Vegan Raisin Rosemary SCONES

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Vegan Raisin Rosemary SCONES
(inspired by The Mud Club in Woodstock, NY, and the Minimalist Baker)

For the flax egg:
1 Tablespoon flax seed meal (I like golden flax seeds)
2 1/2 Tablespoons water

For the dough:
1 flax egg
3/4 cup almond milk ( see my homemade, or store bought)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup spelt flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or more all-purpose
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon organic cane sugar plus more for sprinkling on top
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
6 Tbsp solid, room temperature, coconut oil, not liquid or frozen, or earth balance coconut spread
1/2-3/4 cup raisins or currants

Make the scones:
        Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
        Make the flax eggs: In a small mixing bowl, combine the 1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds with the 2 ½ Tablespoons of water, and let sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Add the almond milk and vanilla. Stir to combine.
        In a separate medium-size mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, spelt or whole wheat flour, organic cane sugar, baking powder, salt, and rosemary. Whisk to combine. Add the mixture into a food processor, and pulse a few times. Add the coconut oil and pulse 5-7 times until only small pieces of the coconut oil remain. Alternatively, you can use a pastry cutter (or 2 knives). Place the mixture back into the medium-size bowl. Re-stir the flax-almond milk mixture once more. While stirring with a spoon, add the liquid to the dry ingredients a little at a time. Gently stir in the raisins until just combined.
        Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and use your floured hands to form it into a disc about 1 inch high. Use a large, floured knife to cut the circle into 8 -10 even wedges. Using a floured spatula or your hands, gently transfer the scones to the prepared baking sheet with space between them. Generously sprinkle the tops with more cane sugar.
        Bake for 27-29 minutes until they are a deep golden brown all over. Let cool slightly before serving. Serve hot out of the oven. Any extras, once completely cooled, can be stored at room temperature in a foil-lined container for up to 3 days, and frozen for up to 3 months. You can also reheat them in a 300 degree F oven for a few minutes to re-crisp them.

Makes 8-10 scones.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. A few substitutions, but I still like these best with the original ingredients:
        a) If you don't have access to spelt or whole wheat pastry flour, you
        can use all all-purpose flour.
        b) Organic cane sugar is a little more coarse and lightly colored
        brown, and adds to the crumbly texture. Sub in regular sugar if you like.
        c) If being vegan isn't an issue, you can also substitute one large egg for
        the flax eggs, but it will change the texture a little bit.
        d) 1/3 cup fresh blueberries or frozen organic wild blueberries can be
        used instead of currants. or raisins.
2. Yes, rosemary might be an unusual addition, but it really is delicious. Not sure? Then give the 3/4 teaspoon a try first.
3. Depending on the time of year, your coconut oil may be of a more liquid consistency. It needs to be fully solid, but not frozen. Chill it for 20-30 minutes in the fridge to harden before using.
4. Don't over mix the dough, you want some small pieces of coconut oil to still be visible.


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(adapted from Jennifer Trennum's version)

2 heads broccoli, stems cut off and cut into 1 inch florets
1/2 small head cauliflower, core cut out and broken by hand into florets
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/4" rings
3/4 - 1 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 to 1 1/4 cups dried currants
1/4 -3/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Make the salad:
        In the bowl of a food processor, working in batches if necessary, place the broccoli florets and pulse until finely chopped. Empty it out into a large bowl. Repeat with the cauliflower florets and the carrots. Stir together all of the veggies, until well combined.         Add the parsley, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and currants. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Combine well. Taste for seasoning, adding extra lemon juice, salt and pepper, if desired.
        Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

. Makes about 8 cups.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Fresh and organic is always best, if you can find it. Walk away from cauliflower with little black patches on the florets or wilted green leaves.
2. I'm using lemon juice, but apple cider vinegar would be delicious too. I like Braggs.
3. Try other raw veggies to make it your own, maybe Brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes, dried cranberries, or sliced almonds.

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

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(slightly adapted from Cooking by Hand)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter or more extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly, about 2 cups
a pinch of Kosher salt
1 head cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds, after green stems are removed), core removed and broken into florets
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
5 1/2 cups water, divided
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling

Make the Soup:
        In a large heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat the butter and the olive oil. Cook the onions in the olive oil and butter with a pinch of salt over low heat without letting them brown for 15 minutes.
        Add the cauliflower, the 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and 1/2 cup of the water. Raise the heat to a boil and then turn down to a simmer, cover the pot and simmer the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender.
        Add the rest of the water, 4 1/2 cups, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes covered.
        Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender, preferably high speed, until very smooth and creamy. Let the soup stand, covered, for 20 minutes, which will allow it to thicken a little more. To serve, if desired, drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Makes 8 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Fresh is best. Make sure that the cauliflower is pure white, with no dark brown spots or wilted green leaves, which indicates an older less flavorful vegetable.
2. Don't go crazy breaking up the florets. They will all cook down, so uneven size pieces are ok.
3. If you want to make this vegan, simply eliminate the butter and use 3 Tablespoons of olive oil.
4. You can halve the recipe or freeze any leftovers for another meal.


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Fish Curry
(inspired by an English guy on PBS from many years ago, Food 52,
and Cara Eisenpress's Vietnamese Fish Stew from "In the Small Kitchen")

1 1/2 pounds cod, halibut, flounder or any flakey white fish, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons, olive oil, unsalted butter or a combo of both
2 medium onions, thinly sliced 1/4" moons, about 5 cups
a pinch of Kosher salt
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, finely diced, about 2 Tablespoons, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
pepper, more or less to taste
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger, or finely diced, about a 2" piece
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder, up to 2 Tablespoons>br> 2/3 cup white wine or mirin
1 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk, full fat is best, but lite is ok.
2 - 2 1/2 cups water
1 pound baby yukon gold potatoes, or regular size cut into 1 inch pieces
2 heads of bok choy, or 6 baby bok choy, cut into 1 inch pieces
2-4 Tablespoons Major Grey's Chutney, optional but recommended
more salt and pepper to taste
1 -2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus extra for serving

Make the fish curry:
        In a medium bowl, add the fish and sprinkle with the turmeric and salt. Toss to coat and let sit for 5-10 minutes, while you're prepping the vegetables.
        In a large heavy, lidded pot, melt the butter and oil, and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Toss to coat, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, ginger and curry powder, and cook for another minute or 2. Add the wine or mirin, and cook to reduce the liquid by about half. Add the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes, lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 12-14 minutes. (You can prepare this part up to a day in advance.)
        Add the bok choy and chutney, stir to combine, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the fish, pressing the pieces into the liquid so that they are submerged as best you can. Cover the pot and simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. Stir in the lime juice. Ladle the stew into bowls and serve with an extra squeeze of lime if desired. Can be stored in the fridge for 2 days.

Makes 4-6 servings.         YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. It's best to buy your fish the same day that you plan to make the stew.
2. Full fat coconut milk is best, but you can substitute light coconut milk. Also this does not mean coco lopez which is sweetened.
3. You'll see a few ingredient amount choices. My preferences are listed first, but you can adjust to your taste.
4. The fish cooking time may vary, depending on how big you have cut the pieces of fish. But basically the fish will be done when it just begins to flake apart with a fork. Around 4-5 minutes.
5. If 4-6 servings is too much, you can easily cut the recipe in half.

Valentine's Peanut Butter Cup Bars

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Peanut Butter Cup Bars
(inspired by Martha Stewart)

Peanut butter base:
1 stick, 4 ounces, unsalted butter
1 16 ounce jar creamy or chunky natural peanut butter, such as Smuckers (1 3/4 cups), not freshly ground
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 fine sea salt
Chocolate topping:
1 stick, 4 ounces, unsalted butter
12 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate chips, 2 cups
Heart decoration: (optional)
1/2 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter

Make the peanut butter base:
        Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment that lines the bottom and goes up over the sides leaving a 2 inch overhang. In a medium size saucepan, over medium low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth. Remove from the heat, and stir in the confectioners' sugar, vanilla and salt, until well combined and smooth. Evenly spoon the mixture in the pan, and with a spoon or an offset spatula, spread it evenly and smooth the top.

Make the chocolate topping:
        In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn the heat down to low, add the chocolate and continually stir until smooth. Remove and cool for a 2-3 minutes. Alternatively, fill a medium size saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Combine the chocolate and the butter in a metal bowl that can fit over the saucepan without touching the water. Stir the mixture until the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from heat and let cool slightly, about 3 minutes.
        Gently stir the chocolate, and pour it evenly over peanut-butter mixture. Using a spoon or off set spatula, smooth the chocolate evenly across the top.

Make the peanut butter heart decorations:
        In a small bowl, stir together the softened butter and peanut butter until smooth. Drop 1/4-to-1/2 teaspoon rounds of the mixture on top of the chocolate layer in 1-inch intervals. Starting about an 1/2 inch above the peanut butter round, drag the tip of a wooden skewer or toothpick quickly through center of each round and then off to one side to create a heart shape. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.
        Run a paring knife along the edges of the pan on the two sides not lined with the parchment. Use the parchment overhangs as handles to gently lift the bars from the pan. It may take a little gentle nudging to loosen it.
        With a large sharp knife cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch bars, wiping the knife clean after each cut. Store the bars in the fridge until ready to serve. They will stay covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 16-24 bars.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. I use Smucker's natural smooth peanut butter, but you can choose any brand you like. Just don't use freshly ground, which will get too greasy.
2. I melt the butter/chocolate mixture in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. And, I stand over the pot, stirring constantly 'til smooth so it doesn't burn. But you can also more safely melt it in bowl placed over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. Just make sure not to get any water in the melted chocolate.
3. Don't forego the parchment "handles." You will need to be a little patient, but it's the best way to get the uncut bars out of the pan.
4. If you don't want to make the hearts on the top, decorate with any heart candies you like, or just keep them pure and unadulterated.

Loaded Bell Pepper NACHOs

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(inspired by The Hungry Girl)

12-15 sweet mini bell peppers, 8-10 ounces
2/3 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (or more ) grated Cheddar cheese or any other of your choosing, reduced-fat optional, about 2 1/2 ounces
2 Tablespoons seeded and minced jalapeño pepper, or more or less to taste
1/3 cup salsa
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tbsp. thinly sliced scallions
Optional garnish: avocado/guacolmole and chopped cilantro

Make the Nachos:
        Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, or line with parchment. I like parchment for easy removal from the pan.
        Cut off the stem end of each pepper. Cut in half lengthwise, and using a small spoon, melon baller or your thumb, remove the seeds and membranes. Lay them cut side down on the baking sheet with space between them, and bake for 5 minutes. Flip them over with cut side up, and bake for another 5-7 minutes until softened.
        Push them closer to the center with their edges touching. Top with the beans, cheese, and jalapeño pepper. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. And then switch to the broiler for another 2-3 minutes to lightly brown the top.
        Dollop all over with the salsa, sour cream, and scallions. If desired, garnish with the avocado and cilantro.

Makes 4 appetizer servings or 2 regular servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. If you can't find the mini bell peppers in your supermarket (although even here in the woods I can find them), cut the regular sized red, green and/or yellow bell peppers into 6ths or 8ths.
2. Use melon baller, small spoon or your thumb to remove the seeds and membranes from the mini peppers.
3. To keep this calorie conscious, opt for the reduced fat versions of the cheese and sour cream. But since the chips are gone, it will still be lower calorie even if you use the regular versions.
4. Kick it up another notch and add 8 oz. browned and seasoned extra-lean ground beef, shredded rotisserie chicken or cooked sausage
5. Nacho up any veggie. Roast broccoli or cauliflower florets, sweet potato slices, etc. and load them up!


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Vegan Spice Cookies

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup quick oats, gluten free if possible
1/4 cup Tablespoons organic coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
6 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the cookies:
        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2-3 half size sheet pans with parchment. Reuse a pan if you don't have 3.
        Place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add the wet ingredients and process until well combined, about another 30 seconds. Before scooping, stir in any stray maple syrup into the dough in the bowl of the processor.
        Alternatively you could stir together all of the ingredients in a medium size bowl using 6 Tablespoons of oat flour for the quick oats.
        Spoon or scoop 2 Tablespoons at a time for large cookies, 6 to a pan, or 1 Tablespoon mounds with 12 to a pan. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes, take out and band a few times on a counter or the stove. Rotate the pans top to bottom and back to front and bake for about another 7-9 minutes, until a dark burnished brown. Cool completely on the pans. They will crisp up as they cool.
        Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Makes 16 large or 32 small cookies. YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. If you don't have a food processor, you could sub in 6 Tablespoons of oat flour for the quick oats and combine everything in a mixing bowl. But the texture won't be exactly the same.
2. If you can, use gluten-free oats (not all oats are gluten-free), and these will be gluten-free too.
3. Make sure to rap the pan on the counter halfway through the cooking time.
4. Pay close attention near the end of the baking time. You want them to be a dark burnished brown, but not super dark or they'll burn.

New Years Lucky Lentil Soup

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2 cups French green lentils, picked through and rinsed
1 large plus 1 medium yellow onion, small dice, about 3 1/2 cups
2 Tablespoons minced garlic, about 4 large cloves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 taeaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2-3 large ribs of celery, small dice, about 1 1/2 cups
4 medium carrots, small dice, about 1 1/2
1 1/2 quarts ( 6 cups) low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Tablespoon red wine or red wine vinegar, optional
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top, optional

Make the soup:
        In a large heavy pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin and continue to cook until the vegetables are softened, about 10 more minutes.
        Stir in the lentils, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 1 hour, until the lentils are tender. Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper. the seasonings. Stir in the red wine or red wine vinegar. Serve, sprinkled with some grated Parmesan, if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings.       YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The hardest part of this recipe is finding the French green lentils. But most supermarkets and health food stores will carry them. There's always online too.
2. You can sub in the regular brown lentils, but it just won't be the same.
3. Make sure to pick through the lentils, you may find a few small stones or twigs.
4. Since you only need 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste, buy it in a tube.
5. This recipe is easily doubled, the extra can be frozen for a quick winter meal.
6. Don't eat my grandmother's lentil soup!

Royal Icing for the Magical Cookie Forests

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2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 Tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional-but I use it
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make the icing:
        In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat all of the icing ingredients together on high speed for 4-5 minutes until stiff and glossy. Lift the whisk attachment up out of the icing.
        You've got the perfect consistency when the icing falls off and melts right back into the bowl of icing within about 5-10 seconds. If it's too thick, add a little more water a teaspoon at a time. If it's too thin, add a little more sifted confectioners' sugar. While using the icing, to keep it from hardening, cover the bowl with a damp towel.
        The icing will harden in about 3 hours at room temperature or leave to harden overnight. You can store any extra in an air tight container in fridge for 2 days. Bring back to room temperature, and stir well to reuse, thinning with a little water if necessary.

Makes 1 1/2 cups, and can easily be doubled.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. The canning jars and fairie lights are easy to find at lots of big box stores or online. I used Weck #743 3/4 liter jars and a 6-7 foot string of 20 fairie lights.
2. If you do make or frost your own cookies, which I highly recommend, you’ll have to plan ahead, because once they’re frosted, they’ll need to dry for a few hours or overnight.
3. Make sure the jars are sized small enough to support the cookies and keep them upright.
4. I like making royal icing with meringue powder instead of using raw egg whites, it also dries more quickly.
5. If you don't have a piping bag, put the icing in a ziploc bag and cut off a tiny piece of one of the corners. 6. Stand back and wait for the ooo’s and ahh’s.

Homemade Almond Milk

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1/2 cup raw whole almonds, preferably organic
water for soaking
2 1/2 cups water
1-2 dates, preferably Medjool, optional
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, optional

Make the almond milk:
        In a medium-sized covered container, add the almonds and enough water to cover at least an inch above the nuts. Let the nuts soak overnight in the fridge, or for at least 8 hours.
        Drain the nuts, and add them with the dates and vanilla, if using, into a blender, preferably high-speed. If you’re using a regular blender or a something like a bullet, only blend one half of the nuts and water at a time, and then combine in the nut bag.
        Blend for 2-3 minutes. Place a nut bag, or a few sheets of cheesecloth into a medium-size bowl. Pour the blended nuts into the bag, and squeeze all of the liquid into the bowl. Pour into a container and chill. Immediately rinse out the nut bag to keep it unclogged.
        The milk will last for up to 3 days in the fridge. You can easily double the recipe. But, it’s best to make less more often.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Buy whole raw almonds (with the skins on), organic if you can. Not anything roasted or salted.
2. If you have a regular blender, blend smaller amounts and combine. Even in the high speed blender, I like to blend all of the nuts with 1/2 of the water first before adding the rest.
3. This will only last about 3 days in the fridge, so I make this smaller amount, but if you can use it all up, feel free to double the recipe.
4. If using a nut bag to strain the liquid, make sure to clean it right after you use it to keep it unclogged.

PUMPKIN Coffeecake

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Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Brown Sugar-Pecan Streusel
(adapted from Kim Laidlaw)

For the streusel:
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
a pinch of fine sea salt
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (see below)

For the batter:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup full fat sour cream

For the glaze:
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons milk, whole or 2%, or more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Make the Cake:
        Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan or any of the pans listed in Lessons Learned.

Make the streusel:
        In a bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and, using 2 table knives, a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut it into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a food processor. Stir in the toasted pecans. Set aside.

Make the batter:
        In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until well combined. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream and mix with the spatula. Stir in the flour mixture. The batter will be quite thick.
        Dollop half of the batter by spoonfuls into the bottom of the pan, and spread into a smooth layer. Evenly sprinkle half of the streusel over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the streusel and spread the thick batter as best you can. Top with the remaining streusel. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, a few moist crumbs are ok., about 50 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire cooling rack and let cool for about 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge and remove the sides from the pan. Slide the cake onto the rack to let cool completely.

Make the glaze:
        In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and vanilla. If it is too thick to drizzle, add extra milk by the ½ teaspoonfuls until thin enough. To get thin lines, using a spoon, first start the drizzle in the bowl of icing, then draw lines in all directions over the top of the cake. Repeat as many times as desired. Allow some of the glaze to drip down the sides.

Makes 8-10 servings.     YUM!

Toast the pecans:
        Preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of the baking time—they can burn easily. Immediately remove them from the hot pan, cool, and coarsely chop them.

LESSONS Learned:
1. To toast the pecans: preheat an oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7-9 minutes. Watch them closely towards the end of the baking time—they can burn easily.
2. If you don’t have a 9 inch round springform pan.... you can use a 9” tube pan, a 10“ bundt pan, or make two 8”round cakes.
3. Make sure to get pure canned pumpkin puree and not canned pumpkin pie mix.

Fresh Applesauce

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(inspired by Anthony Williams)
6 red apples, preferably organic, cut into medium chunks
2 ribs celery, preferably organic, cut into 1 inch pieces (optional)
2-4 Medjool dates, or another variety
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 ½- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
raw walnuts, raisins or chopped dates, dried cranberries or cherries for garnish, optional

Make the Applesauce:
        Add all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender. Alternatively, in a regular blender, work with smaller amounts and combine. Blend until smooth. In my Vitamix, I definitely need the plunger to get it going.
        Serve with optional garnishes. Will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Makes 4 cups, or 4-6 servings.     YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Get organic, if at all possible. If the apples are not organic, I would peel them first.
2. You can leave out the celery and the dates, but why?
3. A high speed blender is going to work best, but a regular one will work too, just do it in smaller batches.
4. Since it’s so easy to make, you can halve or quarter the recipe, and make a fresh batch whenever you want it.
5. If you like, experiment with other flavorings—a pinch of cloves or nutmeg, orange juice, ginger-fresh or powdered and on and on.


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THROWBACK Sunday Pot Roast
one 3 pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat
salt and pepper for sprinkling on the meat
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
5-6 carrots, about one pound, peeled and cut into 3 inch chunks
4-5 medium-sized russet potatoes, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into 8ths
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces, optional
3 cups low-sodium beef broth and/or water
3 Tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon celery seed, optional
1 ½ Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups low sodium beef stock or water, with 1 cup extra if needed.

Make the roast:
In the oven:
        If the roast is chilled, remove from the fridge and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Remove the top rack in the oven to be able to fit the pot. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
        Heat the oil in a large, lidded heavy pot or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the roast ( If it doesn’t fit your pot, cut in half to fit) and cook until well browned on all sides, 10-15 minutes total. Arrange the potatoes, carrot and celery, if using, around the roast.
        Pour the broth and/or water into a 4 cup measure and add the onion flakes, salt, parsley flakes, pepper, onion powder, paprika, celery seed and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Pour the mixture all over the meat and vegetables. It should come up to about ¾ way up the side of the roast. Cover tightly and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until very tender when pierced with a fork.
        About 3/4’s of the way through, check to make sure there is still some liquid in the pot. Add another cup, if necessary. Gently toss the veggies to coat with the juices. When done, remove the beef & vegetables to a platter and serve with the juices.

In the slow cooker:
        Remove meat from fridge for about 30 minutes and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. If desired, brown the meat first. Heat the oil in a large, 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total. Pour about 1/2 cup of the broth or water into the skillet where the beef was browned in and scrape up any brown bits from the pan. Place the browned or unbrowned beef in the slow cooker. Arrange the potatoes, carrots and celery around the roast. Pour the ½ cup broth from the pan plus 2 1/2 cups more broth or water into a 4 cup measure. Add the onion flakes, salt, parsley flakes, pepper, paprika, onion powder, celery seed and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well to combine. Pour the mixture all over the meat and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or high 4 to 5 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Serve with accumulated juices.

Makes 8-10 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Even though back then, we never took the time to brown the chuck roast in oil on all sides first, I always do that now. But it’s up to you.
2. You can leave out the veggies if you like. Sides of mashed potatoes and green beans or broccolini instead would be perfect.
3. To save time, especially if you’re opting for the slow cooker version in the morning before you leave for the day, you can prep the veggies the night before. Just keep them in water in the fridge, so that they don’t discolor. Also, do not brown the meat the night before, as there is a risk of bacteria growth.
4. Don’t be afraid to make it one or two days in advance.

Spooky Witches Fingers


30 pretzel rods, broken in half
1 package white or green candy melts, I use Ghirardelli or 1 package white chocolate chips, about 2 cups
green food coloring for the candy melts or green “candy” colors for the white chocolate
slivered almonds, plain or toasted.

Make the fingers:
        Line a sheet pan, cooling rack or flat plate with waxed paper or parchment, set aside.
        In a small heavy saucepan, very slowly melt the candy melts or white chocolate, stirring constantly, adding the regular food coloring to the candy melts, or the candy color to the white chocolate.
        Using a wide flat spoon, scoop up some of the melted coating and roll the pretzel in it, leaving about an inch uncoated. Once coated, roll the rod lengthwise against the side of the pot to allow any excess to fall back into the pot. Place them on the prepared pan. Press a slivered almond into the tip of each to create a fingernail.
        Allow the fingers to partially dry. Then using a toothpick, draw 2 sets of 3 lines to create the knuckles. Harden them completely at room temperature or in the fridge. Store in an airtight container for up to a week until ready to use.

Makes 60 spooky fingers.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. You can buy green candy melts instead of adding the food coloring.
2. To color white chocolate chips, you need oil based “candy“ colors so the chocolate won’t seize. Plain old food coloring won’t work as well.
3. It’s easiest to coat the pretzels by scooping up some of the coating into a big spoon and rolling all but an inch of the rod into the coating. Alternatively you could tilt the pot and dip. Once coated, roll the rod lengthwise against the side of the pot to allow any excess to fall back into the pot.
4. Make sure to put the sliced almond nails on right after coating the pretzels.
5. You can speed up the hardening process by sticking them in the fridge for a minute or 2. But... make sure to draw on the knuckles before they are completely hardened which can happen quickly.

Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash (about 2 ½ - 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided –one for drizzling on the squash, the other for sautéing
1 small onion, about ¾ cup chopped
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
1-3 t curry powder
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, optional
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste, start with 12 grinds
about 4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth, coconut milk or water
1 to 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil, optional
For garnish: toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, croutons, and scallions

Make the soup:
        Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the neck off of the squash, as well as the top stem. Stand the flat cut side on the cutting board to keep it stable, and slice lengthwise in half. Place the cut side of the bulb on the board and slice that in half as well.
        Place the sliced butternut squash on the pan and drizzle the flesh side of each piece with the olive oil to lightly coat. Rub the oil all over the cut side, and sprinkle the pieces with salt and pepper.
        Turn the squash face down, and roast until tender and completely cooked through, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool for about 10-15 minutes.
        While the squash roasts, in a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften. Add the curry, and continue to cook until completely softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more, stirring constantly.
        Scoop the butternut squash flesh into the soup pot and discard the skin. Add the stock, milk or water, and the black pepper. Heat through and blend in batches in the blender until very smooth. Return to the pot, and if desired, stir in the butter or olive oil and heat until piping hot. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if desired. If you like, garnish with croutons, toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and/or scallions.
        Can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Makes 4-6 servings.       YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Pick a squash with a long neck and smaller bulb (where the seeds are). You’ll get more pulp, less seeds to deal with, and it will be easier to cut.
2. I like to cut off the neck of the squash as well as the very top. Then I stand the bottom, flat side of the squash on the cutting board to keep it stable, and slice it top to bottom in half. I also lay the flat side of the bulb on the cutting board, and slice that in half as well.
3. Don’t like the curry? Switch that out along with the garlic and red curry paste, for 1/8th teaspoon of nutmeg and cinnamon, and 1 Tablespoon of pure maple syrup for a sweeter, less savory version.
4. Don’t want to peel and cut squash? You’re in luck! You can find butternut squash already peeled, seeded and cubed in your grocery store! You can still bake the cubes, tossed with the oil, salt and pepper, just until soft-- which will take pretty much half the time.


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(adapted from “Everyday Dorie” by Dorie Greenspan)

4 - 9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 sprigs fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary
½-3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 lb. tomatoes, cored
1/2 lb. zucchini, green or yellow, scrubbed and trimmed
1/4 lb. eggplant, washed and trimmed—peeling optional
I large red onion, peeled

Make the tian:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking pan with foil or parchment and set aside.
        Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into the baking dish, tilting it so the oil coats the sides. Evenly scatter over half of the garlic and half of the herbs in the bottom of the dish. Season generously with salt and pepper.
        Slice all the vegetables about 1⁄4 inch thick, using a mandolin or by hand. They should all be about the same size, if possible. So, if any are particularly large, you might want to cut them in half to fit better. This is for beauty. If you choose not to stand the slices up in the pan, it’s not a necessary step.
        Alternate the veggies –tomato, zucchini, onion, and eggplant. If standing up in the pan, try to make them all about the same height. Arrange the vegetables in the dish in tight circles, starting from the outside in. As they will shrink once baked, try to keep the vegetables packed as tightly together as you can. Season generously with salt and pepper, and tuck the remaining slivers of garlic in among the vegetables. Scatter the remaining herbs over the top and drizzle another 1-3 Tablespoons of the oil over the top.
        Place the tian on the baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, and bake for 40 minutes. Drizzle another 1-4 Tablespoons of oil over the top, and bake for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are very tender and the juices are bubbling.
        Let the tian rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Or, cool to room temperature. Serve as a veggie side, scoop onto bread slices or dollop on top of chicken or fish. Don’t discard the extra oil in the bottom of the pan, but use for bread dunking or as a flavorful start to a salad dressing.

Makes 4 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. This recipe works with an 8” or 9’ round casserole dish. But any size can be used—just adjust the recipe to fit.
2. If you have one, using a mandolin will cut perfectly even slices, but a steady hand and a knife will work just as well. I cut them freehand.
3. Worried about the amount of oil? You can reduce it down to 1/4 cup if you like, and it will still be delicious.
4. Peeling the eggplant is optional. The skin does add a little more texture though.
5. If you are missing a vegetable or herbs, just use the ones you have.
6. Be generous with all the herbs and seasonings.

Grandma's PLUM CAKE

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Grandma's PLUM CAKE

¾ cup sugar
½ cup, 1 stick, unsalted butter, softened
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 pitted Italian prune plums, halved and pitted, or 3-4 sweet red or purple plums pitted, cut into ½” to 1 inch slices
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, optional but delicious

Make the cake:
        Place the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease whatever pan you are using well with butter. If using a springform, you might want to wrap the bottom with foil as well.
        Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, about a minute. Fit a strainer over a medium size bowl, and sift the flour, baking powder, salt. Add the dry mixture and the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture and beat well.
        Spoon dollops of the batter into the chosen pan, 9” round or 9” x 13” rectangular pan and spread it evenly to cover the bottom. Place the fruit on top of the batter, prune plum halves skin side down. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar all over the fruit. You may not need all of it. You also may opt to use less if the fruit is already very sweet. Evenly drizzle the melted butter over all.
        Bake until the cake is browned and puffed around the fruit and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. For a 9” round pan, it will take about 60-65 minutes. For a 9 x 13 about 30-35 minutes. Cool to just warm, and serve sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, and if you like, whipped cream or ice cream. Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Makes 8 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Any fresh seasonal fruit can be used. Instead of the plums, try sliced apples, nectarines, peaches, blueberries or raspberries. Use about 24-30 slices of fruit cut about ½”-1” thick, or 4 cups berries total. Or, mix them up. Use wider slices on top of the 9” round pan—bake time about an hour or so-- and thinner slices for the 9 x 13---bakr time about 30 minutes.
2. Make two. The second one, which you’ll want when the thermometer dives, will freeze really well for up to 3 months. Make sure to wrap it tightly, label and date it. Defrost the cake overnight in the fridge or at room temp, and reheat in a 300 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.
3. Flours can easily be switched up. I like using 1/4 cup cornmeal and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour for a more Italian take with a little satisfying crunch in the cake.
4. Depending on the shape of the pan you choose, you can lay the fruit out in a pretty circular pattern , starting from the outside and moving in, or layer them in neat rows.


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(with chickpeas, tomatoes and feta)

For the chimichurri:
1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup packed mint
1/2 cup packed cilantro
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano, leaves only
½ -2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, depending on heat tolerance
½ -1 small serrano or other hot red or green chile, optional
1-4 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ teaspoon cumin
2 Tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice, extra to taste
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mild honey, optional
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
For the salad:
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, low sodium
4-5 medium tomatoes, ½ inch slices
4 -6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
flakey sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the chimichurri:
       If using a food processor, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Process everything until it is roughly chopped. Through the feed tube with the processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil, mixing until well-blended. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Taste and adjust salt and lime juice levels, if desired.
       If using a blender, add all of the ingredients and blend until combined. Blend less for a chunkier version, more for a creamier one. scraping down the jar as needed.
       Let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavors combine. It may lose some of its verdant green color, but it will keep in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Just let it come to room temperature before using.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.      YUM!

Make the chickpea salad:
       Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas. In a small bowl, toss the chickpeas with about ¼ cup of more of the chimichurri. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to marinate.
       Slice the tomatoes about ½ inch thick, and spread out onto a serving platter. Spoon the chickpeas evenly over the tomatoes, crumble the feta over all and drizzle with the sauce. Sprinkle with the salt and the pepper.
Make 4-6 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Want to be traditional? Just leave out the cilantro, mint, and lime juice.
2. Want to be experimental? Use it as a blank canvas, or as a way to use up whatever you have on hand at the moment. Just keep the proportions in mind. Different herbs, oils or vinegars will all work.
3. Fresh oregano can be hard to find. You can use dried instead, about ½ to 1 teaspoon in this recipe.
4. Being the fresh garlic wimp that I am though, I always opt for a lesser amount. But, you can certainly up the ante here and throw in a lot more. As a precaution though, I would still add one clove at a time, taste, and then add more to your liking.
5. Smooth or chunky? Using a food processor, you’ll get a more rustic sauce. Throw everything into a blender, especially high speed, and you’ll end up with a creamier one. If you don’t want to use a food processor or blender, you can chop everything up very finely and then simply stir together, or use a mortar and pestle to do the work.
6. More ways to use it: toss with roasted veggies, stir into yogurt or mayo for a dip or dressing, marinate meat or cheese in it, use as a sandwich spread or add to your meatball mix before cooking them......


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Black Bean Tartines
(inspired by Annemarie Colbin)

For the Black Bean Salad:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can black beans, unsalted or low sodium, about 1 ¾- 2 cups,
a pinch fine sea salt
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive
2 tbsp tamari
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
2 ears of cooked corn, about 2 cups cooked kernels
1 red bell pepper, small dice, about 1 cup
3/8-1/2 c. finely chopped parsley
2 whole scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal, about ¼ cup

For the Tartines:
4 slices of crusty bread, toasted
4 oz. 4icotta or soft, creamy goat cheese
Lettuce leaves
avocado, thinly sliced
radishes, thinly sliced
extra thinly sliced scallions
freshly ground black pepper

Make the Black Bean Salad:
       Drain and rinse the beans. In a medium size saute pan, warm the oil and add the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, just until it starts to turn light brown. Add the beans, salt and black pepper, stir to combine and heat through.
       Combine the dressing ingredients and stir it into the warm beans. Transfer to a medium size bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the corn, red pepper, parsley and scallions. Gently mix to coat all of the veggies with the dressing. Allow the bean salad to marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Taste for seasoning—you may want a little more salt or black pepper. Keeps in the fridge for 3 days.

Make the Tartines:
       Spread about 2-3 Tablespoons of the ricotta or goat cheese onto the bread slices. Place one leaf of lettuce onto of the cheese. Spoon the bean salad on top. If desired add a few slices of avocado and radish, and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper.

Makes about 4 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. If you can, try to get organic Eden or Westbrae canned beans with a BPA-free lining.
2. Use last night’s extra ears of corn or boil a couple extra to make this even faster.
3. To make easy work of mincing the garlic, you can use a kitchen rasp or grater instead of using a knife.
4. If you’re crunched for time, you can forgo heating the beans and garlic first. Just maybe reduce the amount of raw garlic.

PEACH COBBLER with a Hot Sugar Crust

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Peach Cobbler with a Hot Sugar Crust
(inspired by Renee Erickson from Seattle’s Boat Street Café)

6-7 medium or 4-5 large, ripe peaches (about 2 ¼-2 1/2 pounds)
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons hot water
Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Make the cobbler:
        Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil and set aside.
        To prep the peaches: Poke the peaches all over with a fork. Cut in half and remove the pits. Cut each half into 3 or 4 slices, and each slice into thirds. You should have about 6 cups of 1 inch chunks.
        Butter an 8 x 8 inch square metal or glass baking pan, or any similar sized baking pan or pie dish. Place the peaches in an even layer into the pan. Drizzle the lemon juice over the peaches, evenly dot with the lemon zest, and sprinkle all over with the cinnamon.
        Set a strainer over a medium-size bowl, and sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
        In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a hand mixer, cream the butter and the ¾ cup of sugar on medium speed until evenly sandy, about 1 minute. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon, and beat on medium speed until all the flour is incorporated, and the mixture is very crumbly, about 30 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
        With the mixer on low speed, pour in the milk. Increase the speed to medium, beating until the batter is well combined, about 1 minute. Scoop the batter by heaping Tablespoons all over the peaches. With an offset spatula or the back of a big spoon, carefully spread the batter evenly over the fruit as best you can. The peaches will peek through in places.
        Sprinkle the 3 Tablespoons of sugar over the batter, and drizzle the hot water evenly over the sugar, making sure it’s all dampened. Bake the cobbler until the top is golden brown, possibly cracked, and the fruit is bubbling, 65-75 minutes.
        Cool the cobbler for about 30 minutes. It will firm up as it cools. Serve warm. And if desired, top with whipped cream or ice cream. Will keep covered at room temp for 2 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Makes 6-8 servings.      YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Get freestone peaches—the kind where the pits easily come out.
2. Make sure that the peaches are fully ripe, blushed with orange and red—no green skins-- and, that they smell fragrant.
3. The batter will spread unevenly over the peaches, with some peaches peeking through the batter, but that’s fine. Just spread it all over the top as best you can.
4. If you like, you can throw in a handful of blueberries or raspberries in with the peaches.