Favorite Sour Cream Apple Pie (circa 1992)

Creamy, tender apples baked under a thin, crackly cinnamon-sugar
topping, it's no wonder this recipe is still popular today as
it was when first published in "Gourmet Magazine"
over 20 years ago. 

And it slices so beautifully, thanks to the sour cream
custard filling.  It's easy to make too as it only
requires a bottom crust (and if you're short on
time refrigerated or frozen pie crust pastry will do.)

The original recipe suggested serving each slice
with a dollop of ginger flavored whipped cream,
but I've never made it that way. I prefer a slightly
sweetened dollop of freshly whipped cream, or a
scoop of good quality vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

It's a wonderful way to send 2012 out
on a sweet note. If you try it, I hope it will become
one of your favorites too!

Happy New Year, friends!!
Thank you so much for your friendship and all of your 
kind messages and 
support throughout this past year. ((Hugs!!))

I'm wishing you all the best; health, happiness,
peace and prosperity in 2013. 

xo and blessings~



Challah (with dough from the Bread Machine)

Although I've made many loaves of Challah in my life, I had never
used my bread machine to make the dough until recently.

After seeing many positive reviews for this recipe I gave it
a try.  The recipe makes enough dough for two 
braided loaves, but I made one braided loaf and
formed the remainder of the dough into Challah rolls
by forming the dough into balls, then baking them
in well greased muffin tins. 

I added about 1/2 cup or so more flour than the recipe
stated, taking note I (along with a few other reviewers) determined the dough was 
too sticky to handle otherwise. With the additional flour it turned out very well.

Over time I've found it truly helps to read the reviews for a recipe
when they are available, in order to pick up pointers for changes or improvements.

I know, I know, it is not proper to cut the Challah
with a knife (the knife, being a symbol of violence/death 
should not be present at the peace of the Jewish sabbath), 
rather the bread should be torn. 
However, when the bread is a day old I love to toast it, so I slice it.

I coated the top with the traditional egg wash, and 
applied sesame seeds (optional.)


Have you ever attempted to sprinkle sesame seeds, 
poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. to the top 
of bread or rolls before baking only to have most 
of them bounce off of the egg washed surface?

That used to happen to me all  the time, until I learned
this neat trick from a baker a few years ago:

1. Pour the amount of seeds or nuts you will be using into a small, shallow bowl or saucer.

2. Apply egg, milk or water wash to the top of the formed dough.

3. Slightly moisten the fingers of your dominant hand with water or milk and dip (the flat, palm side of) your fingers into the seed/nut bowl; 
(the seeds will stick to your fingers.)

4. Gently press your (seed coated fingers) onto the surface of the dough, they will adhere to the dough and release from your fingers.
Repeat until the surface is coated as you like.

As if by magic the seeds/nuts will stick, and you will have very few
wasted seeds. It's a great tip, and I hope you'll give it a try
the next time you need to apply seeds or nuts to your

Thank you for stopping by today, friends!
If you try this recipe and/or technique for the seed topping, 
I hope you'll be pleased with the results.

Blessings to all!



Merry Christmas from my home to yours . . .


Wishing you and your loved ones a bright and Merry Christmas!

xoxo ~mari


EeeYikes! December seems more fleeting than usual . . .

... this year.

For some reason the month of December seems so fleeting this year, 
more so than us usual.  Does it seem that way to you, too?

Here, blogging and most internet activities have taken a back seat to 'real' life; 
keeping up with the critters, the regular household chores, getting
ready for Christmas, yummy meals, some minor sprucing up for the kitchen, 
as purging the kitchen cupboards of bake and cookware I seldom use.
Donations from the closet and attic plus there are a few crafty things going on, 
and most importantly keeping the wood stove fire
stoked.  I love the cozy wood stove!
Here are a few things I captured to share with you ~

I'm normally not a big breakfast eater, but I love
winter breakfasts. :)

with cheerful flowers for the table to brighten a gray day.

A steaming cup of fragrant tea and a little bowl of hot oats 
(a little undercooked, just the way I like them.) Not gluey and sticky. No.

 Served with brown sugar, cinnamon, berries
and half & half (with a small pat of butter buried smack in the
middle of the bowl, rising to the surface as it melts) ~ Just the way
mama always made it for us. Yum.

And to warm the dark, cold evening ~

An (improvised version) of Shrimp and Halibut Chowder 
with Bacon and Thyme from 'Fine Cooking'. Their version is made
with haddock or cod, and clams.

I swapped shrimp for the canned clams, halibut for the cod,
omitted the jalapeño and used chicken broth for the clam juice, 
(no clam juice on hand, but it came out great.)  
So comforting on a rainy evening, like a warm hug from the inside out.

In the past couple of weeks there was time to celebrate a birthday...

To make the celebration complete I made a cute little birthday cake.

After looking at 'Google Images' for cake inspiration,
It felt like coming home ~Google led me back to a favorite blog: 
Once more I fell in love with Alicia's ideas* and her take on cakes ~ 
It's just what I was looking for. 

Perfect, down to the tall picks (super easy to make ~ 
glue scraps of fabric, trim, and/or ribbon to the top of  long, 
thick, bamboo food skewers.) 
A few fresh flowers and greens to add color.
The finishing touch; hand-dipped beeswax birthday candles (Etsy.)
I love Etsy!
I wanted to make a small cake, this one is only six-inches in diameter
(but waaay tall!)  A little too tall.
We ended up serving it as one would a tiered wedding cake ~ 
deconstructed layer by layer.

Lesson learned :) next time I will fill the batter in the pans a
little less than 2/3rds full. It did make a dramatic presentation though. ;) 
And it was soo scrumptious.

As Alicia suggested you can use this 6 x 3 Inch Round Cake Pan
If you use the single tall pan, horizontally split the baked cake into 
halves or thirds and frost between layers.

I have also used 3 of these:

Round Cake Pan, 6 Inch x 2 Inch 

Which work particularly well; I'm more comfortable with
them, especially if you don't like to deal with splitting the one cake.
(And as noted, fill them a little less than 2/3rd's full of batter.)
These also bake more evenly, imo.

Since most cake recipes make more batter than you will need
for a 6-inch layer cake, place a few cupcake liners into your 
cupcake pans and bake off after your cake has baked. 
Who doesn't like cupcakes??!

*Are you familiar with Alicia's delightful blog and incredible creativity?
She is an absolute treasure and she offers such fantastic inspiration, 
and is a talented writer as well.

Simply an amazing human being, and now she and her hubby Andy
are new parents! Lucky, lucky little Amelia!!

Back to the cake...
I used my tried and true chocolate cake recipe from
(but I have forever subbed melted, cooled butter for the vegetable oil.)

Alicia's youngest sister is an honest-to-goodness pastry chef, 
and recommended THIS- 100% Cacao - Extra Brute  cocoa powder.

 Product of France, it is the richest, finest cocoa powder of all I've tasted. 
Bar none.
Get yourself some.

For the frosting?
An old-fashioned frosting recipe my mom would make, 
I believe it was particularly popular during WWII, (just a wee bit before my time.)
A time when food rationing required homemakers to make adjustments.
As much as I loved mom's 7-minute frosting, I always liked this one the best; 
it's like buttercream, but better. And with a surprising ingredient . . . flour. 
If you didn't know it was there, you might never guess.  
I think Joe mentioned you can make it with cornstarch, too.

It's known by several names; Heritage Frosting, Cooked Frosting, Flour Frosting,
Thunder Cloud, Faux Buttercream, and others. It is so creamy and decadent, but
doesn't have the greasy, synthetic taste that 'Buttercream' frosting does. 

This updated version of Heritage Frosting IS made from real butter 
(not solid shortening as so-called 'Buttercream' we know today.)
You must try it to taste the difference for yourself. 

 Hop on over to the following link to get the recipe and read more about it 
here on Joe Pastry's blog.

Love his blog ~ if you ever have questions about baking, Joe is your man.

And more comfort food for these cozy rainy/foggy/chilly days and nights~ 

My quickie take on Chicken with [Fresh Herbs and Black Pepper] Dumplings. 
For this quick version I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into large
chunks, seasoned with salt and black pepper, tossed in a little flour, 
then quickly sautéed in a little oil. I only 'stew' the chicken for a few minutes. 
I add the partially cooked chicken to the thickened chicken stock and vegetables 
during the last few minutes (while the dumplings are cooking) 
to keep the chicken breast pieces tender, juicy and flavorful.

This time I made the dumplings from a baking mix (like Bisquick®) 
Mix milk and the mix, add herbs, fresh black pepper and stir. Cook them as
usual; spoonfuls added to the hot chicken stew; 10 minutes with the cooking pot
uncovered, then place the lid on the pan and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Perfectly light, tender and puffy dumplings.
So good and easy.

Of course, you can make dumplings from scratch, or make your own 
biscuit mix ahead of time, it keeps in the fridge for several weeks. 
I don't do the rolled dumplings, but you could if you prefer.

And finally a little peek at one of the hooky gifts I'm finishing up
for Christmas ...

Good old granny squares. :) 
I love the primitive, simple repetition of granny squares, I can watch movies 
or have a conversation while I make them without being distracted 
by a more intricate pattern.

The request was for something bright and happy (and sturdy.)
  I just have to finish 1 more row of squares, then the hooky crochet trim.
I grabbed these colors from my stash; I'm not so sure about 
the colors together, but I think the recipient will. 
At least I hope so... and that's what counts.

Each granny is 6"x6", finished it will be about 5 feet square, 
a generous throw size, or to fold at the end of the bed to keep 
toes snuggy warm. :) 

Yes, December continues to fly by;
but I'm not complaining at all ~  so much to be thankful for.

My heart goes out to all those displaced by Sandy, 
and all of those away from home and loved ones
for other reasons. Prayers to all.

xo ~mari



Chicken, Pesto (and more...) Stuffed Shells

You probably have seen many variations of Chicken Stuffed Jumbo Pasta Shells, 
but this one from Joelen on her blog "What's Cookin' Chicago" attracted my attention recently because I had half a jar of fresh pesto 
in the fridge begging to be used.

Stuffed shells are so convenient you can make them at your leisure,
then cover and refrigerate. 
They can be made a day in advance, then popped into
a 350º/F oven until bubbly and heated through. 
You can also freeze them for future meals. 
Honestly I don't freeze much of the food I make, except for things 
like soups, stocks, sauces, stews, etc. 
But Joelen gives freezing tips on her site (see link above.)

I did make a few changes to the recipe ~ as follows:

(I reduced the recipe by half; because I didn't need such a large amount of shells.)
Swapped out fresh, grated mozzarella for half of the Parmesan cheese
And I added the following (adjust the amounts to suit your taste):
 •chopped marinated artichoke hearts
•finely diced sun-dried tomatoes (the kind packed in olive oil)
• fresh steamed (and squeezed of moisture) spinach, minced
•minced parsley
•I also added a sprinkling of buttered Panko breadcrumbs and some
grated parmesan over the stuffed shells before baking.

The recipe as written seemed as if it would be rather dry 
(in my humble opinion) since it had no sauce. 
To remedy this I stirred a very generous tablespoon of the pesto 
into about 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream and poured it around 
the shells just before placing them in the oven. 
I simply eyeballed the amount of pesto and cream ~ my aim was to have 
the cream mixture approximately 1/4-inch deep around the shells.

Heavenly!! The sauce barely thickened up, but was delicious drizzled over
the shells upon serving and provided the moisture which I felt was
lacking in the original recipe.

I covered the baking dish with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes,
then removed it for the remainder of the baking time.

It received thumbs up around the dining table and was declared a "keeper".
I love that!! 
With gracious thanks to Joelen for the inspiration for this variation
of her recipe.

You might keep this one in mind when you roast a turkey~
a nifty way to use some of the leftovers.

Thanks for stopping by today friends ~ have a great week.

I'm grateful for loving family, good friends and followers of my blog!. :)

Blessings ~ 
xo~ mari

A Sampling of my food . . .


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