Peach Popsicles

We are fortunate to have a lot of peach orchards here in West Michigan.  Most of the Michigan peaches are grown in the west central to southeast corner, close to Lake Michigan.  The very popular Red Haven Peach, popular throughout the U.S. was introduced in 1940 in nearby South Haven.  Info is courtesy of michigangrown.org.

I used Red Haven peaches that I purchased from Little Farmers Acres for the peach popsicles in this recipe.

These Peach Popsicles are perfect for hot summer days.  They are a cool and creamy treat that is not too sweet.

Peach Popsicles

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
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(4) fresh peaches
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup Half and half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and dry the peaches. Cut in halves and remove pits and discard.   Leaving the skin on, dice the sliced peaches. Should be about 3 cups.  Set aside 1 cup of the diced peaches.

Add the 2 cups of diced peaches, heavy cream, half and half, sugar, and vanilla extract to a food processor.  Process until the mixture is smooth.

Stir in the reserved 1 cup of diced peaches. Carefully pour into popsicle molds.  Freeze for 6 hours or overnight before serving.

Let thaw at room temperature for about 5 minutes before eating for extra creaminess.

Notes:
I used popsicle molds from Prepworks by Progressive Freezer Pop Maker that I purchased at Amazon.  If you don’t have popsicle molds, use small paper cups and popsicle sticks.

It seems like the deer are coming around more frequently.  Here is a young one from a couple of weeks ago.  Probably came around looking for my hostas.

Apricot Tart

I bought some beautiful apricots from Robinette’s, a nearby local orchard.  It is my favorite place to buy cherries, apricots, peaches, and apples.  They also produce their own wine and hard cider.  Robinette’s has more than 20 Michigan-made wines and ciders that can be sampled in their Tasting Room.

If you can find Wewalka Puff Pastry, I recommend it.  This is an excellent puff pastry and easy to work with.  The puff pastry is refrigerated and not frozen.  However, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is a good substitute and more widely available.

Apricot Tart

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 package of prepared Puff Pastry, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup apricot preserves
3  1/2 – 4 cups halved, pitted apricots, cut into 1/4 inch wedges
1/4 cup apricot preserves, warmed

Unfold the puff pastry and place in an 11 inch x 7 inch loose bottom rectangular tart pan.  Place the puff pastry over the fluted tart pan and press the dough to the bottom.  Cut off any excess dough from the sides of the pan.  Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent it from puffing.  With a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the crust with 1/4 cup apricot preserves.

Lay the apricot wedges out in 4 rows on the dough.  Overlap the apricots as you place on the dough.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden and the apricots are tender.  Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack.

Gently brush the warmed apricot preserves over apricots.  Serve warm or at room temperature  with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Refrigerate leftovers.  

Note:
I used Wewalka Puff Pastry.

Be safe everyone.

 

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

I had planned to post a recipe using local strawberries but the season was very short due to all of the rain on the plants.  I have been able to get local raspberries which I used in this recipe for the Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream.

The raspberry industry in Michigan is relatively small but the berries are a welcome sight at farm markets.  A lot of the raspberries are used by chefs in Michigan restaurants.  Source.

The Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream is made in an ice cream maker.  I have had my ice cream maker for 3 years and am pleased with it.  I have the Cuisinart Ice-21 model which makes up to 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.  It is easy to operate and makes delicious ice cream.  It is available from Amazon for about $70.

This recipe is a non custard type of ice cream which makes it a lot easier to prepare.  Even without an egg custard base, it is still rich and delicious tasting with a slightly tart raspberry flavor.

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream is a cold and creamy dessert that is perfect for hot summer days.

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream

Raspberry Sauce

1 1/2 cups raspberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Ice Cream

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Raspberry Sauce

Combine raspberries and granulated sugar in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-8 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Press the raspberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Cool the sauce to room temperature, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  You should have about 1/4 cup of sauce.

For the Ice Cream

In a medium bowl, add the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate 4 hours, or overnight.  Turn on the ice cream maker; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Spoon one half of the ice cream into a freezer-safe container and then drizzle some of the raspberry sauce on top.  Repeat with the remaining ice cream and raspberry sauce.  Swirl the layers together.  Cover and freeze overnight until firm.  Makes about 5 cups of ice cream.  

Note:
I used freezing instructions for the Cuisinart Ice-21 Ice Cream Maker.  You will need to freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Have a wonderful and safe summer.  Below  is a picture of a butterfly enjoying the Bee Balm in my yard.

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie is a favorite of the American South and has long been a favorite of mine as well.  This pie is not just a traditional pecan pie but a Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie.  The chocolate chips add amazing flavor to an already delicious pie.

I have been making this pie for several years.  Friends and family members are always happy to receive the delicious pie as a gift.  Don’t reserve this pie for the holidays.  It is a perfect pie for anytime of the year.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 frozen ready-to-bake deep dish pie crust, thawed

1 cup Karo light corn syrup
1 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Place oven rack in lowest third of oven. Heat oven to 350°F.

Mix syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt together until well blended.
Stir in the chopped pecans and chocolate chips.  Pour into the thawed pie crust.
Bake 50 minutes or until crust and pecans are browned. If crust begins to
darken too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

Cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before serving.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.  Refrigerate any leftovers.  

Note: “Food historians generally agree pecan pie is a twentieth century invention inspired by traditional sugar pie and sweet nut confections.”  Reference from Food Timeline found here.

Hopefully, real butterflies will soon be out in our gardens.  Be safe everyone.

 

 

Maple Walnut Muffins

Once again I was recently gifted with some homemade maple syrup from a family member.  The maple syrup was made from maple trees within the Grand Rapids area.  Some of the maple trees tapped were located on my daughter’s property.

Below are pictures of one of the tapped maple trees and the finished product: maple syrup.

Vermont leads the nation in the making of maple syrup (1.9 million gallons yearly), Michigan is in the top 10 U.S producers, usually around fifth place (producing around 90,000 gallons per year).  Although according to Michigan State University Extension, Michigan has enough trees to outproduce Vermont.  Only about 3 to 5 percent of the sugar maples are currently being tapped.  Source is mlive

When it comes to maple syrup, we must not forget our friends from the North.  Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of maple products ($381 million in 2016).

Maple syrup is great in cooking and baking and not just as a topping on pancakes and waffles.

I found a great recipe for Maple Walnut Muffins.  These muffins use real maple syrup to sweeten and flavor the batter.  The flavor from the maple syrup is more subtle rather than pronounced, and the muffins are not overly sweet.

Maple Walnut Muffins

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup maple syrup, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until smooth, then gradually add the maple syrup and extract, beating constantly.  Add the sour cream and egg and beat until combined.

Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Stir in the walnuts.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about two-thirds full.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.    Makes 12-14 muffins.

Notes:
1.  The butter and maple syrup did separate when I was combining the two ingredients, but everything came together once the flour mixture was added.
2.  Recipe adapted from New England Today Food and original recipe can be found here.

Below is a picture of a friendly Blue Jay that comes around often, always looking for peanuts.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

There used to be a steakhouse restaurant here in Grand Rapids that had a Chicken Pot Pie Soup on their menu.  That was my favorite menu item to order whenever we went there.  Instead of Puff Pastry, they topped the soup with pieces of baked pie crust.  It was delicious.

I have been making Chicken Pot Pie Soup for a few years now and it is a favorite of mine.  It is a creamy soup that has all the flavors of a chicken pot pie and made even tastier with puff pastry croutons.  It may just be my favorite comfort food.

Although it is spring here in West Michigan, we still have some cold days and a bowl of hot soup is always welcome.

The soup is very easy to make.  I used the chicken breast from a rotisserie chicken, frozen peas and carrots, and store-bought puff pastry, making for an easy preparation of the soup.

If you can find Wewalka European Bakery Style Dough Puff Pastry, I can recommend it.  It is refrigerated and not frozen.  It is made with butter and easy to work with.  If you can’t find the Wewalka brand, Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry is widely available in the frozen foods section of your grocery store.

The puff pastry croutons make a decorative topping for the soup and are also good as a snack.

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Puff Pastry

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (if frozen)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned Pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

For the Soup

3 cups diced cooked chicken breast
2 cups peas and carrots, thawed if frozen
1 cup pearl onions, thawed if frozen
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine (or additional chicken broth)

1 to 1 1/2 cups half and half milk

For the Puff Pastry

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl beat the egg with the tablespoon of water and set aside.  Combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl and set aside.

Unfold the puff pasty.  Lightly brush with the beaten egg mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with the seasoned salt mixture.

With a cookie cutter, cut the puff pastry in to heart shapes (or desired shapes).  Transfer each piece of pastry to the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

For the Soup

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, peas and carrots, and pearl onions.  Set aside.

In a dutch oven or large pot, melt butter over medium heat.  Add in the flour, salt, pepper, and thyme and stir until well blended.  Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and wine and whisk until combined.  Add in the chicken, peas and carrots, and pearl onions.  Bring the soup up to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Turn off the heat and add in 1 cup half and half and stir to combine.  If soup is too thick, add in the additional 1/2 cup half and half.

Serve the soup topped with the puff pastry croutons

With the rollout of the vaccines, hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  Be safe everyone.

Below is a tree that blooms in my yard every year.  I believe it is a wild crabapple tree.

Vanilla Cake With Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

I think most of us in West Michigan are glad for the warmer temperatures.  I’m sure the birds and squirrels are glad of the warming trend.

This cake recipe is one that I had planned for a Valentine’s Day post but that didn’t happen.  It is a quick and easy cake to make and also very delicious.  It is a moist and flavorful cake and not overly sweet.  With it being a one layer cake, it is perfect for a small family.  You won’t need food coloring for this pretty pink frosted cake.  The raspberry puree will tint the frosting a perfect pink.

Vanilla Cake With Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

  • Servings: 5
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very soft butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

For the Raspberry Buttercream

12 fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed if frozen)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb box powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon raspberry extract (or vanilla)
2-3 tablespoons milk (as needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly spray an 8 inch cake pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper.  Set aside.

For the Cake

In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine.   Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.  Begin and end with dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes until light golden brown or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out  clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Place the raspberries on a small plate and mash well with a fork and then press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  Set aside.

In a large bowl with electric mixer at low speed,  beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in the raspberry puree and raspberry extract.  Add milk, if needed.  Beat at medium speed 1 to 2 minutes until creamy and is of desired consistency for frosting the cake.

Spread the buttercream over the top of the cake and around the sides of the cake.  Decorate as desired.

Notes:
1.  If  you don’t have buttermilk on hand, use this substitution:  1 tablespoon white vinegar + enough milk to measure 1 cup.  Stir, then allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before using.
2.  Inspired by a recipe from the café sucre farine and can be found here.

This cute igloo was spotted in my neighborhood a few days ago when we still had below freezing temperatures.  Built by one of the neighbors and later filled with ice cream treats for anyone walking by.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Valentine’s Day is in a couple of days.  Here in Michigan, the restaurants and bars reopened February 1st for indoor dining (at 25% capacity) and with a 10 p.m. curfew.  At least the people who want to eat out on Valentine’s Day will be able to.  I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since the pandemic started.  I do support our local restaurants but do it through home delivery or pickup.

This Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup is a simple and delicious soup that will warm you on our cold winter days.  It is very easy and quick to make.

The recipe uses roasted red peppers that you can buy in a jar.  The only prep of the peppers is draining and chopping them.  Use fire roasted tomatoes if you can, as they add a slight smoky flavor to the soup.  This soup goes great with a grilled cheese sandwich.  If there are any leftovers, the soup freezes really well.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onions
2 (14.5 ounce) cans fire roasted tomatoes
1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon pesto (optional)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup half and half

For the Topping
thin slices of fresh mozzarella

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot.  Add the onion and sauté until onion is translucent, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pesto, broth, salt, garlic powder, and basil.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then cover and reduce heat to a slow steady simmer.  Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and add the half and half.  Stir to combine.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls topped with a slice of the fresh mozzarella.  (Note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, let the soup cool until warm and then transfer to a blender.  Blend until smooth and return to the pot.)  

The photo below is my yard after a recent snowfall.  It was definitely a good day for a hot bowl of soup.

Happy Valentine’s Day and stay safe.

 

 

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Have you tried Meyer Lemons?  They are a little bit sweeter than the regular lemons available at your local grocery stores.  Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross between a traditional lemon and a mandarin orange.  The Meyer lemon has a smooth yellow skin and is not too tart or too sweet.

An interesting fact about the Meyer lemon is that it was named after a US Department of Agriculture employee named Frank N. Meyer.  Mr. Meyer was an Agricultural Explorer who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China in 1908.

I find the Meyer Lemons at two of my local grocery stores, usually in January and February.

This Meyer Lemon Marmalade is a freezer type marmalade, and it also includes navel oranges in the recipe.  It sets up exceptionally well and has a bright citrus flavor.  It may now be my favorite topping for an English Muffin.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

5 medium Meyer lemons
2 medium navel oranges
4 1/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup water
1 (1.75 ounce) box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin

Wash 5 (8 ounce) glass jars and lids with hot water or run through the dishwasher.  Dry thoroughly and set aside.

Wash and dry the lemons and oranges.  Remove the colored part of the peel from the fruit, using a small zester or vegetable peeler.  Cut the peel into thin slivers, or finely chop.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Peel and discard remaining white part of the peel from the lemons and oranges.

Coarsely chop the fruit into small pieces, discarding any seeds and the white core and reserving any juice.  Transfer the fruit and juice to the bowl with the zest.  Stir to combine.

Transfer 2 1/3 cups of the fruit mixture to a large pot.  (If you don’t have enough, add a bit of water or orange juice to make exactly 2 1/3 cups).  If there is extra, discard it.

Add the sugar and stir until well combined.  Turn the heat to medium-high and stir frequently until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil.  Boil for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  After 30 seconds, remove from the heat and set aside.

Add 3/4 cup water to a small saucepan.  Sprinkle in the Sure-Jell and stir until dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the hot sure jell mixture to the fruit mixture and stir for 3 minutes.

Transfer the marmalade to the prepared containers immediately and fill to within 1/2  inch of tops.  Wipe off top edges of containers and immediately cover with lids.  Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.  Marmalade is now ready to use.

Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze containers up to 1 year.  Thaw in the refrigerator before using.  Makes about five (8 ounce) jars of marmalade.  

Adapted from a Kraft Heinz recipe.

Be safe everyone.

Blue Jays often come by my back yard looking for treats.  They are especially fond of peanuts.

Easy Coconut Cake

I like to call this Coconut Cake my snow day cake.  I usually make it every year after we get a lot of snow.  It matches the landscape outside.  It is a very easy cake to make.  I use a box cake mix and Betty Crocker Home Style Fluffy White Frosting Mix.  The frosting mix is like a 7 minute frosting.

Coconut Cake is a popular dessert in the Southern region of the USA.  It is usually frosted with a 7 Minute type fluffy frosting and covered with coconut flakes.  A cream cheese frosting or a simple butter cream frosting can be used also.  When I lived in the South, this was always a favorite cake that I liked to make for special occasions (no snow required).

But here in Grand Rapids, we did have a snow storm and it seemed like a good day to make the cake.

Years ago, the Betty Crocker Home Style Fluffy White Frosting Mix was easy to find in local grocery stores.  Now, I have to order online from Walmart (pickup not available). The price is $3.48 per box.  Walmart does have a minimum order amount of $35 for free delivery.  It is also available on Amazon at a higher price.

The mix really does make a fluffy, light, and delicious frosting.  It is so much easier than making a 7 Minute frosting from scratch.

Easy Coconut Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

For the Cake

1 (15.25 oz) box Classic White Cake Mix, Duncan Hines (or your favorite mix)
1 cup water
3 large egg white
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting

1 (7.2 oz size) Betty Crocker Home Style Fluffy White Frosting Mix
1/2 cup boiling water

1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray  bottom and sides of 2 (8 inch) round cake pans with Cooking Spray and line with parchment paper.  Set pans aside.

Blend the cake mix, water, oil and egg whites and vanilla extract  in a large bowl with mixer.  Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine the ingredients.  Scrape down the bowl and continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for 26-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool cakes on wire racks for 15 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans, peel off parchment paper, and discard.  Cool cakes completely before frosting.

For the Frosting

Beat frosting mix and 1/2 cup boiling water in small glass or metal bowl on low speed 30 seconds, scraping the bowl constantly.  Beat on high speed 5 to 7 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally, until stiff peaks form.

When the cake layers are cool, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate and spread with a small amount of the frosting.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the coconut.  Place the second cake layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the frosting.  Sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides.

Cake is best served the day it is made.  Any leftovers should be stored in refrigerator.   

Snowman and picture are courtesy of a family member.

Wishing everyone a happy and safe New Year.

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