Naples Grape Festival

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Around this time last year we drove through Naples and noticed several grape pie and grape sellers along the main street. I looked up Naples to find they host a very large fall grape festival and pie contest. If you have never heard of grape pies it’s ok, neither did we, this area is actually where it all started.

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We decided to go to the Naples Grape Fest on Sunday afternoon, hoping this popular festival would be less busy at that time; I was wrong. We parked almost a mile from the vendors and walked in. Unlike other festivals  the main route through town stayed open (although moving at a snails pace). This made traveling along the sidewalks slow.

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There were vendors with everything from clothes, to wood carvings, glass work, candles, produce, and fair food including all things grape flavored. Along the way we picked up local cheese, maple syrup, and grape jam.

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Behind town hall was a fenced-in wine tasting area, with a large selection of wineries and a few breweries present. Next to this was a music tent where we listened to a  folk country/bluegrass group called Ruddy Well. We enjoyed them so much we ended up buying their CD’s.

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About half way through town, we found the main food court. I choose to eat at Effortlessly Healthy a Rochester based food truck that serves dairy and gluten free meals with vegan options. I had a bowl with cole slaw sweet potatoes, ground beef, chicken, and avocado it was perfect. They also have their own store in Rochester where they serve healthy lunch options and provide delivery meal services.

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On our way back  we stopped at grape pie stands. Luke got a slice to-go from one. Fortunately I was able to eat a mini open tart’s filling from another, it tasted like concord grapes (the most popular grape in the Naples area). Some vendors sold pie filling. Too bad they didn’t offering tastings  or I would have bought one to make my own barley-free pie.

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On our way out of town we stopped for dessert at Lynnie Lou’s a homemade ice cream and custard shop . We were happily surprised to see them open; most ice cream stands  close after Labor Day. Luke got a grape and vanilla swirl custard and I chose vanilla custard with warm apple pie filling.

It was another great date day.

Gluten Free Cereal Treats

Did you know that store bought rice cereal treats have malt or barley in the them?  Which is a problem for me. To learn more about this see why I’m barley free.

Rice cereals should be gluten free but many unfortunately are not. So I decided to make healthier gluten free cereal treats at home.

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Aldi’s has recently made new gluten free cereals so I combined two different types: brown rice and flax with chia.

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Also to change things up I  added dried apricots, blueberries, and cherries and white chocolate chips.

Here’s my recipe for Gluten Free Cereal Treats

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Ingredients:

1. 2 boxes of your choice of gluten free cereal; 9-10 oz. each or about 6-8 cups total

Note: make sure the cereal you buy is small and crunchy/hard in texture

2. 5-6 oz or about 2 cups of dried apricot

3. 5-6 oz or about 2 cups of dried blueberries/cherries or your choice of dried fruit

4. 1 1/2 -2 cups of while chocolate chips; depending how sweet you want it

Note: you can make this healthier by using yogurt chips

5. 2-3 cups mini marshmallows

6. 2 tsp salt

7. 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup butter

Note: you can exchange the butter for coconut oil for a healthier dessert

Instructions

1. Chop apricots, blueberries, and cherries

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2. Put dried fruit, cereal, and white chips into a large mixing bowl

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3. Grease two 9×11 pans

4. Heat butter in a small pot on low

5. Once the butter has softened add the marshmallows and salt

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6. Watch the marshmallow mixture on low and fold the butter/mallows together slowly with a spatula

7. Once the marshmallow mixture is completely melted pour into the cereal mixture

8. Mix with hand mixer or I used my kitchen aid mixer

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9. Once mixed, quickly place in pans, it is easiest to press down the gooey mix with greased hands or the back end of a large and wide spatula

10. Give the rice cereal treats time to cool in the fridge, once cool you can cut them into squares. Store the squares in a closed container in the fridge.

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My husband, who is not a huge fan of marshmallows thought these were much better then store bought or traditional rice cereal treats.

These were a perfect camping trip treat and easy summer snack boost.

Bread of the Month: Whole Wheat Zucchini

Yes I am aware it’s the beginning of May. But it was not until this week that life slowed down enough for me to want to pick up my hobbies again. So I know I am  once again due to give you a life update and that this post is way overdue but here it is: this is my contribution for April’s Bread of the Month.

In the past when Luke had work breakfasts I used to go to my wide selection of muffin recipes and bake one (as you have seen in past posts). But recently I have gotten tired of putting in the work of lining each muffin tin or buttering/greasing the pans then cleaning the baked on crevices after. For more info on this see my post: Living without a dishwasher.

So  instead I decided to try switched to making breakfast breads. They are less of mess to make and clean and just as quickly eaten up.   The great thing about breakfast breads also is that if you have carrots, zucchini, bananas, apples, lemons etc. around the house it’s easy to mash, shred, or cut it up to put in an oven baked bread. Unlike other yeasted breads breakfast breads/loafs,  just like muffins, are very moist but quick to throw together with no waiting time. (I’ll fill you in on a secret; breakfast breads/loafs are really muffins in disguise or vice versa depending on how you see it).

I had two zucchini’s leftover in my fridge from a recent dinner and decided they would make a great spring breakfast bread. I went to my every-handy Bread Bible and found a great recipe:

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Instead of greasing one 9 by 4 inch pan I chose to butter and flour much smaller pan for us to have a nice mini-loaf to keep and eat at home and one of my 9 by 4 inch pans for Luke to take to work (I just didn’t fill the 9 by 4 inch pan as full). I preheated the oven to 350F then used one of my favorite toys eh . . tools: my kitchen aid mixer. I placed our shredder/grater attachment on and quickly and easily shredded both zucchini’s.  I then took some paper towels to the shredded zucchini to absorb the moisture leaving only the zucchini “meat”.

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Next I combined the wet ingredients: 1/4 cup vegetable oil with 1 1/2 C sugar. If you want to make this recipe more healthy you can choose to replace the sugar with honey  or brown sugar of equal amount.  Once the sugar and oil were incorporated I added three large eggs and 2 tsp of vanilla extract. After this was well blended I added the grated zucchini.

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In a separate bowl I combined the dry ingredients: 2 C unbleached flour: the original recipe was not whole wheat I used half whole wheat flour and half regular flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, and I added more ground cinnamon and cloves then the recipe called for 2 tsp each. If you want to spice up your bread even more you can add 1 tsp nutmeg and or 1 tsp ginger as well.

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The original recipe at this point also called for adding 1 C of walnuts or raisins neither of which I chose to include. Instead I added 1/2 C more zucchini then the original recipe called for (originally 2 C shredded). Then I combined the wet and dry ingredients.

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It may not look appetizing but it sure tasted great!

Last of all, the easy part: spooning the batter into the pans and placing them into the oven. My loafs only took about 50-60 minutes for the top sto be firm and the toothpick to come out clean. The smaller one I think I took out at 50 minutes and the larger one five to ten minutes later.

The original recipe called for a brandy or congnac glaze but since this bread was made for a breakfast instead of  a dessert or snack I decided to go without it.  As with most breads and baked goods with baking powder in them, the flavor is better after they have been stored in plastic wrap and cooled/refrigerated overnight.

The bread tasted great; just enough sugar to balance out the veggies but not so much that if felt like dessert for breakfast. From now on I think I will do breakfast breads (with a mini-loaf for us to share at home) instead of muffins. At least for now.

What about you?

What is you favorite baked breakfast good?

 

Bread of the Month: Italian Triple Chocolate

You read that right triple chocolate!!! I figured this is the month of and for chocolate lovers right? (see February is synonymous with chocolate). This moist bread is a cross-breed between a dark/molasses bread and a dessert bread. Most dessert bread ingredients form a sweet cake batter rather than a dough and use baking powder and/or soda to help them rise . This bread instead uses yeast, has two rises, and forms a very silk and springy dough.

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The base recipe I got once again from The Bread Bible but I did make some key variations. After proofing the yeast I added the dry ingredients of: flour, salt, cocoa powder (the first of the three chocolates), expresso, and sugar together. Then the wet ingredients of: warm milk, melted butter, egg, yeast, and warm water were added to create the dough.

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Once the dough was formed the ever so important chocolate was added. The original recipe called for some finer/fancier chocolates. I decided to used good-old fashion Hershey unsweetened cocoa powder (instead of a fancy dutch processed variety), 3 ounces of a nicer Lindt milk chocolate bar, and 5 ounces of a  semi-sweet baking bar that was suggested in the original recipe: Scharffen Berger. Once the chocolate was chopped it was added with a spoon to the dough. Here also I added vanilla and a little more white sugar making the dough sweeter than the recipe called for.

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Then the rest of the flour was added 1/2 C at a time to the mixer. After switching over to a dough hook for awhile, I turned it over by hand  to check it’s consistency. I used butter to grease the pan the dough would rise in instead of the olive oil base I would normally use for a non-dessert bread.

The dough sat and rose for an hour and half. During this time I decided to create a glaze, also not in the original recipe.  I used a tablespoon of my coffee creamer (see Coffee Creamer Simplified ), 1/8 tsp of expresso, a tablespoon of melted bittersweet chocolate, and one egg whisked together.

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Once the dough finished it’s first rising I kneaded it to let out air and formed it into loafs. The original  design is to make the dough into two round loafs. Instead I formed the dough to fit two regular bread loafs pans, greased again with butter, for it’s second rising; about another half hour. After the second rising I glazed the tops of the loafs and stuck the bread in the oven at 375 F.

Let me tell you combine the smell of brownies and fresh bread baking and you’ve got close to what our house smelled like while this bread cooked. It went in the oven for about 45-50 minutes . I chose to take it out around 30 minutes to re-glaze the top; then did that again after 45 minutes and turned the oven down to 200 until the glaze was absorbed. At 50 minutes I had three layers of sweet glaze on top of the bread and the center was done. The end result? Not necessarily the prettiest bread I have ever made but one of the most delicious.

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With a crunchy sweet top layer and a moist yet dense semi-sweet chocolate flavor it is wonderful. Once the loafs cooled I placed them covered in the fridge. The next morning Luke andI had a slice without butter with homemade vanilla lattes for breakfast. Talk about a piece of heaven!! I think it honestly tastes better the next day!

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So there you have it!  A very February tribute to bread. If you are thinking of finding this recipe or something similar there are definitely ways to add variety to the recipe. If you want the bread sweeter I would suggest adding more white sugar to the dough along with more milk chocolate and/or add chocolate chips.

You can also of course add a sweeter glaze and or icing to the top. The more the glaze the quicker the top will brown so you have to be cautious. You can always cover the top with foil while the rest bakes if necessary. For an icing I would suggest melting semi-sweet chocolate and combining it with a little milk/cream and powdered sugar to put on once the loafs have cooled.

Happy chocolate month everyone!!

Bread of the Month: English Muffins

This year I decided I am picking one new bread item per month to home-bake. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you will know that I love to bake but my baking had been mostly limited to desserts. It’s only within this past year I began to feel comfortable making dough items such as buns, rolls, pastries and our everyday lunch bread at home.

But Luke borrowed The Bread Bible from a co-worker and I was inspired. Although there are  many wonderful baked goodies out there many of them I cannot eat because of an allergy to barley for more see: Why I am barley free Part One . Much of the time I do not mind eating gluten-free even though I am not allergic to gluten. Still availability of gluten-free breads and baked goods is limited here in upstate NY and even if it is available I never know when/how I can get them.

This Bread Bible provides great fun new dessert to try but also includes easy recipes for basics I have not eaten in over a year like bagels, hamburger buns, sourdough bread, and english muffins.

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I have always loved english muffins they are so crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. That is why they are great for toasting served with a little butter and jam or peanut butter and bananas. I  also think they make for great PB and J’s, breakfast sandwiches with fried eggs, or for eggs benedict. So for as you may have guess for January’s bread of the month I chose to make homemade English Muffins!

I was surprised at how easy the process was. Very similar in steps to our homemade bread recipe, all ingredients are combined after yeast has time to proof then the dough rises in a deep dished oiled pan for an hour.

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After the dough has had time to rise, it is rolled out to about a 1/2 in thick. To cut the muffin rounds I used one of our glasses.

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Once all the dough was cut into rounds I got out the large electric skillet and cooked/fried them on the oiled surface for about 10 minutes on each side then let them cool on a wire rack. I was surprised at how quickly the dough rose as it baked.

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So there you have it: homemade english muffins. They are crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside. If I was to make them again I may try to work the dough less to add more fluff or rise. I would also probably add 1/2 C cornmeal to the dough recipe.

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I made a double batch and put most of them in the freezer; the rest went in the fridge. They serve as a great breakfast option along side our Greene’s gluten-free granola bars.

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So what is your favorite carb? Do you have a love for baking?

2013 in review

I know we are a little more than a week into the new year but it has taken me a full week to get back into the normal routine of things (I can’t be the only one who’s in the post-holiday struggle for normality). As I look back on almost a full year with this blog I thought I’d review some of the highlighting events of 2013.

So here is a review of 2013 blog style:

January: survived our first NY winter:  A Lesson in Independence and explored our local museum’s winter events: 2300 degrees

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February: Started a new Valentines tradition: Valentine’s Pie: a New Tradition, and explored what it means to be newly married :Dispelling Marriage MythsMarriage Myth busting: Round 2

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March: Celebrate Luke’s birthday with brewery tours/tastings in Rochester: A Chemistry lesson for a birthday present, Shared about my allergy to barley: Why I am barley free: Part One, and celebrated Easter: Hot Cross Buns and Berry Salad

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April: Celebrated 6 months of marriage: Wow it’s been 6 months!, shared details about our wedding:The Dress and  learning how to look for a job: Patience: giving myself time

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May: Traveled to the West Coast for an Oregon vacation and my brother’s college graduation: Vacation Highlights Part 1: Family TimeVacation Highlights Part 2: Date Days

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June: Went Kayaking in Rochester: Kayaking and BBQ, bottled our first homemade barley-free beer:  Bottling our first homemade brew and celebrated my birthday in Ithaca: An Ithaca birthday Adventure

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July: Explored local festivals: Two festivals and Korean BBQ, Fixed up the front porch: Home Improvement: The Front Porch Project, and traveled to Washington to be apart of pre-wedding events for my brother’s wedding : Pre-wedding Jitters

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August:  Particpated in my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal shower: Stina’s bridal shower and other wedding events, attended two local foodie festivals in NY: Smoke on the WaterTaste of Ellicotville, and hiked a local landmark: Walkins Glen State Park= Gorge-ous

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September: Looked back on my brother’s wedding: The Wedding, and shared more about my job-search: A New Year: Teacher without a classroom

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October: Picked pumpkins and attended an Apple Festival: Picking Perfect Pumpkins;  Apple Fest,  shared about my allergy to tree-nuts:Why I am tree-nut free Part one,  and celebrated a year of marriage with a trip to Niagara Falls :Niagara Falls anniversary Part One

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November: Kept busy with non-blogging activities and shared about them in: busy: and update

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December: Started two new holiday traditions: Post-Parade Cookies and Cocoa and Christmas Concert TSO. Attended our local holiday festival: Sparkle and shared our Christmas with my parents: A Very Corning Christmas present and A handmade and heirloom Christmas

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That is one very full blogging year! And that is only a small portion of the blog-post in this past year and doesn’t include any of my recipes. So what can you look forward to reading about this next year? You’ll find out soon enough.

A “Cheesy” New Years Tradition

While Luke and I were dating we went to two fondue places and love it both times. But fondue can be expensive and our closest fondue place is in Rochester, an hour and forty-five minutes away. So last year for New Years Eve we decided to start a new tradition: making fondue at home.

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We bought a basic bottle of white and red wine then went to Wegmans to get nicer cheeses and chocolate to melt. Because we had the day to ourselves, we took our time prepping goodies to dip . For our creamy  white wine cheesy fondue we cut up  tart apples, grapes, mushrooms, broccoli, pita bread, pumpernickel bread, and celery.

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This year’s fondue cheeses

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2014’s fondue dipped goods

After making the fondue last year we decided the breads were too crumby for the hot cheese and that I am not a fan of raw broccoli but everything else tasted great. So this year we used heartier crackers, cut cubes from our own homemade bread, and exchanged green peppers for broccoli.

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Last year for our  rich red wine chocolate fondue we used marshmallows, strawberries, bananas, shortbread cookie pieces, and cheesecake bites.

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After making the chocolate fondue last year we decided the shortbread cookies was too soft and melted and that Luke is not a fan of marshmallows. Last year I had made cheesecake for Christmas /New Years day dessert so I  cut up the leftovers from the freezer.

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This year I made cheesecake balls coated in graham cracker crumbs. I dipped some in white chocolate for the New Years Eve party then froze the rest for fondue.  We didn’t use bananas this year but we did keep the  marshmallows for me, which just meant more cheesecake for Luke.

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We do not own a fondue set but we have a double boiler. Last year we put hot water in the bottom pan of the double boiler and melted our cheese/chocolate in the top pan. This worked pretty well except for one issue: if we removed the cheese fondue from the stove heat then it would begin to harden almost immediately. So we ended up eating our fondue on stools huddled around the stove top of the oven.

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This year Luke dipped into his camping gear to find a burner we could put on the table to use with our double boiler. It’s another temporary solution but it’s better than last year. And let’s just say we already have a item on our Christmas list for 2014: a nice fondue set.

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And what else did we do for our holiday other than eat food? Play Luke’s favorite Christmas present Firefly: the board game yes . . . it’s complicated and nerdy and. . . it’s a lot of fun.

Hope you all had a fun New Year’s Day!!