Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blizzard 2015 Provencal Vegetable Soup with Pistou

On a snowy blizzard day or any day what could be more enjoyable than a bowl of homemade Vegetable Soup with Pistou. I make this classic french Provencal soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock. You can substitute chicken stock if you prefer. I also added one of my favorite grains, farro for an added nutty grain taste.

2 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (4 stalks)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks)
3 cups 1/2-inch-diced unpeeled boiling potatoes (1 pound)
3 cups 1/2-inch-diced carrots (1 pound)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
32 ounces (box) no salt added vegetable broth or home made
1 cup water
1 cube vegetable bullion
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1/2 pound haricots verts, ends removed and cut in 1/2
1/2 cup farro
1 cup Pistou, recipe follows
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving


Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot, add the onions, and saute over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt, and pepper and saute over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and saffron, bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the haricots verts and spaghetti, bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 more minutes.

To serve, whisk 1/4 cup of the pistou into the hot soup, then season to taste. Depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock, you may need to add up to another tablespoon of salt. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and more pistou.

4 large garlic cloves
3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup good olive oil
Place the garlic, basil, and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste. Pour into container placing plastic wrap directly on Pistou surface. Can be make two days ahead and refrigerated.

Yield: 1 cup


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chai Gingerbread Cake

In our family nothing says Christmas like Gingerbread Cake. Just the smell of baking Gingerbread cake invokes memories of Christmas past. Since our children were little Gingerbread cake is a family tradition that I've continued all these years. This year I decided to add a twist to my classic Gingerbread using a Chai blend of spices to enhance the flavor which turned out to be everyone's new Christmas favorite!

Chai Gingerbread Cake

Chai Spices:

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon cardamon seeds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Using a spice grinder or food processor, grind together fennel seeds, cloves, cardamon seeds, cinnamon and ginger. Reserve 2 teaspoons and store the rest in an airtight container in a cool dark place for up to one year.

Gingerbread Cake:

1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur's)
2 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter  (I use Cabot butter)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
Whipped cream to serve with, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-by13-inch pan and set aside. Combine water with baking soda, Set aside. In a large bowl sift together Chai spices, flour and baking soda. Set aside.
2. In another large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy, Beat in molasses and baking soda mixture. Beat in flour mixture. Add eggs and beat well.
3. Pour batter into pan and bake for 35 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Cool on wire rack. To serve dust with confectioners' sugar and cut into squares. You can serve just like this or with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour the cream into a well-chilled bowl (I like to but my bowl and beaters in the freezer) and add the sugar and vanilla. Using an electric hand mixer or balloon whisk, beat the cream to the desired consistency. For soft peaks, the cream will be just thick enough to hold its shape in soft billows. For stiffly beaten cream, the beaters or whisk wires will leave distinct traces on the cream and stand in firm peaks when the beaters are lifted.


vegetarian lental chilli

Who says you can't watch the Super Bowl while eating healthy! Chili is easy to make, can be made in large quantities and most importantly tastes delicious. I've make this chili vegetarian to cut out fat and calories but not the taste! Chipotle chiles in adobo give the chili just enough kick!

Vegetarian Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced onions
4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoon chili power
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup canned mild green chilies
1 to 2 chipotle chilies in adobo, sauce, minced, Add two if you like your chili with a stronger kick!
1 (14.5)  can diced tomatoes in juice
2 11.5 can V-8 vegetable juice
1 cup dark beer or hard cider
14.5 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 1/2 lime
1 package veggie crumbles, I used Morning Start
Tabasco sauce or chili garlic paste to taste
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Avocado, chopped

In a large pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the onion, garlic, cocoa, and spices and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onions are clear and the spices fragrant.
Add  the peppers and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes, V-8, beer or cider, beans, and veggie crumbles. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the flavors are blended.
Add the lime juice and Tabasco or chili garlic paste to taste. Serve warm, or chill and rewarm the next day for even better flavor. 
Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped avocado.
Makes eight 12-ounce servings.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January time to dream of spring with Gardening Catalogs!

As much as I love to cook I love to garden, maybe even more if that is possible. I am so passionate about my gardens which sooth my soul each and every time I venture in the garden. Even if I say I am just going to spend a few minutes pulling some weeds before I know I have been working at my garden for hours. No matter how long I stay in the garden, I don't want to leave, I have to force myself to stop and go inside. I love nothing more than getting up early on a spring morning, grabbing a cup of coffee, heading out to spend the cool early morning spring laboring in my garden. Laboring yes, but a labor of love!

Every January I long for spring and my garden. As I put away my Christmas decorations my mind shifts to garden plans including new plant acquisitions to enhance my already large perennial beds. I curl up at night with a cup of tea searching through all my favorite gardening sites and catalogs dreaming of spring while visualizing all these beautiful plants gracing my garden. On cold and long New England winter nights my garden blooms in my mind with my most beautiful ideas being conceived with the wind blowing and the snow blanking my grounds. I can hardly contain my excitement as our long winter show signs of turning to spring, brimming with all my new exciting plans for my garden. I go through this ritual every year filling my soul with visions of things to come in the spring. It never fails to transport me away from winter towards a new spring, a new beginning.

My favorite catalog to start dreaming of spring, spending hours pouring over the beautiful pictures is White Flower Farms. I actually visited the garden center's retail operation which is a treat if you can go to their  Litchfield CT location. I have order many plants from White Flower Farms never being disappointed with the plants. Their garden stock is of outstanding quality. If you have any questions about planting your purchases customer service is exceptional. Another grower that I go back to every year for quality, price and service is Dutch Gardens from Holland. If you are looking for large quantities of bulbs to mass this is the grower to purchase high quality bulbs at fantastic prices. Again I never been disappointed with their plants and bulbs. If you love old fashion roses and English roses  as I do I highly recommend David Austin roses. You can order directly from the grower with the roses being shipped bare rooted. If you follow the easy instruction on how to plant bare rooted roses your garden will be filled with beautiful blooming roses that first summer. Why I only plant these low maintenance roses is that I don't have the time for the fussier diva roses that require more care and maintenance. Maybe one day but for now I love these stress free, easy care roses that if you pick the right variety bloom all summer long.

During the winter dreaming about new plant designs for my garden fill me with such joy, almost as much as being out in my garden bring all my plans to fruition. Even if you only have a small area gardening brings such beauty and contentment into your life, working outside surrounded by nature, getting all dirty, for me it is just heaven!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Mushrooms and Fennel

Growing up of Italian heritage I have wonderful memories of my mother making all kinds of soup with beans, white beans, black beans, lentils, all different varieties. My mother taught me to layer my soups, you could say marry the different ingredients that just compliment each other for a deliciously flavorful satisfying soup. When I wanted to make a vegetarian white bean soup I added fennel and mushrooms to compliment the beans, shallots and garlic for flavor, plus giving more substance to the soup making it a nice light meal. This soup is perfect for a cold winter day, filling and warming!

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Mushroom and Fennel
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 bulb fennel, chopped
8 oz white button mushrooms, chopped
1 sage leaf
3 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans drained and rinsed
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 vegetable bullion cube
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 slices french baguette
Extra olive oil, for drizzling

Place a medium, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic and shallot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about 5 minutes. Add fennel and mushrooms cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the sage and beans: stir to combine. Add the stock, wine, vegetable bullion cube and water bring the mixture to a simmer.  Continue to simmer for 20 minutes.  Keep warm, covered, over very low heat.
Place a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the slices of ciabatta bread with extra-virgin olive oil. Grill the bread until warm and golden grill marks appear, about 3 minutes a side. Serve the soup in bowls with the grilled bread alongside.