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Summertime Tea | A Recipe

Ben Ashby

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Summertime Tea

Fresh berries for muddling (such as strawberries or blueberries)


Three parts fruit tea
One part gin
Thyme or rosemary for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle your choice of fresh fruit. Pour in the fruit tea and gin then add ice and shake. Serve on or off the rocks and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.




Christy Jo Stone + Serving Southern Sweetness

Ben Ashby

CHRISTY JO STONE

the fruit tea chicks

The tiny town of Hartsville, Tennessee, and its surrounding countryside, with its rolling pastures, southern charm and small-town sensibility, provides the perfect palate for Christy Jo Stone to grow her businesses, raise her kids and serve up her signature blend of deliciously refreshing fruit tea. From her family’s farm outside of town, she has transformed a shed into a beautiful space for creating teas, hosting her annual Strawberry Patch Barn Sale and making plans for the future of the Fruit Tea Chicks.

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I live in Hartsville, Tennessee, the same town where I was raised. Trousdale County is the smallest county in Tennessee. It’s predominately a farming community. Like so many others, I grew up in a broken home. My parents divorced when I was in the fourth grade, at which time we moved from Lafayette to Hartsville, which are about 15 miles apart.

Growing up in a small town, I never felt comfortable expressing myself and lived somewhat of a caged-up
life I guess you could say. I really didn’t recognize this until I got older (probably in college) and more in touch with my inner-self. In small towns, it’s not always easy to be “different.” In fact, it was frowned upon, so I chose to conform.


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As I got into high school, I quickly realized if I ever wanted to unleash the beast within, I would have to get the heck outta dodge. So I did. I headed south to Ole’ Miss, which was not a good choice in terms of proper places to unleash the beast! It was one of the most uniform schools I have ever been to, with lots of old money, beautiful people and rich southern gals—none of which applied to me.

I left there after one-and-a-half years and transferred to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where I ended up getting my degree in psychology. While there, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Australia, where I backpacked and lived in hostels for four months. I made this journey all alone, and it’s where my passion for handmade, color and pastry shops came alive. The inner beast was finally released!

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In 2003, I became a stay-at-home mom and a member of the local garden club. Each month we had a potluck, and my “dish” was always my homemade fruit tea. The little old ladies would fluff me up about how good it was and make me feel proud of myself. I started with just a basic recipe, but before long, I was super-bored with it. I started tinkering with the recipe, adding fresh puréed fruits and such.

That worked on a small scale, but when I started the business, that recipe just didn’t work. I finally perfected my own unique recipe using fruit juices, concentrates and a few other specialty blends which have stood the test of time. It’s the one I hope to use until my tea-making days are over.

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I used to journal and doodle a lot. About a year ago, I cleaned out my sewing room and found a journal entry dated June 2009. In it, I had written about my dreams to start my first Barn Sale—The Strawberry Patch—and how I wanted to sell my homemade fruit tea by the jug. I had forgotten I had a vision for my tea, way back when. All these fruit tea ideas finally came together in July 2016 when I did my very first show at Swanky Plank at Rippa Villa.

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I’m completely self-taught with my own cooking. I grew up eating good-old southern food like pinto beans and cornbread, where the only seasoning used was salt, pepper and lard. Being a single mom with three kids going three directions, I never get enough time home to cook. I don’t like frozen or boxed dinners. I love food blogs and pics.

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I’m not sure if it is because of the artfulness of the picture, the staging and styling of it or the beauty of the finished product itself. I’m fascinated by chefs and their ability to create a piece of art using food. I love cookbooks like “The Plantiful Table” and “Whole Food Energy.” I love the pictures in them just as much.

At the end of the day, I’m a single mom without any formal training who is chasing her dreams and doing the best she possibly can. My greatest dream is to deliver a creative product that people will want as a staple item in their pantry for years to come.

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“I’m good at fruit tea—that about sums it up!”

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Summertime Tea

Fresh berries for muddling (such as strawberries or blueberries)

Three parts fruit tea
One part gin
Thyme or rosemary for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle your choice of fresh fruit. Pour in the fruit tea and gin then add ice and shake. Serve on or off the rocks and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.


Goat Cheese, Watermelon, & Herbs

Ben Ashby

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This snack really is overly simple. So simple that I struggled with the idea of even writing the recipe, but it needed to be written. This recipe is a perfect summer or fall treat. The sweetness of the melon paired with the sharp tang of the goat's milk cheese is a real delight. We kept it simple with our recipe, but a splash of sea salt and balsamic really adds even more flavor to the dish.

 

  • Watermelon, cubed into bite size wedges

  • Block of goat's milk cheese

  • Herbs for garnish, we used min, basil, and rosemary

  • Ground black pepper

We allowed everyone to assemble their own, but you can easily prepare this ahead of time and create delightful little stacks.

 

 

 

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pie

Ben Ashby

This pie is perfect for any season, but it is especially perfect for spring...during the time you want pie, but before fresh fruit comes into season. This old fashioned chocolate pie is super simple to make and will always be a hit.

We find it especially delightful to serve at a family function, a revival meetin' or an after funeral fellowship supper. Its the perfect combination of sweet chocolate goodness and festive wholesome bless your heart hospitality. 

 

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pie

 

Danish Pie Crust (yields two crusts)

  • 2 1/2 C Self-Rising Flour

  • 1 C Crisco

  • 1 T Sugar

  • 1/2 C Milk

  • 1 Egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix well. Roll flat, and work into pie pan. Prick bottom, then bake until golden brown. Reduce oven to 350 degrees.

 

Chocolate Filling

  • 1 C Sugar

  • 3 T Baking Cocoa

  • 4 T Cornstarch

  • 2 T Margarine

  • 2 Egg Yolks

  • 3/4 C Milk

  • 1/4 C Water

  • 1 t Vanilla

 

Combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, egg yolks, cream, and water in a medium saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook over medium to medium high heat. Remove from heat when thickened and stir in margarine and vanilla. Pour into baked pie crust and top with meringue. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes, until lightly browned.

 

Photographed with a Canon 5D IV

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Candied Violets

Ben Ashby

Candied violets are perfect for spring. They are perfect for cake toppers, fruit salads, or beautiful garnish when creating a platescape. They also couldn't be more simple to create and to master.

Simply take clean, organic, violet blooms. Place on a flat surface. Make sure they are dry. In a bowl mix together one egg white and two tablespoons of fine white sugar. With a small brush. I use a paint brush. Paint the egg white and sugar mixture very carefully on each bloom. Allow to air dry for several hours. Then you're ready to decorate cakes, plates, and more with these beautiful sweet petite moments. 

Shamrock Peppermint Creams

Ben Ashby

Shamrock Peppermint Creams

BY: RIKKI SNYDER

To be perfectly honest, I’m probably only about 3% Irish, but as a little kid I always got strangely excited for St. Patrick’s Day. In grade school we would go outside for recess and come back in to find the items in our desks were all messed up and rearranged and the teachers told us it was from the pesky leprechauns. To this day, I still don’t know why, but I thought that was the coolest thing ever.  

Many years later and I still find myself getting excited for March 17th to roll around. Seeing all the green of this holiday makes me feel like spring is right within my reach! It’ll be here before we know it and for that I’m celebrating with these bright green shamrock peppermint creams!

If you’re wondering what a peppermint cream is think of it as a slightly larger after dinner mint. That’s what it reminds me of. If you can’t find a miniature shamrock cookie cutter a bigger one will work just as well. And if you’re a chocolate lover like me, dip your mints in some melted chocolate and sprinkle with some St. Patty’s sprinkles!

Shamrock Peppermint Creams

1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

4-6 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Green food coloring paste

A mini shamrock-shaped cutter

Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a large bowl. Gradually add the condensed milk and peppermint, mixing with a wooden spoon. The mixture should come together like a dough and you may need to use your hands towards the end of mixing. To knead the dough, sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on a clean work surface. Shape the dough into a ball and push on it and press it onto the work surface, turning it round often. Do this for just a minute of so until smooth. Divide the dough in half and tint one half green using food coloring. Knead the dough again until it is evenly green. On the work surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch using a rolling pin. Stamp out shamrocks with your cookie cutter and arrange them on a sheet of baking parchment. Let dry out overnight. Dip in melted chocolate and cover with sprinkles if desired. 

Easy Banana Pudding

Ben Ashby

This one is an absolute favorite and classic. Super easy to maker and so darn cute in these sweet canning jars. 

Easy Banana Pudding

  • 2 5 ounce packages of instant vanilla pudding mix

  • 4 cups of very cold milk

  • 4 ripe bananas

  • 1 box vanilla waffers

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream

  • 2 tsp vanilla

  • 1/4 powdered sugar

Mix pudding mix and milk as instructed on box. Set aside. Slice bananas. Beat heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar until whipped cream is desired thickness. 

Starting with waffers, cut or break as necessary to fit into jar, create layers. Alternate between the waffers, the pudding, the sliced bananas, and the whipped cream until jars are full. Finish with a a spot of whipped cream and a banana slice tucked into the top. Garnish with fresh mint if desired. 

 

Use lids of jars for the perfect beach or picnic treat. Keep cold until serving.  

The Art to Scone Making

Ben Ashby

THE ART OF SCONE MAKING


By: Debbie Anderson || The Scone Lady

Photography: Kimberly Taylor

 

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Walk into a tearoom in the UK and order a scone, and you will be given three options —plain, sultana (with golden raisins), or cheese.  Google “scones” here in the US, and you will find that the flavor options are limitless.  There are recipes for everything from the traditional plain (or cream) scone to a wide and creative variety including blueberry, cranberry, pumpkin, gingerbread and countless other flavors and combinations.  We Americans have taken the traditional British teatime treat and added our own unique twists and creativity to that simple little quick bread.

When I first started baking scones, I began by working my way through a book of scone recipes.  Each recipe was specific to a particular flavor of scone and seemed to require significantly different ingredients than the previous recipe.  It actually became fairly annoying to have to go on a search through the pantry to find out if I had all the ingredients needed to bake a particular flavor of scone.  Many, many of those early scone-baking sessions resulted in the neighborhood birds and squirrels enjoying a scone feast—for countless recipes resulted in dry and tasteless scones.  

 

 

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As I became more adept at scone baking, I began to understand that the secret to flavor variety was not going to be found in a cookbook of 100 different scone recipes.  Rather, the key was to find a good base (plain) scone recipe (or scone mix) and then learn how to adapt that scone into a multitude of flavors.  If the plain scone wasn’t good—then no amount of additions and toppings were going to improve its flavor.  

And so the quest began. I finally found a scone recipe which met all of my criteria for the perfect scone, and over time I learned how to change it to create distinctly different flavors.  Sometimes that adaptation was born of necessity—I can’t tell you how often I stood in front of the pantry frustrated that I was out of sugar—or chocolate chips—but I had brown sugar on hand, or canned pumpkin—and suddenly a new flavor was born.  It does help, I learned, to have completely honest and captive guinea pigs—in my case, my then-teenage children and their friends, who were always in and out of the house and more than willing to sample a new scone flavor. 

I have learned a few things over the years—and made a lot of mistakes as well.  I was convinced that there was no mistake anyone could make that I haven’t already made—until one of my customers (a Bed and Breakfast owner) confessed that she set her oven on fire one morning while baking strawberry scones (and sent her husband down the street for an emergency bakery run!).  

 

 

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Creating a different flavor of scone is really pretty simple—as long as you follow a few basic principles of baking.

Keep the total volume of liquid the same as what is called for by the recipe or mix directions For example—suppose you want to make a pumpkin flavor scone, and plan to add some pumpkin puree to the scone recipe.  The puree behaves like a liquid—so you will need to cut back on the liquid called for in the recipe, and replace that liquid with pumpkin puree.  If the recipe calls for 1C liquid, and you want to add 1/2C pumpkin puree, then spoon the ½ C of puree into your measuring cup and then bring the total volume up to 1C with the liquid called for in your recipe (usually cream/buttermilk/milk).  Stir to blend completely, and use when directed in the recipe.

Do not change the total amount of dry ingredients called for by the recipe.  Let’s way that your recipe uses 2C flour, and you want to add oats to the dough.  To do that, you will need to cut back the flour by the same WEIGHT as the oats that you add.  Dry ingredients are most accurately measured by weight, not by volume.  (an easy rule of thumb here—3C of flour weighs 1 pound).

Different ingredients get added at different stages in the scone making process.  You have three basic stages of scone making—measuring the dry ingredients into the bowl—cutting in the butter, and then blending in the liquids to create your dough.  In general, dried spices get added to the flour mix, before cutting in the butter.  Nuts and dried fruits can be added after the butter is cut in, but before the liquid is added.  Fresh or frozen fruits are best folded into the dough gently after the dough is made, but before you cut the scones (see side bar for specifics).  I learned this one the hard way—I was making blueberry scones for the first time, and put the berries into the bowl after the butter was cut in—then tried stirring in the buttermilk.  Immediately the berries began to crush and spread blue juice and goo throughout the dough.  That batch of scones has been immortalized in our family history as the day mom created Smurf scones!

 

 

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Some of the easiest ways to change the scone flavor include:

Swapping brown sugar or a combination of white and brown sugar for the granulated sugar usually indicated in the recipe. 

Adding dried fruits or nuts to the dough.  Classic is always a winner.  If you want to kick the results up a notch, toast the nuts before adding them to the flour and butter mixture.  It not only intensifies the flavor but it helps maintain the texture and crunch during the baking process.  

Enhance the flavor with spices, extracts, or citrus zests.  Spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg are natural add-ins, depending upon the flavor you are trying to produce.  Citrus zests will also flavor the dough, as well as enhance the flavor of many different fruits you might be choosing to add (think blueberry lemon or cranberry orange).  Dry spices can be added before the butter is cut in; zest should be added after cutting in the butter, but before adding the liquid.  If you are adding extracts, stir the extract into the liquid ingredients before adding them to the bowl.

Add fresh or frozen fruits to the dough.  If you are using frozen fruit, do NOT thaw the fruit before adding it to the dough.   In general, soft fruits and berries are best added gently by hand once the dough is completely formed, but before you cut the scones.  Roasted apples are an exception and can be added to the butter/flour mixture, before the liquid is added.  

Fruit or vegetable purees can be substituted for much of the liquid ingredients.  Remember to keep the total volume of liquid equal to the amount of liquid called for in the recipe—otherwise you will end up with a very soupy dough.  Substituting purees for some of the liquid ingredients works particularly well in recipes that call for cold butter to be cut into the flour mixture, and then a liquid such as buttermilk, milk, or cream to be added. I would be cautious about this substitution when there is no butter in your ingredient list.  In this case, the recipe likely calls for heavy cream, and the cream is then the sole source of fat for the baked scone.

 

 

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During the holiday season, I like to take my plain scones and dress them up with holiday flavors.  My current favorites include Cranberry Gorgonzola , Apple Ginger, and of course Pumpkin Spice.

 

Pumpkin Spice Scones—Using your favorite plain base scone recipe (see below if you are still searching for the perfect scone recipe) or mix, make the following additions/substitutions:

  1. Add 1T pumpkin pie spice to the dry ingredients, and stir to distribute evenly
  2. Cut in butter as directed
  3. Substitute half to 2/3 of the total liquid called for in the recipe with pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling!).  Blend the puree into the milk/cream/buttermilk, and then follow the recipe as directed to create your dough.
  4. Pat out to a thickness of ¾-1”, cut into desired shape.  Bake immediately or freeze dough for baking later.

* The baking time might be extended by a few minutes, since the pumpkin puree adds to the density of the dough.

Cranberry Gorgonzola Scones —These scones smell absolutely wonderful in the oven, and are a perfect addition to a lunch or supper of soup and salad.  Again, start with your favorite base recipe or mix.  

  1. Once the butter has been cut in, add 4-5 oz (a small container from the grocery store) crumbled gorgonzola cheese.  
  2. Add milk/cream/buttermilk as directed and form your dough.  
  3. Pat out the dough on a floured surface and add a generous handful of fresh or frozen cranberries to the top of the dough.  
  4. Fold the dough over onto itself 2-3 times (again, do not overwork or knead) and re-pat the dough to the desired thickness (I recommend ¾-1” thick). 
  5. Cut into desired shapes and bake immediately or freeze dough to bake later.

 

 

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Apple Ginger Scones—these are a little trickier to create, but are well worth the effort. 

You will need: 

  1. 1C roasted apple chunks (peel, core and dice 2-3 baking apples.  Place on cookie sheet and bake at 375 until fork tender—15-20 minutes).  Cool completely before using.)
  2. 1T Powdered Ginger
  3. 1/2C unsweetened applesauce
  4. Molasses (2T or so)
  5. 1/2t cinnamon
  6. 1/2t allspice
  7. Brown Sugar

(When I make these, I actually usually start with our (Victorian House Scones) Gingerbread Scone Mix.) 

If you are starting with a plain base recipe

  1. Substitute brown sugar for the white sugar.  
  2. Add 1 heaping T of powdered ginger, 1/2t cinnamon, and 1/2t allspice to the flour and other dry ingredients.  Stir to distribute spices evenly.
  3. Cut in the butter as directed by the recipe.  Add the cooled roasted apples to the mix and stir to distribute throughout the mixture.
  4. Blend together 2T molasses and 1/2C unsweetened applesauce, then bring up to 1C (or total volume) called for in the recipe.  Stir into the flour/apple/butter mixture to form the dough.  (if less total liquid is called for in the recipe, reduce the molasses and applesauce proportionately).

Turn out onto a floured board, pat to desired thickness, and cut into desired size and shape.  Bake immediately or freeze the dough to bake later.

 

 

 

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Scone Making Basics Sidebar

Use cold (or even frozen) butter when making scones.  A very easy way to cut in icy cold butter is to first grate it with a cheese grater.  Wrap it lightly and freeze for 15-20 minutes (while you assemble the rest of the ingredients).  When you are ready to use the butter, drop it into the bowl, and cut it in with a pastry cutter, or mixer or food processor.  It will go in very quickly, and leave perfect little nubbins of butter scattered throughout the mixture.

 

Handle the dough very minimally.  The less the dough is handled and kneaded, the lighter it will be.  I once saw a demonstration where the woman was incorporating the liquid into the butter/flour mixture with her hands—or rather, with just ONE hand.  When asked why, her comment was that this way she would have scones, not STONES.  Using both hands together would result in the dough being kneaded and overworked thus yielding tough and dry scones.

 

To add fresh or frozen fruit to the dough, pat the dough into a circle as if you were getting ready to cut your scones.  Put a generous handful of fruit such as blueberries on top of the dough.  Gently fold the dough over the fruit 2-3 times, and then gently re-form the circle.  This process will work the berries into the center of the dough.  Take care not to overwork or knead the dough.  Reform the circle and cut the scones into desired shape.  

 

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Links to some basic scone recipes or mixes

www.elmwoodinn.com/recipes/elmwood_scones.html  (offered with permission of Bruce and Shelly Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas)

www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/scones-recipe

(Each of the above recipes call for eggs.  Not all scone recipes need eggs—our mix uses no eggs, and buttermilk rather than heavy cream or half and half.)  Ultimately your favorite scone recipe or mix is going to be what you believe tastes the best!


Slow Cooker Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Ben Ashby

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If you're anything like me you have an irrational fear of burning chocolate. I found a solution for this by melting chocolate in a slow cooker. Basically you're creating a double boiler, but one that will melt your chocolate and allow you to work at your own pace. This winter I've been creating several treats with melted chocolate. Below is my way of melting chocolate in a slow cooker.

 

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

This technique works for any kind of treat you'd like to create using melted chocolate. 

Fill your slow cooker, I use a Kenmore 5 Quart Slow Cooker, with several inches of water. You will want it to go about 2/3's up the side of your bowl you'll use for melting. Turn your slow cooker to low or high, depending on how long you have to create your treats. 

Place your chocolate chips, chunks of bark melts, or whatever sort of chocolate you will be melting into a microwave safe bowl. Place the bowl into the water, making sure not to get any water inside  the bowl. Water in the bowl will cause the chocolate to be grainy. 

Allow your chocolate to slowly melt, uncovered. Stir on occasion to ensure even melting. 

Once the chocolate is fully melted dip your pretzels into the chocolate. Place on waxed paper to cool. If you'd like to sprinkle with sprinkles, do so while the chocolate is still hot. If you're in a hurry place in fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling and setting process. 

I found that one regular size bag of chocolate chips will cover around 40-50 pretzels. 

 

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Images created with Canon 5D Mark IV | Slow Cooker by Kenmore

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Apple Cider Spiced Cake

Ben Ashby

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We're going to go ahead and declare this the official dessert of fall 2017. It couldn't be easier to make, and it couldn't be any more delicious. The addition of the apple cider gives it a fresh crisp taste that you'd never expect in a spice cake. Our icing continues the apple cider theme, and is truly a dessert all to its own. We aren't even going to pretend like this cake is healthy, but it is worth every bite.

 

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Apple Cider Spiced Cake

 

  • 1 Box Spice Cake Mix
  • Apple Cider
  • Butter (melted)
  • Eggs
  • Brown sugar

This cake couldn't be easier, you're basically just grabbing yourself a spiced cake mix from the local grocery, market, or store. Any brand will work. I use Betty Crocker because its the easiest to reach on the Walmart shelf. Once you've gathered your ingredients, pay for them, and taken them all home. 

Follow the instructions on the back of the box, but substitute your water for apple cider. If you can't find apple cider, you can use apple juice, but I really don't like the idea of using it. Substitute the oil for melted butter, and add however many eggs the box tells you too. 

I bake mine in a bundt pan simply because it is my favorite pan. You can absolutely use a loaf pan or a baking dish. The key to making it amazing is absolutely covering your pan in cooking spray. After its well lubricated add a handful of brown sugar. This will give your cake a delicious crunch. Add however much you'd like.

Bake the cake according to the instructions on the box. Use a tooth pick to see if the cake is done. If it comes out clean the cake is fully baked. If it is still wet, keep baking. Remove and cool. If baking in a bundt pan, remove from the pan a few minutes after taking out of the over.

 


 

Apple Cider Whipped Creme Icing

This is the very basic form of the recipe. We also have a more complex creamed cheese apple cider whipped creme. 

  • One cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 tsp corn starch

Mix all ingredients with a mixer on high. Gradually add the powdered sugar to avoid a mess. Whip until stiff enough to spread. Drizzle on cake. Chill and eat left overs while watch fall episodes of Gilmore Girls. 

 

 

A Garlic Primer: Smell the "Stinking Rose"

Ben Ashby

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A GARLIC PRIMER


GROW YOUR OWN GARLIC

 

 

This small bulb has been used throughout history for medicinal use as well as consumption dating back as far as early Egyptian civilizations, and though its Syrian cousins have stolen the limelight, garlic is still a particularly powerful crop in Egypt. Tracing written connections through the Indus River Valley civilizations of modern Pakistan and India to a new home in China where it was praised as an aphrodisiac with life-lengthening qualities. Then to Portugal, France, and Spain where the crop once snubbed by ancient upper echelons became the ingredient a la mode for flavoring bland dishes, it then crossed the Atlantic to be a part of The New World.

 

What was once criticized as too volatile a food for consumption because of its alleged stimulant properties, the small bulbs have helped many races and generations ward of vampires, smallpox, and heart disease alike. Though the culinary use hasn't always invaded every cultures dinner plates, it has been used in a widespread fashion for medicinal purposes. Today, garlic is still a food recommended to patients with high risk associations for certain types of cancer for its richness in antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic vitamins in its raw form, and is also a great supplement for people suffering from heart disease and hypertension.

 

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Garlic by classification is an allium, meaning it belongs to a family of flowering onion and leek plants. Though the history of garlic's medicinal us is long, following America's founding pilgrims back to their homelands, the use of garlic as a fairly mainstream ingredient in American food is relatively new. Spreading from traditionally ethnic neighborhoods like Brooklyn, New York, garlic found its way into American food most prevalently during early 1940s in an organic and slow osmosis. Today Americans alone consume around 250 million pounds of garlic annually. 

 

This spring, we encourage our readers to become a part of this historically and nutritiously rich herb and plant garlic of their own. If you can't plant it yourself, check in your local farmer's market for fresh, dried garlic for use in your own recipes. With colder weather lingering on, who doesn't want to curl up to a warm bowl of homemade minestrone and garlic bread?

 

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HEATH'S GARLIC PLANTING TIPS

 

1) Plant garlic near the end of winter, after the fear of the ground freezing has ended. Garlic cloves will grow and lie dormant during the remainder of winter and mature in time for harvest in late summer. 
 

2) When planting, wait until just before planting to break apart bulbs. Cloves should cleanly remove from the basal plate. Plant very small cloves in a small group, but large bulbs singly. 
 

3) It's common practice to stop watering garlic plants upwards of three weeks before harvesting. 
 

4) To test the maturity of bulbs, scrape away the dirt from a few bulbs. Mature bulbs have cloves which can be felt through the skin. 
 

5) Garlic's flavor can be changed by overexposure to the sun after harvest, a process a lot like sunburn. It's best to store harvested baskets of garlic in a garden shed or barn. 
 

6) The top of garlic bulbs is called the scape. It has a lighter garlic flavor than cloves and can be prepared in sautéed dishes when chopped like green onion or served whole like asparagus.

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Savory Herb Biscuits

Ben Ashby

And what would go better with this soup than a warm biscuit smothered in butter and dried basil? They're quick and easy too. Pop them right in the oven just before the soup is done and you have the perfect bread for dipping.

 

Savory Herb Biscuits

BY: RIKKI SNYDER

 

2 cups biscuit mix

1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded

2/3 cup milk

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon basil, dried

 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine biscuit mix, cheese and milk until a soft dough forms. Beat vigorously for 30 seconds. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto and ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Combine basil and garlic powder with melted butter and brush over biscuits after removing from oven. Makes 12 biscuits

 

 

 

Potato Soup

Ben Ashby

This rustic and hearty soup makes for a perfect savory meal this season. The yukon gold potatoes offer a unique flavor that is perfectly complimented by the crumbled bacon. Save some extra bacon for garnish and if you're a cheese lover, sprinkle some shredded cheddar on top before serving and it'll melt right in.

 

Potato Soup

BY: RIKKI SNYDER

 

8 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

1 cup onion, chopped

1 cups yukon gold potatoes, chopped

1 cup water

10 3/4 oz. Can cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream

1 3/4 cup milk

1 Tablespoon parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

 

Fry bacon and crumble. Set aside, reserving some drippings in skillet. Saute onion in same skillet until transparent. Add potatoes to and boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Add soup, sour cream, milk, bacon and onions, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix well and let simmer 2 hours. 

 

Cast Iron Apple Pie

Ben Ashby

This has been our most popular recipe every year since we first published it in 2011. A traditional cast iron skillet apple pie with a few seasonal additions make it the perfect treat to serve all autumn long. 

It is my go to recipe for fall. Nothing is better than going to the local orchard and hand harvesting the apples yourself. I use a Martha Stewart enameled cast iron skillet. The pie comes out perfectly every single time. The pie is perfect served hot or cold. 

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RECIPE:

Ingredients 

1 stick + 1 tablespoon butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon  

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons sorghum or maple syrup  

1 boxed pie crust  

5 pealed and sliced apples

 

Preaheat oven to 350 degrees. Add stick of butter and brown sugar to bottom of skillet. Place in oven until melted, do not let boil.  

Remove from the oven. Put bottom crust in skillet. Toss apples in sugar, spices, and syrup. Add mixture to skillet. Place remaining butter on top. Cover with crust. Dust top of crust with a dash of sugar and spices. 

Cut vent holes or decorative pattern in the top of the pie. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until apples are tender. 

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Easy Whipped Cream

Ben Ashby

 

Cool Whip is overrated and not that good....fresh whipped cream is so easy to make..and so much better. Our recipe keeps it super simple.

WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl pour the whipping cream and the vanilla. As you beat the mixture add the powdered sugar to help provide stiffness and a bit of extra flavor. Whip until it is as thick and creamy as you'd like. I prefer stiff peaks. Be sure to not over whip or you'll end up with butter.

 

Our Chicago Food Tour

Ben Ashby


A WEEKEND IN CHICAGO

TWO DAYS - FOUR MEALS - ONE CITY

 

A few weeks ago we headed up to Chicago for the weekend. The goal was to visit a few of our favorite restaurants. We managed to get four stops in over the two and a half days in Chicago. I've been trying to figure out what sort of food Chicago is known for...beyond hot dogs I'm not really sure what their signature foods are....but they have a thriving restaurant scene....

 

BERNIE'S LUNCH & SUPPER

Bernie's was a new one for me. Sure I'd seen its wall designs in many an Instagram photo...but I had yet to visit this trendy spot on N. Orleans Street. For our visit to Bernie's we asked for a sampling of the menu. Typically when we are visiting places for the first time I feel it is best that they select the dishes instead of us. I reckon it is an excuse to avoid the monotony I usually do on trips—way too many burgers. 

We started with two different salads, moved on to a delightful mussels dish that was the highlight of the evening, moved towards a prosciutto and toasty bread number, and ended with the most wonderfully creamy parfait. 

I do have some tips for visiting Bernie's...go as early as possible and get the good seats by the windows. This place is super trendy and super perfect for all those Instagram and Snapchat moments. We were surprised at how quickly the place filled.

We did a selection of small plates and appetizers at Bernie's and all shared. Their menu is broad and this felt like a good way to try it all.

— @Bernies_Chicago — @ChefRyanSand

 

 

FRONTIER

Frontier in Wicker Park is by far my favorite restaurant in all of Chicago. I make an annual trek to the frontier themed spot. Yes...I said frontier themed...as in high class Americana foods. They had me at the bacon flight and the reeled me in with their selection of wild boar, bison, and a variety of bacon options. 

For our brunch at Frontier we started with the beignets, which are one of the chef's signature foods. Designed around his grandmother's recipe and better than any you'll get in New Orleans. 

If you're going purely for the sweets skip the meat and go straight for the house-made pop tarts. They're massive and a part combination of tart, sweet, and flaky goodness. Frontier fills up fast so we always go early for brunch. Grab the big booth in the front for the perfect photo light. 

After the pop tart grab some bacon and and apple butter....an absolutely delightful combination. I have an obsession with french fries. Frontier doesn't disappoint. The sandwiches are all perfect for a hot summer's day. 

— @FrontierChicago — @ChefJup

 

 

G & O

G and O (Grand and Ogden) is actually the final place we visited on our trip. After three insanely large meals we decided we'd have to go small at G and O. G and O is a local diner style place with tons of outdoor seating. It appeared to be filled with groups of friends that were there to hang out on a Sunday morning.  

I had the spiced biscuits and gravy...which had to be the very best biscuits and gravy I've ever had north of the Mason Dixon Line. A perfectly sized portion of perfectly soft biscuits covered in perfectly spiced sausage gravy was the perfect end to a very nice food tour of Chicago. 

If you're looking for something more filling go for the oatmeal. The portion was huge. After four meals that all included bacon...it may be safe to say that Chicago should just be called the Bacon CIty. Each of the four places we visited serves their own version of thick cut bacon. It would be unfair to select which place did it best...instead you're just going to have to visit them all!

— @GrandandOgden

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COCHON VOLANT

This was not our first rodeo at Cochon Volant. We knew to come prepared for a big meal. Last year we visited for brunch. This year it was decided we would go for dinner. That was a wise decision. 

I'm going to go ahead and call it now —Cochon Volant has the best steak in Chicago. Yes, yes I did bring 3/4 of the steak back to Kentucky with me and eat it in bed the next day. I have no shame. 

Cochon Volant is just south of the river in downtown Chicago. It is perfectly decorated with surfaces that glitter and glow. The accents are encrusted in brass and the room really is aesthetic perfection....but that isn't we were there. If the interiors are perfection...there isn't a word to describe the food. 

I love steak tartar. It is one of my favorite foods. I think steak in general is a favorite. We started with an appetizer of tartar. I could have made it my entire meal. Cochon Volant is known for their boards. We learned that last time at brunch with their pickle board. This time we went for a cheese board and a pickle board. These seemed like pleasant ways to cleanse the palette between courses. 

For our main courses I went with an dry aged steak, and as I already said it is enough of a reason to visit Chicago. It is served with french fries, but let's be honest...you're going to want to skip those and hold off for desert. Nick had two entrees. He started with a crab leg platter. A petite display of unbelievably fresh crab awaited him...and a shrimp cocktail. 

We closed out our food tour of Chicago with creme brûlée and chocolate mousse. I am not usually a mousse fan...but like everything else at Cochon Volant it is done to perfection.

— @CochonVolant_ — @ChefMattAyala

—@Jschatan — @JonasFalk_ #FlyingPigGram

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Sure, I know what you're thinking...but only four restaurants...you have so much left of Chicago to cover. Oh yes, I agree, you are totally right..rest assured we are already planning many return trips. Chicago is one of the easiest of the major US cities to navigate. Chicago is also much more affordable than New York City. 

If you're a bacon lover...time to load up the car and head to Chicago. 

Lilac Sugar

Ben Ashby

Every morning should begin with tea. Festive teas are the best. This lilac sugar is the perfect addition to your mornings. As lilac comes into season why not ensure it'll last all year long. By simply preserving the gorgeous floral flavors of lilac in sugar it infuses the sugar with the most wonderful flavor. You'll never want to return to basic table sugar again. 

Ingredients:

Berry or Fine Sugar: if super fine sugar isn't available throw your regular sugar into a food processor.

Lilac Blooms: for a quart jar I used around a cup of blooms.

An Airtight Container

 

Simply alternate layers of blooms and sugar until you have either filled your jar. Once complete put the lid on the jar and shake until well mixed. Shake once a day for about a week to make sure the flowers dry evenly. 

After one week strain the sugar to remove the blooms. Store in airtight container. 

Strawberry Pie

Ben Ashby

Warmer weather cannot come soon enough! I found myself sitting here dreaming of days when you can step outside barefoot and feel the grass between your toes.

 One of my favorite things to do when the weather turns warmer is go strawberry picking. I absolutely love strawberries and none of the store bought ones ever seem to taste as good as the ones we pick ourselves. On the way back from the farm they always make our car smell so good and all I can think about is eating them dipped in warm, melted chocolate...my favorite!

There are so many things to do with your fresh strawberries, like making jam or ice cream or fresh smoothies...the possibilities are endless. One of my favorites however, is a nice slice of strawberry pie.

This is the easiest pie that I have ever made and by far one of the best.  Maybe it's because I love these fresh strawberries so much or maybe it's because of all that incredible whipped cream that I pile on top of my pieces. The vanilla pudding mix whipped with the cream is the best. There's no way I could go back to eating store bought whipped cream after this! Just wait until you try it.

What do you like to make with strawberries?

 

Strawberry Pie

3 quarts strawberries, hulled and divided

1 1/2 cups sugar

6 Tablespoons cornstarch

2/3 cup water

10-inch deep-dish pie crust, baked

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 Tablespoons instant vanilla pudding mix

Optional: A few drops of red food coloring

In a large bowl, mash berries to equal 3 cups; set aside along with remaining whole berries. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan. Stir in mashed berries and water; mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; heat and stir for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat, add food coloring if desired for red color. Pour mixture in a large bowl; chill for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is just slightly warm. Fold in remaining whole berries. Pour into prepared pie crust, chill for 2-3 hours. Place cream in a small mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip cream and pudding mix until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream mixture around edge of pie or dollop on individual slices. Serves 8-10. 

Strawberry Pie photography, styling, and recipe by Rikki Snyder. Find more from Rikki on her website and on Instagram—@RikkiSnyder.

Chocolate Chess Pie

Ben Ashby

Chocolate Chess Pie

This recipe is so very simple. It is absolutely delicious. It literally takes less than five minutes to mix together. I found the recipe in my aunt's handwritten recipe book from the 1970s.

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 9” pie shell
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Mix all ingredients by hand and pour in pie shell. Bake for 30 min in 400 degree oven. Cool and serve with whipped cream.

Our Favorite Special Apple Cider Recipes

Christophe Chaisson

CROCKPOT HOT SPICED APPLE CIDER By Superheroes and teacups

Most of the time crockpots are used for stew and pot roasts, yet this holiday season we wanted to spice it up with some hot apple cider. This recipe is so simple, you throw everything into the pot and just wait. The smell of spiced cider will fill your house as you allow for this sweet drink to simmer. 

Superheroes and Teacup's Website

 

Apple cider Mimosas by What the fork

Mimosas are a must for brunch year round, so why not customize them to fit the season? It only takes mixing two ingredients to get the holiday cheer flowing with these apple cider mimosas. The sweetness of cider pairs perfectly well with the smooth bubbliness of champagne. There is always a reason to celebrate during the holiday season, so let's do it with a mimosa in hand.

What The Fork's Website

 

Hot MuLLed Apple Cider Sangria By The Crumby Cupcake

This is a warm seasonal drink with rich flavors to get in a festive mood with friends or even just curl up with a good book near the fire. Clementines, apples, and honey add a distinct taste to this wonderful drink. The longer you let it sit, the sweeter and richer the flavors become, so don't drink it all at once!

The Crumby Cupcake's Website

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Apple Cider Breakfast Smoothie By On Sugar Mountain

 

A smoothie in the morning is always a tasty way to start the day. Enjoy this cool refreshing drink in the warm confines of your home before venturing out in the cold of winter. This is one of the ways in which you can enjoy dessert for breakfast guilt free because you are basically drinking apple pie! But it's healthy because it is a smoothie, right?

On Sugar Mountain's Website

 

Spiked Apple Cider Rum By Simworks Family Blog

This adult beverage is a perfect way to help celebrate this Christmas season with good friends. It can even make for a tasty mocktail for all the kiddos. The spices of cider complement the spiced rum perfectly. You can taste the fullness of the seasons with this drink. It is guaranteed to fill you with cheer during the holidays. 

Simmwork's Website

 

All of these drinks are splendid as we leave Thanksgiving and Autumn behind to transition to Christmas and Winter. It is always delightful to have a delicious beverage in hand whether around a fire or a socializing at a holiday party. With all these apples a day, the doctor will be far away. Cheers to good health and tasty drinks this year!