Comfort & Cheer

While we wait out this deep freeze down South, we’ve been playing with recipes that warm the body and soul. This drink is so nice, we made it thrice. : ) To make your nights and time by the fireplace a little bit warmer, here’s a fine little recipe for Winter Spiced Wine.

Winter Spiced Wine


4 cups spiced apple cider (we love Trader Joe’s)

1 bottle hearty red wine, like a Cabernet

1/3 cup honey

2 cinnamon sticks

Fresh zest of 1 orange

Fresh-squeezed juice of 1 orange

5-10 whole cloves

Pinch of whole allspice

4-5 star anise/whole

Orange peel for garnish


Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. Pour into warmed mugs and top with orange peel. Drink up, warm up!


Recipe (slightly) adapted from Ina Garten


Perfect timing


Our very first sweet potato planting was a small success! Here’s a shot of the ‘harvest’ — dug up today at the start of Thanksgiving week. We loved seeing all the funny tater shapes emerge with each shovelful of turned dirt. If the family doesn’t choose the classic casserole with marshmallows and all the trimmings, we might just opt for this yummy looking recipe from our talented friend Tara, whose delicious food ideas can be found at Let the Thanksgiving Day cooking commence!


Read more about the 10 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes.


Near Pear-Fect


Every fall we stare at the old pear trees out back and make plans. What will we make this year with this sweet country fruit? Who might need extra for canning? In past years, our friend Wendell whipped up an easy Pear Crisp that I love, and two years ago we went around to all our neighbors surprising them with Friendship Pear Muffins. This year we wanted to do an Apple Pear Bread, but after a few tries I was about to give up — that is until last night when, using the very last of the pears, we managed to make a pretty delicious bread…the kind you want to scarf down for breakfast, lunch, snack and dessert. And this time, we think the effort is worth sharing! So here you go, friends: our near Pear-fect Fall Bread (and muffins). 🙂


Pear-Fect Fall Bread


1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup plain applesauce (or 1/2 cup mashed-up peeled apple)
1/4 cup honey
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tblsp vanilla extract & 1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (we like King Arthur)
4 cups firm pears, peeled and diced

Optional: 1/2 cup sliced almonds, ground up in food processor

To Make:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease one large loaf pan (or 4-5 mini loaf pans); also line a 6-count muffin pan for the extra batter. In a big bowl, combine brown sugar, coconut oil, applesauce and honey. Stir to mix, then add eggs and extracts. Stir well. In separate big bowl combine salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, ground almonds and flour. Mix well. Fold in wet mixture and stir until moistened. Gently fold in pears. Pour batter into pans and muffin tin. Fill almost to the top. Bake large loaf pan for 45-60 minutes (until toothpick comes out almost clean); bake small loaves and muffins approx. 30-40 min. Eat up right away, the next day…or freeze for later.



Inspired by Chew Out Loud.

High on Pie

Few desserts make people as happy as a homemade pie. And in our opinion, this one takes the prize. Perfect for summer. Perfect for hungry guests…and kids. And we know for a fact it makes neighbors smile when you deliver one to their front door. (Right, Megan and Robin?)

So here’s our contribution to National Blueberry Month — a deliciously wicked Lemon Icebox Blueberry Pie.

Trust us, you need this. 🙂

Lemon Blueberry Icebox Pie


1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 tblsp freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 large egg yolks

1/4 cup buttermilk

Store-bought graham cracker crust (we like Keebler)


Preheat oven to 325°.

Whisk first 3 ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks with a mixer at high speed for 4-5 minutes or until yolks become pale.

Slowly pour in condensed milk mixture and stir until well combined; whisk in buttermilk.

Pour mixture into graham cracker crust.

Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes, until pie is set around edges (it’ll be slightly jiggly in center).

Cool pie on wire rack for 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap (spray wrap slightly with cooking oil to avoid sticking).

Freeze 4-6 hours.


2 cups fresh blueberries

1/3 cup sugar

3 tblsp water

2 tblsp fresh lemon juice

1 tblsp lemon zest

Combine 1 cup of the blueberries with the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer 8-10 minutes or until thickened and berries start to break down.

Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 1 cup blueberries. Cool for about 1 hour.

Keep topping chilled until ready to use. Pour over pie, then serve!

Lemon Blueberry Icebox Pie


Recipe adapted from Southern Living.

Under the Stars…with S’mores


I remember it like it was yesterday. An overnight campout during my little sister’s and my first summer at Camp Skyline Ranch in Mentone, Alabama…and my first bite into a S’more. How was it that our parents somehow failed to expose their 6 kids to America’s easiest and absolute best-tasting dessert? What is it about this 3-ingredient campfire treat that makes even the most erudite adults wax nostalgic about childhood summers? In Dan White’s new camping and travel memoir, Under the Stars, the author, who lives in Santa Cruz, California, devotes pages to the S’more and deservedly so. It’s the object of every camper’s affection and out here at our place we serve them up regularly. In fact, one cold evening last winter, Arielle and I got a craving so strong we made some indoors in front of the Buck Stove in the living room. White gives us the origins of the dessert (tracing it back to a 1927 camping manual called Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts) plus much, errr, s’more on his adventures in nature all across America’s great woods and wilderness. Share your own camping memories and photos now on White’s new Facebook fan page, and you can listen to a special July 4th interview — “How America Fell in Love with Camping” — on Wisconsin Public Radio.

July got here just a little too quickly, don’t you think? So damn the calories — let’s celebrate Summer with gobs of gooey S’mores!

Under the Stars