Sunday, July 28, 2013

Blueberry Maple Muffins from Eating Well

Like yesterday's Morning Glories, this recipe for Blueberry Maple Muffins comes from Eating Well. My daughter Katie uses Eating Well as a source for healthier versions of her favorite foods. She packed up a batch of these for this weekend's camping trip. What makes them even more special are the blueberries -- grown right here on our own bushes. We just have a few, but they are producing a nice crop of berries as July ends and August is on the horizon. It's definitely blueberry season in Upstate New York!

It's been quiet here at home while Katie, Bill, and the kiddos are camping north of Indian Lake in the Adirondacks, though I've been busy while they're away. Yesterday, I went to a graduation party for the nephew of two good friends, Cathi Jackson and Barbara Doane (sisters). My contribution to the party was the graduation cake. Delos Jackson is a great kid who graduated in June from Hartford (NY) High School where he was very active in sports, but especially basketball. He's a tall, blond stretch of a kid, with sparkling blue eyes and a shy smile. I've known him since he was a very little boy. His Aunt Cathi was my daughter's Girl Scout leader, and Delos and his family joined us on many of our excursions, but I especially remember the fun we had on our trips to Disney World. My sister-in-law Carolyn and I had rented a sporty convertible on that trip, and Delos, then about 8 or 9, loved riding in that car.  He sat in the back, with the top down, on our way back from a day at the beach in Daytona to our hotel, near Orlando. His excitement just made it all the more fun!  Delos is going to start at SUNY Adirondack in the fall, and I know he'll have a great first year of college. His mom Vicky and dad Ken (along with the rest of his family) have a lot to be proud of in Delos.

Hartford High School Colors - Black and Red!

My Saturday night was pretty quiet. I thought of taking a walk on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, THE summer place to be this time of year! Instead, I settled in here in Middle Grove and did some laundry, checked Facebook, watched a little TV, and talked to Russ (our pretty-much nightly ritual in this long-distance relationship - 16 years next month!). Of course, I'd much rather have a face-to-face conversation (especially with his handsome face!), but we'll catch up soon. We both have such busy lives it's a wonder we manage at all! But we do, and it works for us. I sometimes joke that we are the only two people who can put up with each others' crazy schedules! Fortunately, we can.

On this Sunday I look forward to doing a little shopping in preparation for my trip to North Carolina in just two weeks (!). When I get home this afternoon, I'll prepare a dinner for Katie, Bill, and my little men. After three days of camp food, and with today's rainy weather, comfort food like lasagna or meatloaf and mashed potatoes will be a welcome change. Later tonight, it's more baking for my favorite Saratoga hotel, to be dropped off in the early morning before I head to the track. Tomorrow there's a special race sponsored by Skidmore College's Tang Museum (home of my day job!) at the historic Saratoga Race Course, and our entire office staff will be there for the festivities. We'll be hosting an information booth near the paddock, from 10 am - 6 pm, for anyone who wants to stop by to say hello and pick up some Tang merch!

Looks like my quiet morning is leading into a busy couple of days!  Before the busy-ness kicks in, here's the recipe for Katie's Blueberry Maple Muffins, from Eating Well. Hope you are all enjoying a terrific Sunday!

very slightly adapted from Eating Well

1/3 cup whole flaxseeds (Katie used flax meal that I keep in my freezer - King Arthur)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs (ours came from our chicken coop!)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup nonfat buttermilk (or sour 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar - let stand 5 minutes)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (Katie used lemon)
1 tablespoon orange juice (Katie used fresh lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries (homegrown!)
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.

1. Grind flaxseeds in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder or dry blender (Katie used King Arthur Flaxmeal, already ground). Transfer to a large bowl.Add whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend.

2. Whisk eggs and maple syrup in a medium bowl until smooth. Add buttermilk, oil, orange zest, orange juice and vanilla (Katie used lemon zest and juice).  Whisk until blended.

3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula just until moistened. Fold in blueberries. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.

4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 26 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto wire rack to cool slightly.

Nutrition information from Eating Well:
Per muffin: 208 calories; 8 g fat (1 g sat, 4 g mono); 36 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrates; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber; 184 mg sodium; 149 mg potassium
Carbohydrate servings: 2
Exhanges: 1 starch, 1/2 other carbohydrate 1 1/2 fat

Link to original recipe:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Katie's Morning Glory Muffins

Living in an apartment over the garage of my daughter's home has its advantages, especially that I get to see Katie and her family pretty much every day. I work a lot, and they are busy enough, that we are not always in each others' faces, and I am especially sensitive to their needs as a family for some Grandma-free time. There are plenty of opportunities for dinners together, and for mornings, evenings and weekend time with my boys Henry and Peter (now 5 and 2 1/2). It's nice knowing they're there, close-by. Even with that, I miss those little guys when they are away, or when I am gone for a while. I always looking forward to that lovely "Hi Meena!" from little Pete or that tight hug from big-boy Henry which comes whether it's been just a few hours or a few days since we've seen each other. As Grandma, I savor every second with these precious boys, moments I was sometimes too busy to acknowledge with my own children growing up. Grandchildren are indeed a reward for growing older!

"My Boys" at a recent mini-golf afternoon
 at Pirate's Cove in Lake George!

Another advantage to living so close to my daughter's family is that she is a very good cook and baker. They're away camping in the Adirondacks this weekend with friends, and she cooked and baked for a couple of days in preparation. (BTW...Camping is A LOT of work for women!) Today I am sharing one of the recipes she made for the camping trip. It is for Morning Glory Muffins, a recipe she adapted (with barely any changes) from Eating Well. Katie decided to reduce the cinnamon from 1 tablespoon to 1 teaspoon, and skipped the sprinkling of nuts/wheat germ on the top. I was lucky enough to try a sample yesterday morning before work. It was great! As Eating Well explains on its website, replacing butter with apple butter cuts down on fat significantly.With whole wheat flour, fresh carrots and apples, apple butter, canola oil, walnuts and wheat germ, this is one healthy muffin! As my photo illustrates, it is also a beautiful muffin. You can find the original recipe as well as nutritional information by following this link. With only 3/4 cup sugar for 18 muffins, these muffins are sweet enough and a "glorious" way to start your day!

You can see the chopped apples, raisins, and carrots throughout!


1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots (4 medium)
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 large egg
2 large egg whites (or dried egg whites reconstituted to equivalent)
1/2 cup apple butter (replaces butter)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts or pecans
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
*original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of cinnamon - seemed like too much

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.

Whisk flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, apple, and raisins. Whisk egg, egg whites, apple butter, oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full. Combine walnuts and wheat germ in a small bowl; sprinkle over the muffin tops.

Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool. 


I'll be back tomorrow with Katie's other muffin recipe for her camping trip: Blueberry Maple! Till then, have a glorious Saturday!

Recipe Source:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Jam-Packed Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

It's an exciting time in Saratoga Springs! Today marks the opening day of the 150th meet of the historic Saratoga Race Course. The excitement in the air is palpable as locals and visitors anticipate the first "They're off!' at post-time, about 1 p.m. this afternoon.

Summer in Saratoga is exciting. At the Tang Museum at Skidmore College, where since April 1st of this year I put in my 9-to-5, or today, noon-to-8, we're celebrating our summer exhibitions with a kick-off reception tomorrow evening, followed by an old-fashioned barbecue. As the Events Manager, I have a wonderful time planning for such occasions. At a recent staff meeting, I noted that "I feel like I'm getting paid to go to parties!" Indeed, I am, but I also have a share of hefty responsibilities and a hectic schedule that is well suited to my personality, so it's a great gig for me. Sometimes, things do just fall into place!

This is also the time for the annual Saratoga County Fair. My good friend, Catherine Golden, just heard that she won a slew of ribbons (9!) for her entries in the home-made jam competition! I have been  a fan of Catherine's jams for years. My favorite is her apricot jam, though I love all of them. Catherine, a professor of English at Skidmore, is a passionate jam maker. She picks all her own fruits and berries, and has a stash of jams stored in her home that guarantees gifts of jams to her friends for every occasion. I use many of her flavors in my jam thumb print cookies at Christmas time.

Just the other day, I was inspired by Catherine's jams to create a new sandwich. At the Tang, we had a reception Wednesday evening, and one of the appetizers was a mini-grilled cheese sandwich with a layer of apricot jam inside. It was absolutely delicious, and I couldn't wait to get home to try a lunch-sized version of this lovely little sandwich. I tested it out yesterday morning, early, before work. (It became my breakfast!). I think it's a perfect combination of sweet and savory. Try this, either cut into little appetizers or as two big halves on your lunch plate. I bet you'll love it!


2 slices of your favorite bread (I used Freihofer's Country White)
2 slices Land-o-Lakes yellow American Cheese
1 tablespoon jam (Apricot is great!)
soft butter

Spread one side of each slice of bread with soft butter.  Place one slice, buttered side down, on med-to-hot griddle or frying pan.  Lay cheese over bread in pan. Spread jam over cheese. Place other slice of bread, buttered side out, on top of cheese.  Grill until nicely golden on the bottom and cheese starts to melt.  Carefully flip (jam can get slippery when it gets warm) and cook on other side until done.

Enjoy your new favorite grilled cheese sandwich!

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Perfect Day on Lake George and an EASY Cookie Recipe!

For a few weeks, I've been looking forward to a beach day at Ushers Park on Lake George with my friend Cassie, her Mom Linda, and Cassie's twins, Penelope and Carter. The twins are 15 months old. As the day approached, I thought it would be nice to take Pete (2 1/2) along, since his brother Henry has swimming lessons every afternoon this week. Besides, Pete and I haven't had any real 1:1 excursions, so today was the day. Katie packed up a beautiful lunch for Pete with all his favorites -- PB&J, strawberries, blueberries, and yogurt, and I stopped for a sandwich-to-go and drink on our way to meet up with them.

Earlier this morning, Pete came upstairs to say "Good morning, Meena!" (Meena is his made-up word for "Grandma" and it has stuck!) He asked to make cookies, and I knew it was going to be a 90-plus-degree day today, so I said OK, but we had to do it quickly and get it over with. What's quicker than a pouch of cookie mix? Yes, I do resort to one now and then, especially the oatmeal variety. So, we took the pouch of cookie mix and doctored-it-up with the rest of that toasted coconut and chunks of dark chocolate. Oh man, are these cookies GREAT! You would never, ever, know that I didn't labor away at a from-scratch recipe to produce such a terrific cookie! I always keep a pouch on reserve in case there's an immediate cookie emergency, as we had this morning!

So, one nice addition to our picnic lunch (in the shade of a big old tree) were some of these cookies for dessert. Pete said he helped me, but actually, I helped him. He dumped the contents of the pouch, the toasted coconut, and the chopped dark chocolate into the bowl. He cracked the egg and stirred it in along with the softened butter. He dipped the cookie scoop and squeezed the handles to deposit the generous portions of dough onto the cookie sheet. (Is Pete our version of the Little Red Hen?!) He really did make these cookies (with a bit of help) AND he helped load the dishwasher. I'd say I assisted Pete rather than the other way around, and he was very proud of himself, and rightfully so!

Here are some photos of a lovely day at the beach, and the easy recipe for Oatmeal Cookies with Toasted Coconut and Dark Chocolate Chunks:

Pete looking out over beautiful Lake George!

A momma duck and her babies!

Carter and Peter

Carter and Penelope!

Million Dollar Beach at the south end of Lake George in the distance.

Oven - 375 degrees F.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper
Makes 30-36 large cookies

1 standard-sized pouch Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie Mix
1 cup toasted coconut - (350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Don't let it get too dark!)
6 oz. dark chocolate, cut up in chunks

4 oz. softened butter
1 egg

In large bowl, combine cookie mix with toasted coconut and chopped chocolate.  Add egg and soft butter.  Mix with a large wooden spoon until it all comes together and is completely combined.

Drop by tablespoon-fulls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, about a dozen (evenly spaced) to a sheet. Squish down with 2 fingers to flatten cookies a bit, so they'll bake more evenly.  Bake 11-12 minutes or until bottoms JUST begin to brown.  Ovens vary so check at 10 minutes.

Cool for a minute or two and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Hope you enjoyed this post.  I sure enjoyed the day!

Easy and Delicious - can't be that!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Toasted Coconut Muffins with Dark Chocolate Flecks!

Last night I was looking through older recipes when I came upon one for coconut bread.  I decided to adapt that recipe for muffins. The coconut was toasted and mixed with the dry ingredients along with finely grated dark chocolate. The original recipe for coconut bread was from the former Canterbury Restaurant in Saratoga Springs, now home to Longfellows on Union Avenue, heading toward Saratoga Lake. I posted that recipe previously, and it can be found here.

The muffins came out beautifully. You can see the specks of dark chocolate and the bits of toasted coconut. Once cut open, you can see that the coconut and chocolate are a perfect pairing, suspended throughout the muffin, just waiting for a smear of butter (or not!).  You can even grill this open muffin to add another layer of toasty-ness!

Oven 350 Farenheit, prepare 12-cup standard muffin tin (with spray or liners)

Mix together the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Then, in a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (below) and then add to the wet ingredients, mixing with a fork just until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

1 cup toasted coconut (350-degree oven for 12-15 minutes, stirring once or twice)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (yes) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons finely grated dark chocolate (I used Dove dark chocolate, actually the remaining portion of an Easter Bunny that'd I'd cut chunks off of and put away! - It was fine!)

Divide batter among cups. I like to use a standard ice cream scoop for an even measure.  Bake for 22 minutes or until muffins test done.  Cool 10 minutes, remove muffins to rack to cool completely.

With a little smear of butter...

You can see the flecks of chocolate!

Hope you enjoy this recipe! I'm off to the boat with Katie, Bill, and the boys while the sun is shining this morning! :)  Have a great day, my friends!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

To Blog or Not To Blog....

On my last post, I shared a quote from Norman Vincent Peale, "Change your thoughts, change your world." That one sentence has stayed with me ever since I first heard it years ago, and it rings so true. There is definite power in positive thinking, and I have always been a "glass half-full" optimist (sometimes not to my benefit!).  Lately, though, regarding this blog, it seems time for either an attitude adjustment or a reality check. Not sure which is in order... I have been questioning all the energy and time I put into this massive project, trying to decide if all the hours and effort, for the past four years, are worth it. Measures of its success indicate that this blog has a very small niche of devoted followers, but for it to become more than what it is now would require time that I just don't have and honestly choose not to invest. What IS my motivation? Do I just want to be a stand-out blogger among other food bloggers? Is it a competition? Do I even want to compete? I do best when callenging myself as an individual, toward greater personal accomplishments and self-satisfaction for a job well done. I do not do so well when comparing what I do to what others do. It's like apples and oranges, to me, since I feel that we who blog are all individuals working toward a personal goal. Still, I sense that dog-eat-hot dog competitive spirit out in the food blogging world. For me to take this blog to the next level, I'd have to STOP for a while and reevaluate, revamp, and roll out a revised rendition of what this blog is now.  The original motivation was for this to be the foundation for a cook book. I'm very seriously thinking about doing that. The time may just be right.

In the meantime, here a few photos of what inspires me to share my baking world with you.  It's not about me. It's about the people who trust me to contribute to their most meaningful days of celebration, joy, and even remembrance. Sometimes, when I wonder if what I do is worth it, I realize that my cakes are invited to the party to convey messages of birthday joy, of welcoming a baby, of celebrating many years of marriage, of graduations and new homes, and even long lives, well-lived. And most significantly, of celebrating my own children's marriages. There's nothing I can give that means more, from my heart.  I'm not a business.  I don't take orders. I get requests and say no many times more than I say yes. I bake only for those I am close to, for those for whom I am willing to give up my nights and weekends, since I work full-time in an entirely different profession. My cakes play a role, an honored and significant one, to those who mean the world to me, and if nothing else, that is worth it.


Here are photos of some of the happy energy in my kitchen this week!:

Brothers at the sink - something "Rockwellian" about them!

An amazing milestone!

Celebration for a beautiful girl!

Cookies for a memorial service for a lovely lady.
I had just recently baked her favorite cake in celebration of her 95th birthday.

Now, when I wonder if what I do makes a difference, or matters in any real way, I just have to remember that moment when the cake box is opened, when a look of complete delight comes over the face of the recipient, when someone trusts me to add something special to a special day.  I can say that is definitely worth it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

Breakfast Quesadilla

Here's an easy breakfast recipe that you can put together almost as quickly as scrambling a couple of eggs. In fact, two scrambled eggs make up the filling of this breakfast quesadilla. With a soft tortilla shell and a sprinkling of a Mexican-blend cheese, the quesadilla comes together in minutes. Add some low-fat sour cream and your favorite salsa on the side, and your breakfast (or lunch, or dinner!) is off to a very flavorful start!


2 eggs, beaten
1 large tortilla shell (I used whole wheat)
1/4 - 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Mexican-blend)
Sour cream, light or regular
Your favorite Salsa (I love Paul Newman's with pineapple or peach)

Spray a large griddle or frying pan with a little bit of vegetable oil. Into hot pan, pour eggs and allow to cook through before gently scrambling. While the eggs are cooking, before scrambling, sprinkle half the cheese over the eggs and then scramble a little with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon, and fold egg over itself into a rectangle. Remove from pan and place soft tortilla in the same pan. Place cooked scrambled egg on half the tortilla. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the other half. When the cheese begins to melt, fold the cheese half over the egg half. Cook on both sides until tortilla is crispy on both sides (just takes a minute). Remove from heat on to cutting board and cut into 3 even triangles. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Now go and have a terrific day!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Banana Cake with Banana Frosting to Bake and Take!

Tuesday night, the very ripe bananas in my fruit bowl met their match ~ an unusual banana cake recipe that took full advantage of their deepening flavor. An over-ripe banana is a beautifully ugly thing! What some people might consider ready for the compost pile, I see as full of potential for a delicious dessert. These bananas shed their spotted and darkening peels to become the main ingredient in a welcome snack for my co-workers.

There are a number of examples of this cake recipe floating around cyber-space, all highly rated. It is baked at a low oven temperature (275 degrees Farenheit!) for about an hour and then the HOT cake is placed immediately in the freezer, which apparently ensures a very moist cake. I was skeptical but in the interest of following directions (not always my strong suit, but important in baking), followed along with the crazy scheme, and my co-workers confirmed: it was a great strategy. This cake was incredibly moist, with a solid texture and a beautiful crumb. While most recipes for banana cake pair it with cream cheese frosting, I wanted something different, something nostalgic that reminded me of my kids' "Grammy," Mary Lou Eddy's, banana frosting from a cake she made many years ago when her boys were young. Her son Rod remembers it as a yellow cake with banana frosting. I remember the banana/banana combo, but I have to call her to check for sure, because it's been many, many years since I was introduced to her amazing cake!  Anyway, without a recipe to go on when I was ready to bake, I improvised the frosting (guess-work but it worked out) and the result was a banana-on-banana cake that elicited a lot of oohs and aahs from my friends in the museum!

Bananas in the cake AND the frosting!

(loosely adapted from and other similar recipes on the WWWeb!)
Oven 275 degrees Farenheit - prepare 9x13 pan

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter (12 tablespoons) room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups ripe, mashed bananas
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk OR 1 1/2 cups milk soured with 2 tablespoons vinegar

In bowl of stand mixer, mix dry ingredients together.  At low speed, add butter, a bit at a time, and mix well until the mixture looks like crumbs or cornmeal and all the butter has been incorporated.

In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, mashed bananas, and buttermilk.

Slowly pour half the banana/milk mixture into mixing bowl with dry ingredients, and mix at low speed until it's all incorporated.  Add the rest of the banana/milk mixture and mix for 2 minutes.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for an hour OR until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and top of cake springs back when lightly pressed.  Some ovens require more time, so start checking at 55 minutes and every 5 minutes until the cake tests done. Remove from oven.

Place HOT cake in freezer (make sure to make room for it before the cake comes out of the oven.)  Keep cake in freezer for 45 minutes.

Banana Frosting:

1 ripe mashed banana, excess moisture removed by stirring the banana in a mesh strainer and using the solid pulp that doesn't drain away, which helps the frosting from being too thin  (I made this up!)
4 tablespoons soft butter
4 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat all ingredients together very well.  Frosting will be soft and creamy.  Pour over center of cake and spread to edges, making pretty swirls with spatula.

Happy 4th of July, my friends! Enjoy this photo from - it's so cute and captures the childlike wonder of this important holiday beautifully!

(Photo from:

Monday, July 1, 2013

And the winner is...!

And the winner of June's Comment Contest is.....Sharron Cataldo! 

And thank you to all who commented in the month of June and every other month since April 2012. This comment contest is coming to an end, but I will be revamping it and bringing it back in a new way, with comments on one-day posts now and then, so please continue to read the blog and comment when you're inspired to do so. Very grateful for all of you!