Toasted walnut maple cupcakes… with a maple rye whiskey butter glaze.

Toasted walnut maple cupcakes with a glaze made from Tap 357 maple rye whiskey.

For some reason, I always associate the maple-y flavors with fall. Maybe because that’s when maple syrup is tapped? Maybe because it goes great with pumpkin & cinnamon & nutmeg- all fall/winter flavors. Who knows. And even though it isn’t “fall” yet, the kids are back at school, the stores are shoving Halloween & Thanksgiving stuff in your face, and- like me- you probably have baking season fever. It’s a real thing, I swear.

So… here’s a cure.

No, not having a drink. Making cupcakes! Maple cupcakes. With an extra oomph: a maple glaze using maple syrup, maple rye, and butter.

It’s that time of year when it’s maybe SLIGHTLY (I emphasize slightly) more comfortable for baking, or having the oven on. Maybe if you’re lucky, the humidity is down too. The windows can perhaps be open during the day, as opposed to the constant hum of the air conditioner. Either way, it’s just that time. The time when I transition from canning my ass off to baking. It’s a slow transition, granted- especially when my garden is still in full swing & I’m wearing shorts. But it’s starting.

The smell of autumn isn’t far away.

Which means that it’s time to get started baking again, forreals.

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Hashtag caraway pickles, hashtag end-of-season garden.

Summer might be over, but the weather begs to differ. My garden is in full swing- cucumbers and tomatoes all over the place, green beans like crazy, banana peppers quicker than I can keep up with. Literally I picked 4 of them on Sunday and three more today. But I know it’s nearing the end, so I’m trying to enjoy them. And if I can’t do that, then get them all preserved or used up as fast as I can.

I made this big ol’ jar of pickles specifically for my dad. Other than me, he’s the only big caraway seed fan in the family. Sad thing is, I don’t like pickles. So this is allllll him. It’s a really easy recipe that doesn’t require canning, so you can make it and toss it in the fridge to let it sit a few days. I just put it in a repurposed spaghetti sauce mason jar.

It’s excellent with pork, or on sandwiches. Plus, because of the cinnamon & caraway, it somehow reminds me of the fact that autumn is coming.

Caraway seed pickles.

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It’s fairytale time.

Fairtytale eggplant and San Marzano tomato.

Last summer I briefly spoke about Fairytale eggplant when I made the Food in Jars’ recipe for it, pickled. However, at the time I couldn’t find Fairytale eggplant so I had to use Sicilian eggplant. Before that, I had only made melanzane sott’olio using regular large white eggplant (and I made it with a Black Beauty eggplant once as well, albeit with more salting & draining, since darker eggplants are more bitter).

It wasn’t until this year when I started to grow my own that I realized how tiny Fairytale eggplant is! They’re only a few inches long fully grown. However, there are benefits to them other than their container-friendly growth & tiny cuteness; they’re inherently less bitter, don’t need to be peeled before eating, have less seeds inside and have a creamier, sweeter flavor than their giant counterparts. Sold me!

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Pickled green tomatoes, Italian style.

The garden was crazy this year, thanks to our big ol’ raised garden bed. So when things started to get super cray cray, I decided that the best thing to do once I had a harvest of more than just two tomatoes at once, was make salsa & bruschetta.

Beautiful green tomatoes.

But of course, sometimes you just see those green tomatoes hanging out there… and you wanna pluck ‘em off & use them, too. They’re so cute & small & round. And then there’s all that fresh basil & oregano that’s just waiting for you to keep picking it…

A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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The Friday Fifteen: Summer’s “swan song.”

The beautiful restored carousel at Keansburg, NJ.The beautifully restored carousel at Keansburg, NJ

 

Two days before my birthday this year, my parents, Jay & I took a trip down to Keansburg, NJ. It was so much fun- I hadn’t been to the Jersey Shore in over 11 years, and I hadn’t been to Keansburg in over 15, so it was great to be back. Especially after Superstorm Sandy kicked the crap out of them two years ago, it was amazing to see how they’ve rebuilt! My family has been going to Keansburg for about 100 years; we used to own/rent homes down there & they spent the entire summer there. This photo is of my grandpa Butch (middle, with the cigarette) with (from left to right) Eugene, Marilyn, and Joey, my grandma Agnes’ siblings. And one of the Torpey boys being creepy in the door!

Grandpa Butch with Eugene, Marilyn & Joey at Keansburg, NJ, 1942.

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Grilled peaches with ricotta cream & honey.

Well, that’s a mouthful, eh? Or it sounds like a mouthful. But it really is a mouthful: a mouthful of delicious.

Remember when I told you about those peaches I received from the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission? Well, obviously I couldn’t possibly get to canning every single one. Not only did I not have the time, but they began to get too soft/ripe for canning pretty quickly. But just in case you, too, have an overload of stone fruit… here’s a little secret: it’s excellent grilled.

Washington State Stone Fruit peaches- canning season 2014! (click through for recipe for mint julep peaches) #sweetpreservation

Those beautiful fresh summer peaches get soft very quickly, so you’ve gotta use ‘em ASAP. And what better way to cook a summer fruit than on summer’s ultimate cooking method… the grill!

Yep. That’s right. Plop them right on that grill! When they’re very soft & ultra-ripe all you need to do is grill them until they get grill marks. What I did was I brushed them with honey first, so the honey kind of caramelized on them when they cooked.

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Scenes from the garden, 2014.

Scenes from the garden, 2014!

As summer draws to a close (wahhh!), I think it’s only appropriate to recap the garden shenanigans that have been going on around here. Every year I typically share  how everything has progressed during the season, so why not do it this year? We had some crazy success- and a few not so successful things- on our first season using our raised garden bed.

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