Sunday, May 28, 2017

Hand Apple Pie and Homemade Caramel Sauce

I am always looking for an easy and delicious dessert.  This recipe is based off of my recipe for mini apple pies made in muffin tins.  There is a photo of them in my blog header. 

I love apple desserts and this one is very easy.  I took a chance and made caramel sauce to add to the dessert.  This was my first time making caramel sauce.  I have always been afraid of making it, but it was super easy and very tasty.  It added a whole new level to the apple pies.

Hand Apple Pies with Caramel

2 store bought pie crusts
2 apples (use your favorite!)

2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Peel and dice apples and put them into a bowl.  Add cinnamon and stir, making sure all apple pieces are covered.  Set aside and start on caramel sauce.  Get pie crusts out and let them set to room temperature.

3. Add 1/2 cup water to pot and add sugar.  Bring the pot to a boil.

4. Cook mixture until a thick syrup forms that is a light to medium brown color.  Add butter and keep stirring.

5.  Add heavy cream while stirring the mixture.  It will bubble up fast, but keep stirring until the sauce is smooth.  Remove from heat and let the sauce cool.

6.  As sauce cools, unroll pie crusts.  Find something that can cut the dough into a circle about 4 inches, or a little bigger.  Cut dough into circles and place on a backing sheet lined with parchment paper.  Brush the edge of each circle with egg.

7.  Add some of the caramel sauce to the diced up apples covered in cinnamon.  Make sure that the apples are all covered with caramel.  Spoon the diced apples onto the center of each circle, then fold the dough over, creating a pocket.  Push the seems together and take a fork to crimp the edges together even more. 

8.  Brush the tops of the pie with egg and sprinkle with white granulated sugar.  Make sure to cut a couple slits in the top of the pie, so the steam can escape.

9.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops of the pies are golden brown.  To serve, drizzle caramel sauce on top (caramel might need to be reheated slightly on stove top).  Another great addition would be some vanilla ice cream!

This dessert was a hit with the husband and the kids.  I would really like to try this method with different fruit fillings...blueberry? cherry? rhubarb? 

What dessert have you transformed?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Spring Table

It is cold.  It is snowing.  The ground is covered with snow.  The kids had a snow day.  It is April 4th. With the snow falling outside and it looking more like a winter wonderland than an springy April day, I decided I would make today a spring day, regardless of the snow.

I love to buy fresh cut flowers at the grocery store.  Surprisingly, the grocery store in my town has a decent selection.  I purchased some daffodils and white tulips and created a very simple arrangement for our table in the breakfast nook.  The breakfast nook is our casual dining space, also used for homework, crafts and dessert area during parties at our house.

 I love this picture because you can really see the tulips falling naturally and cascading in different directions.  I love the pop of the yellow daffodils on my vintage linen tablecloth.

A nice close up of one of my favorite flowers.  Lilacs are my second favorite flower.  Those aren't even close to blooming yet!  The willow votive vase is from a cute little store down south that I found online.

The tulips are sitting in a larger willow vase from the same store.  I love the natural look of the vase and how the attention is on the beauty of flowers, not the vessel that is holding them.

Simple.  Elegant.  Natural.

I can actually smell the delicious scent of the flowers from these photos, can't you?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spring Sunday Dinner | Lemon Chicken

I am really looking forward to spring.  Our weather has been so strange this winter.  We have has spurts of snow, some really cold temps, warm days of around 50 degrees and sun, rain and even a thunderstorm!  It has been so strange.  Just a few days ago it was raining and slightly warm.  The air smelled clean and springy.  It was very refreshing and made me realize how much I an looking forward to the next season, spring.

As I think most people do, I base my menus around the seasons.  In fall and winter, I like to prepare meals that are comfort foods. Usually something like chili, pastas or pot roasts.  In the spring and summer, I like to prepare meals that can be grilled outside or include elements like fresh lemon, garlic and herbs because they make the meal light and give it loads of flavor.

We can't grill outside just yet, so this chicken recipe is perfect for the oven.  I served this dish with a nice side of mashed potatoes and crusty french bread to soak up all the delicious juices.

roasted chicken
with lemon, garlic & thyme
4 chicken breasts (I used bone in)
1/4 cup of olive oil
1-2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup of white wine
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
10 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon of cracked pepper

Place chicken breasts in a baking dish.  Combine olive oil, lemon juice, white wine and garlic. Pour mixture over the chicken and put divide thyme evenly over the top of the chicken.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken breasts.  Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes.  You can do it longer if you plan ahead.

Cover the chicken with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.  When it is finished cooking, remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for 8-10 minutes before serving.

This will give you time to prepare the mash potatoes!

All the ingredients together and ready to combine into a delicious meal.

I like to leave the garlic cloves whole and smash them with the blade of the knife.  They give off great flavor in the lemon and white white mixture.

All in the pan and ready to bake.  Doesn't it look divine?

Ready to serve on a pretty platter.  The skin is golden brown and the lemons are cooked.  Make sure to save the juice to pour over the chicken on your plate.  Make sure to have some crusty bread to soak up the juices, too.  As a side note, this make a great leftover chicken salad sandwich for lunch!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Homemade Vanilla Bean Sugar

I love coffee...I drink it in the morning, fresh from the coffee pot.  I love ordering it when we go out for breakfast.  It love to have it next to me when I am working at the computer.  It just seems to make everything cozy and for me, it adds a comforting element. 

I have discovered an even more wonderful way to enjoy my cup of coffee.  I have been adding homemade Vanilla Bean Sugar.  It adds a divine, sweet flavor that makes the coffee even more delightful and comforting. 

It is very easy to make and I do it without even measuring.  I just eyeball the ingredients and mix everything together in my mini food processor. 

I use about a teaspoon full in my coffee.  So delicious!

Here are the ingredients...just sugar and vanilla bean paste.  I just pour both into my mini food processor and whirl it all together.  You can use as much bean paste as you would like...I like a decent amount.

Mixed together and ready to use in coffee or even in baking!  This make a great gift as well.  You could put it in a clear glass container with a label and give it to friends and family at Easter brunch.  Make sure that you have a sugar dish full of Vanilla Bean Sugar at your next gathering. 
It will make your coffee that much better!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Backyard Fire | Toasted Marshmallows

I love a fire in the backyard.  To me, a fire in the backyard signifies summer.  Relaxation.  Memories.  Fun. Stories.  Laughing.  Marshmallows.

This past weekend we had some guests over for a backyard fire.  We have a copper fire pit that we use.  Our fire pit was a gift many years ago.  I love it.  It is the perfect size and easy to move around the yard.  I end up changing the location of the fire pit each summer.  There are so many great places to put it!  Thanks goodness it is easy to move.

For our guests, I wanted to spice up the traditional s'mores that usually go with a fire.  To do that, I decided to a toasted marshmallow toppings bar.  

I had sticks for toasting, marshmallows, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, chocolate bars, crushed graham crackers, broken pretzels and salt.

I wanted people to be able to create different combinations of flavors, aside from the traditional chocolate bar and graham cracker.  

I set up a small table with a vintage table linen near the fire pit.  I had the toppings and sticks on one of my wicker serving baskets.  I used small side bowls for the toppings and sauces.  I used a small drinking glass to hold the toasting sticks.  

 It was a simple and easy presentation.  My kind of entertaining when I want to focus on relaxing and enjoying my guests.

The fire pit.  Waiting for the coals to get nice and hot for toasting.

The toppings.

Toasted marshmallow, dipped in chocolate sauce and rolled in graham cracker.

Chocolate sauce and pretzels.

I have other flavors in mind and I can't wait for the next fire!  Maybe tomorrow night?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lilacs & Countryside

A couple of weekends ago, my family  and I visited my parents.  It was a beautiful weekend to be staying with them, as the weather was warm and the lilacs were in full bloom.  One morning, I grabbed my camera and went around trying to capture the beautiful views.  I wanted to capture the moment of the quite morning. the sun shining and the impending heat of the day.  I really enjoy the moments in the early morning when everything is still quite and barely awake.  Looking back at these photos (even though they are a couple weeks old) brings me a sense of peace.  I can still smell the fragrant lilacs.

This beautiful tree was a Mother's Day gift to my mom, a million years ago.  I remember when we had chickens, the chickens loved to sit under this tree and sunbath and also dig up the dirt right at the base of the tree.  

This lilac bush is a light purple, almost a tinted white.  

Beautiful lilacs.   I wish they could last all summer.

This weathered building is the wood shed that holds all of the split and stacked wood for winter.  I love the rustic and weathered look of this building.  I love the contrast of the bright green leaves and grass against the weathered brown.  Right on the far corner of the building, where the wall meest the tin roof, sits a Yellow Bellied Sap Sucker woodpecker.  This gorgeous, yet very loud bird is the reason for this photo.  Every morning during our stay, this little guy (or girl) would tap on the tin of the roof.  I did not even need an alarm clock!  I tried to get a better photo, but sneaking up on this bird proved to be more difficult than I thought.  He would always fly away.  

I guess you could considered my parents agriculturalists, as they own a Christmas tree farm.  I remember planting the original saplings, 20 plus years ago.  I love looking out at the acres of trees.  It makes me happy to think of all the joy each tree will bring to the different families during the Christmas holiday.  Each spring, my parents plant new saplings to replace the trees that have been cut or did not make it, for whatever reason.  It takes about 8-10 years for a tree to mature and be the right size for a Christmas tree.  Throughout the summer my dad will mow the grass between the tree rows.  In August he will trim each tree by hand so they have that traditional "Christmas tree" shape.

I usually try to scope out our Christmas tree during the summer.

A few shots of my own lilacs and one of my blue hydrangeas.  So beautiful and colorful.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Treat for Me | Vera and Jacks

I feel like for the past month I have been running around like a mad woman.  I feel like most of my time has been spent cleaning the house, laundry, taking the kids to baseball, soccer, music lessons and the list goes on.  No different then any other parent who is juggling a million balls all at once.

When my life gets a little crazy (like it has been), I really enjoy treating myself to something special.  I think it helps me push through the craziness and gives me something to look forward to, that is all mine.

A few weeks ago, I did just that-I ordered a new pair of pajamas and new sandals!  It must sound silly, but I have really wanted a nice pair of cotton pjs that I could wear on the back deck while sipping coffee in the early morning hours.  I wanted a nice pair of pjs that I could wear in the summer, even when the weather is warm, but I would still stay cool.

Well, let me tell you, these pajamas are exactly what I was looking for!  I ordered them from Vera Bradley in this exact pattern, African Violet.  I adore these pajamas, I never want to take them off!  Or course, we all know that can never happen when you are a busy mom…

I love these pajamas so much, I am planning on ordering a second pair in a different pattern.

My other little indulgence, was a new pair of sandals.  Back in college I had a pair of these sandals and wore them into the ground.  I practically wore them all summer long and with almost every outfit.  Eventually they had to be retired (thrown out) and I never got around to ordering a new pair, until now.

This is the Jack Rogers Hamptons Navajo sandal.  Iconic and classic.  Originally made famous by one of my favorite historical figures and style icons, Jackie Kennedy Onassis.  I ordered my in platinum from  As of right now, I have been wearing my new pair with capris and polished toenails.  I can't wait to wear them with my summer skirts and dresses!  They will be great to wear to the pool when I take the kids for swim lessons or to slip on when running to the grocery store.  The versatility is endless with this sandal.  They can be casual or fancy, which is the perfect summer shoe for me!

Here is a photo of Jackie sporting her "Jacks."  Such grace and elegance, even stepping off of a boat.

I have enjoyed my little indulgences and look forward to the next crazy and hectic month, whenever it may be.  What should I treat myself too, next?
Vera Bradley

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day Cocktail | Citrus Shandy

When the weather starts getting warm, there is nothing more refreshing than a nice summer drink.  My go to is usually a nice, light wheat beer like Blue Moon.  I love how the traditional Blue Moon is served with a slice of orange.  I love the citrus flavor and tang that is added to the beer.

I got a little creative with my most recent Blue Moon.  I decided to make my own summer shandy using orange juice and clementines. 
If I am feeling a little adventurous, I have been known to mix my beer with lemonade.  This yields a deliciously tart beverage.

citrus summer shandy
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cold water 
1/4 cup of vodka
1 wheat beer
1 clementine, peeled and divided

Mix together the orange juice, water. sugar and vodka.  Put into serving glasses, about half way.
  Top glass off with beer and garnish with clementines.  

You can even squeeze a clementine for added flavor.  This made two cocktail sized beverages.

A delicious and light summer cocktail that is refreshing on the those hot summer days.  
Easy to take with you to the beach, pool or serve at a summer bbq.  

Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day | Hydrangea Cupcakes

It is the start of Memorial Day weekend!  I am so happy for this weekend and holiday.  In my mind, despite what the calendar says, it marks the beginning of summer...bbqs, warm weather, eating outside, evening walks, enjoying summer drinks on the deck and patriotic colors.

To get into the spirit of the weekend, I have a quick and easy dessert that will be sure to impress your guests.  This dessert was inspired by my own beautiful hydrangeas that are growing right now and producing gorgeous blue hued blooms.

These cupcakes are not only perfect for a Memorial Day picnic, but also for 4th of July party, a summer bbq, bridal or baby shower.  They are easy to make because they require little ingredients and time, yet by the looks of this delicate cupcake, people will think you spent hours!

hydrangea cupcakes
1 box mix (follow directions on box)
homemade butter cream frosting
blue & red food coloring gel (I used Wilton)
cupcake liners

I first made the cupcakes by following the directions on the box.  To be festive, I used a patriotic mix.  While the cupcakes baked and cooled, I assembled the butter cream frosting in my KitchenAid mixer. 

To make the frosting, I made blue first by adding blue gel food coloring a little at a time.  Remember, add a little at a time because it is easier to add then take away!  Once I had the desired blue, I put half of it in a bowl and used the other half to make light purple.  I added tiny drops of red gel to get my desired color.  

Cake mix and white cupcake liners, festive!

Classic homemade butter cream frosting (recipe coming soon) and before the gel food coloring.

The frosting all ready to go.  I gently folded the blue frosting with the purple to give me the streaked look in the piping bag.  

Disposable piping bag with the giant star tip.  I used the largest stat tip I had in my baking supplies.

Beginning the frosting process.  When frosting, you want the cupcake top to by full of "flowers."  Make sure to pipe the frosting and fill in all spots.  The more full, the better looking the cupcake.

Happy Memorial Day weekend and happy baking!