for beer or choose not to drink alcohol, you can use the leftover beer from the soup in one of my favorite bread recipes, beer bagels. Stay warm and enjoy!

SAM 5693 Edited Souper Bowl Sunday: Cheddar Beer Soup


Cheddar Beer Soup
Recipe type: soup
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 12 ounces light beer (do not use dark beer)
  • 3 cups grated cheddar cheese, reserving ¼ cup if desired for garnish
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  1. Finely chop the onion, celery, and carrots.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add the flour and stir continuously for three minutes. The mixture will clump.
  5. Add the broth and continue to stir until the clumps become a thick smooth paste, about another three minutes.
  6. Slowly add the milk and stir until incorporated.
  7. Slowly add the beer and stir until incorporated.
  8. Continue to cook until the foam subsides and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
  9. Add the cheddar cheese, salt, pepper sugar, and hot sauce if desired.
  10. Simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  12. If desired, garnish with cheese and serve with a baguette.