Slow-Cooker Spiced Apple Butter

Extra apples? This easy slow-cooker apple butter requires minimal stirring and fuss – and makes the house smell wonderful while it bubbles away.

Easy apple butter
Blame it on baking ADD, but when I spied a few empty jam jars piled next to the basket of homegrown apples, my thoughts quickly turned from classic apple pies and apple frangipane tarts to jars of thick, slow-simmered, spiced apple butter. Since the slow-cooker does most of the work, I was back to baking in no time while the scent of slow-cooked apples wafted through the house.


Slow-Cooker Spiced Apple Butter

  • Servings: Two half-pint jars
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Extra apples? This easy slow-cooker apple butter requires minimal stirring and fuss - and makes the house smell wonderful while it bubbles away.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. apples
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Peel, core and dice apples. Place in a slow cooker on low. Cover apples with sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, Chinese 5-spice, and salt.
  2. Let simmer on low for 10-12 hours, stirring every hour or so, until very dark and very thick. Spoon in jars and refrigerate. Keeps for 3 weeks. Freeze for 6 months.


Apple Butter

Blame it on this sight.

 

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Nectarine Coffee Cake

Fresh summer fruit keeps this Nectarine Coffee Cake moist. Try substituting the nectarines for other seasonal fruit like cherries or pears.

Coffee cake with fresh nectarines
The nectarine tree in the front yard is pregnant with fruit. The firm, juicy orbs are days away from their peak ripeness.  The bounty came late this year. The heavy clusters already snapping a large branch, an annual occurrence.  I should cull them in March, but I feel guilty not giving each one the chance to ripen.  A few sun-soaked fruit are ready to burst.  This weekend, I plucked two of these soft, round globes of goodness and consumed them sun-warmed and straight from the tree – juice dripping unabashedly down my chin. A handful more made it into this moist nectarine coffee cake.


Nectarine Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 6-8 Servings
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Fresh summer nectarines keep this cake moist. Try substituting the nectarines for other seasonal fruit like cherries or pears.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ lbs. nectarines, cut into ½ inch wedges
  • Topping
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9” springform pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in flour (batter with be thick).
  2. Spread batter in prepared pan. Press nectarine wedges halfway into batter in concentric circles, spacing slightly apart. Combine remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle over nectarines. Bake until cake is golden and tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Release pan sides. Cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Warm apricot jam in microwave 30 seconds. Sieve jam and brush over coffee cake. Serve warm or room temperature.

Adapted from Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake

Quiche with hash brown crust

This Quiche with Hash Brown Crust is a flavorful and savory addition to any brunch buffet and a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies. And, it’s gluten-free.

Quiche with potato crust
With a record high of 114 degrees today, I’ve decided to forgo my late-morning walk and midday backyard gardening. With the air-conditioning cranked on high, I’m retreating to my kitchen instead. My friends think I’m crazy to bake on a scorcher like today, but as long as I keep the A/C to oven temp ratio just so, it becomes a normal baking day just like any other – and the ideal opportunity to whip up something special like this brunch classic – with a hash brown twist.


Quiche with hash brown crust

  • Servings: One 9” Quiche
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A flavorful savory addition to any brunch buffet and a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies; Also tasty for dinner with a lightly dressed salad.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed and blotted dry with paper towels
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup meat such as bacon, ham, or chicken (I used sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 ½ cups vegetables, thawed if frozen (I used frozen artichoke hearts and spinach)
  • 1 cup cheese, divided (I used mozzarella)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1 (rounded) Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl, toss hash browns, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Press in the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie plate to form a crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crust begins to turn golden brown and crisp along the edges. Remove from oven and gently press on crust to compact slightly (I use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup). Let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pan, sauté meat until beginning to brown. Add vegetables and sauté until all moisture has evaporated and meat is cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and then arrange on top of crust. Cover with half the cheese.
  3. In a bowl, beat eggs with half-and-half. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over meat and vegetables.
  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue baking for 10-15 minutes until top is set and egg mixture is slightly wet when pierced with a sharp knife (egg will continue to cook). Cool 5 minutes, slice and serve plain, with tomato sauce or guacamole.

Homemade Energy Bars – Blueberry Muffin

Homemade Blueberry Muffin Larabar
When I started back to work in late February, I’d awake at 6:00 a.m., make myself a frothy cappuccino, warm a homemade muffin and spend the next 45 minutes leisurely reading the news while curled up on the couch, sipping coffee and nibbling baked goods.

Alas, that morning tranquility didn’t last.

These days, you’ll find me dragging myself from bed closer to 6:45 a.m., gulping down an espresso with a splash of milk, racing to work, and grabbing a prepackaged Lärabar for breakfast.

Lärabars are my energy bars of choice because they’re made with real, simple, non GMO ingredients. Sure, they may have a few more calories that some “thin” bars and less protein than others with 20 grams of whey, but they’re real food – made with a handful of familiar ingredients.

This weekend, I realized that real ingredients meant I could make them myself – and choose my own flavors, my own handful of ingredients; make my own breakfast again – even if it isn’t a warm, baked muffin.

Commercial Blueberry Muffin Lärabars aren’t made with lemon zest or cinnamon – those are my addition, just like my real blueberry muffin recipe.

Homemade Energy Bars– Blueberry Muffin

Homemade energy bars packed full of flavors and simple, healthy ingredients.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 cup packed dried blueberries
  • 1 cup packed dried apples
  • ½ cup packed pitted whole dates
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Line an 8×8” cake pan with wax paper including an overhang. Place the cashews in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and resembling breadcrumbs. Add blueberries, apples, dates, zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Process until the fruit is finely chopped and the mixture begins to clump together. This will take a few minutes and the mixture will get warm in the processor.
  2. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place additional wax paper atop the mixture and use it to flatten evenly in the pan and blot away any extra cashew oil on top. Leave the wax paper in place and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
  3. Flip the pan over onto a cutting board, remove the pan and the wax paper. Cut into eight 4”x2” bars. Tightly wrap each bar in plastic wrap. The bars will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Carrot Apple Oat Muffins

Moist Carrot Apple Muffins

It’s 9:00 p.m. on a quiet Wednesday night. The dishes are drying in the sink, the floors have been swept and there’s nothing but re-runs on television. My mind begins pondering other things…naughty things. I switch on my iPad and begin surfing Google images. After a few attempts, I hit the jackpot. My iPad and I make our way into the other room. I adjust the lights, setting the mood, slip into something more comfortable and then…

I preheat the oven to 350 degrees, un-nest my mixing bowls and get right to it. Carrot Apple Oat Muffins – oh yes, baby, YES!   What did you think I was talking about?


Carrot Apple Oat Muffins

  • Servings: 10-12 muffins
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At the point I added cream cheese frosting, I think these stopped being muffins and moved into cupcake territory.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Quaker oats
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Granny Smith Apples, grated
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • ½ cup currants, softened in boiling water
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or use papers. Combine flour, oats, , sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add apples, carrots and currants and stir until they are coated in flour. Beat together eggs, buttermilk, oil, molasses and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Do not over-mix.
  2. Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Baked for 15-20 minutes and until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.
  3. To gild the lily: Frost cooled muffins with cream cheese frosting.

Originally posted July 2015