Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eggnog French Toast

A couple of weeks ago, the boys and I went out to bunch with some friends and we ordered Eggnog French toast.  It was delicious, and I decided I needed to try to replicate it at home.  I found this recipe online at and it seemed pretty close.  I only modified it slightly.  It would make a perfect Christmas Morning breakfast!  My boys gobbled it up.

Eggnog French Toast
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups Eggnog
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice (I used this brand, but you can use whatever your favorite is)
Firm white bread (such as Challah or French)*

*I used a particularly yummy loaf of bread from Tabora Farm.  It was a large, rounded loaf and I used 1 1/2 batches of the batter mixture to make the entire loaf.  One batch of batter will probably need at least half a loaf of bread, depending on the size of the bread and how much batter it soaks up.  You can also substitute whole grain bread, it will just be a little denser.  Since the eggnog has about a zillion calories anyway, I figured this would just be a splurge!

1.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, eggnog, and pumpkin pie spice.  Pour batter into a shallow dish and thoroughly coat each slice of bread.

2.  Cook french toast on a lightly greased electric skillet (set to 300 degrees) or in a skillet on the stove over medium heat, until golden brown, flipping once.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Easy Apple Cake

I am so behind this year with Christmas shopping and baking!  I am usually someone who shops and wraps everything way in advance.  This year....  another story.  I am still not done.  But I am really enjoying my boys' reactions to the Christmas lights and decorations and our Christmas tree.  They've only broken one ornmament so far, so I think we're doing pretty well! 
I made that yummy Apple Cake again last night (the one I mentioned in my last post) and was able to get some pictures of it.  I realized after looking at the pictures, that apple cake just does not photograph very well.  Trust me, it tastes better than it looks!

Easy Apple Cake
1 cup Grape Seed Oil*
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (or pecans or other nuts of your choice)
3 cups fresh apples, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

*I've been really into grape seed oil lately for baking.  I think it helps keeps baked goods moist.  But you can substitute 1-1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil (the math is correct--  you need less oil if you are using grape seed oil).

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2.  Mix oil and sugar thoroughly with electric mixer.  One at a time, add eggs and mix well.
3.  Add nuts and apples.
4.  In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Then add the flour mixture to the oil mixture, and fold in vanilla.
5.  Pour into greased tube or bundt pan and bake 1-3/4 hours or until toothpick comes out clean.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another cookbook update....  I DO still have some left.  The craft show did not seem to be terribly busy this year, and we did not sell out.  I am willing to ship out what is left.  They are $10 each, including tax.  Shipping is $2.90 via First Class Mail, for one book.  If you are not in a rush, Media Mail is $2.41.  Please email me at: and I will let you know the specifics for how to pay by paypal or check.  It is first come/first serve.  I think I have less than 50 left and I am not planning on doing another printing.

I am hoping to get a blog post up in the next week about an amazing (if I do say so myself!) apple cake recipe I developed this fall.  We went apple picking twice and ended up with something like 46 pounds of apples!  I played around with some apple cake recipes and ended up with one I am really happy with.  It's also really easy!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Limited Number of Cookbooks Left

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Just wanted to let everyone know I have a limited number of cookbooks left and will be selling them at the Central Bucks Family YMCA Holiday Craft Show
I will be there Friday, December 2, from 9:30am - 7:30pm and Saturday, December 3rd from 9:00am - noon.  If you would like a book, they are $10 each (including the tax).  Please send me an email at if you would like a book, and I will send you a confirmation email and reserve a book for you to pick up at the craft fair.  I am not mailing any books at this time. 

I am sharing a table with my sister, who is a Wildtree Foods rep, so look for the Wildtree table.  It's a natural foods line-- all products are free from preservatives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, and food dyes, and are peanut free.  So stop by to say hello, pick up a Secret Chef cook book, and try some of the yummy Wildtree samples!

Have a great Thanksgiving and I hope to see you soon!

Monday, October 10, 2011


Happy Fall everyone!  I am ready for some real fall weather, please.  Hopefully it is coming soon, and I will be able to drink my pumpkin spiced lattes hot instead of iced!  I am still enjoying my usual fall activities though.  Sunday we went to the pumpkin patch and last week the boys and I went apple picking at Wildemoore in Chalfont with some friends.  We went on a Wednesday morning while school was in session, and we were the only ones there.  I hope to also get to Solebury Orchards later this month.

The boys were more interested in taking the apples out of the bucket.  Here is a picture of my little helpers.  They are 18 months old now and getting so big!

We picked Winesap, Macintosh, and Ida Red varieties, which are all supposed to be good for cooking and baking.  That bucket held about 25 lbs of apples! The apples are very good- nice and tart, and not mealy at all.

I decided to bake some apple pies with some of the apples we picked.  I used this recipe from :  They came out so delicious!  I used a mixture of all three types of apples in each pie. I was out of nutmeg, so I used a teaspoon and a half of pumpkin pie spice instead of the three different spices (the ingredients were similar).  I also just brushed the crust with milk and dusted with turbinado sugar instead of the egg wash.  The crust got a little over-browned (next time I will cover it part way through- I should have watched that more closely).  I plan to make more this week, along with a huge batch of applesauce.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August in Bucks County: Blackberries and Peaches

Today has been beautiful here in Bucks County, PA.  Sunny, breezy, and not too hot!  The boys and I just got back from red raspberry picking at Wildemoore Farm...  yes, more berry picking!  Hurry over to Wildemoore's in the next two weeks if you want to pick red raspberries.  They are open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9am - 1pm and the berries are delicious.  But that's actually not what I was planning on writing about today.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Penn Vermont Farm  in Bedminster to pick Blackberries and I wanted to write about that.  They are located at Bedminster (Rt. 113) and Rolling Hills Roads.  As you can see from the sign, they have a farm stand with sweet corn, tomatoes, honey, peaches, flowers, and various other things.  They also have pick your own strawberries in the spring, and black raspberries, and blackberries in the summer.  I missed the black raspberries (darn!) but I was able to pick some gorgeous, huge black berries!  If you are in the area, definitely check out this farm.  It's a pretty drive to get there, and the farm is huge.
 The blackberry patch (above).  The bushes are thorn-free, and the grass is mowed in between, so it is easy picking.

My 4 quarts of blackberries.  I think it took me a little under 45 minutes to pick them.  I did not have the boys with me that day, so it definitely went faster!

I also purchased a peck of delicious peaches.  They are not pick your own, but I passed the trees on the way to the black berry patch so I snapped a picture.

After my morning of picking fruit and visiting the farm, I had 4 quarts of blackberries and a entire peck of peaches to use up!  I remembered a Cooking Light recipe that I had been meaning to try (Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops and Peaches), so I stopped by Blooming Glen Pork to pick up the pork chops.  I still have bourbon left over from The Secret Chef that I have been trying to use up (we're not big drinkers, obviously), and I had honey from the Penn-Vermont farm stand, so I was ready to get started.  I made the recipe as written, with only minor changes, from June 2004 issue of Cooking Light magazine.  It was a fun way to use up some of the peaches in a savory dish.  The green beans were from a farm stand on E. Creamery Road in Perkasie (Hilltown Township), so this was a very locally sourced meal!

Bourbon-Glazed Pork Chops and Peaches

1/3 cup bourbon
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons  low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 (4 ounce) boneless, center-cut loin pork chops
2 peaches, halved and pitted
cooking spray

1.  Combine first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.  Pour approximately 1/3 - 1/2 the marinade into a separate bowl and add the pork (toss to coat).  Add peaches to remaining marinade (toss to coat). Allow to marinate for a few minutes.

2.  Heat non-stick grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Remove pork and peaches from the marinade (reserve marinade from peaches).  Place pork and peaches on the grill pan; cook approx. 4 minutes on each side, or until pork is done.  Note:  I could not fit all of the chops and peaches together on my grill pan, so I cooked the peaches first, set them a side, then cooked the pork.

3.  While pork cooks, place marinade from the peaches in a small sauce pan.  Simmer over medium heat while you are cooking the other ingredients.  Spoon over the pork and peaches before serving.

I still had all of those blackberries to use, so I decided to try Martha Stewart's Strawberry Cake, only substituting blackberries for strawberries.  It was soooo yummy!  Next time, I would increase the sugar on the top of the blackberries to 3 tablespoons (to compensate for the tartness of the blackberries), so I am making that change here.  It is such an easy cake to make, I will be trying it will lots of different kinds of fruit.

Easy Blackberry Cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (I used whole)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups blackberries

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter 10 in spring form pan.
2.  mix dry ingredients together in medium bowl.
3. Put butter and 1 cup sugar in bowl of mixer.  Mix on medium-high until pale and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.  lower speed to medium low and add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix until combined.
4.  Reduce speed to low.  Gradually add in dry ingredients.
5.  Transfer batter to prepared pan.  Arrange berries on top of batter as close together as possible, in a single layer (or as close to single layer as you can).  Sprinkle remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the berries.
6.  Bake cake 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 325.  Continue baking until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, approximately 1 hour.  Let cool in pan on wire rack.  Cut into wedges.  Serve with whipped cream.  Store at room temperature, loosely covered, for up to two days.  I am pretty sure you could also wrap this tightly and freeze it.  We gobbled ours up, so I was not able to try it! 

I also was excited to try a Honeyed Peach Blackberry Crisp recipe, because it called for EIGHT cups of peeled, chopped peaches, PLUS three cups of blackberries...  in other words, the perfect recipe for my situation!  Unfortunately, I didn't realize until after I had already started it, that I was not going to have enough flour.  I tried improvising a topping made out of pancake mix.  It was ok, but not blog worthy!  The filling was a pretty good combo though, so maybe next time I have a ton of peaches and blackberries to use up I will give it another try and post it here. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Enjoying Summer/Blueberry Picking

This summer has been flying by!  We are having so much fun.  I just finished co-hosting a bridal shower for my youngest sister this past weekend, so I was very busy planning, shopping, and cooking for most of July (watch for an upcoming post on the shower, including a recipe or two).  I almost felt like I was back at The Secret Chef!  The boys and I did manage to squeeze in some more berry picking (and eating), between the shower planning.  We discovered a place called Wildemoore Farm, which is a true local treasure!  And I finally perfected my No Sugar Added Jam recipe (scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe).

Wildemoore Farm is located in Chalfont, off of Upper Stump Road.  It is a very small family farm, and each summer they open up for pick your own blueberries, sour cherries, raspberries, and a few other things.  They do not have a website, but you can call the answering machine to find out if they are open for picking (215-249-3683).  The family is so nice, and the blueberries were only $2 per pound if you picked four or more pounds! That is an incredible price.  I found a pound of blueberries to be a little less than a quart. If you picked less than four pounds, they were $2.50 per pound.  It was very enjoyable picking.  The berries were plentiful, especially at the beginning of the season, and they mow the grass between the bushes.  Also, we were told that they are "low spray".  They spray the ground once at the beginning of the year, but do not spray the bushes or berries at all.

 The boys thought my sun hat was hilarious!

They played in the grass next to me while I picked blueberries....
 ... until they decided to escape and I had to chase after them and put them back in the stroller!

Some of our yummy blueberries:

The Wildemoore's beautiful flower garden:

Sadly, the blueberry picking is over for this year at Wildemoore Farm, however, you can check for other farms near you.  I hear Solebury Orchard still has blueberries (see this post for info on Solebury Orchard).

Now, for my No Sugar Added Mixed Berry Freezer Jam recipe.  As you can see from the picture below, my boys love it!  I think my original mistake was trying to use only strawberries.  I heard strawberries are one of the fruits that are naturally lower in pectin.  This time I used a mixture of berries.  I also cut the honey down to only 1/3 cup, and cooked the jam for a short period of time, even though freezer jams are typically not cooked.  It set perfectly.  It is definitely less sweet than regular jam, but we love it, and I feel better about feeding it to my children.

No Sugar Added Mixed Berry Freezer Jam
 1 cup mashed strawberries
1 cup mashed blueberries
1 cup mashed raspberries
1 3/4 cups no sugar added mixed berry juice (or no sugar added apple juice)
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 box NO SUGAR NEEDED pectin
1/3 cup honey

1.  Mash fruit.
2.  Pour lemon juice and berry juice into sauce pan.  Gradually stir in pectin and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil and stir one minute.
3.  Add fruit and stir while bringing back to a boil.  Boil and stir one more minute and remove from heat. 
4.  Pour into freezer containers.  (Unfortunately, I forgot to jot down how many containers I filled using this recipe... and we've already eaten several containers, so now I am not sure.  I think I filled five 8 oz. containers, probably somewhere around there). 

Keeps up to three weeks in the refrigerator or six months in the freezer.   Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pick Your Own Strawberries

One of my favorite parts about late spring/early summer is local strawberries.  I was so happy to learn that I did not miss the pick your own season this year.  I was away on vacation in late May/early June and the strawberries were not in yet before we left.  We came home to an intense heat wave, with temperatures in the high nineties.  I knew the strawberries were in, but I just could not see taking my 14 month old boys (or myself) picking strawberries in such hot weather.  Once the heat wave was over, I was so disappointed to learn that the strawberry season was also over at all of the local pick your own farms that I knew of (you can check to check for farms in your  area).  I was thrilled when I found out that Penn Vermont Fruit Farm in Bedminster plants a later variety and was still open for picking (they have a facebook page:)!  The boys and I went last Wednesday with some friends and had a great time.  Even though the boys are too young to help pick, they enjoyed sitting in the jogging stroller in the fresh air, watching us.  I managed to pick six quarts!  And I just checked Penn Vermont's facebook page and they are still open for picking this week.  So there's still time if you did not get a chance to pick any yet this year (or if you already ate all of your yummy strawberries!)

I had a recipe for No Sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam that I was excited to make because I don't like feeding my babies regular jam because of all of the sugar.  It uses no sugar pectin and only 3/4 cup of honey for the entire batch of jam (that is much, much less sweetener than regular jam or jelly).  So I used about two quarts of my precious berries for the jam.  The jam tastes amazing, but unfortunately, did not set.  I put it in the freezer, hoping that it will firm up a little bit.  I plan to pick blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and blackberries throughout the summer, so I will have to tweak the recipe until I can get it to work.

I also made up some Strawberry Banana Bread (my own concoction) and some Strawberry Muffins (using this recipe: which both came out awesome!

Easy Strawberry Banana Bread
makes 2 small loaves*

1/2 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
1 very ripe med or large banana
1/2 cup mashed strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients (through sugar).  Use a fork, spoon, or potato masher to mash the banana and mix the ingredients together.  Most of the banana and strawberries should be mashed up, with just some very small chunks of fruit remaining.
3.  In a separate large bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon).
4.  Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix just until they are blended together.
5.  Pour the batter into small, greased loaf pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.  Let cool 10 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool.  We ate one loaf while it was hot (yum!) and then once the other loaf was cool, I wrapped it in plastic wrap, then foil, and put it in the freezer.  I freeze regular banana bread all of the time using this method.  It's nice to have on hand.

*I apologize that I do not have the measurements for the loaf pans.  They are approximately half the size of a regular loaf pan, not the teeny tiny individual loaf pans.  You can buy the disposable/reusable aluminum pans this size at the grocery store or dollar store.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring: Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs

I was over-joyed the week before last when I drove by my favorite local farm stand and I saw the first asparagus of the season!  I feel so blessed to live in Bucks county surrounded by small farms.  I love watching for the first asparagus, spring onions, strawberries, radishes, and lettuce each year.  They always taste like spring to me. 

I needed a main dish to go with my asparagus, and I remembered a recipe in the May 2011, "Cooking Light" magazine that I wanted to try.  I always keep an eye out for recipes that are super easy and do not require a lot of ingredients.  I am so busy with my 14 month old twins, and my husband comes home late a lot of nights, so I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish at dinner time!  This recipe fit the bill.  It was also in the "Feed 4 for Less than $10" section of the magazine, so that's even better!  I did not freeze it, but it is so similar to a lot of my Secret Chef recipes, that I am confident you could freeze the chicken (in the marinade) in a ziplock bag.

Here is the recipe (from May 2011 , "Cooking Light" Magazine):
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons lower-sodium soysauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
8 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned*
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
cooking spray

*I only had boneless, skinless chicken thighs so I used those, and it was fine

1.  Combine first 9 ingredients. Place half of the mixture in a zip-top plastic bag; reserve remaining mixture.  Add chicken to bag; seal.  Chill 2 hours.
2.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
3.  Remove chicken from bag. Sprinkle chicken with salt.  Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 8 minutes on each side or until done.  Serve with reserved mustard mixture.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hearty Beef Short Ribs and Crispy Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I apologize for not posting in ages!  I had this recipe made and photographed back in January, but didn't get around to posting it right away.  Then the boys and I took turns being sick throughout the month of February, and in March I have been busy planning their first birthday party...  yes, you heard that correctly!  Where does the time go?  They turned one years old yesterday (on St. Patricks Day!) but we are waiting until the end of the month to do a big bash for them.

This recipe was perfect for the colder weather, but now with the beautiful warm weather today, I am dreaming about asparagus, radishes, strawberries, and all of the other yummy spring foods that will be coming shortly.  I will still post it, and we can file it away for next winter!  I know there are a lot of brussel sprout haters out there, but this recipe was really good.  Give it a try!

Hearty Beef Short Ribs
4 lbs. beef short ribs
1 Tbs. grape seed oil (or olive oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup beef gravy
1/2 cup chili sauce (Heinz 57 or similar)
2 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. bag of baby carrots 
1.  Place ribs on a broiler rack/pan and broil under high heat for 6 minutes per side.  Remove from the oven and drain on a paper-towel-lined platter.

2.  In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring, until transluscent.  Add garlic, thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Sprinkle flour over mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add beef gravy, chili sauce, vinegar, Wrocestershire sauce, brown sugar, and mustard powder.  Bring to a boil. Stir in carrots.  Remove from heat.

3.  Place short ribs in short cooker.  Pour sauce/carrot mixture over the ribs, and stir to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours or on high for 5 to 6 hours.  Ribs should be tender and falling off the bone.

Crispy Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 lb. Brussel Sprouts, washed and drained
2 Tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2.  Trim stem ends of Brussel sprouts so that the leaves begin to peel away.  Discard the ends.

3.  Peel away any leaves that easily separate from the hearts (probably about one half to 3/4 of the leaves will pull off).  Halve the hearts.

4.  Place only the leaves in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 Tbs. olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss until all leaves are lightly coated.

5.  Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.  Arrange leaves on half the sheet.  Set aside.

6.  Add the brussel sprout hearts to the bowl and toss with the remaining oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Spread the hearts over the remaining half of the baking sheet.

7.  Place baking sheet in the oven.  After about 10 minutes, check on the leaves.  Remove any that have crispes/turned brown.  Place them in serving bowl.  After another 5 minutes or so, remove remaining leaves to the serving bowl.  Allow hearts to roast approximately 15 more minutes, until lightly browned and tender. 

8.  When hearts are done, add them to the serving bowl and toss with the crispy leaves, then serve.