Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dreaming of Spring and Summer Gardens.

We are deep in the winter doldrums in New England with temperatures dropping to minus 20 last night! Record cold temperatures, record snow falls in one month, cities and towns buried under snow with more snow on the way. All around me complaints can be heard about our harsh and miserable winter of 2015. Enough I say, I'm over this winter instead I am transporting myself to a beautiful spring by shipping a  cup of tea while I look over last year's garden photo's to plan this year's additions to my already over flowing flower beds. I choose not to be miserable lamenting about record cold temperatures and snow falls: My beautiful garden photos are lifting me and my spirit to a different time when the air is sweet with new buds pushing past the just warming soil signalling the start of spring.

Gardening is in my blood; I come from a long list of passionate green thumbs who can spend all day laboring in their gardens, a labor of love. My particular passion is flowers, building beautiful flower beds. I approach my garden beds as if I was decorating a room. I visualize the theme, color, textures, shapes, designs before I buy a plant. Also paying close attention to when the plants blooms as my desire is to have continues bloom from spring to fall. My obsessive/compulsiveness comes out when choosing color for my garden, for me a strict color them is very important to my eye. My themes include only white, pinks, blues, and purple, once in a while I make an exception for yellow.

For me looking at the total picture when I am designing a garden is the first step. Then I choose my color theme, design plan, finally the plants. I hear from so many people they don't know which plants to choose and how to place them. If you just remember that you need to vary bloom time, size and color then planning your garden is easy. One rule that I follow is always plant in odd numbers, threes, fives etc. Visually that creates a beautiful balanced view that catches the eye. Start with ordinary varieties of plants that are reasonable priced and easy to grow. Success breeds confidence when you garden. After your initial accomplishments then you can move try other plants. I approach gardening as I live life embracing all without fear.

The tip that I can give you that will make gardening easy and stress less is that if you are not happy or filled with joy about the outcome of your plantings you can easily redo for a different look and feel. Since I love change that is one of the best features of gardening being able to change, taking away and adding new all the time. I remember my first gardening attempts when I planted spring bulbs in groupings of one. How dejected and disappointed I was after I waited all winter to see my beautiful bulbs bloom. What I found come spring was one little daffodil here with another single tulip there. I learned quickly that spring bulbs need to be massed in groups starting with a minimum of three, again planting an odd number. Don't plant to far apart either, bulbs look lonely spread too far apart. Check out all the wonderful resources on line at site such as White Flower Farms, Dutch Gardens, Gardening magazines and many more.  You can find garden plans at these site down to specific plants for all different types of gardens, sun, shade, small, large, all designed for you! What could be more simple.

I invite you to enter the world of the passionate gardener, a privilege group of obsessed people that live for their gardens and gardening; to be transported to a beautiful world that soothes the soul filling life with bliss!

Monday, February 16, 2015

President's Day Old Fashioned American Apple Pie

Happy President's Day! I'm celebrating with a  good old fashioned American Apple Pie. I've added a little extra to this recipe, dried cranberries soaked over night in cognac.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Measure flour and salt into a bowl. Cut into butter thoroughly with a pastry blender.  Sprinkle in the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork until flour is moistened and dough almost cleans the side of the bowl.

Gather the dough into a ball, then shape, divide the dough in half and shape into 2 flattened rounds.) Chill dough for at least one hour. On a lightly floured board roll each dough rounds 2 inches larger all around than the inverted pie pan. Place pastry on parchment or wax paper lined baking sheet, and chill.

9 medium size firm tart apples, thinly sliced. (I used Granny Smith)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked over night in cognac. I used Ocean Spray.
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400F. Put apple slices and raisins in mixing bowl, sprinkle with sugar, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss to mix well. Place on pastry round in pie plate. Pour apple mixture into the pie crust and dot with butter. Carefully cover the apples with top pastry, trim the overhang, and crimp the edges to seal. Bake the pie for 45 to 50 minutes or until pastry is nicely browned and the juices in the center of the pie are bubbling. Let cool slightly on a wire rack before serving. Serve plan or with vanilla ice cream!


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Romantic French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup brings up visions of a romantic dinner in a charming French Bistro at a small table for two. Wonderfully easy to make at home for dinner for two. Start with a cheese plate with a assortment of cheeses, french bread, olives, add an elegant salad lightly dressed with a french vinaigrette, then the soup, finishing the meal with Mouse au Chocolate.

French Onion Soup
1/4 cup butter
2 pounds medium onions, halved lenghtwise, then thinly sliced lenghtwise
4 springs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 cup red wine
4 cups reduced sodium beef both(32 fl oz)
1/2 teaspoon black better
4 1/2 inch slices from a french baguette
1/4 pound Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook butter, onions, thyme, bay leaves and salt in a 4-to-5-quart heavy pot over low heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add four and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine cook for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and pepper, simmer uncovered stirring occasionally, for 30, minutes. Preheat over 350 F. Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet, toast, turning once for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
Preheat broiler. Put crocks* in a shallow baking pan. Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup. Divide Soup among crocks, then float a baguette slice in each crock. Slice enough Gruyere thinly to cover tops of crocks to hang over rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted about 1-2 minutes.


* Crock pots, I like white, are best used for this recipe. The crocks are great for to serve soup and chili.

Snowy Day French Lentil Mushroom and Leek Soup

Winter is hard in New England with cold temperatures and blizzard snow conditions so one way I like to heat up the winter is with hot soups. I like soups that are filling and flavorful. Lentils add taste and fiber to this vegetable soup with a French flair. I've spiced it up with garlic, thyme and wine, a twist on classic lentil soup.

French Lentil, Mushroom and Leek Soup

1 32 ounce carton reduced-sodium vegetable broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 vegetable bullion cube
1 1/2 cups French lentils or brown lentils, rinsed and drained 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
3 cups sliced fresh cremini and/or button mushrooms (8 ounces)
3 medium carrots  coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup thinly sliced leeks (2 medium)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped kale or chopped fresh spinach
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 14 1/2 ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
Parmesan Cheese for sprinkling on soup(optional)
  1. In a Dutch oven bring broth, water, wine and bullion cube to boiling. Add lentils; return to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and leeks in hot oil over medium heat about 5 minutes or until leeks are tender. Stir mushroom mixture, kale, thyme, salt, and pepper into the lentil mixture. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer covered, about 15 minutes or until lentils are tender. Stir in drained tomatoes; heat through.
  3. Ladle soup into bowls. Top soup in each bowl with Parmesan cheese.