Category Archives: food & drink

Apple Cider Caramels



Have you picked up the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook? Ok, go order it right now. You’ll even have it in time for Christmas! Or maybe even early enough to make a couple of batches of these lovely apple cider caramels for gifting. That is, if you can manage not to eat them all yourself. One batch of caramels, individually wrapped in wax paper, perfectly filled three small gift boxes which I tied with bakers’ twine in festive colors.


You can find the full recipe here. It needs no improvement, though I will note that I accidentally used 1/3 cup less white sugar than the recipe called for, but it seemed to work out just fine. I guess my supervisor wasn’t paying very close attention, was he?


Happy caramel making!




Homemade Granola



I have a bit of an obsession with greek yogurt. It’s thick, it’s creamy, it’s full of protein, and it’s awesome with fresh fruit or applesauce and some homemade granola. Specifically, this homemade granola.

You’re probably thinking to yourself-why would you make granola when you can just buy a box of it at the grocery store? Well, friend, store bought granola is expensive and much less tasty. This recipe has a hands on time of about 5 minutes and the final result has the best flavor and texture-perfectly nutty and crunchy. You may never buy granola again.

Homemade Granola


  • 4 C old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 C sliced almonds
  • 1/2 C shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1/4 C unsalted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) and/or shelled sunflower seeds (I like to use 1/4 cup of both)
  • 1/2 C pure maple syrup
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t almond extract
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 C dried fruit (such as cherries, cranberries, raisins, or currants)-optional

Heat oven to 350. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the oats, almonds, coconut, and pepitas with the maple syrup, oil, vanilla, almond extract, and salt.

Bake, tossing once, until golden and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the dried fruit if using and toss to combine. Let cool. Keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Makes 6 cups

Recipe adapted from Real Simple.

Side note: I once was out of maple syrup, so I substituted honey. Don’t try this unless you like your granola charred and your kitchen filled with smoke .




Hazelnut cupcakes with mousse filling


This is probably the most ambitious thing I’ve baked in a while. We won’t talk about the semi-disastrous pirate ship “shipwrecked” cake for my sister’s fiancé’s son’s 3rd birthday. (Hint: it wasn’t supposed to look shipwrecked.)

The recipe is adapted ever so slightly from Vegan Cupcakes take over the World, quite a good cupcake cookbook even if you’re not vegan, which I am not. So my cupcakes were sort of vegan because I had only regular milk on hand though the recipe intends for soy or nut milk to be used in actuality. It tastes just as good either way. Your friends will never guess the secret ingredient in the mousse, just as my unsuspecting coworkers didn’t. Legit deliciousness.

The cupcakes are meant to be filled with the mousse and topped with ganache, but I was running short on chocolate chips and the mousse recipe makes a lot, so I decided to fill AND top the cupcakes with the mousse. I have included the ganache recipe below if you’d like to go that route.

A note on toasting hazelnuts: it’s easiest to toast them in a skillet on the stovetop, just be sure to be vigilant, because they can burn in a second. Once they’re nice and golden brown, let them cool off for a minute then pour them onto a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel over top and rub them until the skins come off. Obviously, you can skip this step if your nuts came without the papery peel on the outside.

Directions: Prepare hazelnut mousse first so it can chill. Make the cupcakes. Once they are completely cool, prepare the ganache.

Hazelnut cupcakes with mocha hazelnut mousse filling


  • 1 C plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 C hazelnut meal or flour (I just ground up toasted hazelnuts in my coffee/spice grinder)
  • 1 t baking powder
  • ¼ t baking soda
  • ½ t ground cinnamon
  • ¼ t ground nutmeg
  • ½ t salt
  • 2/3 C rice, nut or regular milk
  • 1 T ground flaxseeds
  • 1/3 C canola oil
  • ¼ C pure maple syrup
  • ½ C brown sugar
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 T hazelnut liqueur or 1 ½ t hazelnut extract
  • 1 C chopped toasted hazelnuts for garnish OR chocolate covered coffee beans
  • 1 recipe chocolate ganache (see below), prepare when cupcakes are fully prepared (optional)

To make the cupcakes:

Line cupcake pan and preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl which milk and ground flaxseed. In a large bowl sift together flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Add the maple syrup, brown sugar, canola oil, vanilla, and hazelnut liqueur to milk mixture and beat well. Add wet ingredients to dry, mixing until mostly smooth. Pour into liners, filling them 2/3 full. Bake 22 to 24 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Cool completely on racks before filling.

Fit a pastry bag with a wide piping tip and fill with mocha hazelnut mousse filling (see recipe below). If using ganache, have prepared.

Poke or scoop holes in the top of each cupcake. A small spoon works for this. Fill with as much mousse as you can.

If using ganache, remove excess mousse from top of cupcake. Spread ganache on top. Two layers of a heaping teaspoon each time makes a smooth surface. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

If not using ganache, pipe mousse on top of cupcake like you would frosting.


Mocha hazelnut mousse filling


  • 6 oz extra firm silken tofu (half a package of the aseptic kind, such as mori-nu)
  • 2 T milk or soy milk
  • 1 T agave nectar or pure maple syrup
  • 4 t instant espresso powder (I used instant coffee since that’s what I had on hand)
  • 2 t hazelnut liqueur
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 2/3 C semisweet chocolate chips

Crumble the tofu into a blender. Add the milk, agave nectar or maple syrup, espresso powder, hazelnut liqueur, and vanilla. Puree until completely smooth and set aside.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Once melted remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add chocolate to the tofu and blend until combined using a spatula to scrap down the sides of the blender

Transfer mousse to an airtight container or bowl covered in plastic wrap and let chill for an hour. Remove 10 minutes before using. Stir with a fork if too firm to work with.


Chocolate ganache


  • ¼ C milk, rice milk, or nut milk
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped, or 4oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 T pure maple syrup

Bring milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate and maple syrup. Stir to combine.


This recipe puts me one step closer to my goal of making everything on The List of Stuff I Want to Cook actually two, if you count the mousse, which I think I just will.

  • ·         Can something
  • Make a soufflé
  • Poach something in olive oil
  • Bake fish wrapped in parchment
  • Make crepes
  • Make homemade vegetable stock
  • Make a cupcake with a filling
  • Make panna cotta
  • Cook something Indian
  • Make risotto with saffron
  • Bake focaccia
  • Make ice cream with vanilla beans
  • Make mousse
  • Make homemade ravioli
  • Bake French macarons

Anyone doing any baking or working on any cooking challenges out there?



You might also like: coconut macaroons

Fall Snapshots


Apple harvesting time came a little early this year in Adams County, Pennsylvania, but that could never deter the Apple Harvest Festival, held annually the first two full weekends in October. I volunteer at the candy and caramel apple stand every year as a fundraiser for my softball team. It was a cold one this year; 29 degrees when I arrived at 8am and we would gather around the kettles to keep warm in between wrapping up batches of apples to sell. Candy apples are a little messy and hard to eat for my taste, but man, are those caramel ones to die for.



National Geographic named the Apple Harvest Festival on it’s Top 10 Fall Trips for 2012. Save the date for next year’s festival; it’s not to be missed! October 5 & 6 and October 12 & 13, 2013.




Canning peaches and a cooking challenge


I’m taking a sight departure from my Irish Travels posts, but don’t worry, I’ll finish telling you about the rest of our trip soon.

I realized there have been things I’ve been wanting to try in the kitchen for a while but just haven’t got around to, so I decided it was time to make something happen. Behold!

The List of Stuff I Want to Cook:

  • Can something
  • Make a soufflé
  • Poach something in olive oil
  • Bake fish wrapped in parchment
  • Make crepes
  • Make homemade vegetable stock
  • Make a cupcake with a filling
  • Make panna cotta
  • Cook something Indian
  • Make risotto with saffron
  • Bake focaccia
  • Make ice cream with vanilla beans
  • Make mousse
  • Make homemade ravioli
  • Bake French macarons

You might have noticed that “can something” is crossed out. That’s because I have actually canned three somethings! I’m going to share about canning peaches in this post but I’ll be back soon with details on canning applesauce and tomato sauce.

I like buying produce locally. I like knowing the farmer who grew it and I like knowing that it didn’t spend days on a truck coming from God knows where wasting countless gallons of fuel to get to me. Locally grown food is fresher, tastier, and better for the local economy (and the environment in a lot of ways.) Just because you can buy peaches in January at the grocery store doesn’t mean that they’ll be any good. Canning is a way to preserve seasonal deliciousness for times of the year when these types of produce aren’t available locally.

I like to buy my fruit from Bill of Mickley’s Orchard and Farm Market in Biglerville, PA at the Farm Fresh Market. If you are looking for a market near you, check out local harvest. When you buy from a local farmer you can ask if they have any “seconds” available which might have bruises or be oddly shaped. When you’re canning you can always cut soft spots off, no problem, so buying seconds can save you a few bucks.

Now that you’ve got some yummy, ripe peaches, you’ve got to get those babies peeled. Cut an x on the top and bottom of each peach then blanch before peeling.

Keep organized-I had my peaches blanching on the front left burner, my syrup cooking on the back left, canner ready to go on the front right, and (can’t see it but) lids going on back right).

Pack the peaches in the jars tightly, and fill with syrup leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Wipe off the rims, put the lids on and tighten the bands and you’re ready to process!

Canning is a little time consuming, but not difficult and the fruits of your labor will look great in your pantry, ready to make winter feel like summer!

Canned Peaches in Light Syrup


  • Ripe peaches (half a bushel will yield about 10 quarts of canned peaches, but you can certainly start small if you’d rather)
  • Canning jars, lids, and bands
  • Boiling water canner with rack or large stock pot and canning rack
  • Jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter


  • Take the peaches out of the fridge and keep them at room temperature.
  • Prepare the canning jars-either boil them, filled with water, in your canner for 10 minutes to sterilize or run through your dishwasher to sterilize and pull them out (still warm) as you need them. (The dishwasher method is much less time consuming.)
  • Blanch the peaches in boiling water for about 2 minutes.
  • When cool enough to handle, peel and slice the peaches. Cut off any bruised spots.
  • Prepare the syrup-in a medium saucepan combine 1 C of sugar for every 3 C of water (doubling this will yield a dozen pint jars)-heat and stir until dissolved and then keep warm.
  • Heat flat lids in hot water in a small saucepan to sterilize, leave in hot water as you use.
  • Put on water to boil in a big pot or canner to process the jars in.
  • Pack peaches in jar tightly (cut side down if you can), they shrink up a lot when you process them.
  • Using a funnel, ladle syrup into the packed jars leaving ½ inch headspace.
  • Wipe jar rims with a clean paper towel before putting lids on.
  • Put flat lids on and tighten screw top bands hand tight.
  • Put canning rack in bottom of stock pot or canner. The jars sit on rack (they can’t be on bottom-I actually used a folded up tea towel when processing quart jars that didn’t fit in my pint jar rack so theoretically this work if you didn’t have a canning rack.)
  • Carefully lower prepared jars into boiling water, covering by an inch.
  • Bring the water back to a boil, covered.
  • Boil pints for 15 mins or quarts for 20 mins to process.
  • Turn off heat. Let jars sit in water for 5 mins.
  • Remove jars from boiling water bath and set on counter on tea towels for 24 hours, undisturbed. You may hear the jars make pinging sounds when the lids seal. If you’re like me you want to push on the lids right away to make sure the canning worked. Don’t. After all this work, you don’t want to blow it at the last minute.
  • After 24 hours, press on the lids to make sure they are sealed down. Any jars that didn’t seal should be refrigerated and the contents eaten within a couple of days.
  • You can remove the bands at this point. Wash the outsides of the jars off before storing, as they may be sticky.

Canning Resources:

Ball Canning has a nice printable pdf that lays out basic steps for boiling water bath canning for high acid foods (like peaches) here.

They also have yummy looking recipe for honey spiced peaches here.

Here’s to trying new things. I’m looking forward to tackling some of the other items on The List of Stuff I Want to Cook. Anyone else try anything new they’ve been meaning to try for a while?



Cocktail of the Month: Rosemary Rosé Spritzer


Nothing says helllllllllllooooooooooo Friday like a refreshing adult beverage. What I like about this cocktail is just that-it feels so adult.  Nothing says, “I’ve come so far since college,” like herbs in your drink.

This spritzer is also a great summer cocktail. Perfect to enjoy while sunning yourself on the dock, for example. Puppies enjoy sunning themselves pretty much anywhere. In the yard, by the window in the kitchen, sittin’ on a dock on the bay…


  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 10  fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 2  bottles sparkling rosé (we used Yellow Tail)

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, rosemary, and ½ cup water and bring just to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar then remove from heat and let cool.

Put about a tablespoons of the simple syrup in a tall skinny glass, top off with the sparkling rosé, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary left over from making the syrup.
Any extra simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Recipe adapted slightly from Real Simple.
Want more summery home-grown cocktailness? Check out these 10 garden grown cocktails from Camille Styles.

Fresh figs with goat cheese and prosciutto


Fresh figs are in season! You can find them from late summer into the fall. Until yesterday, I had actually never had  a fresh fig, only dried ones. I actually picked these up at our local (annoyingly under construction and in disarray) Giant, but I’m looking for a local source. I’m actually thinking about planting a fig tree in my embarrassingly stark front yard-they have such nice foliage and some varieties stay compact enough for our small space. Plus, you get the bonus of actually getting to eat real live figs you grew yourself. That sounds pretty kickass.

Anyway, on to the appetizer du jour. I sliced a medium sized fig in quarters and topped with a hunk of creamy goat cheese and a little bit of prosciutto (cured Italian ham). It was tasty, but I think next time I’ll add a drizzle of honey on top to really bring out the sweetness of the fig in contrast to the salty prosciutto.