Monthly Archives: September 2011

Cookie Lover’s Apple Pie Tart


I have moved so many times that I actually have lost track how many times I’ve moved in my lifetime.  I’m only thirty years old!  Is that normal?  While I’m uncertain normalcy is necessarily relevant, I do know that while I might hate moving, I love cookies.

In an effort to deplete my ever-flowing supply of delicious and fresh, organic, locally grown, picked-by-me-and-my-family, apples, I decided I needed to make a cookie and apple tart.  I sliced some apples exceptionally thin (I’m pretty sure this is the secret to astronomically amazing taste to this), so thin I could see through them.  Is there any other way, really? In my opinion, it’s the only way.  Then, I combined the apples with some traditional apple pie filling type stuff and then crumbled some oatmeal cookies into it and poured it into a blind baked shortbread cookie crust, topped it with butter and baked it.  So simple.  I then took it out of the oven topped it with a little brown sugar and more cookie crumbs and placed it in the broiler for exactly 43 seconds just to brighten it up and give it a little color.  I took some photos, I let it cool, which, by the way, I’m usually… genuinely awful at (waiting is not my forte) and then I sliced.

I proceeded to curse in three different languages because darned if I didn’t surprise myself with just how golly-gee-whiz (not what I actually said) amazing this turned out. The stress of moving and packing and house hunting and everything that goes with it completely melted away….temporarily.

Now, I ask you, what in the world do I call this creation?  It’s clearly not an apple pie, because I’m just about as american as it gets and this isn’t an apple pie.  I’d feel dirty calling it an apple pie.  It’s also not exactly a tart, though it does have that cookie like crust and no top, I suppose it vaguely resembles a tart.  Well, I guess it just lives somewhere between pie and tart.  Hence the name, pie tart.

Cookie Lover’s Apple Pie Tart


  • 9-inch shortbread cookie pie crust
  • 3 1/2 cups, fine sliced, peeled and cored tart apples
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups, chopped, oatmeal cookies
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into pats
for optional photo finish:  
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup oatmeal cookie crumbs, mixed 


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2.  Whisk together in a large bowl, granulated sugar, all purpose flour, chopped oatmeal cookies, (optional cinnamon) and salt.  Add apples.  Toss.  Set aside for juices to release from apples.

3.  Place shortbread pie crust in preheated oven, to blind bake.  Remove crust from oven after 3-4 minutes.

4.  Toss apple mixture again and then pour, carefully, into crust. Move apple mixture around so it’s as even as possible in the crust.

5.  Top with pats of butter and place into preheated oven for 30 minutes. 


for optional photo finish: Sprinkle with brown sugar and cookie crumbs and place into broiler for 30 seconds to 1 minute, while watching carefully.     

6.  Allow to cool on cooling rack before serving with, optional, whipped cream or ice cream.

Note: Cover and store any leftover pie in refrigerator.  Delicious chilled or warm.

Posted in All, Dessert, For Kids | 24 Comments

Pasta al Pomodoro


It’s so easy, but has such a pretty and seemingly fancy name, which I admit, I enjoy.  Easy and fancy?  Yep, I’ll take it.  Whatever you want to call it, it’s very flavorful and very simple.   It’s perfect for us today on this overcast, gray, cold, Tuesday afternoon.  Trey is home from school today and we’re sniffling on the couch together, Max included.  So we needed something easy that we could taste, regardless of stuffy noses.   This was the dish for such an occasion.  I added some extra red pepper flakes to mine too, just to really kick up the heat level.  Vampires be warned.  Garlic lovers rejoice.  Vegetarians and pasta lovers celebrate.  It’s Pasta al Pomodoro and it is fantastic.

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can peeled tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large fresh basil sprigs
  • 12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons cubed unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino

Place twelve inch skillet over low-medium heat.  Add oil.  When oil is heated, add minced onion.  Stir until onions are soft, about 12 minutes, then add garlic.  Allow onions and garlic to cook for three minutes, while stirring.  Add crushed red pepper flakes and cook for one minute more.  Increase heat to medium and add puréed tomatoes.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and stir occasionally while sauce cooks and the flavors come together.  When sauce thickens slightly, remove pan from heat and stir in basil sprigs.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 5-quart pot. Season with salt; add spaghetti or bucatini and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.

Remove and discard basil from sauce. Place skillet over high heat. Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce. Bring sauce to a boil.  Add pasta and toss with sauce until sauce coats pasta.  When pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes, remove pan from heat.  Add butter and cheese. Toss until cheese melts. Transfer to warm bowls and serve with more cheese, if desired.


Posted in Dinner, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Apple Cinnamon Muffins with Graham Cracker Streusel

These muffins are a product of my inner five year old.  There are very few things I love more than apples, cinnamon and graham crackers. I’ve loved these things for as long as I can remember, which  means they’re most likely picky-eater friendly.

I tried making something similar and it ended up burned on the top and sunken in the middle. Terrible, epic fail?  I’d say so.  So, I threw some dishes in the sink, stomped my boots as a five year old would (fortunately there was nobody around) and then tried again, making only a few alterations.  These were the result.

They’re heavenly and they’re a one bowl recipe, which happens to be my favorite type of baking recipe. The first batch I made was overly complicated and turned out terribly.  So, I kept this one simple and pretty easy, if you ask me.  It also involves the smashing of crumbs with a rolling-pin, which is also one of my favorite things to do.  Apples in every single bite, loaded with cinnamon and topped with buttery, cinnamon sugary graham cracker streusel.  I totally want to eat these while coloring and then go play with my cabbage patch dolls.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus two tablespoons more for coating apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups diced, peeled tart apples
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or cooled melted butter

Graham Cracker Streusel:

  • 5 sheets of graham crackers (20 individual graham crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons room temperature butter
Move oven rack to top third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees fahrenheit.  Line twelve muffin tins (line eleven muffin tins for huge muffins) with muffin/cupcake papers. 

In a large bowl, sift together the following dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk dry ingredients to thoroughly and evenly mix.  Next sprinkle two tablespoons of flour over diced apples and toss to coat.  Add apples to dry ingredients. Toss to coat.  Add the following ingredients to the bowl while mixing with an electric mixer set to low:  eggs, sour cream and oil. When batter comes together evenly, turn off mixer.

In a small resealable bag, add streusel topping ingredients.  Seal bag, leaving a small opening for air to escape and place it flat on its side on a cutting board.  Smash the baggie with a rolling pan until ingredients are crumbly.   Pick the bag up and gently massage and shake to coat crumbs evenly with butter, then place back down and smash again, if needed. Streusel should be even and fully mixed at this point.

Using an ice cream scoop or a one quarter cup measure, add batter to each lined muffin tin cup.  Place one handful of streusel on top of each muffin and press gently to make sure the streusel sticks.  Place in preheated oven and bake until muffin springs back when gently pressed, or for about 10 minutes.




Posted in Breakfast, Dessert, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Slow Cooker Caramel Apples


This recipe is one of those never-ever fail recipes, even for the worst and most inexperienced of home cooks and bakers, but delicious enough for anyone to make, regardless of skill level.  This recipe also doubles as the most amazing and most delicious potpourri you will ever know.  Seriously, its way better than a scented candle and a zillion times tastier, not that I eat candles or anything.  That would be weird.


You just drop the stuff into the slow cooker, stir, and cover, turn it on and walk away. My favorite way to eat this is over rum raisin ice cream, though pumpkin and vanilla would work just as well.  It’s phenomenal.  The warm spiced caramel apples on the cold ice cream is fall in a sundae and completely spectacular.

Slow Cooker Caramel Apples (and apple butter recipe)

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • half a stick of butter, rough cut into pieces
  • 8 cups of peeled and diced apples
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a slow cooker, add all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Cover and cook on high until apples are tender, or about three hours.

To make into apple butter, cook until the apples lose their shape.  Mash to desired consistency.  Freeze up to two months in an air tight container.

Note: The salted-cinnamon-vanilla-caramel sauce that coats the apples will thicken slightly upon cooling.


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Apple Walnut Salad and Apple Picking

Sometimes I remember just how lucky I am to live where I do, those times are often in the autumn when the air is crisp and cool and breezy in the early morning, and returns by dusk.  The days are warm and the vibrant autumnal leaves start creeping from branch to branch, which some don’t realize until their horizon has turned completely from leafy green to burnt sienna orange.  Others, can smell it in the air when there’s something about to begin.

It’s apple season here in our little neck of the woods.  The drive to the winery and orchard in New York takes about twenty minutes from our house, though you’d never guess it takes that long since the views are so astounding. It makes the time fly by quickly.

Almost there.


The arrival.  I love this sign.

A map and a tractor ride, obviously necessary.

Our little navigator.  Now, time for some picking!

And eating!  Max’s newest word is apple, so he was able to get a lot of practice.



Do you see a small frog?  I did.  It landed on my shoulder when I reached up to pick a cox orange.  Yikes and eeks for me!  Fascinating for the boys, though.

Now back to what we were doing..


Look! Pears! Sweet!


Back to business.  Apple picking business, that is.  A whole bushel!

That’s two of those bags.  That’s a lot of apples, which means there will most likely be a slew of apple related posts coming soon.


But before I go ahead and make these delicious apples into pies and cakes and tarts, I will start off this perfect apple season with a simple but delicious pairing of apples and walnuts in a salad.  It’s perfect and it’s exactly what I want to eat for lunch today.  Enjoy!

  • 2 small honey crisp apples
  • The juice of one lemon, divided in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • pepper to taste
  • 3 cups baby romaine
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted

Slice honey crisp apple to desired thickness and squeeze half of lemon over apple slices to prevent browning, then set aside.  In small bowl whisk together the dressing: remaining lemon half’s juice with olive oil, honey and mustard, add pepper to taste.  Toss prepared apple slices with romaine and top with toasted walnuts.  Serve dressing on the side.


Posted in All, Dinner, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Meatball Hot Pockets


Meatballs, Gravy and Hot Pockets


Slow Cooker Gravy (AKA Sunday Gravy, Sauce, Ragu, etc.)

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 roasted, peeled, and seeded cubanelle or red pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (double for extra heat, if desired)
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 cans tomato purée
  • 3 cans tomato paste
  • 4 leaves basil, chopped
  • 1 twig’s oregano leaves, pulled
In an 8 quart slow cooker set to low, drop olive oil, onion, roasted pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper in bottom and stir.  Cover and let that cook for 2-3 hours.   Add wine and stir, simmer covered for 1 more hour.   Add tomato purée, paste and herbs and increase heat to high.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add meatballs, cover and simmer for 2 – 3 hours more.


Homemade bread crumbs

note: you may use store bought, if desired for the meatballs

  • 8 slices of day-old Italian bread,  crusts removed and soaked in water
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • salt and pepper to taste


Soak bread in water and squeeze to remove excess, place in small bowl and add remaining ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.


  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 1 pound ground beef, room temperature
  • 1 pound ground pork, room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 cup homemade Italian breadcrumbs (above) or store bought Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup gravy (above)
  • 2 tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


Place large frying  pan over medium-high heat, add about a half inch of olive oil to preheat.  In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients until well incorporated. Take a small patty of meat and place on microwaveable plate and heat for 30 seconds.  Add salt and pepper to meat mixture according to taste.  Mix thoroughly again and then form into palm-sized balls.  Drop into preheated frying pan and turn to brown on all sides.

Place into slow cooker, in with gravy and simmer for at least one hour before serving.  Bring leftover meatballs to room temperature before storing in refrigerator overnight.

Dough (you may use store bought or pizzeria pizza dough for meatball pockets):

  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups water, cold
Whisk together flour, salt, yeast.  Add water and mix thoroughly for five minutes until sticky, smooth and elastic.  On floured surface, knead for fifteen minutes, then divide into 6 pieces, form into balls and coat in olive oil.  Store balls 1-3 nights in well oiled containers in refrigerator or in freezer for up to three months.
Day Two:  Meatball Pockets
Serves 4
  • Butter and olive oil, for pan and for brushing
  • Dough (above)
  • Meatballs simmered in gravy (above)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahreneheit and butter a baking sheet then drizzle olive oil over butter where meatball pockets will go.  Remove two dough balls from refrigerator or freezer and bring to room temperature.  Roll out onto floured surface and place three gravy coated meatballs in center of dough.  Fold edges over in thirds and seal ends by pressing with fingers.  Poke a hold with a wooden skewer in top of pocket.  Brush outside of unbaked pocket with butter or olive oil and place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining room temperature dough.  Place baking sheet in preheated oven and bake until pockets are golden brown, about twenty minutes.


Note: Make gravy first, then meatballs and make dough at least one day (maximum three days) prior to use or store bought.


Adapted from Sources:  Dough Meatballs and Gravy

Posted in All, Dinner, For Kids, Lunch | 19 Comments

Nillanana Muffins

Did you know that muffins are girl food?  This according to my darling five year old who just recently noticed that I’m the only “girl” in the house.  He now deems almost anything that I enjoy, “girl” food.  So anytime that I decide that I should make muffins, I’m left being solely responsible for their subsequent delicious demolition.  How can that be?  Doesn’t everyone like muffins?  It’s basically cake in breakfast form.

Being the ever so clever mom-type that I am I added a little more vanilla and sprinkled these gently with rainbow confections to trick his adorable mind into subconsciously believing these might just be as good as cupcakes.  Sprinkles, yes, so simple yet oh so very powerful. I think I could sprinkle them onto almost anything and suddenly my darling five year old would be at the mercy of their calling.  It’s nutrition incognito, but I’ve yet to test that hypothesis.  You know what also helps, is that I told him he wasn’t allowed to have any.  You’d be surprised how well it worked.  Simple reverse psychology yielded an almost instant desire that percolated within him….he HAD TO have that muffin.  After only a few minutes of cajoling, I “reluctantly” allowed him to have one.  Now who doesn’t like muffins?  That’s right….nobody.

Nillanana Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 very ripened bananas, thoroughly mashed
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • rainbow sprinkles


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter or spray a twelve cup full size muffin pan.  Whisk together in a large bowl, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, butter, bananas and vanilla.  Gently and without overmixing, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Note that the batter after folding should be a bit lumpy, do not mix until smooth, unless you like your muffins like rubber tires.  Drop batter evenly into prepared muffin pan and sprinkle rainbow sprinkles on top of each muffin before baking.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes clean from center of muffins. Place muffin tin on a wire rack to cool for five minutes before removing muffins from pan.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Adapted from: source
Posted in Breakfast, For Kids | 29 Comments