Lemon Blueberry Muffins

I have a love/hate relationship with blueberries that falls directly on the low bush/high bush divide. I’ll admit it, before I moved to Maine I didn’t know there were different kinds, but boy is there a big difference. The low-bush or wild blueberry is a thing of beauty, small, tart and delicious. The high bush blueberry on the other hand, I feel is gritty, heavy, and lacking in flavor. In short  – I am not a fan.

I wish I could say the berries in the recipe came from wild blueberries we hand picked somewhere in a distant field (and if you know a good place to pick wild blueberries in Southern Maine, let me know – please!!), but they didn’t – but they are wild Maine blueberries, and those are tasty enough for me.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

(adapted from Whipped’s Cranberry Orange Muffins)

Makes 12-16 muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • zest
 of one washed lemon
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice)
  • 1  to 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°F.

If making buttermilk, mix milk and lemon juice and set aside until needed.

Grease  or line muffin cups. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.

Whisk together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and buttermilk in a separate mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

Toss blueberries in a small amount of flour until coated and fold into batter. Fill each muffin cup about three-quarters full. Bake until golden and a toothpick comes out clean (20-24 minutes). Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes and eat warm with butter.

When Mr. Cleaver and  I went apple picking a few weeks back, we came home with 21 pounds of apples. For two people.

What did we do with them all?

2 Quarts Apple Sauce and 1.5 Pints Apple Butter;

3 Fat Apple Pies;
Three Fat Pies

3 apples for my mother-in-law and 3 apples for my lunch.

All in all not a bad haul! It took one day to do all the canning and another day for the pies. It was a lot of work, but I’ll happily be eating apples until next September!

Though this is my fourth year making apple pies, this is the first year I worked out a recipe that I was totally happy with. In the past, my pies had ended up too watery, but with a few tweaks to some recipes from family and friends, I think we’ve ended up with something delicious!

Slice of Fall

Streusel Apple Pie


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 6 full Tbl cold water


  • 6 apples of choice ( I love jonagolds and rome beauties best – but any firm and tart apple will do).
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup flour


  • 3 Tbl butter (softened)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F

Make crust by mixing together flour and salt. Cut shortening into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or some forks.  Add cold water until dough holds together. Form dough into two flattened balls, wrap in plastic wrap and store in fridge until filling is prepared.

Peel, core, and slice apples. In a large bowl, mix apples, lemon juice, sugar and spices. Add flour until a thin sauce is formed from the juices. Set filling aside.

Removed chilled dough from fridge and roll out into a top and bottom crust.

Place bottom crust in  9 inch round pie pan (metal or glass) and fill with apples, heaping up in center. Cover apples with top crust. Top can be latticed or vented with several cuts through the top.

For streusel, cut together softened butter, flour and brown sugar with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle streusel over top of pie.

Bake pie at for 40-50 or until filling bubbles and top is brown.

Cool, slice and enjoy!

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

Remember when I used to regularly post recipes on this site? Well it’s been a while. Not that I haven’t been cooking or baking, I’ve just been doing a lot of old standards or not photographing. I also like to put original or family recipes, but this one was too good to pass up.

After seeing these cookies on smitten kitchen last week I just had to make them and man are they good – if the pound of chocolate alone doesn’t convince you perhaps I can. These are deep and rich and complex  - so much so that I, a cookie fiend, can only handle about a cookie and a half at a time. They go brilliantly with a glass of ice cold milk. It is a little hard to find the toffee bars, but it is so worth it. 

Chocolate Toffee Cookies from smitten kitchen
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes around 30-36 cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped (if you use good-quality chocolate chips, it saves a little work – as usual my favorite is Ghiradelli)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 1.4-ounce chocolate-covered English toffee bars (such as Heath or Skor), coarsely chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped*
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (optional)*

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over simmering water or doubled-boiler until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Cool mixture to lukewarm.

Beat sugar and eggs in bowl until thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla.

Stir in flour mixture, then toffee and nuts. Chill batter until firm, about 45 minutes. Roll the dough into a log 1.5 inches in diameter and chill it.  When ready to bake the cookies, cut it into 1/2-inch slices. You can store the dough log in the freezer, wrapped in waxed paper and then two layers of plastic wrap for up to a month, just baking the cookies off as you need. Cookies baked straight from the freezer may need an additional minute or two in the oven, depending on their thickness.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. This is a must – otherwise they will stick like crazy!!

Place sliced cookies on the lined sheet spacing tehm two inches apart. Sprinkle with the salt, if you’re using it. Bake just until tops are dry and cracked but cookies are still soft to touch, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

* I didn’t bother with toasting the walnuts or the salt, but it may make the cookies even better, so give it a good if you’d like.

For those of you who read this blog on rss and for those who hadn’t noticed, I wanted to let you know that the site now has two new pages: a Recipe Index and a Pattern & Tutorial Index, links to which can be found at the upper right-hand corner of the home page above the header. 

Hopefully this will be helpful to those looking for specific projects or recipes!

Okay, so this weekend was so chock-full of wonderfullness, that I’m going to have to break it down into several posts over the next couple of days. We’ll do it chronologically, starting with Thursday.

Birthday Cake

July 3 :

Mr. Cleaver’s birthday.

The day dawned and I did NOT want to get out of bed, I was so groggy that I was the worst wife ever and forgot to say Happy Birthday to Mr.Cleaver – who after about 10 minutes decided to jog my memory. Oops!That said, as embarrassed as I was, this ended up low on the totem pole of things to go wrong that day.

As I headed off to work, Mr. Cleaver was hunkering down to watch Wimbleton on the laptop, only to discover that our internet wasn’t worked, only to call our service provider and discover that the phone wasn’t working wither (same company). Mr. Cleaver is probably the first to admit that he’s not the world’s most techno-savvy guy, and was quickly frustrated, especially when it looked like neither phone nor DSL would be repaired for a few days.

Fortunately, I was able to come home a little early from work, due to a co-worker’s going-away party. So I stopped at the grocery store and picked up some ingredients for the birthday cake and the manliest looking flowers I could find for my guy.

Birthday Flowers

Well, the flowers perked him up and so did my present. We also decided to go to our favorite fancy restaurant to dinner, so things were looking up. I started working on the cake, and frosting so it could cool while we were out to eat.

The cake fell a little in the center, but otherwise, seemed to be fine. We walked up the street to the restaurant only to find it boarded up and smelling of smoke. Yes, our favorite restaurant had burned down. At this point, really, we just had to laugh. And eat Chinese, which was nearby and also very good.

When we got home the internet seemed to be momentarily working and we discovered that the restaurant had caught fire in May and didn’t look to be re-opening anytime soon.

I set to assembling the cake and it seemed – well -dry. I did a quick check of the reviews on epicurious and discovered I had forgotten to include 1 cup of water.

How Many Candles?

How Many Candles?

Well, this was just perfect. Again, we could do nothing but laugh, and despite the dryness, enjoy the cake. I can’t say anything about the cake itself, having not made it right, but Mr.Cleaver and I both think the frosting is to die for, so it came out all right. (It also didn’t stop us from finishing off the whole thing by the end of the weekend – fresh raspberries help cover a multitude of sins).

Birthday Cake


In the eveing we headed down to the lakefront to try and see if we could catch any of the City of Chicago fireworks (they always do them on the 3rd, more on that in the next post).

Not exactly what I would have wished for my husband’s birthday, but you can’t say it wasn’t memorable.

My New Go-To Chocolate Frosting from Nana Edie’s Devil’s Food Cake

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Bring sugar and cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add chocolate, butter, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill frosting, stirring frequently, until thickened and spreadable.



Coffee Cake Cooling

One of my goals in life is to win a blue ribbon at a county fair. Dead serious.

I have no experience with State Fairs aside from the Rogers and Hamerstein movie, so they don’t particularly interest me. But as a kid I lived in the county seat – so I had to go to the fair a lot. I’m sure this isn’t actually the case, but it seemed as though we had three or so major fairs at the Napa Valley Expo center a year and I was at pretty much every one.

First there were the educational fairs. There was the one my modeling clay mission was displayed at amoungst the hundreds of other missions of the pasta, cardboard, and/or lego varieties. There was the fair that they had the city-wide science fair at: my experiment on the water purifying abilities of the sun didn’t even place. There was the year I volunteered to do an anti-drug puppet show at, only to find upon arrival that the “booth” contained no puppet stage and I spent several hours sitting under a table teaching kids to “Just Say No,” while the woman at the next table urged people to vote no on proposition 9.

And then there was the Town and Country fair where the 4-H kids strutted their hogs and the quilts and jams were on proud display. There were games: a friend once won a guppie and then passed it off on a happy little girl and her less than happy parents; there was food: corn dogs and funnel galore! There were the rides that only one year I was allowed to ride, which included a fun house/maze that I raced though only to be incredibly disappointed when I came out the other side that I hadn’t spent more time.

But missions and guppies aside, the real reason I went to fair after fair was to dance.

Anything Goes

Not at the Fair, but you get the idea. (That’s me in the far right, front row)

From approximately 1988 to 2001 I was made to put on my tutu and blue eye shadow and dance with my classes in tap, jazz or ballet. The stage was unforgiving concrete and it was always devilishly hot. One year my teacher told us not to bother with wearing foundation, it’d just melt it off. I love dancing, but I hated dancing at the fair, it was uncomfortable and there was a good chance someone I did not want seeing me in a leotard would stroll by during my performance (and several have).

Spandex and sequin trauma aside, I always like the craft, food, and animal displays and I still hope to win a ribbon of my own some day.

Coffee Cake and Sausage

This particular recipe won a ribbon for my family once upon a time (though the recipe card always said “prize” so I have no idea which prize it won – but if anyone in the family wants to clarify that’d be great) and so after that long introduction, I give you:

Prize Coffee Cake:


  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup butter or shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbl melted butter
  • 2 Tbl flour
  • 2 TBl cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a 9″x9″ pan. 

Mix together sugar, butter, and egg to make butter cream. It may look good, but do not sample – it tastes terrible as a college roommate of mine discovered. Add milk and mix.

In a separate bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mix to butter cream. Pour into pan.

Mix together topping ingredients. If necessary add a little more melted butter until it clumps, but we wary- too much butter will cause the topping to turn molten and sink into the batter instead of staying nice and crispy on top.  Sprinkle topping on top of the batter.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Recipe doubles well, just add 5-10 minutes cooking time for a 9″x18″ pan. 

Breakfast Aftermath

Surprise sleepy folks with coffee cake, eat all the crumbs.

Mac 'n' Cheese

So good, if we weren’t already married, my husband would marry me for it.

Like pretty much all of America, I grew up on the Kraft “Blue Box” Mac ‘n’ Cheese. My first taste of the homemade stuff was when my brother attempted to make some while I was in high school. I not sure what happened, but it was notthe best, shall we say. I retrospect, I think it needed salt. 

Years later, I came across this recipe in Real Simple Magazine and thought I’d give it ago, but I was a little put off by the called for 6 cups (!) of milk, and using the full quarter cup of oil on the bread make my crackers waaaay too greasy, so I did a few mild changes, as listed below.

And its really good. This is maybe one of Mr. Cleaver’s favorite things I cook, and every so often (as with the Cherry Pie), he’ll just “happen” to the buy the ingredients and if I just “happen” to want to make it, it would “happen” to be swell. I love it too, so it’s not too hard to convince me.  

Mac 'n' Cheese Ingredients

Mac ‘n’ Cheese, adapted from Real Simple, Nov. 200. 

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (plus some to grease dish)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3-4 cups whole or low-fat milk (I use 1% it turns out plenty rich and creamy)
  • 14 oz.-16oz.  cheese of choice (I like cheddar or you could do a mix.)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt 

Herbed-Crumb Topping

  • 1 cup or about ½ a sleeve of your favorite butter crackers (Ritz, Keebler Club) smashed
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • oregano and thyme to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Heat oven to 400°F and grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Cook the macaroni for slightly less time than the package says, so it’s still a little firm. Drain and rinse.
While the mac is boiling, combine cracker crumbs, oil, herbs, salt and pepper. The oil should be just enough to coat and make the crumbs slightly stick together. 
In a saucepan, melt butter. While whisking constantly, add the flour and cook for about 3 minutes. The mixture will clump. Still stirring, add the milk and cook for another 7 minutes, the mixture will start to get thick.  Add the cheese and salt and stir until all the cheese is evenly melted.
Mix together the mac and the cheese, pour into the prepared dish and sprinkle with the crumbs.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden and delicious.
It’ll sit like the brick of cheese and pasta it is in your stomach, but it’ll be so worth it. 
Reheats really well in the oven too! 

    Chocolate Banana Bread

    The way these recipes are coming, people are going to start to think that the only place I ever ate decent food was in Portland, Maine and that I don’t live in a rather major U.S. culinary city these days – because, yes, today’s recipe was inspired by something I ate in Portland, Maine.

    The restaurant in question today is Bibo’s Madd Apple Cafe. This lovely and eclectic little spot is right next door to the theatre I used to work at. Actually it’s the same building. In any case, this is one of my favorite eateries in the city and exactly what I like to think a cafe should be: classier and more adventurous than a diner or sandwich/burger joint, but not so intimidating that you couldn’t eat lunch there. That is, a place a low-paid twenty-something could take both her friends and her parents. The jaunty atmosphere doesn’t hurt either.

    The first time I went there for lunch I sprung for dessert: the ever-so-delicious Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding Cake (with a warm chocolate center and whipped cream). Now as readers of this blog may know, I love me some banana bread. I also love me chocolate. So this dessert was right up my alley.

    Though my Chocolate Banana Bread Recipe isn’t the same as Bibo’s (frankly, I’d have to try it again to get a better feeling of the dish), I’m pretty happy with how this variation turned out. This recipe is based on the aforementioned banana bread recipes and Clotilde’s Chocolate and Zucchini Cake from her cookbook. I wanted a texture that was somewhere between cake and bread and this does that pretty well. The chocolate flavor is prominent, but not overly sweet and a sprinkle of powdered sugar makes a sweet compliment. I don’t know if I’m completely finished with the recipe, but I’ve made a lot of banana bread in the past month or so, so I’m giving it a rest for now.

    Chocolate Banana Bread

    Chocolate Banana Bread Cake

    (inspired by Bibo’s Madd Apple Cafe and Clotilde’s Chocolate and Zucchini Cake)

    Makes 1 medium-sized loaf

    • 2-3 overripe bananas
    • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
    • ¼ cup milk
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
    • 4 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate melted and mixed with 1/2 a cup of granulated sugar (or 4 oz. of chocolate chips).
    • 1¼ cup all-purpose flour
    • ¾ cup wheat flour
    • ¾ cup brown sugar
    • 1½ tsp baking soda
    • ½ cup unsweeted cocoa
    • ½ tsp salt
    • powdered sugar (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350° F

    Break up the bananas and butter into a large mixing bowl. With a sturdy whisk, mash together the butter and bananas until mixed well – the butter will still be a little chunky, but should be about pea-sized. Add eggs, milk and lemon juice, adding the juice last. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix well.

    In a separate bowl, mix flours, brown sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well. If desired, you could add some unmelted chocolate chips at this point. Pour into a greased loaf pan.

    Bake 55-60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

    BBQ Chicken Pizza
    A bit blurry, but you get the idea…

    Back in the day, when I was interning at the Goodman Theatre, I brought in a slice of my BBQ chicken pizza for lunch. I was walking from the microwave to the room where we were having a lunch meeting and several other interns started hovering over my lunch, as hungry interns are  often wont to do.

    Now, I like to think the admiration of my pizza was due to the pizza and not just the noon-time hunger striking, but the world may never know. Unless, that is, you try out the recipe!

    This is another one of those I-kinda-stole-this-from-a-Portland-restaurant recipes. For backing when I was interning in Maine (Yeah, I’ve done a lot of internships, five in fact. Six, if you count the two seperate summers at NVSF), my roommates and I fell in love with a pizza called the “Harbor Master” at Portland Pie. I’d never been much for chicken on pizza before, but man – this one was good.  And now that I’m approximately 1,086 miles away from a Portland Pie, I had to start making them on my own. My biggest change is the removal of a standard pizza sauce for straight-up BBQ sauce goodness.

    Depending on what I have around the house this shifts around a little: sometimes they’ll be bacon, sometimes basil, sometimes just chicken and cheese. Pizza’s good that way.

    BBQ Chicken Pizza Ingredients

    BBQ Chicken Pizza (adapted from Portland Pie Co.)

    • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken boob cut into small pieces.
    • 1 package of pizza dough (mine’s wheat and from Trader Joes, I’ve used the Pillsbury in a can quite often, and of course, you could always make your own if you’re feeling fancy)
    • corn meal for the pan/stone
    • barbeque sauce – my ultimate favorite is the Chicago-based Sweet Baby Ray’s, but as Mr. Cleaver and I learned when we tried to bring some to his mom as a gift, it’s available all over the USA now.
    • ½ white onion, diced (optional)
    • 3 strips bacon, chopped (optional)
    • basil (fresh or dried or optional)
    • cheese (so not optional) I usually use a whole bag of the italian mix, but again, you could get all fancy and grate you own.

    Preheat the oven to 400-425°F.  Sprinkle your pizza pan/stone/cookie sheet with some cornmeal to prevent sticking and place rolled out dough on top.

    If using, brown the diced onions in a little butter, just enough to the the raw taste off. Remove onions and cook bacon in same pan.

    At this point, I usually put the crust (sans anything) into the oven to pre-bake for about 5 minutes.

    After the bacon is cooked, remove and drain any fat. Cook the chicken bits until throughly cooked through. Shred any large chicken pieces with a fork. Coat the shreed chicken with BBQ sauce.

    Take your pre-baked crust and cover with BBQ sauce like you would any thin pizza sauce. (see below).

    BBQ Chicken Pizza

    Once you’re all sauced up, add the cheese. Then top with the chicken, bacon, onion, and basil, and maybe a little more cheese (I never said this was healthy). Put it all back in the oven and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is all good and melty.

    Let cool a tad (I’m notoriously bad for burning my mouth on food), slice and serve.

    And see if a couple of interns don’t start sniffing their way over :)

    BBQ Chicken Pizza

    Rustic Potato Soup

    See that texture? It’s “rustic.” And making me hungry.

    As in, “Rustic Potato Soup.”

    When it comes to cooking, I have a number of solid family-inherited recipes that I use (many posted here) and as I get more adventurous I’ve begun to add some of my own, like the Chicken Satay. My process for making up new recipes, pretty much always follows the same pattern.

    1. I eat something in a restaurant, see something on tv, or read about something that seems super-tasty
    2. I pull out my trusty copy of The Joy of Cooking and see if they have anything similar.
    3. I roam over to ye olde internet and look at and then search for recipes on blogs.
    4. I write down the ingredients that seem to make sense or overlap from these sources and go shopping.
    5. I cook using memory and whatever ingredients I have purchased.
    6. I fiddle.
    7. I enjoy.

    And that’s pretty much the process. A month or so ago I decided that I needed to try my hand at making soup. Mr. Cleaver makes a lovely chicken/turkey soup/stew whenever we roast a bird, but I had yet to delve into this food category myself. I decided to start with one of my favorites, potato soup.

    Here’s what I came up with, please note that it owes a lot, like a lot a lot to this recipe from Nook & Pantry.


    Rustic Potato Soup Ingredients

    I love it when there are so few ingredients, it’s like that 5-or-fewer episode of Everyday Food. I also love cooking shows on PBS.

    Rustic Potato Soup (serves 4-6)

    • 5-6 potatoes, washed and peeled (keep the peels)
    • 4 slices of bacon, chopped in to bits
    • ½ onion, diced
    • 1½-2 cups chicken broth
    • 2 cups milk
    • salt and pepper
    • shredded cheese of choice for garnish (I like cheddar)

    In a large stockpot, cook the bacon bits. At this point you can either cook the potato peels in the bacon fat for crunchy potato skins or you can drain the fat.

    Chop the potatoes into about 1-inch cubes. Toss the potatoes, diced onion and half the bacon bits into stockpot and add the chicken broth. Add enough broth so it just covers the potatoes. Boil the potatoes until soft about 6-7 minutes. I usually test the potatoes by sticking a fork into the largest potato piece and if it slides off it’s good.

    Mash the potatoes with a whisk or a potato masher. Add the milk, stir and boil until the soup thickens some. The potatoes are so starchy that it’s totally unnecessary to use any thickener (ie flour).

    Divide into bowl sand top with cheese and remaining bacon bits, or other garnish of choice.

    This soup is rib-sticking good and Mr. Cleaver-approved!

    Next Page »


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