Fresh from the kitchen


Homemade holiday gifts don’t have to be ho-hum

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Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Fry the bacon until browned and crisp, and drain on paper towels. Brush an 8-inch loaf pan with bacon drippings. Set aside 1/2 cup of bacon drippings to cool (add cooking oil if you have less than 1/2 cup).

Slice the kernels off the corn cob. You should have about 1 cup.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne in a large bowl to blend.

In another bowl, whisk the milk, the eggs and 1/2 cup bacon drippings. Stir in the bacon, 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, the corn and chives.

Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Make 1 loaf, 12 slices.

Source: Adapted by the Modesto Bee from “Relaxed Cooking With Curtis Stone” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50).

Per slice: 338 calories (49percent from fat), 18.3 g fat (8.9g saturated, 7.2 g monounsaturated), 102 mg cholesterol, 18.8 g protein, 23.5 g carbohydrates, 0.9 g fiber, 981 mg sodium.


Flaxseed Pancake Mix

For the mix

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup flax meal

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon table salt

For the pancakes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil

1 cup milk

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups flaxseed pancake mix

For the mix: In a medium bowl, whisk all the ingredients to blend. Transfer to a 1-quart glass bottle or canning jar and screw on the lid. Attach the recipe.

For the pancakes: Melt butter, in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is light brown in color and has a nutty aroma.

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and egg. Add the pancake mix, then mix with a spoon, stirring just until the ingredients are combined. Stir in the browned butter or oil.

To make pancakes, heat a large nonstick skillet brushed with oil or coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and ladle in 1/8 to 1/4 cup portions of batter. Let the pancakes cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until small bubbles appear on the surface. Flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden on the second side. Makes 6 large pancakes.

Source: Sara Moulton for the Associated Press

Per pancake: 200 calories, 80 calories from fat (40 percent of total calories), 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated, 0 trans fats), 45 mg cholesterol, 23 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 7 g protein, 310 mg sodium.

Quick Bread

Polenta Loaf With Rosemary, Parmesan and Olive Oil

Cornmeal can be used in place of the polenta. It will result in a more cake-like texture.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup uncooked polenta

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8- to 9-inch loaf pan.

Whisk flour, polenta, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, breaking up any clumps, until coated with flour.

In a separate bowl, whisk sour cream, milk, sugar, oil and eggs until smooth. Gently fold sour cream mixture into flour mixture until just combined; do not overmix.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

Bake until golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool before inverting. Makes 1 loaf, 12 slices

Source: Adapted by the Modesto Bee from “The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook” (America’s Test Kitchen, $34.95).

Per slice: 280 calories (40 percent from fat), 12.5 g fat (3.9 g saturated, 6.5 g monounsaturated), 44 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 0.7 g fiber, 362 mg sodium.

Quick Bread

Early Grey Tea Loaf

6 Earl Grey tea bags, divided

14 ounces dried fruit, such as raisins, golden raisins, cherries and/or cranberries

1 orange

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 whole nutmeg, for grating

1 lemon

Put 4 tea bags in a measuring cup and add 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Let steep for a few minutes, then remove tea bags. Put the dried fruit into a large mixing bowl, grate over it the zest of the orange and pour over the hot tea. Cover and leave overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch (4-cup) loaf pan with parchment paper.

Add the beaten egg to the bowl of fruit along with 1cup sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice and a few good gratings of nutmeg, and squeeze in the juice of the orange. Mix until a dough-like consistency (it might seem a bit dry).

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Meanwhile, put the 2 remaining tea bags into a pan with 3/4 cup water and the zest and juice of the lemon. Gently bring to a boil, removing the tea bags after a few minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and bring to a boil without stirring. Keep it on medium heat so that you have a steady boil for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced by half and you have a golden syrup. Pour this into a measuring cup.

As soon as the loaf comes out of the oven, poke little holes in the top and pour the syrup over the loaf. Once the syrup has absorbed, turn loaf onto wire rack and cool. Makes 1 loaf, 12 slices.

Source: Adapted by the Modesto Bee from “Jaime Oliver’s Great Britain: 130 of My Favorite British Recipes, From Comfort Food to New Classics” (Hyperion, $35).

Per slice: 315 calories (3 percent from fat), 1 g fat (0.2g saturated, 0.2 g monounsaturated), 15.5 mg cholesterol, 5 g protein, 75 g carbohydrates, 3.4 g fiber, 54 mg sodium.

Popcorn salts

Each batch makes enough for 4 to 6 gifts, depending on jar size. Place all the ingredients in a clean, dry blender or food processor and grind to the texture of powdered sugar.

• 1 pound kosher salt, six 3-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons cayenne.

• 1 pound kosher salt, 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice blend.

• 1 pound kosher salt, 4 teaspoons garlic powder, 4 teaspoons smoked paprika.

• 1 pound kosher salt, 2 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan pepper.

Source: J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press

Savory salts

Each batch makes 1 to 2 gifts, depending on jar size. Combine all ingredients in a clean, dry bowl and stir well.

• 1/2 cup flaked salt, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons dried basil, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.

• 1/2 cup flaked salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seed, 2 teaspoons cumin seed, 2 teaspoons mustard powder.

• 1/2 cup flakes salt, 2 teaspoons curry powder.

Source: J.M. Hirsch, Associated Press

Quick Bread

Corn and Bacon Loaf

12 ounces hardwood-smoked bacon, coarsely chopped

1 ear sweet corn, husked

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/4 cups milk

3 large eggs

2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives

Miami Herald Staff and Wire Reports

They say it’s the thought that counts, but when it comes to holiday food gifts, taste matters, too. Maybe this is the year to retire that old familiar cookie or quick-bread recipe and cook up something fresh for the folks on your gift list. We’ve assembled a collection of recipes that prove homemade doesn’t have to mean ho-hum.

Flavored salts

Associated Press food editor J.M. Hirsch set out to create an edible gift that was fast, easy, inexpensive and kid-friendly to make. His solution: flavored finishing salts. He developed two versions, a powdered one for use on popcorn and a flaked one for sprinkling on finished foods.

Movie theater popcorn tends to be perfectly salted, Hirsch notes, because vendors use powdered salt that adheres well. His version starts with inexpensive kosher salt that’s run through a food processor or blender until it’s the texture of powdered sugar. His flake salts begin with pricier flaked sea salt.

Pancake mix

Chef and public television host Sara Moulton gives the holiday gift mix a flavor and nutrition upgrade with her Flaxseed Pancake Mix. Made with a blend of whole-wheat and all-purpose flours and flax meal, it has a hearty, nutty taste and 4 grams of fiber per serving.

Moulton recommends packaging it in a canning jar, attaching a label and recipe with a ribbon and, for those extra-special recipients, adding a small package of dried fruit or a bottle of real maple syrup.

Quick breads

The recipes here take the classic quick-bread formula — flour, leavening, liquid —and amps it up with unexpected flavors:

• Corn and Bacon Loaf jazzes up the title ingredients with sharp Cheddar, chives and a hit of cayenne.

• Earl Grey Tea Loaf steeps dried fruit in the tea of the same name, and turns another batch of sweetened tea into a drizzling syrup.

• Polenta Loaf With Rosemary, Parmesan and Olive Oil combines favorite Italian flavors.

Read more Food stories from the Miami Herald

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