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Carrie Havranek


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Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes


I saw canned organic sweet potato puree in Wegmans a few weeks ago. And then I judged a cupcake contest in which one of the cupcakes was inspired by Thanksgiving flavors (and bacon), and contained sweet potato, among things. I decided to go old school and conjure up some nostalgia, with a twist—in the form of cupcakes.

Full and complete disclaimers needed here! I'm posting this because people have been asking for a recipe. The cupcake part is easy, but the frosting, I just eyeballed. So I am going to try to recreate from memory what I did, which shouldn't be too hard. As they say with diet programs: results may vary. In the meantime....

This recipe was adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but they are decidedly NOT vegan. Again, NOT vegan, on account of the gelatin in the marshmallows. And the butter. But you can find vegan butter and vegan marshmallows if that's how you roll.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes


  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or soy)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Marshmallow frosting

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • About 1 cup of marshmallow fluff
  • About 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp. milk, as needed
  • 6 large marshmallows, pulled apart in half (no need to get knives involved here)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake/muffin pan with liners or grease well with butter and flour.
  2. Stir together the sweet potato puree, oil, sugar, almond milk and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Sift the flour and rest of the dry ingredients right over the bowl. Mix together with a spatula; do not use a stand mixer for this or you will render these cupcakes tough.
  3. Fill the liners about 2/3 full and bake for about 18-20 minutes. I always check mine a few minutes before I think they will be done because I don't want to serve dry, overbaked cupcakes. The tops should spring back lightly when touched and a cake tester should come out fairly clean. Transfer to a wire rack and remove from pan after 10 minutes, allowing them to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to the broiler setting.
  2. Cream the butter for a minute or so until it gets a bit fluffy. Add the marshmallow fluff and mix at low speed until combined with the butter. Add the vanilla extract and then slowly add the confectioner's sugar, mixing on medium-low speed until it's all combined. Drop in a couple of Tbs. of milk if necessary to thin it out. Keep in mind, though, that this frosting is going to be thick, almost paste-like, but still spreadable. That's the consistency you're looking for.
  3. With a small offset spatula or a non-serrated knife generously spread the frosting over the cupcakes. You'll notice that it won't get completely smooth but instead will form little tufts and peaks like tiny mohawks all over your cupcake. Repeat.
  4. Put your cupcakes on a wire rack over a baking sheet in your oven to catch possible marshmallow-y drips and globs. Break off a large marshmallow and put each half, ripped side down, on top of the cupcake, and repeat until all cupcakes are covered. (You could also easily do this with mini marshmallows; whatever you've got). Put in the preheated oven/broiler and set your timer for a minute. You will know though if that's too long because it will start to smell like burned s'mores in your kitchen.
  5. Remove from the oven when the marshmallows turn golden brown. If you like a more charred effect, keep it going until it's darker than that.

The serendipity of this recipe? There was just enough fluff in the frosting to allow it to melt and congeal with the butter and confectioner's sugar but without getting too gloppy. The cupcakes wound up being gently, smoothly enrobed in the frosting.

If you make these, please please let me know in the comments field. I'm curious about the frosting!

Deconstructed Noodle Stir Fry/Salad


Don't be put off by the word "deconstructed." I know that stir fries are fast. But this one takes the idea of a stir fry and breaks it down and reassembles it. I think I made this in about a half an hour, including the time it took for the water to boil and for me to chop the veggies. In fact, it happened so fast, the table wasn't even set by the time dinner was ready, which was okay. This dish tastes good hot, cold, and at room temperature. It doesn't really matter. The kids loved this. Score! This comes together quickly if you follow the directions and carefully plan out the order in which you complete these tasks. Half of successful cooking is thinking things through and planning properly. This recipe started out as a Cold Soba Noodle Salad from Whole Living but then pretty quickly took a turn toward something else once I realized I didn't have a cucumber (ixnay on the salad) and that I wanted the veggies steamed.

soba noodle stir fry
soba noodle stir fry


  • 6 ounces soba noodles
  • 8 ounce boneless chicken breast, preferably organic, cut into chunks
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, seeds and stems removed, sliced  lengthwise
  • 4-6 ounces of yellow (or green) beans, stems removed and sliced in half
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Instructions
    1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, add the soba noodles and cook until al dente (about 4 minutes.)
    2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, cut the chicken into small chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook until the chicken is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
    3. As the chicken cooks and the water boils, chop up your veggies and place them in a steamer basket that will fit over your pot of boiling water. Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette (sesame oil through rice wine vinegar) in a large bowl.
    4. When the noodles are finished, transfer them with a spider or spoon to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Place the steamer insert over your pot, put the lid on it, and steam the veggies for 3-4 minutes until they have brightened in color and are crisp tender.
    5. Toss the noodles in the vinaigrette, which will prevent them from sticking and distribute the flavor quickly. Add the chicken, veggies, and chopped cilantro. Serve with wedges of lime, if desired.
    Serves 4.

Corn and Roasted Tomato Soup, or What to do with All Those Tomatoes


corn tomato soup
corn tomato soup

I'm going to integrate my blogs eventually, I promise. In the meantime, for those who may have this page on an RSS feed, I wanted to let you know about this awesome soup that I adapted from Cafe Santosha. Sarah Collins makes damn good food. And this uses up all of your tomatoes and corn, and puts a bunch away for the winter. How cool is that? Here's a tease!

Shameless Promotion for My Friend Jason Hook @ H2O Kitchen


This weekend, my chef friend Jason Hook of H2o Kitchen is doing Cook Philly. Here's the link with more information. And more photos that showcase his artistic eye and his mad cooking skills. He's partnering with Blue Moon Acres and featuring corn. Dinner starts at 7pm. You won't want to miss it! Here's something delicious....


Scallop/Littlenecks/Braising Greens/Pickled Corn/Mussel-Fennel Fumet Photo by Jason Hook

Ultimate Veggie Burgers


It's been a while. I want to point you toward this post on my farmers' market cookbook blog. I've decided to cross-promote here. I've long been in search of the ultimate, bestest (I know that's not a word; indulge me!), doesn't-fall-apart veggie burger. With some tweaks, I think I've found it. With even more tweaks, it will be even better. Personally, I think the burger is a little too sweet, so I'm contemplating taking out the dates and adding some soy sauce in there somewhere. I think it needs more umami. If you've missed some other posts on that cookbook site, you can bookmark this one for sorrel and scape pesto (scapes are gone now!) or check out what I did last year with radishes from Salvaterra's Gardens. Ultimately, the plan is to merge my two blogs ( and into this site. And ultimately, this site will be home to all sorts of useful posts about travel, food, wellness, nutrition, yoga, spirituality, baking, cooking, restaurants, and more. I need to integrate everything I'm doing. It makes no sense to fragment the sites; it all needs to come together.

Stay tuned!

Chicken, Wheatberry and Avocado Salad


Jessica, Laini, Kate: thanks for asking for this recipe. I haven't blogged savory stuff in a while and I'm way overdue. Anyone who encourages me to share is a-ok in my book. And welcome to anyone else who stumbles upon this corner of the world. First, a word about the inspiration. I adapted this recipe from Food and Wine for chicken and bulgur salad with avocado. This is an older recipe that was published in a short collection of super fast recipes, under 30 minutes, that I got because I recently subscribed to the magazine and bought one of its cookbooks. I liked this because a. there was a lovely photo and b. it includes things I typically have in my kitchen or usually buy, so it came together pretty effortlessly. I also figured the bright citrus dressing would feel right for spring, appeal to the boys, and get me in the mood for a summer of farmers' market recipe testing. And it did.

If you want to use bulgur, see the recipe as it was initially written. I used wheatberries because I had about 2 cups of them in my freezer that I defrosted. (They had long been waiting for their assigned duty: I'd been making a dish with broccoli and wheatberries pretty regularly and needed a break). You can also easily veganize this recipe by using either white beans or chickpeas instead of bulgur and/or if you wanted a legume instead of a grain. Food and Wine calls for two 6-ounce chicken breasts with skin on; I don't often find chicken for under a pound at Wegmans when I am buying the organic, skinless and boneless variety, so I used that and changed the amounts accordingly. If it's too much chicken for your liking, cut one of them in half after it cools and set it aside for another use.  I reduced the temperature from the recipe's instructions because I used skinless chicken. Additionally, my husband doesn't like fennel (shame!), not even sliced thinly and tossed in a salad like this, so I don't often buy it or cook with it. Instead, I added cucumber because I had it (an anomaly for my April-May kitchen) and thought the cool-crisp-crunch would suffice. You can certainly omit those ingredients and do it the way it was written; my version can probably benefit from some editing, just like writing.

I just realized this would also be delicious with shrimp. See, I need to stop!


  • 1 lb of boneless chicken breasts (skinless or not), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 T grapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup shredded basil
  • 5 T fresh lemon juice (about juice of one lemon)
  • 2-3 large scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 avocados, cut into cubes (I used one)
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, sliced and quartered


  1. Prepare your grain of choice by following the directions on the package.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450. Coat the chicken with 1 T of grapeseed oil and salt and pepper it generously. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, checking about halfway through and flipping them halfway through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice thinly on a diagonal, about 1/4 inch thick; because I was feeding children (when am I not?!), I cut the slices into smaller chunks so no one needed a knife.
  3. While the chicken does its thing, prep the veggies and other ingredients.
  4. Whisk together the orange juice, scallions, lemon and basil with the 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil. (Note: you want something neutral here. Please don't use EVOO because its fruitiness will compete with the citrus). Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, avocado, wheatberries, tomatoes, and cukes with the vinaigrette. Season again with salt and pepper, and pile onto plates.

Serves 4-6, depending on appetite. In my house, it was shared by me, John, my dad, and the boys, with about 1-2 cups of it left over for lunch. We ate it with homemade multigrain sourdough bread.

If you make this, I'd love to hear how you adapted it, if at all.

Lehigh Valley Beer Week


Hey you! Like beer? Did you know about Lehigh Valley Beer Week? It's the first, but certainly not going to be the last. We are not New York or Philly, but we do have a great beer culture here and it's growing every year. Weyerbacher just busted out of its seams and expanded, Easton has a new brew pub called Two Rivers Brewing Company with fabulous food in an historic space, and Allentown is getting another brewery in the next year or so. On top of that, we've got restaurants such as Porters' Pub, The Trapp Door, the Mint, Black and Blue, Pearly Bakers', Maxim's 22, Allentown and Bethlehem Brew Works,  Spinnerstown Hotel, and more, more more, all committed to excellent food and fine, fine beers (and other libations).

I'm wishing I had endless cash, endless babysitters, and endless time to take part in all of these activities, which run the gamut from tastings and pairings to special menus and rare releases. The festivities kick off on Monday with a ribbon cutting at Allentown Brew Works with Easton and Bethlehem mayors Panto and Callahan, respectively. Sample from the keg tapping of LVBW1, the winner of the "Brewer for a Day" competition." Zip back over to Easton for what promises to be a fantastic tasting dinner at nascent Two Rivers Brewing Company. On Tuesday, Kelly-Jo is reprising some old favorites from her days at the Weyerbacher pub, and the restaurant is hosting a trivia night. Meet the brewer of Left Hand at Keystone Pub in Whitehall on Wednesday, and on Valentine's day, enjoy beer-themed dinners at Trapp Door, Allentown and Bethlehem Brew Works, Sagra Bistro, and more.  All week long, tap takeover madness will ensue: think Brew Works at Porters', Weyerbacher at P.J. Whelihan, and Stoudts at Bethlehem Brew Works, for starters.

In addition to wishing that I had more time and money and a second stomach, perhaps, I'm also wishing people in the Lehigh Valley would learn that it's Porters' Pub. It's plural possessive. There are three Porter brothers. Sorry. It's just epidemic, and these things make me nuts.

And with that, slainte!

Lehigh Valley Harvest: A Celebration of Local and Sustainable


This past Sunday, I had the honor to serve as one of the three judges for Lehigh Valley Harvest, the annual Buy Fresh Buy Local event, which was held at the Lutron headquarters is Coopersburg. Admittedly, a corporate headquarters initially seemed like a strange location for the event but Lutron was the presenting patron and its headquarters is situated along a winding country road. I half-expected a pumpkin patch to pop up somewhere along the way. But I digress. I arrived a few minutes before noon so I could get my clipboard and start wandering around in search of the best dishes. The set-up encompassed two floors of one of Lutron's buildings. Where to start? So much deliciousness, so little time. The voting process required me to rate the dishes from a dozen or so restaurants on a scale of 1 to 5 using the following criteria: creativity, taste, presentation, and use of local foods. In some cases this was a little tricky, because some restaurants offered more than one item to sample and judge, so one had to average the experience. Before I get into the details and tell you my favorites, I'll tell you who won what, because you wanna know, right?

First prize went to Glasbern Inn, with its take on a German staple: kielbasa and sauerkraut. In the hands of chef Yianni Arhontoulis and sous chef Joseph Hammer, this means housemade kielbasa, cippolini aigre-doux, pumpernickel crumble, house fermented sauerkraut. The first two components were sourced right from the Glasbern and the latter two from 14-Acre Farm in Jim Thorpe. For top honors, chefs take home $100 and the trophy; for the record, this is the Glasbern's second straight win. It's hard to get more local than a restaurant's own farm. I enjoyed this; it was a great balance of flavors and there wasn't too much happening to distract you from what it was, at its core—pig and cabbage. Leaving out something pumpernickel would have been sacrilege. I might have preferred a pumpernickel crostini to better keep the concept together, and I mean that literally.

The 2nd place prize went to Bolete, with its hand-held spin on chicken and biscuits. Picture homemade biscuits with a chicken croquette, mustard gravy, red mustard greens, and housemade bread and butter pickles. The provenance of ingredients? Buttermilk from Keepsake Farm, chicken from Happy Farm, greens from Liberty Gardens, pickles courtesy of Teprovich Farms. Perhaps owners Lee Chizmar and Erin Shea need someone to drop off a 40-pound sack of local flour at their Bethlehem restaurant and they should be able to match Glasbern ingredient-for-ingredient next year. (If it were that easy!) This felt like a very apt combination for a Sunday afternoon; it was like a deconstructed, gussied up brunch item. I just wish that my sample hadn't been ice cold; I know the incorrect temperature inhibited my sensory experience of the dish. I could taste its potential greatness lurking in the chemical change that heat brings.

Finally, 3rd place (and the people's choice award) went to Curious Goods at the Bake Oven Inn, Germansville, which gets top honors in my book for having such a great name that makes you, well, curious. Chef Mark Muszynski and general manager wife Catherine were on hand, and they put together something that encompassed breakfast, lunch, dinner all rolled into one. Imagine a pumpkin bread french toast topped with smoked duck and apple ragu, with a drizzle made from Fegley's Devious Pumpkin Ale—and a little bit of brown sugar. The pumpkins came from Just Kiddin' Around Farm (Germansville), duck from Pekin' Paradise (Hamburg), and apples from County Line Orchard. It was hearty and filling, even in a sample. If you ate it first, you might not have been able to eat another thing. I'm not kidding.

Maybe it's the encroaching fall weather, or maybe it's my constantly refining palate, but I found myself most enjoying the dishes that were either comfort-based and somewhat hearty, or more complex and surprising. I realize this may seem to contradict itself, but please bear with me. I was surprised by the subtle tang of pumpkin ale in the mousse adorning the Old Heathen brownies that Leaf was serving. Delicate slices of cucumber were spritzed with German white wine and nestled against a pumpkin wasabi mousse resting in a sweet potato chip served by Zach Pelliccio from Flow in Jim Thorpe. The dish contained its fair share of locally sourced ingredients, and the wasabi revealed itself a few second later without completely clearing your sinuses. I enjoyed the complexity at work here; creating layers like that requires some skills. And if you know me, you know I love Molinari's, so it should come as no surprise to read me saying that the chicken liver crostini was straightforward and flavorful, but I was surprised that chef Mike Joyce and his sous Erik Hoffman held back with just one offering. I will forgive them, though: it's the restaurant's first year in operation and first appearance at the festival. There's always next year. Also, they surprised on another level: they came with their own Frank Sinatra soundtrack. Naturally.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might find the outstanding "Farewell to Summer" corn and roasted tomato soup with barley from Cafe Santosha. This soup killed it; it was hot, delicious, post-equinox food to help ease your dosha into the next season. People, I wanted to pour some of this into quart containers and stick it in my freezer so I could transcend the snow on the ground and eat this in January. This soup typified late summer, using up the last gasps of tomatoes, corn and so forth. It wouldn't make sense in August. The crostini it was served with was just a bonus. My experience also shows why Cafe Santosha has a serious reputation as a serious purveyor of seriously amazing soup. Yeah, I just repeated myself, but that's for emphasis. See how good that looks?!?!

While we are talking about soup, the south Indian sweet potato curry soup from Honey Underground/Balasia/Wendy Landiak was really well balanced; it was sweet with just enough heat.

What else caught my attention? I didn't have much time to explore the special rooms devoted to cheese and apples. Someone please knock out a wall and let us eat both at the same time next year with pairings; and while we're at it, let's include pears, too. With the veggie room, too, this has the making of a full-fledged crudite-themed celebration. I was also happy to see local wineries on hand, too. I had to laugh when someone from Weyerbacher (probably a sales rep, they've seemingly got tons of 'em now) asked me, "Are you familiar with our beers?" Why, yes. If I had a link to the Lehigh Valley Style story I wrote in fall 2010 about beer in the Valley I could drop it in here. But perhaps more significantly, the thought of Imperial Pumpkin Ale helped get me through the very difficult latter part of my pregnancy, four years ago.

What these foods have in common, whether we're talking about kielbasa or soup or brownies or chicken and biscuits or pumpkin wasabi mousse, is a sense of surprise and authenticity. When you call a soup a "farewell to summer," it better damned well taste like it. And if you're going to pair pumpkin and wasabi, you better know what you're doing with it. And beer in baking? Well, chocolate and stout is obvious, but the puff of pumpkin mousse on top of the brownie was a smart pairing, but a surprise because you could only taste the beer at the end—it was an aftertaste but certainly not an afterthought. And on and on and on.

We have food purveyors here in the Lehigh Valley who respect ingredients and try to the best possible culinary job with them. And luckily, those ingredients just happen to be ones you can buy fresh and buy locally.

Homemade Granola Bars


I’ve been busy cooking and baking fun things this semester and regret that I have not put more of those items up on our blog. However, I’ve been too busy reading papers. One thing I’ve been making a lot of lately is homemade granola bars. John got me a dehydrator for Christmas and I’ve used it for some things; dried fruits have been on the brain. This recipe is one I adapted from King Arthur Flour online. Granola bars are one of those mass-produced items that are really easy to make on your own, and immensely more satisfying because you can customize them to your liking. For example, the original recipe called for or at least suggested coconut, which I abhor (texture issues). You can do almost whatever you like. I’ve done dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries (hard to find but delicious), mini chocolate chips, almonds, walnuts, white sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and the like. What’s even better is that everyone, including the boys, likes them. I must say a few words about the ingredients. Many granola bar recipes I tried before changing this one and adapting it to my liking contained melted butter whisked together with brown sugar as the sweetening/binding/wet ingredients. I tried it, and it was way too sweet for me. I could not really taste the other ingredients. On a lark, I’d gotten some blue agave nectar when I was at Trader Joe’s (it’s a vegan choice, and although I’m not, I thought I’d mention it for those who are). It has a longer shelf life than honey and does not crystallize like honey does, although you can use it much in the same way. It also has a low glycemic index, so it does not give you a sugar spike like regular granulated sugar would. But you can feel free to use some combination of honey and the other two sweeteners, or even try melted butter (I would suggest about 1/4 cup, or half a stick, for starters). I’ve also used golden syrup, maple syrup (good for fall granola bars, I think), and light corn syrup in a pinch. However, if you can find the blue agave, and the brown rice syrup (I can imagine the latter being delicious on vanilla ice cream) in the natural/organic sections of your supermarket or elsewhere you may indeed find that you have a new fun thing to play with in the kitchen. Blue agave is good on pancakes, french toast, and agave is good in tea and iced tea and more. Ok, on with the recipe!

It's time for your close-up, homemade granola bars

It's time for your close-up, homemade granola bars

Homemade Granola Bars

Yield: About 16-20, depending on how big you cut them

1 2/3 cup quick rolled oats

1/3 cup whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour

1/3 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 to 1/3 cup organic raw agave nectar (Trader Joe’s sells one for a mere $2.99!)

1/2 tsp. salt (Note: If you used salted nuts, omit salt here)

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, optional (I also tried it with ground ginger or nutmeg; equally good)

2 to 3 cups mix of dried fruits and nuts (I commonly used cranberries, blueberries, almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds, but think of raisins, prunes, apricots, coconut, pecans–the sky’s the limit.)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment; grease or spray the parchment for easy cutting and removal.
  2. Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts.
  3. Add the wet, syrupy sweet ingredients and stir carefully to coat everything; use a wide plastic spatula.
  4. Spread it out in the pan, patting it down gently so that it is evenly distributed. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, possibly longer depending on your oven, until it is golden brown around the edges.
  5. Remove it from the oven and loosen the edges. Cool for at least five minutes but not too much longer.
  6. Cut the bars while they’re still warm, in the pan, then remove, carefully, using the overhanging parchment, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: These will keep covered, in an airtight container, for up to a week. However, they won’t last that long, trust me. If you can’t get them cut evenly, don’t fret. Broken up granola is good with yogurt, ice cream, fruit, or by itself in your greedy hands.

Why I Live Here


I'm doing some work with a friend on her excellent web site, Laini's Little Pocket Guide, a natural online outgrowth of a great, smart, insightful pocket guide she's published to both Easton and Bethlehem. The world needs more fresh, original voices. Anyway, one of the first things she wrote after the site went live a couple of weeks ago was something called "Why I Live Here," and so, because I'm going to work as online editor for her site, I suggested I write one, too. It took me a matter of minutes. I can't remember the last time I wrote so quickly and with such conviction. What do you think? Why do you live where you do? After a while, it moves beyond proximity to your job, especially if you are purposeful about it and have bought a home.