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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Angels Unawares, Serial #22 and Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

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In this week’s reading segment, Angels Unawares, Serial #22, Laura agrees to make blueberry muffins for Devon and Josh but then realizes she doesn’t have the recipe. And even if she can recall the recipe, she might not be able to find the ingredients in Josh’s unfamiliar kitchen. These uncertainties, combined with the emotional stress she’s under, result in a mini-meltdown right there in the kitchen (we’ve all been there, haven’t we?).

Too bad she didn’t have Internet service with access to Reading and Recipes. We would’ve provided her with the recipe right here. Instead, she had to get help from a long-lost spiritual companion named Amy, one of the several spiritual entities that populate this book and guide their human charges to a safer shore.

Picking up on this muffin theme, this week’s recipe is Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. These might not be quite as universal as the tried and true blueberry muffins Laura plans to make, but they come in a close second. The nice thing about Poppy Seed Muffins is that they are so versatile–good for breakfast, to be sure, but also great on a brunch buffet, for a picnic lunch, or even as an accompaniment to many dinner entrees. Not too sweet or gooey, they transport well (try them in a bag lunch) and keep for several days. Oh, and did I forget to mention the lemon flavor? That little tartness is just the right complement to the richness of the muffin and the earthiness of the poppy seeds. And it smells so good while baking. So give them a try.

And if you’re really ambitious, follow Laura’s lead and mix up the blueberry muffins as well. Then you’ll have two kinds of muffins and your stomach, and anyone else in the house, will be doubly happy.

lemon muffin

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

1/4 cup buttermilk

optional: zest from one lemon

lemon poppy seed muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a regular size muffin pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

Add the butter and granulated sugar to a large mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, cream ingredients on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix into the batter. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and mix in. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure all ingredients are mixed together.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Add some of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just until incorporated, careful not to over mix.

Divide the batter between 4 muffin cups in the prepared pan, filling each about 3/4 full. If you have enough batter left over, fill one more muffin cup. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let the muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan and putting on a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 4-5 muffins.

lemon poppy seed muffin

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #22 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #22, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #22, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #21 and Sugar and Spice Shortbread Sticks

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At R&R we’re all for trying out new things, especially if they lean toward the tastier, healthier, or easier end of the spectrum. On the tastier end of the scale, we added butterscotch to the traditional bread pudding and came up with Scotchy Bread Pudding. On the healthier end, just last week we swapped yogurt for ice cream and fresh fruit for pre-made toppings and got a fresh take on the traditional sundae with our Very Berry Chocolate Parfait. And on the easy end of the spectrum, my favorite (I make it almost weekly) is the deceptively delicious and decadent but so easy and quick Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse.

But underneath all these new experiments and trendy samplings, we’re traditionalists at heart. And in that mindset, earlier this week I started craving shortbread cookies. I mean, is there an older cookie recipe on the entire planet? I believe they’ve found fossilized shortbread cookies in some of the Neolithic caves of Europe, right alongside gnawed mastodon bones. Not really, but you catch my drift. In the cookie dictionary, there’s a picture of the Scottish shortbread cookie for the definition of the word “traditional.”

So our expert researchers searched high and low and found a traditional shortbread cookie recipe. But we couldn’t leave it at that. You can, if you like–just stop at the “bake and cool cookie” part of the recipe and have yourself a traditional treat, along with a big glass of milk. But that’s the problem, you need a big glass of milk with a plain shortbread cookie because they are just a little dry (who in the back of the room said “like that fossilized one from the cave”?). So how ’bout we modernize this traditional recipe and make it just a little moister by adding a cinnamon glaze. And voila: Sugar and Spice Shortbread Sticks!

Because at R&R, we’re traditionalists at heart but just love to try out new variations. Hope you do too!

  sugar and spice shortbread

Sugar and Spice Shortbread Sticks

3 Tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon*

shortbread cookies

Add the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and egg yolk to a mixing bowl. Beat ingredients together until the dough becomes light and fluffy. Add the flour, salt, and cinnamon and mix into the dough until well combined, careful not to over mix. With your hands, shape the dough into a flattened disk, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the flattened disk from the refrigerator. To roll the dough out, I simply kept the disc in the plastic wrap and used a rolling pin. This kept things simple and clean! You can also remove the cookie dough from the plastic wrap and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. With a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into twelve sticks. Place the cookie dough sticks on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and place immediately on cooling wrack. While the cookies are cooling, you can make a Sugar and Spice Glaze by combing 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons of milk. Once the cookies are completely cooled, drizzle the glaze on top of the cookies. Allow the glaze to set before storing the cookies in an airtight container.

Makes 1 dozen sticks.

*You can use pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice as well.

shortbread sticks

{Adapted from Betty Crocker}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #21 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #21, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #21, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #20 and Very Berry Chocolate Parfait

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Every once in a while a diversity of pleasures comes together in the perfect combination, and you feel like for just that moment you can have it all–like sitting out on the patio with a light breeze blowing and the irises and lilacs blooming and filling the air with a sweet fragrance and the sun setting in a rainbow of pastels and the evening songbirds calling back and forth. Ah, yes, you can have it all. Or lying out on the beach, the morning sun warm but not too hot on your skin, the sand cool around your toes, the sound of the waves lapping, the gulls calling, the smell of salt on the breeze. Sometimes you can have it all.

This Very Berry Chocolate Parfait aspires to such lofty heights. It’s easy and quick to make, giving immediate (or nearly so) gratification. It’s healthy, with the vitamins and nutrition of fresh fruit and yogurt. It’s got the indulgence of chocolate (got to have that in any dream dessert). It has a variety of textures and flavors, but is also cool and creamy. And to top it all off (the rest isn’t enough?) it’s very pretty and multi-colored in the glass–just before it disappears into your mouth.

Maybe this Very Berry Chocolate Parfait isn’t quite the same as a perfect morning on the beach, but at least you don’t have to slather on sunscreen or worry about the kid upwind throwing sand in the air that ends up in your face. These perfect moments are difficult to find and more difficult to preserve. Go for the sure thing: Very Berry Chocolate Parfait!


Very Berry Chocolate Parfait

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

4 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 cup Cool Whip, thawed

1 cup mixed berries 

1/3 cup chocolate wafer crumbs

fruit parfait

In a small bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, cocoa powder, and sugar until well blended. Fold in the Cool Whip.

To assemble the parfaits, spoon some of the chocolate wafer crumbs into the bottom of two glasses. Top with the chocolate yogurt mixture, and then with some of the fruit. Repeat these layers. Top the last layer of fruit with a dollop of Cool Whip. Eat immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Makes 2 parfaits.

bite of parfait

Click below to listen to or read Serial #20 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #20, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #20, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #19 and Peanut Butter Cupcakes with PB&J Frosting

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You remember going to grade school, right? It wasn’t that long ago! (And if you think it was a long time ago, just think about horseshoe crabs–they were here 500 million years ago, and they’re still kicking, or swimming around!)

O.K. Glad we got that settled. Grade school is in (relatively) recent memory. And what did we all take to grade school? A PB&J sandwich! And what did we always look forward to? Summer vacation! 

You with me so far? (Come on! You graduated grade school. You ought to be able to keep up with the simple logic of the creators of R&R!)

So in honor of all those little munchkins dreaming of summer vacation, and in memory of the little dreaming munchkins we once were, Reading and Recipes is pleased to post this whimsical Peanut Butter Cupcake with PB&J Frosting recipe.

If you have a grade schooler or two nearby, watch their eyes light up when you set this cupcake in front of them. And if the nearest grade schooler is two counties away and preoccupied with baseball practice, piano lessons, cub scouts, brownies, recycling drives and a lemonade stand, well then I guess you’ll just have to summon your inner grade schooler and revel in this treat while you dream of lazy summer vacations at the beach or the Y camp. Those were the days, and not so long ago . . . .

peanut butter cupcake with pbj frosting

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons milk or buttermilk

peanut butter board

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put two cupcake liners in a muffin pan and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar until well mixed. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat into the peanut butter mixture. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk to the cupcake mixture and stir until everything is well combined, careful not to over mix. The batter will be thick.

Divide the cupcake batter between the two cupcake liners. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool completely before frosting.

peanut butter frosting

PB&J Frosting

1 Tablespoon creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons milk

2 teaspoons of your favorite jelly

Add the peanut butter and powdered sugar to a mixing bowl. Slowly stir the ingredients together. Add the vanilla and one teaspoon of milk and beat until frosting comes to spreading consistency. If it is still too thick, add one more teaspoon of milk. If the frosting is too thin, add a few more tablespoons of powdered sugar. Beat ingredients together until you get desired consistency. Frost the cooled cupcakes. When you are ready to serve, make a small divot in the center of the frosting and spoon in the jelly.

peanut butter cupcake

{Cupcakes adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #19 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #19, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #19, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Angels Unawares, Serial #18 and Key Lime Pie Squares

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Hey, we just got into spring! What y’all doing jumping ahead to summer?

So maybe you’re thinking something along those lines, seeing that this week’s recipe is Key Lime Pie Squares. And we at R&R have to admit that Key Lime Pie, in the round shape or this easier to make, easier to serve square form, is just about the ultimate dessert for a hot and sultry summer evening–so tart and light yet wonderfully rich and satisfying (after you go back for a second piece, or square).

But let’s pause, take a couple deep cleansing breaths, and take a more holistic look at this situation.

First of all, in the Florida Keys–the “key” of key limes and where some of these extra tart, extra flavorful small limes come from (though they’re grown in warm climates all over the world and originate from Asia)–it’s summer all year round. So right there we’ve taken away the seasonal limitations.

Then let’s think about the reach of the Internet. This blog is visited by viewers from everywhere, including in the Southern Hemisphere where they’re entering the fall (Hi, Kiwis! Hola, South America! Good-day, Aussies!). So those folks aren’t too worried about seasonal suitability. They just want a good recipe–and this is one!

But if you do happen to reside in the temperate latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and you are hung up on seasonal appropriateness, then just bookmark this page and come on back in July or August. We’ll still be here and this yummy recipe will be waiting for you. (And far be it from me to suggest you loosen up just a tad. Oh, what the heck–loosen up just a tad! Gee, that felt good!)

key lime bars

Key Lime Pie Squares

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup sour cream*

1/3 cup key lime juice

1 teaspoon lime zest, optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, granulated sugar, and melted butter. Press this mixture into the bottom and partially up the sides of a 5×7 inch baking pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes while you make the filling.

While the crust is baking, combine the sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, key lime juice, and zest, if using, in a mixing bowl. Stir until all of the ingredients are well blended.

Pour the key lime filling into the baked crust. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake for another 18-20 minutes, or until the filling is set and the edges are just starting to brown. Remove the pan from the oven and let come to room temperature before chilling the dessert in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, cut into squares and serve with a lime slice and/or whipped cream. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Makes 6 squares.

*Plain Greek yogurt may be substituted.


{Adapted from AllRecipes}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #18 of “Angels Unawares”.

Angels Unawares, Serial #18, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Angels Unawares, Serial #18, text © Jeffrey Anderson