Tag Archives: cherries

Apricot – Cherry Muffins


Muffins are one of my favorite breakfast treats.  They are so versatile as they can be sweet or savory, filled with fruits, nuts, vegetables, or even chocolate.  I will bake up a batch with whatever ingredients I have on hand and the sweet smell of them baking with wake the rest of the house.  Any leftover muffins make for afternoon snacks (perfect with a cup of tea) or week day breakfasts on the go.

This recipe is adapted from Boston’s Flour Bakery.   I’ve substituted Greek yogurt for the creme fresh the original recipe calls for since I can easily find it in just about every market and grocery store here in Albania.  The add-ins represent the best of our seasonal fruits and the I’ve added almonds for crunch (and because I have a five-pound page that I need to use up before we move!).  I brought these muffins along when we were weekend house guests and they proved to be a hit.  Enjoy!


3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

1 cup milk, at room temperature

1 cup Greek yogurt, at room temperature

2 teaspoons almond extract

3/4 cup fresh apricots, pitted and diced

3/4 cup fresh cherries, pitted and diced

1/2 cup slivered almonds (optional)

Ground nutmeg (optional)

  • Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.  Generously grease a 12-cup muffin tin.  Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and melted butter.  Gradually stir in the milk, Greek yogurt, and almond extract.
  • Carefully pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  • Fold in the apricots, cherries, and almonds (if using).  Be careful as to not crush the fruit.  The batter will be thick and lumpy.
  • Evenly divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups.  The cups should be very full.  Sprinkle the muffin tops with the nutmeg.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans.

The muffins taste best when they are eaten immediately or they can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.  Refresh them in a 300 degree oven for 5 minutes before serving.

Yields:  12 large muffins

Black Forest Brownie Trifles


In planning a recent dinner party I had visions of serving a rich and perfectly smooth creme brulee.  But then I realized that good quality heavy cream is hard, if not impossible, to come by in Tirana.  Switching gears I started pouring over my favorite food websites in search of an alternative recipe.  I stuck gold when I found a recipe for individual black forest brownie trifles on From Away.  (I encourage those of you who aren’t familiar with this Maine based couple’s writing to check it out.  Not only are their recipes and food insight great but reading their postings helps temporarily fulfill my longing for Maine).  Cherries are at the peak of their season now so this was the perfect dessert.

I love the combination of chocolate and cherries tempered with a bit of whipped cream. The cleaver way of serving these trifles, in individual jelly jars, made me realize they would add the perfect amount of whimsy to my dinner.  I’ve added my own twist onto this recipe.  I prefer my own brownie recipe which is moist and has a touch of almond flavor.  I also adapted my the original cherry recipe by substituting orange liqueur for some of the liquid.

The results?  A simple yet visually pleasing dessert that pleased the entire table.  Try it for yourself.


For the brownies:

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons extract of your choice, I prefer almond

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

  • Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8-inch square pan with foil then coat lightly with vegetable spray.
  • Melt the chocolates, butter, and cocoa in the microwave, stirring often, 1 to 3 minutes.  Let the mixture cool slightly.
  • Whisk the sugar, eggs, extract, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.  Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil and cutting into squares.

For the cherries:

4 cups fresh cherries, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup Grand Marnier liqueur, or other orange flavored liqueur

4 teaspoons corn starch

  • Place the cherries in a large sauce pan.  Add the sugar, juice, and liqueur and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer a cook for 5 minutes or until the cherries start to break down.
  • Stir in the cornstarch and whisk to combine.  Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow to cool for at least 1 hour before assembling the trifles.

For the cream:

16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

2 – 2/3 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

  • Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat until all of the ingredients are combined and the cream forms stiff peaks.


  • Crumble the brownies into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Alternate layers of brownies, cherries, and cream in each of the 8 serving dishes starting with a layer of brownies and ending with a layer of cream.  Depending upon the depth of your dishes you should have 3 or 4 layers.
  • Top with a fresh cherry if desired.
  • Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.

Serves 8

Cherry Pecan Quinoa Pilaf


I’m continually on the lookout for new side dishes.  On a weekly basis my old standbys of potatoes, pasta and rice get boring.  I’m also acutely aware of the overflowing shelves that characterize my pantry.  I have enough food in there to feed a small country and with a move on the horizon I really need to start “cooking down” my supply.  When I came across a bag of red quinoa that my mom had sent me I decided to try my hand at this new-to-me grain.

After researching how to cook these tiny red pellets I headed into the kitchen to experiment and I think my results were pretty tasty.  Much to my surprise quinoa cooks up quickly making it a perfect accompaniment to just about any dinner.  I served it alongside a maple and soy glazed salmon as a Fast Friday meal.  Glenn even thinks the  dish is dinner worthy for guests so I guess that says it all.


1/4 cup whole pecans

1 cup red quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

juice of one orange

3/4 cup fresh cherries

  • Toast the pecans in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until brown and crunchy.  Allow to cool.  Once cool, coarsely chop the pecans.
  • Rinse the quinoa in cool water and thoroughly drain.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • When the oil is hot add the minced garlic and stir for one minute.
  • Add the quinoa and allow to cook until the grains are dry and most of them have opened; about 5 minutes.
  • Add the water and salt to the pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover.  Continue to simmer until the grains are fully cooked, 18-20 minutes.
  • Add the orange juice and cherries and stir until combined.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the toasted pecans, and serve immediately.

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Compote


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

With the arrival of spring in Albania comes fresh cherries.  Small ones have been appearing in neighborhood fruit markets in recent weeks but they are now ripe, juicy and plentiful.  I can eat fresh cherries by the handful but I also like to incorporate them into entrees.  When combined with fresh orange juice and a dab of honey the cherries make for the perfect complement to balsamic glazed grilled meat.  I used pork tenderloin for this recipe but the flavors work just as well with chicken.  I served this dish alongside fresh peas, which are also plentiful this time of year, and leftover pearl barley.  Not bad for a quick and balanced dinner.


1 pork tenderloin

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 Tablespoon honey

Juice & zest from one orange

Dash of kosher salt

1 Teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 Teaspoon cornstarch

3 Teaspoons cold water

1 Tablespoon Kirsch

1/4 Teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the honey and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the honey is melted.  
  • Stir in the cherries and a dash of salt, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Continue to cook until the pork is cooked, stirring occasionally and crushing the cherries slightly.  
  • Stir in the orange zest, ginger, and Kirsch.
  • In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and the cold water.  Bring the cherries to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture and boil for one minute.
  • While the cherries are cooking pre-heat a gas grill on high.
  • Liberally sprinkle the pork loin with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  • Reduce the grill heat to medium-high.
  • Grill over indirect heat for 8-10 minutes turning twice.
  • Brush  the reduced balsamic over the pork.  
  • Cook for an additional 4 minutes then baste again.  
  • Repeat basting and grilling until the pork is cooked to your likeness.  The total cooking time will be 16-18 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the heat and allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Slice into 1/4 inch slices and divide onto four plates.  
  • Divide the cherry compote over the pork.

Serves 4

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