Apple Cider Muffins

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

Although apple cider is perfect simply warmed on the stove with a few sticks of cinnamon and some cloves, once you read through this recipe, you may want to switch things up and eat your cider. This recipe offers a great way to use both the apples and apple cider that members with fruit shares got at the Coop last week.

Notice that these muffins call for just baking soda rather than baking powder. That’s because apple cider acts as an acid, which combines with the baking soda to help your muffins rise. Without the addition of baking powder or a stronger acid like apple cider vinegar, and because of the added heaviness of the actual apples in the batter, these muffins will be quite dense and moist. This means that they will make for great treats even a day or two after they’ve been baked.

This recipe is adapted from one featured on by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox.

You’ll need:

Unsalted butter, for the muffin tins (optional)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup grapeseed oil

3 large eggs

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup apple cider

3/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 apples, peeled, cored, coarsely grated

1 Tbsp unrefined sugar, for sprinkling on top of muffins

Preheat oven to 350. Cream the granulated and brown sugars with the oil in a mixing bowl. Whisk in eggs. Get two more bowls and combine the dry ingredients in one and the apple cider, sour cream and vanilla in the other.

Add the wet and dry mixtures to the sugars gradually, being careful not to over mix. Fold in grated apples last. Pour into greased or lined muffin tins and top with unrefined sugar.

Bake 12-15 minutes, rotate, and bake another 12-15 minutes until muffin centers are springy when touched. Let the muffins stand in the tins another 10 minutes after taken out of the oven and before transferring to cooling rack.


Southwestern Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot, recipe from Barbara Roy, Marblehead Depot

Marblehead member Barbara Roy sent us this recipe, one of her favorites adapted from, and added, “Perfect to use some of the sweet potatoes from this week’s share.”

You’ll need:

3/4 pound uncooked boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 large onion, chopped

29 oz of diced tomatoes (the recipe suggests canned, salsa-style tomatoes with chiles, undrained)

14 1/2 oz fat-free chicken broth

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernals

Combine everything but the corn in the crockpot and cook covered on low for 6 hours. Add corn and cook about 30 minutes more or until chicken is cooked through.

Thanks, Barabara!

Keep ’em coming, folks! We need more crockpot meals for the blog that use ingredients, like this one does, that you find in your weekly share.


A Call to Slow Cookers

I love my crockpot. It is perhaps one of the best hand-me-downs I ever got. It was given to me while I was pregnant, tired, working long hours and always hungry (not hungry as in lacking enough food hungry, hungry as in growing a human hungry).

The sister of a firefighter and wife of a worrier, I make my slow cooked meals overnight rather than leaving the pot on while out of the house. Personally, I’d rather have the house burn down while I’m at work than while I’m sleeping, but I also don’t mind waking up to the smell of dinner already cooked at six in the morning.

For the rest of the season, I’d like to post at least one crockpot recipe a week, but I need your help to do it! What can you do with a crockpot? Meat, veggies, soups or stews? Anyone know a slow cooked dessert?

Send your recipes to


The Last Green Beans

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

We had an abundance of beans in our garden this year. This is a good thing, but also problematic, especially when your garden is not outside your back door. Packing the baby up and trekking to our community garden plot every other day did not prove as easy as I had anticipated back in the spring when we first planted and when said baby was still snuggled up inside me in an oh-so-portable way. As it turned out, my postpartum garden visits dwindled to once weekly.

Despite my divided attention, however, the beans grew. And grew. And grew. Until they became so large as to be tough, too tough to eat raw and even quite tough when cooked. I considered throwing them in the crockpot with some other veggies and meat to make a stew, but it just hadn’t been stew weather until this week. I considered a twist on pork and beans and emailed my friend, a chef, for advice. She directed me to the following recipe, adapted from the Southern-Style Green Beans featured in this year’s April/May issue of Cook’s Country. Not only did it solve my bean problem, it also gave me an excuse to use my Dutch oven – a wedding gift that had sat un-opened in our closet for the past three years.

You’ll need:

5 slices bacon*
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 1/2cups water
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar

* Because I had pork belly on hand rather than bacon, I used that. I used about 3 thick cuts of pork belly (which is about three times the amount of bacon, in other words, three times the amount of yum), diced into pieces about the size of my thumbnail and 1/4″ thick.

Cook all of your pork belly or half your bacon over medium heat in the Dutch oven until crisp. If you’re using bacon, you’ll want to take it out and put it aside, but I left my pork belly in and added my onions right in on top, stirring occasionally.

Once your onions are soft, add everything else to the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, give it a gentle, so as not to break the beans, stir every once in a while. After about 45 minutes, uncover.

The original recipe tells you to toss your bacon at this point and cook uncovered on higher heat for about 5 more minutes, but I left my pork belly in for the remainder of the cooking and the entirety of the eating. If you did use bacon, you’ll want to crumble those previously cooked slices on top before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Of course, you don’t need over-grown green beans for this meal. It works just as well with the picked-when-perfect beans some folks got in last week’s share.


A Simple Sauce

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

For someone who doesn’t like tomatoes, my husband makes a mean sauce. Sauce, or red gravy as my grandmother calls it, is the only way he’ll eat the delicious fruit that I will gladly nosh right off the vine, or in big juicy bites interrupted only by a pause to wipe my mouth or add another shake of salt.

Like the good grandchildren of Italian grandmothers that we are, both he and I will claim that our respective grandmother’s sauce is, or was, the best. Both matriarchs could be called purists when it comes to the stuff and both grandchildren would gladly and forever eat heaping plates of it ladled over manicotti, baked in ziti, or, if we were lucky, off a wooden spoon come straight from the pot. He will tell the story of the giant ziplock bags of his nana’s sauce sent to school with him at the end of visits home from college, and I of the time my grandma ate red gravy from a jar and spoke of it only while crossing herself and rolling her eyes skyward in apology to her mother.

With such seriuos sauce legacies looming, my husband would be hard-pressed to call his sauce anything other than something fast and easy to do for dinner, but he is too modest. It is a very different sauce from the ones we are used to, but that is as it should be. He uses fresh tomatoes, adds vegetables rather than meat, and cooks it quickly in a pan instead of all day in the pot, enabling each ingredient to maintain it’s individual form and flavor yet still marry with the rest. Just like our grandmothers, however, it is made in the throw in some of this and a little of that form, so this recipe is an eavesdropper’s approximation of a particular evening’s version.

You’ll need:

about 4 tomatoes (or slightly more tomatoes than green beans), diced

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed

6 – 8 oz white mushrooms, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3-5 leaves fresh basil, torn

salt and pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, garlic and basil in a pan over medium low heat. Shake in a little salt and pepper. Add mushrooms and cook until they begin to soften. The beans are last. Cook it all a minute or two more. Serve over your choice of pasta.