Chocolate Rhubarb Brownies

While I’ll never grow tired of the classic pairing of strawberries and rhubarb, I love rhubarb too much to let it simply be a sidekick to those sweet berries. Not only can it hold its own, but it also begs to be matched up with many other flavors that give it new life.

Eating seasonally doesn’t have to be difficult when it tastes so delicious. Finding inventive ways to incorporate locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables into breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes is actually a very easy task.

When making desserts, chocolate and rhubarb bring very different flavors to the table. The result makes a perfect balance. High-cacao chocolate is rich, subtly sweet, and creamy. Fresh rhubarb, meanwhile, is tart and comes into its own when offset by a dash of sweetness.

Celebrate rhubarb season with a stellar dessert like fudgy rhubarb brownies.

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Chocolate Rhubarb Brownies
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk sugar, butter, eggs & vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder & sea salt.
  4. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & mix until they are just incorporated. Add the rhubarb, chocolate chips & nuts. Mix only until they are combined. The batter will be quite thick. Pour batter into baking pan & spread it out so that it is even.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. DO NOT OVERBAKE.
  6. Remove brownies from the oven & allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Slice into squares.

Breakfast Cereal Mini Cakes

Since they were introduced in 1941, Cheerios have been a staple in households across North America. They remain one of the most popular breakfast cereals on the market and are now available worldwide.

Cheerios are primarily made from whole grain oats and come in an assortment of flavors. In fact, there are at least 15 varieties — with seasonal ones appearing on occasion.

A bowl of cereal is perfect for a quick breakfast. Or lunch. Or, let’s be honest, dinner. And while these are perfectly acceptable uses of cereal, there is so much more you can do with them from snacks and desserts to buttery casserole coatings that take the morning mainstay to new heights.

To enhance these cupcakes, the regular milk is switched out for ‘cereal milk’ (milk that’s been soaked in sweet cereal).

Cereal milk tastes like that dense, slightly sweet, starchy, oaty milk from the bottom of the cereal bowl, that everybody loves to enjoy at the end.

The nostalgic and comforting combination of milk and cereal combined in this cupcake recipe is really quite special. These seem like kind of a ‘kid’ thing but I’m sure it won’t take long for them to disappear.

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Breakfast Cereal Cupcakes
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MINI CUPCAKES
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Mini Cakes
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MINI CUPCAKES
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Mini Cakes
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Instructions
Mini Cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 24 cup mini muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk & 1/4 cup Very Berry Cheerios. Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, & set aside while you prepare the batter.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter & sugar on medium speed until light & fluffy. Add in the eggs on at the time, scraping the bowl as necessary.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, & salt. Using a fork, remove the cereal from the milk. Discard the cereal. Make sure you still have 1/2 cup milk, add more if necessary. Add the honey & vanilla extract to the milk. Whisk together.
  5. Gradually add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mix to combine. Add 1/2 of the wet ingredients, mix. Repeat, ending with dry ingredients.
  6. Divide the batter between 24 muffin cups. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting
  1. In a bowl, whip cream cheese & butter. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth & combined, 1-2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  2. Sift powdered sugar into the cream cheese mixture & add the vanilla, lemon juice & salt. Beat the frosting on a low speed to combine, then increase the speed to medium-high & beat until light & fluffy, 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
  3. Add slightly crushed cheerios & FOLD into mixture gently. Top each COOLED mini cake with a dollop of frosting then sprinkle with extra cheerios.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, bake in 12 regular size muffin cups.

Strawberry Cookies w/ Strawberry Chocolate Topping

If there’s one berry most people have a fondness for, it’s strawberries. Even though available year-round, strawberries’ full flavor shines best beginning in May through late summer, the prime seasons for strawberries. Advances in transportation and refrigeration have allowed for strawberries to become a seasonless fruit.

Winter is done and we’re ready to embrace all things springtime! Spring is about rebirth, sunshine, new life, things in bloom, etc. With bright colors, fresh flavors, and interesting designs, spring cookies are the perfect way to welcome in the warmer weather and say goodbye to the winter blues. 

Today I thought I would start with a crisp shortbread type cookie and add some ‘pizzazz‘ with some strawberries, white chocolate and a few pistachios. I think you will like these!

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Strawberry Cookies w/ Strawberry Chocolate Topping
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Garnish
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Garnish
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Instructions
Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter & icing sugar. Add egg & strawberry extract & mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour & baking powder. Add to the wet mixture a little at a time until well incorporated. Wait approximately 30 minutes before working with the dough as it will firm up slightly.
  3. Roll the dough between baking paper & put it into the fridge for a few hours to help it from spreading. When dough is a bit firmer, take it out of the fridge & cut into butterfly shapes.
  4. Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet & return to fridge again for another 1-2 hours, this will also help prevent spreading.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Bake cookies for approximately 10 - 12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottoms.
  7. Allow cookies to cool completely on a wire rack while you prepare the 'toppings'.
Strawberry Topping
  1. Slice dried strawberries thinly. Place white chocolate chips in a small bowl. Heat heavy cream until simmering, then pour over chocolate chips. Let stand for 1-2 minutes, then add 1/4 tsp strawberry flavor & tiny bit of gel food color. Stir swiftly until all the chocolate chips are melted & smooth.
  2. Using a piping bag, place about a teaspoon of strawberry flavored chocolate. Gently press a slice of strawberry on top.
Lemon Drizzle
  1. In a small dish, stir together powdered sugar & fresh lemon juice until it reaches a drizzle consistency. Drizzle lines over half of the cookie then sprinkle with pistachio nuts or pepita seeds.
Recipe Notes
  • LorAnn's Strawberry baking & flavoring emulsion tastes like fresh ripe berries. Great for cakes, cookies, frostings, fillings, and desserts. Add it instead of using strawberries or in addition to the fruit to add a punch of strawberry flavor. Use in any recipe you would a strawberry extract and get more robust strawberry flavor!
  • 1 teaspoon baking extract = 1 teaspoon emulsion

Zucchini Lime Cupcakes

Ingredients like zucchini, lime and cream cheese may give off summer vibes, but the reality is that they are available all year round. Sometimes you just want a dessert that tastes like sunshine and warm weather.

Zucchini can blend into almost any dish. Its flavor is versatile and spans from sweet to savory and does so flawlessly.

The truth is zucchini adds no flavor to cakes – but what it does do is add an incredible texture and moisture as well as bulk.

I had never really thought about combining zucchini with lime. It is such a unique but delicious combination. The lime really brightens the flavor and the zucchini, although you really don’t taste it, keeps the cupcakes nice and moist.

When preparing your ingredients however, you do need to be careful not to get too much of the white pith into your cake or frosting. The green outermost layer of your lime is the zest, and this is what you want to grate. The white layer right underneath is the pith, and it can be quite bitter.

Here comes spring with its sunshine and warm weather!

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Zucchini Lime Cupcakes
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
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Cupcakes
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Cupcakes
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Instructions
Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with 12 deep cupcake papers.
  2. In a bowl, beat together vegetable oil & sugar; add eggs & grated zucchini & beat again.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cardamom, baking soda, baking powder & salt.
  4. Add flour mixture alternately with milk then stir in lime zest. Divide batter between the 12 cupcake liners.
  5. Bake for 18-20 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean).
  6. Remove from oven, leave in tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frosting
  1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese & butter until light & fluffy. While mixing on low, slowly add powdered sugar & lime juice & beat again until fully combined.
  2. When cupcakes are cooled completely, pipe a rosette on each cupcake & sprinkle with lime zest.

Vanilla Butterflies

Spring, for many, is a symbol of new beginnings. When the first green emerges from the ground and the first bud opens, people the world over celebrate. The earth comes to life once more. The symbolic meaning of the butterfly is similar across most cultures, regardless of time, and is most commonly associated with the soul. Cultural myth and lore honor the butterfly as a symbol of transformation because of its impressive metamorphosis–from caterpillar to chrysalis and ultimately, the butterfly. Butterflies also symbolize spring, a celebratory time of year, and embody the beauty of symmetry, pattern, color and shape.

These colorful and vibrant, yet delicate creatures can imply freedom, endurance, inspiration, openness, change, joy, rebirth, patience, transformation and happiness. As Spring approaches, we can see trees and flowers starting to bud, birds beginning to sing, and bumblebees and butterflies returning to the landscape.

I have always loved butterflies… their beautiful colors, their presence in the outdoor landscape. The magnificent yet short life of butterflies serves to remind us that life is short and to make the most of each day we have.

When it comes to spring baking, butterfly cookies always seem to work their way into my kitchen each year. This is my creation for this season!

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Vanilla Butterflies
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Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter & icing sugar. Add egg & vanilla extract & mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift together flour & baking powder. Add to the wet mixture a little at a time until well incorporated. Wait approximately 30 minutes before working with the dough as it will firm up slightly.
  3. Roll the dough between baking paper & put it into the fridge for a few hours to help it from spreading. When dough is a bit firmer, take it out of the fridge & cut into butterfly shapes.
  4. Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet & return to fridge again for another 1-2 hours, this will also help prevent spreading.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Bake cookies for approximately 10 - 12 minutes or until lightly browned on bottoms.
  7. When cookies are completely cooled, personalize them with your favorite icing, colors & design.
Recipe Notes
  • Allow cookies to cool overnight or at least four hours if you have to decorate right away.
  • If you can, it is a good idea to wait until the cookies are a day old before decorating them to reduce the chance of oil from the cookie leaching into the icing & causing icing spots or butter bleeds.

Potato Lefse

From a traditional homemade staple to a quick on-the-go snack from a gas station to ferries or even a fancy dish at a wedding, the story of lefse is intertwined with Norwegian history.

The first lefse didn’t contain potatoes, they were made from flour. Women would travel from house to house, village to village to make lefse to last the winter months. The flour lefse would cook up like a cracker and be able to last through the season. Many households stored their lefse is wooden boxes covered in cloth or just stacked on shelves. When you were ready to enjoy some lefse it was dipped in water and soaked between damp cloth until softened.

Then came the introduction of potatoes, abundant and easy to grow. The potato was incorporated into many Norwegian foods. Like Ireland, Norway suffered from the effects of the potato famine in the mid-1800’s, which is about the time that many Norwegians came to North America. They brought their knowledge and rolling pins. The result is a Norwegian ‘potato bread’ delicacy that is part of a special tradition replicated in many Norwegian-American homes for more than 150 years.

In Norway, the lefse is sweet or savory, thick or thin, can be made from wheat or potatoes, and can be served with a wide variety of accompaniments. Recipes and even names vary considerably across Norway. 

In many parts of western, eastern and central Norway, lefse are used as an alternative to bread. They are eaten with savory, salty foods or with sweet foods.

Common savory fillings include cured ham and cheese. They can also be served as wraps, with fillings such as smoked salmon and cream cheese. Common sweet fillings are sugar and cinnamon. These are often served folded or rolled into tubes. As with waffles, the combination of brown cheese (or ‘brunost’ is a tan-colored ‘whey cheese’ with a distinctive caramel flavor) and jam is another sweet option.

There is no one best lefse recipe. You can choose to make thick, sweet lefse, or thin ones for savory wraps, with potato or without. There are so many options, not to mention the countless ‘secret’ family recipes handed down through generations.

I recall the first time I ever had the opportunity to try Norwegian lefse. I was in grade school and my friend asked me to come to her house for lunch. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, but I remember it tasted good … just like a thin potato pancake!

Brion & I decided to use our lefsa as a wrap and make fish ‘tacos’ out of them. It turned out to be a great choice!

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Potato Lefse
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Norwegian
Keyword potato lefse
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Norwegian
Keyword potato lefse
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. In a pot, place potatoes & cover with cold water. Put a lid on the pot & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer & cook until soft. Drain & put potatoes through a ricer (or grate fine) while still hot. Combine with butter & refrigerate until cool.
  2. Combine potatoes with the rest of the ingredients. Mix just until blended. Add milk only if needed to combine dough. Cover & chill thoroughly.
  3. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces & roll into balls. Between 2 sheets of dry waxed paper roll each ball to a 6-inch diameter.
  4. Heat a flat griddle to 400 F.
  5. Grill lefsa, flipping mid-way through, about 60 seconds on each side, or until freckled.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature as is or with topping or 'filling' of choice.
Recipe Notes
  • The yield will vary depending on how much dough you use for each one.
  • SOME FILLING SUGGESTIONS:
  • Spread with butter & a sprinkle of brown sugar
  • Spread with mustard & wrap around sausage, brats or hot dogs
  • Spread with butter or cream cheese & wrap around leftover chicken, turkey, pot roast or your favorite deli meat. Eat hot or cold.
  • Use as a wrap for salads such as egg, tuna, chicken & salmon.
  • Spread with cranberry sauce, applesauce or Nutella.
  • Wrap around warm meatballs.
  • Wrap around scrambled eggs with or without crumbled sausage or bacon.

Onion Scones

You might imagine scones as a food that is only served with jam and cream, but there are many variations on this classic tea cake. This flaky treat can also come in a savory scone version with add-ins like cheese and chopped bacon or sun-dried tomato & basil etc.  A scone is closer to a pastry than it is to bread mainly because it doesn’t include any yeast and has almost identical ingredients to a short crust with different fat to flour ratios.

So why not onion scones?? Because onions really form the foundation of our cooking, they are often the first thing that goes in the pan, and they are the flavor base for everything from chicken soup to a quick skillet pasta. Cooked onions give dishes a rich savory flavor and a subtle sweetness — you don’t always know onions are there once the dish has been spiced and sauced, but you’d definitely miss them if they weren’t.

Scone ingredients prefer to be cold. All your starting components need to be kept as cool as possible – this will help to guarantee the soft, light and well-risen qualities of your next batch of scones.

North American or British scones – what’s the difference? British scones are served with butter/cream whereas North American scones or ‘biscuits’ are far butterier and are typically served alongside meat and veg style savory dishes.

These onion scones make such a nice addition to a beef stew meal.

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Onion Scones
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Keyword onion scones
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Course Main Dish
Keyword onion scones
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the yellow onion, green onions, garlic & butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then stir. Microwave for another 1-2 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove bowl from microwave & let the vegetables cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, sugar, baking powder, pepper & salt.
  4. Add the sautéed onion mixture to the flour mixture along with the light cream & egg. Stir JUST until combined.
  5. Gently press the dough together with your hands to form a ball.
  6. On an ungreased baking sheet, press the dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Separate the wedges slightly.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until scones are lightly browned. Brush with more melted butter & serve immediately.

Benedictine Liqueur Coffeecake w/ Strawberries

Today, March 28, was the birth date of my mother. She passed away in 1978 at the age of sixty. Although 46 years have passed, it seems like it was only yesterday. She was truly an ‘Angel on Earth’, never to be forgotten by her family or by the people whose lives she touched.

I have so many memories of her wonderful cooking and baking. In her honor today, I decided to post a unique coffeecake recipe.

Since I have become a huge fan of Dom Benedictine Liqueur in sweet & savory recipes, this is the fifth recipe I have developed using it in the ingredients. When I first ‘discovered’ this interesting liqueur, I searched high and low for recipes to incorporate it in my baking and cooking. After having no success finding any, I resorted to my favorite ‘hobby’ of recipe development. So far, I have had good results.

If you’re not familiar with this liqueur, here is a brief bit of history about it. For more in-depth info, check out my blog article from December 2022 under Benedictine Liqueur Cupcakes.

The story of Benedictine dates back to 1510 when a Venetian monk of the Abbey of Fécamp, Dom Bernardo Vincelli, created an elixir intended to support good health. It includes a combination of 27 herbs and spices derived from plants from around the globe, including juniper, myrrh, saffron, vanilla, thyme, coriander and more. The liqueur tastes primarily of honey and baking spices, with citrus peel, herb, and stone fruit notes.

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Benedictine Liqueur Coffeecake w/ Strawberries
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SLICES
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Instructions
Strawberry Puree
  1. In a food processor, puree strawberries (SET ASIDE ABOUT 8 SLICING INTO THE TOPPING). Over medium-low heat, simmer puree until you have reduced the mixture by about half. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter.
Coffeecake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a large cylinder pan (or a 9-inch round). Dust with flour & set aside.
  2. Toast pecans on a sheet pan in the oven for 7-8 minutes. Remove nuts from pan right away to prevent further toasting & place on a cutting board to cool, then finely chop.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder & salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat eggs on high until light in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium & add sugar; beat until mixture is pale & thick, about 4 minutes. Reduce speed to low; mix in oil & liqueur.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, lightly fold in flour mixture in 3 batches. Fold in toasted pecans. Spread half the cake batter in prepared baking pan. Place dollops of strawberry puree in a zigzag pattern down center of batter. Using the handle of a spoon, swirl puree lightly into batter. Top with remaining batter.
  6. Bake cake until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Strawberry Puree Topping
  1. With the remainder of the strawberry puree, add honey & vanilla to taste. Combine well. Slice remaining fresh strawberries & fold into puree.
Serving
  1. Slice coffeecake & top with strawberry puree topping. Of course nothing says you can't add some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Pomegranate Apple Cobbler

Cobblers are simply delicious desserts. Often made with in-season fruit—from strawberries in the summertime to apples in the fall. Pairing pomegranate with apples seems like a good choice except when it’s already March. Fresh pomegranates are available usually from September through January. But then if you’re using pomegranate juice that makes it feasible.

The pomegranate is a unique fruit with distinct edible seeds. The brilliant color and odd shape are eye-catching. Because of their high amounts of these antioxidants, pomegranates have gained a reputation as a superfood.

Yet, despite its health benefits, the consumption of pomegranates is relatively low in our country in comparison to other fruits for several reasons. First is its limited availability. In addition, they are expensive, and it also takes a bit of work to get through to the sweet fruit.

But nevertheless, the popularity of pomegranates seems to be growing. They have crept into salads, main courses, smoothies and even alcoholic mixed drinks. Now there is even pomegranate-flavored candy and gum.

These nice little individual cobblers are some of that comfort food we all like to enjoy but with a healthy twist.

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Pomegranate Apple Cobbler
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Instructions
Apples
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, simmer pomegranate juice for 5-8 minutes.
  2. In a small dish, combine 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, spice & salt. Add prepared apples & sugar/cornstarch mixture to pomegranate juice.
  3. Simmer apple mixture for 10 -20 minutes or until apples are soft. Remove from heat & divide evenly between 8 ramekin dishes. Set ramekins on a large baking tray.
Biscuit Dough
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt & sugar. Add cold butter, then using a pastry blender or your finger tips, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles small peas. Add cold milk & combine with a fork ONLY until mixed.
  3. Top each ramekin with dough, dividing it evenly between them. If you wish, you can sprinkle them with coarse sugar.
  4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until biscuit dough test done with a wooden pick.
  5. When baked you can serve them right in the ramekins or flip them upside down on serving plates. If you wish you can serve them with whipped cream or ice cream & top the with pomegranate seeds.

Bacon & Corn Griddle Cakes

A griddle cake is another word for a pancake, but it seems to be used more often to indicate something more rustic and less breakfast-y than the word ‘pancake’. This makes it the perfect description for these bacon and corn cakes.

People began using the word ‘pancake’ during the 15th century, and the word became standard in 19th century North America. Previously, people referred to them as Indian cakes, hoe cakes, johnnycakes, journey cakes, buckwheat cakes, griddle cakes, and flapjacks. Early North American pancakes were made with buckwheat or cornmeal.

Pancakes have really stood the test of time with their extensive history. Each culture seems to have a unique take on them. People eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all over the globe. Some examples of this transcultural food include crepes, potato latkes, Irish boxty, Russian blini, Welsh crampog, Indian poori, Hungarian palacsinta, and Dutch pannenkoeken.

Today I’m making some savory ‘griddle cakes’ stuffed with corn, crumbled bacon, onions, chives and Monterey Jack cheese. What’s not to love about that!!

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Bacon & Corn Griddle Cakes
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
GRIDDLE CAKES
Course Brunch
Cuisine American
Servings
GRIDDLE CAKES
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Instructions
  1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon pieces until they begin to brown. Add the onion and continue to cook until the bacon is crisp and the onion is softened. Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of the bacon mixture for topping the griddle cakes upon serving- and set it aside.
  2. While the bacon is cooking, combine the flour, chives, baking powder, salt and paprika in a medium bowl. Stir in the milk, egg and oil, just until moistened. Stir in the bacon mixture, corn and cheese. The mixture will be thick, if you wish, add a little more milk to thin out the batter.
  3. Heat and grease a griddle or large skillet. Pour a heaping ¼-cup of the batter onto the griddle and cook until it is golden brown- 3 to 4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  4. Serve stacks of griddle cakes topped with a sprinkle of the reserved bacon/onion and warm maple syrup.