Autumn Apple Harvest

For over two weeks I have been slicing and peeling apples by the dozens thanks to some very generous colleagues with a bounty to share. I’ve already made 5 pies, 3 dozen apple cinnamon muffins, apple cake, apple onion & yellow squash gratin, AND two dozen caramel apple cinnamon rolls. What’s next on the menu?

You’ll be the first to know when I finally decide… and hopefully I’ll get them finished before the pears and plums show up.

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Apple Cake

Apple Cake

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
5 cups thinly sliced, peeled, diced apples
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350º. Spray a 13×9 pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients at low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or cool with shipped cream, ice bream or caramel sauce, if desired.

*Recipe taken from The Pillsbury Cookbook

Copyright © 2019 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.


Happy Birthday Babe!

My husband is an identical twin born in 1969. If I’m counting right, that means he is 50 years old now. While I have no problem whatsoever with his age, the passage of time does have me thinking about the fact I’m not too far behind him and that does bother me. I know that 50 is the new 40, or is it 40 is the new 50? Well, whatever the phrase is supposed to be, I am pretty sure someone is trying to convince us it is not really a whole half a century OLD. Since I don’t ‘feel’ nearly 50, I am not even sure how we got this old. Regardless of how we feel, look and behave, it sounded like a good reason to host a party and even though he would have been content with a quick trip to the brick oven pizzeria, I had to have a little fun.

Theme is always my first step to planning a party. He’s a guy, a 50 year old guy at that and what is his greatest vice? BEER. I don’t remember beer being such a significant staple in our home until we lived in Europe for 7 years. All of a sudden, he was a self proclaimed expert on craft beer, Belgian beer, US beef, pale ales, stouts, lager, pils, you name it, there was beer involved. So, the theme was pretty darn easy.

Cheers & Beers, Here’s to Brett’s 50 Years….

Theme in hand, I could also quickly decide on decorations. Since beer cans stack pretty easily, I scoured Google and Pinterest for quick ideas for creating a beer can tower. Easy, peasy, 50 cans of three different beers (one per level), I was on a roll.

I thought about how I have cooked with beer sufficiently before, so what if I build a menu around beer as the ingredient? Now, if you know me, you know I don’t drink beer. Not a drop! I never have and I seriously doubt I ever will. So, some will think this was quite a stretch for a non-drinker, but it’s really not much different than cooking with wine. I can’t taste it, and the best part is you definitely cannot smell it, and that is usually what sends me to the hills. Keep in mind, my father has grown malt barley for Budweiser for over 30 years and my husband and son drink probably more beer than water but I don’t even like the smell of it. Just like you, the internet and my collection of cookbooks served me well as I set out to select my menu. I can’t take credit for any of the creative genius, merely the pairing and delivery.

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Kicking up Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?chocolate chip cookies

I do! And it’s the infamous Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs

However, I don’t use Toll House chocolate chips anymore… not since I discovered Guittard chocolate chips! They are big chips of heaven and the chocolate is soooo much better than Hershey’s, Nestle or Toll House. The 11.5 oz. bag is perfect for a single batch, unless you’ve stumbled onto the 2 lb. bag at World Market and you opt to make two batches with a single bag. That works out to 16 oz. of chips per batch, but who am I to say too many chips in a batch of cookies is a bad thing?! My grandmother, however, would have gotten out her kitchen scale and measured out the appropriate 11.5 oz. because she knew how to ration food (and tin-foil) like the best Irish/German farm woman raised in the depression. Either quantity will still be heavenly. Read More


Ladies Day In

When we moved into our new house in December, a few of our good friends were unable to join us. Thankfully, I have an incredibly thoughtful friend for whom that scenario “just wouldn’t do!” So, we scheduled a ladies only brunch so they could see the new house and we could have a relaxing day indoors.

Well, today was the day! A snowy, very cold February Monday brought me three dear friends, a salmon fritatta, fresh fruit, blueberry bran muffins and plenty of chocolate!  I provided the venue, mimosas (and of course, tea & coffee) and a warm fire and they brought brunch.  I set the table with square Lenox Butler’s Pantry plates I purchased about 15 years ago at the factory in Italy over chocolate brown woven chargers topped with my grandmother’s ivory cloth napkins. I love, love these plates and I simply do not use them enough! I specifically bought them for ladies luncheons and so, they had to be featured on this special day. Please do keep in mind, I am not a stuffy ladies luncheon kind of person — but I was a military spouse for 25 years and sometimes you have the privilege (or responsibility) of hosting a whole lot of wives for a social or luncheon and I wanted to be prepared. Read More