Let's Get Baking!

Who doesn’t like a good muffin? Afterall, once the recipe is mixed, it bakes in minutes and is ready-to-serve. Or, pack them up for an easy take along snack or mid-day treat.

WARNING: You may need to pack extra if taking muffins to the office. After all, sharing is just a nice thing to do!

Tips: Using very ripe bananas (black) is the key to success with a banana muffin recipe. Save up ripe bananas and freeze in a plastic bag until you have enough to make a full recipe.
For a "lower fat" muffin replace the butter in-part or all with applesauce. 

George's Banana Nut Muffins

recipe adapted from George Hirsch Living it UP! cookbook

makes 10-12 muffins

For the Crumb Topping:

1/3 cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 Tablespoons nuts, chopped

1 Tablespoon sweet butter

In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nuts. Blend butter in with a fork until mixture is crumb like.

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For the Muffin Mix:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups, about 3-4 large very ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup pure cane granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons honey

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/2 cup sweet butter, melted; or replace with part/ all applesauce

Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, honey, egg, cinnamon, vanilla, zest, nuts, and melted butter. Fold in banana mixture by hand with a spatula into the flour mixture until just moistened. 

 Using very ripe bananas (black) is the key to success with a banana muffin recipe. Save up ripe bananas and freeze in a plastic bag until you have enough to make a full recipe. For a "lower fat" muffin replace the butter in-part or all with applesauce.

Place batter into muffin cups filling each cup to three quarters full. Divide the crumb topping evenly over the top of muffin batter.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin; done when toothpick comes out clean; or when touched lightly the muffin should have a slight resistance to finger pressure.

image, wickedfood

Know Your Cookie

You could call the blondie the brownie's cousin. The brownie derives its character from a deep rich cocoa base for the chocolate flavor, a blondie's flavor is butterscotch-like, based on a high quantity of butter and brown sugar in the recipe. 

Know Your Cookie:
A blondie is considered a sheet cookie as it's soft batter spreads across sheet like pan to bake. Other types of sheet cookies would include brownies and rainbow cookies. After sheet cookies are baked they are cooled and can be cut into squares, rectangles or any other shapes. 

George's Blondie
Recipe by Chef George Hirsch | Makes 12-18 Blondies 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) sweet butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 cups semisweet chopped chocolate pieces; or chocolate, or butterscotch chips

Optional: 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Grease and flour an 8 x 12 x 2 inch baking pan.

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In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt well. Set aside.

Cream butter in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, cream on high speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. 

On a low speed add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, stopping machine to scrape down the bowl well after each addition. On a low speed add flour  to the butter mixture and mix just until flour is absorbed. Do not over mix. 

By hand, fold the pecans and chocolate in with a rubber spatula.

Optional: if using coconut; mix 3/4 of coconut with pecans and chocolate. 

Using a spatula, spread the batter into baking pan making sure the batter is spread evenly and smooth. If using coconut sprinkle extra on top of the batter. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes. caution to not over bake. Blondies are baked when cookie springs back when pressed lightly with your finger or a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 2 hours and cut the blondies into rectangle or square pieces.

Creamy Five Onion Soup

This easy to prepare hearty soup for a cool night makes for a wonderful dinner or rustic appetizer. 

CREAMY FIVE ONION SOUP | Makes 6-8 servings

chefgeorgehirsch.com | From George Hirsch Living it UP! TV series 

2 Tablespoons olive oil 
2 each sweet onions*, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, chopped 
6 each Chipolini onions, chopped 
1 each red onion, chopped 
1 green onion, chopped 
1 Tablespoon flour 
1/2 cup tomato sauce 
2 teaspoons dried thyme 
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup potatoes, peeled and chopped 
2 cups chicken broth 
2 cups beef broth 

Optional: 

1/2 cup half and half
French bread croutons
Parmesan, Emmental, or Gruyere cheese 

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Pre heat a large soup or saucepot to a medium heat. Add olive, sweet onions, garlic, chipolini onions, red onion and green onion. Cook for 10 minutes without stirring until you begin to see the onions in the bottom of the pot begin to brown, Stir, and allow the onions to continue to further brown. Stir and allow onions to cook for an additional five minutes. Total cooking time of onions will be about 20 minutes or more. 

Season with thyme, bay leaves, pepper, add tomato sauce, flour and stir. Add white wine and cook for 5 minutes or until dry. Add chicken broth, beef broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer, cover and cook about 30 minutes. 

Remove bay leaves then, puree one half of soup in blender or food processor.

Return pureed soup back to soup pot. Bring soup back to a boil; reduce temperature down to a simmer. Add optional half and half. Serve with a toasted French bread crouton, top and melt cheddar, grated Parmesan cheese, and jack or Gruyere cheese. 

*Note on onions: Soup may be made with any type sweet onions and garlic only. Or, you may use addition of any onion family such as leeks, chives, etc. 

10,000 Year Old Soup

No, I'm not serving you yesterday's broth, just talking about tortillas. Masa is made from maize. The making of tortillas dates back approximately 10,000 BC, according to Mayan legend. Tortillas are really not much different today. I think a tortilla soup is ideal to serve up on occassions from a gameday party to even a church supper. The ingredients are universally available along with it's wide appeal. I've prepared this recipe around the globe with several variations including fish, shellfish, beef or pork.

Taking the time to pre-grill the chicken, sausage and vegetables in this recipe makes a great flavor enhancer to this soup. After-all, when tailgating, the entire soup would be prepared on a grill. I've also included instructions for this recipe to be fully cooked indoors, in case the snow happens to bury your grill, or just dig that grill out!

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Corn Tortilla Soup

Makes 4 servings | Adapted from Know Your Fire cookbook

Recipe by Chef George Hirsch

1 pound boneless chicken thighs*

2 chorizos or spicy sausages*

Olive oil

2 ears of corn or 1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 sweet onion, *thickly sliced

2 red bell pepper, *halved and seeded

2 jalapeño peppers, *split and seeded

3-4 plum tomatoes, *halved

1 head caramelized garlic, pureed

3 scallions, chopped

1 Tablespoon cumin

1 cup tomato sauce

6 cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon hot sauce

3 (8-inch) corn or flour tortillas

fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded

* Chop into small pieces if not pre-grilling the chicken, chorizos and vegetables.

Pre heat the grill to medium high.

Brush chicken thighs with olive oil. Grill chicken and chorizos 7-8 minutes on each side. Remove, cool and cut into half inch pieces.

If using fresh corn, grill the corn. And, if grilling vegetables - brush with olive oil and grill 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove, cool and chop into small pieces. Or, if not grilling vegetables chop into small pieces for the next step.

Pre heat a large soup pot to medium temperature. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, all the vegetables, chicken, chorizo, tomatoes, cumin, and tomato sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. 

Add chicken broth, bay leaves, and hot sauce. bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, on a low temperature grill place the tortillas on grill and toast lightly on both sides. Cut the tortillas into strips 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide. Tortillas may also be cut into strips and lightly toasted in a hot oven- if not toasting on a grill. Add 3/4 of the tortilla strips to the soup during the last 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and season with pepper and cilantro. 

Serve hot soup topped with cheese and remaining tortilla strips.