Date and Apple Muffins

The recipe for these delicious Date and Apple Muffins has been adapted from the Perfect Cupcakes, Cookies, and Muffins cookbook. These are large-size muffins because as suggested in the cookbook, I baked these muffins in a pan with jumbo (1 cup size) muffin cups.

Date and Apple Muffins
1 large green apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups self-rising flour, sifted

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 6 large muffin cups or prepare with paper liners.
In a mixing bowl, combine the apple, dates, baking soda, and boiling water. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a mixing bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer on high speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Fold in the sifted flour, alternating with the mixture of apple and dates. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
To make the topping, cut the butter into the brown sugar, flour, and coconut until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over muffin batter. Bake in preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.

These muffins are filled with chopped apples and dates. Pour a cup of boiling water over the apples, dates, and soda, then bring to room temperature before mixing with the other ingredients.

The original recipe in the cookbook called for about twice as much topping as I used on these muffins. The directions also asked that the muffins be baked for 15 minutes and taken out of the oven to put the topping on, then returned to the oven to finish baking. Being the obedient girl that I am, I followed the recipe exactly the first time I baked them, but this method caused the muffins to sink in the middle, and they all looked like this:

I was very disappointed with the looks of this batch, but I loved the taste. By adjusting the topping amount and adding it before baking, the muffins do not sink in the middle. These look much better.

These muffins baked for 25 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack after removing from pan.

These Date and Apple Muffins are moist and delicious with fruit on the inside and brown sugar and coconut topping on the outside.


Deviled Eggs

My family loves deviled eggs, especially my grandson. He was eating them at my house yesterday and wanted to know all the ingredients that I put in them. He's only six, but I think he'll soon be helping to make these. Deviled eggs can be made ahead and are super easy. A tray of deviled eggs will make a great addition to most any menu.

Deviled Eggs
8 eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

Place eggs in a large saucepan, cover with water. Bring to a boil; cover with a lid, remove from heat, and let stand 15 minutes. Drain immediately and fill the saucepan with cold water and ice to cool them down quickly. The eggs can be refrigerated overnight to make peeling easier, if desired.
Slice eggs in half lengthwise and carefully remove yolks. Place yolks in a medium bowl and add mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mash the yolks with a potato masher and mix the ingredients together. Put the mixture in a pastry bag with a plain round or star decorating tip, or you can just put it in a ziplock bag and cut off one corner. Pipe the filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle with paprika. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 16 deviled eggs.



Southern Baked Beans

I had some friends over to eat last night, and I made these Southern Baked Beans as a side dish to go with Baby Back Ribs. There are several good ways to make baked beans, but this recipe is simple and uses canned beans. I made these in the crock pot because I knew my oven would be in use most of the day with the ribs, but these beans are equally as good made in the oven too.

Southern Baked Beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 (16 ounce) cans pork and beans
4 slices bacon, cooked and cut into pieces

In a medium skillet, saute the onion and green pepper in the olive oil until tender; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, dry mustard, and vinegar. Pour beans into crock pot, add onions and peppers, then stir in barbecue sauce mixture and bacon. Cook on LOW for about 8 hours.

Oven directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Pour ingredients into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish that has been prepared with cooking spray. Cook bacon only about half way done in advance, and top the beans with the bacon pieces. Bake for about 2 hours or until sauce has thickened.

Add the onions and peppers to the crock pot with the pork and beans.

Mix the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, dry mustard, and vinegar together.

Mix all ingredients in the crock pot, add the cover, and cook on LOW for about 8 hours.


Chocolate Cream Pie

This is the same Chocolate Cream Pie that I have been making since I got my first cookbook as a bride. The recipe has only been slightly adapted over the years from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (published 1965). We loved this Chocolate Cream Pie then, and we still love it today.

Chocolate Cream Pie
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 slightly beaten egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9-inch) baked pastry shell

In a double boiler, combine sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, and salt; gradually stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Stir a small amount of hot mixture into egg yolks; return to hot mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla; cool to room temperature. To prevent a crust from forming, put clear plastic wrap directly on top, touching surface of the hot pudding to the sides of the bowl. When cooled, pour into baked pastry shell.

Beat 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add 6 tablespoons sugar, beating until stiff peaks form and all sugar is dissolved. Spread atop pie, sealing to pastry. Bake in moderate oven, 350 degrees F, about 12 to 15 minutes, or until meringue is golden. Cool.

I started by baking a single crust pie shell using My Mother's Pie Crust recipe.

It is best to cook cream pies like this in a double boiler because it is very easy to scorch the milk and sugar mixture.

Stir some of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks before adding them to the hot mixture.

After the cooked mixture has cooled, pour it into the baked pie shell.

Top the chocolate filling with meringue.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 - 15 minutes or until meringue is golden. Cool before serving.


Chocolate Cranberry Bars

These Chocolate Cranberry Bars have a kind of granola bar taste, yet they are a sweeter cookie version, very delicious. Nothing could be yummier than a bar cookie made with sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter chips, dried cranberries, and walnuts over a chocolate crust. It's hard to decide whether to eat them for dessert or breakfast, so why not both?

Recipe adapted from Hershey's Recipe Collection Cookbook

Chocolate Cranberry Bars

2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 60 wafers, crushed)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup (or 10 2/3 tablespoons) cold butter, cut into pieces
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 1/3 cups (6 ounce package) sweetened dried cranberries or 1 1/3 cups raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the vanilla wafers in a food processor; process until finely crushed. Add the cocoa, sugar, and butter; process until mixture is crumbly. Press mixture evenly on bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture; sprinkle evenly with peanut butter chips and dried cranberries. Sprinkle nuts on top; press down firmly. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cover with foil; let stand several hours before cutting into bars and serving. Makes 36 bars.

Process the vanilla wafers, then add the cocoa, sugar, and butter and process to make the mixture for the crust.

Press the mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the crust.

Sprinkle a layer of peanut butter chips over the sweetened condensed milk.

Add the cranberries . . .

. . . and the walnuts . . . 

. . . then bake for 25 to 30 minutes.



Sunflower Wheat Muffins

These muffins are filled with some ingredients you can feel good about. They have a whole cupful each of luscious sunflower seeds and whole wheat flour for a nutty taste and they're sweetened with honey instead of sugar. I have adapted my recipe from the Totally Muffins Cookbook.

Sunflower Wheat Muffins
1 cup + 1 tablespoon shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/4 cup sunflower oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup 2% milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease muffin pan or prepare with paper liners. Place 1/3 cup sunflower seeds in food processor or blender. Process until finely ground. In a large bowl, combine ground seeds, both flours, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, beat egg. Stir in oil, honey, and milk. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just to blend. Stir in remaining 2/3 cup sunflower seeds. Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds over muffin batter tops. Bake about 25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Makes 9 standard size muffins.

This recipe uses unsalted sunflower seeds and honey. The original recipe just called for "vegetable oil" and I opted to use sunflower oil in my muffins.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of sunflower seeds over the muffins before baking.

Remove muffins from pan after baking and cool on a wire rack.

These Sunflower Wheat Muffins have a whole grain healthy taste, not sweet, but packed with crunch and flavor.


Chicken and Dumplings Bake

I can cook by following a recipe, but some people just have that real cooking talent of creating something new with a recipe. Mary at Deep South Dish has taken an old time favorite, chicken and dumplings, and has given it a brand new spin. The dish she has created is actually a casserole, but it tastes like classic chicken and dumplings.

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of the casserole dish, then add a layer of shredded chicken.

Whisk together the flour and the milk and carefully pour over the chicken.

Mix the chicken broth and cream of chicken soup and carefully pour over the chicken next without disturbing the previous layers, do not stir.

Bake uncovered in a 400 degree preheated oven for 35 - 45 minutes, and this is where the magic happens.

The casserole comes out a light golden brown with a crusty top, just yummy. This is the easiest, yet tastiest, chicken and dumplings dish I have ever made. Thanks, Mary, for a super recipe.


Wrapping Up the Season

There was a chill in the air today that felt like summer was really over. I decided it was time to say good-bye to the two tomato plants that I have called my garden this year. After the wet spring and then the summer drought, they had finally started to grow again and produce some tomatoes, but now that cold weather is coming they won't have a chance to ripen before frost. So today I made the last harvest and brought the green tomatoes inside.

This is all that is left after the heat of summer took its toll, not to mention the critters I fought to keep those plants alive. Too bad they didn't have just a few more weeks of warm weather to finish growing and to ripen on the vine. I'm hopeful that they'll ripen indoors now though.

I also needed to bring my Meyer lemon tree inside for the winter. I have nurtured the little twig all summer, and I hope she'll be happy beside this sunny window in my kitchen until next spring. I really think next summer I'll see blooms and some lemons.

My blueberry bushes should be able to winter outdoors, but I will keep a close watch on them. I am already looking forward to next spring and trying to do better with my gardening.

I have a couple of books to study over the winter months that might help me improve my gardening skills. So that's my plan, study up, and tackle the garden again early next spring.


Lemon Pecan Tea Bread

This recipe for Lemon Pecan Tea Bread is from Totally Lemons Cookbook. It's one of those fun little themed cookbooks that not only has some great recipes, it also is good reading because it has facts about the history of lemons, tips on uses for lemon juice, and some quotes about lemons. One quote I liked from the book was:

"A modern kitchen without a lemon in it is gravely ill-equipped."
-Margaret Visser from Much Depends on Dinner

Lemon Pecan Tea Bread

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans

3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Pecan halves for decorating

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour or use cooking spray to prepare a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating until light. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sprinkle about half of flour mixture over butter mixture and gently beat until blended.
In a separate bowl, combine vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Beat half of liquid mixture into batter. Add remaining dry ingredients and liquid and beat into batter to blend well. Stir in chopped nuts. Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack 10 minutes, then turn bread out and cool completely. 
To make the topping, in a small bowl combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir until smooth. Decorate loaf top with pecan halves. Pour topping over cooled loaf.

The recipe calls for a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, but I have a new Wilton petite loaf pan that I just couldn't wait to use. I prepared the pan by spraying it with cooking spray.

The batter filled the 9 petite loaves just perfectly.

Because I changed the pan size from the recipe, I had to adjust the baking time. These petite loaves baked in 23 minutes.

If you are a lemon-lover, you need to try this Lemon Pecan Tea Bread. I absolutely love it, and I like the way the petite loaves turned out. I think this bread would be a good choice to serve for brunch or with afternoon tea.