November 19, 2012

Bake Sale Muffins

No, we haven't disappeared!  Although we've continued cooking together and on our own on and off throughout the year, we've had a bit of a hiatus due to our inability to coordinate our schedules.  You know, life and all of that. 

We plan to be back in full force this year though, and to start us off I have a recipe for "Pumpkin Surprise Muffins" or what I call Bake Sale Muffins, because they've proved to be a bake sale hit three years in a row.  Recipe is courtesy of Taste of Home


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 6 tablespoons apricot preserves, divided
  • 1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cut into 12 cubes
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds


  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and ginger. In another bowl, beat the eggs, pumpkin, sour cream, butter and 3 tablespoons preserves. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
  • Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups half full. Place a cream cheese cube and 3/4 teaspoon of preserves in each. Top with remaining batter. Sprinkle with almonds and remaining sugar. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers. Yield: 1 dozen.
I followed the recipe basically as written, except that I doubled everything so that we could have half to sell and half to keep.  I just greased the pans without using muffin cups and they turned out great.  Didn't have almonds but I sprinkled them with the coarse sugar crystals which I think turned out nicely.  

Stay tuned for a menu of Thanksgiving sides that we'll be doing this year.  

October 10, 2011

Seafood Corn Chowder

This recipe, courtesy of Woman's Day,  won rave reviews from everyone as a great early Fall recipe.  It carries over some common summer ingredients like corn and seafood, but also incorporates newly-in-season potatoes and is the perfect warm dish for that transition to chilly (and in our case, rainy) evenings. I know I've said before that, for a toddler, my son is a real foodie.  But I do have to mention that he loved this and had it for dinner three times in one week. 

Recipe Ingredients

  • 4 oz sliced bacon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes (peeled, if desired), cut into 1/2-in. pieces
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup corn kernels (cut fresh from 1 ear or frozen and thawed)
  • 3/4 lb medium peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Crusty bread, for serving
  1. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat until crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate; break into pieces when cool.
  2. Wipe out the saucepan and heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, wine and 2 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the celery, corn, shrimp and cream, and simmer until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. Top with the bacon and parsley. Serve with the bread, if desired.
*We followed this basic recipe with a few amendments...

1) we microwaved the pre-cooked bacon which was faster

2) instead of just shrimp, we took the suggestion of using half shrimp, half scallops.

3) the end result is a little bit bland and I think meant to be individually seasoned.  For my son's I added more ground pepper and a little heavy cream to make it richer. 

We used Alba Vineyards Mainsail White in the soup and drank the rest with dinner.  (For more info check out the Local Haunts section under NJ Vineyards). 

October 08, 2011

Muffin of the Month: Sour Cream Apple Walnut

Yes, a little behind in posting these as well.  It just happened to work out that the only time we could get together to cook was the very end of September. The theme for this month was definitely apples, apples and more apples (which exactly describes our trip to the farmer's market too).

Our muffins for September are courtesy of  The only change I made to the recipe was to double all ingredients for 24 muffins, since I've been finding that most muffin recipes are for 12 muffins.  The main reason I came up with this "muffin of the month" idea in the first place (aside from a quick way to use seasonal ingredients) was to have another good snack/breakfast option for my child (aka, Michael Phelps, as we call him.  No, he doesn't swim, he just eats like he's training for the Olympics).  Anyway I thought 12 muffins would be plenty for just the two of us but obviously not! 

Sour Cream Apple Walnut Muffins
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped apples
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 c. sour cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 c. milk
In large bowl sift together first 5 ingredients, stir in apples and walnuts. Measure and set aside 1/4 cup sour cream. Blend remaining sour cream with egg, stir in milk. Add all at once to flour mixture stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened.

 Fill large size buttered muffin cups 2/3 full. Drop 1 teaspoon reserved sour cream in center of each muffin. Top with 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown.

 Our local farm grows fourteen varieties of apples but not all were available when we visited in early September.  For most of the recipes in the next few posts, we used Red Delicious.  Here are some suggestions for New Jersey farms with the largest variety of apples (you can also find more farms in our Local Haunts section):

--Melick's Town Farm (Hunterdon)
--Peaceful Valley Orchards (Hunterdon)
--Terhune Orchards (Mercer)
--Battleview Orchards (Monmouth)
--Riamede Farms (Morris) 

Cherry Tomato Crisp

Contrary to what the current state of the blog might suggest, we actually have been doing lots of cooking.... I just haven't been doing much writing.  But we do have plans for the next few months (more on that in a minute) so I promise to kick it up a notch as we head into the holiday season.  At any rate, in the meantime here is another easy tomato recipe that I stumbled upon after our neighbor brought over yet more cherry tomatoes.  By the way, these are quickly becoming my new favorite vegetable I think. 

Cherry Tomato Crisp (courtesy of Martha Stewart)

  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a food processor, combine bread, Parmesan cheese, parsley leaves, olive oil, and garlic; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Pulse until bread is very coarsely chopped, 4 to 6 times.
  2. In an 8-inch square baking dish, arrange cherry tomatoes in a single layer; sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake until crust is browned and tomatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
This was super fast and easy, making a great side dish.  The food processor was not really needed.  Also I didn't have any white sandwich bread so I ended up using...shhhh... hot dog rolls!  Turned out great. 

September 05, 2011

Peppers and Tomatoes

I'm happy to report that our latest "muffin of the month" recipe is officially here:

Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins

I even learned how to make flavored butters in the process.  The main issue was that because of the jalapenos we really couldn't have children in the kitchen "helping" so I had to find some child-free moments to do it.  Child free?  What's that?  Exactly.  This recipe combines farmer's market corn and jalapenos from our neighbor's garden.  I followed the recipe as written.  Please note that the recipe does make 24 muffins.  The one change I did make was to use only three jalapenos in the batter, and I didn't add jalapeno slices on top.  This was mainly because I only had three peppers, but also because I knew the kids would be eating them and didn't want it to be overly hot. 

We had the chance for everyone to try them at brunch and they were met with good reviews.  Most people ate them as is but I like the opportunity to add butter wherever possible so I took it upon myself to investigate some homemade flavored butter ideas.  Turns out it is the simplest recipe ever:

8 tbsp (1 stick) softened butter
1 tsp each additional ingredient (no more than two is best)

I added apricot preserves and honey which really tasted great with the jalapenos.  We stored and served the butter in these bowls which I have been using for ages.  Despite being inexpensive toddler-wear they have a myriad of uses, are dishwasher-microwave safe and have held up well for five years counting. 

Earlier in the week another of our neighbors had given us cherry tomatoes from her garden, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to make with them.  Then I remembered we still had the galette dough from the recipes in the previous post.  Suddenly I was overcome with the desire for a tomato-cheddar tart so I improvised with the ingredients we had on hand:

cherry tomatoes (enough to add to the filling as well as cover the top)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
mayo (yes... didn't really measure it out I just added it by tablespoon until it was enough to make the filling spreadable)
1/4 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced

Cut up at least 1/3 of the cherry tomatoes and mix in well with the filling.  Spread filling on tart leaving 2in border.  Encircle the filling with whole tomatoes then fold up the edges all around.  Top with whole tomatoes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 min.

This one went fast.  The tomatoes tasted so fresh and just sort of burst in your mouth...yum!  So glad I decided not to waste them raw in some nondescript salad.  I only wish I had more because the tart should have really been packed full with no spaces, but I simply didn't have enough tomatoes.  What I love about this is a little goes a long way, so a small slice could be a filling dinner (with Jersey wine of course) and you could even have a slice for breakfast/brunch (which, yes, I did). 

Coming up to celebrate switching gears to Fall weather.  I've also been obsessed with figs lately thanks to a gift from a neighbors fig tree (yes, our neighbors are just awesome!)

August 15, 2011

Summer's Bounty, Part 2

The kitchen renovations are almost complete (finally!) and we're far enough along that I've been able to cook in our actual kitchen and use some of the new appliances for the past couple of weeks.  Just in time for the best fruits and veggies of the season.  Unfortunately we were not able to get together as a team this month, but I managed to busy myself all alone with the new double oven.  An oven which, I am convinced, has magical powers.  Everything that came out of it tasted amazing.  People were quick to give me the credit... and I was quick to take it.  Seriously though, this oven is, like, my newborn baby.  I haven't left its side all week and even though we've only spent a few days together, I can't seem to remember life before it. 

But I digress.  This past weekend we had guests over to see the (almost-just about-nearly) completed kitchen, so what started out as food experiments ended up being salad, appetizers, cocktails and desserts for seven.  (For the main course we just grilled some chicken).

Then in the midst of my cooking, our decorator called to ask if she could pop in to show our renovations to two new clients.  Let's just say they definitely got to see the new space in action. 

The above veggies--tomato, eggplant and squash--were gifts from three different neighbors' gardens.  I combined them with the zucchini, onion and red peppers we already had to make the next two dishes.  I also snagged some jalapeno peppers from the neighbors across the street to use in our muffins (coming up soon!)...If you are not fortunate enough to have a vegetable garden (or generous neighbors), try Pochuck Valley Farm for red peppers, onions and garlic, and Lillian's Market (Cumberland County) for squash and zucchini.  Though you can find great Jersey tomatoes just about anywhere this month, try Ploch's Farm (Passaic County) for tomatoes and eggplant. 

I found this recipe for Summer Vegetable Tian at Williams-Sonoma, which made use of most of the ingredients.  I should have gotten a picture of one serving so you could see all the layers.  The finished product is deceptively unnattractive here, but I have to say man was this good.  We had it as a side with chicken and it's also recommended with halibut or another light fish, but I think it would be just as good as a vegetarian main dish. 

Beneath the tomatoes is a coating of olive oil and a layer of sauteed onions, garlic and red peppers.  I was surprised this held up great as leftovers even a couple of days after the fact. 

The breadcrumb and cheese topping tasted much better than it looks here.  I did have to stifle my urge to cover the whole thing in a layer of cheese, as I now see how that might have detracted from the whole "light summer dish" concept.  :)  I'm just one of those people who thinks everything is better with cheese. 

With the two rather small eggplants I decided to do these Eggplant Fritters, courtesy of Martha Stewart.

  I did not like their serving suggestion (plain over salad greens) so I would suggest these two options instead:
1) garden veggie burger patty on a bun, with balsamic dressing, lettuce, tomato, mozzarella and baby spinach.
2)  "eggplant parmesan heroes"... two patties on a hero roll with tomato sauce, bit of ricotta, parmesan and melted mozzarella. 

I found this recipe for a simple and refreshing Watermelon Summer Salad at the adorably-named Let There Be Bite.  I changed things up a little by adding cucumber for more crunch and color.  I wasn't too sure about the pieces of torn mint, but it was so light and refreshing. This month I also wanted to make sure I included at least a couple of recipes that made use of the variety of locally grown melons.  Try Hallock's Farm in Ocean County for cucumbers and watermelons. 

Next up, our Cocktail of the Month, also courtsey of Martha Stewart:

White Sangria
(peaches, honeydew melon, white wine, brandy, sugar and seltzer)

Add ice and seltzer to the individual drinks when ready to serve.  I used Tomasello Winery's French Colombard white.  This was light enough that everyone who normally doesn't drink alcohol really liked it.  I couldn't tell if leaving out the honeydew melon would have made that big of a difference.  Probably not, but if you're looking to use up the rest of some melons you already have, I can't think of a better way.

Bonus "Cocktail":  Yes, that's right...the cold, rainy weather of the past few nights, combined with what was left of the unused brandy from the above drinks, insipired me to create a warm, comforting nightcap of fresh-brewed peach tea, brandy, and locally produced honey.

Meanwhile, back in vegetable land... I used the rest of our abundance of zucchini to make this savory Zucchini and Ricotta Galette, which I discovered in an old Smitten Kitchen post.  This was easy, yummy, and rich enough to be a nice light dinner just by itself.  The dough, which I also used for the fruit galette below, provides enough for three galettes.  To me that's a perfect recipe for a late night "girls' night" gathering.  Two savory galettes and one dessert galette (plus wine of course) would be easy to whip up and more than enough to feed the wine club. 

This Berry Galette is made from the very same dough.  The only substitution I made was that I decided to add one peach instead of the blueberries, and cut the amount of blackberries.    You can try Treelicious Orchards (Warren County) for pick-your-own peaches and plums, as well as Alstede Farms (Morris County) for blackberries. 

Oh, pardon the shadows as I get used to the new lighting and layout of the kitchen. this not beautiful?  This should be titled "what beautiful Victorian fairies eat for breakfast."  The nice ones, anyway.  What a pretty dessert for a little girl's birthday tea party...or something like that... well, I did get a little crazy with the sugar glitter.  It's suddenly been appearing on every dessert I make.  But I mean, can you ever really have too much sugar glitter? 

As lovely as the galette turned out, I think this Plum Buckle is my new favorite.  I didn't even use the right kind of cake pan because I couldn't find half of our pans, yet it still turned out ridiculously good.  Probably because of the new magic oven.  I made this cake three times just over the weekend (and as of Monday all three cakes are gone).  I am making no absurd claims when I say this creation, warmed and served with a dollop of whipped cream, is basically seduction on a plate.  Non-cake people will love this cake.  Non-fruit people too.  I tried to do it justice with pictures, but cutting into it revealed at least four or five lovely shades of pink, purple and orange.  And yes, there's some sugar glitter on top because frankly I just couldn't help myself. 


I Think, Therefore I Can

We are not quite brave enough to attempt canning (for the first time) here on our blog, especially since my kitchen is still in the midst of renovations.  However I did want to at least provide some info for other readers since seasonal cooking and canning practically go hand in hand.  I wanted to share a couple of good resources I found that should be enough to get you started if you're really serious about it.  In my case, the more I read about the process, the more I realized how NOT serious I am about attempting it.  Maybe next year.  But for those brave souls out there with your berries, peaches and tomatoes, read on. 

First we have a whole book on the subject. 

Actually, there are many books on canning, but this was the one I skimmed through because it was featured at my local farmer's market, and it got decent reviews on Amazon.

If you aren't fully committed to canning, at least enough to go out and purchase a book on the subject, I'd like to direct you to this fantastic site:

In addition to listing the best pick-your-own farms across various regions, Pick Your Own also offers detailed canning and preserving directions for just about anything.  It seems especially geared toward newbies and even offers links to purchase canning supplies. 

Labor Day (and back-to-school madness, and cool Fall weather) is just around the corner.