Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Cake, Desserts, Food, Gardening

Apricot Snacking Cake with Crunchy Flax Topping

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The view out my window teams with an array of fall colors. The season’s best; deep golden yellow, burgundy red, and burnt sienna cover the trees as the leaves slowly fall and the cooler temperatures usher in the Midwest climate change.

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I stepped outside a few minutes ago, to enjoy another beautiful autumn Sunday. As I made my way across the deck, I was greeted by the aroma of a wood fire. Neighbors in the area are taking advantage of their fire pits as they rake leaves and clean up garden beds for it is time we put the backyard to sleep for the coming winter months.

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A fitting autumn treat, Apricot Snacking Cake, bakes in the oven as we hope to enjoy a relaxed evening munching on this delicious, pudding-like, dessert with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream. (Even better, a steamy cup of tea will accompany this scrumptious autumn treat just perfectly.) I’m hoping the mild temperatures will hold on as the autumn sun begins to set. What a delight it might be if we can enjoy this delicious dessert outdoors as the soft breezes blow and the leaves delicately dance to the ground.
Afterwards, I’ll slice up the left over cake into serving-sized squares and pack it in an airtight container to make for a quick morning bite, as we hurry out the door to start another busy work week.

Apricot Snacking Cake with Crunchy Flax Topping

1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, beaten
2 12 oz. cans apricot pie filling (I use Solo brand)
1 serving sized packet – steel cut instant oatmeal with flax

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, a 9×13 baking pan.
In large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and stir in the oil, eggs and pie filling. Stir until well combined. Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with one serving sized packet of instant oatmeal.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake tests done. Drizzle with icing, if desired.

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Gardening

Key Lime and Blueberry Muffins

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Well, it seems the last of the blueberries have made their way to the farmer’s market as the fall season begins and apples, peaches, and pears showcase their beauty and flavor in the weeks to come.
As I peered into the fridge this morning, I noticed a pint of blueberries and a few containers of key lime Greek yogurt on the shelf. I remembered using this combination of flavors some years ago in a blueberry yogurt muffin recipe that I had in my kitchen file. I rummaged through the worn folder to find what I was looking for and was delighted to see I hadn’t misplaced it. The combination of key lime and blueberry is quite similar to that of lemon and blueberry except for the added punch that key lime lends to the recipe. Give this one a try, I think you’ll like it.

Key Lime and Blueberry Muffins

1 cup flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup key lime flavored Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Note: This recipe makes 6 regular-sized muffins.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, yogurt, vanilla, oil and milk. Stir in the dry ingredients just until moistened; fold in the blueberries.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Lightly sprinkle with crumble topping, optional. (See recipe below)

Crumble Topping
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. butter
Combine flour, sugar. Cut in butter. Sprinkle over muffins before baking. Store any leftovers in the fridge for future baking.

Bake muffins at 350° for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the
center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Continue cooling on a wired rack.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Canning, Food, Gardening

Preserved Apple Slices

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This week I had the opportunity to attend a series of Master Home Food Preservation classes in central Indiana. I can’t even express my excitement over the valuable information that was shared during the week long certification class. We learned of techniques for freezing, water bath canning, drying, pickling, and pressure canning through PowerPoint slides and hands-on lab time.
It was a long, sometimes exhausting, week where I spent time with other classmates testing various techniques for preserving the best of the season. One important point that I would like to make about home food preservation is one that focuses on food safety…Never use a recipe that has not been tested by a reputable entity such as the USDA or Ball Canning. Use recipes that have been developed no earlier than 1995 as food science and technology specialists have shared new information that focuses on current food safety practices. The USDA is one of the only sources I use for my canning recipes. Here is the link for the National Center for Home Food Preservation/USDA canning recipe book.
You can download the whole book for free. The recipe for apple slices is on page 7. I can’t stress how important it is to use a laboratory tested recipe. It’s a matter of life and death! Botulism is no laughing matter so it’s important that you follow tested recipes exactly as they are written. Do not alter ingredients or quantities. Process as directed. I recommend using recipes as advised and then after you have opened a jar to serve the contents, make your adjustments to spice things up to favor your preference. Then, refrigerate and use up the quantity as directed.
For more information about home food preservation, visit the National Center’s website at http://nchfp.uga.edu.

Posted in Canning, Food, Gardening, Homemade Mixes, Toppings

Perfect Peach Freezer Jam

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While I have always been a traditional jam and jelly maker, I’m thrilled to find so many new products on the market that are meant to make jelly making so much easier and less time consuming. One such product is the instant pectin that Ball has developed specifically for freezer jam. I’ve made several jars in as little as 30 minutes. Those of you with young children can let them take a bigger role in the jelly making as there is no cooking involved. And the process is quick and simple. I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for home made goodness that is quick and simple.
I have included several screen shots of the peach freezer jam recipe calculator from the Ball/Fresh Preserving website so that you can see just how easy this is.
First, go to the Fresh Preserving website…
Here you will find a pectin calculator for your chosen jam or jelly flavor.
Now, find the fruit that you wish to use for your jam or jelly.

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Once you have chosen a fruit, choose whether you would like to make jam or jelly.

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Next, choose the type of pectin you will be using.

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The calculator will then calculate a recipe for you to follow. Super simple!

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Remember, you’ll want to use Instant Pectin…

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Also, this process is only meant for freezer jam. Store these jars in the freezer until you are ready to use them. Store them in the fridge after opening.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Dinner, Food, Gardening, Salad, salads

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

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It’s always fun to use up fresh garden veggies by throwing them into a big bowl of tender, herb-spiced pasta. While I have a variety of fruits and vegetables planted in my summer garden, it will be a while before they are ready for harvest. In the meantime, I just love heading out to the local farmer’s market to pick up a healthy dose of garden fresh vegetables for some of my lite warm-weather recipes.
This recipe couldn’t be any easier. Use your favorite vegetables, cheese, or meat to mix into this cold pasta salad. A tall glass of iced tea and some whole grain crackers can round out the meal as the sun shines, the heat sets in, and we welcome the lazy days of summer.

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

14 ounces pasta, uncooked
1/2 cucumber, chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
5 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, parsley, and oregano, finely chopped
1 cup zesty Italian-style salad dressing
3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water, bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in pasta, return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain and cool by running cold water over the pasta in a colander set in the sink. Coat with a small amount of dressing to prevent pasta sticking together. Cool completely.
2. Combine pasta, vegetables, and herbs in a large bowl. Pour the remaining Italian dressing over the salad and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Sprinkle on Parmesan cheese before serving.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Brunch, Food, Gardening, Salad, salads, side dishes

Refreshing Strawberry Spinach Salad

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This is one of my favorite salads. I usually make it during the late spring months when we have loads of strawberries ripe for the picking. However, a couple of weeks ago, I went to a holiday party and brought this salad along. I knew there would be lots of rich desserts, heavy side dishes, and sweet holiday beverages so I wanted to bring along something light and flavorful. The green and red of the spinach and strawberry mix certainly made the salad look festive. Surprisingly, the strawberries were sweet and juicy. Our grocer’s winter berry selection is usually flavorless and strawberries often have a firm, rock-like texture. I expected to have to sweeten up the berries with a small sprinkle of sugar before adding them to the salad. To my surprise, they were perfect in every way. I was also pleased that I didn’t have to part with a small fortune when purchasing the berries. They were quite reasonably priced so I made sure to buy a load of them.
For a dramatic presentation, I often mix the salad in a clear, deep bowl to show off the beautiful colors within the mix. The deep green of the spinach, and rosy red of the strawberries glisten under the glaze of dressing. Flecks of black and beige (from the addition of poppy and sesame seeds) make the salad look quite appetizing.
While the winter temperatures are down-right bone chilling and the snow continues to fall, I long for the warm sunny days of spring and summer when fresh produce is abundant and flavorful summer salads are a welcome part of the everyday meal.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

1 large bag, pre-packaged baby spinach, stems removed
4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds. Just before serving, pour over the salad and toss to coat.

A good trick when traveling with this salad:
Slice the strawberries and place them at the bottom of the bowl. Then, lightly add clean, prepped spinach and cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap. Carry the dressing in a jelly jar or lidded plastic container. After reaching your destination, give the salad a toss and add the dressing, distributing everything evenly.

Posted in breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, Food, Gardening, side dishes

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

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This is a fancy potato recipe that serves as a quick and easy side dish for beef, chicken, or pork. Look for small red potatoes about 1 1/2- 2″ in diameter for best results. I often use multi-colored fingerlings as well. This cooking method produces a crispy outer skin yet leaves a soft tender center in the bite-sized potatoes. Season them with your favorite herbs and spices. I have served them with breakfast, along side bacon and eggs. And they are equally delicious served along side a sirloin steak or chicken breast with a green vegetable side dish.

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

2 pounds small red potatoes
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste

Place washed potatoes in a large pot and cover completely with water. Season with kosher salt and bring to a boil; simmer until potatoes are tender when knife is inserted in the center. Drain.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over potatoes and roll to coat. Space potatoes evenly on a baking sheet. With the bottom of a measuring cup, press down evenly on each potato, flattening potatoes to about 1/3 to 1/2″ thick. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves and garlic powder. Season generously with salt and pepper; drizzle evenly with remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Roast potatoes on top rack 10 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to bottom rack and continue to roast until potatoes are well browned, about 20-25 minutes longer. Serve immediately.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Desserts, Food, Gardening, Gifts, lunch box

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

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This recipe is from an old cookbook that I have used for years. When my children were little, we lived one block away from their grade school. For school parties, I always made a basket of lollipop cookies reflecting whichever festive holiday season the classroom may be celebrating…sunflowers for the early fall, ghosts and goblins for Halloween, colorful leaves and turkeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas trees and snow people for the winter parties. I’d pack a festive bucket or basket with floral foam, push the lollipop sticks into the foam, wrap the whole thing in cellophane wrap and tie a pretty bow to the outside of the package. Everyone’s eyes would light up as I entered the classroom with my package of goodies.
What I like most about this recipe is that the cookie dough is simple to make with just a few ingredients and that the dough doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling it out. (When I start a project, I want to get it done quick… I have no patience waiting for the dough to chill and harden for an hour.)
Adding food coloring to the dough is also a time-saver…no need for icing. This recipe has always been a holiday favorite in my house!

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(Extra Supplies)
Flower cookie cutter
Yellow icing color
1 pkg. 8″ lollipop sticks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour. Tint cookie dough with icing color. Pinch off a small amount of dough, make twelve to eighteen 1/4″ balls. Place balls, 3″ apart on cookie sheets. This will serve as the cookie base. Press lollipop stick into each ball; flatten slightly. Roll remaining dough out at 1/4″ thick. Cut dough, dipping cookie cutters in flour before use. Place cutout cookie on each stick, press lightly to attached cutout to cookie base. Add chocolate chips to each cutout center. Bake for 8-12 minutes until slightly golden around the edges. Cool completely before carefully removing from cookie sheet.

(Adapted from Wilton Gifts from the Kitchen Cookbook)

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Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baking, breakfast, Gardening, lunch box

Chunky Homemade Applesauce with Simple Granola Topping

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We spent a beautiful afternoon at the local apple orchard last weekend. I had my mind set on making several batches of homemade applesauce while the fruit is in abundance and is reasonably priced.
When we first moved to our current home, J and I planted several apple trees on the back portion of our property. That was 13 years ago and we have not been able to harvest one single apple since then. We planted them in an open area beyond our woods which must be the perfect spot for all of the local deer to munch on whatever fruit begin to grow on the miniature trees.
In our area there are several great orchards so taking a trip to purchase bulk fruit and vegetables isn’t too much trouble. We picked up lots of apples, sweet potatoes, cider, fresh apple donuts, and chestnuts.
I’ve been making this particular applesauce recipe for years and years. The addition of vanilla makes a world of difference, adding an extra layer of flavor. If you own an apple peeler/corer, it will make this recipe super quick and easy to assemble.

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Chunky Homemade Applesauce with Simple Granola Topping

8 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes; while stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Mash apples to desired consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Simple Granola Topping

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins or dried fruit, if desired

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto parchment lines sheet pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to achieve an even color. Add raisins or dried fruit if desired.

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Posted in Food, Gardening, side dishes

Autumn Squash and Apple Bake

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This picture doesn’t do justice to the sweet, flavorful taste of this side dish. Cubed butternut squash and apples with a sprinkling of dried cranberries make this perfect for any fall feast.
Yesterday, I drove to a local orchard to pick up some fruits and vegetables for the week. As I got closer to the orchard, the traffic got heavy and came to a stand still. I thought that there might have been an accident but as my car crawled closer to my destination, I realized the back up was due to the amount of visitors headed to the orchard. As much as I would have liked to go in and get my produce, I had to drive on by because there wasn’t a parking space to be had in both of their spacious parking lots. While I was sad to have missed a visit, I was really happy for the orchard owners to have such a booming business! I think I will try to make my way back during the week when traffic is a little less hectic.
Meanwhile, I drove further down the road to pick up some butternut squash and apples to make a great new side dish that I recently discovered. This is sweet, tender, and nutritious. I added a few pecans for a bit of added crunch.

Autumn Squash and Apple Bake

1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 package butternut squash, cubed. (found in the produce section)
1 medium apple, cubed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 11×13″ baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Combine margarine with all ingredients and pour into prepared baking dish. Season with salt, if desired. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until squash is tender.