Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Apple Streusel Muffins

As long as I am home and cooking this week, I decided to try a new breakfast treat. I got out my muffin cookbook and looked for a recipe with apples. I didn't make my annual apple pie this year so apple muffins sounded good.

I settled on this recipe because the book described them as "The delicious crumb topping makes these muffins taste like miniature coffee cakes. " Sold! The only problem was that I didn't have any chopped nuts. I used brown sugar instead and it tasted great although I have to admit, nuts probably would have tasted better.
The recipe recommends using Granny smith or Greenings apples. I always use Macintosh apples for baking. And eating. I grew up in upstate New York among apple orchards and cider mills. I was literally raised on Macs. I've also found that one Macintosh apple yields 1 cup of diced apple, making it so much easier to measure for recipes! For some reason, you're supposed to leave the apple unpeeled. I didn't. I always peel my apples when used for baking.

The cookbook was right. These muffins taste more like coffee cake than muffins. I made four large ones because I like a big muffin with my coffee in the morning (see sidebar for resizing muffin recipes). I'm definitely going to be making these often. And I'll be bringing them to next year's Fall Foliage Festival!

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Apple Streusel Muffins


1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 cup diced unpeeled apple, preferably a tart apple such as Granny Smith or Greenings

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin cups or use foil baking cups.

Put streusel topping ingredients into a medium-size bowl. Mix with a fork, then crumble with fingers until mixture looks like chopped walnuts.

To make the muffin batter, thoroughly mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Break eggs into another bowl. Add sour cream and melted butter, and whisk until well blended. Stir in diced apple.

Pour egg mixture over flour mixture and fold in just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Scoop batter into muffin cups. Top each muffin with about 2 teaspoons of the streusel topping.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Remove from pans and let cool at least 1 hour before serving.

Recycle: sour cream container

Compost: eggshells, apple core and skins

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I'm off from work this week to get my bulbs planted. Naturally, after a week of gorgeous, warm weather, this week is predicted to be much colder. It happens every year. The week I pick to plant is the coldest week in October! I will have to bundle up to work outside.

After working in the yard all day, I will want something warm for dinner. Definitely comfort food. I spent the weekend cooking so all I will have to do for dinner each day is heat something up. Of course, I made my ultimate comfort food, macaroni & cheese. I'm also having cravings for spaghetti & meatballs.

For years, I made very simple meatballs: ground beef, an egg, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. They were okay, nothing to get excited about. Then I discovered a fabulous recipe in the strangest place, a Beanie Baby book. During the Beanie Baby craze, my daughter had many of them and a few books about them. One of the books, The Beanie Baby Handbook, contained recipes. We tried most of them. They were terrible. Except the meatballs. They were delicious! I no longer have the book, but I still have the recipe.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!


1 pound lean ground beef
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put the ground beef in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, crushed garlic, Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsely, salt and pepper.

Using your hands, mix the ground beef mixture until it is well combined, but do not over mix as this will toughen the meatballs.

Divide ground beef mixture in half, divide each half into 12 even portions (this will make 24 small meat balls). Shape each portion of ground beef into a meatball. Place meatballs on a plate.

Heat oil in a frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Put meatballs in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally with a wooden spoon to brown all sides.

Recycle: olive oil bottle

Compost: eggshells, garlic skins

Sunday, October 15, 2006

OldRoses' Potato Soup

The annual Fall Foliage Festival at Rutgers Gardens was held yesterday. Volunteers were urged to bring breakfast treats to share and a lunch if they were working the entire day. Of course, I made blueberry muffins to share with everyone for breakfast. For lunch, the Volunteer Coordinator had mentioned bringing soup and her crockpot because it was going to be a chilly day. That gave me a great idea! I have a wonderful recipe for potato soup that is rich and hearty. It's perfect for a crisp, cool autumn day.

The origins of this soup are lost in the mists of time. I know that I started out with a recipe card and then made changes but I can't recall what those changes were. Except the ham. Originally the recipe called for a specific amount of cooked ham. Most people use leftovers. I am cooking only for myself so there is no way I would be making an entire ham. Instead, I wait until ham steaks go on special at the grocery store, buy one, cut it up and use that instead.

Using red potatoes is important. I've tried other kinds of potatoes but the soup just doesn't taste as good.

The secret for making this soup great instead of just good is in the size of the potato and ham pieces. Yes, size matters! Take the time to cut up the potatoes and ham steak into tiny pieces. Smaller than bite size. The soup will be easier to eat and therefore, taste better. And the potatoes will also cook faster.

I have made this recipe many times but not for the past few months when the weather has been too warm for soup. Without thinking, I put in a lot of pepper the way I like it. Then I realized that other people might find it too spicy. I fished out as much of the red pepper flakes as I could and hoped for the best.

And the best is what I got. It's a good thing I grabbed some at noon. There wasn't much left by the end of the day. And I received the ultimate compliment for any chef: two requests for the recipe.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

OldRoses' Potato Soup
(Source: OldRoses)
3 medium red potatoes
2 cups of water
1 small onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Crushed red pepper flakes
Ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
3 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 ham steak
Peel potatoes and cut into bite size pieces.
Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Add potatoes and cook until tender. Drain. Set aside potatoes.
While the potatoes are cooking, peel and finely chop onion. Cut ham into bite size pieces. After setting aside potatoes, melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion to saucepan; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and tender, but not brown.

Add flour to saucepan; season with pepper flakes and black pepper to taste. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.

Gradually add potatoes, chicken broth, milk and sugar to onion mixture in saucepan; stir well. Add cheese and ham. Simmer over low heat 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator.
Compost: potato skins, onion skins

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Coconut Rounds

Another meeting, another cookie recipe. I'll use any excuse to cook! This recipe has been sitting in my "Recipes to Try" folder for close to a year. I found it in the December 2005 Family Circle magazine. I liked it because it used coconut flavoring in the cookies themselves, not just flaked coconut added to the dough or sprinkled on top. And, again, I had to make them ahead of time and they seemed like they would freeze okay.

I had some problems making these. Chilling the dough and making little dough balls was easy. Squashing the balls flat was another matter. The recipe called for a cup to be used. I used a glass. Either way, I'm sure I would have faced the same dilemna: either the dough stuck to the bottom of the glass or if I floured it enough to prevent sticking, then the cookie came out covered with too much flour.

My next problem came with the final step of icing the cookies with chocolate. The melting and dipping went okay, it was the setting. My kitchen was too warm and the chocolate wouldn't set. To freeze the cookies, I had to line my container with waxed paper and then place waxed paper between each layer of cookies. After I thawed them, I had to peel the waxed paper from each cookie. It was difficult and left unattractive marks on the icing.

The Master Gardeners who tried them liked them. In fact, this is all that was left after everyone had eaten their fill and wrapped up some to take home. Personally, I didn't find them all the tasty.

Verdict: Not bad, but I won't be making these again.

Coconut Rounds
(Source: Family Circle Magazine, December 2005)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at toom temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In a second large bowl, beat butter and sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg, coconut and vanilla. On low speed, beat in flour mixture until just combined.

3. Gather dough. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or as long as overnight.

4. Roll 1 heaping teaspoon dough into a ball. On a well-floured work surface, flatten with a cup. Transfer to an ungreased bking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

5. Melt 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate. Dip an edge of one cookie in chocolate; rotate cookie slightly and dip again. repeat with all cookies and place on waxed-paper-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with a total of 1/2 cup toasted coconut; let chocolate set at least 15 minutes.

Makes 4 dozen

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle, coconut extract bottle

Compost: eggshell