Make Your Own Fall Fun + Apple Muffins

“It’s no fair!”

We get a lot of that around here. This time, my big girl was disgruntled that the cooking class in the school enrichment program was only for bigger kids.

So we had our own cooking “class.” We invited some friends, and although we ended up with a smaller group than we hoped, we had fun with apples.

The kids peeled, cored, sliced, and grated apples. They measured sugar and spices in between playing with Legos. Then while things cooked, they became ninjas and butterflies. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen in the regular cooking class.

Up next: Pumpkins

Easy Apple Muffins

2 medium apples
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

  1. Grate the apples into a mixing bowl. Pour sugar and spices over apples and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat over to 350.
  3. Mix egg and oil into the apple/sugar/spice mixture.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix to combine.
  5. Fill greased muffin pans and bake for 20–25 minutes. (Makes about 18-20 small muffins and 12 medium size ones.) Alternately pour the batter into a greased 8×8 cake pan and bake for 50–55 minutes.)

    I love fall foods and getting back into baking after a summer of using the oven less. I love cooking with my kids even when it’s messy or looks a lot more like dress up play. I love that they wanted to share this fun with friends.

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Pride and green coriander

Waiting for green coriander—and keeping the pollinators happy

Waiting for green coriander—and keeping the pollinators happy

Tick Tick  Ticktickticktick

A cluster of tiny green seeds rolls through my fingers into a plastic bowl.

“I think everyone really loves my green coriander pesto,” my big girl says as she strips seeds from the plants I’ve pulled. “Well, except for some of the kids. Because they’re picky.”

She’s been anticipating this moment since early spring when I began finding cilantro everywhere. We noticed the plants getting bigger and sending out feather, carrot-top like leaves. We watched bees buzz the tiny white flower clusters. And we found the first tiny green seeds. Now, some of the plants have gone from full flower to full seed.

To everything its season, and this is the season for green coriander.

Two years ago, I cooked with green coriander for the first time, making the green coriander–marinated chicken from Grow, Cook, Eat. Picking green coriander (and later the dried, brown seeds) became a summer afternoon activity with the kids asking if we could pull one more plant to strip. As long as everyone had their own plant and their own bowl, squabbles were minimal.

Last summer my big girl decided we should make pesto with the green coriander. We talked about the things that usually went into pesto and she picked what she wanted to put in. Here’s what she came up with:

K’s Green Coriander Pesto

1/2 cup green coriander (roughly seeds from 3–4 plants)
1 scant cup parsley leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
Two good squeezes of lemon juices
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese

  1. Run the green coriander, parsley, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor until smooth-ish. (The green coriander will still be a little pebbly, but all the seeds should be somewhat ground up.)
  2. Add the olive oil and lemon and whiz to combine.
  3. Stir in the cheeses.
  4. Taste and add more lemon juice or oil if needed.

This has a crunchier texture than most pesto. We love it on chicken and crackers. We’re less fond of it on pasta. I imagine that the bright green, citrusy flavor would be good with fish or shrimp.


My big girl was so excited to bring green coriander pesto chicken to a pot luck last night. If rosemary is the smell of jealousy, maybe green coriander is the smell of pride.

What are you creating with summer’s bounty these days?

Blueberries for Sal and butterfly pancakes

picking blueberries at the Benson Place, which reminds me of Blueberries for Sal; dreaming of blueberry pancakes, blueberry jam, blueberry sauceI grew up with wild blueberries in our yard and the woods behind it. For years, though I’ve picked large, cultivate berries at PYO places. I love those too, but the tiny, flavorful wild berries still had a place in my heart. Now they have a place in my freezer too, thanks to the Benson Place.

I went last year for the first time, turning off Route 2 into an upward maze of paved and dirt roads. As we were led to our picking spot, I thought, “It’s Blueberries for Sal.” The hilltop landscape covered with the low scrubby bushes certainly fit, but instead of tin pails we had wooden boxes, and instead of picking by hand, we used rakes to comb through the bushes and collect the berries.

This year, the bushes were heavily laden and we quickly picked two boxes (usually about 20 lbs each, but we were ambitious and piled on a few extra pounds). After picking, you bring your boxes of berries back to the sorting shed where the sorter gets out leaves, weeds, and other debris that got scooped up in your rake. The berries roll out on a conveyor belt so you can pick out any green berries, mushy berries, or stems.

My big box yielded  9 frozen quarts of berries, a batch each of raspberry-blueberry jam, blueberry jam (favorite of my dad and my big girl), and blueberry-maple sauce (for pancakes or ice cream). I’ve got quart containers set aside for more jamming, a blueberry pie, and just snacking.

This morning, I used three cups in a big batch of butterfly pancakes. Like wild blueberries, butterfly pancakes are linked to my childhood.. My mom used to make them for us. She used bacon for the antennae. I would have too, but I was out of bacon.

Butterfly PancakesBlueberry pancake wings, sausage body, and sliced peach antennae

pancake batter
bacon or sliced fruit

  1. Start cooking your sausage or bacon (if using it).
  2. Mix up a batch of your favorite pancake batter. (I use the griddle cake recipe in the Fanny Farmer cookbook).
  3. Heat your griddle or skillet and skate some butter over it to grease. Pour or ladle pancake batter, keeping the pancake diameter about the size of a sausage (or a little smaller).
  4. When the batter is dimpled with holes, sprinkle berries across the pancake. Flip.
  5. Cook until the bottom is browned.
  6. To assemble, place a sausage in the middle of the plate. Put one pancake, blueberry side up, on either side of the sausage. Add bacon or sliced fruit for antennae.
What’s your favorite thing to do with blueberries?

Some Like It Hot—Sweet and Spicy Bread & Butter Pickles

I had an eight-hour canning extravaganza on Saturday, which felt utterly productive.IMG_3132

I knew I was in for dilly beans and raspberry jam and raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce, but when I showed up at my friend Kath’s house she had a colander full of cucumbers too. Always game, I asked, “Dill or bread & butter?”

Since the dill pickles we like need to sit for at least 12 hours (and I wasn’t planning on staying quite that long), we decided on bread & butter. But there were all those jalapenos. Our first batch of spicy bread & butter pickles was born.

When making these pickles, the cucumber, onion, and peppers sit in a salt brine for two hours before you cook and can them, so we started the process and then went to pick raspberries. We came in got our jars heating, had lunch, and got canning.

We had a not quite full small jar to wrap up our batch of pickles, so after it cooled a bit, we stuck it in the fridge. We usually end our canning days with ice cream, but instead we ended with pickles. They were cold and sweet and spicy all at once. We ate the whole jar standing up and agreed this was a keeper. I liked them so much, I made another batch on Sunday by myself.

In eight hours, we squeezed in

  • a batch of hot bread and butter pickles
  • a double batch of dilly beans
  • a double batch of raspberry jam
  • a double batch of raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce (so good on ice cream)*
  • a single batch of raspberry-mint-lavender jam (my big girl kept suggesting raspberry mint, so we tried it).

Hot Bread & Butter Pickles
(adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

10 cups cucumbers sliced into roundshot bread and butter pickles, cucumber, onion, jalapenos
2 cups onion sliced (I prefer thick slices)
2 cups sliced jalapenos (we kept the seeds in)
½ cup pickling salt or Kosher salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery seeds
2 Tbsp mustard seeds (we use mix of yellow and brown)
2 tsp pickling spice

  1. Mix the pickles, onions, and peppers with salt and cover with cold water. Let sit for 2 hours.
  2. Prepare 6 pint jars for canning: wash jars and bands in hot soapy water, rinse, and put into a filled canning pot. This recipe should make 5 pints, but I’ve learned to always put an extra jar the same size or smaller in the canner, just in case. Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl. Get your canning station set up: layout a towel on the table or counter. Get your ladle, funnel, tongs, slotted spoon, and a wet paper towel or clean rag ready.
  3. Go pick raspberries, have lunch, read to your kids, or whatever you like until the two hours is up.
  4. Start heating the canning pot.
  5. Mix the vinegar and spices together in a large pot. Bring to a boil. While that’s heating, dump the vegetables into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
  6. As soon as the vinegar mixture begins to boil, add the vegetables. Again bring just to a boil. Turn off the heat.
  7. Remove jars from the canning pot. Ladle water from the canning pot over the flat lids.
  8. Spoon the veggies into the hot jars, packing fairly tightly. Ladle the vinegar brine into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.
  9. IMG_3131Wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place a lid on each jar and screw on the band.
  10. Put the filled jars back in the canning pot. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil process for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude if necessary).
  11. Then turn off the heat and removed the cover. Let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove onto a clean towel. Wait for the delightful ping of the jars sealing. If one doesn’t seal, stick it in the fridge to enjoy now.

* If raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce sounds good, look for Sundae in a Jar in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. We replace the strawberries with raspberries.


Boredom busters and fairy soup

“I’m bored.”

My five-year-old is usually pretty good at entertaining herself, but today, as happens more and more in the afternoon, she started pouting, “I’m bored.” I threw out ideas, all of which led her to wail and writhe on the floor, saying, “I don’t know what to do. I’m bored.”

I bit back a sarcastic comment about all her toys. I didn’t order to clean the play room. I abandoned temporarily my own plan to get back out in the garden. “We’re going to do a project,” I told her.

“What’s the project?” she asked as I laid out a handful of colored pens and a stack of old  business cards on the porch table.

“We’re going to write down our ideas of things to do when we are bored.” I half expected her to start pouting again, but she jumped right in, “If you’re bored, you can . . . ”

  • Do art
  • Ride your bikeIMG_3084
  • Play with your dog
  • Play with your dolls
  • Watch birds in the sky
  • Set up the box fort
  • Weed the garden
  • Pick food from the garden
  • Play a board game or card game
  • Look at books
  • Do a word search or maze
  • Dust
  • Swing on the swing
  • Blow bubbles
  • Wash the outside toys
  • Play with chalk
  • Hula hoop
  • Give wagon rides
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Make a fairy house
  • Catch bugs
  • Play with Play Doh
  • Look for stuff for fairy houses

When she tired of listing ideas, she seized upon the last one we came up with—look for stuff for fairy houses—grabbed a basket, and went collecting. I weeded the garden and occasionally handed her things to add to her pile. I’m not sure how well our boredom busters will work when the next round of “I’m bored” starts, but making our set of idea cards broke the cycle today.

Inspired perhaps by her fairy house search, she asked to have fairy soup for supper. She described it me, made it, and ate it. I don’t know why it’s called fairy soup, but here it is.

K’s Fairy Soup

Seasoned black beans
“messy” cheese (shredded Mexican blend)
tortilla chips

  1. Spoon black beans into a bowl. Take only as much as you will eat.
  2. Add two child’s handsfuls of shredded cheese. Heat to warm the beans and melt the cheese.
  3. Stir in a spoonful of salsa.
  4. Crumble a few chips over the mixture, again taking only what you know you will eat.
  5. Serve with additional chips for dipping.

boredom busters
How do you deal with
“I’m bored?”

Crunchy Granola

It’s sticky and damp. The kind of weather where poorly treated wooden furniture gets gummy and wet bathing suits never really dry and start to smell sour. It’s the kind of weather where papers get limp and chips in an open bag go soft almost immediately. In this general sogginess, there’s an appeal to crunch.

This morning, breakfast was simple and cool—and crunchy. I scooped up yogurt and the granola I made last night (with a little homemade apple sauce for the girls too).

I’ve been collecting granola recipes for a while. I stumbled across these from Katrina Kenison, Molly Wizenberg, and Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen (side note for years I read that as Smitten Kitten, which has the benefit of a rhyme but doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a food blog). I ended up adapting this adaptation of Alana Chernila’s granola from The Homemade Pantry.

The recipe I consulted said it would make 16 cups, which seemed like a lot if I didn’t love it (or if I was the only one who liked it), so I halved it. I ended up with two quart jars and most of a pint jar filled (after I stood over the pan and consumed what felt like half a pan).

Homemade granola with dried cranberries

Sara’s #1 Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced raw almonds
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 Tbsp flax seeds
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
¼ cup raw millet
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup coconut oil (or a little less)
¾ cup maple syrup
¾ tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
½ cup unsweetened coconut
½  (or more) dried cranberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (oats, almonds, wheat germ, flax seeds, sesame seeds, millet, cinnamon, and salt) in a large bowl. (Don’t add the coconut and dried cranberries yet).
  3. Whisk together all the wet ingredients (oil, maple syrup, vanilla and almond extracts).
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix with your hands until everything is coated.
  5. Spread this mixture on two cookie sheets with sides (lining with parchment paper is optional—I did this time).
  6. Put the cookie sheets in the preheated oven and cook for about 90 minutes. Rotate theIMG_3022—granola pans every 30 minutes to keep them cooking evenly. (You don’t need to stir the granola, just rotate the pans.) With about 15 minutes left, sprinkle the coconut over both pans.
  7. Remove from oven when granola is browned. Mix in the dried cranberries while granola is still warm (Add any dried fruit after you take the granola out of the oven so they don’t overcook and harden). Let cool completely before storing in airtight containers.


  • I might try baking this a little longer next time for a little more golden brown color. I started late, so bed won out over browning. I’ll also try spreading the granola a little thinner in more pans.
  • Don’t skimp on the salt.
  • Granola offers lots of flexibility. I used flax seed, millet, and wheat germ because I happened to have them in the house. I could have used sunflower or pumpkin seeds. I think I like the millet, though. I used maple syrup as a sweetener because I have a lot of it, though I could have used a mix of maple and honey. For dried fruit I only had dried cranberries and raisins in the house, and I’m not a huge fan of raisins.
  • Based on another recipe I read, I added the coconut late to keep it from overbrowning, though I haven’t experimented enough to know if that’s necessary.
  • I made this at night after the kids were in bed, but I realized they’d probably enjoy helping next time. There’s plenty of non-exact measuring and lots of mixing—and helping make it might convince the little one who didn’t like it to give it another try. Mixing in chocolate chips would probably do the trick too.