Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins with Apples and Pears

Today began with a wonderful brisk walk in the park with Pippi, and it is our routine to stop at Park Ave Coffee on the way home. While I was waiting for my latte, I was eyeing the muffins that had just come out of the oven. When we got home, I spotted some apples and pears on the counter that are getting pretty close to the end of their prime. An idea was born … apple pear muffins. A quick Google search did not reveal many appetizing options that worked with the ingredients in my pantry, but then I checked out Taste of Home Baking.

This is one of the many cookbooks I have that came from my failure to properly respond “no” for the Book of the Month club. I honestly have not used it much; in fact, this may be the first recipe I have tried from the book. But, it worked today. They had a recipe for a Brown Sugar Oat Muffin that looked really good. I adapted it a bit, used all whole wheat flour instead of part wheat, skim milk instead of 2 percent, part white, added almonds, added some apples and pears, and also added nutmeg, crystallized ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. I also added a streusel topping.

In the end, they turned out pretty good. I had one for breakfast and shared a few with a neighbor who reported positive reviews.

Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins with Apples and Pears

Adapted from Taste of Home Baking

  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
  • 1 pear, peeled and chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • ¼ cup of oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

    Pippi politely requests a muffin ...

  • 1 handful of cinnamon chips
  • ¼ cup of sliced almonds
  • 1 good shake of cloves and nutmeg, maybe ½ teaspoon
  • 1 sprinkle of crystallized ginger, maybe ½ teaspoon


  •  ¼ cup each of oats, brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup each of pecans, cinnamon chips (I had this on hand and wanted to use them up)
  • 2 TBSP of butter, chopped into small pieces

Mix eggs, milk, oil, vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients, mix in the apples and pears. Fold the wet and dry ingredients together. Mix until combined, but be careful not to blend too much … think of brownies versus a cake. Spoon into a muffin pan. Either grease first or use cupcake liners.

For the topping: Mix all ingredient s together, spoon on the unbaked muffin.

Bake at 400 for about 15-17 minutes.

The "plus one" muffin

The "plus one" muffin

I made a dozen plus one in an average size pan. I am sure the plus one is because I doctored the recipe and added the fruit.


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Spinach Mushroom Brie Pizza

This recipe was also inspired by a craving.  I had a meeting the other day at PW Pizza, a great local pizza shop.  We did not eat and the place smelled amazing. So, this weekend I decided I needed some pizza and created this is  a twist on the usual spinach mushroom pizza based on what I had in the fridge.  This does not include tomato sauce so it is a great option for those people who can’t or won’t do sauce.

To my surprise, it really turned out well and is a recipe that definitely goes into the rotation.  It could easily be cut into small pieces for a heavy appetizer or used as a main meal or part of a main meal.  I ate one of the leftover pieces for lunch with some butternut squash soup and it was a great contrast to the soup.

Spinach Mushroom Brie Pizza

  • 1 pizza crust (Trader Joe’s has a great pre-made pizza dough)
  • 1 pound of mushrooms, your choice on the type, I used  mix of baby bellas and white
  • 5-6 cups of spinach, the spinach was not packed, just lightly mound in the measuring cup
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (or to taste)
  • 1/2 of an onion chopped
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a splash of wine or broth

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the dough and place on a  cookie sheet.  Poke the dough with a fork and place in the oven.  Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes and remove from oven.

Saute the garlic, onion, and mushrooms in the olive oil until very soft, add a bit of liquid if needed, you do want the mixture to be moist.  When the mushrooms are almost done, add the spinach and let it wilt. 

Cut the brie into large chunks.  Spoon the spinach, mushroom, garlic mixture overthe crust and top with the brie.  Return to the oven for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the crust is brown and brie is melted. 


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Weeknight dining: Quick Seafood Lasagna

The other day I stopped by some of the shops in the Italian section of St. Louis, called The Hill.  You can find wonderful authentic Italian food and groceries there.  While I was browsing, I came across some home-made seafood ravioli, I did not buy them, but could not stop thinking about them.  A few days later they were still on my mind so I made a quick seafood lasagna, not quite the same, but addressed the craving. 

The recipe below made enough for an 8 by 8 pan, but it is very rich and filling so that would easily serve 6 people, probably with some leftovers.

Quick Seafood Lasagna

  • 1/2 package of lasagna noodles, I used roasted red pepper noodles from Pappardella’s
  • 1 pound of shrimp (I used frozen)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1-2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1-2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups parmesan cheese
  • 1 -2 cups of white sauce (butter, flour, milk)

Bring the water to a boil and cook the lasagna noodles, when al dente, drain and rinse with cold water.  While this is going on, saute the onions, then add shrimp, I also added a few generous shakes of Tuscan Sunset.  Cook until the shrimp is no longer pink.  Remove from heat and make the white sauce.   Add some of the cheese to the sauce, I added about a cup of ricotta and 1/4 cup of parmesan.  Chop the shrimp and mix with the remaining cheeses, salt and pepper to taste reserve a bit of the parmesan for the top.  Layer the noodle, seafood mix, and sauce. Top the last layer with remaining cheese and some pepper.

Bake at 400 for about 30 -40 minutes.


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Celebrating Mardi Gras By Going to the Dogs

Did you know that St. Louis has the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the country (behind New Orleans, of course)?  The celebration is centered in a neighborhood called 

Everyone is a friend at the dog parade

Soulard, about a 1/2 mile from my house. St. Louis Mardi Gras runs for a few weeks before Fat Tuesday, and today was the dog parade, formerly known as the Mystic Krewe of Barkus.  Thousands of people and dogs (including llamas, kangaroos, horses, and some less enthusiastic cats) descend upon Soulard on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate.

Dog parade ... not just for dogs


This year, I hosted a pre-party at my house for four and two legged friends.  It was predicted to be a bit chilly, temps in the 30s, so I wanted to make sure to have some warm items.  The drink menu included:

  • Hot chocolate/coffee with whip cream, marshmallows, and some adult additives, such

    Human drinks

    as Bailey’s, Kahula, etc.

  • Champagne with your choice of juices

    Dog drinks

  • Bloody Mary fixings
  • Hot apple cider
  • Beer, soda, water
  • Water for the pups

For food, I went with a brunchy/snacky feel, including:

  • Cinnamon coffee cake
  • Breakfast pizza (recipe below)
  • Sausage pinwheels – recipe can be found here, I first discovered it when a colleague

    Pinwheels on the left, Pizza on the right

    brought it the office – you must try this

  • Three Cheese Jalapeño spread (recipe below)
  • Fresh fruit
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Nibbley items, including nuts, Hershey’s Kisses, and Goldfish Crackers

    "What no rawhide on the menu?:

And for the dogs

  • Mini Milk Bones
  • “Hot Dog” Milk Bones

Three Cheese Jalapeño Spread

This recipe was created several years ago for a program that my firm conducted for Del Monte.  It is a simple recipe, but classic and pleases everyone.  You can spice it up if the crowd demands it or if you have lots of kids, you can keep it a little simpler.

1 (14.5 ounce) can                   Del Monte Petite Cut Diced Tomatoes – Zesty Jalapeños, drained

8 ounces                                  Cream cheese, softened

¼ cup                                      Mayonnaise

2 cups                                      Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1 cup                                       Cheddar cheese, grated

½ cup                                      Green onions, chopped

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese and mayonnaise; stir in Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, green onions, and tomatoes.  Spread evenly in oven-proof baking dish.  Can be served hot or cold.  If served hot, preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Breakfast Pizza

Pizza crust – home-made or refrigerated

2- 3 TBSP cream cheese, I’ve used plain, onion/chive, veggie

6-8 eggs

½ -1 cup of bacon or sausage, cooked

1 – 1 ½ cups of cheese, I prefer a Colby-Jack blend, pepper jack would be great as would cheddar

Roll the dough into a rectangle on a greased cookie sheet, poke with a fork and bake for about 12 minutes at 350.  While the dough is baking, scramble the eggs – you want a soft scramble since they will cook further while baking.

Remove the crust from the oven and lightly spread the cream cheese on the warm crust, top with egg, making sure to cover the entire crust. Sprinkle with bacon or sausage and top with cheese.  Return to the over for another 20 to 30 minutes, until lightly brown.

Serve warm, and with salsa if you choose.


So much fun, we can barely keep our eyes open,

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Bratwurst: Beyond the Grill and Served Three Ways

Do you stereotype your food?  When was the last time that you cooked a turkey outside of the Thanksgiving to Christmas window?  And cooking a turkey you were given at the office in January does not count.  You probably have turkey sandwiches from the deli now and then, or even a turkey burger, and perhaps you prepare a turkey breast, but a full turkey?  Probably not.

That is likely the same situation with bratwurst.  I would guess that the vast majority of brats are sold and consumed between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  A classic German sausage they have been relegated to the ballpark or the backyard grill.  And there is nothing wrong with that, but I asked myself, can the brat be used in other ways?

The recipe below is a creation of my own, and as you will see, there are three ways to serve … for a dinner, for causal supper or heavy appetizers, or for a finger food party.  One thing to note, like anything you want to start with a quality brat.  I used some brats I purchased from G&W Bavarian Style Sausage.  I was introduced to them through Groupon and have loved all of the items I have tried.  And, when you want to do the classic grilled Brats, they make the same brats served at Grant’s Farm.

Base Recipe

1-2 TBSP of butter

2 pounds of onions, cut into large slices

3 apples

1 ½ pounds of bratwurst (about 8 links)

1 ½ bottles of beer (I used 12 ounce Fat Tire)

Worcestershire sauce – a few shakes

Sauté the onions until they are translucent and close to browning.  Add the brats.  Continue to cook as you peel the apple and slice, thick slices are fine.  Add the apples and one bottle of beer.  Bring the heat up to a simmer, and then turn down.  Cook, while covered, slowly.  I cooked for about 2 hours.  If needed, add more beer.  You want the apples to completely dissolve into the broth, and for the onions to begin to dissolve.  Note:  This would be great in a slow cooker, just sear the brats first so they are brown.

Serving Option Number One:  A Winter Dinner

Serve with a side of buttery mashed potatoes and green vegetable or salad. Use the apple/onion mixture as gravy.


Serving Option Number Two: Sliders for a Casual Supper or Heavy Appetizers

Reduce the apple/onion mixture a step or two past gravy so it is more of a spread.  Cut the brats into halves or thirds and slice in half.  Place the brats into a toasted bun.  Consider using dinner rolls, dollar rolls or small pretzel rolls. Depending on the pickiness of your group, you can spread the apple/onion mixture on one side and some mustard on the other side of the bread.  For an extra treat, add some of the bacon jam.

Serving Option Number Three:  Easy Appetizers

Remove the brats from the apple/onion mixture and slice into bite-size pieces.  Return them back to the apple/onion mixture and cook for a bit longer so the flavors are absorbed into the brat.  Remove them and reduce the apple/onion mixture.  Use the apples and onions as base for serving on a platter or a warming dish; serve with toothpicks and dipping sauces.  I would suggest a sour cream/horseradish blend, spicy dark mustard, and milder, sweeter mustard, but use whatever you think your guests will prefer.


Posted in Appetizer, Ceilithe Food, Dinner, Lunch, Main Dish, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Puff Pastry Fun: Spinach Mushroom Goat Cheese Squares

For many years, I was afraid of puff pastry.  I know it is irrational, but it always seemed so intimidating.  But then I finally tried it and loved it.  Now, it is a “go to” part of my appetizer rotation.  A few days I ago I was looking for something to make that did not involve a trip to the store and used ingredients I had in the house.  I was feeling pizza like, but did not want all the dough so created a modified pizza with goat cheese, spinach, and mushrooms.  It was great on the side with some butternut squash soup, but would also be a terrific appetizer or even a great brunch item.  It is best warm, but also okay at room temperature. 

Spinach Mushroom Goat Cheese Squares

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

4-5 TBSP of cream cheese or other soft seasoned cheese, I used a blend of garlic/chive cream cheese and veggie Boursin

 8 ounces of mushroom, roughly chopped, I used baby portabellas

1 package of fresh spinach

4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled

1 shallot, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil

Wine, if you have it

Saute the garlic and shallot in olive oil until they begin to soften, add the mushrooms.  If needed and available, add a dash of wine.  Water or broth would work fine too.  As the mushrooms begin to cook and soften, add the spinach and cover.  Stir frequently.  When the spinach has wilted, turn burner to low, cook for another minute or so, then turn off and remove from heat.

Spread the puff pastry on a cookie sheet.  Gently spread the cream cheese.  Spoon the mushroom/spinach mixture over the cheese.  Make sure to poke the pasty with a fork. Sprinkle goat cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes  Serve warm or at room temperature.


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Sautéed Green Beans – Chinese Restaurant Style

One of my favorite take-out dishes is spicy sautéed string beans or green beans, but every time I order it, I cringe because I know those innocent healthy beans have been doused in oil and what should be a healthy choice is probably just as bad as General Tsao’s chicken.  I’ve been craving those beans for a while so when I received a huge bag of green beans as part of my food co-op, I thought the time is now to make them on my own.

And they were good!

I looked for a recipe but everything was either deep fried (confirming my fears) or sounded bland.  I wanted that spicy bite, but without the grease.  I ended up making up the recipe below.  The beans were great, and lasted for a few days … much like take out.  I’ve also tried this with other green vegatables, like broccoli, and it has worked well.

About 1 – 1.5 pounds of green beans, washed, ends removed

Sesame seeds

1 TBSP each, olive oil and butter

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3-4 TBSP of soy sauce, I used the “lite” or low sodium sauce

1-2 TBSP of Sirachi sauce, add more or less to taste

2-3 TBSP of Goyza dipping sauce (from Trader Joe’s)

Mix bottom three ingredients in a small bowl.  Heat butter and oil in large pan, add garlic and sauté for a few minutes.  Add green beans and mixed liquid.  Cover and cook until the beans soften, about 10 -15 minutes. Personally, it was hard for me to let it cook this along, I am definitely more of a “crisp” girl, but I wanted it to be more like the restaurant style  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve warm.

Note:  if I made this again and had either chili oil or sesame oil I would use that.  I also would consider a few shakes of red pepper to turn the heat up a bit more if you like it hotter.


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