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

 

Ramping It Up

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There is a saying that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but I think it better applies to April here in Pennsylvania. Should I mention the chilly weather we’ve all been NOT enjoying?  For a very long time it has felt like spring would never come. Finally, that snow and ice of those first few weeks have melted into a sense of calm like a warm spring shower.

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By the 4thweek in April there is a noticeable change in the landscape. Clearly, the sun shines brighter, the grass is greener and the warm temperatures beckons one outside to the garden and forest beyond. It’s rejuvenating and ramps up the mood.

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Yesssss it is ramp season. Ramps, aka, wild leeks are prized by chefs and can be eaten raw or cooked. They have a mild onion flavor and complement everything from pesto to quiche. I think it’s no happy accident that they are in season at the very same time asparagus is rising from the ground. They really do complement each other in flavor.

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If you are fortunate enough to find a lush patch of ramps don’t be greedy. Clip just what you need and leave the rest to rejuvenate the patch for years to come. Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. Last week was Earth Day and many of my neighbors participated in a local clean-up of litter. Why do people litter? Anyway, it brought back a memory of William and I joining forces so many years ago. He was a good keeper of the earth.

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Here are a few ways to enjoy the freshness of spring ramp greens.

  • Add a few leaves to your favorite pesto mix for another layer of flavor
  • Chiffonade a few leaves and add to an omelet
  • Saute ramps with garlic and olive oil for a side dish
  • Chop and add to risotto
  • Delicious raw in slaws and salads (maybe not fruit salad)

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Ramp butter is fantastic on top of a burger or basted over a steak. Melt it in pasta with a bit of parmesan and pepper for a heavenly good dinner. Compound butters are super easy to make and pretty much keep forever in the freezer. I’m hoping to make enough to get me through until next season.

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Ramp Butter

10 fresh ramp leaves, stems trimmed, roughly chopped

pinch of coarse salt (I use a large grain Celtic sea salt)

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon champagne honey or Dijon mustard (Saucy Mama brand preferred)

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

Place all ingredients in food processor and let it rip until the ramps are finely chopped and the mixture is a glorious  fresh green color. Form into a log in some plastic wrap and store in freezer. I just slice of what I need when I need it.

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 ❤

 

Victory Is In The Kitchen

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My daughter bought me this poster at the Churchhill Museum in London. I love how she instantly thought of me when she first eyed it. Of course, as a competitive home cook, my version of victory in the kitchen and the intent of the poster are quite different. Imagine the war struggle and women on the home front struggling to make ends meet and keep a household running. A message like this was meant to motivate a commitment to the war effort. With increasing shortages of food women tended vegetable gardens and used their creativity to put substantial meals on the table with what little they had. They were portrayed as of equal importance in the winning of the war as that of the fighting soldiers.

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Maybe when it comes to creativity and a few ingredients I am not so much different from the women in the early 1900’s since winning in my kitchen has been a common occurrence lately. These mushroom lettuce wraps just took the grand prize in the Mad About Mushrooms recipe contest. Inspired by the olympics (Yay Team USA) and ingredients found in a local Korean market these meaty mushrooms soak up the sweet and spicy bulgogi marinade and are a light vegetarian option. Do you like lettuce wraps? What’s your favorite filling?

Korean Mushroom Lettuce Wraps

1 firm ripe Asian or bosc pear, peeled, cored, julienned

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms, washed, sliced (stemmed shitake, cremini, oyster)

1/3 cup Korean bulgogi style marinade (bottled or homemade)*

1 teaspoon Korean sweet & spicy sauce (gochujang) *

2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

pinch kosher salt

2 heads butter lettuce, leaves separated into cups

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

In bowl, gently toss pear and rice vinegar; set aside. Heat a large, non-stick, skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and garlic; cook 30 seconds or until garlic just begins to turn color. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring for 8 to 10 minutes or until mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown. Add Korean marinade and gochujang; cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes or until mushrooms are glazed. Turn off heat. Stir in green onions. Season mushrooms with salt. Spoon mushrooms into lettuce cups. Top with pickled pears. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 12 appetizers or can serve 4 to 6 as an entree.

*located in the ethnic section of grocery store or any Asian market

Here is my first video demonstrating how to build another version of a lettuce wrap. Pretty excited that I have taught myself another new trick. Victory is in the kitchen in more ways than one.