Don't you love a recipe with a pedigree? I do. This Swedish soda bread recipe came to me from my friend Bev, who first tasted a version of it at an opening reception at the Providence Art Club. Bev asked Joan, the artist, for the recipe; Joan had made it as Irish soda bread, with caraway seeds instead of cardamom, and shortening instead of butter. When I sampled Bev's Swedish adaptation, it seemed more like cake, so I baked mine in one of the Bundt pans I collect but seldom use. (I can't explain my fascination with Bundt pans. I just love them.) Bev made hers in a round cake pan. Serve the soda bread warm, with a pat of sweet butter and a cup of tea, when friends stop by for a mid-afternoon visit.
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Our grandson loves chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, but I've never been one to go sweet early in the morning. I'd rather have these gingerbread waffles for dessert, but my husband Ted loved them as an afternoon snack, with butter and maple syrup. In other words, don't let me tell you when to eat waffles. Almost every ingredient in these waffles comes right from the pantry. I swapped white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour in the original recipe, and upped the amount of powdered ginger because I love it. Though somewhat more dense thanks to the whole grain flour, these waffles still have the cake-like quality of gingerbread and, topped with ginger ice cream or vanilla frozen yogurt, would make a great dessert for kids or grown-ups. If you're having a party, cook a batch of waffles ahead, and refrigerate or freeze them; then, to serve, simply pop them in the toaster. One waffle per person will be perfect at the end of the meal. Our grandson might just manage two for breakfast.
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When you work at home alone, in a log cabin in the woods, you treasure the afternoon tea visits that mark the end of the business day and break the solitude. It's traditional, when someone stops in for tea, to offer a cookie or cheese and crackers, or some slices of fruit. Today I'm serving pumpkin-pecan mini muffins, easy to make without dirtying the mixer, and a perfect late afternoon pick-me-up. I swapped white whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour, to give the muffins a bit of whole grain goodness. These little two-bite muffins are sweet, but not too sweet, and if you don't like pecans, use walnuts or no nuts. Of course, if mini muffins aren't your thing, make full-figured muffins in a regular 12-muffin pan, and bake them for two or three minutes more.
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Grazing. I love the concept of grazing, eating small bites of this and that, teasing my palate with salty, then sweet, then spicy, rather than one large dish. That's the theory behind tapas, the wonderful little dishes of Spain. As an appetizer or part of a grazing menu, or even a small lunch with a green salad, these polenta mini pizzas would be perfect. You can top the pizzas with absolutely anything -- bits of leftovers from the fridge, smoked salmon or proscuitto or sausage, vegetables from the garden, any type of cheese -- and you can make them ahead and reheat just before serving. And the best part? They look rustic and a little bit fancy, at the same time.
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First of all, I know. I know that real Irish soda bread doesn't have raisins, because my friend Lucia, who grew up in Ireland, told me so. I'm writing this while Lucia is visiting her parents, in Ireland, and believe me, the bread is so good that it will be all gone by the time she gets back. White whole wheat flour makes this loaf a bit more crumbly than white flour soda bread, and golden raisins make it sweeter. (You could substitute the more traditional caraway seeds for the raisins.) Nothing tops the flavor of real butter melting on warm bread fresh from the oven; if you're having guests for weekend brunch, treat them to a slice of this Irish soda bread with coffee or tea. It's a lovely way to start the week.
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