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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Winter oranges + cookies for breakfast

Double-chocolate orange cookiesI just had a cookie for breakfast. Second breakfast, and it had orange in it, so that counts right?

As we’ve been reading our Christmas stories, so many times there is an orange in the toe or the top of the stocking, something juicy and sweet and just right this time of year.

My kids often find an orange or a clementine in their stocking, and I remember my older daughter pulling hers out one year, “A real orange!” In the midst of toys and candy, she still noticed that orange.

We’ve been eating oranges lately. I picked up a few at the store to make those chocolate-orange cookies I had for breakfast and had to go back to pick up some more because my girls ate them in smiles for snack at school and dessert before I got to baking. I ate some too, and I wondered why I never buy oranges. It’s time for oranges now, that splash of color, burst of juice, vitamin C, and natural sweetness.

So go get some oranges, and if you don’t eat them all first, make these cookies. (You really only need the zest, so you can still eat that orange as long as you zest it first.)

Double Chocolate-Orange Cookies


1 c. sugar
2/3 c. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. grated orange peel*
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 c. chocolate chips (bittersweet or semisweet)


1/3 c. sugar (or a little more as needed)
1 tsp. grated orange peel*

* The peel of one orange should work out just about right for both the cookies and the coating.

  1. Preheat oven to350º F.
  2. Mix 1/3 cup sugar and 1 tsp. grated orange peel. Set aside.
  3. Cream 1 cup sugar with the butter and 1 Tbsp. grated orange peel in a large bowl. Beat in the egg until well combined.
  4. Add your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. (You can mix them together in a separate bowl if you like, but I’m lazy and never do.)
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips. (Go ahead and do this in the mixer. It doesn’t matter if the chips break up a little.)
  6. Shape dough into small balls balls. (Sometimes I do 1 1/2–inch balls, sometimes I go a little smaller if I want to stretch the batch or know the cookies will be out with lots of other cookie types.)
  7. Roll balls in sugar-orange coating mixture. If it looks like you will run out, just add a little more sugar and mix it up with the remaining coating. (If you end up with some extra, it’s yummy sprinkled on top of blueberry muffins.)
  8. Place coated balls on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Flatten to about 1/2-inch thickness with bottom of glass.
  9. Bake 9–11 minutes or until cookies appear set.
  10. Cool slightly before moving from cookie sheet. If you are eating them soon, serve with the pieces of the orange you zested to make the cookies.



An abundance of chocolate—Flourless chocolate cake with chocolate filling and glaze

I was overwhelmed by the many decisions I had to make for my wedding, but I knew I wanted a chocolate cake. And I got it—not just chocolate, but triple chocolate ganache.

edible flowers for fall cakeIt was good—and gorgeous, dark chocolate brown with orange and yellow nasturtiums spilling over it.

For our first anniversary, I made a triple chocolate cake and decorated it with nasturtiums from the garden. The filling in this cake is lighter and more buttery than my wedding cake, but it’s still delightfully decadent.

The cake with no filling or glaze makes a rich dessert. Serve it with raspberries and a little vanilla ice cream or barely sweetened whipped cream. I often serve it this way.

Triple Chocolate Cake

The recipe looks long, but all three parts are really easy to make.


Amounts are per cake. Double for two layers. I usually mix them up separately because one fits nicely in my double boiler.

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1 stick butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F and grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan. Line bottom with a round of parchment paper. (The cake has a tendency to stick, so don’t skip the parchment paper.)
  2. In a double boiler, melt chocolate with butter over barely boiling water, stirring until smooth.
  3. Remove top of double boiler from heat and whisk sugar into the chocolate mixture.
  4. Add eggs and whisk well.
  5. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven for 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust.
  7. Cool cake in pan on a rack for 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.



Allow time to chill. You can make this a day ahead and store in the fridge—or cook chocolate mixture and let chill overnight.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup butter softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar

  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa powder. Blend well. Gradually stir in milk.
  2. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and boils, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour or until cool.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and powdered sugar until well blended. Gradually add cooled chocolate mixture. Beat until light and fluffy.



3/4 c. whipping cream
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Pour cream into a small, heavy saucepan. set over medium heat and stir until it comes to a boil.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted.
  4. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before pouring over cake.



  1. Place one cake on a serving plate. Spread a thick layer of filling on top of layer.
  2. Cover with raspberries (optional, but the raspberries help offset all the chocolate).
  3. Layer the second cake over the first.
  4. Pour glaze over cake and smooth with a flat spatula. Use extra frosting to decorate top and sides of cake if you like. Garnish with edible flowers like nasturtiums (optional)

6 Things to do with 7 Quarts of Strawberries

I took my girls strawberry picking this morning and came home with seven quarts. I was hoping for a bit more, but it was hot and sticky and the berries not overwhelmingly plentiful. I made jam on Saturday—a double batch of straight up strawberry and a double of strawberry rhubarb—so even though I was intrigued by the idea of a strawberry basil jam, I crossed jam off my list today. I love making jam, but I admit I wasn’t too upset to avoid a steamy kitchen.

strawberries for freezing, pie, ice cream, popsicles, and flavored drink cubesHere’s what I did instead:

  1. Froze them whole. I like to have bags of berries in the freezer to chop into oatmeal or smoothies throughout the year. We ran out of strawberries from last season about a week ago, so it was time to stock up.
  2. Made ice cream. I thought about strawberry shortcake for dessert, but did I mention it was hot today? I didn’t want to turn on the oven, so I thought cold instead. I found some chocolate cake in the freezer and served the still soft ice cream over it.
  3. Made popsicles. As I was hulling the strawberries to freeze, I pulled the ones with mushy spots or the ones my three-year-old picked that were half ripe, half yellow. I put the good bits in a bowl and blended them up with a little limeade. Four popsicles are now solidifying in my freezer.
  4. Froze margarita cubes. I figured this one out last year. Throw your smooshed berries in a blender and pour into ice cube trays. Then use the strawberry ice cubes in margaritas (or toss them in lemonade to make a “fancy” drink for the kids). I used the leftover popsicle mix this year.
  5. Baked a pie. I know. I said I didn’t want to turn on the oven. Even at 10, when a coolish breeze was occasionally slipping into the kitchen, I didn’t want to turn it on, but my husband’s a pie guy with a birthday coming up. I went with the classic strawberry rhubarb (recipe below).
  6. Ate them. Sometimes I get so busy doing things with the stuff I pick, I forget to just savor it. The kids grabbed them off the counter for a snack as they ran through the kitchen. I kept tasting as I was cutting them, and I put a scant quart aside for breakfast.

What are you doing with strawberries this year?

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
2 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp. water
handful of cornflakes
pie crust (top and bottom for a 9-inch pan)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Put the bottom crust in a 9-inch pan. Crush the cornflakes and sprinkle over the crust.
  3. Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a medium bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, egg, and water together. Pour over the strawberry-rhubarb mix and stir to combine.
  5. Pour the filling into the crust in the pie pan.
  6. Cover with the top crust, crimp the edges, and cut a few slits in the crust.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for about 40 minutes more. The crust should start turning golden and the filling should bubble lightly.