Winner of an Applesauce

 

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This week I am happy to announce that I won third place in the Our Family Garden Applesauce recipe contest. Now, you might not think 3rd place is a big deal, but this contest was such a joy to participate in for so many reasons other than winning.

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First of all this is a real family business headed by a man named Darvin. Everyone including the children are involved in making the best applesauce I have ever eaten. The applesauce, made from a variety of apples, comes unsweetened or with a touch of honey +/or cinnamon. Darvin sent each participating contestant 6 full size jars of his well-made product plus a gift of a jar of jam….just because his is a kind and generous business. I already felt like I won and my recipe testing had not even started, yet.

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Inspired by such kindness and the perfect balance of fresh applesauce sweetness I went on to create 12 new recipes. (These days for most contests I only create 1 or 2 recipes at most.) Truth is this applesauce is so good on its own that it’s almost a crime to transform it into something else, but, my oh my, did it make every recipe I developed taste not only fantastic, but so much healthier to eat. I eliminated sugar and lots of fat without sacrificing any flavor in everything from baked goods to soups to a Korean style BBQ sauce. Win-Win-Win!

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The icing on the cake is that one of my recipe photos was chosen to dress the cover of the cookbook Darvin and his family are putting together. I am just thrilled the family liked my food photography and styling, too.

Here is my winning recipe which was a huge hit at Easter dinner. It’s a healthy carrot cake cupcake makeover utilizing a touch of honey for sweetness and some white whole wheat flour for a wholesome boost in nutrition. Try them for Mother’s Day.

Honey Frosted Carrot Cupcakes

  • Servings: 14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3-cup white whole wheat flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon fine salt

2 eggs

1/3-cup honey

½ cup canola oil

1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2/3-cup Our Family Garden Applesauce Touch of Honey

1 1/3 cups finely grated fresh carrots

Frosting

1 (8 oz) container mascarpone cheese or cream cheese

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 14 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk all purpose flour, white whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside. In another large bowl whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Add honey, oil and lemon juice; whisk until slightly thickened. Stir in the applesauce and grated carrots. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture blending until dry ingredients are moistened and well mixed. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter. Bake about 20 – 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and let cool completely before frosting. For frosting, beat mascarpone, honey and vanilla until well blended. Pipe or spoon the frosting on the top of each cupcake. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate the cupcakes until serving time. Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

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My favorite jelly bean and now taste tester in her Easter dress

 

Rebuilding The Culinary Cellar

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Loss comes in many shapes and forms. Today, I want to talk about loss of possessions; the kinds of things that are near and dear to one’s heart and can never be replaced. Things that shape your identity and mark treasured life moments. Things that celebrate who we are. For example, years ago I lost the itty, bitty diamond in my engagement ring. It wasn’t an expensive piece, but the love and sentiment behind it made it feel like a huge loss. The ring symbolized a most happy once in a lifetime moment; a traditional sign of love that could never be replaced. I still think about it from time to time. Sure, I got a new ring. It’s bigger and brighter, but it just isn’t the same. Yes, it is just a thing and things can be replaced, but with cherished memories attached it is hard to let go.

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Another loss I want to share with you today is a big one that affected my friend Debbie and the culinary world. Debbie writes one of my favorite blogs, The Culinary Cellar. I had the privilege of visiting Debbie when William was starting his Navy career at Great Lakes, IL. While he was in boot camp I was sitting at Debbie’s kitchen table enjoying the warmest hospitality and most delicious baklava pastry.

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However, the biggest treat is waiting for me in Debbie’s basement. I get a tour of her famous culinary cellar. As I descend the stairs my eyes fall on numerous shelves bearing the weight of nearly 4000 cookbooks. In front of me is a massive old-time library card catalog filled with thousands of hand-written recipes collected since Debbie was 12. This is a lifetime of memories showcasing her love of cooking and generations of award winning talents.

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The variety of books is like none I have ever seen. There are rare and antique volumes. There are obviously much-loved books dog-eared and stained. There are souvenir books from all over the world documenting memories of family vacations and travels. Some are autographed by famous chefs and most have hand-written notes lovingly penned into the margins giving advice about a recipe. Each and every book has a story beyond its pages. Each and every one is treasured and so loved that she shares it with the world through her blog. She is a generous soul.

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Now imagine the devastation when in the middle of the night during a violent storm a town retention pond fails and pours 7 feet of water and a ton of mud into Debbie’s cellar wiping out just about everything. Nine tons of cookbook debris were lifted up and dropped into a dumpster just a couple of weeks ago. Imagine opening that door above to this: 19990436_10102505366467335_4001791307728415727_n

A lifetime of memories and a valued collection washed away in an instant. How does one recover from such a physical,  emotional and shocking loss?

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Well, if you are a part of the Debbie Vanni family, you just do. Talk about super human strength. The rebuilding of the culinary cellar is already in progress. Support from family and friends and strangers far and wide has Debbie re-grouping and cutting her losses. She is no Debbie Downer! Truly an inspration. I look forward to visiting again some day.

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To read more of Debbie’s story check out her blog here The Culinary Cellar

thank you to Debbie for sharing theses photos with me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Hot Wing Donuts

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Mother’s Day usually means brunch or better, yet, breakfast in bed. When I wondered what recipe to share with you today I thought I could celebrate my own mom by pulling out one of her old cookbooks for inspiration. She loved this pamphlet from the 60’s and the recipes and brand behind it. I can still hear her voice saying, “Polly-O is the best. Buy the best”. Good advice, mom.

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Flipping through I came across a spattered, well loved page that included ricotta pancakes, cheese blintzes and a peach torte. However, it is the ricotta puffs or fritters that grab my attention and bring me back to an Italian street fair where fried donuts called zeppole were the treat of the day. Crispy fried puffs smothered in cinnamon-sugar and purchased by the dozen still warm in a brown bag. A deliciously good and inspiring memory.

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hands-free frying these donuts flip themselves

But you know me. I can’t just follow a recipe. It’s time to change it up and honor another mom or two I love very much. Like mother like daughter….Caitlin and I like deep frying and donuts on occasion. We also like it spicy.

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Can a mother thank a daughter for becoming a mother? What fun it has been for me to be “Kiki”, aka, Annabelle’s grandmother. Annabelle is such a joy, but more incredible than that joy is watching your own daughter being an amazing mom. My Caitlin loves with her whole heart. Her mothering instincts are spot on. Being a new mom is an exhausting, self-less experience that she is doing with such grace. It makes me feel so proud to be HER mom. Caitlin continues to lift me up and remind me life is good. I’m ever so grateful for her and for that reminder.

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Another mom I love and appreciate is a lady named Suzy. You know her best as the creator of the spectacular  Saucy Mama brand. Suzy not only pours her whole heart into creating amazing sauces, mustards and marinades, but also into investing and empowering women like me. Being a part of Team Saucy Mama is a dream and a privilege. All the women on the team inspire me to be a better cook, a better person and a better mom. I am ever so grateful for their kindness, generosity and friendship.

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Here comes today’s recipe inspired by my mom, Caitlin and Suzy.  I tweaked the original recipe from the Polly-O pamphlet substituting vanilla bean paste for brandy and eliminating dusting the donuts in powdered sugar. Instead the donuts are coated with a mixture of granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt creating a bit of a crispy/crunchy contrast to the soft, almost pudding like ricotta interior. For the perfect spicy heat they are finished with a drizzle of Saucy Mama’s Total Domination Wing Sauce No. 2. The combination of scotch bonnet peppers and blackberry lift this simple donut to another level of goodness. Yes, mom..it’s the best.

Ricotta Puffs or Fritters

  • Servings: 2 to 3 dozen
  • Print

10 ounces ricotta cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

oil for deep frying

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Saucy Mama Total Domination Wing Sauce No. 2

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, 1-tablespoon of sugar and vanilla bean paste; blend well with a spoon. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and fine salt; pour into ricotta mixture and stir until mixture is moth and well mixed. Let batter stand for 30 minutes to thicken up slightly. Heat oil to 350F. Drop batter by small, round scoopfuls (depends on size you like) and brown on all sides. Don’t crowd the pan as the puffs need room to flip themselves. Drain on paper towels. With a fork mix remaining sugar, cinnamon a salt in a small bowl. While still warm toss donuts in sugar mixture. Serve with hot wing sauce either drizzled on top or as a dip on the side. Makes 2 to 3 dozen puffs.

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Feel free to dip instead of drizzle. And I hope someone serves you breakfast in bed next Sunday. Happy Mother’s Day in advance. I will be taking next Sunday and a few others off from here in the coming weeks as life is getting a bit busier than usual.