Fresh Blackberry Muffins

Fresh Blackberry Muffin

Sometimes, little things can just improve your day. For me, it was starting the day with a mug of raspberry/hibiscus tea and a warm blackberry muffin. I had some beautiful fresh blackberries, and decided to make muffins with some of them. So happy that I did.

I used a recipe I had made before, but decided to add cinnamon and nutmeg to the batter. I also dipped the tops of the warm muffins in melted butter and a spiced sugar mixture to finish them off. So good. So very, very good.

I used fresh blackberries, but frozen would work, too. Don’t thaw frozen berries before adding them to the batter- and give the muffins a few extra minutes in the oven.

Blackberry Muffins

 1 c. milk

1 egg

¼ c. oil

2 c. flour

1/3 c. sugar

1 T. Baking powder

¾ t. salt

½ t. each cinnamon and nutmeg

1 c. blackberries, I used fresh but frozen would work, too.


1/2 c. sugar

1 t. each cinnamon and nutmeg

4 T. butter, melted

Beat together milk, egg and oil. Combine dry ingredients and add to milk mixture, stirring to just moisten flour. Fold in blackberries. Fill 12 paper lined muffin cups to 3/4 full.  Bake in preheated 400-degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Combine sugar and spices in a small bowl. Place melted butter in another bowl. When muffins are removed from the oven carefully dip the top of a muffin in the melted butter and then in the spiced sugar. If muffins are too hot to hold wait a few minutes before dipping. Repeat with remaining muffins. Serve warm. Makes 12.

Pasta Sauces and Hummus- Cooking Camp- Day 2

Alfredo Pasta Shells

The kids did a great job today. They had to make pasta sauces. We ended up making four different ones. Two I had suggested and two they requested. They made my recipe for carrot sauce and creamy spinach sauce. They also made Alfredo pasta, because one of the girls said she loves Alfredo. The last one they used marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese to create what they called pizza pasta.

The Alfredo pasta dish came out so wonderful. The girls stirred carefully to get a nice, creamy sauce.

The carrot pasta sauce was very popular. Several said they liked it because it didn’t taste like carrots. That made me laugh. They decided since it looked like mac and cheese, they were taking some home to fool their families. Looking forward to comments tomorrow.

They liked the spinach pasta more than I thought. Of course with all that butter and cream cheese, what’s not to love?

The pizza pasta was also a nice combo. The mozzarella cheese, folded in at the end, made it special.

Today’s lesson was also about tasting your food as you go! They used tasting spoons to try their dishes, adding more ingredients as needed. I was so impressed.

We also made hummus. One girl said she never liked hummus before, but liked ours.

Fun day for all.

Making the Alfredo
Carrot sauce- using an immersion blender is a lot of fun!!
Pasta with carrot sauce
Creamy spinach sauce with pasta
Spinach sauce and pasta was pretty popular
Cheesy pizza pasta
Pizza pasta was very tasty
Freshly made hummus
Cutting pita for the hummus

Cinnamon Vanilla Peach Pie

Cinnamon Vanilla Peach Pie

Sometimes, pie is more than just pie. Sometimes it is a memory and a tribute. We had a couple of peach trees at my parent’s house. One year there were so many peaches, my dad had to prop up the branches to keep them from breaking under the weight of the fruit. I remember the peach pie my mom made with some of them. It was bliss.

I have a handwritten copy of the peach pie recipe from my Mom. Well, maybe a partial recipe is a better description. What I have is a list, with the filling ingredients and the words “350-45-50”. No directions for how the ingredients are prepped or assembled. There was no recipe for the crust, but I knew the recipe she used, so that was not a problem. Her original recipe also did not have any cinnamon or vanilla, but I think she would have approved of their addition. I thought of her when I made this pie. Sweet memories, indeed.

Here is her recipe, as best I could figure it out.

Cinnamon Vanilla Peach Pie

1 recipe pie crust- enough for two crusts- recipe follows

10 peaches

2 T. lemon juice

2 t. vanilla

1 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

¼ c. butter

2 t. cinnamon

1 egg

2 T. cinnamon sugar*

Roll out 1 crust and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Set aside. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Place in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice and the vanilla- set aside. In small bowl, combine sugar with flour, butter and cinnamon until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place about a third of the flour mixture in pie crust. Top with half of the peaches. Add another third of the flour mixture and then the rest of the peaches. Sprinkle remaining flour mixture on top of the peaches. Roll out and cut the remaining pie dough into strips and place in a lattice design on top of the pie. Trim off excess crust and crimp edges to seal. Combine egg with a tablespoon of water and mix well. Brush egg wash on lattice top and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes. When I placed the pie in the oven, I put a baking sheet on the rack below the pie to catch drips.  If edges start to get too brown, cover with foil.  Makes 1 pie.

*Combine 1 teaspoon of cinnamon with 2 T. sugar

Flaky Pie Crust

2 c. flour

1 t. salt

3/4 c. lard, shortening or coconut oil, chilled

1 T. cider vinegar

4-5 T. cold water

Combine flour and salt and cut in fat of your choice. Toss in vinegar and water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Use a fork to toss the ingredients together and as soon as the mixture holds together stop adding water. Makes 2. Chill well before using.

Ready for the oven

Mentor Cooking Camp

It was wonderful to be back to work with kids. This week’s cooking camp theme is international foods. Today was pizza. The kids did a great job. We’ll be making all sorts of fun foods this week including hummus, empanadas, summer rolls, wontons and kolachy. They did a great job in class today.

Black-eyed Pea Salad

Black-eyed Pea Salad

When I say salad, I am not sure most people think of black-eyed peas as a main ingredient. Black-eyed peas, like other legumes, are a wonderful addition to both hot and cold dishes.

This dish is a great vegetarian option for dinner or as a side dish. It makes a nice salad for almost any summer party, picnic or cookout.

It is a simple recipe you can make ahead of time. Not too many ingredients, but packed with flavor.

I used dried peas and cooked them in my pressure cooker. If you are really pressed for time, you could use canned black-eyed peas instead. You’d need  4 or 5 cans. A can of black-eyed peas ( 14 oz.) will give you about a cup and a half of peas. A pound of dried  gives you about 7 cups of cooked peas.

Here is the recipe. Great summertime salad. Serve it plain- or over a bed of salad greens.

Black-eyed Pea Salad

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas

1 large sweet onion, chopped fine

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. red wine vinegar

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

1/2 t. dried thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Cover beans with cold water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans. Return to saucepan and cover with cold water. Simmer beans until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain. Place cooked beans in a bowl and cover with remaining ingredients. Toss to coat, cover and chill. Serve as a main dish or on the side. Also tasty served over salad greens or stuffed in a hollowed out tomato. Serves 6-8.

Spiced Cherries

Spiced Cherries

These cherries are so good, I am already wishing I had canned more of them. I was inspired by my cousin, Laurie, who needed spiced cherries for a recipe she wants to make.

I first thought about the spices I wanted to use. I didn’t want to overpower the cherries, but I wanted the spices to complement the flavor of the fruit. In the end I used cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, fenugreek, cloves and some cracked black pepper.

Once I decided which spices I wanted to use, I steeped them in boiling water. Kind of like making tea. Then I strained out the spices and used the spiced water in the syrup for the cherries.  I could just have added spices to the cherries when I canned them, but I didn’t want stuff in the jars I would need to strain out later. I also knew the spices would get more intense over time, if left in the jars. By making a tea and tasting it, I knew what level of spice I would have in the final product.

The spiced cherries can just be eaten, right out of the jar. They can also be drained and added to fruit salads or used to top desserts. You can also use them to bake with. They aren’t overly sweet.

Laurie is using them in some sort of chocolate cherry martini. Now that sounds good!!!

They would make nice gifts, too.

So here is my recipe for spiced cherries.

Spiced Cherries

7 (3-4 inch) cinnamon sticks

2 T. fennel seeds

2 T. fenugreek seeds

1 T. whole cloves

1 T. cracked black pepper

5 c. water

11 lbs. sweet cherries

3¼ c. sugar

Zest of 2 limes

Juice of 2 limes

Place spices in a large pot and turn heat on to medium. Toast spices in pot for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You should be able to smell them. Watch so they don’t burn. Add the water to the spices, bring to a boil, and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Longer cooking is fine. Fill water bath canner with water and heat up water to a simmer.   In the meantime, pit the cherries. You should end up with about 4½-5 quarts of pitted fruit. You can hold pitted cherries in a bowl of water with a little ascorbic acid in it, to prevent browning. Set aside. Remove the spiced water from the heat. Strain out the spices and discard them. Measure the spiced water and add enough fresh water to equal 5 cups. Return water to pot with the cherries (drained if they were in water), sugar, zest and lime juice. Bring mixture to a boil. Fill pint jars with cherries and cooking liquid, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe rims and screw on lids until fingertip tight. Place jars in water bath canner. Make sure the water covers the jars by 1-2 inches. Place lid on canner, and start timing when water returns to the boil. Process for 15 minutes. Remove jars from canner and place on a cooling rack or towel, in a draft free area. Once cooled, check the lids to make sure they are sealed. Remove bands and wipe down jars. Label and store. Makes about 9 pints.

Times and procedures all used NCHFP guidelines.

Jars cooling down

Peach Cheesecake Squares

Peach Cheesecake Squares

I love peaches and I love cheesecake. Never thought to combine them before. Wow, what a great dessert!! With peaches in season, it seemed like the perfect time to make it.

This recipe was inspired by a post I saw about a place that makes peach cheesecakes. I decided to make a less traditional cheesecake. I used a 9×13 baking dish instead of a springform pan. I also ended up making the cheesecake in layers. Let me explain.

I baked the crust a little, then added the cheesecake layer to bake. I was trying to figure out the best way to add the peaches. I decided to put them on after the cheesecake was baked, so I cooked them while the crust and cheesecake layers were baking. The crumb topping was an afterthought. I wanted some texture and just put that together at the end.

The result was a really good dessert. Enough peaches. Light and rich at the same time. I will most definitely make it again.

So here is the recipe. Enjoy!!!

Peach Cheesecake Squares


¾ c. butter

1/3 c. brown sugar

1¼ c. flour

1 c. oatmeal, old-fashioned or quick cooking

2 t. cinnamon

¼ t. salt

Cheesecake Layer

2 (8oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

¾ c. sugar

2 T. flour

2 eggs

2 T. vanilla

2 t. cinnamon

Peach Layer

5-6 peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped, about 5 cups prepared fruit

2/3 c. sugar, or a little less

2 T. lemon juice

1 t. cinnamon

4 T. cold water

2 T. cornstarch

Crumble Topping

1½ c. rolled oats

½ c. butter

¼ c. brown sugar

3 T. flour

2 t. cinnamon

Heat oven to 350-degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Beat together butter and brown sugar, then stir in the rest of crust ingredients. Mixture will be crumbly. Press into bottom of prepared pan and bake 20 minutes. While crust is baking, prepare cheesecake layer. Beat cream cheese sugar and flour until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Pour over crust and bake for 25 minutes, or until set. While filling is baking, prep peaches. Combine peaches with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until peaches are softened. Stir off and on to keep mixture from sticking. Combine cold water and cornstarch. Stir until smooth and pour into peach mixture. Mixture will thicken up. Stir until mixture returns to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Prepare crumble topping. Mix all ingredients with your fingers until well blended. Place on a baking sheet and place in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. You can do this while the cheesecake is baking, to save time. Let the cheesecake cool a few minutes. Then spoon over the peaches. Spread evenly and let it cool for 30 minutes. Spread the crumble mixture over the peaches. Cool then chill. Store covered in fridge. Serves 12. Can be frozen.    

Fresh Baked Crust
Peach Topping
With Crumble Topping

Honey Ginger Glazed Peaches

Honey Ginger Glazed Peaches

I am always looking for new ways to cook with old favorites. Peaches are a great example. When they are in season, I can’t get enough of them.

I have made peach ice cream, peach pie, peach pancakes, peach preserves, peach liqueur….. you get the idea. I wanted to enjoy peaches with our dinner the other night. I decided, rather than just slicing them up and adding them to a salad, I would do a little more to transform them.

So I glazed them, the way you might glaze carrots. So simple. Why had I never thought of it before? The peaches were soft, slightly sweet, and a perfect side dish for the broiled chicken. I want to try these with lamb, pork or maybe duck next time.

I kept it pretty simple- peaches, butter, honey, ginger, salt and a dash of sriracha. I could see adding other herbs and spices. Might have to do a little experimenting. For now, here is the recipe for glazed peaches. I did not have any leftovers, so a hit, for sure. I did not peel my peaches, but feel free to, if you like.

Honey Ginger Glazed Peaches

4 medium peaches, pitted and sliced thin

2 T. butter

4 T. honey

1/2 t. fresh grated ginger

pinch of salt

Hot sauce to taste

Place peach slices in a small skillet. Add butter and remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat until peaches start to get tender. This will take about 5 minutes. Stir once in a while to prevent sticking. Be gentle so you don’t mash the peach slices. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking a few more minutes. Peaches should be soft and the sauce thickened. Adjust seasonings.

Pizza Zucchini

Pizza Zucchini

I started making this dish out of necessity. I was fresh out of college and never seemed to have much money. I did have a big garden, though. It was August and the garden was full of zucchini, tomatoes and peppers. I had to find a tasty way to combine them. Pizza Zucchini was born.

The name is a little misleading. It isn’t really a pizza at all. Rather, it is a saute of several veggies, seasoned with pizza seasoning. I top it off with cheese, and often serve it over pasta or rice or stuffed in a pita bread. Last night, I served it on a whole wheat tortilla, so it did sort of have a pizza feel to it.

Not much work, this dish packs a lot of flavor. Plus, you can use all sorts of other veggies, depending on what you have around. So if you have a few extra zucchini laying around, this is a fun and tasty way to enjoy them. You might even get your family to eat more veggies.

“Pizza” Zucchini

1 T. oil
½ c. chopped onion
1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1 c. sliced mushrooms, optional
3-4 c. sliced zucchini or other summer squash, trimmed and sliced
3 c. diced fresh tomatoes, or use canned or 1 c. tomato sauce
1-2 t. pizza seasoning, or to taste*
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese

Sauté onion in oil until tender add pepper and mushrooms and sauté 2 minutes more. Add squash and cook until tender. Add tomatoes or sauce, seasonings and salt, if desired. Heat through, turn down heat and add cheese. Cover and allow to cook on low until cheese melts. Serve as is, over rice or pasta or in pita bread. Serves 3-4.

*Pizza Seasoning

3 T. dried basil
2 T. dried oregano
1-T. red pepper flakes
1 T. dried minced onion
1-T. fennel seeds
1 t. garlic powder

Combine all ingredients and store in a cool, dark, dry place.
To use: Add 1-2 teaspoons per cup of tomato sauce to make pizza sauce. Also good sprinkled on bagels with sauce and cheese or added to any tomato or pepper dish.

Pizza Zucchini in the skillet

Peaches and Cream Crepes

Peaches and Cream Crepes

Peaches are such a natural addition to any summer dessert. I decided to use some of my fresh peaches in crepes. Crepes are a nice dessert any time of the year. I think especially nice in summer, using fresh, seasonal fruit.

The crepes were filled with unpeeled, sliced peaches that had been tossed with sugar ahead of time. The sugar softens the peaches a little.  I also added some sweetened cream cheese and a little strawberry jam to the filling. We loved them.

They can be assembled ahead of time, and just kept chilled until ready to serve.  Serve as is, with a dusting of powdered sugar or even a vanilla caramel drizzle- recipe follows.

Peaches and Cream Crepes

1 recipe basic crepes- recipe follows
2-3 peaches, pitted and sliced thin
¼ c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ c. powdered sugar
Strawberry jam, optional

Make a batch of basic crepes and set aside until ready to use. Place sliced peaches in a bowl with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon and stir until sugar is dissolved. Best to do this at least a couple of hours before you want to use them. This softens the peaches and allows juices to come out of the peaches. You need the juices for the cream cheese. You can do this the day before, then just finish the cream cheese and assemble.
Place cream cheese in a bowl and start beating with an electric mixer. Drain juices off the peaches and add the juice to the cream cheese. Add the powdered sugar, too. Beat until cream cheese is fluffy.

To assemble the crepes: Place a crepe on work surface. Spread with some of the cream cheese. Along one side of the crepe place a small amount of strawberry jam, like a stripe. Place several slices of peach in a row, on top of the strawberry jam. Starting on the side of the crepe with the peaches gently roll up the crepe. Repeat with remaining ingredients. You will have 12. Serve as is, or you can top with powdered sugar, peach slices, warm jam, whipped or caramel sauce – recipe follows.

Basic Crepes

3/4 c. flour
1/8 t. salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 T. melted butter
3/4 c. milk, approximately
Butter or oil for pan

Beat together flour, salt and eggs until smooth. Stir in melted butter and then stir in milk until batter consistency is that of cream. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Beat again, just before using.
Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 2 teaspoons of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side.)
Crepes can be made day ahead or even frozen between sheets of waxed paper and frozen. Makes 12.

Vanilla Caramel

I made a light caramel sauce for the crepes. I just put 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan with a cup of sugar. Boiled it all together for about 3 minutes. Removed from the heat and added a teaspoon of vanilla, 4 tablespoons of butter and a 1/4 cup of half and half. Stirred until smooth, then added a pinch of salt, for extra flavor.

Crepes with a vanilla caramel drizzle

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