- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Chances are, as you read this column, you haven’t a clue what’s for dinner. You’re not alone.

Even as I write, these same thoughts are crossing my mind. Oh, you might know me from my book titles such as “The Cake Mix Doctor” and, most recently, “The Dinner Doctor” (both published by Workman). But in real life, I’m your average but harried Nashville, Tenn., mother of three school-age children who, by the seat of her pants, juggles children and writing cookbooks.

Fortunately, these are both things I love. And I’m thrilled to be writing this new column to assist you in getting dinner on the table quickly, to get you out of a recipe rut and to help you bring joy (yes, joy) back to the dinner table.

You see, I think cooking dinner is a gift, not an obligation. By putting good food on the table, you’re nurturing others and creating at the same time. And with the plethora of quality convenience foods such as triple-washed spinach in a bag and canned tomatoes already seasoned with oregano, basil and garlic, busy cooks like you and me can cook a bit easier each night.

Join me as I show you how to jump-start meals with fast ingredients, share tips from my 30-plus years in the kitchen and have fun along the way. We’ll talk dinner and other meals, too.

Clip this easy white chocolate muffin and streusel recipe for your little ones to bake (with some help if they’re small). Add scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit.

TIME-SHAVING TIPS

• Break white chocolate into small pieces before melting.

• Melt white chocolate in the microwave oven on high power 1 minute.

• Pulse the streusel in the food processor.

• Serve smoked salmon from the package instead of frying bacon.

• Bake the muffins a day ahead, then cover and store at room temperature.

Menu for mom: Scrambled eggs, bacon, white chocolate muffins with cinnamon streusel and fresh berries or melon

White chocolate muffins with cinnamon streusel

The preparation time is 15 minutes, and the baking time is 20 to 25 minutes.

CAKE:

24 paper liners for muffin pans (2-inch size)

6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons (three-quarters stick) butter

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix

3/4 cup milk 3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

CINNAMON STREUSEL:

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Place a rack in center of the oven, and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

Place white chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until both melt and the mixture is smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Place cake mix, milk, eggs, vanilla and white chocolate mixture in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.

Stop the machine, and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium; beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look thick and well-combined. Set the batter aside.

For the streusel, combine the pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Stir well.

Spoon batter into lined muffin cups, filling each liner no more than two thirds of the way full. Sprinkle teaspoon of the streusel mixture on top of each muffin. Place pans in preheated 350-degree oven.

Bake muffins until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pans from the oven, and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes.

Run a dinner knife around the edges of the muffin liners, lift the muffins from the bottom of the pan using the end of the knife and pick them out carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Makes 24 muffins (2 inches each).

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