Category Archives: Sauces

Spiced Apple Butter (Crock Pot)

What is a girl to do when she has 25 apples to use up and very little free time?

Apple butter–easy, smooth, warmly spiced, sweet, and tangy.  It’s heaven in a crock pot. 

It takes a long time in the crock pot (mine was a full day and night–probably around 20 hours!) but you don’t need to babysit it at all, so it’s a piece of cake.

Apple Butter (makes 3-4 pints)

  • about 10 lbs of apples (I had 20-something small and medium apples, all different varieties)
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 t ground cloves
  • 1 C water
  • sugar to taste (optional)

First off, peel the apples.  I’m proud to report that I peeled 24 or 25 apples in 19 minutes, and several of those apples without breaking the peel.  You know what I mean?  One long spiral of peel for an entire apple.

I know.  I was impressed, too.

Core the apples and roughly slice them (again, I strongly suggest you get those apple corer/slicer deals–it’ll only cost you a few bucks but it’s so helpful! I use mine every day!).  Dump them all in the crock pot, top with the spices and water, cover, and cook on high for an hour or two.

I couldn’t fit all my apples in the crock pot at once, so I let the first half cook down a bit then crammed the rest in there.  The apples will reduce by a lot, so you’ll have room!

Turn the crock pot down to low, and cook (I left it covered) for 8 hours, during which time I went to class.  Once I came back, I put the crock pot down to low again (it turns off automatically), and removed the cinnamon sticks.  We had a lot of young, green apples, so my apple butter needed a little sugar–I added half a cup.  If you have sweeter apples, it may not be necessary at all to add any.  Totally up to you.  I propped the lid open with a knife and went to bed.  In the morning, my every apple butter dream had come true.

Toast magic!

I put some into jars to keep (and maybe give away–we’ll see!), and the rest in the freezer.  You can process these jars to seal and store them, but I think that in order to do this safely, there should probably be a higher sugar content.  You could always do a little more research if you want to go that route.

I also had some in my giant bowl of steel-cut oats this morning, with some wheat germ and ground flaxseed.  I was full for a good four hours, which felt great since I was back at my clinical playing with the cutest kids ever all day.

What can you use apple butter for?  On toast, in oatmeal, in yogurt, mixed in a green monster, with your cereal, in baked goods, scooped up with fruit, and eaten with a spoon.  Since you probably won’t be able to resist (I sure couldn’t!).

How gorgeous is that dark brown apple butter?

The spices were a perfect balance–no overwhelming cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice taste, but just enough to fill me with glee about the continuing fall weather.

Fall…I love you.

Here’s our CSA box for the week!  Another small one, but they should be getting bigger soon.  So sad that week 17 is already here and we only have 9 left–I’m definitely going to miss it. 

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Roasted Garlic and Pepper Tomato Sauce (A Canning Story)

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Hopefully you read that in a sing-songy voice, loudly and very enthusiastically.  If not, I’ll give you another try.

I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

I’m very excited to have power again (not to mention that Fritz and I have also joined the world of grown adults by getting iPhones), and I thought what better way to welcome fall than by canning?  I also had approximately 10 pounds of tomatoes that I had to use up, since several days without refrigeration were quickly reducing them to mush.

Yep.  Ten pounds of tomatoes, thanks to my parent’s garden, my CSA box, and my very own tomato plants.  This recipe makes six pints of lovely canned sauce for later, not to mention a few extra cups for immediate use.

Roasted Garlic and Pepper Tomato Sauce (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens’ magazine, Canning)

  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 3-4 bell peppers (any color)
  • 2 banana peppers
  • 12 pounds ripe tomatoes (I used a mix of varieties)
  • 3 T packed brown sugar
  • 4 t salt
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 C lightly packed fresh basil, roughly diced
  • 1/2 C other fresh herbs–I used thyme, lemon thyme, and parsley, minced
  • 6 T lemon juice

This whole canning system moves quite rapidly, and is perfectly timed with the process of making tomato sauce–it’s like canning and tomatoes were made for each other.  To can this sauce, you’ll need six pint-sized canning jars (with new lids), and a very large stock pot to sterilize and process the sauce in.  Large tongs are also helpful, as are some extra dish cloths and pot holders.

Start off by preheating the oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the papery outer skin from the garlic bulbs, leaving the cloves stuck together.  Cut off about half an inch from the pointed end, exposing the individual cloves.  Place cut-side up in a baking dish, then drizzle with 1/2 T olive oil and cover with foil.  Halve and seed the peppers, then lay them cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Brush them with the remaining olive oil.  Bake both the garlic and the peppers for about 45 minutes, until the pepper skin is blackened and the garlic is nice and soft.

Those 45 minutes are perfect for peeling the tomatoes. 

Tomatoes are easily peeled when plunged into boiling water for a few minutes, then dunked in an icy water bath.  The skin peels off quite nicely, and you’ll be left with a bowl of naked tomaters.

Roughly dice the naked tomatoes, and place them in a large pot (at least 8-10 quarts).  Leave a few out, for a reason soon to be explained.  Begin heating the sauce over medium heat.

By now the peppers and garlic should be ready.  Let them cool until they are handlable (is that a word?).  Peel the skin from the peppers, dice them, and set them aside for later.  Grab the bulbs of garlic, and squeeze the bottom to remove all the cloves.

Process the garlic and the tomatoes that you set aside in a food processor until smooth, then add to the sauce.  At this point, you can also add the brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar.  Bring the sauce to a boil, and leave uncovered for about 50 minutes, stirring frequently.

Now would be a good time to do some dishes and get a giant pot of water to boil.  You need to wash the jars with warm, soapy water, then stick them in the hot water to boil for at least 10 minutes.  The lids can simmer (not boil!), in a separate saucepan.

Once the sauce has boiled for 50 minutes, add the diced peppers and continue to boil until the sauce has reached the desired consistency.  And yes, it will smell heavenly.  Add the herbs and stir to mix.

Lay out a dish towel and place the jars on it (the hot jars might crack if you place them directly on a cold counter).  Keep your giant pot of water boiling!  Add 1 T of lemon juice to each jar, then ladle sauce into each one.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace (literally, just 1/2 inch of space at the top of each jar), and wipe them clean.  Place the lids on the jar, and gently screw the lids on until they feel tight–but don’t crank on ’em.  Just a nice, friendly closure.

Return the jars to the pot of boiling water for another 35 minutes.  Start counting the 35 minutes only after the water has resumed boiling.  Once the jars are finished processing, remove them from the water and place them back on the dish towel to cool. 

You should hear each lid pop as the jar seals, and when you press on the lid it should not spring back.  If it does, your jar didn’t seal, and you can either eat that sauce within the week or start again with the whole processing dealio.

Bummer.

But all mine sealed right away!  Yippee!  Now I have a year until I have to eat this sauce–but I doubt it’ll take that long.

This sauce is rich and flavorful, with no overwhelming garlic taste (just a smoky hint) and a bit of a kick from the banana pepper.  It’s also a bit sweet and totally herby from the basil.

To sum it up, it’s the perfect sauce.

Seriously.  This recipe was a winner.  I can’t wait to use it on pasta (actually, we ate it for dinner) and pizza and lasagna and to eat an entire jar with a spoon while standing at the counter, staring at the two giant stock pots I have to wash.

Wait.  What?

Oh, and here’s how we spent the last five days cooking:

Coleman stove all the way.  It was like camping.  Unplanned camping.  That lasted waaay too long.  And ended with us throwing out all the food in the fridge.

We took advantage of the empty fridge to thoroughly clean it out. 

What a beauty, eh?

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Basil Lime Pesto

I did promise another basil recipe for you today.  And when I make a promise, I most often deliver.  Probably around 88% of the time.

I’m a busy lady.

You guys lucked out this time–mostly ’cause the basil was wilting, limes were dessicating, and the pesto clock was running out of time.  Fritz isn’t a huge garlic fan, so I decided to leave it out and use lime for that special kick.

The limes may or may not have been leftover from some margaritas I made on Tuesday.  Don’t judge me.

Basil Lime Pesto  Printable Recipe Card

  • 2 C tightly packed basil–it looks like a lot when it’s not packed
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 1/4 C Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • juice and zest from 2 limes

One of the best things about pesto is how quick it is.  Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  It’s okay to have some nice basil and walnut flecks in there so it looks pretty, too.

It might taste a little salty (you can start with 1/2 t salt and add more as you like), but don’t forget that a little bit of pesto goes a long way on pasta and other dishes–it won’t taste as salty when you are using it.

Either freeze for long-term storage (I use ice-cube trays for single serving sizes, then transfer to a zip-lock), or keep it in the fridge for a few days (maybe a week with all the lime juice?  I’ll let you know).

The other nice thing besides the ease of making pesto is its versatility–use on sandwiches, with pasta, in a tomato salad, on roasted chickpeas, in soups, with eggs…anything, really.  And the lime is a totally nice change from garlic–brighter.  Summery.  Margarita-y (just kidding!).

I’ll probably freeze half of this recipe (it made about 1 1/2-2 cups) and use the rest over the weekend.  Yum–possibly on top of some grilled veggies?  Part of a steak marinade?  So many ideas!

I received an exciting new box in the mail today containing a new lens that we (okay, I) bought!  I had it out for literally only a few minutes, so I obviously still have a lot to learn on it, but here’s what a few shots look like:

It’s a Sigma f1.4 50mm prime lens–you’ll be seeing a lot more from it later this weekend as I take time to play with it.

The Jensens are coming over for s’mores in a few, so get out there and enjoy the night!

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Rhubarb and Red Wine Compote

The weather lately (really exciting topic, huh?) has been kind of gray, rainy, and chilly, and it’s reminding me very much of why I love fall.  I get to wear sweaters and scarves and not feel weird when I make food that uses copious amounts of cinnamon and ground cloves.  I also get to play melancholy music on my Ipod and think nostalgic thoughts.  Fall–I can’t wait ’till you get here.

But until then, I decided to combine a little summer and autumn together in this rhubarb (which, by the way, I keep accidentally typing as “rhubard”) and red wine compote.  Let the red wine, cinnamon, and cloves remind us of fall, while the ice cream and rhubarb keep us from missing out completely on summer.

And the melancholy music?  Well, that’s up to you.

Rhubarb and Red Wine Compote (original recipe here)

  • 1 lb rhubarb (I used a little over a lb with delightful results)
  • 2 C red wine (our choice: South African pinotage)
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 t honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 t ground cloves

Chop the rhubarb in one-inch pieces, and combine with the other ingredients.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, simmering until it reduces to your desired thickness.  You might want to err on the side of too runny, ’cause it’ll continue to thicken as it cools.

Absolutely serve it over ice cream–I brought it to a girls’ night, and we had it over vanilla bean ice cream and (the popular favorite) coconut almond fudge.  Perfect combination, especially with some fresh sliced strawberries on top.

This brew will make your kitchen (and house) smell like rich red wine and the gorgeous warm spices of fall.  Perfect timing now that our heat wave has abated and it’s actually quite chilly at night.

This compote served a table full of ladies with lots to spare.  Other uses–swirled into some oatmeal (you guys know how I feel about oats by now, right?), in yogurt, on toast…if you can dream it up, you can make it happen.

Tomorrow we get to pick up our next CSA box, and it’s perfect timing, since we have just about managed to finish off the bounty from last week (last recipe should be happening tomorrow morning!).  Have a beautiful night!

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Grilled Trout with Lemon, Tarragon & Garlic Mayonnaise

We made this for dinner yesterday, and I would have to call it an absolute success.  Not only did Dad have an extra excuse to go fishing (I requested fish earlier in the week when we went kayaking), but the flavors worked out beautifully.

I didn’t want to do anything too crazy, because it was hot outside and I didn’t want to spend all day inside cooking.  I asked Dad how he normally prepares the fish, and he said that sometimes he coats in a bit of mayonnaise and grills it.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise.  Ever.  But I thought that flavored with some herbs and citrus, then used to protect and baste the fish in flavor while it’s grilled over high heat might be a different story.  And I was right.  No mayonnaise taste detectable–especially since we didn’t eat the skin of this particular fish.

Lemon, Tarragon, & Garlic Mayonnaise

  • 1/3 C mayonnaise
  • 1 T fresh tarragon, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 T lemon zest

Combine all the above ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.  Reserve your newly naked lemon to squeeze over the top of the fish.

Grilled Trout with Herby Mayonnaise

  • 4 trout, cleaned and prepared
  • lemon, tarragon, & garlic mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges

First, take pictures of fish in the manner that makes it most alarming to your blog readers.  Then laugh because it looks like they are singing the Hallelujah Chorus (all together now–Haaaaallelujah!).

I’m sorry.

Off with their heads!  Dad gave me a nice lesson in cleaning fish–you never know when you might need to prepare your own dinner from the basics.  I actually remembered most of the steps from when I watched him do it as a kid, but he gave me some extra tips.

Next, turn on the grill to high heat (Dad estimates it was around 300 degrees) and let it warm up.  Next, coat the fish in a nice layer of the herby mayonnaise–most of it is going to drip off as it cooks, so you don’t want to be too stingy with it.  If you want to toss some lemon, garlic, or tarragon inside the fish before you get going, I’d be okay with that. 

Let the fish turn a nice, gorgeous, crispy brown.  The flesh should turn white when it is fully cooked and easily flake with a fork.

It’s better for fish to be flaky than for people.

Drizzle with some lemon left over from the mayonnaise zesting–the sharp citrus really takes the fish to the next level.

We served this with pasta salad and the sangria from yesterday–a very light and fresh summer meal!  Just watch out for those fish bones as you are eating.

So weird that I used to hate fish as a kid, ’cause now I love it.  It’s amazing how much our palates change and mature as we grow up. Speaking of growing up, the whole family trooped over to watch Jordi’s third karate lesson–she’s decided to take up a new hobby, and she got promoted from a regular white belt (novice) to a first-class white belt something-or-other (still a novice).  Now her white belt has a black stripe on the end.  Pretty exciting stuff.

Isn’t she so beautiful?  They grow up so fast!

This morning I went to breakfast with Mom and Dad at Stella’s, a popular Betty Boop-themed diner.  It was fun, and it made me reminisce about earlier times.  More importantly, it’s right around the corner from the Antique Exchange.  Oh, yes.  I was so excited!

And then it was closed.  Alas–maybe tomorrow.

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Chive Blossom Vinegar

Hello all!  It’s been a few days since I’ve ventured out into the sun.  I’ve been in studying prison, and soon I shall return.  However, with two tests down, I thought I’d take a break and do something soothing–i.e. cooking related.  Nothing says spring and fresh summer salads than chive blossom vinegar:

Those of you who have been hangin’ out here for a while know about my herb garden that I started last year.  This year I am really determined to take every advantage of the amazing fresh herbs that are literally on my doorstep–parsley, sage, thyme, basil, mint, lavender, and chives.  Since the garden is already abounding with everything (except the basil, which is still in baby form), I need to get going now to take full advantage.

The chives sprung up really early this year, and are already in full purple blossom.  Gorgeous, by the way, but I had no idea what to do with them.  Does one prune the blossoms?  Leave ’em alone?  Make chive-scented bouquets?  So imagine my joy and surprise when I find a recipe that actually uses the blossoms–to make vinegar!

I was paging though a cookbook my mom gave me last Christmas called Another Savory Seasoning all about cooking with herbs.  In the veeeery back is a chapter entitled “specialties”.  Clearly this is the one I was immediately drawn to–vinegars, jellies, teas, seasoned salt, butter, mustard–all those things that cost a lot of money to buy at boutiques, and I can now make for under a buck!

I love when special things are cheap.  Makes ’em even more special, in my opinion.

This discovery coincides perfectly with my other goal–to make this the “summer of salad”.  This chive blossom vinegar, which will turn a light pink color over the next few weeks and have a “delicious chive aroma”, is touted as wonderful dressing over a light salad.

Yes, please.

Plus, I love vinegar.  I used to like to eat salt and vinegar chips until the roof of my mouth is raw and bleeding–still do, on occasion. 

Okay, that’s weird.  Sorry I told you that.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

  • 16 oz of white distilled vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2-3 C chive blossoms
  • glass/plastic jar

Here’s an important point–you don’t want metal to touch your vinegar!  If you want to stir it, use a wooden spoon.  If you are using a jar with a metal lid (like my mason jars), cover the top with plastic first.

Pick enough chive blossoms to fill the jar halfway–if you don’t have enough, you can come over and have some of mine!  I have a lot.

Wash them thoroughly, and drain them or blot them ’till they are totally dry.  Fill the jar, and pour the vinegar over the top to fill.

Cover with plastic, then the metal lid, then let it sit for a few weeks, not in bright light (stick it in your cupboard!).  After it’s light pink and pretty, strain through filter paper into containers.

I love the idea of making herb vinegars and oils–they are beautiful and make great gourmet gifts…not to mention the fact that they are dead cheap to make (and I definitely think that matters!).  I can’t wait until I’m ready to use this–I’ll update you then on how it looks and tastes.

My intuition says I’m gonna like this a lot.

In other summer-y news, here’s our pool, turned back to blue after only one day of filtering!  Still needs to be vacuumed, but it’s not quite warm enough to warrant that job yet.  Since our pool was actually black when we opened it last year (eww!), we expected it to take a lot longer to clear up this year.  Guess our new cover did its job!

Hope you have a beautiful, sunshine-y, happy day no matter what the weather is like outside.

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Vanilla Maple Almond Butter

For some reason I have two mini food processors taking up space in our tiny kitchen.  I think that I got one at a garage sale, and then someone must have given me the second (and I can’t say no to kitchen gadgets…ever).  Either way, the moral here is that two mini food processors do not equal one big one.

I tried to make almond butter a few months ago, and while it came out great, my mini food processor ended up smoking and I only came up with about half a cup of spreadable nutty goodness.  Yummy, but it went fast–and I didn’t want to kill off my food processor by forcing it to do way more work than it ever should.

So I jumped at the chance to try it again now that I have my mom’s grown-up size available.  I went through a few of my favorite blogs and settled on Ashley’s vanilla bean maple almond butter.

 

Vanilla Maple Almond Butter (with flaxseed)

  • 2 C raw almonds
  • 1/3 C whole flax seeds
  • 2 T and 1 T maple syrup (keep ’em separate)
  • 3 t vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 T oil (canola, safflower, coconut), optional–depends on how you want the consistency

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Mix the almonds and flax with 2 T maple syrup, and toss to coat.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the almonds in a thin layer.  Toast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring once in the middle.

 

Once the nuts have cooled for a few minutes, toss ’em in the belly of your food processor and give them a whirl.

And be patient–if you see them sticking to the sides and bottom (and just generally being very annoying), then you are doing it right.  You’ll have to scrape the sides and bottom down quite a few times before you get to the right consistency.

Keep on whirlin’.  At the crumbly/oily phase you might be tempted to think that it’s “good enough”, but I promise that if you go just a few minutes more, your patience will be rewarded.  And rewarded richly.

Once it reaches a creamy stage, add the other T of maple syrup, the salt, and the vanilla.  You’ll have to process for another few minutes to return back to the creamy stage.  If the consistency is a bit too thick for you, you can add the oil to thin it out a bit.

The maple and vanilla are very subtle in this almond butter, but definitely noticeable.

And delicious.

I want to award this almond butter a Dundie.

Speaking of which, anyone else out there disappointed in the last episode of The Office?  I thought that the first one with Will Ferrell was pretty funny but the awards show…not so much.

Bummer.

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