Monday, September 30, 2013

Apple Cider Sangria and Signs of Fall

There are certainly signs of Fall in our neighborhood, despite the temps in the 70's and 80's during the day.  Our yard and patio certainly look like Fall with all of the leaves, and it has been "raining" walnuts as well. It's almost another bumper crop year for the walnuts.  If you are out in the yard or on the patio for any length of time, you will need to wear a hard hat, he, he.  My family can attest to that.  All of those yellow-green orbs are walnuts in their husk among the leaves

There are a few other things that mean Fall to me besides outdoors, crisp temperatures and sweaters; apples, apple cider, and candy corn.  I was lucky to get some apples from, My SIL, Lori, Mother's apple tree, that was loaded with apples, and I didin't have to pay an admission fee to the orchard. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me. With the apples and Apple Cider I made this wonderful Apple Cider Sangria, which is a light refreshing drink with Fall Flavors of apples, pears, and apple cider. There is also a little white wine, I used a Chardonnay, Brandy, and Sparkling Water.   Oh, Yum!  You combine all of the ingredients in a pitcher, chill, and then indulge. This is a light drink with the apple cider and  Sparkling Water, in addition to the booze. If your looking for a light refreshing drink for Fall get togethers, then look no further.

I finally bought my first bag of Candy Corn, but was a bit disappointed, because the only kind of candy corn that I could find, was made in Mexico, really, and honey is listed as the last ingredient, before the food dyes. Yuck! It just doesn't taste like it used to.  Have you found any candy corn that tastes like the kind that you had, when you were a kid?  Let me know, if you do.

I also made an Apple Crisp for my son doesn't like chocolate. The Apple Crisp is served with Black Raspberry Custard from Ollie's Frozen Custard In Sycamore, IL, the best ever. I'll be posting the recipe for the Apple Crisp soon.


Apple Cider Sangria Inspired by How Sweet It Is
Yield: serves 4-6

1 bottle (standard size) of pinot grigio  (I used Chardonnay)
2 1/2 cups fresh apple cider
1 cup club soda (I used Sparkling water)
1/2 cup ginger brandy (I used regular Brandy)
3 honey crisp apples, chopped  (I used MacIntosh)
3 pears, chopped


Combine all ingredients together in a pitcher and stir well. Refrigerate for an hour or so (or longer, even overnight, before serving.

Regular brandy can also be used

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fresh San Marzano Tomato Pasta Sauce

Scott's Birthday was last week, and he likes to say that he is "60 and holding." Because he is a Foodie, he got a Norpro Sauce Master Food Strainer.  What else would a foodie want?  It turns out that our other neighbor, John,  that had a garden plot with 46 tomato plants, gave Scott a huge box of San Marzano Tomatoes. and Yes, he is feeding the city, lol. Scott was in Foodie heaven.  John also told Scott about his Food strainer for tomatoes, that forces the quartered tomatoes through the food screen, separating the skins and seeds in a turn of the strainer into  a separate bowl, with tomato pulp and juice going to another bowl.  In no time, we had a Dutch oven full of tomato pulp and juice. Amazing!
Even though Scott is "retired", he works part-time in an Ace Hardware, which is where he got his.  The food strainer is carried in the Ace Hardware Warehouse, so if you don't see it on the shelf, the Ace store can order it for you.  If you don't have an Ace Hardware in your area, you'll have to order it on Amazon perhaps.
Here are the skins and seeds
Here is the pulp and juice:

Scott made a wonderful Pasta Sauce with the fresh tomato pulp and juice.  He didn't even have to add any tomato paste or sauce. He sauteed the veggies, added the herbs, a tiny bit of sugar, and a splash of red wine.  If you don't have a food strainer, here a recipe to use Scott's New Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes,  Scott's New Marinara Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes .  Otherwise, here is the recipe that he used for the pulp. The pasta in the picture is gluten free pasta from Trader Joe's, which is made from corn, hence the yellowish color.   I love it! Here is the recipe for the meatballs here.

Scott’s San Marzano Pasta Sauce with Fresh TomatoesInspired by SP Cookie Queen


1/3 c olive oil

1 ½ cup chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped celery

1/2c finely chopped carrots

1/2 c finely chopped bell pepper

5 cloves garlic crushed

1/3 c Flat Leaf Parsley

1/2 lb Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

1/4 c fresh /basil, minced, or 1 T dried basil.

4 -5 qts.  Tomato pulp and juice
Sugar to taste

1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes, or to taste

1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup dry red wine


In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, green pepper, and garlic and Cremini mushrooms.  Using a spice or coffee grinder, grind all dry spices.

Add spices and all other ingredients into the pot and simmer several hours, stirring occasionally until the sauce is the desired thickness. Or cook in slow cooker on high 4-5 hours.  Remove lid and continue cooking on high until desired thickness. We didn't can this sauce, we froze it.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vegan Brownies with Vegan Chocolate Frosting

We had a neighborhood get together with all of our  neighbors, because some of our neighbors, Frank and Barb, who moved to Florida, were back in town for a visit  It happens that Frank had turned Vegan,  He said that he needed to do loose weight and researched`the best and healthiest way to do it.  His wife Barb, isn't Vegan, however.  Anyway, I knew that I had to have a Vegan Dessert. What's better than brownies, and I have found, that it is easier to bake Vegan, than cook Vegan. Is it easier for you to bake Vegan, than cook vegan?

These chocolaty cocoa brownies are moist from a generous helping of unsweetened applesauce and topped with a glossy, vegan, chocolate glaze  made with Earth Balance. These brownies are  low in fat and carbs.  At the party I did a taste test to see if my neighbors could tell which one were vegan. We had my regular Hershey's Syrup Brownies along with the Vegan Brownies, and Ta Da! the Vegan brownies won. The neighbors liked the Vegan Brownies better.  I think that the glossy glaze got them.  Enjoy!

Vegan Applesauce Brownies- Adapted from The Messie Baker

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt


1.Preheat oven to 350 and lightly spray or oil an 8 x 8 baking pan.  
2. Mix applesauce, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. In another bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pinch of cinnamon together.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the applesauce mixture. Mix until just combined.
4. Spread in prepared pan.  Bake 25-30 min, until center is firm and not sticky. Cool completely before cutting.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting


1/4 cup cocoa
5 Tbsp Earth Balance, dairy free, vegan spread
4 Tbsp non-dairy milk I used Almond milk
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar


Put powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl.  In a small sauce pan combine.  Earth Balance, cocoa, and milk Heat until mixtures  just starts to boil, stirring constantly. Be careful not to let it scorch. Pour mixture over powdered sugar and beat until smooth with an electric mixer.

 Spread warm frosting over warm brownies and you have heaven. 

Bring your favorite chocolate dessert to Roxana’s home baking #chocolateparty and win amazing prizes from OXO, Calphalon, Keurig, Imperial Sugar, Honey Ridge Farms and Land O Lakes® Butter

l linked up my recipe to Brandie@The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck #85
 Stop by and say Hi to Brandie! 


Monday, September 16, 2013

Peaches and Cream Stuffed Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for my BF Joanna's Birthday.  I asked her what kind of cupcakes she wanted, and she said "Peaches and Cream." . I know this is another peach recipe.  At first I wasn't sure that I could find good peaches this late in the season, so she told me to make Lemon cupcakes.  Lemon cupcakes are good, but Peaches and Cream sounded better. Not to worry, I found lots of Red Haven Peaches from Michigan, which were perfect for the cupcakes. Red Haven Peaches are considered "local" peaches because some of the peaches are only about 90 miles away, and arrive fresher than their California or Georgia counterparts.

These cupcakes look so good with all of that swirly Cream Cheese Frosting, and you know that their are peaches in the cupcakes somewhere. When you take a bite of these luscious cupcakes, you are surprised to find an incredible Cream Cheesecake filling with peaches.  The moist cupcake is a  spicy blend of peach preserves and cinnamon, topped with a Cream Cheese Frosting.  Can you say  Amazing?  I found the recipe on Chocolate Moosey.

See all of that luscious Cream Cheesecake Filling with chunks of ripe peaches, pure heaven. Joanna was definitely surprised, and they were a hit for sure, a nice birthday surprise.  In addition, we were having our neighbors over, the next day, so I made extras, and they were a hit again.  These cupcakes would be perfect for a birthday or bridal shower, or just because you want Peaches and Cream Cheesecake together in a cupcake.


Peaches and Cream Cupcakes  Adapted from Chocolate Moosey.



  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I used Almond milk plus, 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup peach preserves or peach curd  (I used peach preserves)

Cheesecake Filling: 
  • 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup peaches, pitted and chopped (peeling optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • Pinch of salt (I didn’t use)

1 peach, pitted and sliced, for garnish, Optional



1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Insert 12 liners into a cupcake pan.
2. In a large bowl beat together the oil and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla to the sugar mixture, beating 1 minute

3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and cinnamon
4. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until completely integrated.

5. Beat in peach preserves or peach curd.
6. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full.  Bake for about 18- 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheesecake filling:

  1. In a small bowl, beat the cream until stiff peaks form (when you pull the beaters straight up, peaks will form and not fall over).  Do not overbeat.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, Beat cream cheese until fluffy, and beat in sugar until creamy and smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Fold in the whipped cream then fold in the chopped peaches.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, Cream butter and cream cheese, with stand mixer, and gradually beat in powdered sugar and salt, if used, until fluffy and creamy. Refrigerate until needed.


  1. Once the cupcakes are completely cool, cut out a hole, about the size of a quarter, in the middle with the tip of a pairing knife, being careful not to cut through the bottom. I have a Cupcake Corer, which is a handy little tool that makes a perfect hole every time, or scoop out some of the cake, with a small measuring spoon, but reserve the top to put back on after filling. Fill with the cream cheese filling then cover the top with the reserved cake. Frost or pipe frosting on each cupcake. Keep cupcakes refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

l linked up my recipe to Brandie@The Country Cook's Weekend Potluck #85
 Stop by and say Hi to Brandie


Print friendly