Friday, December 9, 2011


“And …I said YESSSSS!”
It happened one November midnight, in Twitterverse, we saw this tweet from our dear Nelly @nella22. Without missing a beat, we all knew Nelly had “said YES” to her beloved “M, as she sweetly calls Brian Murray, her fiancé.
So here we are, Nelly dear, your friends in the food world, wishing you and Brian, all the best. And with our wishes, a simple recipe with an easy formula for a life of bliss, rich with EVERYTHING in it!
Mix together: A lot of Love, Patience, Perseverance, Respect, Courage, Strength, Trust, Kindness, Honesty, Compromise & Great Sex.
Stir in: Equal Parts of Love, Support, Faith, Fidelity, Hope, Validation, Friendship, Forgiveness, Communication.
Cook over slow simmer for the rest of your life. Dot daily with a Sense of Humor.
Leave out the nagging, sarcasm, skepticism, doubts and stubbornness.
Serving Suggestions: Best prepared daily. Serve with flourish because Married Life is a FEAST. Live it with flavor, spice it with unconditional love, enjoy its richness.
Recipe Notes: Some ingredients won’t always be fresh or available. Or the heat may flare up and the anger spills over. Simmer down and douse the flames with all the LOVE you can throw in.
Enjoy the feast of marriage, love and life!
(Written by : Elizabeth @Mango_Queen)

Dear Nelly,
Thank you for the gift of your friendship.  I wish you a lifetime of health and happiness with Brian. Looking forward to meeting you both IRL before too long. Sending love and hugs and every good wish your soon-to-be-married way! 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween 2011

Just wow!

I was blown away by these costumes last night...truly Sweet & Simple.

My friends, Tim & Jenn, came to our little Halloween gathering last night dressed as Sweet & Simple cookies. Their 12 year-old twin daughters not only suggested the costumes but made them by hand, including the oversize side saddle "ribbons" - my original ribbon for Sweet & Simple cookie packages. For the ribbon, they dyed paper and stitched it with yarn. The labels were made from construction paper.  Dry cleaning bags were the "cello" wrap. They both wore adorable headbands with daisies on top. I just love a tough guy in a daisy headband! Hilarious.

Tim & Jenn left the labels for me to keep and you can see them below. I will treasure them.

This is my favorite label. EVER. Hee hee.

They renamed my Molasses Ginger Cookies. 

Cookies baked with love and labels made with love.

AND they copied the full nutrition label. Just too good.

Happy Halloween from Sweet & Simple! 
My costume cannot compare, but I was a pirate gal. As you can see!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

3 Short Twitter Stories

Alan's beautiful bowls.
The foodie/cooking/baking Twitter community is one of my favorite online hangouts.  It’s a fun and creative group of people – a neighborhood, if you will – where everyone shares common interests.

For the most part, I follow the foodie/baking community. But, I also enjoy following small business experts, social media experts, people I work with professionally, other local businesses and news media. For me and Sweet & Simple, Twitter is a source of real time local and global information, not only a place to talk about cooking and baking.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sweet & Simple's YouTube Channel

If you had told me two years ago, just before Sweet & Simple launched, that I would be sitting at my desk typing a blog post to introduce my new YouTube channel I would have called you bonkers and rolled my eyes. Seriously.

Over the summer, I needed some pictures of myself holding Sweet & Simple pre-packaged baked goods. I asked Sandra Downie and Melani Lust, with whom I worked earlier this year, if they could help me again. I also asked a friend (and neighbor) if he would join us and shoot some video footage of me talking about Sweet & Simple.

I had originally planned on one long-ish video to tell my story and promote Sweet & Simple, but that idea did not work out as well as I hoped. It turns out that telling my story to a camera is not that simple - but either is starting a small business! So, we came up with the idea of 7 mini-videos. My words were unrehearsed and unscripted which is pretty obvious. Together they tell the story of how I took an idea that started in my home kitchen two years ago and turned it into a wholesale cookie business.

Thanks for watching. And thank you, especially, for being part of Sweet & Simple - it has been an incredible journey and an extraordinary learning experience for me! I love my job.
This is me in my kitchen holding some of my Sweet & Simple pre-packaged baked goods.
Thank you, Mom, for the beautiful apron. I really do love it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chia Pumpkin Muffins

Sherwood Farm, Easton, CT, October 2011
Friends of mine recently started a business called Health Warrior - they sell premium chia seeds.  I’ve been enjoying their chia with yogurt and fruit for breakfast and was curious about using chia in baked goods.

It turns out chia seeds are practically made for muffins. If you’ve baked with poppy seeds, the slight crunch of chia in this recipe won’t deter you. And if you want a slightly healthier treat, this recipe is definitely for you.

I started with a simple and great recipe - Alton Brown’s Pumpkin Bread. I’ve been making his recipe as muffins for over a year, but I use canned pumpkin for convenience, omit the pumpkin seeds and add chopped chocolate or chocolate morsels.

For this adaptation, I used part white whole wheat flour, reduced the sugar, added non-fat yogurt, and a touch of ginger and vanilla. They are moist and delicious and my kids love them.

Chocolate Chia Pumpkin Muffins
As adapted from Alton Brown.
16 muffins

Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare a muffin tin with liners and set aside.

1 cup (135 grams) all purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup (130 grams) white whole wheat flour
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup (161 grams) vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (425 grams) canned pumpkin
1 cup (227 grams) non-fat plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup (120 grams) chia seeds
1/2 cup (113 grams) chopped semi-sweet chocolate or semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Combine the dry ingredients with a whisk: flours, sugar, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients with a whisk: vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Remove the paddle and work bowl.

Workly quickly, fold in the chia and chopped chocolate with a spatula.

Distribute the mixture evenly between the 16 muffin liners. I use a heaping 2 oz scoop for the muffins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffin tops bounce back when pressed lightly.

Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out on a wire rack to finish cooling.

I seem to be dusting all my baked goods with powdered sugar these days - they look nice with or without the sugar!

Giant pumpkin at Sherwood Farm, Easton, Connecticut, October 2011.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sweet & Simple Apple Cake

It's fall and time for apple recipes!  Thank you to my baker friend, Jennifer, for giving me the recipe I used as a starting point for this post: Teresa Apple Cake Supreme. Any recipe with “supreme” in the title has got to be a good place to start, right?

The original recipe has more sugar, more cinnamon and a generous dose of orange juice. I reduced the sugar and cinnamon, omitted the orange juice altogether, and added unsweetened applesauce and vanilla bean. The result is a not-too-sweet cake that lets the apples shine and highlights my favorite flavor – vanilla. Vanilla beans are expensive and it’s always a treat to bake with them for family and friends. And isn’t the smell of a vanilla bean out of this world?

If you haven’t split and scraped a vanilla bean, it’s simple: Make sure your paring knife is sharp. Working carefully, split the bean down the middle, scrape down the sides, getting all the little vanilla bits.  It’s worth it to watch a brief vanilla bean tutorial – click here for an excellent one. 

What I love about the recipe – the original and mine – is how easily it pulls together. The only time consuming part is peeling, coring and slicing the apples which I  find relaxing, especially with a cup of coffee or tea and the kids stealing apple slices as I work.

A note about pans for this Apple Cake. I tried a springform, a Bundt and a 13x9 Pyrex glass baking dish. The 13x9 pan gave me the best results – uniform color and crisp-but-not-hard edges. And, at home, I always rotate my pan(s) halfway thru baking for best results.

Sweet & Simple Apple Cake
Serves 10-12

Preheat oven to 350°.
Prepare a 13 x9 glass baking dish by lightly greasing it. Set aside.

3 (405 grams) cups AP flour
2 (400 grams) cups sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup (215 grams) vegetable oil
1/2 (123 grams) cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

6 cups (1,020 grams) apples sliced thin (I use Granny Smith)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 vanilla bean, scraped*
Toss the apple slices with lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla bean. Set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine dry and wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. If there are any dry crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, gently work them in with you hands.

Take half the cake batter and spread in the bottom the prepared 13-x9 glass baking dish, using a butter knife or small offset spatula to spread the batter evenly in the pan. Take half the apple mixture and spread evenly over the batter. Repeat.

Bake in a preheated 350° oven for approx. 1 hour.  When the cake is done, the apples on top will be wilted and lightly browned and the cake will be set in the middle. Let cake cool in the pan.

Serve warm from the oven, room temp or cool from the fridge. I prefer this cake after it has had a chance to sit – I like to bake one after dinner for breakfast the next day! Just before serving, if you wish, dust the cake with powdered sugar. Or, dust each piece individually with powdered sugar just before serving. For a homey dessert, try the Apple Cake with, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Mmmm. Enjoy!

*If you prefer not to use a vanilla bean, increase the vanilla in the cake to 2 1/2 tsp.

Apples in Vermont, September 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweet and Simple In Westport Magazine

Sweet and Simple appears as a feature article in the July/August 2011 issue of Westport Magazine. Read about baking up entrepreneurship from scratch by downloading the .pdf.

Sweet and Simple In Patch

Sweet and Simple was recently featured in the local Patch network for Fairfield County. You can read more about my sweetly mixed life here. [Source: Patch Fairfield]

Sweet and Simple In The Academy

The good folks at The Academy, an online magazine devoted to small business culture, recently sat down with me to ask questions about how it all started. I think really, though, they were after some free cupcakes. You can read the fresh dish here. [Source: The Academy]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sweet & Simple Spice Cake

I have a weakness for vintage cookbooks. They’re just fun.  SO fun.  For this blog post, I decided to give a recipe from a vintage cookbook a whirl.  The recipe, for an old-fashioned spice cake, was inspired by Green Mountain Kitchen Recipes (Elizabeth McWhorter, 1948).  I found this spiral bound collection of recipes in a community thrift shop in Vermont last winter. It has sweet illustrations and several wonderful recipes – and it cost a $1.

Some vintage recipes take a matter-of-fact-no-hand-holding approach with the reader. For example, Ms. McWhorter’s instructions for this cake: “Mixed and baked by the conventional method, the cake calls for the following ingredients…” The ingredients are then listed and the baker is expected – expected! – to know in what order to mix the ingredients and how to bake the cake. Yikes! 

Sure, sure, you and I both know to cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs, add the molasses and then alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients. Of course we do! But a jumble of ingredients with no instructions may as well be a description of my pantry.  So, I’ve made sense of the original recipe, tweaked it here and there [Hello, touch of nutmeg! Hello, orange zest!], and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Sweet & Simple Spice Cake*

Makes one lovely bundt cake
Preheat oven to 350°

Prepare a 10” bundt or tube pan (butter and lightly flour the pan, shaking off the excess flour). Alternately, you may coat the pan with a no-stick vegetable oil cooking spray (I won’t tell).

Have all ingredients at room temperature.

1 cup (225 g) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (112 g) unsalted butter
5 large eggs
1/2 cup (170 g) molasses
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
2 tsp orange zest
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups (338g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1/4 tsp salt

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Combine buttermilk, vanilla and orange zest and set aside.

In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, combine butter and sugar and beat well (the mixture will look like a grainy paste). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down bowl twice. With the mixer on low speed, add the molasses in a slow, steady stream.  Scrape down bowl again. Beat until well combined. The mixture will look a little soupy at this point.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk/vanilla/orange zest, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Mix until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cake bounces back when pressed lightly, and/or a cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold and finish cooling the cake on a wire rack.

To finish the cake, when cool dust lightly with powdered sugar. Serve slices with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. Garnish with an edible flower or a pretty, slim slice of orange or both!

*Note: my Sweet & Simple Spice Cake recipe originally appeared as a guest post for The Fat Expat - a fun blog with interesting peeps and clever writing.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins Discusses My Business Recipe

I was recently featured on career coach Caroline Dowd-Higgins' blog. She tells the not so simple story of how I took my passion for baking and turned it into a business:
"So how does the Chief Household Officer now manage a growing baking business in addition to her family? Michelle admits that work/life integration is a challenge. Her boys are all very excited about the business and in addition to being expert taste testers and home kitchen helpers – they enjoy seeing their mom gain recognition and achieve success with her business in their community."
You can read the whole article here. [source: Caroline Dowd-Higgins]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Summer Part III, Sunflowers & Chuchee’s English Muffin Bread

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer at my house. Thanks to Hurricane Irene, I finally got my wish and the kids went back to school today instead of last week. I was very happy to have them home, it was like a bonus vacation for all of us.

This August, when we went to Montauk, NY for our "real" vacation, I drove by LKL Farmstand in East Hampton, NY several times before I worked up the courage to pull over and ask if I could take some pictures of their sunflower field. I didn't expect to be allowed in the field and up and down the rows - and they generously allowed both. If you've never walked in a field of sunflowers late in the day in late summer, and I hadn't before, please put it at the top of your list of things to do. There was a lovely hum of bees and a feeling of total peace. Everything seemed just as it should be. Here are a few of the pictures I took that day.

In the picture on the right, you can see the bees on a sunflower.

Made of cloth or recycled materials, I love the American flag. This one is from LKL Farmstand.

Some LKL Farmstand peaches in jars. I'm going to make my grandma's Peaches 'n' Cream Pie, which calls for preserved peaches, with LKL Vanilla Peaches this winter.

Since I started Sweet & Simple, I've been baking more than ever, but in a commercial kitchen. I do miss the quiet time in my own kitchen. So yesterday was Labor Day and, even though it was hot and humid out, I wanted to relax at home in the afternoon and bake something. I thought English Muffin Bread would be great for back-to-school breakfast this morning - and it was! I had mine with butter and apricot preserves.

No surprise, some of my best recipes are from my favorite people – my friends and family. This English Muffin Bread is super easy to make and delicious to eat. My friend and former neighbor, Chuchee, an amazing baker and cook, made this for us many times. With her permission, I'm sharing her recipe. Chuchee’s English Muffin Bread is best toasted with lots of butter and jam. Or, try cream cheese, peanut butter or Nutella. All are popular at my house! You will find some of Chuchee’s other recipes here.

Since I tend to use a mixer or Cuisinart for most recipes – including pie dough and challah bread – I enjoy making this by hand in a Pyrex bowl with a wooden spoon. And the 45 minutes of wait time is a great excuse for yet another cup of coffee.

Chuchee's English Muffin Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Lightly grease 2 8-1/2 x 4” loaf pans and sprinkle with cornmeal.

3 cups plus 2-1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
cornmeal (for pans)

Combine with a whisk, 3 cups flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.

Heat milk and water in a small saucepan until very warm. Add milk to flour mixture. Beat well. Stir in 2-1/2 – 3 cups more flour to make a stiff batter. Spoon batter into pans. Loosely cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. While the bread is rising, preheat oven to 400º. Bake 25 minutes. Remove immediately and cool on wire rack.

Goodbye, Summer. Thank you for sweet memories and happy days. See you next year!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Summer Part II, Molly’s Blueberry Zucchini Bread

A few weeks ago I asked my sweet friend, Molly, if I could take a few pictures of her summer garden and animals for this blog. She agreed.

We’ve been enjoying fresh and beautiful eggs from Molly’s hens for months and I wanted to meet them. Turns out the hens had nothing to say to me - but they sure are pretty, aren’t they? And look at this zucchini – blossom and squash!

And Molly had just added two furry babies to her house – Peaches and Ron (Weasley). They are soft and sweet and hoppy as can be!

How do you prepare summer squash? Or, what’s your favorite way?

I like to take a combination of zucchini and yellow squash, cut them on a diagonal in medium slices, sprinkle lightly with sea salt and sauté in olive oil until crispy and golden brown on both sides. Just don’t crowd the pan – if you do, they steam (and I make a frowny face) - work in batches until all the rounds are done. Then I arrange the slices, slightly overlapping in concentric circle in my sauté pan, sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan and stick the pan under the broiler. Yup. That’s what I do. Watch the pan carefully and please-oh-please have those oven mitts handy to remove the pan when the cheese is crispy and golden brown!

Beautiful yellow squash. Love how different the blossoms are from zucchini blossoms.

Molly has a GREAT tip for all that extra zucchini. She grates it, measures out servings and puts them in individual plastic freezer bags for the winter. As needed, she adds the frozen zucchini to pancakes and baked goods for her kids. Garden zucchini in the darkest days of winter would make ME smile!

I had a few recipe ideas for this post, but Molly gave me some loaves of her quick bread to take home that day and I quickly lost interest in my own recipe ideas! Here’s the recipe for her Blueberry Zucchini Bread. It’s delicious and I’ve left the recipe as is – no tinkering, no inspired by, just a lovely recipe from her home to mine and now to yours.

Thank you, Molly! I've known you since our first born babies were in pre-school together and you are a wonderful mother and friend. Not to mention a fabulous gardener and cook. XO

Molly’s Blueberry Zucchini Bread
Makes 4-5 mini loaves or 1 8 x 4-ish loaf

Preheat oven to 350°
Prepare loaf pan(s) by lightly greasing with vegetable oil.
[If you’re using bake-and-serve-loaf pans, skip this step.]

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup white sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
(or, 2 cups all purpose unbleached, 1 cup whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and picked over

Combine with a whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and and cinnamon and set aside.

In the work bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Switch to the paddle attachment. Add the zucchini and beat until just combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Remove attachment and work bowl and with a spatula or wooden spoon gently fold in the blueberries. Transfer to the prepared mini loaf pans.

Bake 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes in pans then turn onto wire racks.


Avocados are my favorite fruit. So good! In a perfect world, I would have avocado with every meal. So, no surprise, I love guacamole. I take ripe avocados, sprinkle them with lemon juice and sea salt and then mash them up with a fork. That’s it!

What about lime juice? Glad you asked. I’ve experimented with lime juice and it adds a whole different quality to the guacamole. Although equally delicious, and I used it in the picture below because that's what I had on hand, my preference is lemon juice. The lime can overwhelm the avocado, so use less to start than you think you need.

I don’t particularly care for guacamole add-ins like chopped tomato, garlic, onion, or cilantro, though I understand those are components of an “authentic” guacamole. If you like those, go for it!

If possible, I highly recommend a sunny summer afternoon, an ocean breeze, music and a good friend or two to go with the guacamole and corn chips. And don't forget a couple of cold ones. Just sayin'.

Serves 4-6

3 ripe avocados*
Lemon juice to taste
Sea salt to taste

Halve, pit and peel avocados.
Put avocado halves in a work bowl.
Add lemon juice sparingly (you can always add more).
Add sea salt to taste.
Mash avocados lightly with a fork, taste and adjust lemon/salt.
If you like your guacamole smooth, keep on mashing.
If you like your guacamole chunky, stop when the texture looks good to you.
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve immediately or tightly cover with plastic wrap (pressing the wrap on the guacamole) and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Don’t forget the tortilla chips!

* When is an avocado ripe? Good question. A ripe avocado should be firm but give easily to light pressure from your finger tips. To hasten ripening, try placing your avocados in a brown paper bag with an apple or a banana for a day or two. Do not store avocados in the fridge or in a plastic bag.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes

One of my favorite recipes!

Found this recipe in a New York Times Magazine article (“Kitchen Voyeur”, Jonathan Reynolds, 9-5-05), and then in Barefoot Contessa at Home (Ina Garten, 2006) as “Summer Garden Pasta.”

This is best prepared in summer when local, organic tomatoes and basil are fresh and abundant. During the summer I make it once a week – no kidding! Because the tomatoes marinate for at least four hours, you can prepare it well ahead of time. It’s perfect for a mid-week family dinner, or dress it up with a salad and light dessert and you have a dinner party menu.

I use less garlic than both recipes mentioned above. In summer, when I can purchase an enormous, fragrant bunch of basil from a local farm stand, I use more basil and garnish with a big, beautiful sprig of it. The original recipes add cheese to the dish right before serving. I prefer to pass a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese at the table.

For this recipe it helps to have the best quality ingredients. As a special treat, I like to have on hand a really good olive oil and a favorite sea salt for this dish. For fun, click here for a fantastic foodie resource for olive oils, sea salts and many other wonderful items.

Serves 6-8

4 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
A handful +/- of julienned basil leaves (reserve some for serving)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/4 lbs angel hair pasta
1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the table

Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for about 4 hours.

Before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions being careful not to overcook it.

Drain but do not rinse the pasta, add it to the bowl with cherry tomatoes and toss.

Garnish each bowl of pasta with some of the reserved basil and serve immediately.

Pass a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese at the table.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Part I and a “Recipe” for Boiled Corn

As much as I look forward to vacation - who doesn't? - Connecticut summers are a joy. I’m sharing some pictures of 3 places I especially love to visit during the summer months: Greenfield Farms, and 2 neighborhood gardens that always make me feel content – both designed and planted by their current owners.

Greenfield Farms, the best local place to buy tomatoes, corn and zinnias is a short bike ride from our house. I’ve been a customer for years. Before we had children, one of my favorite summer meals was boiled corn with sea salt and a glass of wine (or two). Ahem! I still love a lazy Sunday dinner of boiled sweet corn, but I add crispy grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches now - they're pretty darn good!

Greenfield Farms
Open 7 Days a Week (July – October)
M-F 10 - 6, Sat & Sun 9 - 6
3763 Congress Street, Fairfield, CT 06824

Then there’s my neighbor Laila’s beautiful vegetable and perennial gardens. Below, swiss chard, and an herb bouquet - sage, basil, parsley.

A broccoli and the always lovely 'Becky' shasta daisy (rumbrum lily in background).

And my neighbor Jenn’s gorgeous perennial gardens that she seems always to attribute to benign neglect, though I see love and care – and definitely humor! – at every turn. This sea monster looks like a big silly! ...Maybe he came from the Long Island Sound??

Jenn's petite and perfect hydrangea garden, and some ruffly, sweet and girly daylilies.

Zinnias, an annual native to Mexico, are the first flowers I remember planting from seed with my mom. Really, could anything be easier to grow or more rewarding with that insane carnival of colors? And they’re flourishing at Greenfield Farms in the July heat.

At left, corn and zinnias from Greenfield Farms.

[Please note, you're going to be seeing this window quite a bit until I get my food photography lighting down - it is a 3-exposure window in my kitchen with beautiful light. I think of it as my food photography lighting blankie. *sigh]

Below, zinnias in a field at Greenfield Farms:

September corn is my favorite – those warm days and cool nights have a sweetening effect on the corn. I didn’t make that up. Click the link! But I’ve never turned down July corn. Or August corn for that matter! And this is how I like to prepare it...

Sweet & Simple “Recipe” for Boiled Corn
If you like it boiled like I do, just give it a quick dip in salted, boiling water. And I mean a rolling boil. Two minutes is enough. Serve it immediately, it doesn’t like to sit and get cold. Trust me. And I need a favorite sea salt for sprinkling on the-almost-too-hot-too-handle-corn. If you like to give your corn a gentle rub-down with sweet butter, knock yourself out! Why not?

Happy Summer!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Easy Peasy Strawberry Rhubarb Bars

It all started with a question on Facebook. Did I have a rhubarb bar recipe? Nope.

I was sent the link for this Best Rhubarb Bars recipe and it got me thinking I should have a rhubarb recipe! So, I ever so lovingly adapted Krumkake’s recipe. I tried the original recipe keeping in mind as I prepared it what my own baking preferences are and what I wanted in my final adaptation.

I reduced the sugar because I like to do that and, more importantly, because strawberries in season are very sweet and you want their natural sweetness to shine. I added a splash of vanilla because I’m one of those bakers who cannot live without it. I guessed correctly that the touch of vanilla would be just right for the reduced sugar fruit mixture. And ok ok ok, rhubarb is technically a vegetable. I do know that! But, it’s a vegetable used as a fruit. Kinda like a tomato is a fruit used as a vegetable? Oh never mind! Let’s move on!!

The final result?? A bar with a buttery cookie crust and a fruit topping that is tangy sweet with a hint of vanilla. The bars are fab served with a dollop of whipped cream. But, in all fairness, I rarely object to whipped cream. Like vanilla, I want to share the love! These would be great served slightly warm with vanilla ice cream, though the bars don’t cut well warm. If you do choose to serve them warm, put each serving in a small bowl with the ice cream on top – that will hide any “oopsies” from cutting them too soon!

Easy Peasy Strawberry Rhubarb Bars
As adapted from Best Rhubarb Bars
8 to 10 servings

Preheat oven to 350°
11 x 7 glass pan (set aside)

Cookie Crust:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter and slightly cooled

Fruit topping:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
splash vanilla
2 cups rhubarb, small chop
2 cups quartered strawberries
(if the strawberries are small, cut in half)

Combine the cookie crust ingredients
Press the crust evenly into the pan.
Bake the crust for about15 minutes or until it is lightly browned.

While the crust is baking, prepare the fruit topping.

Combine the rhubarb and strawberries in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the flour and sugar and set aside.
Whisk the eggs well then combine with the flour and sugar.
Pour the egg mixture over the fruit and fold to combine, taking care not to mash the strawberries.

Pour the fruit mixture over the hot cookie crust and evenly distribute the fruit.

Optional: Working quickly with two forks – or your own fingers, if you wish – turn the strawberries over so that the seed sides are UP. This will give you a much prettier final result – the dark red of the large strawberries against the paler small chopped rhubarb looks so pretty.

Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 35-40 minutes. The bars are done when the cookie crust is a lovely golden brown and the fruit topping is set with little jiggle.

Cool the pan on a rack on the counter. The bars are best cut when completely cool. Serve alone, with lightly sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.