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Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

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Asparagus Bacon Quiche
Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

Spring has been peeping around the corner for a while to tease us with her warmth and sunshine, only to sweep it away out of reach coyly. But she seems to have tired of her flirtatious game and has finally taken up residence in earnest. There is an old proverb that claims that good things come to those who wait, and whoever penned it knew whereof he/she spoke.

One of the good things that I wait for impatiently in the Spring is asparagus. I love asparagus and use it in a dozen different ways in the short season it is here for. Click here for last year’s Asparagus, Ham and Egg on Toast recipe; it’s great for breakfast or brunch. I can’t wait to make it again.

A sidekick that accompanies asparagus for an even shorter period is wild leeks, or ramps, as they are known as. An older friend of ours delighted in telling us a story at market about his class eating wild ramps during their noon hour break and having the teacher send them home from school early because the class reeked so badly. Imagine a room full of kids each eating a handful of fresh garlic and you might have a sense of how that classroom smelled! I have fond memories of meandering through the woods behind our place with grandma and pulling up the leeks and eating them straight out of the soil.

Asparagus and ramps combine with bacon, eggs and cheese to deliver this scrumptious quiche. I used an applewood-smoked bacon and a variety of cheeses, including Gruyere and an intriguing straw-smoked Scamoria that looks like a potato that I brought home from our recent trip to Ireland. The overall result was a swirl of flavours that blended superbly, yet allowed the asparagus to shine through.

I use the recipe for pie pastry that is on the box of lard, mix up a big batch and divide it into 5 or six portions, depending on the size of the pie plates, and freeze them individually. That way, it’s ready to go when I want to make a pie or tart. Or quiche, in this case. Chop and lightly fry the bacon, cook the asparagus quickly and chop the ramps, shred the cheese, and beat the egg mixture while they’re cooking. This egg mixture is a basic quiche base; you could also substitute broccoli or spinach for the asparagus, and ham or chicken for the bacon. If you want to make it gluten-free, this recipe is my go-to GF pastry.

Layer everything in the pastry-lined pan, pour the beaten egg mixture over it all and bake.

Asparagus Bacon Quiche (4)

Savour every bite and thank the good Lord for Spring’s bounties! I served it with a Caprese salad on the side. We didn’t eat the tulips.

Asparagus Bacon Quiche (3)

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Check out my blog and other recipes on their new website! The stories and views are my own.
Asparagus grows best in light sandy soil. As soon as warm weather arrives, it begins poking its head out through the ground. It grows quickly and needs to be harvested nearly every day. Cut off the grey woody bottoms until you reach the tender part of the stems. Asparagus can also be eaten raw, or very lightly blanched and chilled and makes a stunning and conversational addition in a fresh vegetable assortment.
Ramps grow wild in shady areas of the woods. They are in the garlic family, so you may use garlic or shallots as a fine substitute.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 10″ pie crust, homemade or store-bought Asparagus Bacon Quiche (5)(I use the recipe on the lard packages and freeze the extra portions). Use a GF crust to easily make it gluten-free.
  • 3/4 to 1 pound fresh asparagus, washed well and trimmed (about 3 cups when chopped)
  • 1 bunch wild ramps or 2 garlic cloves, washed
  • 6 slices bacon or 1 cup ham
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded assorted cheese
  • 3 large or extra-large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half or whipping cream or whole milk*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grainy or dijon mustard

Directions

PASTRY: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a 13″ circle. fold into quarters and transfer to a pie or quiche pan. Unfold and fit into the pan, pressing it in lightly. Trim edges or fold them underneath inside the rim and crimp the edges.

FILLING: Preheat oven to 400°F or 205°C. Chop bacon coarsely and fry lightly. Slice asparagus into 1 inch pieces and cook uncovered in a little water for 3 – 5 minutes, just until it turns bright green. Finely chop the ramps or garlic and shred the cheeses. Whisk the eggs, add the seasonings and cream or milk*. Tilt pan on a low trivet to let the grease run to the bottom, then remove the bacon onto a paper towel. Strain hot liquid off of asparagus immediately.

LAYERS: In the prepared pastry, layer half the cheese, asparagus, bacon, and ramps, then repeat the layers. I start and end with the cheese; it keeps the crust from getting soggy and gives the quiche a lovely golden top. Pour the egg mixture over the layers.

BAKE for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the quiche. Don’t poke into the crust! Let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with a salad for a lovely light lunch or supper and be thankful for spring.

*Using cream will result in the firmest quiche with less water separation happening as it bakes. I recommend using whole milk if you wish to use milk.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

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Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (6)

I was waffling a bit in trying to decide the theme I wanted to use for April this year, because Easter was so early and is already past and gone. We have been hovering on the cusp of spring for ever so long, but it flirts with us, teasing us with a glimpse of sun and daffodils, then slips away behind a dark snow cloud again. Soon we shall have rhubarb, asparagus, wild leeks, and fiddleheads, but for now, we still have apples!

Every now and then I get a craving for this solid, moist pound-style cake. It needs no frosting, just a light dusting of icing sugar, and is ideal for breakfast or dessert. It has been in my recipe file for many years, and is perfect to serve on heirloom dishes, like the plate I have pictured above. That plate is part of a setting from my grandmother’s Royal Winton Sunday set and I treasure it. I use it occasionally and think of her tuneless under-her-breath whistle while she ironed; the way she always had time to read to us and take us for walks through the woods behind us; sitting at the table in her green visor bent over the newspaper while she ticked off the crossword puzzle in that day’s issue.

I wasn’t in photo mode when I was preparing the cake, so I don’t have pictures of the prep steps, but they are quite basic: prepare batter, peel and thinly slice apples; toss apples in cinnamon-sugar, and layer the batter and apples in a large bundt or tube pan. Because I’m obsessive about foods looking pretty, I saved a dozen apple slices and laid them in a circle on top of the cake. Then you bake it for a long time, over an hour.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

I served it to our Bible study group that night, but my daughter and grandson came earlier that day and we had to test it to see if it was like it should be. Yup, it was.

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (3)

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. They have a beautiful new website now and my blog is a part of it! Yay! Check it out in the News section. As always, the stories and views on this site are my own. 

I used a Honeycrisp apple for this recipe. I love its full flavour and juiciness in baking, while holding its shape nicely. 

Old-Fashioned Apple Cake

Ingredients

CAKE:Old-Fashioned Apple Cake (6)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large or extra-large eggs
  • 1 cup canola, olive or your favourite oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice (freshly squeezed or Tropicana)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)

FILLING:

  • 4 large apples, peeled and thinly sliced (4 cups sliced)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • icing sugar for dusting

CAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour a large (10″ or 4 L) tube or bundt cake pan. Combine the first four dry ingredients. Beat eggs, oil, juice, vanilla, and zest if using, in a large mixer bowl. Add dry ingredients in two additions, beating just until smooth (the batter will be quite thick). 

FILLING: Toss the peeled and sliced apples with second amount of sugar and cinnamon. Set aside 12 slices for the top.

ASSEMBLY: Spread one third of the batter thinly in the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with half of the apples and spread them as evenly as you can. Repeat layers, ending with batter. Lay set-aside slices in a spoke fashion around the top of the cake. 

BAKE in centre of the oven for 70 -75 minutes, or until your toothpick comes out clean. Cool upright in pan for 20 minutes, then remove by running a knife around the outside edge, placing a plate over the top of the pan and tipping it upside down. Place rack on the turned up bottom and tip it again right side up. It will make sense when you do it, trust me. Let cool another 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar and serving.  To dust evenly with icing sugar, place a little of the sugar in a small fine-mesh sieve and shake it gently over the cake. Eat it and think of your grandma with fondness. 

 

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

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Maple and Brie Baked Apples (2)

For the last few weeks our internet has been floating in Never-Never Land. Those that write blogs depend heavily on internet, for how shall they post recipes without any pictures? And how shall they load pictures without any internet? And how shall they have internet unless it is restored? Thankfully, after much trotting on various rooftops and tapping of keyboards by people who know how to trot on rooftops and tap on keyboards efficiently, we are back in the Land of Now. Just in time to squeak in another maple recipe for March.

Although baked apples go way back in time, I don’t personally have a lot of history with them myself. I remember my grandmother making them occasionally, and my mom making them occasionally, and me making them occasionally, but that’s it. So this is not an old family recipe, it’s just a great way to serve apples. It’s simple, gluten-free, easy to make for two or twelve, and… you’ve gotta admit it… kind of pretty.

But! the plate it’s on… now, that’s got history. It’s an Antique. Please repeat that phrase reverently with me. It’s an Antique! Depression-era Milk Glass, to be precise, for those of you who care as I do for old, precious dishes. My family used to own a gift shop in the village of St. Jacobs and one thing we sold was antiques. It was so much fun going with Mom and Dad to auctions to buy them and research the value of them. I am of the firm opinion that old, precious dishes are to be used and enjoyed, so it seemed right and proper that this traditional dessert should be showcased on a heritage plate.

For this recipe, I used a similar syrup as the Maple Mustard Chicken in my last post. By the way, thanks to those of you who tried that recipe and messaged to say how well you like it! That is music to a food blogger’s ears, let me tell you. I cored an Ida Red apple, stuffed it with pecans and Brie cheese and basted it with the syrup. If you prefer sweeter apples, use a Gala or something similar that holds its shape well. I always peel them halfway down, both for aesthetics and because the peel gets a little tougher from baking.

Maple and Brie Baked Apples (3)
Check out that deliciously oozing centre!

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own. 

Ida Reds are a favourite of many bakeries for strudels, cakes, and muffins. They are a deep red colour with a semi-tart flavour and resist browning after being cut.  

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

Ingredients

  • 2 large, firm apples (sweet or tart, your choice!)Maple and Brie Baked Apples
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Amber)
  • about 8 pecan halves
  • 4 Brie cheese slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Core the apple with a thin knife (a filet knife works well) or an apple corer. Make the hole large enough to stuff with 2 slices of Brie cheese. Peel the top half of the apple. Heat the butter and maple syrup together just until it begins to boil. Place the apples in a baking pan and stick 3 pecan halves down the hole to the bottom of the apple. These help to keep the Brie inside the apple. Stuff tightly with the Brie slices, top with another pecan half, then scoop the boiling syrup over the apples. Baste the apple with the syrup from the baking dish a couple of times while baking. Bake the apples for at least an hour, or until the skin begins to split and the apple is soft to your fork, but still holding together. Place the apples on your prettiest plates and scoop the syrup from the pan over top. Serve with ice cream, if you wish.   

*Because I wanted to experience the flavours of the Brie and the maple syrup, I opted not to add cinnamon. I’m sure it would be good with cinnamon, though, so go ahead and add it if you like!

Maple Mustard Chicken

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Maple Mustard Chicken

Can you believe that we are nearing the one year anniversary mark for my blog? Yeah, me neither. I kicked it off with a post about a Waterloo regional specialty, Egg Cheese, which is nearly always eaten with maple syrup, and boy, oh boy, did that stir up the yeas and the nays! I got a 2 litre carton of buttermilk last week in preparation for making it again soon. Our grocery store had the big jugs on sale last week. It’s like they know that it’s Egg Cheese season!

There is no denying that March is the Month of Maple in Ontario. Everywhere you look, there is maple this and maple that. I happen to like maple syrup too and we are rather closely connected to a certain young maple syrup producer, so in the interest of self-preservation and for the good of mankind, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and contribute my two cents.

I have fond memories of traipsing through our bush behind our place, collecting sap after school. At least they’re fond memories now. We didn’t have a farm, but we did live in the country and Mom and Dad wanted us to know where our food came from. Dad built a cute little sugar shanty at the back of our lawn, and many were the evenings we would spend out there in that warm steamy darkness, the kerosene lamp softly hissing above us. Drinking freshly gathered sap, watching it boil and skimming off the foam, opening the furnace door to add more logs to the fire, listening to Dad telling stories about his childhood: what a sticky feast for the senses. And sometimes… oh bliss, oh joy… sometimes, we took a jar of it in to Mom and she would pour it into a kettle on the stove and carefully boil it down further to the taffy stage. When it was done, she poured it into well-buttered enamel pie plates and let it cool. We waited impatiently until it had hardened enough that we could swirl it on our forks like sticky spaghetti and take that first marvelous bite. We would pop popcorn and wash apples to eat with it, because the best snack combination ever is popcorn, taffy, and apples!

I thought it was time to feature a meat entree again, so I cobbled together a simple, yet highly flavoured glaze for chicken. It would be delicious on pork chops as well, or perhaps on your Easter ham. I used bone-in chicken breasts that I had in my freezer, so they took a little longer to bake than boneless ones would have, but wow, were they tender! I served them with mashed potatoes, brown butter rutabaga, and a simple salad on my nice plates because I was going to be taking a picture of them. And we saw and tasted that it was good.

Maple Mustard Chicken (2)

Treat your special someone to a delectable dinner of Maple Mustard Chicken, mashed potatoes, rutabaga with brown butter, and a salad.

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own.
Depending on the amount of natural sugar in the sap, it takes from thirty-eight to forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. It is boiled in evaporator pans until it condenses and becomes thick and golden. There are four grades of syrup in Ontario: Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark, which is mostly sold directly to bakeries. We sell the first three grades at Martin’s. It has been interesting to watch the transition from the earlier desired grade being a lighter syrup to now, where most people desire the Amber, or even the Dark. I guess people enjoy more robust foods than they used to!
I used a shallot in this recipe. Shallots look like mini oval red onions, and the taste is somewhere between a onion and a garlic. It is adds wonderful depth of flavour to roast beef and other meat dishes, as well as to roasted vegetables.

Maple Mustard Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butterMaple Mustard Chicken
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I like Amber for cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons desired mustard (I used grainy)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onions
  • 4 large or 6 medium boneless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil together the first six ingredients until it starts to thicken slightly; about 5 minutes. Lay the chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Brush half of the sauce over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and baste chicken with juices from the pan. Coat chicken with remaining sauce and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife, and the glaze is getting all carmelly and golden. Serve and savour every bite.

Note: Ovens vary greatly, so if it doesn’t seem to be browning nicely for you, turn the broiler on for a wee bit, but watch it carefully! I used my convection setting, and I think the fan carmelizes better than a conventional oven does.

Early Days and Canned Applesauce

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Canned Applesauce with Cinnamon

With Family Day upon us, I asked Steve’s oldest sister Laurel what she remembers doing together as a family in those very early days when Martin’s Apples was just a fledgling business. This is what she remembers, “I have memories of picking apples every day in the fall, after school (it seemed like every day, at least!). I remember it was quite amazing when we made that old shed into a cooler and we had a cold place to store our apples. Before that, I remember storing apples (russet; Dad’s favourite back then) in our basement under the old kitchen/study, because it was cooler there. I also have memories of polishing apples in the driving shed before we went to market the next day. One Friday evening in particular stands out in my memory. It was a cozy fall evening and we were all out there together sorting and individually shining each apple for a very large order* that was being picked up. Janet (another sister) and I ate an incredible amount of apples that night.” *This order was for about 20 bushels of apples, which would be the equivalent of around 2200 apples! 

It’s hard to imagine polishing each apple by hand, but there you have it! The Martin’s took pleasure in having an attractive product from the very beginning. I have a personal attachment to that cement pad that housed that first apple cooler, because some years later it became the foundation for our mobile home; our first abode when we married. It was tucked in the orchard, partway down the “bush lane”. It was a very romantic location for a young couple’s first home, I thought. I have many good memories of living in our orchard bower. 

The Martin family has also reminisced about picking up the Melba apples that had fallen from the tree in the back yard before they could mow the lawn. These apples were then turned into applesauce for their large family. Incidentally, that old Melba tree is still standing and is the only apple tree left from those days. It was in the back yard before the orchard was planted. In an earlier post, I mentioned that creamed potatoes and sausage were two of the quintessential foods of our Mennonite culture. There is another one that should be added to that list, and that is applesauce. There are many families that eat it two, or even three times a day. It is on their table morning, noon, and night, usually as dessert. 

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The apples of my eye!

Traditionally, applesauce is made by washing (don’t peel) apples, cutting them in quarters, and cooking them in a bit of water. Then the hot apples are put through a strainer, and sugar or honey is added. The sauce is funneled into jars, covered and steamed for 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to make a chunky sauce that I don’t preserve, in which I peel the apples, core and cut them, and cook them in about an inch or so of water until soft. I mash them with a potato “stomper” as we used to call it, add desired amount of sugar (or not), and let it cool. You could also use an immersion blender, or a pastry cutter. Be aware that if you choose not to add sugar to your canned sauce, your applesauce will turn brown in the jars after it’s been sitting for awhile, since sugar is a preservative. 

A lot of people use the first apples to make applesauce. You can do that if you wish, but if you wait until the apples are riper, the sauce will be much sweeter and full of flavour naturally. Most apples can be turned into sauce. I think a blend of apples makes the best sauce, just as it does in fresh cider. 

There are several types of strainers; the old-fashioned cone ricer that my mom used, the basket-style that is pictured here, and a high-falutin’ Victorio strainer. Take your pick! 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own. 

Canned Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bushel of apples (Macs, Empire, Cortland, Crispin, Jonagold are all good)
  • sugar, honey or other sweetener to taste if desired 
  • water
  • canning supplies*

Directions

Put about two inches of water into a very large kettle. Wash and quarter the apples, placing them in the kettle until the kettle is about 2/3 full. Cover  the remaining apple quarters with water in a large bowl until kettle is free again. Cook the apples until soft and puffy, starting them at a boil, then turning them down to a low boil. Stir to keep from scorching on the bottom of the kettle, especially at the beginning. Meanwhile heat empty clean quart jars in the oven on 250° for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. Put snaplids into a little pot, cover with water, and boil for 5 minutes to soften the rubber. Turn down to simmer. Prepare another kettle or crock with the strainer over it, and ladle the hot apples into the strainer in batches. Rotate through strainer until the pulp is dry. Scrape out the junk and repeat process until all the apples are used. Add desired amount of sweetener to the sauce (I usually add 1 – 2 cups per kettle); stir and taste. Funnel the sauce into the sterilized jars, filling to middle of the neck (about 1/2″ from the top), then wipe the rim of the jar, carefully fit the snaplid on the top, and screw on the ring just until tight. Fill a canner half full of warm water, set jars in the water, and top up the water if needed. It should come to the base of  the jars’ necks. Cover the canner and turn the burner to high. Once the water is boiling, turn heat to medium-low, and continue steaming for 20 minutes. When timer goes off, turn off burner, set lid ajar, and let the jars sit in the water for about 10 minutes to settle. This keeps them from spitting juice after they are removed. Remove carefully and set on a towel to cool. Listen for the pings and pops as the lids seal; such a sweet sound of success! Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove rings, being careful not to disturb the seals, wash up and store in a cool place until ready to eat. Enjoy plain with pork chops or with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a slice of cheese or chocolate cake! 

*Most hardware stores have canning supplies. The basics are a canning kettle with a rack, jar lifters, jars, snaplids, rings, and a funnel. There are kits that include a magnetized lid lifter that I have found useful.

One half bushel of apples yields approximately 11 litres or quarts of sauce

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

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Blueberry Muffin from Muffin Mania
The winning team

A few months ago, I wrote about a formative cookbook in my earlier cooking days; the Company’s Coming series. There’s another book that has stayed in my collection and is still hauled out and used frequently. It’s a slim little book called Muffin Mania that was published in 1982 by a pair of Canadian sisters, Cathy Prange and Joan Pauli. It was an instant success and apparently sold over 500,000 copies worldwide. It is dedicated to their mother whose “love of baking inspired us to share this collection with muffin lovers everywhere”. That tradition of sharing is now carried on by a granddaughter who has created a blog to feature the recipes her grandmother produced. That’s the sort of thing that warms the cockles of my heart, folks! (Translation: that’s the old-fashioned version of “warm fuzzies”.)

I have tried many, actually most of the 63 recipes in the book, but this blueberry muffin recipe is one that I have baked times without number. I always add the lemon zest that it suggests doing in a footnote, and then dip the tops into melted butter and white sugar. This turns a basic muffin into something very special.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

I can make these all year using frozen blueberries that I put into my freezer last summer. Here’s a tip I learned many years ago: put a bit of the required flour into a flat container with sides (a cake pan or wok work well), add the frozen blueberries and gently shake them from side to side until they are all covered with flour. This keeps them from bleeding unattractive purple juice into your batter. Then you gently fold them into the batter at the very end just until mixed.

Tip #2: using an ice cream scoop with a squeezable handle creates uniformly round muffins with minimal mess. 

See? Not much bleeding happening there. Now take a look at the finished product. Isn’t that beautiful? I think so.

Lemon Blueberry Muffin

Cultivated blueberries or wild ones? Essentially it boils down to what you are used to eating. Wild blueberry lovers claim they have more flavour, cultivated blueberry lovers like the plumpness and juice in the domestic ones. I’ve had both, and I’ve picked both. Domestic ones grow on high bushes that you stand upright to pick; wild ones are on low crawling shrubs that require one to creep around over northern rocks on one’s knees while keeping an eye out for bears. I would certainly rather pick the domestic ones and absolutely understand the high price of the wild ones. They are both fantastic when they are fresh.

Blueberries are one of the easiest things in the world to freeze; empty the container of fresh blueberries onto a paper or cloth towel, pick out the little stems and leaves, and put them in zipper bags to freeze. I usually freeze them in two-cup quantities. I know some people wash them first, but that is a giant pain, because they have to be perfectly dry before going into the freezer. I figure any lingering impurities won’t withstand the deep freeze. 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views and stories are my own. 

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour (set aside 2 tablespoons for coating blueberries)Lemon Blueberry Muffin
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice)*
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • grated zest of half of a lemon
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°. Set aside the 2 tablespoons of flour in a baking pan or wok. Stir together the remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the frozen blueberries to the 2 tablespoons flour and shake them gently from side to side until completely coated. Whisk together the egg, melted butter, buttermilk and lemon zest, and gently fold into the flour mixture. Do not beat. When it is almost incorporated, add the blueberries and finish folding everything together. Scoop into paper-lined muffin cups. An ice cream scoop works really well for this.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes. While they’re cooling, prepare the melted butter and sugar for the topping. You will need to melt about 1/3 cup of butter and have 1/2 cup of sugar ready in a bowl. Dip the tops first into the butter, then into the sugar and place on a rack to finish cooling.

*The original recipe calls for plain milk, but I have found that buttermilk produces a much fluffier muffin. To accommodate that switch, I swapped part of the original baking powder amount for baking soda.

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

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What is more stereotypical for Valentine’s Day than chocolate and dates? Maybe not the kind of dates I’m featuring here, but I’m all for taking advantage of themes when they jump in front of me like that. I decided to combine Valentine’s day and Family Day to continue my muffin theme. 

Applesauce Date Bran Muffin with Chocolate Chips

Our particular family celebrates Family Day at least a dozen times a year. No stat holiday needed here! One wintry Saturday, some of our tribe came home to pickle beets and can applesauce. That’s one of the perks of marrying a produce farmer, see? While everyone else in the neighbourhood is frantically trying to get all their preserving done in August and September, we sit back and fold our hands and rest. Yeah, right. I’m kidding, okay? Have you ever been around an apple orchard in September and October? It’s nuts. Positively nuts. We know we will have good sauce apples later in the winter, so why add that to our autumn stress load? Anyway, in our hurry to get the first batch of apples cooked, we, um, scorched them a bit. That kettle had a thinner bottom; we were eager to get the sauce going after the beets were done and turned the burner too high, and… it burned. Yeah, I’m going to come right out and say the bad “B” word. Now what? Should we throw it away? Of course not. We are Mennonites; our frugality is next to cleanliness, which is next to Godliness, so we are duty-bound to save it. We added a bit more unburnt sauce to the burnt stuff, and my son-in-law wrote BB (Burnt Batch) on the lids, and we canned that stuff. It wasn’t a strong burnt taste, just a hint of it, especially if you knew it was there. 

We agreed that the best use of the burnt sauce would be in the applesauce muffins that Steve’s mom would make for the Harvest Celebration Festival that we used to host at the farm in the Fall. She would make dozens of them in the mini muffin size for our food tent, and the kids would eagerly reach for them. The original recipe uses only applesauce and chocolate chips, but somewhere along the way, Mom added a cup of natural bran to it, which was a good move, I thought. This particular day I was hankering after date bran muffins and thought “Why not add dates as well, and cut back on the sugar?”. I divided my batter in half, snipped dates into one bowl and chocolate chips into the other one. I may have thrown a handful of chocolate chips into the date half for good measure. Bingo. That should please everybody. Then I topped them both with a sprinkle of brown sugar and either a date or chocolate chips, with a nod to both Valentine’s Day and Family Day. 

It’s a large batch, so after I had filled two muffin tins and still had about two muffinsworth of batter left, I greased a mini loaf pan and poured it in there. Aw, how cute that little loaf was. The finished product reminded me of a date cake mom used to make that had a yummy brown sugar and chocolate chip topping. Does anyone else remember that one? I think some people used to make a similar one with applesauce.  

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

We used Cortland apples for our sauce this time; often we use a mixture of red apples like McIntosh, Empire, Cortland, Ida Red and Spartan. Cortland is an all-round good baking, eating, and sauce apple. It’s a great eating apple while it’s crunchy, and superb for sauce once it softens. Its characteristics include a red/green streaky skin and a very white interior. 

Note: I am excited to link this recipe to one that tells you how to make the simple, unassuming applesauce. It will be released on Monday in honour of Family Day and will include a special memory from a Martin Family member about the early days of growing and selling apples. Watch for it!

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own. 

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Ingredients

Applesauce Bran Muffins

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup brown or white sugar (more or less)
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 2 cups burnt applesauce
  • 1 cup natural bran
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups coarsely snipped dates, chocolate chips, or any combination of the two

Directions

Whisk eggs lightly in a large mixing bowl; add brown sugar and oil. Add applesauce and bran and whisk again, then add the dry ingredients that have been stirred together in a measuring pitcher. Whisk gently until smooth. Stir in desired additions. If using half dates and half chocolate chips, divide the batter in two. Fill greased muffin liners or cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle with additional brown sugar, and a few chocolate chips or a date half. Bake at 375° F for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes a generous 2 dozen.