Fall is always the most depressing season here in Florida. While friends in other parts of the country & world are posting on Facebook about cooler temperatures, fall leaves, & sweaters, I’ve been in flip flops since February & my A/C is still blaring 24 hours a day. I miss seasons. I miss jeans! It wouldn’t hurt to come home from a run not dripping with sweat either…
So I try to will Fall here to the subtropics from my kitchen. Today’s post is my hail-Mary, 4th-&-goal, “It’s Fall, gosh darn it!”
These muffins are intense. Amazing. Fall in a mouthful. And you know what? It worked! We’ve been soaking in torrential rains since Monday afternoon, & the temperature on my dashboard actually started with a 6 this morning! 69 degrees! It’s FALL in Florida!!!
…until it dries out & both temps & humidity go back up to the 80s for at least another month. But you know what? I just wore jeans two days in a row! In September!
Here’s how to bring Fall into your kitchen:
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (use the rest of your can to make these & thank me later)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups chopped peeled apples (about 1 1/2 apples. I used Braeburns because they were on sale.)
Cream cheese layer:
- 6 oz. cream cheese, room temp
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 5 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small cubes
- Preheat oven to 350 & line 2 muffin tins with papers. (Yield is about 21 muffins)
- Make muffin batter: whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smallish bowl, mix together pumpkin, eggs, & oil. Mix wet ingredients into dry until incorporated. Stir in apples. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
- Cream cheese mixture: in electric mixer bowl, blend ingredients until smooth. Place a heaping teaspoon on top of batter in each cup.
- Streusel: using a pastry blender or 2 forks, cut ingredients together until they form a coarse crumb. Easily the most time-consuming step; I personally have a love-hate relationship with streusel (love to eat it, hate to make it), but trust me, it’s worth it.
- Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Optional: top with glaze when cooled (1 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2 Tbsp. milk). But they are insanely delicious without, let me tell you!
Linked up at TidyMom
This month my Secret Recipe Club assignment was Dancing Veggies, a (mostly) vegetarian blog with a few vegan recipes. Way to get me out of my comfort zone! As I scrolled down Amanda’s list of recipes, many caught my eye, like these pierogies & these super-tasty-looking zucchini fritters with homemade tzatziki sauce. But, as you know, I’ve been on a bit of a berry kick lately, so when I saw her Verry Berry Terrine, I knew that’s what I had to make!
Like Amanda, I had never heard of a terrine before, so I decided to do a Google Image search to see what dessert terrines looked like. Inspired by the many layered desserts I saw, I elected to do 3 layers instead of her 2: 1 with blueberries, 1 of just cream, & 1 with strawberries. Red, white, & blue! You could serve this for one of the many patriotic holidays we have coming up, or, since I seem to be the only food or craft blogger who didn’t make something for the Super Bowl, Patriots or Giants colors. This dessert looks fancy, but it was remarkably easy, & I already had everything I needed for it. I love it when that happens!
- 12 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups prepared whipped cream (or Cool Whip)
- 1 cup blueberries, rinsed & patted dry
- 1 cup diced strawberries
- 1 cup crushed graham crackers
- 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
- about 8 whole graham cracker sheets, quartered on the perforations
- Line a loaf pan with enough wax paper over the sides to cover the top as well.
- In your mixer bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar. Mix in the vanilla, then remove from mixer & use spatula fold in the whipped cream until well combined.
- Split the mixture into 3 smaller bowls. Fold blueberries into the cream mixture in one of the bowls, & the strawberries into another.
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter (it can be in the same bowl you used for the cream cheese). Press the mixture into the bottom & halfway up the sides of the loaf pan.
- Very gently pour/spread the blueberry-cream mixture over the top of the graham cracker crumbs. Use your spatula to smooth it flat, then do the same with the cream, & lastly with the strawberries. Gently slide graham crackers down the sides of the pan, between the strawberry layer & the wax paper.
- Place remaining graham crackers on top to cover the strawberry layer. Fold the overhanging wax paper over the top. Use pie weights (or, in their absence, a Tupperware of frozen leftover spaghetti sauce works quite well) to keep it pressed down. Freeze several hours or overnight.
- Remove to refrigerator to thaw a few hours before serving (we took it out almost 4 hours beforehand & the fruit was still frozen). Remove wax paper, then invert from pan onto a serving plate. Then cut into slices with a sharp knife. It’ll keep for several days in the fridge, but will get quite soft once it’s fully thawed, so it’s best to eat it within 24 hours of pulling it out of the freezer.
Thanks, Amanda! This was delicious!
I feel like tomato soup is just ideal for Valentine’s Day. If you’re not in Florida, where it hit 80 today, it’s still cold enough for soup in February. Plus, the soup is PINK! Could this be any more perfect? Yes, if you add a heart-shaped sandwich!
For our little family, I made a half recipe of this creamy tomato soup, with one tweak, & then served it with grilled cheese sandwiches on whole-wheat bread cut into heart shapes with a large cookie cutter. Comforting & delicious! (Oh, & lower in fat than a cream-based soup!)
Here’s how I made it:
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 small clove garlic, pressed
- 1/4 tsp. paprika
- 3 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, plus additional leaves, chiffonade, for garnish
- 3 oz. softened Neufchatel cheese
- 3/4 cup skim milk
- 1 can condensed tomato soup
- 1 can (15 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, undrained
- Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion & garlic & saute about 2 minutes, until tender.
- Reduce heat to low & add paprika, basil, & cream cheese. Gradually stir in milk & soup & stir until smooth.
- Turn heat back up to medium & add tomatoes, stirring constantly & breaking up tomatoes further by squashing them with the back of a wooden spoon, until hot.
- Serve with heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwiches!
Get Your Craft On Tuesdays
My family just came to visit, & after a week of dining out, I was having serious grocery list writer’s block. What to make this week? Especially with Christmas falling in there too? Fortunately, I recalled one of our old favorites that I haven’t made in forever. We call it “Pink Sauce Chicken.”
(Admittedly, this is one of the least flattering photos imaginable. I’m beyond excited about the light scoop My Husband The Generous is “surprising” me with on Christmas!)
So you’re asking, “If it’s one of your favorites, why haven’t you made it in a long time?” The answer is that I got it from the Kraft Food&Family magazine, & they had the nerve to stop making one of the key ingredients. That’s the trouble with semi-homemade: you’re limited by the available ingredients.
But after like 15 minutes of standing in the salad dressing aisle with The Munchkin contentedly munching on a cookie in her green racecar cart (thank you Publix!), I found the substitute. & Pink Sauce Chicken never tasted better!
- 6 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- Lawry’s 30-minute Marinade in Tuscan Sundried Tomato*
- 8+ oz. uncooked short pasta (the recipe calls for bowtie)
- up to 4 cups broccoli florets (we do more pasta & less broccoli)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups jarred marinara sauce
- 4 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
- parmesan, to taste
* The recipe originally called for Kraft’s Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing. The 30-minute Marinade does a great job, but has a little less liquid in it, so you need to watch that your chicken doesn’t scorch. If you can’t find the 30-minute Marinade, look for an Italian dressing with roasted red peppers relatively high on the ingredient list.
- Marinate chicken in some of the 30-minute marinade for — you guessed it — 30 minutes.
- Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli for last 3 minutes (for frozen, last 4 or 5 minutes) of cooking time.
- Meanhile, heat 3 Tbsp. of the marinade in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic & heat until fragrant.
- Add chicken; cook, covered, 5 min. to a side or until done in the middle. You may need to add more marinade/dressing to keep it from burning.
- Drain pasta mixture; return to pot & set aside. Cover to keep warm.
- Add pasta sauce & Neufchatel to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted & mixture is well blended.
- Coat chicken in sauce, remove from skillet, & keep warm.
- Add sauce mixture to pasta mixture in pot; mix well. Transfer to 6 pasta bowls.
- Cut chicken across the grain into thick slices. Fan one breast half over the pasta in each of the bowls.
- Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese.
Need ideas for something a little outside the box to bring to your Christmas party this weekend?
My friend Bethany made this for a Christmas recipe exchange a few years ago, & I think I probably ate half of it on my own. It’s tasty, healthy, & festive-looking!
For each tree (16 rounds), here’s what you need:
- 1 can crescent rolls
- 4 oz. cream cheese (I use Neufchatel), softened*
- 1/4 cup sour cream*
- 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed*
- 1/16 tsp. (just fill the 1/8 halfway) garlic powder*
- assorted veggies in various shapes to “trim your tree”
* If you’re not a fan of dill, you can substitute 4 oz. Garden Veggie Cream Cheese plus 1/4 cup sour cream
- Preheat your oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Unwrap your crescent rolls, but do not unroll. Cut each of the 2 sections into 8 slices to get 16 slices total. (This was when I realized my knife needed sharpening. You may need to reshape your rounds to make them…er… round again.)
- Place your slices cut side down on the parchment to form a 5-row triangle & a single one at the bottom for a “trunk.”
- Bake 11-13 minutes or until golden.
- Combine cream cheese, sour cream, dill, & garlic powder in a small bowl. Spread over the tree (not the trunk), leaving a border around the outside to make it easier for people to pull some off. (Once the edge pieces are taken, people tend to get the general idea, so you don’t need to top each round individually.)
- “Trim your tree” with your veggies. Tip: start with your “greenery” (broccoli or snipped green onions). Then do the “star” (yellow pepper) & “garlands” (red pepper slices), & fit everything else around that. Don’t feel bound to the veggies I chose; go with what you love!