Hello Friends. Back on April 11, I posted on my personal Facebook page a very old Plucky blog post from 2011. The reaction was quite surprising. People seemed excited that this blog was becoming active again. As many of you know, I have been dealing with ovarian cancer since 2011 and find that the demands of “feeding” a blog became unsustainable. Enter my daughter Caroline. She persuaded me to partner with her on her own food blog. After a quiet trial and error, domain registration sorting, and other hiccups, we are pleased to announced Blue Willow Kitchen. We hope you enjoy reading as much as we delight in putting it together. I will be migrating content from this site to the new site and including updates! To subscribe, you can like our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram.


Trawling through the King Arthur website and this bread machine recipe caught myBread eye. I just tried it. It’s a hit! I made the recipe exactly as written.  

Next time, I might even add more salt.  (I used 2 tsp of salt).  The recipe gives the weights for the ingredients so I was able to sit the loaf pan from my Zo’ on top of the kitchen scale and zero out after each addition!  No cups, etc.,  to clean up!
The loaf is disappearing quickly! Crumbs all over the kitchen counter…  The Blueberry jam I made last week was soooo good with it!  

I’m not going to need dinner now…

July is National Blueberry Month! Time to break out the Ball canning jars and start hunting for the best market price.

We love blueberries and I practically hoard them in the freezer. I’ve made jam, jelly, conserve, syrup and even juice! There once was a time when my son wanted nothing but blueberry muffins in his lunchbox. So when the sale flyers come out, I head to my local market.

BBon sconeThis season, I experimented with jam and conserve.  I tried a couple of batches and after a few failures, came up with an interesting and tasty conserve. My inspiration came from two sources: an ice cream recipe that called for cardamom and a bag of Tea Forte brand tea that billed as “blueberry-merlot.”  So I got to thinking: could I come up with a blueberry preserve with this flavor combination that had a depth of flavor?

I did a little reading.  The Fine Cooking website has a nice article written by Shirley Corriher on getting fruits to gel. Blueberries can be tough to work with as they contain little natural pectin and low acid—two factors that are required for gelling jellies. So…  What do I use for pectin and how much?  Then there is the question of acid.  Lemon juice seems a natural, but I was looking for a flavor that was not as bright and more complex. I didn’t have a bottle of Merlot around so I thought: balsamic vinegar!  That did the trick.

Here is the recipe.  You may have to fiddle with it depending on the type of blueberry, ripeness and its “terroir” (region).  Enjoy!

Blueberry Conserve

Place 6 pints blueberries in large (6 qt or larger) Dutch oven or nonreactive pot. Crush with a potato masherBlueberries
Add 6 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Measure out 3 Cups sugar and set aside.
Measure out 1/3 Cup sugar in separate bowl. To this, add 1.5 packages of Sure-Jell Low Sugar powdered pectin (pink box). Mix until blended and slowly add to blueberries, stirring so that no lumps form.

To the blueberry mixture, add the peel of 1 lemon, yellow part only, no pith.
Measure out 2 grams of cardamom seeds and tie in a bouquet garni. I placed the seeds in a paper “Tea-Sac” and tied with kitchen twine. You may find that cheese cloth is more handy. Be sure to use triple layers as the seeds may escape into your berries! You will fish the peel and the seeds out of the mixture before packing in bottles.

Let the blueberry mix “rest” for 20 minutes. Then stir in the sugar.

Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Remove cardamom packet and lemon peel.

Add 4 additional pints of blueberries. Stir gently and bring to 2nd boil. Reduce heat.

Pack in hot jars and process in water bath for 5 minutes.

*Note:  You may find that you have an excess amount of syrupy mix left in the pot after the jars are packed. I found that this makes a delicious pancake syrup or a special addition to your favorite lemonade. Bottle it up and give to friends! I found some attractive bottles at Sur La Table.BBSyrup

Last month, I had to drive up to Peapack for a meeting.  The traffic was good so I had some time to kill and lucked into a bakery that is just this side of Nirvana.  It’s called CocoLuxe and they have a little shop at 161 Main. The cases were filled with gorgeous confections and I opted for a simple breakfast of brioche with a cup of Earl Grey. I also ordered a sammy to go.Brioche

Can I just say the brioche was an experience?…  It was just out of the oven, warm–not hot.  It was moist, eggy and had just a hint of lemon.  It needed no butter, jam nor anything that may have adulterated the sublime yeasty-nummyness.  Yes, I was the woman sitting in the corner sighing in sated serendipity between sips of her tea.

An experience like that stays with you. In a month’s time, I was craving those little suckers again. Alas, I have never made brioche–let alone like that. And I wasn’t about to drive 50 miles for another CocoLuxe fix. Can I do it myself? I consulted two trusted culinary icons.  First, Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook. I’ve never made anything from that book that hadn’t turned out so I decided to dive in.  I followed his brioche recipe to the letter–but to get the whiff of lemon, I added the zest of one large lemon. Result:  Very cake-like brioche. Tasty, but dryer than CocoLuxe and way too lemony. Excellent, but not exactly what I was aiming for. (Click here for Keller’s recipe on the Kirbie’s Cravings website.)

Then I happened to see Ina Garten making mini brioche rolls on a “Welcome Back Breakfast” episode of Barefoot Contessa. I pulled the recipe off the Food Network site ( to get recipe click on link here) and followed her directions to the letter–with the addition of zest from 1/2 a large lemon. Both recipes require refrigerating the dough overnight, but Ina follows a different path in that she mixes in the butter (and there’s loads of it) after the dough has rested overnight. Keller’s recipe mixes in the butter before refrigeration, which I found makes for a dough that is very soft and harder to work with the 2nd day.

The result:  Ina’s recipe is closer to the CocoLuxe rolls with the perfect hint of lemon but still not quite as moist as CocoLuxe. Delicious nonetheless. I’ve been slathering them with butter and apple butter.  Sigh…

Somebody stop me…..!  Nom! Nom! Nom!!!

Easter’s coming and it’s time for me and my mother-in-law to make pickled eggs for the holiday. This is a tried and true recipe that my mother-in-law got from her mother. Her family comes from a long line of Pennsylvania Quaker stock. I think you see these eggs at the Amish markets in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. You need to start these beautiful orbs 10 days in advance of the day you plan to serve them. So get your mise en place and start hard boiling your eggs!Pickled Eggs

Easter Pickled Eggs
12 hard boiled eggs, peeled
2 (14.5 oz.) cans red beets
2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

In saucepan, add beets and juice from cans, vinegar, sugar. Simmer until sugar is thoroughly dissolved.
Place eggs in large heat-proof glass jar. Pour hot mixture on eggs and fill jar completely. Tap to dislodge any air bubbles.
Cover and place in refrigerator for 10 days.
Cook’s Note: if you want to halve or double the recipe, the rule of thumb is to use 1/2 cup sugar for each 14.5-oz can of beets. You can also replenish the pickling juice with fresh eggs.

I haven’t posted in a while. It’s been a very busy fall.  My sis recommended the blog of her good friend Lisa Boice.  November 14 entry has a recipe for an absolutely decadent-looking stuffed French Toast. Lisa is billing it as one of those recipes that will be sure to snag that man. Here is the link to Lisa’s blog, The Baby Asprin Years. The recipe has cream cheese, eggnog AND heavy cream (oh my)!… Check it out!


It’s apple season! I was on the phone with each of my sibs and was lamenting the demise of our parents and our grandparents. Not only do we miss their company and their wisdom, but we miss their cooking too.

The shame of it is that many families have recipes that are gone forever when our loved ones pass on. This month, I am really missing my grandmother’s apple butter. Both my brother and sister loved the stuff too. We always had some in the house and I used to pile it on toast with tons of butter. We’re talkin’ Breakfast of Champions.

My Grandma: Lilllian Ethelynde Haynes Roberson, circa 1927.

So my brother laid down the gauntlet. “Well, Plucky?…” he said . “I challenge thee to come up with the recipe.”

I started researching. There are a million recipes out on the web for apple butter. My cookbook collection had more than a few too. But in the back of my mind, I had to remember: WWGD (What would Grandma do?).

For those of you who are too shy to ask the question; there is NO butter in apple butter. Don’t let the name fool you. The way I see it, you first have to make applesauce and then step two is to make the apple butter.

Making the applesauce is fairly easy. Just how easy depends on you. You can either go to the store and buy it already made (remember: you are just cheating yourself), or use the preferred method of making it yourself.

I went to the Trenton Farmer’s Market to check out the apples. I was on the hunt for Gravensteins, which Martha Stewart says is the bomb for baking. Nicki Russo had a variety of apples available but her Gravensteins are not yet ready for harvest. She learned that I was going to make apple butter and offered me a deal on a bag of second quality apples for $12. I gave her the cash and this HUGE plastic bag of apples came my way. I felt like I was carrying two toddlers to the car!

Six batches of apple butter later… I can now give you the results of my testing. There’s a great many ways that you can make apple butter and I tried to do what I thought my grandmother would do. She was a very straightforward cook. I think the only spice she kept in the cabinet was cinnamon, so that is what I went with. Take the following recipe as a guide. You can get a further depth of flavor by using a mixture of spices and flavorings. Hey guys!  I think I nailed it.


Step 1:  The Applesauce
4 pounds apples (a variety is preferable, you just want to stay away from crab apple, Fuji, Gala or Ginger Gold).
2 cups water
1 cup cider vinegar

Wash and cut the apples in 8ths. Leave the peels and cores on.
Place all in a large dutch oven.  Bring to a boil. Reduce to medium and gently boil for 20 minutes, or until apples are tender.

Take pot off heat and allow to cool slightly. Run all the mushy apples through a food mill. (If you don’t have one, you can smash them through a sieve). Discard the cores, seeds and skins. The remaining pulp is your applesauce. You will have anywhere from 6 to 8 cups of pulp.

Step 2:  The Apple Butter

Depending on how your schedule is for the day, you have two options:  the slow simmer, or the even slower crockpot method.

Add a 1/2 cup sugar for each cup of pulp. (Yes, it is a heck of a lot of sugar)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (If you want to go for it, you can try two teaspoons in total of your favorite spice mix)

If slow cooking:mix all together in dutch oven and simmer for 4-6 hours. Stir

I used a Foley Food Mill to process the cooked apples.

frequently as you want the steam to evaporate and reduce your pulp to a jam-like consistency.

If you lean towards the crock pot: mix all together in your crock pot. Turn on high and let it go for two hours. Go out to lunch with a friend. Use a chopstick to vent the lid as you want to keep in heat but not form condensation. (Note to self: PLUG IN CROCKPOT before you go) After mixture is hot, take lid off and stir every 15 minutes until pulp is reduced to favored consistency. This can take anywhere from 6 – 8 hours. Here’s a way to tell when it’s done:  Use a balloon whisk and stir the pot a bit.  If there is a trail left by the whisk when you remove it from the pot, you are done!

Pack that luscious yummy apple butter into jam jars and process in a hot water bath, or freeze small portions, or refrigerate. Pull some out for breakfast the next day and think of Grandma.

Yield: 7 half-pint jars.

Plum Lemon Sorbet

It’s great to be back! You can catch up on me through the other blog but I am happy to have just celebrated my 53rd birthday!

One of the neat things I got was a Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker.  My son Jimmy bestowed this neat gadgety gift upon me. One of the first things I wanted to try was to make (or recreate) the most delicious Plum Lemon sorbet that my husband recently ordered at a local restaurant. It was amongst a trio of sorbets he selected for the end of his meal.

“Here,” he said. “You have to taste this.”

One taste and I was hooked. It was at first sweet, then tart but with an unusual ending that was fresh and left you wanting more. What was the unusual end note?!!  I couldn’t place what it was.

I asked our server:  “What’s in this?”

As it turns out, the mystery ingredient was basil. I never would have guessed.  Nor will your friends when you make this yummy dessert.

Plum Lemon Sorbet

1 1/2 pounds plums, washed, pitted, quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (one large lemon)
2 to 4 tablespoons honey (depending on tartness of plums)
2 large fresh basil leaves

1: Place sugar, lemon juice and honey in small saucepan. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and let cool while you prepare plums.

2: Wash, pit and quarter plums. Place into blender. Puree.

3: Add cooled sugar mixture and two basil leaves to plum mixture. Puree until well blended. Taste and adjust honey or lemon juice according to taste.

4: Chill mixture in refrigerator 3-6 hours or overnight.

5: Process in ice cream maker for 20 minutes (according to manufacturer’s directions).
Alternative freezing method is to place mixture in freezer-safe container. Stir every 30 minutes until desired consistency.

Getting some fresh air time with my two Corgis--Tripper and Twinkie.

Quick announcement: I’ve started a new project. While I’m undergoing cancer treatment, I’m blogging about my experiences at The Peachfuzz Chronicles. Today’s post has sort of a foodie theme so I’m sharing a link on this site. Click on over for a visit to see how I’m surviving chemo.

Chicken Lettuce CupsHappy new year to all my Asian friends! It is the year of the rabbit and Plucky finds that she will be attending–not one–but two lunar celebrations this week.

To celebrate, I’ve developed a lighter version of one of my favorites. Since I am thousands of miles away from my favorite Chinese food place (Gary Lee’s Asian Star in Salt Lake City), this quick recipe for chicken lettuce cups comes pretty close to the “real deal.”

For my friends at Weight Watchers: This recipe serves 8 entree portions and much, much more as an appetizer. Figure on about 6 points per each entree-sized portion. To keep the calories down, I have made it with chicken, but you could also try it with a pound of ground pork.

Chicken Lettuce Cups

In the morning: Wash and core one head of iceberg lettuce. Let drain and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

2 oz. rice sticks, fried until golden, drained on paper toweling and set aside.

Whisk sauce together in small bowl and set aside:
1 tablespoon Mirin (Chinese rice wine) or sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Prepare as directed and set aside:
3 scallions, minced
4 oz. mushrooms, rough chop
2 oz. bamboo shoots, rough chop
2 oz. water chestnuts, rough chop
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, rough chop

In wok or fry pan, heat 1 teaspoon peanut oil on high heat until just smoking. Add 1 pound ground chicken and stir until halfway cooked. Add mushrooms and keep stirring until mixture is cooked through and liquid from mushrooms is nearly evaporated. Reduce heat to medium. Add scallions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and heat through. Add sauce and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Just before serving, add salt and pepper to taste, add peanuts and rice sticks (crumbled). Serve on platter with lettuce cups and extra hoisin sauce.