Saturday, July 30, 2011

Peach and Ginger Muffins

Peach and Ginger Muffins

This very seasonal recipe needs to be shared before the peaches are past their best. We are enjoying the local peaches so much in this house, that I'm on a daily search for new ways to add them to our plates. I haven't been baking much in the last month but I suffered bigtime withdrawal last week and baked these muffins and eggless brownies one evening after the kids went to bed. The eggless brownies were misnamed. If there are no eggs in the brownie; you lose the fudginess which most of us love. They turned out to be little chocolate cakes. Pleasant but nothing to write home about.

The muffins, however, were delicious. I used the muffin mix from the apple butterscotch muffins in a previous post. Its my "go to" time saver for making muffins and is a pretty healthy base to work from.

Here goes:

Peach and Ginger Muffins

makes 15 muffins


1 cup mashed bananas ( approx 2 bananas)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
3 cups muffin mix (stirred to aerate before measuring)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups chopped peaches (skin on)

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F/ 200°C
  2. Lightly oil muffin tins or line with paper cups
  3. Using a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg
  4. Add the oil, buttermilk and bananas, lemon zest and vanilla extract and stir well
  5. Add the ginger to the muffin mix, and whisk until incorporated muffin mix
  6. Add the muffin mix to the wet ingredients and stir until just mixed
  7. Gently fold in the peach
  8. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the muffins approx 2/3 full
  9. Place the muffin tins in the oven for 7 minutes, turn, then bake a further 7 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Cool on a wire rack just enough so they don't burn your mouth then enjoy with a cup of coffee!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Sides part 1: Succotash way

We had a busy weekend entertaining, good fun, except quite honestly, I'm a little out of practice. I can get a tasty simple dinner on the table each night, without too much fuss. However, carving out enough time for making appetizers, dinner, sides and dessert amidst being Mummy to 2 little ones, is more of a challenge to me. So in short, it was a Daddy weekend. He played, managed the tantrums, negotiated the standoffs and got just as frustrated as me when they didn't listen. I cooked and cleaned and cooked and cleaned. All worth it though. Good company and a cocktail or 2 to boot.

Highlights for me were the side dishes; succotash and ratatouille, and a dessert of mango ice cream; so it's those recipes I'll share this week.
The succotash was based on a recipe from Smitten Kitchen one of my favorite blogs. I changed up the recipe a little by grilling the corn first to amp up the flavor a notch. All credit to Deb over at smitten kitchen; the combination of bacon, sherry vinegar and garlic, well I'm sure you can imagine.

Succotash by definition, seems to be any combination of corn and shell beans such as lima. In my opinion, the quantities and ratios are totally flexible; I used frozen edamame in place of the Lima beans. I also upped the corn as I couldn't resist them looking so fresh and sweet at the market. Feel free to substitute whatever you have more or less of in your kitchen.

adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe

Serves 4 (as a side dish)


1/2 lb shell beans (Lima, edamame, broad, butter)
1/4 lb bacon, cut into small pieces
Olive oil
1 small sweet onion such as vidalia or red, chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
3/4 lb cherry or small variety tomatoes, halved kernels from 6 ears of corn, grilled until just caramelized
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (could substitute white balsamic or red wine)
1/4 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup packed arugula leaves, roughly chopped

  1. If using fresh beans, shell them, then boil in salted water until tender.
  2. In a large pan, cook the bacon until crisp
  3. Remove the bacon from the fat, set aside.
  4. Pour off all but 1/2 tablespoon of the fat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan
  5. With the heat on moderate, add the onion and cook until softened.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  7. Add the corn, tomatoes, and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes are just beginning to break down
  8. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the beans and half the bacon
  9. Let the succotash cool to room temperature then stir in the herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Sprinkle with remaining bacon just before serving.
Notes on the recipe:

Deb from Smitten Kitchen recommends croutons but I served this with crusty bread so skipped the croutons. It paired nicely with my spatchcocked chicken marinated in lemon garlic and oregano.
If you don't feel like grilling the corn first, a quick boil would do just fine, or indeed for a winter version, good frozen corn defrosted.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Healthier Macaroni Cheese (my way!)

Macaroni cheese in a July heatwave! Yes I am nuts but here goes!

Jamie Oliver is a genius. For some time, I've been trying to find a healthier version of mac'n'cheese, that would still meet the requirements of my older daughter. I think we're finally getting somewhere. I know it may not seem like mac 'n' cheese weather; it's been a scorchy hot week here in the northeast, but the request was made and so I grinned and bore the heat (and turned the AC on!).

I have never seen my daughter eat so much food, as she did on a rare eating out venture to our local diner. She ordered mac 'n' cheese and devoured  the most enormous amount. Don't get me wrong; I love to see my kids enjoy their food; but this was "out of a box" mac 'n' cheese. Honestly, I have been a little offended she has never quite matched that "competition winning scoff" with any food that I've cooked her. She still talks about it every day we drive past there.

Anyway, I don't know why I hadn't reached for one of my Jamie books on this topic before. He's excellent at a re-work of a simple recipe, just giving it a bit more interest and flavor. So his secret; using the food processor, puree fresh tomatoes, anchovies and sundried tomatoes. His recipe uses light cream but I just used 1% milk and it turned out rich enough for us. Those hidden extras really give a depth of flavor which makes me as an adult enjoy mac 'n' cheese without all that clawing, thick, gloopy, heavy, too rich sauce. Most importantly, the tomatoes make the sauce orange; a critical requirement if its to pass the kid test.

Finally, I didn't call it macaroni cheese (to my kids). In fact, I didn't use macaroni; I had some nice curly wurly pasta which I thought would work even better at getting the sauce in every nook and cranny. I find that if I pigeon hole a meal by a name, often it is rejected outright, before giving a chance. So, I generally think on my feet as I place the plate before them. This one I just called cheesy pasta.

I know it was a hit because my older daughter asked if I could make it "3 times every week". My younger just pronounced it her "favorite".

Healthier Macaroni Cheese
(adapted from Jamie Oliver; Jamie's Dinners. Tomato Macaroni Cheese)


12oz box macaroni (or "curly wurly" pasta as I used)
approx 7oz wholewheat breadcrumbs
1 lb fresh tomatoes (I used sweet cherry tomatoes)
1 glove garlic, peeled
2 large handfuls of fresh basil
4 oz sundried tomatoes, chopped,
2 anchovies
salt and pepper
2 cups grated Parmesan
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
8 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped into small cubes
1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
olive oil


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F, 200°C
  2. Cook the pasta until al dente; drain, but save a ladleful of the cooking water.
  3. Using the food processor, blend the tomatoes, garlic, basil, sundried tomatoes and anchovies for appox 30 seconds.
  4. Add the milk, vinegar, and 1 cup of the Parmesan
  5. Blend until smooth and the season to your taste.
  6. pour the sauce from the food processor over the drained pasta.
  7. Add a little of the reserved cooking water in order to make the dish quite loose.
  8. Pour the whole lot into a lightly greased baking dish and push the mozzarella cubes gently into the top.
  9. Mix the breadcrumbs, thyme and remaining cheese, then sprinkle over the top of the casserole.
  10. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top to get a lovely crunchy top
  11. Place in the oven for approx 15 minutes or until bubbling and crunchy on top

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chicken and Peach Salad

Chicken and Peach Salad

As a child, for many years, my choice for birthday dinner was "chicken and peach bake". It wasn't only me, in fact, I seem to recall my brothers deep love for it too. It is a recipe reminiscent of the 70's; using canned peaches and packet white sauce, with crushed chips on top. Heaven! I must get busy this winter and recreate the flavors with a "from scratch" version. In the meantime, tonight's recipe is a summer take, echoing the creaminess of the sauce and the sweet savory combination.

We have been reveling knee deep in peaches this week; the season is finally here. Mean Mummy in this house has not bought peaches since last summer so the girls have been enjoying the bounty too. We've had peach ice pops and smoothies, peaches for snack and now, peaches for dinner.

Alongside my chicken salad, I served some baby new potatoes and a green salad of baby romaines. The potatoes are worth a mention (I am Irish after all!). I microwaved them for 5 minutes, then halved them, tossed in olive oil and salt and roasted in my grill. Very quick compared to the usual roasting time, so I was happy. I should explain; I rarely turn on the oven in the summer; we don't have central air conditioning so the heat from the oven is no fun. Need I explain that an overheated Mummy is a cross Mummy! Instead, I use my outdoor grill as an oven and roast my vegetables and potatoes in a roasting pan with the burners on low-medium

Chicken and Peach Salad


2 cups cooked chicken, chopped into bite size pieces
2 medium peaches, chopped into similar sized pieces
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/4 cup 0% Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed to a paste
salt and pepper
handful of herbs (I used mint, basil, chives and parsley)


  1. Whisk together the sour cream, Greek yogurt, mustard, garlic and vinegar in a medium bowl
  2. Stir in the chicken and peaches
  3. Add the herbs either on top or stir in just before serving.
My kid friendly tip would be to leave out the herbs; mine still object to the green flecks. This said, one ate it; the other picked out the peaches and told me she was done.

Please excuse the various errors in fonts etc in this post but I'm tired waiting for my blog host Blogspot to fix their endless glitches.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fresh Apricot Cake

Apricot Cake

There are a million other things that I could have productively employed myself with, the evening I made this cake. However, after the kids went to bed and with my husband working late, I turned on the oven to bake.

The quality of my baking recently had taken a nosedive. Ordinarily I can rely on my ability to produce a decent baking creation but the last 2 times I baked, have produced less than perfect results. Having considered the possible problem, I decided to firmly place the blame on the presence of my children whilst baking! Seriously though, while I desperately want them to learn to cook and bake with me; and to create happy memories of us doing so, I really find it hard to keep calm as the kitchen gets trashed!

So, I had a happy moment, ON MY OWN, with full concentration on a Clotilde recipe for fresh apricot cake. As you may remember, I'm a huge fan of her recipes. I bought some amazing fresh apricots at the market the other day which had been gently nudging me all week to find a moment to bake with them.

The cake, I'll freely admit, is hardly changed from Clotilde's original, but I couldn't resist sharing it. All I did was swapped in some whole wheat pastry flour; the rest is left, as instructed by the master. It's a great summer dessert, morning coffee cake, maybe even breakfast but definitely company friendly; I think you'll agree it's a looker! More than that though, the combination of the sweet but slightly tart fruit with the cake and a blob of Greek yogurt...well, just delicious.

Fresh Apricot Cake
(based on Clotilde's Apricot Coffee Cake)

Fresh Apricot cake


1 lb/450g fresh apricots, washed and sliced into 8
1 cup/ 125g all purpose flour
3/4 cup/ 90g whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons/ 5oz/ 150g butter
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup/ 100g sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten


1 tablespoon sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten


  1. Preheat the oven to 360°F or 180°C
  2. Butter a 9" springform cakepan
  3. Place the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the food processor and pulse until mixed
  4. Add the butter and mix again
  5. Add the sugar then mix again
  6. Add the egg and milk and pulse until just combined. Do not overmix.
  7. Press the batter into the cake pan and flatten the top
  8. Arrange the apricots on the top
  9. then mix together the topping ingredients and pour over the cake
  10. Bake for approx 40-45 mins or until the cake is golden on top.
  11. Turn the oven off but leave the cake in the oven for a further 10-15 minutes
  12. Let it cool to room temperature and dust it with confectioners (icing) sugar just before serving.
  13. Serve at room temperature or cool from the fridge with a blob of sour cream or Greek yogurt