Cider Braised Pulled Pork

cider pulled pork sandwich
Despite the fancy drinks of autumn,
Like pumpkin spice latte with cinnamon dusted whipped cream,
Or caramel appletinis with sugar coated rims,
I am content with the simplicity of a chilled glass of apple cider;

apple cider
Sometimes I gently warm the cider like a cup of tea,
As I did this week while on hold with the auto insurance company,
Waiting to add my newly licensed teenage son to our policy.

The cider was comforting and made my time listening
To a bad remake of an 80’s song a little easier;

And after I spoke with our agent,
I added a good shot of brandy to my apple cider,
Thereby making the sticker shock of our new premium a little more palatable.

My adoration for cider goes beyond beverages. I adore cider in donut form, as in Solebury Orchards apple cider donuts;

cider donuts

I also like to boil apple cider to a syrup consistency and drizzle it over pancakes or waffles;

cider syrup
But today I would like to take a walk over to the savory side of apple cider, it makes a very flavorful braising liquid for pulled pork.

pulled pork

I’ve tried many recipes for slow cooker pulled pork. It is so convenient, but I never could develop a full flavor without first browning the pork in a separate pan, followed by reducing the liquid in another pan at the end of cooking. If you do the math, that is one too many pots to clean.

This braising method is a one pot deal. The pot should be heavy bottomed with a lid that is stovetop-to-oven-friendly, like my Big Red here.

cast iron pot

The sweet apple cider is a big flavor component of this recipe but it needs a little acidic balance from apple cider vinegar. I also add a few sliced apples, with their peel intact. Apples, especially their peels, contain pectin which will help to thicken the resulting sauce.

apple cider vinegar

The pork gets another flavorful boost from a boatload of yellow onions, six to be exact. I know it may sound like a lot but without them, the pork would be a little flat in the taste department; besides, the onions make a great topping for pulled pork sandwiches.

pulled pork sandwiches

The other aromatics include ginger, garlic, and cinnamon,


Mustard powder,

mustard powder

And just a tablespoon of molasses for a little depth of flavor.


In a few hours, the pork is fork tender. I let it cool slightly before shredding it. This pork is headed for sandwiches, but the leftovers could be repurposed for tacos, pasta, or wraps.

pulled pork

Strain the liquid and taste the sauce. Does it need to be sweeter? Add a tablespoon of brown sugar. Does it need to be more acidic? Add a little more apple cider vinegar. Now add the brandy and reduce the sauce on top of the stove for 20 minutes.


I finished the sauce with a few pats of butter and a sprinkling of salt. There is no need for bottled barbecue sauce here.


Solebury Orchards is located in New Hope, Pennsylvania. The farm and market offers a variety of seasonal fruits, fresh pressed cider, cider donuts, applesauce, and vinegar. The farm is especially popular during apple season, where you can pick a variety of apples or purchase them at the market.

solebury orchards

Cider Braised Pulled Pork
Recipe type: Dinner, Sandwiches
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 lbs. boneless pork butt, excess fat trimmed
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 6 medium yellow onions, cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 2 large apples, cored, sliced in ¼ inch slices
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat in an oven proof heavy pot.
  3. Season pork with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook pork until nicely browned on each side, about 5 minutes per side. Remove pork.
  5. Add onions to the hot oil, and cook until just beginning to brown and soften, about 10 minutes . Stir in apples, garlic, and ginger and let cook for a few minutes.
  6. Whisk together the apple cider, apple cider vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, and mustard powder with a fork. Add mixture to onions along with cinnamon sticks. Stir, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.
  7. Return pork to the pot. Cover and cook for 2 ½ to 3 hours until very tender.
  8. Remove pork to a cutting board to cool slightly. Shred the pork with forks and season with salt to taste.
  9. Strain the vegetables, reserving the onions as a topping if desired. Return liquid to the same pot, add brandy, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning accordingly. If more sweetness is desired, add a tablespoon of brown sugar, if more acidity is needed, add a tablespoon more of vinegar. Season with salt to taste. Cook until reduced by half and thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.
  10. Add butter to the sauce and stir until melted.
  11. Remove 1 cup of the sauce for serving. Add shredded pork back to the pot with remaining sauce and stir.


Apple Turnover Pie

apple pie

They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away,
So how about twelve apples baked in a delicate, flaky pastry
With a little butter and cinnamon then;

That should keep us nice and healthy, with a Rubenesque glow
All the way to spring.

There are rules when it comes to apple pie. We are supposed to use apples that are tart and firm, and keep their shape. The usual pie apples are Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp to name a few; but rules, my friends, are meant to be broken.

I like the apples in my pie to be a little sweeter with just the right amount of soft texture – not mushy – just soft, like these Gala apples from Bobwhite Acres in Coopersburg. They are not only delicious to eat raw, they are ideal for my pie.


Bobwhite Acres is a fun and budget friendly place to spend an afternoon with the little ones, where there are a variety of apples available at the stand or pick-your-own.


There are tractor pulled wagon rides to the pumpkin patch with the option of grab-and-go pumpkins in case someone in your group is cranky and tired and in need of a nap on the couch while watching college football.


If you use your gourd, you can pick up a few eco-friendly Halloween decorations.


Do yourself a favor and pick up a gallon of their fresh pressed apple cider. It is refreshing and delicious.


Now back to the pie. This recipe borrows a few things from apple turnovers, namely the super flaky crust. Use your favorite flaky double pie crust or check out mine: Super Flake Pie Crust.

And just like apple turnovers, the apples get a head start on top of the stove with a little cinnamon, sugar, and butter. We are not cooking the apples, just allowing them to release some of their juices. This is a preventive measure brought to you by the People Against Runny Pie Filling.


In just 10 minutes, the apples begin to soften slightly, but remain mostly firm. Look how much juice was released by the apples and sugar. We don’t need all of it for our pie.


I take 1/2 cup of the collected apple juice and whisk it with a full tablespoon of cornstarch. This gets stirred into the cooled apples and into the pie it goes.


The remaining juice can be saved for another use like a pan sauce or a smoothie, but my favorite thing to do is so simple. The apple juice already has the components of caramel sauce with sugar and butter. I put it in a shallow skillet and cook it for about 10 minutes over medium heat


Until it is thick enough to leave a trail in the pan,


And once it cools, you have a pretty amazing caramel sauce with a concentrated apple flavor.


I top off the apples with the other crust and flute the edges. This goes into the refrigerator while the oven preheats.


A cookie sheet placed in the lower third of the oven gets nice and hot while the oven preheats. This is known as bottom crust insurance because as soon as your raw pie hits the hot cookie sheet, the bottom crust begins to cook. It needs the extra heat so that it finishes baking at the same time the rest of the pie is done.

And now let us take a moment to admire my sparkling clean oven. It won’t last. Why is it that my mother-in-law can’t drop by for a visit on clean oven day?


I brush the pie with a mixture of egg and water and then sprinkle it with sugar.


About an hour later, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s super flake. This pie is so flaky, even the flakes have flakes.


The filling has just the right amount of moisture.

apple pie

And one word of advice before we part ways: never bake a pie in your favorite, cherished pie pan because somewhere between a housewarming party or a neighborhood shindig, it will disappear, and you will never see it again.

Goodbye diet, it was nice while it lasted.


Apple Turnover Pie
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
  • 1 recipe flaky double pie crust
  • 9-inch pie pan – not deep dish
  • 4 lbs. baking apples (about 12 medium apples)
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  1. Peel, core, and chop apples, keeping peeled apples covered with a towel to prevent browning.
  2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add apples, sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir until apples are coated in sugar. Cook over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and the apples have released their juices, about 10 minutes. Apples should still be somewhat firm. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. In the meantime, roll out top and bottom crust of the pie dough. Place bottom crust in a pie pan. Place both crusts in the refrigerator.
  4. Strain apples and place in a large bowl. Place ½ cup of the cooled apple juice in a small bowl (reserve remaining apple juice for another use), and stir in cornstarch with a fork until no lumps remain. Pour over apples.
  5. Place apple mixture in pie pan, piling the apples a little higher in the middle. Cover with top crust. Trim edges and press to seal. You can flute the edges or leave as is.
  6. Place pie in the refrigerator while the oven preheats to 375 degrees. Place a foil lined cookie sheet in the bottom third of the oven to warm as the oven comes to temperature.
  7. Whisk together an egg and water with a fork. Brush pie with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Using a knife, cut 3-4 slits in the center of the pie to let steam escape.
  8. Place pie on the hot cookie sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes or until apples are tender and the crust is medium brown. Cover the top of pie with foil if the crust gets too brown before the apples have cooked through.

Super Flake Pie Crust

super flake pie crust
Pie crust.
It should be light and flaky.

It should have butter, lots of butter;
And no shortening, I don’t do shortening –
Or lard, it leaves a funky taste in my mouth,
Plus the vegetarians in my life would revolt.

Oh, and one more thing:
A pie crust should taste so good,
You could eat it alone, no filling required.


Pie crust has been my pastry nemesis for years. How could something so simple be so difficult to perfect? Whoever came up with the saying, easy as pie, clearly never made homemade pie dough from scratch.

After years of being defeated by shrinking pie crusts, undercooked bottoms, and tough dough, I finally broke the code.

My recipe begins with all purpose flour. I’m using  Daisy Flour produced in the Lancaster area. This small company is committed to producing all natural flour in a refurbished grist mill that dates back to the 1740’s.  They grow and source heritage wheat that was used during Colonial times. Delicious, nutritious, and historic.

daisy organic flour
Since all purpose flour has a protein content in the 10% range, replacing a small part of the flour with cornstarch keeps things tender. I’ve tried using pastry flour, as well as cake flour, but I’ve found that the resulting crust was much too delicate. The combination of all purpose flour and cornstarch produces a delicate yet sturdy pie crust.

organic cornstarch
A few tablespoons of sugar aids in browning and interferes with gluten. Score another point for tenderness.

And now we need some fat….butter is my preferred fat because of its superior taste.  I never thought I would say this, but butter has a downside (besides adding girth to my hips)….it has a lower melting point than many other fats. This means that butter will melt in the oven faster than you can say smoke alarm.

But there are two things that you can do to make the butter behave:

Keep it really cold,

and –

Pair it with an ingredient that will help to stabilize the butter:  cream cheese.

Cream cheese is magical in this recipe.  It is acidic, so it relaxes the gluten in the dough.  It is soft even when chilled, so rolling out the pie dough is a breeze. Butter and cream cheese are the dream team of the pastry world.

butter, cream cheese
Blend the cream cheese into the flour/cornstarch mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse meal. You could also use a food processor but since my hands are freakishly cold, I’m sticking with the hand method.

cream cheese pie dough
I’ve already cubed the butter, and while I was preparing the other ingredients, I placed it in the freezer.  It is borderline arctic.

This is the part where I stray from a normal pie crust recipe. Instead of cutting the butter into the flour, I gently toss it until each cube of butter is coated in flour.

flour coated butter
Finally I add icy cold water and a hint of acidity in the form of apple cider vinegar. The acidity, just like the sugar, helps to tenderize the dough.

You could also use lemon juice or sour cream. I bailed on using the lemon because it looks like its seen a better day.  I found it the the back of the fridge nestled between an expired yogurt and my hidden emergency stash of chocolate fudge sauce.

I gently stir the dough to distribute the liquid.  It will look a  little dry and scraggly.  The mistake I’ve always made in the past is adding too much water.  Even though it looks a little dry, it will hold together if I pinch the dough between my fingers. If it didn’t hold together, I would add a tiny bit more water, a small drop at a time.

Keep in mind that adding too much water will result in a heavy, tough crust.

pie dough
Form the dough into a disk.

pie dough
In order to get the super flake, we need to cross the line into puff pastry territory; not the pain-in-the-butt, time consuming version of puff pastry, but the very quick half-arsed version.

Lightly flour the counter and quickly roll the dough.

pie dough
Fold in each side until they meet in the middle.  This dough looks very dry, especially on the right side, but it is holding together, so I will refrain from adding additional water.

pie dough

Fold the dough in half again.

pie dough

Now one more quick roll, a little longer this time. You can see the flattened butter in the dough. This is going to give you more flake than a reality show reunion special.

pie dough
Now roll up the dough like a jelly roll.  That’s it. It’s time to chill, baby chill.

pie dough

Since this is a double crust recipe, I slice the dough in half, wrapping each separately in plastic wrap.  You can see the layer upon layer of flour and butter. This is going to put the super in super flake.

pie dough

After a few hours in the fridge, you are ready for whatever pie recipe you choose.  This dough is also the perfect stunt double for the puff pastry in apple turnovers.


I used this recipe for the apple pie contest at the grange. This isn’t the best photo, as it was taken a few days after judging. The baking exhibits are kept on display in an open air barn during the hottest month of the summer, so by the time I took this picture, my pie had already passed the point of appetizing.

But the point is, the crust makes or breaks the pie eating experience. And this crust? It is good. It is blue ribbon good.

pie crust

Super Flake Pie Crust
Recipe type: Dessert, How To
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 double pie crust or 2 single crusts
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 2¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ cup ice water (plus two teaspoons as needed)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sour cream
  1. Cut the butter into cubes and place in the freezer.
  2. Stir together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add cream cheese. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut the cream cheese into the flour until it resembles coarse meal, about the size of peas.
  4. Add cold butter and toss with the flour until each cube of butter is coated in flour.
  5. Add the water and vinegar. Stir until just combined.
  6. Knead and shape the dough on the counter until it forms into a disk. If dough does not hold together, use the reserved two teaspoons of water.
  7. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a rectangular shape. Fold the left side of the dough to the center. Fold the right side of the dough to the center until both ends meet in the middle, then fold the dough in half like a business letter.
  8. Quickly roll out the dough one more time to a rectangular shape, then roll it up, jelly roll style.
  9. Cut dough in half. Cover and refrigerate dough until ready to use, at least two hours, or overnight.
The dough must be kept cold for the best results.

To prevent shrinking: after placing dough in the pie pan, let the dough rest in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before baking.

To prevent an under baked bottom crust: Place a cookie sheet on the lowest rack of the oven as it preheats. When it is time to bake, place the pie on the hot cookie sheet. The bottom crust will already have a head start in cooking/browning.

To blind bake a single crust: preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the pie crust with parchment or foil. Fill it with pie weights, beans, or rice. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove parchment and pie weights. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.


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.

5.0 from 1 reviews
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