Sweet Potato Muffins

November 22, 2011

We first enjoyed sweet potato muffins when we were in Colonial Williamsburg, where we stopped for a weekend before we headed to Hilton Head for a family vacation several years ago. We had a great time, except for how dang hot it was. I ended up buying a giant straw hat just to stop the sun from burning my face, shoulders and neck (even with sunscreen on). My husband bought a refillable mug and kept getting it reloaded with root beer to stay cool.

We love living history museums and this was a great one, except there was a LOT of walking, which is not so much fun with kids in the heat. We spent two days here and saw a witch trial, took a ghost tour, explored the governor’s palace and visited many working period shops in the “town” and petted some farm animals. My daughter declared that Patrick Henry was her hottie after passing him on the street where he was proclaiming “give me liberty or give me death.”. She came home with a tricorn hat to remember the experience.

We stayed at the Williamsburg Woodlands hotel in a nice little two room suite, which was like a lovely little Poconos-type resort with a game room, a mini golf course in the woods, and lots of green space. One night we dined at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, a tavern George Washington often visited. This is where we had the muffins, and all of us enjoyed them immensely. After we came home, I hunted down a recipe and found it online somewhere (the tavern used to hand out the recipe to diners).  I do this a lot when we travel – enjoy something and come home to learn how to make it myself.

I have tweaked the recipe a bit over the years and it remains a family favorite, perfect for fall, and for Thanksgiving! Serve with honey butter.

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 stick of butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes/yams (about one yam)

1/2 cup skim milk

optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray 12 regular size muffin tins with cooking spray (I use silicone tins). Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in eggs, yam, and milk and mix completely. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and spices and mix until completely combined. If  using pecans, stir them in. Divide among muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Honey Butter

Mix 1 tablespoon honey with 4 tablespoons butter in a food processor. You can also use maple syrup instead of honey.


Martha Mondays: Stuffed Onions

November 21, 2011

I only made one of these onions (in November Living, not online yet) because I knew I wouldn’t like it (I don’t like Italian sausage or fennel) and the kids wouldn’t eat it. I had hopes that Mr. MarthaAndMe might eat it, but he did not care for the onion. He thought the stuffing was good. I don’t quite understand the concept of eating an onion, even if it is stuffed. Maybe the rest of you liked it and we’re just weird? It wasn’t hard to make – just took some time. It was also pretty with the red color. Sassy Suppers chose this one, by the way.

I want to let everyone know we have a new member – Ashley at Lady Tailor. She will join in starting next week. Welcome Ashley!


Quick and Easy Cider Chicken

November 16, 2011

I was making a really quick dinner recently but was just craving something that felt slow cooked. I came up with this moist, delicious chicken recipe that has a cider infused gravy. It was fantastic (yes, there was fighting over it at the table). Serve with some mashed or oven roasted potatoes (which will taste great with the gravy!).

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup cider

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon rosemary

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp butter

2 tsp Wondra

1/4 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 and spray a small glass baking dish. Place the chicken breasts in it and pour cider over them. Sprinkle onion powder, rosemary, salt and pepper on chicken and dot with butter. Bake for 25 minutes until the breasts are cooked (165 degrees with a meat thermometer). Remove the breasts and heat the pan over a burner. Whisk in Wondra and broth until thick. Serve over chicken.

Super simple, but with a very complex flavor!


Pumpkin Pancakes

November 9, 2011

I love cooking with pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin muffins are in my fall and winter rotation. Sunday mornings are when we have our “big breakfasts” at my house – pancakes, waffles, or French toast with bacon and/or sausage. It’s infinitely complicated because some people need their bacon practically raw, while others prefer it very, very well done. Mr. MarthaAndMe always has bacon duty and it is a toss up if it will burn – we buy organic uncured bacon which somehow goes from raw to black in the microwave in an instant. Don’t get me started on the sausage either. We have to make two kinds – those frozen little ones and fresh apple maple chicken sausages – to please everyone.

Pancakes aren’t always a slamdunk. Plain goes over well, as do my oatmeal pancakes. Mr. MarthaAndMe and I like blueberry pancakes and I adore buckwheat pancakes, but the kids won’t touch them. I would never in a million years eat chocolate chip pancakes but the kids love them. So, you can see that breakfast isn’t a simple task.

This past Sunday I decided to put together some pumpkin pancakes, thinking that everyone would eat them since the kids love anything with pumpkin. Silly me. Dude Martha complained that he liked pumpkin, just not in his pancakes, and would not try them. 3 out of 4 of us did eat it and loved it.

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 flour

1 egg

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pumpkin puree (from a can)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ginger

pinch nutmeg

Mix and cook on a griddle or in large pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray. Try to spread the batter out when you pour it. If the pancakes are very thick, they take much longer to cook through. Makes 10-12 pancakes. Serve with maple syrup.


Stuffed Acorn Squash

November 2, 2011

There was a recipe for stuffed acorn squash in October Everyday Food. I was interested, but didn’t like the stuffing, so I decided to make my own.

1 acorn squash

2 ounces pancetta

1/2 cup diced sweet onion

1/4 teaspoon thyme

salt and pepper

2 cups of packed kale leaves

2 slices whole wheat bread, torn into 1 inch pieces

2 tablespoons cream

1 tablespoon chicken broth

1/4 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, until the squash is soft.

Cook the pancetta. Remove it, leaving the drippings. Cook onion over medium high heat until soft and translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in kale, reduce heat to medium and cover for about 3 minutes, until kale is softened. Stir in bread, cream, broth, pancetta, and cheese and stir until combined. Stuff into squash and bake at 400 for 10 minutes until slightly browned on top.

I really liked this. I like acorn squash to begin with, but this added color and flavor to it in a big way. You don’t even realize it has kale in this (good if you have kids). The pancetta and cheese add a lot of nice flavor to it. Definitely something worth making!


Martha Mondays: Chocolate Beet Cake

October 31, 2011

This week’s project was chosen by yours truly: Chocolate Beet Cake (from November Living, not online yet). Wow! The gold standard for chocolate cake in my house is my grandmother’s Miracle Whip cake and this was just as good. It was incredibly moist and you would never know there were beets in it. It just tasted like a delicious, very moist chocolate cake – it looked just like a chocolate cake too.

I don’t know how often I would make this though, because beets are just a pain to work with! You have to peel them, then cut into pieces then boil then puree. I have an off-white Corian sink and was totally paranoid about it getting stained. I was able to find a pair of medical gloves to wear so I didn’t stain my hands. I peeled the beets on top of newspaper. I drained them out in the yard to avoid the sink issue entirely.

Other than the beets, the cake was easy to make and had an easy chocolate glaze, only one layer which I appreciated. It was so good I sent it away with Mr. MarthaAndMe this morning – can’t have that in the house AND the Halloween candy!

As you can see, I took it out of the oven a smidge too early – the very center didn’t quite cook all the way. I took it out with5 minutes remaining because it seemed done. I should have tested it with a cake tester.

I’m wondering if this would work with roasted beets (where you roast them whole, then just rub the skin off with a paper towel), or even canned beets so you wouldn’t have to cook them yourself at all.


Apple Dumplings

October 26, 2011

It’s been a while since I tried a recipe from Martha’s show. Recently she made apple dumplings with the author of The Apple Lovers’ Cookbook. I had to make this one.

For several years, we rented a cottage each summer in New York state’s Finger Lakes region, on Cayuga Lake. One of our favorite things to do was visit Sauder’s Store in Seneca Falls (the town that Bedford Falls in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was modeled after). Sauder’s was smaller then than it is now (now they sell woodcrafted items and plants outside), but it had a huge bulk section and lots of Mennonite and Amish made baked goods. There were always Mennonites shopping in the store when we were there, which my kids were fascinated by.  There is a bookstore section that sells Mennonite and Amish cookbooks and other books. We always purchased birch beer (similar to root beer) here, a treat we always enjoyed at the fair each summer, but which you could not find in stores at that time. There was a meat case and I always bought Lebanon bologna, a cold cut that looks exactly like salami, but tastes like sweet bologna.

The baked goods were the highlight (whoopie pies, breads, pies, cookies) and apple dumplings were one of our favorites. I’ve never tried to make this and really forgot about it until I saw it again on Martha’s show!

I followed the instructions on this recipe to a “T”, but I think the problem was that my apples were too big. It’s really hard to find small apples here in NY state, where our apple crop is a big deal and sellers pride themselves on selling big, ripe, beautiful apples. I ended up cutting an inch or so off the tops of my apples, but they were still too big to fit in the dough squares. I ended up rolling the pieces of dough out to be larger and I still had to smush them to get them to cover most of the apples.

Other than, that it went well. The cider sauce is simple and it was all much easier than I imagined. This was really delicious. I think I might make regular pie crust next time instead of this dough recipe. I will definitely make this again. The entire family loved this.


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