Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apple Muffins

Mondays are rough, muffins make them better. As previously mentioned, I have a boat load of apples to cool with--and by boatload I mean a bushel. I've found that it's much easier to pass off individually wrapped baked goods onto people than ask that they slice a piece and grab a fork. It's all in the packaging. And thus, with the abundance of apples and psychological experiment conducted, muffin Mondays have returned! At least for this week.

Two cups of apples, at your service 

I hadn't actually made apple muffins before and my usual suspects were full of other muffin varieties. So I took to the interwebs and came across this recipe from King Arthur's flour. Of course this means the recipe called for King Arthur's flour but I'm not picky. However, it did call for both wheat and white all-purpose flours and being the overly stocked pantry that it is, I had a bag of wheat flour chillin and gathering dust.

Ready to mix in the flour!

If I were a true baker and not a faker baker, I would have added some oats and maybe some cranberries to make a cran-apple muffin. But alas, I'm a faker baker and don't know what adding oats would do to the muffin chemistry. Would it be awkward? Would oats be left out? Would it just taste too healthy? These mysteries will remain unsolved for the time being.

Quite the arm workout, mixing everything together

I did however elect not to sprinkle brown sugar on top of the muffins. Partially because I didn't think it was necessary and partially out of laziness. This decision resulted in worrying for 20 minutes that they wouldn't be sweet enough, that I had somehow disrupted the space-time continuum of baking! Again, this did not happen (not that I know of) and the muffins turned out well.

Yield: 12 muffins--false

They were squishy and apply and not too dry. Coffee cake muffins are delicious but sometimes are too crumbly. Not so with these apple puppies. Personally I believe that the Greek yogurt helped to keep them moist (sorry, I know people hate that word) and I hear that's a secret to good sweet breads. One day I will learn to chop things properly but until then, to ensure my fingers remain intact, I will continue to make chunky apple breakfast foods. For added festivity, I used Halloween cupcake wrappers-- which I bought last year on sale after Halloween. Paper doesn't go bad!

Happy Halloween! 

It's cool, muffin Mondays made my day and hopefully a few others as well.

Muffin Monday!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Apple Sharlotka

Last weekend I was finally able to go apple picking! I don't know why I get so excited about apple picking, it wasn't something I did as a kid or have nostalgia for. In fact, the one time I remember going apple picking as a kid was with my brother's Boy Scouts troop and I got stung by a wasp--in my ear. You would think that would deter me from ever apple picking again.

But now that I'm older, and still afraid of wasps, I realize that it's really just a good fall activity to enjoy with friends (yes, very cheesy sentiment). This year apple picking became even more grown up with the addition of wine tasting. Super classy wine tasting apple picking combination. At this particular location, although they were out of cider donuts (the horror!), there were great views of the fall foliage and an abundance of apple varieties. So we purchased our bushel (not to be confused with a peck or a hug around the neck) bags and ventured out to fill the bag with different apples.

After illegally climbing some trees and jumping for the best apples, we left with all kinds of fruits and wines. Lucky for me, last weekend was a three-day weekend. Hallelujah no Monday!! It's like it doesn't exist! Bring on the Netflix and baking. Except when I went to make something of the apple variety I discovered that a) I did not want to make apple crisp again but wanted something new and b) I was feeling very lazy about my baking. Obviously I had to make something but what was simple and would take like 5 minutes?

I scoured the usual sites and consulted my cookbooks and finally came across something so simple, I wondered if it could possibly be real. Apple Sharlotka (fancy in name, simple in making), compliments of Smitten Kitchen, is literally chopped up apples with flour, sugar, eggs and spices. So simple!

After chopping up the apples and dumping them into a spring form pan, you simply mix the remaining ingredients together to form a thick goo that you pour over the apples. Make sure you spread the goo around so the apples are coated. I also added some cinnamon and nutmeg to the apples and tossed them prior to pouring the goo, just for some added zest. In retrospect, I would have added pumpkin pie spice from Joy the Baker.

After less than half an hour, fall was in the house! This was a little difficult to get out of the pan, despite the spring form part and non-stick part. It was kind of like an apple sponge cake and was nice and sticky.

Here's the thing about apple picking though: you always gets more apples than you expect and recipes always require fewer than you would think. So 6-7 apples later and I still have 9-10 to go. More apple treats to come!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pecan Pumpkin Bread

As some of you may know, as recently as last year, I was a pecan't convert. I became a fan of pecans which opened up a whole world of crunchy, delicious baking opportunities. This includes pecan pumpkin bread, and as an added twist, it's vegan friendly! I'm not sure that vegan should be alarming to anyone, nothing like sugar free (jokes, sugar free things taste pretty good usually) and yet I decided to get people's opinions before sharing that it was vegan.

Being a vegan recipe was pretty convenient as I didn't have much butter left in my fridge. It's also excellent that one batch makes two loaves: one for work and one for my own consumption.  Using only one small can of pumpkin and festive fall spices makes this bread taste like the spirit of fall. Pecan pieces, or in this case whole pecans out of laziness, add a nice crunch. During the baking process, they get slightly toasted. Honestly I hardly noticed the difference in texture that the pecans provided. Typically my issue with having nuts in breads is the texture conflict between the crunch and softness of the bread. Not so in this case.

Breads make an excellent gift: hostess or friend or visiting guest or colleague. It takes thought and time and when sent to my grandma, baked with love. Sorry folks, half of you are getting baked goods for Christmas instead of 'real' gifts. But I promise they'll be good and thoughtful.

And check it out, we got fancy with decorating the bread with pecans too! Of course I made a few adjustments. I used dark brown sugar which has more molasses than light brown sugar. I also had juuuust enough flour for this bad boy. 

Lastly, in true fall fashion, I went apple picking (and wine tasting, super classy) today! The fall foliage is coming in quite nicely and it was a beautiful day that will lead to tart and crisp treats. Stay tuned!

Recipe from Joy the Baker:

-3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-2 cups packed light brown sugar
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder 
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or just nutmeg)
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1 teaspoon ground allspice
-1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
-1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
-1 cup vegetable or canola oil
-1/3 cup pure maple syrup
-1/3 cup water
-1 cup chopped pecans with 8 whole ones for decoration

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8x4x3-inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (through ground cloves)
3. In a separate medium bowl, mix together the wet ingrdients (through water)
4. Add the wet and dry ingredients together. Make sure to incorporate all the ingredients and then fold in the pecans.
5. Divide the batter between the two pans. Decorate with whole pecans.
6. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.
7. Once baked, let rest in pan for 20 minutes before inverting on cooling rack.

Serve warm with ice cream or nutella or enjoy plain!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Vegetable Stuffed Peppers

I am full on in the mood for fall. For awhile there it was alarming to see temperatures in the 70's and 80's in October but Mother Nature has gotten over her little temper tantrum and it is now getting into the cool crisp feeling of fall. In addition to the leaves changing colors, one of my favorite things about fall is the coolness. Now before everyone goes "booo I love the beach", hear me out. There's something safe and innocent about snuggling under the covers in those twilight hours before the day begins. It's just a few more minutes of staying in the nice warmth of your house when it's not quite time to think about responsibility and the day ahead of you. That's a great feeling, to just stay safe and snuggled a little longer. And no one likes to be under the covers when it's 90 degrees outside.

Well, the leaves haven't quite changed over yet (I hope I don't miss it in my busyness) so I have to get my fall color fix somewhere else. What a perfect reason to buy peppers! I'm not a huge spicy person but bell peppers are pretty plain. The extent to which I've prepared bell peppers is to cut them up (poorly) and dip them in hummus. This is my first venture into stuffing anything as well! But they looked so good in the cookbook and seemed like a good fall transition meal.

The only thing missing is some orange accent
Before carefully reading the recipe, I assumed these peppers would essentially be stuffed with chili (also an excellent fall food) but it turns out they're stuffed with more veggies! Is that veggie cannibalism? Vegetables stuffed with other vegetables? I won't think too long on that one since the outcome is delicious. Similar to making chili, you saute the non-pepper ingredients together, adding a little at a time. I learned last year when making pumpkin chili that my frying pan can hold quite a lot but fortunately there was no over-spilling this time. While the vegetables are cooking, the peppers are in the oven cooking a bit themselves. This is a very efficient meal, you really only have to set timers and pay attention for a total of 15 minutes and I got dinner/lunch for half the week!

Now, in true Lemon fashion, I altered this recipe a bit. I didn't have spicy peppers to add to the vegetables so I just added some chili powder. I also didn't use tomato paste but just diced tomatoes and in an effort to compensate for the lack of spicy peppers, got spicy diced tomatoes (note: that is now two different ingredients to compensate for the one lacking in spice. Math is my strong suit).

I'm not sure why, but I love kidney beans. Not necessarily by themselves but they are right up there with pumpkin and squash as fall staples. You can't (or shouldn't) make chili without them and they're a great addition to this stuffed business.

Look at all that deliciousness!
To top it all off, I used pepper jack cheese because it's delicious. And it's what I had. And it seemed like a good idea to add spice (yes, in addition to the chili powder and spicy tomatoes). After stuffing the peppers and sprinkling some cheese on top, the lot of it is put back in the oven so the cheese will melt and the vegetables will finish cooking.

These peppers, not surprisingly, turned out pretty spicy but they were delicious! One half at a time was probably the correct portion size with a side of butternut squash soup but I ate a whole one too. Prior to making these, I always envisioned stuffed peppers as being upright with the stem portion cut off and then stuffed. Cut in half makes much more sense. Unfortunately, the seasoning was so amazing that my poor butternut squash soup tasted absolutely bland. And maybe it is bland, I did get it from a Downton Abbey cookbook and as far as I know, British food can be bland (disclaimer: I have never had British food so this could be completely unfounded).

I deem this recipe a success and new go-to recipe for the fall and winter. It's easy to make and also healthy, all veggies and just a little cheese. Plus, boyfriend approves! He was quite helpful when it came to chopping the onion because as you may have experienced, they burn my eyes like no other. There, you got a shout out, woohoo!!!

The final product, Instagram filter included


  • 4 bell peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes 
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • Chili powder
  • Grated cheese of your choosing 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees
  2. Cut the bell peppers in half and lay on a cookie sheet, face up
  3. Spread olive oil on the peppers. It is easiest to drizzle olive oil across all the pepper halves and then individually move the peppers until they are covered with oil.
  4. Place the peppers in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, dice the onion and cloves of garlic. You don't want the pieces to be too large.
  6. Saute the onions, garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan.
  7. Chop the carrots and celery and add to the pan with the onion and garlic.
  8. After about 5 minutes, or when the vegetables are partially cooked, drain and add the can of kidney beans.
  9. Next add the can of diced tomatoes. 
  10. Add your desired amount of chili powder, I think I used 2 teaspoons but it is up to you how spicy you want the filling to be.
  11. Once the vegetables are mostly cooked (after about 15 minutes), remove the peppers from the oven and spoon the vegetable medley into each pepper.
  12. Cover each pepper with cheese and return the tray to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
You could really add whatever you want to the stuffing. That's the beauty of this recipe, it can be altered so easily. Just make some chili or add some ground turkey! This recipe was adapted from Pippa Middleton's book, Celebrate. Remember, this is a judge-free zone and it's not news that I have a small British obsession....