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When Butter Isn't Butter

Homemade Apple ButterFruit Butters.  Not a butter in the dairy sense, but a fruit that has been puréed and cooked down to a thick, dense consistency.  Apple Butter is a classic.  Broadly available with traditional spices--or try it kicked up with flavor-additions like ancho chilies, cardamom or apple brandy. 

Many farmers' markets and specialty food shops feature locally made or unusual gourmet fruit butters.  Scrumptious on a warm scone, fresh biscuit or thick slice of toast, fruit butters also add a powerful flavor punch to everyday cooking and baking, from a slather for pork tenderloin, to a muffin or coffee cake.   

Momio's Apple Butter Coffeecake
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups Apple Butter

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking or baking spray (or grease lightly).  Mix together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a large bowl.  Cream butter in mixing bowl.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Combine buttermilk and apple butter and add to creamed mixture alternately with flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. 

Stir together topping ingredients in a medium bowl.  Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle evenly with half of the topping.  Add the remaining batter and rest of the topping.  Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes.



The Heart of the Cup

Green Mountains: Magnificent. Picturesque. Snow-capped.  But also Robust. Perfect Roast. Rich, Complex Flavors--in the case of Green Mountain Coffee.  I stopped by their Visitor Center in Waterbury, Vermont.  Located in a working Amtrak station, the center offers interactive displays about Green Mountain Coffee, the "tree to cup" process of coffee and Waterbury history. 

The station also includes a gift shop and a café which serves amazing coffee, baked goods, soup & specials.  (My husband loved his sandwich, rich in VT products & the Spinach Pie was scrumptious!) 









A few ideas/recipes of ways to incorporate coffee into your home kitchen.


Green Mountain Marinade

1/2 cup Green Mountain Coffee (such as Vermont Country Blend), brewed & cooled
3 tablespoons balsamic vineger
2 1/2 tablespoons pure Maple syrup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 finely minced garlic cloves
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional Garnish: Flat leaf parsley sprigs
                          Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese from Jasper Hill Farm*

In a medium bowl, stir together coffee, vinegar, Maple syrup, oil, garlic, pepper and salt. Use 2/3 of the mixture to marinate pork, beef or lamb cut of choice.  Use remaining marinade to baste the meat, if desired.

*Bayley Hazen Blue is a creamy natural-rinded, blue veined, raw milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT.

Mocha Java Muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground Green Mountain Mocha Java Coffee (or flavor of choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
3/4 cup bittersweet or semisweet chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
Optional Garnish: Dried Banana "chips"

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour twelve 3-inch muffin cups or fill with paper liners.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Cream butter with sugars, coffee and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat together the eggs and milk.  Add wet and dry ingredients alternately to the butter mixture.  Stir until just combined.  Fold in chocolate and nuts.  Spoon into prepared muffin cups and bake until tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 - 25 minutes.  Cool 5 minutes, remove from muffin pans and cool completely on wire cooling racks.  Garnish with banana chips, if desired.

Makes twelve 3-inch muffins.   

Learn More:

Did You Know:  Recent studies indicate that drinking coffee regularly can help lower cholesterol, and potentially reduce your risk for heart disease,  skin cancer, type 2 diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.


Good Stuff!

Spike Mendelsohn is making his mark on Capitol Hill. The former Top Chef/Top Chef All-Stars contestant now has two adjacent restaurants on Pennsylvania Avenue S.E. and both are favorites with the congressional lunch crowd.

His most recent venture We, The Pizza, offers a distinctive variety of traditional and gourmet pizzas, including numerous vegetarian options--available by the slice or whole pies.  Wings, Subs, Salads and Spaghetti round out the menu.  Made to order old fashioned fountain sodas are a unique touch, ranging from a classic Sassy Sassparilla (one sip transported me back to childhood) to a not-too-sweet Jupina Pineapple, finished with a pinch of cilantro.  To top it off--Gelato Sundaes.  Nutella Smores anyone?

Mendelsohn's philosophy is printed on the wall:  "We" is where "I" meets "you" and "us" meets "them" and change happens.  He delivers with a stylish inviting atmosphere offering seating options for all sizes of dining parties.  Unable to eat in?  Order to-go or call ahead for curbside pick-up.  There was a constant stream of customers who left balancing veritable mountains of We, The Pizza boxes. 

Whenever I have the opportunity to eat at a celebrity chef's restaurant, I try and take away at least one concept that I can incorporate into my home cooking.  Mendelsohn's liberal use of fresh herbs elevates his pizza to the next level.  My “take-away”-- add more fresh herbs to my homemade pizza, or to elevate/revitalize take-away pizza.  More Information:


"For The Greeks In Us" Cast Iron Pie (thicker crust)

Fresh Buffalo Mozz & Roasted Tomato PieNext door...Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery continues to draw prodigious crowds.  Classic American Fare--Top Chef style.  Burgers--traditional to "distinctively Spike," like the Blazin' Barn with Pickled Daikon & Carrots, Mint, Cilantro, Thai Basil, Lettuce & Spicy Mayo.  (One that I plan to go back and order, applying the "Shun the Bun" option and have it lettuce wrapped.)   "Cluck It!" is another appealing option:  Make any burger a chicken sandwich with a fresh naturally farm-raised grilled chicken breast. 

The menu also boasts creative plays on the classic Wedge Salad.  Plus a variety of Fries & Vidalia Onion Petals.  And per my server, "Don't forget the Dipping Bar."  A selection of flavored mayos.  But many agree the real stars of Good Stuff Eatery are the Homespun Milkshakes...with flavors like Toasted Marshmallow & Milky Way, it should come as no surprise.  Milkshake flavors-of-the-day are available as perfectly sized 16-ounce "Mini Moos."

To quote the eatery's own slogan:  Goodness Gracious.

My take-away concept from Good Stuff Eatery:  create my own Dipping Bar or Sandwich Topping Bar of flavored Mayos in my own kitchen for casual entertaining.

Dipping Bar: Old Bay Mayo, Sriracho Mayo, Chipotle Mayo, Mango Mayo
Spike Sunnyside: Dairy Fresh Cheese, Applewood Bacon, Farm Fresh Fried Egg on Brioche Bun
Spike's Village Fries: Topped with Fresh Thyme, Rosemary & Sea Salt

Milky Way Homespun Shake

I met Spike while prepping for the 2010 Amstel Light Burger Bash at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival .  He was chatting with Top Chef Stephanie Izard.  Spike had won the Burger Bash the previous year with his Colletti's Smokehouse Burger & Toasted Marshmallow Shake.  He was quick to share words of encouragement and his signature smile.

Not planning to be in our Nation's Capitol anytime soon?  Consider ordering Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Cookbook.  To order & for more information about the Eatery:


Double Rich--Double Good

Two favorites.  One birthday.  One honoree's favorite was chocolate cake--the other's was cheesecake.  And this recipe was born.  It offers both.

Chocolate Swizzle Cake

Shortening or cooking spray for greasing Bundt pan
 for dusting pan
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sour cream
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted

Cheesecake filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Garnish:  Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare Bundt pan:  Using a pastry brush, thoroughly coat entire pan with shortening.  Sprinkle flour evenly over shortening; invert pan and shake out excess.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar and cream until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition; stopping mixer occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.  Beat in vanilla.  Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.   Add dry ingredients to creamed butter mixture alternatively with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; and mixing each time until just blended.  Gently fold in melted chocolate. 

To make filling, beat cream cheese at high speed until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating well.   Beat in egg and vanilla.  Pour 1/2 the cake batter into prepared pan; using a spatula, push the batter to the outside of the pan and slightly up the walls.  Spoon cheesecake filling around the center of the filled pan, leaving a rim of chocolate cake batter around the inside and outside.  Carefully spoon remaining chocolate batter over.  Gently tap the filled cake pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and pockets. 

Place pan on baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until wooden skewer inserted in the center of cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes; gently shake pan from side to side to loosen cake; invert on serving plate or cooling rack.  Cool thoroughly.  Dust lightly with powdered sugar.

12 servings.

Did You Know:  The aluminum Bundt cake pan was developed in 1950 by the Scandinavian-American company, Nordic Products.  It was not a totally new concept, but was modeled after traditional European kugelhopf molds.  The new pan met limited success until the 1966 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest, when the Tunnel of Fudge Cake called for a Bundt pan, making it all the rage.  Sales were bolstered even more when the grand prize winner in the 1972 Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest was a Bundt Streusel Spice Cake.


Thank A Farmer Today

 ...a finished dish can only be as good as the ingredients that go into it....

Years ago, while living in Vermont, I had the good fortune of winning the Vermont Beef Cook-Off.  It was held at the Farm Show in Barre and it was below zero and snowing--a perfect night for grilling, Vermont style.  My recipe was a simple but flavorful marinade, one that I still draw upon on a frequent basis.  But the real star of the dish was the beef--thick, juicy, tender rib eyes. 

The best part of the experience was that several days after the Cook-Off I got a call from the owner of the farm that supplied the beef.  Located just a piece down the road from my home, he invited me to come by and take a tour.  What a treat!  I was greeted by a breathtaking bucolic panorama.  Rolling hills framed by the Green Mountains. Blue Skies. Fluffy clouds. Rich vibrant green grass. Serene cows.

It was fascinating to learn about his operation and it deepened my appreciation and admiration for the tireless hard work that goes into providing us with fresh reliable quality ingredients. 

Sassy Rib Eyes
4 beef rib eyes, cut 1-inch thick
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped gingerroot
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, maple syrup and Dijon mustard.  Stir in onion, cilantro (if desired) and ginger.  Place steaks in large food-safe plastic resealable bag or a covered baking dish, pour in marinade and turn steaks to coat well.  Marinate 15 minutes to 1 hour.

Prepare grill or charcoal fire.  Remove steaks from marinade and place over medium heat or medium ash-covered coals.  Grill uncovered for 9 to 14 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) or medium doneness (160 degrees F), turning once.  Brush steaks with marinade during last 5 minutes of grilling.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Serve garnished with fresh cilantro sprigs and orange slices, if desired.

4 servings.

Note: For grass-fed steaks, increase marinade time if possible, reduce the grilling temperature slightly and be extra cautious not to overcook them.  Many people prefer grass-fed beef slightly rarer. 

Did You Know:  Bite for bite, beef packs a powerful nutritional punch!  In addition to being rich in protein, beef is a significant source of zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin and iron, as well as other essential nutrients.

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