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

 

The Right Move & Caramel Corn Cupcakes

IMG_7377If you‘re off to Philadelphia this morning

And wish to prove the truth of what I say

I pledge my word you’ll find

The pleasant land behind

Unaltered since Red Jacket road that way.

Still the pine woods scent the noon

Still the cat bird sings his tune

Still autumn sets the maple-forest blazing.

Still the grapevine through the dusk

Flings her soul-compelling musk

Still the fire flies in the corn make night amazing!

They are there, there, there, with Earth immortal

(Citizens I give you friendly warning).

The things that truly last when men and times have passed.

They are all in Pennsylvania this morning”

~Rudyard Kipling

One of the more dramatic decisions I (we) made within a year of William’s death was to move to Pennsylvania. Twenty three years of happy memories came to a sudden halt with a single knock on my kitchen door by a US Navy chaplain. It was clear at the time that the constant reminders of him in the house were not allowing me to move through my grief with any sort of dignity. It was hard to function, but would leaving feel like a betrayal? It was a hard decision to say good-bye to the only home he ever knew. I had to trust my instincts. It took courage.

Will

I am 100% certain William would love where we live now in Chester County, PA. First, I am within a short driving distance of his sister. William was most happy when surrounded by those he loved. Family being his top priority, he’d be glad that I can see Caitlin and Sam at the drop of a hat. Second, he would adore this natural setting away from the big city. With hiking trails right off the backyard and a healthy pond to fish in he would have felt right at home. With permission, I believe, one can bow hunt the land, so it’s a certainty he would have paid a visit every hunting season, too.

“I whistled to confuse him, mom, and then took the shot”. Will’s first deer.

Now, I am not suggesting that a dramatic change like a move is right for every grieving person, but looking back and forward it was the right move for me. Have courage and just do what you need to do to take care of yourself and the rest of your family. Trust your instincts and make the right move.

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Today, I am making another right move. I’m not jumping on the “fall”-on court blog press of every recipe containing pumpkin or squash. I’m just not ready for pumpkin-palooza. Maybe next week, but not now. I have decided to ease into autumn a bit slower since sweet corn is still available here in Pennsylvania. I am making the most of it with this corn cupcake.

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Make no mistake this is a corn cupcake and NOT a crumbly muffin or bread. While the caramelized butter adds a nuttiness to the batter the pureed corn adds moisture and sweetness. The caramel frosting doubles the pleasure and can be piled on for those with a big sweet tooth or if you are anything like me…just enough to kiss the cake.

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Caramel Corn Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

1 and 2/3 cups (210g) all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour recommended)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup cooked sweet corn kernels (from 1 fresh ear of corn)

3/4 cup (180ml) buttermilk

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and caramelized*

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons bourbon, optional

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg whites

Frosting

½ cup unsalted butter

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/3-cup heavy cream

1-tablespoon bourbon or 1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a standard 12-count muffin pan plus 4 more cups in another pan with cupcake liners. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside. In food processor or blender, combine corn and 1/2 cup buttermilk; process until smooth. Strain mixture thru a fine sieve pressing down to collect as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids in the sieve. Combine the pureed corn mixture and remaining buttermilk (you should have 1 full cup of liquid). *To make the caramelized (or brown butter) melt the butter over medium low heat in a light colored pan, swirling the pan often. After about 5 minutes the butter with start to foam and “spit” as it evaporates water. The milk solids will fall to the bottom of the pan and turn a nutty brown. Immediately pour butter into a mixing bowl; let cool 5 minutes. Whisk in sugar, bourbon, vanilla and corn-buttermilk mixture until blended. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients blending just until dry ingredients are moistened and no lumps remain. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks; gently fold into cupcake batter. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake 22 to 24 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to cooling rack and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting: In a heavy bottom medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, heavy cream and bourbon, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for about 3 minutes or until darkened in color but not burnt. Transfer mixture to a heatproof mixing bowl. Stir in salt. Let cool for 20 minutes or to room temperature (don’t refrigerate). With electric mixture, beat in just enough powdered sugar to desired thickness for frosting. Makes enough for 16 to 24 cupcakes depending how much frosting you like.

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Grief & Treats From Mother Nature

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garden goodness

Good grief and nature go together like basil and tomatoes. There is no escaping it. As much as I thought I could take a break from grief there is so much about Mother Nature that keeps it right on the edge of my mind and in my heart. William was such an outdoorsman. As a kid, he loved everything about playing in the woods. His passions included hunting, fishing or just being with Mother Nature. Fond memories include playing eye-spy searching out critters hiding in the brush. He was happy.

in the Adirondaks: photo courtesy of the Van Sant family

Our new backyard (we have lived here 2 years now) brings William into my heart nearly every day. This week there are dancing blue birds, red tailed hawks, overhead, teaching their babies to fly and just this morning 4 young bucks butting heads—the latter brings an automatic, “Good Morning, William” from my lips. It makes me happy.

my yard: photo by Carol Walsh

my yard: photo by Carol Walsh

As always I am thankful to have these moments with William and to live in such a beautiful place. I am also thankful that the deer have kept their distance from my garden and that Mother Nature has provided us with an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables for me to play with in the kitchen.

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Take the zucchini (please take some) for instance. I only planted 2 seeds and I have more than I know what to do with. It’s been grilled, roasted, stuffed and pancaked, but my favorite new recipe are these little cakes. Enjoy!

Yucatan Squash Cakes

  • Servings: 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes
  • Print

3 cups white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur brand)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch cayenne pepper, optional

1/2 cup cocoa powder

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 ½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup canola oil

¾ cup applesauce

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

3 cups shredded zucchini, lightly tamp it down into the cup

Preheat oven 350F. Lightly grease or line 2 ½ dozen muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder into a large bowl, then whisk until blended and set aside. 

 In mixing bowl, beat eggs on high speed with an electric mixer for 2−3 minutes gradually adding the sugar. Beat until mixture is pale yellow, thick and creamy. Add oil, applesauce and melted butter; beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and fold gently by hand until dry ingredients are completely moistened and mixed. Stir in zucchini. Using a standard ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. 
Bake 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Cool. Dust with powdered sugar or add a chocolate glaze or frosting, if desired, but really not needed.