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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.

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

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After trekking to the foothills of the Great Pyrenees Mountains with my last soup recipe, I thought we’d stay close to home for this one. A simple form of it originates in my childhood and has great memories attached.

Spud, Leek and Sausage Soup

If you were to ask anybody in this area what the quintessential Waterloo County Mennonite foods are, you would hear a resounding “Schnippelde Grumbarra und Vascht” (sliced (and creamed) potatoes and sausage). The vascht may be served in various forms; farmer’s sausage, summer sausage or bag sausage. The Schnippelde Grumbarra may be sliced or shredded, with fried onions or without, but always, always imbued with heavy cream. On cold winter mornings, my mom would fry up a few onions, then add sliced potatoes and hot water, add some salt and cook them until they were tender. Meanwhile, she brought some Schneider’s Red Hots (wieners, for those who aren’t famiiar with this iconic tube steak) out of the freezer and heated them in boiling water. When the potatoes were soft, she added cream until the mixture had the consistency of a cream soup, and ladled it into our thermoses. She stuck the wiener into the middle of the potatoes and off we trotted to school, anticipating our homemade hot lunch. It was brilliant; the potatoes took on the distinctive taste of the wiener and we thought it was delicious. At noon the only question was whether to eat the wiener whole, or chop it with our spoons. Such a weighty decision for youngsters! 

I have made this chowder many times over the years, remembering my childhood lunch delight with nostalgia. I would take a big crockpot of it to market on cold winter days and plug it into the back of our truck to heat for the morning. There was nothing that quite took the chill away for a little while at least, like a cup of hot soup and coffee. I have made it with ham, bacon, and chicken, but my all-time favourite meat addition is sausage. I always have home-canned sausage on hand, so it’s also very convenient. Plus, it uses lots of winter vegetables, including the lesser-known leeks. You can use less of one vegetable and more of another with no problem, as long as you have at least nine cups of chopped vegetables in total.

Winter Vegetables for Spud, Leek and Sausage Soup
It’s such a satisfying feeling when I can use a ton of homegrown vegetables and meat like this!

Leeks are a member of the onion family and look like a green onion on steroids. They have a mild sweet onion/leek flavour and the pale green rings add pretty colour to whatever dish they’re in. You want to wash them thoroughly, since they are grown under the soil like onions or carrots. Most often they are grown in raised beds, so that the plant can grow downwards further, thus producing a longer white stem. I use the white and pale green part, slicing until I start seeing dirt between the rings.

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

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

Ingredients

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 leeks, sliced into rings 1/4″ thick (about 3 cups)
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups washed and diced potatoes (do not peel)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil flakes, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 – 3 cups sliced farmers sausage (or you may use ground fried pork sausage)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour or potato starch (*GF) if you wish to thicken the soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Melt the butter, then put all the vegetables in the kettle. Saute for about five minutes. Add the chicken broth and basil. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer on low boil until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. If you wish to brown your sausage slices, this is a good time to do that. It takes more time, but adds flavour. Add the sausage, then the milk. If you plan to thicken the soup, whisk the flour/potato starch into the sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk, and add to the soup once it’s hot, stirring gently. Taste and add desired amount of salt and pepper. Heat and stir gently until thickened. Do not boil it hard at this point or it will separate.

*GF denotes gluten-free

Tuscan Chicken, Bean, and Squash Soup

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Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Squash Soup

With this record cold snap upon us and holiday leftovers lurking in our fridges and freezers, it feels like January is a good month to feature soups. Not that I believe soups should only be left for those times when you clean out the fridge, although that is a great incentive. I am a great proponent of soups being made with intent.

In keeping with that conviction, when I roasted a chicken for our Christmas dinner with both of our parents, I slung the carcass back into the roaster after removing most of the meat, filled the roaster half full of hot water, added a few bouillon gel caps, salt and pepper, and roasted it again for another 2 hours. That makes a mighty tasty stock, let me tell you. I had added onions and some vegetables to the chicken earlier, so I figured I didn’t need to add more for the stock. My stock turned out a deep rich colour and flavour, and I stuck it in the freezer in anticipation of the Moment of Soup.

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Homemade chicken stock. Chill to remove the fat layer easily.

This week, with the Great Freeze upon us, I knew it was going to happen. The intense colour and rich flavour of the chicken stock reminded me of a dish I had in the tiny country of Andorra. Wee Andorra is tucked between France and Spain, at the foothills of the Pyrenees, and we had booked a chalet in the mountain. This was on a European trip with my sister and her husband for both of our 25th anniversaries. We had so much fun and made so many memories on that trip!

We were climbing and winding our way up to the chalet, faithfully following Ginny Penelope Sauder (What? Don’t you name your GPS?). All of a sudden, she said we had arrived at our destination. We stopped and looked around. There was a rundown little shack tucked in the ditch beside the road, but it certainly didn’t look like the kind of place I want to live in When I Arrive. We deliberated, consulted a map, consulted each other, consulted our Heavenly Father, drove this way and that, and laughed as another carload of obvious tourists drove up, stopped at the very same spot, got out and looked in bemusement at the shack, then piled back into the vehicle and kept on driving. We decide we would continue upwards and sure enough, there was our chalet at the very top, beyond the sphere of GPS Land! This was at the end of April, and there was quite a bit of snow up there, but the cherry trees were blooming. I’ve always wondered if they had a cherry crop that year. But I digress. The hosts were warmly welcoming, there was an inviting fire blazing in the hearth with beaten tin panels surrounding it, and the food was superb! I had a delicious chicken stew in which the meat perched atop a pile of vegetables in a pool of the most delicious broth. It must have been good; how often do you remember a broth five years later? I did, and when I saw a recipe for a Tuscan Chicken Soup, I knew that was a perfect way to showcase it.

As usual, I added and changed this and that, and this is what came out of my pot. I was pretty pleased with it. We have dried beans at our store and I actually soaked them and used them for the first time ever! We Canadians don’t take our beans as seriously as our US neighbours do, generally speaking, although they are gradually making inroads into our fair country. And I still had a butternut squash here, so I chopped it into the soup as well. It added that special extra touch to the soup, I thought. I tossed a handful or three of fresh spinach into the pot at the very end, just to pretty it up and add more vitamins.

 

 

We have a great assortment of locally grown winter and greenhouse vegetables at Martins, as well as dried beans. My husband Steve does a great job of stocking our shelves with high quality produce to supplement our apples, pears and cider. 

I didn’t like beans as a child and would always pick them out and gift my sister with them. I have learned to like eating them in moderation and am intrigued by the many varieties. These are called Jacob’s Cattle after the biblical account where Jacob asked his conniving father-in-law for all the black, striped and spotted sheep, goats and cattle as his wages after working fourteen years for his bride Rachel. They are pretty and I liked the texture of them.

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

Tuscan Chicken, Bean, and Squash Soup

Ingredients

Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Squash Soup

  • 3 – 4 cups chicken broth or stock (your own or purchased)
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped or sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, unpeeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of dry beans, soaked for 2 hours in boiling water, or 2 cups of canned beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon regular or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • 4 Roma or 2 medium beefsteak-type tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cups chopped roasted chicken
  • 1 – 2 cups of washed fresh spinach leaves

Directions

In a large kettle, simmer broth, water, celery, carrots, onions, potatoes garlic, beans and all the seasonings. Add the squash cubes and tomatoes after about half an hour. Simmer at a low boil until the vegetables are soft but not mushy. Add chicken and spinach and heat for about 10 minutes more. Test for salt. As with most soups, it is even better the next day. Chase that chill away!

 

 

Candy Apple Cheesecake

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What’s your favourite dessert to order at a restaurant? Cheesecake? Crème Brûlée? What if I told you that I have a dessert recipe that contains the best elements of both of those? The crackling burnt sugar of the crème brûlée on top of the creamy smoothness of a vanilla cheesecake, with a bite of delicate apple surprising you every now and then. Could anything be more alluring than that?

Candy Apple Cheesecake
Candy Apple Cheesecake

This summer my family had our second annual backyard campout at my sister’s place. It can only be called a campout because we eat and play outside two days in a row and have a campfire in the evenings. We, um, all go home to our beds at night. Don’t laugh; someday you will understand. Maybe. Anyway, we were planning the food and I asked my sisterchicks what dessert we should have on Sunday noon with our grilled hamburgers. Without missing a beat, one of them replied, “Crème Brûlée”. Of course! Who doesn’t have Crème Brûlée with hamburgers at their campout? It seemed totally normal to us and furthermore, it was providential, because I had a lot of egg yolks in my fridge left over from a Pavlova I had made earlier. And so it was, and the Crème Brûlée slid deliciously down our gullets that hot sunny September noon in my sister’s back yard.

I made this delightful cheesecake for my daughter-in-law’s birthday party on Sunday. It was a hit, even though the crust was a little soggy and the cheesecake had flattened due to water leaking through the required foil wrap. I eliminated the water bath the second time I made it and it seemed okay without it, so you don’t have to worry about a waterlogged cheesecake. It is unapologetically decadent for those occasions when you want an unapologetically decadent dessert. This particular cheesecake has a lighter, less cakey texture than most due to the custardy filling method. I used gluten-free gingersnaps for the crust and that added the perfect amount of spice. Add the crackling sugar topping… I’m telling you; this baby is gooood! Good enough for Christmas, in fact.

Candy Apple Cheesecake

Candy Apple Cheesecake

For this dish I chose to use Crispin (also known as Mutsu) apples, because they hold their shape nicely when cooked. Plus the flavour and crunch of them is phenomenal right now. I love to eat them fresh too. The Crispin is a large, firm, yellowish-green apple. 

Note: Various people have asked me which culinary torch I would recommend. I have the Orblue Culinary Torch and have been extremely pleased with it. I can’t wait to try it on a meringue. 

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Crispin (Mutsu) Apple

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

Candy Apple Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:

Candy Apple Cheesecake
Candy Apple Cheesecake
  • 1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs (approximately 255 gr) (you can use gluten-free cookies if you wish)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Cheesecake:

  • 3 (8 ounce or 250 gr) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream (do not whip)
  • 10 large egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites for another use)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced firm apples (I used Crispin)
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar (for the brulée)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Get out a 9-inch springform pan. With a rolling pin or food processor crush the gingersnaps into fine crumbs. Melt butter in a medium bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs and sugar and stir together with a fork. Press firmly into ungreased pan. Set springform pan on a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325° F. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese for 4 minutes, making sure to scrape sides and beaters to incorporate any lumps. Add 1 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat for another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the cream on medium low heat until it is hot, but not boiling.

Beat the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl until they are thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. While beating the yolks, pour cream slowly into the bowl, beating all the while, so that the yolks don’t curdle.

Beat the cream cheese mixture on low while adding the yolk/cream mixture slowly to it. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to eliminate any lumps. The batter is pretty thin. Peel and chop apples and fold them gently into the batter by hand. Pour the batter over the cooled crust, smoothing top.

Bake for 90-95 minutes. It is done when it is turning golden and is mostly set in the middle, yet jiggles slightly when you shake it gently. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to cool down. Let the cheesecake cool gradually for 1 hour in the oven. Remove cheesecake and finish thoroughly cooling on a rack before covering and refrigerating it for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, gently loosen sides of pan and transfer cheesecake carefully to serving plate. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of cheesecake. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar or you can try putting it 6″ under the broiler for a few minutes, but watch very carefully! It burns easily. If you use the broiler method, don’t put it on the serving plate until the caramelizing is done. I like the control I have with my torch. It will take several minutes to do the entire surface. The sugar is done when it starts to liquify and turns a dark golden colour. Let it sit for a few minutes to harden. Cut with a knife dipped in hot water and cleaned between every slice. Garnish with thin apple wedges, broken gingersnap cookies, pomegranate seeds, frosted cranberries, or whatever you wish!

Note: I did try the waterbath cheesecake method again, and I will confess that the end result is a creamier cheesecake. If you choose to try it, here’s how. Lay three pieces of heavy-duty foil on your counter. They should be about 5″ larger than your springform pan on all sides. Set your pan in the middle of the foil, then carefully fold up the foil around the sides of the pan. Begin curling the top edges of the foil together, and keep curling until you can curl them around the very top rim of the pan. Tuck any stray edges up under the curl. You don’t want to have it hanging into the cheesecake. Bake the crust normally without the water bath. Heat water in a teakettle. When the crust is done, set it into a large pan or roaster with deep sides that is big enough to hold your pan. Pour the filling on top of the crust. Set the pan in the oven and carefully pour the hot water around the sides of the pan. Bake, cool in oven, then take the pan from the water and remove the foil for the last cooling outside of the oven. There you go!

Festive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping

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My husband grew up farming hogs before his family delved into the world of apples, so it is probably no coincidence that his favourite meat is pork. Nor is it surprising that he especially loves pork and apples together. They are a natural team – everyone knows that, even those of us who didn’t grow up raising pigs and apples in our formative years.

Many years ago, I discovered this recipe for an Apple Crusted Pork Loin.  I have made it many times when I want an entree that has significant Wow Factor. It is stunning, flavourful and out of the ordinary, without an excessive amount of care. In fact, I made it for TV celebrity chef Lynn Cawford when she joined us for an evening of “Mennonite food”. True story. I told her this is a dressed-up version of the typical sausage or ham dinner that Mennonites love to serve and eat.

Apple Crusted Pork Loin
Apple Crusted Pork Loin The original recipe without cranberries – it’s still pretty, though.

Most recently, I made it for a local youth Christmas banquet that we were catering. Before you ask, the answer is “No.” We don’t have a catering business; it is simply a hobby that we exercise occasionally for people that we really love. For this particular event, I decided to add chopped fresh cranberries and a few more spices than the original recipe has. It had a wonderful depth of flavour and the cranberries sparkled like jewels nestling in the chopped apple topping. So if you’re still dithering about which meat to serve at your Christmas dinner, look no further!

Ask your butcher for a 4-5 lb pork loin roast. This is not those little pork tenderloins, it is a round tied roast about 4 inches in diameter. Pork loin is actually a lean meat; do not overcook it or be afraid to eat it!

 

I have simplified the original recipe somewhat because of the amount of times I roasted larger quantities. Be sure to snip and remove the strings BEFORE topping with the apples. Just trust me on this one; you will regret it later if you don’t.

Festive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping
Updated recipe with little red bits of cranberries peeking through! Served on kale and garnished with Martin’s Apple Chips and my own pickled crabapples.

For this dish I chose to use Crispin (also known as Mutsu) apples, because they hold their shape nicely when cooked. Plus the flavour and crunch of them is phenomenal right now. I love to eat them fresh too. The Crispin is a large, firm, yellowish-green apple. 

We still have frozen Ontario cranberries from the bogs of Bala, Ontario!

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Crispin (Mutsu) Apple

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

 

Festive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons flourFestive Pork Loin with Apple Cranberry Topping
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (yes! get it if you don’t own it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic pepper seasoning
  • 1 boneless rolled and tied pork loin (4-5 lbs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Apple Cranberry Topping:

  • 1 cup finely chopped unpeeled tart firm apple (Crispin, Empire, Spy)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves or allspice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed or snipped chili flakes (optional)

Directions

Important: Do Not Cover This Roast Or Any Other Loin Cuts At Any Point During Cooking. You will end up with a rubbery product that will disappoint you.

Set pork loin on a shallow foil-lined baking pan. In a small bowl, combine the flour with the seasonings. Rub them over the roast on all sides and the ends. Drizzle with oil and bake uncovered at 500° F for about 10 minutes. Lower heat to 325° F and bake uncovered for 1 1/4 hour longer.

Meanwhile, combine the topping ingredients. Remove roast from the oven; snip strings and carefully pull them out of the meat. Spread topping over the top of the roast and bake uncovered for another hour or until meat thermometer reads 160° F. You don’t want to overcook it or the meat will be dry. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing into 1/4″ slices. An electric knife works well for this. Arrange on a bed of kale and garnish with apple wedges, grape tomatoes, pickled crabapples or fresh/frozen cranberries. Serve and bask in the oohs of delight.

Double Apple Scones

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Double Apple Scones
Double Apple Scone turned into Triple Apple Scones!

Scones. How my world has been brightened by the advent of these crusty, crumbly versatile treats. There are the hearty, oatsy varieties, developed to stick to your ribs as you trek out on the cold, windy Scottish Highlands for a tryst with your ain wee bonnie laddie. There are Irish scones and Dutch scones. Then there are the delicate golden types that you eat daintily, spreading them with clotted cream and blackberry jam while crooking your pinkie as you drink your tea out of beautiful bone china teacups and pretend that you are in the presence of M’Lady England. Yes, mum. I love them all. They each have their place in my multicultural world.

For breakfast, I tend to go for the heartier kinds of scones. I want one that will hang in there until noon; one that I can break off and savour with my freshly ground and brewed coffee while watching the birds flitting about on my feeder.

When I came across this recipe, I was intrigued because it uses applesauce as the liquid ingredient instead of the usual cream, as well as fresh apple chunks. Since applesauce is part of our heritage every bit as much as my long, swinging braids were in my childhood, my eyes perked up at the notion of including it. I expected the scones to be missing their crusty exterior because of the applesauce, but they still had it. Jackpot! It stayed in my file.

Double Apple Scones
Golden brown. moist and chewy Apple Scones

Here are a few tips about scone-making that I have learned and will pass on to you. (Yeah, don’t mention it. I’m just nice that way.) As always, click or hover on the images for descriptions and captions.

1. Use well-chilled butter and grate it. This can be done by freezing it for 30 minutes, or using butter that has been kept in the fridge. This saves the step of cutting it in with a pastry blender. Handy-dandy! I made a double batch here because I like to give things like this as gifts.

2. Mix the liquid into the dry ingredients until it starts to hang together in clumps, then tip the mass out onto a heavily floured surface, and knead about 10- 15 turns, just until it forms a ball shape. Divide the ball in two and flatten each half into a 7″ by 3/4″ thick circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges and place them on a tray, leaving 1/2″ in between the scone wedges. 

3. Freeze the scones after cutting into pieces and bake them from the frozen stage. The freezing actually relaxes the gluten and causes them to puff up more. This is a huge time-saver; just pull them out of the freezer the morning you want to serve them and bake them. Oh joy, oh bliss! Fresh scones, just like that.

I used my homemade applesauce (remember? it’s part of my heritage) but we do also sell a great home-style unsweetened applesauce at Martins, made with our very own apple supply. 

For this recipe I used the ever-popular Cortland. Its red, streaky skin and pure white flesh make it great for sauces and baked goods, as well as eating out of hand. It has a wonderful old-fashioned flavour that evokes memories of apples stored under blankets in our cold cellar at home. 

How do you pronounce the word “scones”? Well, apparently you may pronounce it whichever way you choose: skahns, skones, or skoons. Take your pick. I pronounce them skahns, because that’s how I mostly heard it pronounced in England.

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

Double Apple Scones

Ingredients

Double Apple Scones
Double Apple Scone turned into Triple Apple Scones!
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour ( you can substitute half whole wheat, if you like)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice (1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 teaspoon cloves)

 

  • 1/2 cup very cold or frozen butter, grated
  • 1 cup fresh apple, washed, unpeeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks (I used Cortland)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional, but we sure like the addition!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • cream or milk for brushing on top
  • 1/4 cup coarse or fine sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions

Whisk together the dry ingredients, then grate the frozen/chilled butter and stir it in with a fork. Add the chopped apples and cranberries and lightly stir them in. Whisk the eggs, add the applesauce and vanilla and whisk again. Stir the liquid mixture into the bowl until the mixture begins to clump together. Turn it out onto a heavily floured surface and knead lightly for 10-15 turns.

Divide the mixture into two balls, flatten each into a 7″ circle, about 3/4′ thick, then cut each circle into 6 wedges with a knife dipped into flour or run under cold water.  Try to have the edges the same height as the middle; not thinner. Brush the tops with milk or cream, then sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar. Place on a tray covered with parchment, leaving at least 1/2″ between each scone, and freeze for at least 30 minutes (overnight works great).

Before baking, preheat oven to 425° F. Once it’s hot, bake the scones without thawing them for 18 – 22 minutes. Let them cool on the tray for five minutes before serving. Eat them plain, or spread with butter or honey. Or… slather them with a dab of apple butter like we do and turn them into Triple Apple Scones! Delight in every bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

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One of the first sets of cookbooks I began collecting as a young girl was the Company’s Coming set, produced by Jean Paré. She had great, easy-to-follow recipes, beautiful pictures, and easy conversation throughout. A lot of my first masterpieces date back to this collection, and certainly my love of trying new recipes grew through it.

This is my collection. I won’t show you all the cookbooks below and above it, or in my drawers. Does anyone else read cookbooks like novels, from cover to cover?

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My Jean Paré collection, well-loved and well-worn.

One of my first books within the set was Soups and Sandwiches and I think my favourite recipe in the book was, and still is the Cauliflower Cheese Soup. It slides so easily down the gullet, it’s soothing, yet has a wonderfully full flavour. The toasted bread cubes on top add a delightful contrasting crunch. One day last week, one of my sisters was asking how to make it, and as mom and I were telling her how, our own hunger for it grew as well. I knew we still had some lovely heads of cauliflower at Martin’s, so I went home and quickly cobbled the soup together. The cauliflower is done now, but you can use frozen as well, and we still have tasty Bright’s cheese and Eby Manor milk, as well as the root vegetables, pears and apples. Remember this soup recipe next year when it’s cauliflower season and come on in to Martin’s!

Mom got her last little box of soup out of the freezer, and my sister made it too. So all three of us enjoyed it that night. As my husband was eating it, he commented three times (I was counting) on how good it was. Three things help to make this soup exceptional. A. The cauliflower is cooked in the chicken broth = Hello, flavour! B. You need to use a good quality medium or even sharp cheddar. More equals less with cheese; the sharper the flavour, the less quantity you need. C. The bread cubes on top. They lift this soup waaay beyond the ordinary. If you have homemade chicken stock, it hits the soup right out of the ballpark into the neighbour’s lawn. I didn’t have any this time, but it was still really good.

Cauliflower is in the cabbage family. It is generally started inside from seed, then the seedlings are transplanted outside after the danger of frost is over. After the heads begin forming, the plant leaves are tied around the head to promote “blanching” or whitening of the heads. To keep cauliflower white while cooking, do not add salt until it is done. 

Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Ingredients

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  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, about 6 cups chopped (frozen cauliflower can also be used successfully)
  • 3 cups of chicken broth or stock (check ingredients for GF)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1 – 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup flour (use 1/4 cup corn starch or potato flour to make this gluten-free)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups milk 
  • 1 1/2 cups grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese

 

  • 3 cups of stale bread, cut into 1/2″ cubes or coarsely grated (omit or use gluten-free bread to adapt to GF)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Cook cauliflower in chicken broth until tender. Do not drain. Cool a bit, then run through blender or use immersion blender in the pot to your desired smoothness. We like a few chunks in ours. I love my immersion blender for things like this. 

Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and garlic and sauté until clear and fragrant. Mix in flour, salt and pepper. Whisk in milk by degrees, and stir until smooth. Heat on medium heat until it begins to boil, stirring frequently. You can be browning the bread cubes in butter either in a 350° F oven or in a skillet while this is thickening.

Turn heat to low. Add cauliflower, stir, then add cheese and stir again. Heat just until hot but not boiling. Ladle into bowls and top with a little sprinkle of cheese, fresh chopped parsley, and the buttered toasted bread cubes. Be comforted and well.