Category Archives: Bountiful Breads

Cornmeal drop biscuits

Another glorious Minnesota weekend is almost upon us. It’s been one of those amazing warm in the sun, but ooh a hint of chill in the shade days that I love so much. The weather is about as perfect as it gets up here. Everyone else must think so too, cause we’re about to have visitors galore in the coming weeks. And. I. Can’t. Wait.

I mean not only do I get to share my love for this place with visitors, but I get to put off some of those pesky outdoor chores. (Oh stinging nettles, you’ve earned a brief reprieve, but don’t ease on your vigilance, I’ma comin’ for you.) And I have to admit, it’s nice to have a chance to avoid thinking about that garden. With the super late spring we had up here, I had to resign myself to the fact that tomatoes, peppers, and corn just weren’t happening. But I still have oodles of squash and cucumber to console myself with.

I’m also a little obsessed with landscaping right now (oh how the fickle mind will wander). When visiting the cities last weekend, my dad gave me four shrubs that had been living in pots but were yearning for the ground. And yeah, I found the perfect spot, and yeah, they look amazing. That and the irises and lilies are all a-bloom. Perennials and shrubbery, we’re about to become BFF.

And really, who wouldn’t want to put off pesky outdoor chores when it means you get to wander around and see stuff like this?

WednesdayWildlife from thePenandthePan-5

This little lady came for a visit this week to lay her eggs. And thank you Internet, I’ve learned that painted turtle eggs take the whole of the summer to hatch and then the wee things go right into hibernation. But Himself, consummate animal lover, marked off where she laid the eggs, so that we a) won’t disturb them all summer and b) get to spy the wee things out next spring. See, I think I found my own little corner of paradise here.

Ooof, but I do worry that you get tired of me nattering on about how much I love this place, so let’s move on to the recipe. Looking for a quick biscuit to round out your meal? Once again, I’ve come to your rescue! Ok, ok, maybe not rescue, but I do have a right awesome biscuit for you to try. These are just light enough to melt in your mouth, but still have a wee bit of toothiness from the cornmeal. I know you’re looking at the recipe now and thinking, “Really? Sugar? In a biscuit?” In a word, yes. You don’t end up with a sweet biscuit at all, but it does let that delicious cornmeal sing it’s own praises. As you’ll be singing mine, right?


Cornmeal drop biscuits from thePenandthePan

Cornmeal drop biscuits

Adapted from the Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

1 ½ cups flour
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) very cold butter, cut into small pieces
scant ¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 425°. Grease or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add butter and using a pastry blender, fork, or your hands, mix together until you have something resembling coarse sand. Add milk and mix just until blended. Do not overmix.

Drop biscuit mixture by spoonful onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 425° for 15 – 18 minutes or until just browned on top.


Sourdough starter from Eighty Twenty

Living in a gorgeous area that tourists are beginning to flock to makes it awfully hard to work every day. Terrible problems, I know. But c’mon, when I’m on my way to work and I see the streets filled with campers and boats on trailers I can’t help but feel a surge of jealousy. I do, however, manage to get outside most every chance I can (when not being dive-bombed by mosquitoes seemingly impervious to bug spray, that is). I’ve always dug birds, but the avian wildlife up here is stunning. And they give a task-oriented girl a task to do while sitting still. Ostensibly taking bird photos, in reality I’m relaxing! See…


Now that you’ve admired my new hobby. I have a secret to admit. I am an ungrateful friend. A terrible human being, if you will. You see, remember when I went on and on about the awesome friends we have and the great gifts they filled our arms with during our last whirlwind trip to the city? One of those fantastic gifts was sourdough starter. A sourdough starter that I managed to kill on the way home. (Sorry Dan, it turns out starter gets a little carsick). See, I am the worst.

Then, my first attempts to make my own starter really failed to get off the ground (hee). I tried quite a few recipes before I finally found the winner! It’s easy-peasy. See, I’m trying to make it up by testing all the starter recipes. Am I starting to redeem myself yet?

So now, if you don’t have a generous friend willing to share their sourdough starter you can make your own. And not to worry, I have a few methods for using the starter to share with you in the coming days.


Sourdough Starter from thePenandthePan-1

Sourdough starter

from Eighty Twenty

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) dry active yeast
2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large glass bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and flour. Place a clean towel over bowl and place in warm dry place.

Every 24 hours, discard 1/2 of the mixture and stir in 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water. Re-cover and return to a warm dry place. If a liquid layer forms on top of mixture, stir it in prior to each feeding.
After 4-7 days of feedings, mixture will begin to bubble and develop a sour smell as the starter ferments. This means that your starter is done fermenting! At this time, the starter is ready to use! Place mixture in a glass jar and place in refrigerator.

After each use, replace the amount of mixture that was removed with equal parts flour and water (if you use 1 cup replace with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water– this will increase the size of your starter). If not used, feed mixture weekly in the same way you did feedings, by discarding 1/2 of mixture and replacing it with equal parts flour and water.

Green chili cornbread

It finally feels like summer. And this gal has been soaking up every instant of her crazy long, 4-day weekend. I can tell you, not one moment of this weekend wasn’t put to good use, including those frequent moments where it may have looked like I was lounging in the sun. Oh, no I was not lounging. No, mam, it is a well proven fact that this gal doesn’t even know how to lounge. Instead, I was awaiting photo opportunities. And look at my rewards!


Ok, I may have found a moment in there for relaxing. Just a moment, mind you, I mean there was gardening and outdoor work to be had (things ever so near and dear to my heart). And the weather, well, it just doesn’t get more perfect. It’s weekends like these that convince me anew that we live in the best place on earth. 80’s during the day, chilly enough for blankets at night. Welcome to the rest of the summer.

So there two food things that make my frozen heart so happy during these warm months. Smoked meats and green chilies. Weird, right? Don’t judge. Every summer, Himself shows off his prowess with the smoker, and I plant too many banana pepper plants and buy way too much sweet corn. Every single summer, and yet, we never get sick of it. As if to reinforce that statement, the wind chose that very moment to shift directions, bringing me the amazing, tantalizing scents of pork tenderloin adrift on cherrywood smoke woven in with fresh mowed grass.

Where do the green chilies come in, you ask. Well, after planting far too many, I find myself roasting them (and roasting and roasting) at the end of the summer. You’d think I’d learn, but nope, not only did I plant a ridiculous amount of banana peppers, I also found a black Hungarian version, and planted those. And after a lot of setbacks, weather- and self-induced, those plants are finally in the ground.

Oh, but wait, we still want those flavors at the beginning of summer too. Enter this cornbread. Adapted from my mom’s recipe, it’s a real cake-like corn bread with bites of corn and chilies studded throughout. And it’s the perfect, perfect accompaniment to any BBQ meal, or if you’re lucky (and obsessed) like me, the best accompaniment to a meal of smoke meats. Smoked meats, c’mon it’s just so fun to say, let alone eat. But we’re talking cornbread here. This, like yours truly, is of northern stock, meaning a hint of sweet and a lot of “bread” to match that cornmeal. Doesn’t matter if you’re a northern or southern cornbread lover though, you’re going to love the addition of fresh corn and green chilies!


Green chili cornbread from thePenandthePan-1

Green chili cornbread

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
½ tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
¼ butter, softened
1 cup milk
Kernels from one ear of corn, about 1 scant cup
½ of a 4-oz can of green chilies, about 2 scant tablespoons

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together butter and egg. Add milk and mix well.

Add wet ingredients to flour and cornmeal mixture. Mix well. Add corn and chilies and continue mixing until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cranberry banana bread

Someone may have gotten a tad too much sun today. Someone may be paying the price for an afternoon of awesomeness. Someone also promises to remember that even when cloudy, sunscreen is still required when working in the greenhouse.

This three day weekend was everything it promised to be, and makes those long work days so very worth it. Himself had to work on Saturday, so that and Friday were filled with exactly what I wanted them to be – messing around the house and yard. And then today (the first 70 degree day in AGES), we packed up a picnic and headed north to Scenic State Park, for a very scenic drive and picnic. There are few better ways to spend a Sunday, I tell you. Winding back roads, clear skies, a hint of a chill accompanying the breeze. Through the most roundabout way possible, we arrived at Scenic and found ourselves practically the only ones around. In fact, throughout the meal, we had the beach entirely to ourselves and the gorgeous view of the lake was pristine and undisturbed by boat or man.

Course, I’m not really great at this whole relaxation schtick, but days like these certainly make finding time to relax worth it. (Oh don’t worry, I filled the post-picnic time with plenty of greenhouse chores, hence the aforementioned sun blush). Of late though, I’ve found a rad way to relax, while still having something to show for it – nature (birds really) photography. Sitting still, the only sounds the birds singing their hellos to the sun and wind dancing and skipping through the tree branches. And then suddenly, one of those birds darts just close enough to see what the funny lady lounging in *his* backyard is doing.


Oh, hello there, Mr. Birdy. I see you eyeing me, and posing every so coyly as you glance back over your shoulder. So you want to be model, do you? Well, let me just see what I can do. This is definitely becoming my new favorite, second only to a wonderful picnic with my wonderful husband (I know, I know, but he *does* put up with a lot of crazy).

This here banana bread (more like a cake, really) would have been the perfect finisher to our picnic today had I remembered to pack it. Instead, I’ll remember to pack it in our lunches. Don’t let this be the recipe that you forget to make either. Even I, who doesn’t really love banana bread, was ready to devour it. I love the way the cranberries add a little zing, I mean I do love cranberries in everything, but they really dial back the bananas. And the lightness of the bread, so far removed from the dense, moist banana breads I used to make, changes the flavor completely. No mushiness, just deliciousness, you’re going to love it!


Cranberry banana bread

Cranberry banana bread

lightly adapted from perfect baking

1 ½ cups plus 1 teaspoon flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup dried cranberries
2 ripe bananas
4 tablespoons yogurt, plain or honey
½ cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease one large or three small loaf pans.

Roughly chop cranberries. In a small bowl, mix cranberries with 1 teaspoon flour, and stir to coat. Set cranberries aside.

In another small bowl, mash together bananas and yogurt. Set this aside too.

Sift together the remaining 1 ½ cups flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Set that aside too.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Add in banana and yogurt mixture.

By hand mix in dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix. Add in flour-coated cranberries. Spoon batter into pans. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes for one large loaf or 35 minutes for three small, or until just golden on top.

Cranberry almond muffins

You guys! My mind has been blown with this muffins. Oh sure, they taste amazing, but the real thing is that you can freeze the batter. With just Himself and I in the house, muffins never really get eaten before they start to get a little less than awesome. This technique totally changes that. Not to mention just made getting out the door in the morning, never an easy task, just that much smoother!

Do I seem a little too excited just over muffins? Ok, you caught me! As I sit typing this, drinking the strongest coffee (maybe contributing a little to the excitement) Himself is (finally) getting up, and we’re going on a field trip today! This weekend has been all things spring, and today is no different. Friday, we picked up our baby chicks – three black australorps and two ameraucanas. That night, I made a very important “scientific” discovery. It is impossible to be in a bad mood with baby chicks on your lap. The evidence is below, as long as you ignore the wonky lighting that I attempted to disguise with Instagram. We have a heat lamp on them, and the red light throws everything off.

Chick collage_medium


I also got my email notice from the Smart Gardener website that it is high time to start some of my seeds indoors. Wheeeee! We’ve got the mini greenhouse set up inside and the outside one all ready to go. In fact, this little flower got a little sunburnt yesterday lounging inside the greenhouse.

And for today’s spring extravaganza, we’re going on that field trip I mentioned. There’s a great farm just east of Hibbing called Mr. Ed’s Farm. Today they’re having an open house so you can visit the baby lambs (squeeeee!!), but also we’re going to pick their brain about year round greenhouses. Himself has plans all laid out for ours, but it never hurts to gain some expertise. Mr. Ed’s farm has a great subterranean greenhouse, that I am terribly covetous of.

So, as we get ready to run out the door, you should get ready to pop the aforementioned muffins in the oven. You’ve got enough for tempting Sunday brekkie and grab-and-go for the rest of the week. Plus the cranberries bursting in the batter will transform that delish sweetness into something you believe could just possibly be slightly good for you.


Cranberry almond muffins

Cranberry almond muffins

Adapted from the Joy of Cooking

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 -1 ¼ cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk together dry ingredients. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together eggs and sour cream. Add butter, sugar, and almond extract. Mix in dry ingredients, followed by cranberries. Batter will be thick, but be careful not to overmix.

Spoon into paper lined muffin tins, filling tins about ¾ full. Bake at 400° for 13-15 minutes or until tops are just golden.

Let cool slightly and serve immediately. Muffins are best the day of cooking.

To freeze muffins, fill paper lined muffin tins as directed. Cover muffin pan with plastic wrap and freeze tin. Once muffin batter is thoroughly frozen, remove paper cups from tins and place in a freezer bag. When ready to bake, return frozen batter filled paper cup to tin and increase the bake time by about 5 minutes.

Olive & rosemary focaccia

I’m sitting here this morning, enjoying some of this delicious focaccia bread with my coffee. Looking out over the back, it’s hard to believe all the activity that’s stirring out there. The raucous crows have found something in the woods to be pretty excited about. There’s a pair of bald eagles that have been circling over the house for the past couple days. And man, have those chickadees gotten loud this week!

Today is one of those days where I look around with this sense of well-being, again sure that I live in the best place on earth, and that Himself and I made the absolute right decision to pack in city life.

It’ll be an interesting contrast today, since the moment Himself gets off work, we’re headed for a whirlwind trip to the cities. I plan on stuffing my face with sushi and Greek food. Plus a quick trip to my favorite co-op to stock up on my smoked salt obsession. Besides family and friends, ethnic food is the one thing I desperately miss. So, looks like I’ll just have to get better at making it.

In the meantime, you should totally be making this focaccia bread. It’s dense and olive-y, and downright delicious. If you happen to have some of that aforementioned smoked salt, it’s going to blast this already delish bread to the next level. Use whatever olives you adore. Kalamata? Heck yeah. Plain old black olives? Oh, they’ll shine. What if I added a handful of capers? Oh, amazing! As for the rosemary, I crushed mine with my mortar and pestle, but you could roughly chop it and still die happy.


Olive & rosemary focaccia

Olive & rosemary focaccia

Lightly adapted from the Perfect Baking cookbook

4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 ½ cups water (100º-110º)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for oiling bowl and pans
1 cup olives, roughly chopped
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
2 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed or roughly chopped

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, sift together flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix on low until combined. Adjust mixer to a medium low setting, and knead until smooth (5-10 minutes). Place dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size.

Oil two cookie sheets with olive oil. Punch down dough and knead on a lightly floured surface for one minute. Add olives and knead until combined. Dough will be slightly sticky. Divide dough in half and stretch on cookie sheets until you have an oval approximately 9×11 inches. Cover dough with oiled plastic wrap and let rise one hour.

Preheat oven to 400º. Remove plastic wrap, and using the end of a wooden spoon, dimple the dough. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with drizzled with olive oil.

Ginger orange quick bread

You guys, I am convinced that I have the coolest job in all the lands. Yesterday, I was traveling around taking pictures and story notes of kids having a live televised interview with an astronaut. You know, no big (hah!). I mean how cool that these kids were learning about space from people who’ve actually been there, all without leaving the awesomeness of the north woods! Really, I adore my job. And now, I’ll be supplementing it doing the same thing for the city. Life is pretty good these days.

Almost as good as this bread I made you. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was going on and on (and on and on) about how much I adored citrus? Well that turned pretty quickly. I’m still loving citrus flavors, but that most recent bag of oranges I was so excited about? Oh yeah, they’ve just been languishing away in my fridge.

Now normally my quick breads are made with a good amount of milk, but it’s been grey, grey, grey up here, and apparently that’s affected my mood. Feeling good and lazy, I was sure that my energy was better spent pouring over quick bread recipes on the interwebs than getting off my butt and going to the store. Enter this awesome recipe from Simply Recipes. A few tweaks to the flavors I wanted to highlight and yum, a quick bread is born. And just who am I trying to fool here? This isn’t so much a bread as it is a cake you don’t feel guilty about eating for breakkie.

Ginger orange quick bread


Ginger orange quick bread

Lightly adapted from Simply Recipe’s Cranberry Nut Bread

2 cups flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ cup raisins, coarsely chopped (optional)
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
½ tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped or grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, including sugar. Add raisins and stir to coat.

In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Batter will be slightly stiff, but do not over mix.

Spoon batter into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out cleanly.

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