Cranberry Orange Muffins

These muffins smell so good baking in my oven this afternoon. I have always made these muffins just around Thanksgiving. The beautiful fresh red cranberries just beg to be added to muffins, breads, and fresh cranberry sauce of course. Who could resist them! I lived in Washington State many years ago and I would bring these muffins to my Sunday school class. Everyone really seemed to enjoy them. When you bite into this muffin it’s moist. The orange zest and cranberries give a burst of fresh tangy flavor and the nuts give a delightful crunch. Once you try these tasty muffins you will want them every year. When see those beautiful red cranberries, you won’t be able to resist!

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Cranberry Orange Muffins

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 ½ Teaspoon baking powder

½ Teaspoon baking soda

½ Teaspoon salt

1 Teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ Teaspoon ground ginger

2 Tablespoons freshly grated orange zest

½ Cup shortening

¾ Cup Fresh orange juice

2 large eggs beaten

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ Cup fresh cranberries, chopped

1 ½ Cups pecans, chopped

Bake 375 degrees in a pre-heated oven

Bake 15-18 minutes

In a large bowl add all the dry ingredients and the orange zest

Cut in the shortening

Stir in the orange juice, eggs, and vanilla

Stir just till combined, add cranberries and nuts. Gently stir just to bring ingredients together. Don’t over mix. Line muffin pans and fill 2/3 full with the batter. Makes 1 ½ dozen.

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Stuffing With Sausage

I’m up early this Sunday morning to prepare the stuffing for our turkey dinner this afternoon. My husband Joe and I are celebrating Thanksgiving with our children today. Wish we could all be together on Thanksgiving Day, but as a blended family things can’t always go as you wish. I am grateful to be able to prepare such a special meal and share a day of thanks with each of them. Thanksgiving is such a special holiday for me. I have a many treasured  memories from my childhood. Thanksgiving kicked off the holiday season in our home. My Dad and Mom loved the holidays and spoiling their seven children with a feast on Thanksgiving another feast and tons of presents under our tree on Christmas. Those days were the happiest I can remember. Days before Thanksgiving my sister Carol and I would help Mom by washing all the china. We had at least 20 people at most of our dinners. I remember one year my Dad putting two wooden stands several feet apart and laying ply would over them for our table. Mom would lay a beautiful table cloth and the lovely china and food were the decoration, which would cover the entire table. One of my favorite dishes on the holiday table was Mom’s stuffing. It was made with sausage and stuffed into the cavity of a twenty five pound butterball turkey. Dad always put strips of bacon across the top of the turkey. When the turkey was resting I loved to sneak the bacon off the top. It was so crisp and delicious. The stuffing recipe was my Grandmother Queens and Mom always made the stuffing just the way her Mom taught her. Mom didn’t have a recipe box which I’m sad about now. However my sister Bev and I put the recipe together the best we remembered.

Grandma Queens Stuffing

2 bags soft unseasoned bread cubes. I use Stroehann Pennsylvania Dutch bakers.

1 16 oz. Package Jimmy Dean premium pork sausage, regular

2 eggs beaten

1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped fine

3-4 celery ribs, Chopped fine

1 stick butter

Chicken stock, use as much as you determine based on how moist you want your stuffing. Start with 2 cups. Grandma and Mom used boiling hot water. I like the stock for the flavor.

Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, you could also use mixture of fresh chopped herbs, such as sage, thyme, rosemary etc.

In a large sauté pan melt the butter. Add the onion, and celery. Add just a little salt at the point. Sauté until the onion and celery are tender. In another pan break up the sausage and cook till almost brown. Drain off any fat. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the beaten egg and toss with the bread cubes. Add the onion, celery, sausage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt as the chicken stock has salt as well. Toss everything together. Add broth starting with 1 cup use your clean hands to mix. Add stock as needed to get the moisture you desire. I use about 2 ½ cups. I love mine moist. Cooking the sausage is optional. It will fully cook in the oven when you bake it. I prefer it this way. If you are worried about the fat then cook and drain the sausage. Put the stuffing in a large casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake 30-40 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

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Apple Pie and Pittsburg

Apples from Trax Farm

I have been dreaming of baking an apple pie for several weeks now. The fall chill in the air just seems to beg for the oven to be lit. My husband, Joe and I planned a quick getaway last weekend to Pittsburg. He was born in Pittsburg and grew up in the boro of Castle Shannon. I decided to wait on my pie so I could purchase the apples from a farmers market nearby. Trax Farm has so many different kinds of apples. Joe’s Mom Helen always made her apple pie with star apples. I was going to look for those apples to make my pie just like his mom’s. Unfortunately they had no star apples. Since there were so many different kinds of apples I decided to use a variety of apples for my pie. I chose Jonathan, ginger gold, golden delicious, Jonagold, and granny smith. I loaded up my bag and paid. It was cool enough in the car that they wouldn’t spoil for the few days we were visiting. We had such a great time sight seeing and visiting Joe’s old neighborhood. We even made it to the Steelers game on Sunday due to the generosity of an old college buddy of Joe’s who lives in Pittsburg. I was so excited on our return home to make my apple pie. I waited till the next day and rolled up my selves. I relived our trip in my mind as I prepared the pie. When Joe came home from work that day we enjoyed a piece after our dinner. It was so delicious! I’m sure it was all those different apples and the fact that they came from Pittsburg of course!

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Apple Pie

Double crust pastry

8 cups apples, different varieties of baking apples. Peeled and sliced.

2-3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

3 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 tablespoons of whole milk

Prepare your favorite pastry crust chill for a least 1 hour or purchase a ready-made crust. Peel and slice the apples. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar and spices and mix with a spoon until evenly coated. Roll out the bottom crust and fill with the apple filling. Dot the top of the pie with diced unsalted butter. Roll out the top crust and place on top of the apples. Crimp the edges. Brush the top crust with while milk, and then cut slits in the top of crust to make a vent. Bake in a pre-heat 375 degree oven for 50-60 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or cool and refrigerate and serve cold.

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Peach Tart

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Peaches are looking juicy and delicious at the farmers market right now. The decision as I grab up a bag full is what to bake. I have little to no experience at tart baking, but it’s something I have wanted to embrace. I figure if I can bake bread from scratch, yummy layer cakes, cookies, muffins, biscuits etc. I must be able to master the tart. I mean how hard can it be! I grab Julia Child’s Mastering the art Of French cooking, the latest edition of course! In my pantry I have every size of tart pan imaginable. I had planned years ago to learn the art of the tart, but the dust is so thick on the pans I’m embarrassed. I turn to the chapter on dessert tarts and look at the different recipes for the pastry. I see Pate Brisee sucree, which is short paste and Pate Sablee, which is a sugar crust. The recipe for the peach tart calls for the sweet short paste. I made this tart twice, once with the Pate Brisee Sucree and then with the Pate Sablee. The Pate Sablee by far was the hardest to work with because of the sugar added to the dough. It was very sticky. I must say it was challenging. The Pate Brisee Sucree was the right choice. I dropped the fresh peaches into boiling water for a few seconds then peel off the skins and cut the peaches into slices. Then par baked the tart crust and sprinkle a mixture of 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar and 3 tablespoons of almond flour over the bottom of the tart. Then I tried to arrange the peaches neatly around the tart, harder than I thought, mine look a bit off. Then sprinkle 3-4 tablespoons more of sugar over the peaches and baked the tart for 30 minutes then sprinkle some slivered almonds on top and glazed it with apricot preserves which I warmed over medium low heat and added a tablespoon of water to thin it just a little. I returned it to the oven for 10 minutes then let it cool on a wire rack. The tart does look pretty armature but it tastes amazing. I am inspired to keep on baking tarts. I won’t take the time to type out a recipe. Please refer to Julia child mastering the Art of French cooking for the recipe. The pastry below is the Pate Sablee.

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Lemon Puffs

 

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These little beauties are lemon puffs. I’ve already shared with you in my last post how to prepare the lemon curd which fills the flaky layers of baked puff pastry. The baked sugary puff pastry has a flaky crunch as you bite down and then you taste the smooth but tart lemon curd. The whipped cream is the cherry on top. It is a very refreshing bite or two, it won’t take you long to eat and you’ll wish you could start over. The lemon puffs are so pretty; anyone would think they had taken hours to prepare. They look just beautiful on a dessert tray line with a white paper doily. These lemon puffs will make your next tea party or any occasion extra special. I hope you will enjoy as much as I do.

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Gather your ingredients.

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Roll your puff pastry just slightly and trim the ends to make the pastry even. Then measure 2″x 4″ pieces.

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Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Egg wash and sprinkle one pan with sugar one pan plain. Bake in a pre-heated 4oo degree oven 10-12 minutes. Till golden brown.

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Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Assemble by putting a layer of lemon curd on a plain baked puff pastry. Top with a baked sugared puff pastry. Dust with powdered sugar , top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Sprinkle on a little freshly grated lemon zest.

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Lemon Puffs

2 sheets of puff pastry, I use Pepperidge Farm

1 egg beaten with a few drops of water for egg wash

Lemon curd

Freshly whipped whip cream

Lemon zest to sprinkle over whipped cream

To prepare the puff pasrty

Sprinkle a little flour on a work surface and rolling pin. Roll the puff pastry even. With a ruler cut the pastry 2”wide by 4” long place pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush apply egg wash to the tops of the pastry. Then sprinkle half with sugar and leave half plain. The plain will be the bottoms and sugared will be the tops. Makes 15 lemon puffs

Lemon Curd

8 oz. unsalted butter

1 pound granulated sugar

5 lemons, grated zest and juice from all of the lemons

6 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, beaten

Cook over double boiler water should just be simmering. Melt the butter then add the sugar, juice and zest from the lemons. Slowly add the eggs stirring constantly about 20 minutes. The mix will become thick and get thicker as it cools.

Fresh Whipped Cream

8 oz. heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To Assemble

Place the plain piece of baked puff pastry on a plate top with lemon curd. Place the sugared piece of baked puff pastry on the top. Sift on a small dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Add a dollop of the fresh whip cream to the top and a sprinkle of fresh lemon zest.

Bakers note: If you want less puff pastry you can cut one piece in half and fill with the lemon curd and top with the cream.

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