30 Days of Renewal – Day 21 – 6 Fruits and Veggies I Always Have in the Kitchen

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I planted the garden this weekend!  Pictures and info on what I planted to come.  For today I thought I would tell you about the 6 most useful fruits and veggies I use on a regular basis.

1.  Mire Poix Veggies – Carrots, Celery, Garlic, Onion – Okay I know this is actually four veggies, but I am going group them together as aromatics.  They add flavor to dishes.  All last for weeks when stored correctly and can be used in many ways for every meal of the day.  Store carrots and celery in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator loosely wrapped in plastic wrap or light cotton bags.  Store onions and garlic in a bowl on the counter, out of direct sunlight.

Carrots

2.  Bananas – Love them on their own for a snack, in a smoothie for breakfast or dessert.  I can fry them with butter and brown sugar for a delicious ice cream topping.  Add to pancakes, muffins, or popsicles. Or make non dairy, gluten free, nut free, fat free everything except banana free ice cream.  If your bananas are green stick them in a paper bag with an apple for a few hours or overnight.  The gasses released by the apple will ripen the bananas!

3.  Frozen Berries – Available all year.  One of the healthiest foods available.  Very high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Use in breakfast smoothies, popsicles, muffins, oatmeal, yogurt, cereal, ice cream, plus its frozen so it takes months to go bad.  Read about how I freeze berries.

4.  Baby Spinach – Can be used for every meal.  Really healthy.  Throw a handful in a salad, or an omelet, stir fry, or on a sandwich.  I even use it in some soups and pasta.  A really fresh bag can last a week or better yet grow your own in a pot.  Its one of the easiest veggies to grow in the winter and spring.  If I am not growing some I usually buy a container of triple washed organic spinach.  It gets eaten much faster if we don’t have to wash and dry it.  Plus with the baby I just don’t have time for that anymore.

red baby potatoes

5.  Red or Gold Potatoes – Available all year round, cheap, nutritious, can be used in many dishes, omelets, baked potatoes, soup, french fries.  You notice I didn’t say russet potatoes.  They are too starchy for me and are pretty much only good for baking.  Red and gold potatoes are creamy and make incredible mashed potatoes and french fries.

6.  Avocado – I used to hate avocado.  Actually I thought I hated avocado, but really I had never tasted it.  I just couldn’t get past how it looked.  But as an adult I discovered how delicious avocado really is… when you find a perfectly ripe one.  Finding a ripe avocado can seem impossible, but its really quite simple.  Hold it in your hand and gently press into the side with your thumb.  If its hard and you can’t push down at all, then it’s under ripe, which is fine if you won’t be using it for three days.  If you want one right now then keep testing avocados until your finger presses gently into the flesh.  Avoid the squishy ones.  They are past their prime.  I love eating avocado on my sandwiches in place of mayo.  Its a much healthier fat, but still smooth and creamy.  My favorite way is so simple.  Just cut in half with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

I hope this inspired you to try something new!

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Lemon Blackberry Muffins

Hi everyone!

I am still here and still pregnant.  We are currently 36 weeks and my brain has turned into oatmeal.  The plain bland kind that everyone hates.  Every drop of creative inspiration has been sucked out of me.  It really blows.  What ever happened to nesting?  I thought all women turned into nesting monkeys in the third trimester.  Making blankets, deep cleaning, decorating, ect…  I was kinda looking forward to that.  I just sit around on the couch most of the day knitting baby vests and watching Julie and Julia (gotta love that movie) or reruns of Top Chef Masters (Go Kerry, Go!).  Oh well, I am sure you will all understand if I post less frequently over the next couple months.  It’s not that I don’t want to post, just that I can’t seem to come up with anything witty to say, I can’t find the desire to pick up my camera or even my iphone and honestly I hardly have the energy to cook.  I have eaten way more than my share of taco truck tacos this month.  Of course, I should probably just post more often and not worry about pretty pictures, witty comments or helpful recipes.  Lets try that instead.

So on that note, today I want to share a muffin recipe that we have been enjoying.  I have made these four or five times in the last month and everyone loves them.  The recipe belongs to the ultimate culinary genius and my favorite chef Alton Brown.  I took his recipe found in I’m Just Here For More Food and added blackberries, lemon juice and zest to it because those two flavors just seem to pair so well together and I have a horde of frozen blackberries to go through.  Thank god because the blackberries in the backyard are literally rotting on the vine because I can’t find the energy to pick them.  I am also sick of getting itchy scratches, but mostly my lazy butt just can’t get up and pick.

A quick side note.  If you are making berry muffins and do not want them to turn purple or blue then I suggest freezing your berries for a few hours beforehand.  I learned that during round 1.  If the berries are frozen and tossed with the flour before mixing with the wet ingredients they will not break apart and color your batter.  Tada!  Perfect golden muffins with whole berries right where they ought to be.

Blackberry Lemon Muffins

Recipe by Alton Brown

Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced, seeds removed
  • 2 cups of frozen blackberries

1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Place paper muffin cups in your muffin tin or butter each cup well.

2.  In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium sized bowl stir together everything else except the blackberries.

4.  Toss the blackberries in the flour and coat evenly.  Then make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir about 10 times making sure to scrape the bottom, but don’t overmix.  You will want to stir more, but as long as most of the flour is mixed in it will be ok.  Over-mixing will result in dense muffins.

5.  Use an ice cream scoop to portion the batter into the muffin tins.  Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.  Store in a zip top bag on the counter.

 

Pregnancy Updates and Blackberry Syrup

The last week has been a blur.  The chickens began laying eggs, I played host to several friends and coworkers who were visiting for the weekend and Brae started school, thank goodness!  She has been antsy, bored and grouchy the last couple weeks.  After three months of free time she was craving a new routine with some structure.  Now she comes home much happier after spending the day with her friends and challenging her brain with new facts.

My pregnancy is progressing perfectly so far.  When I was pregnant with Brae life was a nightmare.  Tom and I were on the verge of homelessness, his mom was dying of cancer and passed away a couple of months before my due date, and I had relentless morning sickness throughout my entire pregnancy.  On top of that I had just opened my own business the year before and unexpectedly had to quit working 4 months earlier then I had planned, putting an even bigger wrench in our finances.

I won’t get into too many specifics of that labor and delivery, but will say that it was traumatic.  The hospital anesthesiologist messed up my epidural which caused me to have a much more painful labor, delivery and recovery than normal and I had to return to the hospital a couple days later to have another operation to fix their mistake.  The whole experience was a total nightmare.  Which is why Brae is almost eight years old and we are finally having a second child.

This time around I have a midwife and we are going to a birth center instead of the hospital.  I am really excited about having a medicine free birth.  I will be able to do it my way instead of being pigeonholed into a hospital regimen that fights a woman’s natural ability to give birth rather than trusting a woman to labor on her own.  I have learned so much about women’s natural ability to bear children without things like epidurals, pitocin, and episiotomies.   I am thrilled I will get the chance to do this all natural, in a calm and soothing place, and with a skilled midwife who will be with me the entire time instead of barely making it in the room to catch the baby.

I have about 6 1/2 weeks left until then and time is flying by.  Many women at this point in their pregnancy are cleaning the baseboards, organizing the closets, and washing baby clothes.  But not me.  I have been baking.  When boredom hits I head to the kitchen to experiment with a variety of blackberry recipes I have been saving up for the harvest.  The past few weeks we have been harvesting blackberries several pounds at a time.  Most are immediately washed and frozen using this method, but many are making their way into muffins, quickbreads and preserves.

So far my all time favorite blackberry recipe has been blackberry syrup.  This blackberry syrup was one of the tastiest treats I have made in a really long time.  We all agreed that it hardly tasted like any particular berry, but more like some exotic elven berry you would have during breakfast while visiting Rivendale.  Its tart and sweet at the same time and just a little swirl of it over pancakes, french toast or oatmeal is the perfect start to my day.  It makes butter, jam and maple syrup totally unnecessary.  Plus it’s not that hard to make!

Blackberry Syrup

Slightly adapted Food Network recipe

  • 4 cups of fresh blackberries (about 2 pints)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

1.  Combine all ingredients except the cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the sugar is melted and the mixture begins to boil gently.

2.  Turn heat down to med-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Stir often and crush the berries with a wooden spoon or potato masher as they cook.

3.  When the mixture begins to thicken take off the heat and stir in the cornstarch.
Strain the syrup through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Smash the berries in the sieve to get all the pulp you can off the seeds.

4.  Stir well and store in a glass mason jar with a lid.

Can be frozen in a canning jar or stored in the fridge for several months.

How To Freeze Berries

I am 31 weeks into my pregnancy and have reached that point where my life feels like one big boring waiting game.  I try to keep busy organizing the house and cooking freezer meals, but I lack the energy and inspiration to do much of anything else, making life incredibly boring.  The nesting bug has yet to hit and I am having trouble dealing with all the things I can’t do right now.  I have always been a planner, but I am sick to hell with planning.  I have plans galore, I just don’t have the energy or inspiration to put my plans into action.  So most everything is on hold for now and that’s driving me nuts.

I try to relish those enjoyable pregnancy moments like when I feel the baby kicking up a storm.  It’s the most amazing feeling.  There is a human growing in my belly and I can feel his knees with my fingers.  I can feel him push back in response to my pokes.  Wow.  Incredible.  At the same time I can’t help but sadly wonder if this will be the last time I will get to feel this.  Tom and I haven’t decided on whether this will be our last child or not.  I could see myself having one more, but Tom isn’t convinced yet and frankly neither am I.  So I am struggling with the thought that this could be my last and I should enjoy every uncomfortable moment.  I have to admit, I am getting tired of telling myself to enjoy these last few calm weeks.  Soon I will be crazy busy with the new baby, Brae’s school and then the holidays right after that.  I will be wishing life was boring.  Such smart advice, but so hard to do.

Like I said before, one of the things I have been doing is cooking and preserving food.  Since my garden is barely producing enough for our day to day life I have been focusing my efforts on preserving as many apples and blackberries as possible.  My preferred method of preserving blackberries is by freezing.  Frozen blackberries can be substituted for fresh berries in almost any recipe and are vital to the breakfast smoothies I drink all winter long.  All you need is a strainer, a cookie sheet and a flat space in your freezer.  You can use this process with any berry so feel free to substitute.

How to Freeze Blackberries

1.  Remove stems and stray leaves from your berries.  Rinse berries in small batches in a strainer for a couple of minutes, swirling the berries around to remove all dirt and bugs.  Let drain for a minute or two.

2.  Pour berries onto a cookie sheet and blot up any extra water with a paper towel.  That way they won’t stick to the tray as much when frozen.  When all the berries are rinsed and on the tray lightly shake the tray to spread the berries out in a single layer.  Its best if your berries have a little room between each other so they don’t stick together.

3.  Place the tray of berries in the freezer making sure the tray lays flat.  Berries will be sufficiently frozen in about 3 hours, but I do the next step whenever I have an extra 5 minutes.

4.  When frozen, remove tray from the freezer and carefully unstick them from the cookie sheet with your fingers.  Put them in a freezer safe ziplock bag, press out all the air and close.  Label with the month and year.

Since berry seasons are fairly short you can freeze the berries in small batches and continue filling the bag until berry season is over or until you need to start a new bag.

Mini Blackberry Galettes

Last week I went to see my midwife who told me that the baby had turned again, back into the breech position.  She said not to worry, but that I should take a long walk everyday to encourage him to turn.  I used to love a long walk, but these days a long walk is across our long driveway to the chicken coop and back.  But I definitely want the baby to turn so I promised I would try.

The blackberries behind our house are still holding out their big harvest so yesterday Brae and I walked down the street to a large stand of blackberry bushes that were blanketed in plump sweet berries.  We should have brought a larger bowl because the one we had was full in less than 15 minutes.  After getting home we decided that these berries were too sweet and ripe to freeze.  Plus I had a spare pie crust in the fridge that needed to be used up so we made quick, super simple mini blackberry galettes.  They made the perfect end to a hot summer day.

Quick and Easy Mini Blackberry Galettes

  • 1 pie crust (I used 1/2 of Alice Waters pie crust recipe)
  • 2 pints of blackberries
  • turbinado or granulated sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll out the chilled pie crust and cut out circles about the size of your hand.

2.  Place a handful of sweet blackberries in the center of each circle and fold in the edges leaving the center open.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar and gently press some sugar into the dough.

3.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes before eating.

Apples, Blackberries and Tomatoes, Oh My!

Its been a little more than three weeks since my last garden update and boy does a little fertilizer and new soil go a long way!  The tomato plants have tripled in size and the leaves are a perky rich green.  They’re even growing new little tomatoes!  Our cherry tomatoes have been ripening for a couple of weeks and we are eating them by the handful.  I have been particularly enjoying the first crop of larger heirlooms. The Italian ones not picture perfect.  There were a few cracks across the top, but they smell warm and sweet.  I’ve had one on a ham sandwich almost every day.  My favorite preparation so far however, is sliced with a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  I’ve noticed that heirloom tomatoes have far fewer seeds than store-bought varieties.  Without seeds the heirlooms have more room to grow that thick creamy interior and are definitely sweeter and more fulfilling than their store bought cousins.

Our blackberries seem to change from firm green to red to plump sweet black almost overnight.  We have been harvesting about a pint every other day until last night when Tom and I picked almost two pints.  Blackberry picking is dangerous business.  It involves carefully placed footsteps in between dozens of razor sharp thorny vines.  Balance is important too, not that I have any with this belly of mine.  Being 5 feet tall I have to reach and lean into the bushes to pick the berries that are ripe. I quickly learned a skirt might be great for pregnancy, but it is not appropriate blackberry picking garb.  Neither is any sort of loose shirt.  The thorns reach out and grab you like some sort of enchanted monster bush from Harry Potter.  And those scratches itch!  Still we check the bushes every day to pick, and usually eat, everything we can find.  I haven’t made a thing with my blackberries yet. We eat most of the sweeter plump ones before rinsing and freezing the rest for winter.

My favorite part of the day is just after the sun ducks behind a stand of eucalyptus trees about 1/4 mile away.  It’s not quite dusk but it feels close.  The air cools and the ever present wind slows to a light breeze.  Tom and I stroll through the orchard with the dog picking apples off the trees and taking test bites.  Have you ever tasted an unripe apple?  It has a bitter tang to it.  Your lips will pucker like you bit into a lemon and a strange fuzziness will spread across your tongue and lips like the outside of a kiwi.  After weeks of bitter apples it was a shock to bite into a perfectly ripe crisp apple.  My first Gravenstein.  I wasn’t even hungry and I ate the whole thing.  We filled our shirts with apples from that tree and left all the others with the hope that my sweet apple wasn’t a fluke and this tree just ripened first.

It wasn’t.

A few days later I noticed the whole town was up a ladder picking their prize Gravenstein Apples.  So Tom and I promptly went out and picked at least 10 lbs from our orchard.

The next day I sat in front of the TV watching Big Brother with my daughter painstakingly pealing 20 apples and dropping each one into a bowl of lemon juice and water.  After the show was over I sliced around the cores and threw them into my favorite Le Creuset Dutch Oven that I found in almost perfect condition at a garage sale in Santa Cruz for $3.00.  The heat was turned to high and I was waiting for a boil.

Then Brae called me over to help her with a game.  No more than 5 minutes passed when I remembered

….THE APPLES!!!

What a mess!  My pot is black on the bottom.  I am still soaking in baking soda and vinegar and scrubbing, over and over to clean it.  The apples, of course, are ruined.

I haven’t looked at the last 6 lbs of apples since then.  I’m going to have to tackle them soon though.  They aren’t going to last forever and I have been craving that apple butter I made last year.  Funny, last years apples came with grief too.  Brae is still worried about those bees, even though they are long gone.

Nectarine Crisp

Nectarines must have been a sacred fruit.  My idea of heaven on earth.  When in season they are sweet, juicy, tender, a perfect dessert all on their own.  But sometimes you want something a little more fancy.  Maybe your mother in law is coming over for dinner and you need something easy, but impressive.  Or maybe you are like me and need to have something sweet and fruity for dessert every night for the entire summer.

That’s what happened this afternoon.  I sat at the kitchen table thinking about dinner and absently staring at a bowl of yellow nectarines I bought yesterday until I was no longer thinking about dinner.  I was dreaming up dessert.  Something simple and not too unhealthy, but still sweet.  I almost made a galette, but decided on a crisp instead.  Both are stunning to look at and are perfect with summer fruits, but a crisp is faster and easier then making, chilling and rolling out dough for a tart.

It took all of 20 minutes to prepare.  Just slice the fruit in half and peel away the pit, then cut each half into three slices.  When you have about 3.5 cups of fruit toss it with a couple teaspoons of sugar and of flour.  Dump the fruit into a baking dish and sprinkle with a handful of frozen or fresh berries.  Then set aside to make the crisp topping.

To make the topping massage the flour, sugar, seasonings and nuts into small cubes of cold butter with your fingers until it resembles clumpy wet sand.  Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and bake on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes.  That’s it!  I like mine pretty hot so I wait about 15 minutes for the crisp to set before scooping some onto a plate.  You could wait longer, but I really don’t think you’ll be able to.  If I had some vanilla ice cream I would add a scoop on top as well.

Nectarine Crisp

Serves 4, and can be easily doubled

  • 7-8 nectarines (about 3.5 cups, sliced)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp flour
  • handful of frozen or fresh mixed berries
  • 1.5 cups of crisp topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Toss the sliced nectarines with the sugar and flour in a large bowl then spread evenly in an ungreased ceramic baking dish.  It’s best to use a smaller dish and have a deep layer of fruit.  Sprinkle a handful of berries over the fruit.  Evenly cover the fruit with crumb topping and bake for 45 minutes.  Check after 35 minutes and if the crumb topping is browning and the fruit has not started to bubble up then cover the crisp with foil or parchment paper for the last 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes check to make sure the juices are bubbling through the crisp and the fruit is fork tender.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream if you have it.

Crisp Topping

Makes 1.5 cups

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Toast the walnuts for a few minutes in the oven or toaster oven.  Let cool then chop into small pieces.  Mix the nuts with the flour, sugars, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add the butter and massage the butter and flour mixture together with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it is well mixed and resembles clumpy wet sand.  Keep in refrigerator until ready to use.  Can also be frozen for later use.

Cherry Jam Tart

Over the last couple years I have come to love making jam.  The patience it takes, slowly stirring the bubbling juice waiting for just the right thickness.  The simplicity of the recipe, just fruit and sugar, and maybe a squeeze of lemon.  Its practicality, turning fruit thats almost gone bad into something that will last a year after its been canned.  And finally, I adore the rich colors.  Cherry jam has the most luscious hue, close to what I imagine Dorothy’s ruby slippers would look like.  For the last two summers I thought jam making was just my newest fascination until I started writing this post and remembered the first time I made homemade jam.

I was in 8th grade and all my friends were hanging out at our friend Erin’s house.  As we lounged in the sun drinking lemonade Erin’s mom told us she was making jam and asked if we wanted to crack open a few pomegranates for her.  Every kid loves the tart juicy seeds of a pomegranate so we all readily agreed to help.  We sat around the table gossiping and breaking open pomegranates until the table, our clothes and our mouths were stained with red juice.  After a while my friends lost interest, but not me.  I stuck by Erin’s mom the entire afternoon absolutely entranced by the jam making process.  I took home a new found love of jam making and three jars of fresh pomegranate jam.

Since I began making my own jam a couple years ago I have been on the lookout for yummy things to do with all the jam that ends up in my fridge.  This last week I came across a jam tart via David Lebovitz and it was instant love.  Even more perfect, I had just bought a pile of sweet cherries that were begging to be turned into more jam.

But I don’t need more jam.  I have three kinds of homemade jam in my fridge as I write this.  The apricot and peach jam I made last week and a fabulous jar of blackberry jam, made by a friend.

I wanted to find something else to make with those cherries, but after finding David’s tart, the cherries won.  I made more jam… and a tart.

No Recipe Cherry Jam by David Lebovitz

Cherry Jam Tart

Recipe via David Lebovitz and The Wednesday Chef

  • 9 tablespoons of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/8th tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups of cherry jam, or other favorite jam
  • 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar

1.  Beat together butter and sugar until well combined.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Set aside.

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture stirring until it forms a dough.

3.  Take 2/3 of the dough and shape into a disk.  Form the remaining dough into a log about 1.5-2 inches wide.  Cover both with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

4.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Take dough out of refrigerator and allow to warm up for a few minutes.  Press the dough into an ungreased removable bottom tart pan with the palm of your hand until the pan is evenly covered on the bottom and sides.

5.  Spread the jam evenly over the tart dough.  Take the log of dough out of the fridge and slice into 1/4 inch slices.  Cover the top of the tart with dough slices.  Sprinkle at least 2 tablespoons of turbinado sugar over the top of the tart.

6.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the dough turns golden brown.  Cool before serving.

Best served at room temperature, the day after its made, but only if you can wait that long!

Welcoming Summer with Peach Muffins

This baby that is growing in my stomach must love peaches.  I have had the craziest peach cravings since I discovered the juiciest sweetest organic peaches I have ever eaten at my local fruit market.  They are so juicy that you have to eat them while holding a paper towel under your chin to catch all the juice.  The best part is they are $1.79 a lb and dropping in price every week.

Over the last couple weeks I must have eaten 4-5 peaches a day, most of them at night and, although I could never get sick of raw peaches, I have been wondering what else I might be able to make with them.  After a quick internet search I found what I was looking for.  So while Brae read at the table and Tom took his Sunday nap I spent a quiet hour in the kitchen making and photographing these moist fruity muffins.

While gathering my ingredients I realized we were completely out of the required granulated sugar, so I substituted brown sugar.  I knew that the extra rich caramel flavors would pair nicely with the sweetness of a peach, something akin to a peach crumble.  What I ended up with is an extra moist muffin stuffed with warm nuggets of peach.  Little sweet surprises in every bite.

Peach Muffins

Original recipe from the Food Network Kitchens

  • 4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 ripe peaches, chopped (enough to make 1 1/2 cups full)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin (or 6 cup jumbo muffin tin) with paper muffin liners.

3.  Melt butter in a small skillet on low heat and set aside to cool.  Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

4.  In another bowl whisk together the egg and brown sugar until its thick and well mixed.  While whisking, slowly pour in the milk and butter.  Add sour cream and stir to completely combine.

5.  Fold the egg mixture into the flour mixture until almost mixed.  Add chopped peaches and mix until ingredients are just combined and the peaches are well-distributed.  Do not overmix.

6.  Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Take muffins out of the tin and let cool.  If you did not use liners then let the muffins cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing.

7.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Apples, Anniversaries and Birthdays

I feel completely unprepared for this post, moving boxes are on every surface and pizza boxes cover the stove, but its been too long since my last one and I feel you deserve an update.

We are all moved in to our new home now and we are slowly learning our way around.  If you have been following my twitter stream then you have heard me rave about Andy’s Market in Sebastopol, Ca.  I can not explain how happy the little chef inside me was while walking through that store.  Childish glee… maybe.  I bought lots of obscure ingredients that I don’t need now, I but DID need at some point in the last year and couldn’t find.  All of a sudden there they were and there I was with a debit card in hand.

Carob chips, tapioca pearls that have to be soaked overnight, unsweetened shredded coconut and sprouting seeds the list goes on.  They have every flour, nut, seed, bean, pasta or spice sold in bags by weight.  If you are gluten-free then you want to visit this place.  They have the best selection of gluten-free ingredients I have ever seen.

Anyway, I will tell you more about Andy’s in another post.  Back to our house.  It’s a two bedroom, 1 bath on a property with a couple other houses and an old apple orchard.  The house is a perfect fit for us with a freestanding wood stove and a large kitchen.  I have spent a happy last couple weeks learning its quirks.  For example, where all those sounds were coming from at night.  Ghosts were mentioned several times, but it ended up being the fridge.

Celebrations have been happening all month.  First Tom came home from the vineyard, we got our house, then it was my birthday and this blog’s 1 yr anniversary, then Tom’s birthday, then our wedding anniversary, then Halloween, which is big in our house.  Its been crazy!

We learned where the local yellow jacket hive was on my birthday and blog anniversary, October 11th.  There we were, joyfully picking apples in “the Snow White Apple Orchard” next to our house (Brae renamed it for the red apples).  I was posting photos to twitter about how I was in paradise.  The next minute my little one runs toward me screaming hysterically.  I see a wasp on her shirt and swipe it off her only to see another and another land on her and now me.  Suddenly I have flashbacks of the movie My Girl.  I dropped my bag and screamed RUN!  I grab her hand and we fled through the orchard, wasps hot on our tail.  I stopped halfway to the house to swipe more wasps off Brae, then realized they were still landing on us.  I grabbed her and ran for my life back to the house.  In the front room we stopped and swiped the ones that were on our clothes.  Several lifted off and started flying around the room.  Brae had been stung already and was freaking out.  There were still wasps on her.  We ran to the bedroom and shut the door.  Stripped off our clothes and I frantically beat the crap out of anything that moved until I was sure all the wasps in the room were dead.

We took stock of the damage.  She got 5 first stings and a couple secondary stings.  Yellow jackets can sting repeatedly without dying or losing their stinger.  I got stung twice with about 7 secondary stings.  Brae was freaked out, I was freaked out.  She had never been stung before so I was worried about allergies & the amount of stings.  I waited a few minutes to make sure her breathing was normal and she was calm before heading back out to war with the rest of the wasps.  I killed about eight around the house before calling it safe.  Then it took another ten minutes to convince Brae to leave the house and go next door for help.  That was how I met my very sweet neighbors who have become our fast friends.

In two days I turned 29, Tom turned 34 and this blog turned 1.  We were finally together, I have many pounds of free apples and found out that I was the one who had a mild allergy to bee stings.  Brae is apparently immune to their venom.  Her stings had disappeared completely by the next day.  Since that day however, she has developed an uneasy relationship with bugs that fly.  Outright panic and growing agoraphobia thankfully changed into extreme caution, which has, in the last couple days, changed again to a calm distrust of tiny flying things.  We have learned a lot about wasps and how to avoid a hive if you find one.  It’s a work in progress.  A couple of days later my neighbor and I were discussing what had happened, she laughed and said, “Welcome to the country.”  I laughed with her and said, “Actually, its welcome back.”

Those apples were retrieved by a brave husband at dusk and were turned into apple butter a few nights later.

Elise’s Apple Butter recipe

More apple recipes to come.