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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Chelsea, Alex and I dubbed these waffle brownies when we took our first bites during Wafflepalooza, and I promise that when you taste these chocolate chocolate chip waffles, you'll understand. I'm a coffee-with-waffles girl, as a rule, but these waffles beg for a glass of cold milk, just like the very best brownies. For all the chocolate chips and cocoa powder, the waffles aren't as dense as you'd expect. In fact, they're almost fluffy. In our house, these are "special occasion" breakfast waffles, the kind my husband Ted might make on Christmas morning. They also make a fine (and fun) dessert, with a drizzle of raspberry sauce on top. You can make them ahead, freeze in a single layer on a sheet pan, then pack into ziploc bags; to serve, simply pop them in the toaster.
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