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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Carrot soup

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Carrot soup was always on the menu at The Mulberry Tearooms where I had worked for a short time. It is creamy and delicious. The grated carrot added after the soup is pureed compliments with a little texture. This soup was a favorite with all the customers and me! It was served with a warm baguette and butter. I loved to dip it into the soup. I penned down as much of the recipe as I could while at work on part of a menu. I took my penned notes and what I remembered when making the soup and came up with this recipe. Always use the freshest ingredients. I know you will love this comforting soup as much as I do. Enjoy!

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Carrot Soup

2 Tablespoons of butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 ¼ lbs. fresh organic carrots, peeled and cut into 2inch pieces

4 oz. finely grated organic carrots

1 large onion, sliced

1 large clove garlic, minced

¾ teaspoon of kosher salt, or to your taste

¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, or to your taste

31/2 cups good vegetable stock or chicken stock

¼ cup heavy cream

Good pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Crème fraiche or sour cream

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced onion cook for about 5minutes just to sweat the onion. Add the garlic cook for 1-2 minutes then add the cut carrots, and salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the carrots are fork tender. Puree soup in a food processor or emersion blender. If using food processor put the soup back in the pot. Add the grated carrot, fresh nutmeg. Cook 10 minutes more till soup is heated through. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche or sour cream. Serve with French baguette or sour dough bread.

Note: If you don’t want the extra calories of the heavy cream you can omit it. You may need to add just a little extra stock after you puree.

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Asian Tacos

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A few weeks ago my daughter and I went to visit our dear friend Jacklin. We planned a girl’s night out at Jacklin’s new home. We went to the grocery store and pick up all the ingredients for my daughter’s favorite tacos. Upon our arrival we got the tour of her new place. It was decorated perfectly and felt so warm and cozy. Jacklin set a lovely table while I helped my daughter with the cooking. We even made creamy chocolate fudge for dessert. We shared stories and had lots of laughs over what turned out to be a truly delicious meal. Jacklin loved the tacos so much we had to give her the recipe. The crunchy texture of the corn tortilla filled with the perfectly seasoned meat then topped with the cold and crunchy slaw made for a few very delicious bites. This is a quick and easy meal that you’ll want to try.

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Asian Tacos

2 chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons stir fry sauce

4 tablespoons Asian sesame dressing

1 cup slaw mix, red and green cabbage and carrots

1 small jalapeno pepper, diced removes seeds if you don’t want the heat

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce

Green onion, garnish

Cilantro, garnish

Corn tortillas, baked on 350 degrees for 8 minutes

Heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add chicken and stir fry. Add stir fry sauce, 3 tablespoons of the Asian dressing, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce. When cooked set aside. In a small bowl combine slaw, jalapeno pepper, green onion, cilantro, add the last tablespoon of Asian dressing. Toss. Fill the warmed tortillas with chicken and slaw mixture.

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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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Egg Salad and Bacon on Seeded French Baguette

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It’s hard to believe Labor Day weekend is already here. Fall will be coming soon and thoughts of hosting a tea party are on my mind. I would really like to change up my standing menu by changing the tea sandwiches and lightening up my quiche. I thought different fillings on top of crostini would offer a nice change. Egg salad is one of my favorite sandwich fillings so I want to start with that. Instead of the plain mayonnaise I added a little Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, fresh chopped chives and salt and pepper. Because I’m a bacon lover I fried up some bacon to add a little something extra. The seeds on the baguette work nicely, adding flavor that works well with the egg and bacon. These little egg crostini turned out delicious and look elegant on the plate. Just what I was envisioning. I will be working on a tuna and chicken salad crostini next. I would also like to lighten up my quiche. My favorite quiche is loaded with three different cheeses. It is delicious but a bit on the heavy side. I’m going for a classic French quiche in which the filling has a delicate custard and crisp diced ham. I love that it’s a light bite and oh so delicious. I’m still struggling with the tart crust. I need to find the perfect dough. My dough turned out a bite gummy. However the filling taste just right. So please don’t judge my crust just yet! It’s a work in progress. I will post my final result soon. But here’s a sneak peak at my French quiche.

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DSCF5901Egg Salad crostini:

6 eggs

4 Tablespoons of mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard

3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1-2 Tablespoons fresh chopped chives, or green onion

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly cracked pepper, to taste 

French baguette, seeded or plain, toasted

Boil the eggs and cook the bacon till it’s crispy. Prepare the mayonnaise dressing. In a small bowl add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, chives or green onion, and salt and pepper to taste and stir to mix well. Chop the eggs and add the mayonnaise dressing over the eggs and gently blend together. Reserve just a small amount of the mayonnaise dressing to spread on your crostini.Toast your baguette rounds in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes till golden brown. Lightly spread the crostini with the mayonnaise dressing place a piece of the bacon on each crostini and top and put a dollop of the egg salad on top.

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Breakfast on High Street

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I was watching a cooking show a few days ago on the cooking channel. The host was making delicious sandwiches with French baguette. I found myself day dreaming of a favorite outing with my children. When we lived in England we would go into town on the weekend. Our destination was the High Street in Reading. There was a lovely coffee shop that sold scrambled eggs and bacon in a French baguette. The baguette was lightly toasted and spread with soft butter. Then freshly scrambled eggs and bacon were stuffed inside. The tasty sandwich was wrapped in parchment so you could manage to eat and walk around the High Street and window shop. My children loved this sandwich with the exception of my youngest son. Timothy was not a fan of eggs but he loved bacon. His sandwich was buttered and stuffed with just bacon. I still make it with just bacon for him to this day.

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