Simple Summer Tomato Sauce

Simple Summer Tomato Sauce
I am in awe of those
Who can take 25 pounds of tomatoes, and

Blanch them,
Peel them,
Core them,
And cook them all day long,

Before putting up the resulting tomato sauce
In sterilized canning jars.

I, too, enjoy fresh summer tomato sauce,
But during the summer I walk the path of least effort;

So with only 10 minutes of prep time,
And 20 minutes on the stove,
This is my hack version of homemade tomato sauce;
It gives fast food a whole new meaning.

These lovely Roma tomatoes are from my favorite solar powered farm, Maximucks. With plum tomatoes, less is more:

As in – less seeds, less acidity, and less water content, giving us more in the flavor department.
When it comes to peeling the tomato, there are options. You could blanch the tomatoes in boiling water, and peel them by hand, but I’ll pass on this painstaking process;

You could cook the tomatoes with their skin on, and use a food mill to rid the sauce of the peel. I don’t have a food mill;

Or you could channel your inner MacGyver and improvise. The coarse side of a cheese grater works beautifully to rid the tomatoes of their skin and core, while preserving the juice and flesh.
Peeling Tomatoes
Cut the tomatoes in half and grate them into a bowl. The peel and core are all that is left in your hand.
Peeling Tomatoes
There are some seeds, but not enough to be noticeable. Seeds can become bitter in tomato sauce if they are subjected to a long cooking process. Since this is a quickie recipe, the only bitterness will come from the late-for-dinner family member, who missed out on a great meal.
Tomato Sauce
Besides the tomatoes, there are just a few ingredients. There is the standard olive oil, and garlic, with fresh basil for good measure.
olive oil and basil
There is a hint of heat from part of a partially dried red pepper that I picked up at Maximucks.  A good substitute would be dried, crushed red pepper, the kind that I liberally sprinkle on pizza, making my eyes tear with each bite. I have a heavy hand with pepper, but if you don’t like the heat, you can limit the pepper or just leave it out.
crushed red pepper
The sauce reduces in a large, shallow skillet. The skillet is important because the wide surface area greatly reduces the amount of time it takes to cook down the sauce. I finish the sauce with an ingredient that will make my Sicilian mother cringe, butter.

Ma, if you’re reading this, put down the wooden spoon and look away.

While far from traditional, butter helps to thicken the sauce, and adds a pleasant silkiness. I save the fresh basil for the end of the cooking process so that the flavor stays bright.
fresh tomato sauce

Simple Summer Tomato Sauce
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
  • 3 lbs. Roma tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • salt, to taste
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish (optional)
  1. Wash tomatoes.
  2. Grate tomatoes on the coarse side of a cheese grater into a bowl. Discard skin and core.
  3. Place 1 Tablespoon butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until butter is melted.
  4. Add garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  5. Add tomato pulp and all juice collected. Season with salt. Increase heat to medium/high. Cook for 13-15 minutes or until most of the tomato juice has reduced, and tomato sauce has thickened. Reduce heat to low.
  6. Add basil and remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Frozen Peach Bellinis

A Bellini is a classic brunch cocktail
Consisting of pureed ripe peaches,
Spooned into champagne flutes,
And topped off with chilled Prosecco,or other sparkling wine.

My version gets an icy arctic chill,
And a spirited kick of schnapps,
Because August is just not hot enough,
Said no one ever,
So the Universe threw in an occasional hot flash,
And two bickering teens to keep things interesting;

Yet I manage to find relief in a cool shaded spot on the back patio,
And as I sip my frozen, slushy concoction,
I find zen in the quiet of a temporary truce,
Brought on by the required reading of back-to-school assignments.

Mind, body, spirit(s), my friends…..


Fresh local peaches take center stage in this recipe. These beauties are from Solebury Orchards.  I chose the ripest, most fragrant peaches to make the peachiest of all Bellinis.

I sliced up four of the peaches, and placed them in the freezer until they were firm and frozen through.  This takes a few hours but overnight would be optimal.

I don’t bother peeling the peaches because I have one of those high falootin’ blenders that can grind steel into dust.  If your blender doesn’t quite have the horsepower, then go ahead and peel the peaches before freezing.

I squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the blender.  This helps the fruit maintain its pretty peach color.

Besides the peaches, chilled Prosecco, or sparkling white wine is the other key ingredient to a Bellini.  I used half the bottle of wine for this recipe, along with one half cup of peach schnapps.

Traditional recipes rely on the ripeness of the peaches for sweetness.  I like my drink a little sweeter but not too sugary sweet.

I find that a few tablespoons of sugar does the trick for me.  I also like to cross the boundaries into dessert territory by adding a little vanilla infused sugar to the mix. This sugar has an intense vanilla flavor that goes nicely with the peaches.

Vanilla sugar is available locally at The Larder in Doylestown.

This recipe produces enough beverage to share with five other friends but this is a subjective measurement, completely dependent upon the cards you have been dealt on any given day.  

A general range is between two and six servings.

Frozen Peach Bellinis
Recipe type: Beverage
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-7
A frozen version of the classic cocktail.
  • 3 cups fresh ripe peaches, sliced (skin on) (about 4 peaches)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (optional)
  • 2 cups ice
  • ½ cup peach schnapps
  • ½ bottle of Prosecco, sparkling wine, or champagne
  • Fresh peach slices for garnish (optional)
  1. Freeze sliced peaches for 2-3 hours or overnight.
  2. Place frozen peaches, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla sugar, ice, peach schnapps and Prosecco in a blender. Process until thick and smooth.
  3. Pour into glasses. If Bellini is too thick, top off with remaining Prosecco. Garnish with fresh peach slices.

Grilled Apricot and Arugula Salad With Prosciutto

Summer love is enjoying dinner outdoors;
And if your family is anything like mine,
With the table manners equivalent to a pack of hungry wolves,
Then you know that the real magic happens after dinner;

When the clean-up is left to a few hungry birds,
And a bully squirrel, as they battle royale
For the food debris that was our dinner;

And no scrap is left, not even yesterday’s haricot vert,
Strategically hidden under the seat cushion
By my vegetable phobic youngest son.
Let me start out by saying that I am not the type of gal that would make a salad, just a salad, and call it dinner. I need something a little more substantial for my main meal.

But I was inspired, t
ruly inspired, by local apricots, 

And the gorgeous romaine lettuce and arugula

at Maximuck’s Farm Market in Buckingham.  I guess it triggered my inner green goddess because before I knew it, I was making a salad,

Just a salad,

For dinner.

Maximucks is located off the beaten path on Long Lane just off of Route 413. It is a friendly farm which is run entirely on solar energy. They are known for their hydroponic lettuce, and bird feed,  and if you take the kids, they can visit with the adorable goats on the property.

I love that they sell Penn View Farm milk in glass bottles, and bake their own goodies such as cookies, brownies, and muffins.

With the apricots on the grill, I make a simple dressing with local Buckingham Valley Honey, a few good squeezes of lemon juice, and olive oil.  I season it with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I have a collection of glass jelly jars that are very useful for mixing up salad dressing.  I shake the ingredients to the beat of reggae music and pretend that I am at the beach.

While I’m at it, I also pretend to have rhythm.

The salad gets a little salt in the form of thinly sliced prosciutto

from Sam’s Italian Market and Bakery in Warminster. The ham goes well with the peppery arugula and the sweet apricots and honey.

Sam’s is a mecca for all kinds of Italian foods,
But my favorite item
By far,
Is the chocolate dipped cannoli.

Heaven on earth, I tell ya!

They also make a wicked tomato pie. 

Back to that salad….

Once the apricots have nice grill marks, I let them cool slightly before tossing the salad greens with dressing and adding toasted walnuts for crunch, fresh mozzarella for a pleasant creaminess, and the prosciutto. 

The final touch is a generous sprinkling of fresh chopped basil.

And that, my friends,
Is how I came to make
A salad,
Not just any salad,
But dinner salad;

And it was deliciously satisfying,
No entree required.

Grilled Apricot and Arugula Salad With Prosciutto
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Seasonal summer salad featuring apricots and arugula.
  • 6 apricots
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey, plus extra for serving (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 2 cups romaine, chopped
  • ½ pound fresh mozzarella
  • 3-4 ounces prosciutto or other thinly sliced ham
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts*
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil, thinly sliced
  1. Preheat grill to medium/high.
  2. Cut apricots in half, remove pit, and brush the cut side with 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Place apricot halves on the grill, cut side down, and grill for 5 minutes or until nice grill marks are achieved. Remove from grill and let cool slightly.
  3. Make dressing: Place ¼ cup olive oil, lemon juice, and honey in a jar. Season with salt and pepper. Secure the lid and shake until combined.
  4. Toss arugula and lettuce with dressing and place on serving platter. Arrange cheese, prosciutto, and walnuts on top of salad. Arrange apricots on platter and top with basil.
  5. Drizzle a little honey over the top of the apricots and serve.
For toasted walnuts: place walnuts on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Monster Muffin Top Blueberry Muffins

It is the summer of college tours,
And after surviving the first leg, which included:

Five states
In Three days,
With Two Teenagers,
And a husband who likes to take
The road less traveled,
Thanks to an unhealthy obsession
With Samantha,
His GPS,

I am just thankful to be home,
And ready for a home cooked meal,
Beginning with breakfast:

Solebury Orchards is open for blueberry season, but it’s no big secret because I think that all of Bucks County was at the market last weekend. 

Besides the pick-your-own blueberries, there were apricots, apple sauce, cider donuts, and these beautiful flowers;

But the blueberries were the main attraction, and they were in abundance.

The berries stay neatly in place for the trip home, thanks to the lunch lady hairnets provided by the farm.

I whipped up a quick muffin batter using my favorite organic, all-purpose flour from Daisy Flours  of Lancaster, which is available a little closer to home, at Kimberton Whole Foods in Ottsville.

The batter is thick and silky, and helps to hold the blueberries in place, so they don’t sink to the bottom of the muffin when baked.

This recipe yields 12 standard sized muffins

But they are anything but standard.  These muffins definitely rise to the occasion because I fill each cup almost to the very top. 

To prevent the resulting muffin tops from sticking, I spray a little insurance, in the form of nonstick baking spray on top of the pan,

and spread it around with a paper towel.

I really maximize the volume of the buttery crisp muffin tops

Because after years of battling my own muffin tops, I’ve made peace with the fact that the more muffin top there is, the more muffin there is to love;

And really,

All you need is love.   

I save 1/2 cup of the crumb topping for the last 10 minutes of baking.  This is what I use as a fill-in for any muffin bald spots.

Hello stud muffins…

It’s time to meet your maker. 

Monster Muffin Top Blueberry Muffins
Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • For Crumb Topping:
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • For Muffins:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup safflower oil or other neutral tasting vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream or unflavored Greek style yogurt at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard sized 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Make crumb topping: Stir together the flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add the butter and toss to coat. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture to form pea-size clumps.
  4. Place crumb topping in freezer while you prepare the muffin batter.
  5. To make muffins:
  6. Stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  7. In a large bowl mix together the eggs until frothy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and oil and mix until combined.
  8. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until no streaks of sour cream remain.
  9. Add flour mixture to sour cream mixture. Mix until just combined.
  10. Fold blueberries into batter and spoon into muffin liners. The batter should come almost to the top of each cup.
  11. Spray nonstick baking spray over the top of the muffin pan and spread with a paper towel. If muffin pan is non-stick, skip this step.
  12. Reserve ½ cup of crumb topping. Sprinkle remaining topping over the muffins, pressing crumbs gently into batter.
  13. Bake muffins for 20 minutes. Quickly remove muffins from the oven and sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of crumb topping over the muffins, covering any bare spots. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  14. Let muffins cool 15-20 minutes. Remove muffins to a cooling rack.

The Fudgiest of Fudgesicles

You can freeze fruit juice
In plastic molds,
And call it a popsicle,


You can get serious about your frozen confections,
And break out the chocolate.

I made a quick chocolate pudding featuring local organic milk from Trickling Springs Creamery. My intention was to make those pudding pops from childhood; You know the ones with that dapper, amusing spokesperson, Bill Cosby?  Only mine are from scratch in an effort to up the chocolate factor and keep it real;

And with just a whisk and a spoon, and a killer craving for frozen dark chocolate I made a simple pudding.

There were no eggs to temper, no fancy equipment.  The pudding was thickened with organic cornstarch in less than 15 minutes.

You can tell that the pudding is done when it leaves a clear track on the spoon.

This is when I stir in a few pats of butter and vanilla, and extra chocolate chips. Butter may seem strange in a popsicle recipe but it adds a nice silkiness to the fudgesicles.  As a matter of fact, the milk and butter give these fudgesicles an ice cream like quality.  

When the pudding cooled slightly, I filled my popsicle molds.  Aren’t they sassy?  I picked them up on a recent visit to Peddler’s Village, at

The Cookery Ware Shop.

They have an impressive selection of all things cooking and baking. The floral apron has my name written all over it.  

The pudding pops take a good 6 hours to freeze.  They are even better if you freeze them overnight.  

I was looking forward to cleaning up my popsicle making mess because all I could think about was the last bit of pudding at the bottom of the saucepan;

But then there was an unfortunate turn of events; The teen, who normally slumbers until noon during summer vacation, was miraculously awake at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m. and within seconds, my leftover pudding was history;

But don’t feel sorry for me,  I accidentally ate three fudgesicles before I told anyone else that they were frozen and ready to eat.

Oh, and one last thing, don’t be a procrastinator, because these fudgesicles melt fast.


The Fudgiest of Fudgesicles
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ cups whole milk
  • 3 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Stir together the sugar, brown sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Slowly whisk in milk until mixture is combined and lump free.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture comes to a boil and thickens to the consistency of heavy cream; pudding should coat the back of the spoon; test for doneness by running your finger down the spoon, it will leave a clean line.
  3. Remove pudding from heat and add chocolate chips and butter. Let stand for 2 minutes while the chips and butter melt. Stir to incorporate.
  4. Add vanilla and stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool for 20 minutes.
  5. Spoon pudding into 6 popsicle molds and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes then run frozen popsicles under lukewarm water to help release them from the molds.
Number of popsicles will vary depending on size of the popsicle molds.

Strawberry Shortcake Cream Puffs

There is nothing more unfortunate
Than the smell of cooked cabbage, 

Which is probably why I only eat it raw,
At its crisp, and aromatic best,
In a simple salad or slaw; 

Except for baked cabbage,
I will gladly eat baked cabbage, 

But only if it is the kind of baked cabbage
Called choux, the French pastry named for the way
It bakes into something that resembles
A head of cabbage,
But contains no actual cabbage. 

You may recognize choux pastry as the delicious base
Of eclairs, crullers, and those tasty little cheese puffs
That quickly disappear during cocktail hour
At every wedding reception,
Long before the crudite is even considered. 

Here, I used choux pastry as a stand-in for the biscuit
In an updated version of classic strawberry shortcake.

We are in the second week of local strawberry season, and there is not a chance that I will be slowing down. Strawberry season is short and sweet, and if you snooze, my friends, you will lose out on the best tasting berries of the summer.

These dainty little berries are from None Such Farm Market in Buckingham. 
They are gorgeously red, and sweet, and pretty much flawless.
Despite my over the moon adoration for strawberries and dessert, I was never too fond of strawberry shortcake.  I found the biscuits terribly dry and boring. The choux pastry works much better with its crisp shell and hollowed interior that tastes of custard.
Choux pastry is the least fussy of all pastry recipes.  It is basically just butter, milk, water, and flour.  It begins in a saucepan,
And ends in a mixing bowl with the addition of eggs.  The dough is sticky and elastic, and a breeze to pipe.
I use a freezer bag with the corner snipped off to pipe the dough.  You could also use a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip.

Leave enough space between the cream puffs because they will rise and expand as they bake.

 The cream puffs are done when they are nicely browned and crisp.  You can tell that they are cooked through by tapping the bottom of one of the puffs. It should sound hollow.

I pierce the bottom of each puff so that steam can escape.  This will prevent the puffs from getting soggy.
Once the cream puffs have cooled, slice them in half and prepare the whipped cream.
The secret to dreamy whipped cream that won’t weep or deflate, is the fat content. The higher the fat, the sturdier the whipped cream.  

This heavy cream is 40% milk fat compared to other heavy creams which are in the low 30% range.

Rich n’ Pure is available locally at None Such Farm

Hello Strawberry Shortcake.  Meet the Cream Puff,

Or should I say Dream Puff…….


Strawberry Shortcake Cream Puffs
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons whole milk
  • ½ cup water
  • 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 8 pieces for easier melting
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup confectioner sugar, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 quart strawberries, washed and sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Stir together the flour, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, water, butter, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter melts.
  4. Add flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture looks like a very thick paste, the consistency of mashed potatoes.
  5. Place hot dough in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Mix for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix the dough for 1 minute after the last egg has been added. The dough will be very sticky and elastic.
  6. Place the warm dough in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch round tip or in a freezer bag with the corner snipped. Pipe 2 inch mounds on a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet, spaced 2 inches apart (the dough will expand in the oven). You should have 12 large cream puffs.
  7. Pat down any peaks with a wet pastry brush.
  8. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until medium golden brown. A good way to tell if the pastry is done, is to tap it, it should sound hollow. Remove the cream puffs from the oven. Let cool on a wire rack. Gently pierce the bottoms of the cream puffs with a knife to let steam escape to prevent them from getting soggy.
  9. For Cream:
  10. Chill a medium mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  11. Place cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl and whip until desired thickness.
  12. Assembly:
  13. Slice cooled cream puffs in half. Divide strawberries among the bottom cream puffs. Spoon or pipe a generous amount of whipped cream over the strawberries, followed by the cream puff tops. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
(choux pastry adapted from Sarabeth Levine, From My Home To Yours)

Rhubarb Port Sauce

Rhubarb is a favorite vegetable
Among pie bakers and jam makers, 

And since it requires a fair amount of sugar
To balance out its pucker worthy sour notes,
It is often found in desserts alongside strawberries; 

But rhubarb has a savory side,
And its acidic nature works beautifully
In sauces or glazes to accompany grilled chicken, pork, and beef. 

Rhubarb was in abundance at the Trauger’s Farm stand on a recent visit to the Doylestown Farmers’ Market.
Where I also stocked up on garlic because my obsession with the stinking rose knows no boundaries; so if  vampires (real or imagined) are your thing, then stay away from me, because I am a certain buzz kill.
Rhubarb is the star of the show in this quick pan sauce.  I washed the stalks and discarded the toxic leaves. I always get a little concerned when part of the food that I am about to consume can cause illness and/or death;

But I’m a thrill seeker in the kitchen and I like to live my culinary life on the edge.
I give the sauce an Asian spin with the addition of ginger, onion, and the aforementioned garlic.
In keeping with the Asian theme, I add a little soy sauce, just one Tablespoon does the trick.

Although this is a low sodium soy sauce, it still packs a salty punch.  I hold off on adding table salt until the very end. It may not be needed.

Since rhubarb is so sour, I give the sauce a double dose of sweetness.  First, there is my favorite honey from Buckingham Valley Honey;

Then there is a ruby port wine from Buckingham Valley Vineyards; both help to tame the tartness.
The sauce is pretty quick, less than 15 minutes from start to finish.  I strain the sauce, then add a few Tablespoons of butter at the end, because let’s face it, a little butter makes everything better.

With grilling season in full swing, I like to keep a batch of sauce in the fridge. It will keep for up to one week. 

I sometimes even use it as a condiment to drizzle over burgers. 

So if you happen upon rhubarb at the farmers’ market in the coming weeks, don’t be afraid to explore its savory side.  It is so much more than pie and jam!
Rhubarb Port Sauce
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups rhubarb, chopped
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¾ cup port wine
  • 1 Tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until onion softens.
  2. Add garlic. Stir. Let cook 1 minute.
  3. Add rhubarb, honey, wine, and soy sauce. Cook over medium/low heat for ten minutes. Let cool slightly.
  4. Strain mixture to remove solids and return liquid to sauce pan. Simmer over low heat while whisking in butter, a teaspoon at a time. Remove from heat.
If a thicker sauce is desired, add another tablespoon of butter. Sauce will thicken as it cools slightly

Glazed Lavender Madeleines

There are cookies that are thin and crisp,
That snap into a hundred pieces with each bite;

There are cookies that are soft and chewy,
And perfectly suited for the cookie jar;

There are cookies that are dreamy showboats,
Sandwiched between a layer of jam or buttercream;

And there are cookies that cross the line
Into cake territory:

With a distinctive shell shape, and soft spongy texture, madeleines are simple and classic, and much more cake than cookie; and like all things classic and French, they are elegant and sophisticated without even trying; other than a dusting of powdered sugar or a thin glaze, they need no adornment.

They are baked in special pans with individual shell molds, which totally goes against my minimalist philosophy when it comes to kitchen equipment.

I am big on multipurpose pans and uncluttered cabinets, but I just couldn’t resist having a set of madeleine pans.  

Organic lavender from Carousel Farm is the star of the show in this recipe. It adds a subtle floral note to the delicate cookies.  Lavender is a member of the mint family, and it is so much more than an aromatic addition to your bath water or lingerie drawer.  

Be sure to choose lavender that is meant for culinary purposes, as ornamental lavender could be treated with toxic chemicals and pesticides and should not be eaten.

Carsousel Farm offers organic culinary lavender grown right here in Bucks County.  Pure, natural, and pesticide free, a little lavender goes a long way in the flavor department.

Lavendar pairs well with citrus.  I used both orange and lemon zest and juice in this recipe.  While madeleines are traditionally made with butter, I channeled my inner Sicilian girl and opted for olive oil.

Sometimes madeleines can be dry and dense, and begging to be dipped into a cup of tea or coffee for moisture, but not these babies.  The olive oil keeps them moist and light – no beverage required.

All-purpose flour from Daisy Organic Flour and fresh local eggs from Milk House Farm Market give these madeleines a deliciously local spin.

The batter whips up quickly but it needs to rest for 30 minutes before baking. You could even whip up the batter and chill it overnight.  The longer you chill the batter, the more likely it is that your madeleines will develop the signature ‘hump.’

Since patience is not one of my virtues, mine went into the oven in less than half an hour.  My madeleines are hump-less, but I am okay with that.

The most difficult part of madeleine making, besides not eating all the cookies before anyone else comes home, 

Is releasing them from the pan.  Many recipes call for buttering and flouring the molds, but even this is not foolproof.

I have had better success in spraying the molds with nonstick baking spray, the kind with the flour already in it.  

After they cool slightly, I help to coax the madeleines out of the pan by running an incing spatula around the edges.

A little prayer doesn’t hurt either.

If by chance, a madeleine or two sticks to the pan, don’t worry, it is nothing that a dusting of powdered sugar can’t hide.

I prefer a glaze on my cookies.  It helps to seal in the moisture and keep them fresh. 

I use the juice from the orange and lemon for the glaze to give the madeleines a little extra citrus zing. Sometimes, I use orange liqueur, but not this time;  I wanted these cookies to be all about the lovely lavender.

Glazed Lavender Madeleines
Recipe type: Cookie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried lavender
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ¾ cup confectioner sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Place the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. Add lavender and stir. Set aside.
  2. Place olive oil, eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange and lemon zest in a medium bowl, and mix until thickened and almost double in volume, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add flour mixture to olive oil mixture and mix until just combined. The batter will be thin. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. The batter will thicken as it rests.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two standard size madeleine pans* with nonstick baking spray. If you are using nonstick baking pans or silicone pans, omit this step.
  5. Spoon one Tablespoon of batter into each mold. It will not entirely fill the mold but it will spread as it bakes.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes or until puffed and golden brown around the edges. The madeleines will spring back to the touch when done.
  7. Let cool 10 minutes, carefully loosen the edges of each madeleine with a butter knife. Release madeleines to a cooling rack, and let cool completely.
  8. For Glaze:
  9. Place confectioner sugar, orange juice, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk to combine with a fork.
  10. Brush glaze over madeleines. The glaze will harden as it sets.
This recipe uses standard madeleine pans producing 24 madeleines that measure approximately 3 x 1 ¼ inches

Slow Cooker Turkey Sandwiches with Au Jus

When you call the local pizzeria,

And they greet you
With the familiarity of an old friend,

It is time
For a new game plan,
When it comes to weeknight dinners.

The slow cooker. It is a beautiful thing.  A mere 15 minutes of prep in the morning, and by evening,

The tired,
The hungry,
The cranky,

Are welcomed home by the aromatherapy of ‘dinner is ready.’

It begins with a 3 pound, bone-in turkey breast, and since no photograph could ever capture the beauty in a piece of raw meat, I will spare you the visual.
After washing and patting the turkey dry, I rub it with a little olive oil which will help keep the seasoning in place.

It is so important to season the turkey well, or all of your efforts will have been wasted.  Turkey is delicious, but bland turkey, not so much.
I take the opportunity to season the bird two times;  Once with a dry rub, including onion powder, garlic powder, and dried oregano from Cottage Spice Company;

And a second time with fresh onions and garlic.

I roughly chop the onions, and give three cloves of garlic a good whack under the blade of my favorite kitchen knife. The garlic skin will pop right off, and the smashed garlic is ready to infuse its flavor.  They go into the slow cooker, along with low sodium chicken broth, and

my favorite ingredient to mispronounce: Worcestershire sauce. This condiment is so much more than a steak marinade; it adds a depth of flavor to the chicken broth that would otherwise be flat.  I love that it comes wrapped in a pretty paper package.  It’s like unwrapping a gift, and that would be the gift of flavor.

The turkey cooks low and slow until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. Overcook the turkey, and it will be drier than the Sahara.  Leaving the skin on the turkey adds a protective layer of fat which helps to keep the moisture in the meat.

My slow cooker is quicker than most.  The turkey reached its optimal temperature in just 4 hours.  A safe bet would be to check the temperature of the meat at the 3 1/2 hour mark. I give the turkey a 20 minute rest which gives me time to strain the onions from the sauce.  I serve them on the side because not everyone in the family cares for onions on their sandwich.  As I slice the turkey, you can see how juicy and moist it is.

And now for a public service announcement:

Choose your roll wisely because it will make or break your sandwich eating experience. A good crusty, Italian style roll will hold up to the frequent dipping in the au jus sauce. I like to use the football rolls available at Altomontes Italian Market. Sturdy on the outside, soft on the inside, the rolls are perfect for this type of sandwich.

I take the crusty part one step further by quickly broiling the sliced rolls.  This also does wonders for the Fontina and Provolone cheeses because the difference between a good sandwich and a great sandwich is: gooey, melted cheese.

With two locations in Warminster and Doylestown, Altomontes has an impressive selection of cheeses (domestic and imported), deli meats, pasta, breads, desserts, and whatever your Italian loving heart desires.  I selected a mild Fontina, along with an aged Provolone that had a sharper bite.

Sometimes, if I have greenery on hand, I will wilt a couple of handfuls in a little olive oil, and garlic as a tasty addition to the sandwiches.

This week, I had baby spinach in the fridge from Blue Moon Acres; Other times I’ve used broccoli rabe or escarole. 

The slow cooker has since become a regular part of our dinner survival guide, and while I don’t know who created this time saving invention, if I had to guess, it was probably a busy parent.

Slow Cooker Turkey Sandwiches with Au Jus
Recipe type: Sandwich
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 bone-in turkey breast with skin (approximately 3 pounds)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 yellow cooking onions or 1 large, chopped
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed under the blade of a knife
  • 6 crusty sandwich rolls
  • ¾ pound sliced Fontina or Provolone cheese (or both)
  1. Wash the turkey breast and pat dry.
  2. Coat the turkey with the olive oil on all sides; this will help the dry rub to stick.
  3. Combine the oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt in a small bowl.
  4. Pat the dry rub over turkey and under the skin. Set aside.
  5. Place the chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, chopped onion, and garlic cloves in a slow cooker. Place the turkey breast on top of the onions and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until cooked through with an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove turkey and let rest for 20 minutes.
  6. Strain onions from the slow cooker and reserve for sandwiches.
  7. Divide au jus among individual serving bowls.
  8. Slice rolls in half and layer with cheese. Broil in the oven or toaster oven until rolls are toasted and the cheese has melted.
  9. Slice turkey and make sandwiches. Serve with onions and dipping sauce.
(adapted from Kelsey Nixon, Kelsey’s Essentials, Cooking Channel)

Pull Apart Pineapple Dinner Rolls

Sunday dinner.

There is always one stand out food
That everyone swoons over;

Sometimes it is the spiral cut ham
With a crusted glaze of cinnamon and brown sugar;

Other times it is the homemade lemon pie
With meringue piled so high that it defies gravity;

More times than not,
It is the tomato sauce that my mother has been simmering all day
Until it is thick and so flavorful that the pasta is a mere afterthought;

And while I’m not a gambling kind of gal,
I would definitely make a wager
That at this week’s dinner,
There is going to be a new family favorite:

A good dinner roll begins with yeast.  This is instant yeast, also known as rapid rise yeast. What I love about instant yeast is that there is no need to proof it in warm water first.  It has finer granules that can be added directly to the dry ingredients.  It saves you time and gives a much faster rise, what’s not to love?

I add the yeast to my favorite flour, Daisy Organic Flour from Lancaster County.  Locally grown and milled, this all natural flour is not only non-GMO, it is also pretty awesome in the flavor department.

I mix the dry ingredients in my stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. 

Besides the yeast and flour, I add a good dose of salt and something very unusual when it comes to baking with yeast:  baking powder.

It is no big secret that patience is not one of my virtues.  I want my rolls to rise up quickly, hence the instant yeast; but if I add too much yeast the resulting rolls would taste, for lack of a better word, ‘yeasty.’  This is where I balance the leavening duties between the yeast and baking powder.  Baking powder is double acting which means it will help with the initial rise, and again when the rolls hit the heat of the oven.

I melt a few tablespoons of butter in the microwave in a large liquid measuring cup.

To the melted butter, I add local organic wildflower honey from Chester County Honey, whole milk, a few tablespoons of vegetable oil,

And a little Hawaiian flair with a double dose of pineapple in the form of crushed pineapple and pineapple juice. This may seem like a lot of pineapple, but believe it or not, the resulting flavor in the baked rolls is subtle and pleasant.  

I return the measuring cup to the microwave for another 20 seconds.  The liquid should be just warmer than room temperature.

If it is too cold, the yeast will take longer to rise; if it is too hot, you risk killing the yeast and won’t have any rise at all. The optimal temperature is between 120-130 degrees, but I can’t be bothered with a thermometer, I just use the knuckle test and a little common sense.

If I can hold my knuckle immersed in the liquid without flinching, I know it is perfect yeast loving temperature.  

I mix the warm liquid with the flour and one whole organic egg from local Alderfer Egg Farm.  I also toss in an extra yolk to add a little richness and beautiful golden hue to the rolls.

The dough will look wet and shaggy at this point.

It is time to knead the dough.  There is a dough hook attachment for the Kitchen Aid stand mixer which is meant for the very purpose of kneading, but mine is buried like a needle in a haystack among a tower of moving boxes that I have yet to unpack.  I am a little embarrassed to tell you that it has been almost two years since we have moved.

I could knead the dough by hand, but I opted to continue on with the paddle attachment. It worked like a charm as the dough went from a shaggy mess to a satiny smooth dough that formed into a ball in just 5 minutes. 

Now the dough needs to rest and rise for one hour.  

I cover it with plastic wrap, but the most difficult part of the process, is finding a draft free and warm place to let it rise.  My kitchen is warm but certainly not draft free because the kitchen door is opened and closed like it is rush hour at Grand Central Station.  

So I put the dough in the oven with the heat turned off, of course; within an hour, the yeast and baking powder have worked their magic.

The dough has doubled in size.  You can see the big bubbles of air pockets, and at this point in bread baking, I always have the urge to announce in the creepiest of mad scientist voices, “It’s alive!”

I turn the dough out to a floured surface.  It will stick to anything it comes in contact with, so I use a generous sprinkling of flour on the counter and on my hands so that the dough is easier to work.

I form the dough into a ball which is noticeably less sticky now.

I roll out the dough and cut out 24 rolls with a cookie cutter.  This is the easiest way to keep them uniform in size.

At this point, you can cover the rolls and refrigerate until you are ready to bake. They will keep for up to three days.  

I am ready to bake them now, so I let the rolls rise until double in size, about 1 hour,

Then I bake them in a 350 degree oven until dark golden brown.   

Here is a little trick to keep the rolls soft and moist:  As soon as they come out of the oven, drape a damp dish towel over the top.  It will ‘steam’ the rolls and eliminate any hard crusty edges in the corners. 

I brush the warm rolls with melted butter because it is the right thing to do.

These are soft, tender rolls that I like to serve family style.  Everyone can pull apart their own rolls, but not before I remind my crew to wash their grubby hands before dinner.

Pull Apart Pineapple Dinner Rolls
Recipe type: Bread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons dry instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. pineapple juice
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 oz. can crushed pineapple (do not drain)
  • 1 large egg plus one yolk (reserve egg white)
  • ½ cup flour for rolling out with dough
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • Melted butter for brushing on baked rolls (optional)
  1. Whisk together flour, yeast, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. Melt butter in a heatproof glass measuring cup in the microwave (about 30 seconds).
  3. Add pineapple juice, milk, honey and oil to the melted butter. Stir and heat in the microwave for an additional 20 seconds. The liquid should be a little warmer than room temperature but not hot (optimal temperature is between 120-130 degrees). If too hot, let cool slightly before proceeding.
  4. Add warm liquid to the flour and mix until combined. Add crushed pineapple with juices along with 1 whole egg and 1 yolk. Mix for 5 – 7 minutes or until the dough forms into a ball. The dough will be sticky but will have some elasticity and stretch.
  5. Cover and let rise in a draft free place for one hour until double in size.
  6. Spray 2 round cake pans (9 inch) with nonstick baking spray.
  7. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour on a work surface. Flour your hands and form dough into a smooth ball. Flour the surface of the dough and roll out to ½ inch thickness. Cut out 24 rolls using a 2-inch round cookie cutter. Place rolls in prepared pans and let rise until double in size, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  9. Using a fork, whisk remaining egg white with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush over the rolls and bake for 25-30 minutes. Rolls will be dark golden brown and will sound hollow when tapped.
  10. Remove rolls from oven and place a damp dish towel over the rolls for 10 minutes. The steam will soften the top crust and help to keep the rolls soft and moist.
  11. Brush melted butter over the tops of the rolls. Let cool slightly before serving.