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I promise that I have been doing much more in the kitchen than baking up butter and sugar-laced treats. It just seems that the only time I think to snap a picture is when I have a baking project going on. Truthfully though, I haven’t been spending as much time in the kitchen as I would like to. We just moved and are still getting settled in. I was out of town for a week visiting family and friends across Connecticut and New York. And next week I am starting grad school so I am busy preparing for that, too.

Our CSA is going strong. This year we opted with Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op. Everything is from Lancaster County, just an hour away. They deliver to our favorite coffee shop in our neighborhood (which also sells take-out beer), so it makes our weekly trip totally worth it. It’s also walking distance, so we don’t have to drive to pick it up! We are pretty inundated with greens right now, but we scored a pound of sweet cherries a few weeks back. I had a potluck for work and Father’s Day was coming up, so I put them to use immediately. Of course, I left some for snacking, too.

Brown Butter Cherry Bars
from Smitten Kitchen

For the crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1 pound sweet cherries (you will not use all of them, so there should be plenty left for a treat later on!)

To make the crust: Preheat over to 375°F. Cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan. Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet. (It should look like this.)

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl. Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated. Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden, about 18 minutes (it will puff slightly while baking). Transfer crust to rack and cool in pan. Maintain oven temperature.

To make the filling: Cook butter in heavy small saucepan (a lighter-colored one will make it easier to see the color changing, which happens quickly) over medium heat until deep nutty brown (do not burn), stirring often and watching carefully, about six minutes. Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries in bottom of cooled crust. Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit. Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes (though, of course, this took less time in my hyperactive oven so please watch your baking times carefully). Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove cooled bars from pan and place them on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife. The cherries, if they fall over your slicing lines, will want to give you trouble but if you saw a sharp knife into them slowly before pressing down, they’ll cut neatly and with minimum carnage.

 

I did not snap a photo of the finished product. They were so delicious I ate them almost immediately. I made a second batch and they came out even better than the first. Having fresh cherries definitely made the difference, but you can use frozen, or any berry of your choice. It would probably be a lot of fun to stud this cake with lots of blueberries or rasberries in the upcoming weeks while they are in season. I don’t know if I’ll make them again- they have a LOT of butter- but I would definitely recommend that you make them. And maybe share them with your friends.

 

There is nothing as simple as chocolate and strawberries to make an impressive and delicious dessert. Usually this involves dipping the strawberries in melted chocolate, which is easy and always a crowd pleaser. For Mother’s Day this year, I wanted to make something that was delicious, yet easy, but would still impress the heck out of my ma-in-law. I’ve had some failures before involving last-minute Mother’s/Father’s day treats, so I was determined to find something utterly simple that I knew would work in a short period of time. I skimmed through my saved recipes and found something that caught my eye on The Kitchn a few weeks ago. A tart, with strawberries and marscapone cream, dotted with bits of dark chocolate chunks. Hello! I was sold.

The original recipe was from an on-line newspaper article from The Oregonian, discussing the simplicity of strawberries and the many different ways to use them. It combined a few different recipes, and The Kitchn basically tied them together and added a layer of rich chocolate ganache. The ingredients were easy to find and inexpensive. The recipe as a whole didn’t take long to make at all. I think I made it that Sunday morning, and brought the strawberries along with me to add once we arrived at dinner.

Strawberry Tart with Rich Marscapone Cream and Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from The Kitchn and The Oregonian

For the crust:

1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (1 stick)

For the cream filling:

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese (cream cheese is fine, too)
1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

For the ganache:

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the oatmeal on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

In a food processor, add the oatmeal, flour, sugar and salt. Pulse until combined and the oatmeal is chopped. Add the butter and continue to pulse until the mixture looks crumbly.

Pat the dough into a 9- or 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Use the back of a measuring cup to help spread it evenly. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.

For the ganache, melt 1/2 cup whipping cream and 1/2 dark chocolate in a pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted. Pour ganache over baked oatmeal crust and chill in the fridge until firm and cool.

 

To make the marscapone cream, place the cream and vanilla in a mixing bowl and beat at high speed until cream begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese. Stir in the chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

In a large bowl, mix the sliced strawberries, balsamic, and sugar until macerated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Immediately before serving, spread the marscapone cream in a thick and creamy layer over the ganache. Top with strawberries and serve cool. Eat. And eat and eat and eat. And enjoy!

What a hit! And honestly, so simple. I ate much more than I should have, and everyone else went back for seconds, too.  The rest of the tart was destroyed by Stu’s dad and brother. By the end of the night, we all had very full and happy bellies.  I guarantee that you will, too!

I know I am probably more than a month behind in this post, but I have been so excited to share this with you all. This year was the first time I spent Easter without my own family. I spent the holiday with Stu’s relatives and I was determined to bring something from my own family’s tradition. Although we are not super traditional-Italian, we always have an Easter pie. I don’t know my grandmother’s exact recipe, so I spent quite a while doing some research. I checked Food Network and found recipes from Emeril and Giada, but they just didn’t seem authentic. It was after a few different searches that I found a great article by Susan Russo from Food Blogga that totally defined my upbringing of Italian Easter dishes. I originally wanted to make a Ricotta Pie, but wasn’t keen on the addition of pineapple. I love the idea of Pizza Chena (or as we say, Pizza Gain),  but wasn’t into the addition of meat, and was a little intimidated by the whole concept. So I settled on the simple, yet delicious Italian Rice Pie, similar to my own family’s recipe.

Italian Rice Pie
adapted from Susan Russo

For the crust:
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 stick unsalted butter (chilled)
1 extra large egg or 2 small eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons ice water, or as much as needed

For the filling:

1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice
4 cups of water or whole milk
7 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon extract (or the zest and juice of 1 Meyer lemon)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound ricotta cheese, drained

For the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until the dough becomes pebbly in texture. Add the eggs and pulse repeatedly until the dough begins to stick together. Slowly add the ice water by the tablespoonful, while using a few long pulses. Add more drops of ice water as necessary, until the dough holds together well. Invert the dough onto a floured work surface. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)

If you don’t have a processor, then combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add chunks of chilled butter, and using a pastry blender or two forks, chop the butter until it resembles little pebbles. At this point, add the eggs and ice water, and stir with a spoon until the dough begins to form. Using your hands and working the dough as little as possible, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough holds together. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)

To make the filling, place the rice and water or whole milk in medium heavy-bottom saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook the rice, uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is sticky. The rice should still be firm as it will finish cooking in the oven. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl. Using a hand-mixer, beat until well combined. Add the lemon extract (or zest and juice) and vanilla, and beat on low for about 10 seconds. Add the drained ricotta, and beat on low for a few seconds until just combined. Stir in the cooked rice. Mix with a rubber spatula until well combined, making sure there are no clumps of rice. Place in the refrigerator.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Coat a 10 1/2-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into an 11 1/2-inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate, gently pressing it into the bottom and sides. No fluted crust is necessary. At this point, set the crust in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to get it really chilled, which will make for a flakier crust.

Remove the chilled crust from the freezer and pour the filling to about 1/4 of an inch below the top of the crust, as it will puff up slightly when baking.

Bake for 1 hour or until the filling puffs up, turns golden, and is “set,” meaning it should be firm, not jiggly when you gently move the pie plate. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note: If you have some extra filling left over, you can pour it into a small baking dish or ramekins for a crustless version, and follow the same baking instructions. Leftover rice pie can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

This came out almost exactly as how I remembered it. I would have loved to use fresh lemon, but was skeptical of using regular grocery-store lemons as opposed to the Meyer variety. I settled on lemon extract, begrudgingly. The pie was delicious though. The cheese and rice was a perfect combination, and it looked absolutely lovely in my Le Crueset pie plate that I got for Christmas. It was a huge hit at dinner. I left some of the leftovers and took some home to have for breakfast later in the week. I can’t wait to make it again next year. I may even try some Pizza Chena! I recommend this dish even if it’s not the Easter holiday. It’s delicious and refreshing.

I have been very productive in the kitchen lately. Honestly, I have, although this blog shows no proof. Unforunately, neither does my camera. I have been up to my eyeballs in festive foods and baked goods, including but not limited to: apple butter, cranberry apple jam, pumpkin pie, apple pie, home made marshmellows, donuts, and a failed sweet potato souffle. However, most of these things were so involved that I didn’t get around to photographing them, or if I did, it wasn’t enough to make a post out of. Also, most of these things will probably be used as Christmas gifts so I don’t want to go too deep into details.

In the meantime, here are the photos that I did take, in no particular order, so that you can get a sneak peak of what I’ve been up to.

Apple butter in the Crock Pot.

Cranberries and apples, for jam.

Home-made marshmellows are weird, and just about as unnatural as regular marshmellows.

I roasted this sucker and made it into a pie. And a mousse. A vegan mousse. And granola. And I still have more to use.

So that is a general mash-up of what I’ve been up to. Mostly baking things that are unhealthy. I still have our final CSA pick-up to post, and it was  good one! As well as some of the seasonal meals that we’ve been able to get out of it. I’ve also been stocking up on potatoes and squash for the upcoming weeks. Now that our CSA is over, I’m trying to focus mostly on meals that are pantry-based, or more importantly, cheap. Things might get pretty boring around here, especially since the budget is tight, but I’ll do my best to keep things interesting. I’ll also promise to do my best at posting more regularly, as Christmas is coming up and I can already tell I’ll be spending many long nights in the kitchen making baked goods and home-made presents. Come on back for more!

A few weeks ago, around Halloween, I was making baked goods galore. Most of them were sweets, and some of them were for other people. but I admit that I did quite a bit of snacking myself. After eating Apple Harvest Muffins, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Scones, and Cinnamon Rolls for weeks, I decided to limit myself on the sweets. But, I still wanted something to bake and something to snack on during my morning prep period at school. I’d recently made a bunch of different jams, and we received some peanut butter from our CSA, so I decided that it was time for me to make some bread. For the first time ever. Uh oh!

There’s a recipe in my Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook that makes a honey white bread. I’m not really partial to white bread, but I thought that it would be a simple enough recipe to start out with, plus it didn’t require a ton of research, because I already had it in my cookbook collection. I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I took a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and got to work. This recipe made two loaves of bread, so I froze one and will use it some time over the next few weeks.

Honey White Bread
from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa At Home

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups warm whole milk
6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
2 large egg yolks
5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Place warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of flour and the salt. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl. Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.

Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan. Cover again with the damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with egg white and bake for 40-45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

The concept of bread-baking is incredibly easy. I’m not at all afraid to try my hand at it again. With this particular recipe, I spread it out over an extended period of time, and I think that prevented my bread from turning out as spectacularly as it could have. We had a dinner party to attend, and I made the dough ahead of time, let it rise, and the refridgerated it, anticipating that I would be able to bake it once we returned home. Unfortunately, we were out pretty late, and I didn’t have enough time to bake the dough that night. I waited until the next day, but had to let the dough rise again, as it had collapsed a little after being in the fridge for so long. It turned out just fine, but I’m sure it would have been a bit lighter and more moist, had I baked it when the dough was fresh and not out of the fridge.
My next attempt will most likely involve some whole-wheat flour, but may still contain the honey. I have a lot of cooking and baking to do over the next few weeks for the holidays, so maybe after all of my seasonal stuff dies down, I’ll give another loaf a try. The moral of this post is, not to be afraid to bake bread! It’s incredibly easy, as long as you have some time and some patience.

Around Halloween (I told you I was behind in my posts), I decided to make a sweet treat that fit in with the pumpkin theme. While persuing my usual blogs, I kept stumbling upon recipes for cinnamon rolls. I’ve always been pretty hesitant about making anything involving yeast, but I’ve had some recent success with pizza dough, so I decided now was the time. Plus, Stu and his family are cinnamon roll fanatics, and I was trying to impress. I found a few different recipes, but I liked the one posted on Naturally Ella the best. It had whole wheat flour and lots of brown sugar in it’s ingredient list, so I figured it would be slightly healthier than the regular buttery cinnamon rolls. I also referenced a recipe posted on The Kitchn, and used a sort of combination of the two. Unfortunately this was weeks ago, so I’ll link both recipes and do the best that I can do remember what exactly I did for mine.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Glaze
from Naturally Ella and The Kitchn

For the rolls:
3/4 cup milk
2 and  1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup natural sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
4- 4  and 1/2 cups Unbleached all purpose flour (I used half white/ half wheat)

For the filling:

1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup natural sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

For the glaze:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
2  and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin

Heat milk (either in a sauce pan or microwave) until milk begins to simmer- add butter. Let cool until a warm temperature (about 120˚).

In a stand mixer bowl, at milk mixture, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for five minutes. Add 3 cups of flour, salt, pumpkin, eggs and start mixer with dough hook. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time continuing until the dough pulls together. Continue kneading the dough until smooth and elastic- at least eight minutes.

Either in the mixer bowl or a separate bowl, lightly spray the dough with cooking oil and place in a warm draft free spot until dough has doubled in size (around an hour and a half.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a 10 by 14 rectangle. Rub butter over entire surface and cover with sucanat mixture. Roll the dough into a log, squeeze slightly and adjust to form. Cut into 12 pieces (cut in half, the cut each half into half then each piece is cut into three pieces.) Place in a sprayed 9 by 13 pan.


Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight. (or if you want to continue on, cover and let rise for another hour and follow with remaining instructions.)


The next morning, preheat the oven to 350˚ and remove cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for a half hour. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cinnamon rolls are a nice golden brown color. Let cool slightly.

While they are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter. When the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted. Remove from heat and strain into a mixing bowl to remove any sugar clumps. Stir in the powdered sugar. This should form a thick but pourable glaze.

Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave.

This was an incredibly lengthy process. Although I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, I wouldn’t ever say that they were easy to make. I was pretty time consuming and required a lot of patience. I also ran out of pumpkin so my glaze ended up being more brown-sugar based than pumpkin. The whole process was definitely an exciting one, however. I was really impressed with how nicely the end result mirrored the pictures from both recipes. It was pretty incredible to assemble these guys and watch them rise and then bake into the actual rolls, looking almost like what you’d buy from the store!

Taste-wise, they lacked a little sweetness that I think everyone expects from a cinnamon roll. I thought they were pretty great, but Stu’s sweet tooth disagreed. I am sure this had a lot to do with the natural sugar and brown sugar, as opposed to white sugar and lots and lots of butter. I congratulated myself for taking the healthier route, but I suppose that if I’m going to be making these again for more people, I’ll probably use a recipe that has all of the sweet stuff, as opposed to all of the kind-of-good-for-you stuff.

Either way, this was a pretty big feat for me, and I’m rather proud of my accomplishment. It’s nice to know that this will be a breakfast option over the upcoming winter months. Next time I will probably make them when I know I’ll have something coming up where lots of people can enjoy them. I accidentally ate a whole bunch of cinnamon rolls for about a week and a half. Oops.

If there’s one thing I’ve been obsessed with this Fall it’s apples. In the same way I fell in love with peaches this summer, for the first time in my life, I’ve seemed to really develop a liking for apples. Probably because most of the times I’ve been sinking my teeth into them, they’ve been right off the tree, as opposed to the grocery store display. I can’t get enough of Galas, MacIntosh, Honeycrips, and Jonagolds. I’ve been trying all different recipes, but was really excited to put these blushing red beauties into donut form. A few problems arose. One: I had no desire to fry up donuts, and preferred to bake them instead. Two: If I did find a recipe for baked donuts, it involved a donut pan, which I did not have.

After a while of searching, I was pretty excited to find a baked donut recipe that involved baking the donuts in a mini-muffin pan to make donut holes. I ended up having to purchase a pan, but I’ll definitely put it to use more often than I will a donut mold pan.

Oven Baked Apple Donuts
from Jennifer Bartoli, contributor to The Kitchn

1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups bite-sized chunks of apple, peeled and cored
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

To Coat:
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Preheat your oven to 350F. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugars salt and and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the cold chopped butter. Rub the pieces of butter with the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Mix in the milk and fold in the chopped apples. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir using a spatula or spoon making sure not to overmix. Place a spoonful of batter into each mold of a buttered mini muffin pan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the donuts are just golden. Remove from the oven, unmold and lightly brush each donut with the melted butter. Dunk in a bowl with the sugar and cinnamon mixed in. Shake off excess sugar and serve immediately.

 


These donuts were everything that I hoped they’d be. Filled with soft chunks of apples, dipped in butter, and coated with cinnamon and sugar. The mini muffin tin made them just the right size to pop in one or two for an afternoon snack or a quick dessert after dinner. I’ve found myself snacking on them after a long day at work, with a mug of hot apple cider. It was delightful! These also make a really great gift for friends, or would be great to bring along to a party of brunch. They’re fairly easy to make, so this won’t be the last time I’ll enjoy them.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself with more free time than I knew what to do with. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen. I’ve been waiting all summer for the temperature to cool down enough so that turning on the oven would be a comfort, rather than an inconvenience- and it’s finally gotten to that point.

Aside from doing a lot more cooking and baking, I’ve also spent a lot of my extra time looking up seasonal recipes. I’m anticipating that the Fall months will bring some interesting produce to our CSA and I want to make sure that I have enough recipes stocked up to deal with all of the various squashes, greens, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. I am also just really excited about making all things that have to do with apple and pumpkin, so I’ve got a whole bunch saved.

In the midst of recipe searching, I found a great recipe from a website that I stumbled upon called NaturallyElla. I really enjoy the way the site is set up and the recipes that the blogger includes, most of which I believe are original recipes. She usually uses whole wheat flour, all natural ingredients, and focuses a lot on vegan meals.  She recently posted a great recipe for Cinnamon quick bread, and I knew I had to give it a whirl- literally.

Cinnamon Quick Bread
Adapted from Naturally Ella

1 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup natural sugar
1/2 cup butter melted
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
3/4 cup milk

for the filling:
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350˚F.

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients (the dry ones) and stir to combine.  Add in remaining wet ingredients and stir until mixture is well combine.  Quick breaks are not very finicky; however, if you want, combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl before pouring into dry.

In a buttered 9×5 pan, spread 1/3 of the mixture of the bottom; sprinkle half the sucanat and cinnamon.  Repeat with 1/3 more of the batter and the last of the sucanat/cinnamon.  Finish with batter.  You can opt to put a crumb on top (butter cut into flour and sugar) but I chose to leave it off.

Bake for 55-60 minutes until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the bread.

 

The recipe was really simple. You don’t have to use whole wheat flour, but I always say, why not? In fact sometimes I’ll substitute it in for all-purpose flour. At first I thought that the two tablespoons of cinnamon wouldn’t be enough, but it really came out great. It was a beautiful bread, and I was pleased to see that it looked pretty similar to the photos on the original blog. My only complaint is that it was a bit dry. I would suggest using more milk and less yogurt, or adding a bit of oil in place of the yogurt- although it’s not as healthy. I had to add a bit more milk to the batter just while I was mixing it together, and it still was pretty dry. No worries though, stuck in the oven for a few minutes, this bread makes really great toast! It’s also great with jelly, could be used for a delicious French toast, and is very delicious on its own. Unfortunately, we couldn’t eat it fast enough and it started to mold before we could finish it. I think I’ll try this again sometime soon though, and use it up as soon as possible to get the full benefit.

 

After spending a few days in Connecticut a few weeks back, where the weather was cool and comfortable, I was greatly looking forward to the first day of Autumn. However, in Philadelphia, September 21st AND 22nd both had hot and humid days, not at all like the refreshing crisp and breezy weather I was anticipating. Regardless, I had a bunch of apples in the house from some apple picking back home, and decided to put them to use to welcome the change in season, not the change in temperature.

I found a recipe from Annie’s Eats called “Cranberry-Apple Harvest Muffins” that was adapted from a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa entitled “Cranberry Harvest Muffins.” I checked out the recipes and had to make substitutions either way, so I just made the necessary changes and called my adaptation “Harvest Muffins.” Click on the links to get the original recipes or follow my version below.

Harvest Muffins
Adapted from Annie’s Eats and The Barefoot Contessa

3/4 whole wheat flour
3/4 all purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup dried cranberries, reconstituted if desired
3/4 cup peeled and chopped apple, I used MacIntosh
1/2 cup diced fresh figs
1/2 cup raisins6 tbsp. packed brown sugar
6 tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and giner; whisk together.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in the milk, egg and melted butter.  Stir quickly just to combine.  Add the cranberries, apples, figs, raisins, and both sugars to the bowl.  Stir just enough to distribute the fruits and sugars evenly throughout the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between muffin tin. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until browned on the top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

These came out great, even though they were packed with all different flavors. The figs were not totally necessary, and dried ones would have worked fine if desired. I added the raisins because I forgot that I had some fresh figs and ended up tossing the figs in at the last minute. I also substitute half of the flour for whole wheat flour. Not a huge difference, but always makes me feel the slightest bit more health conscious. When it gets closer to Thanksgiving and fresh cranberries are more abundant, I will totally use Ina Garten’s recipe for the Cranberry Harvest muffins- maybe without the figs though, we’ll see.

Feel free to check out both recipes and decide on what works best for you. These are great for breakfast, a side for lunch, an afternoon snack with tea, or dessert! They have just the right amount of sugar so that they are sweet enough but not overly. Mmm, I can’t wait to make more Fall harvest muffins!

Today marks a pretty important day in my family. I just want to take a minute to wish my DAD a very happy birthday! Unfortunately I can’t be at home in Connecticut this weekend to celebrate with him, but I was able to spend a few days back at home last weekend and we got to celebrate a bit early.

For his gift this year, I selected a bottle of Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction’s SNAP. It’s a liquor that tastes like a Ginger Snap. I’ve actually never had it, but I’m a huge fan of Art In the Age’s ROOT, which I received as a birthday gift this year. I decided to spread the Philly love, as only Philadelphians know how, and share this awesome new trend with my dad at home in Connecticut. I figured that with the holiday season swiftly approaching, it would be a great time to try out some new cocktail recipes to show off at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Of course, to compliment the drink, I had to find the perfect baked good to go along with the gift. This was not hard. Duh, gingersnaps! And perfect timing, too. The weather at home was crisp, clear, and cool. Perfect weather to relax with a cocktail and some gingersnaps.

Gingersnap Cookies
from All Recipes

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup white sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, oil, molasses, and egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger; stir into the molasses mixture. Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. Roll each ball in white sugar before placing 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in preheated oven, or until center is firm. Cool on wire racks.


These came out perfectly, except that I may have over-baked them for one minute too long. Aim around 10 minutes, as opposed to 12. But don’t they look awesome? I love the cracked effect  and the sugar-coated texture. They are just bursting with flavor. They were pretty soft and chewy after just coming out of the oven, but hardened up quickly and would taste so good with a glass of milk or some hot tea… or a SNAP cocktail! This is a really fast recipe and is great for any chilly Fall afternoon and makes a great gift for friends. Enjoy!