Downtime

Our Internet has been down for the last day or so, and I’m not quite sure when it will return–but I’ll be back to blogging soon, I promise!

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Comfort Food: Apple Crisp Edition

Apple crisp isn’t going to change your life.  I can promise you that.

But what it might do is make you feel like everything is all right with your world; that your insides are warm and fuzzy and nothing bad can happen.  And that nothing makes you feel better than ice cream melting into cinnamon and nutmeg with warm apples and crunchy-buttery oats and nuts.

Apple crisp is a comfort food, my friends.  At least in my house it is.  My mom always makes at least one apple crisp every fall, and when I was a freshman at college she drove six hours to visit with a pan of still-warm apple crisp to help me move in the right way.

And that is comforting.

Apple Crisp (makes enough to serve a large crowd, or have lots of leftovers to be warmed up later)

for the filling:

  • 10-12 mixed varieties of apples (Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Braeburn…), peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 T lemon or lime juice
  • 1 t cinnamon

for the topping:

  • 1 C whole-wheat flour (I was out, so I used all-purpose)
  • 3/4 C almond meal
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 C whole walnuts
  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick, chilled)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 t)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The first big step is to peel, core, and chop the apples–and this step is much easier when you have one of those nifty apple corer and slicer things.  I do, thank goodness.  Mix in the sugar, spices, and lemon or lime.  Pour the apple mixture into a large dish–mine is 10′ x 15′.  The apples should come right up to the top (but don’t worry, they’ll cook down later).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping.  Cut the butter (it’s better if it is a bit chilled) into small pieces into the bowl.  Use your hands for the easiest mixing, blending the flours into the butter until it is the texture of sandy pebbles…if that makes any sense. 

Crumble the mixture over the top of the apples, and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.  Bake on the middle rack until the apples are soft and bubbly and the top is golden brown, about an hour.

Please, please, oh please, serve with ice cream.  Warm.

And when you reheat this, do it in the oven and not the microwave.  Your mother will thank you.  And so will your belly.

One of the best parts of this is the big walnuts–and that’s coming from someone who’s not a big fan of nuts inside desserts.

And if you’ve had a hard day at school, or a long day at work, or a fight with your hubs, or you are feeling down for any reason, really…this is your dessert.

Enjoy!

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Filed under Desserts

Sage & Butternut Squash Pizza

Fall came crashing into my life today in the most delicious way ever.  Let me teach you the way:

Butternut squash + goat cheese + sage + homemade roasted garlic pizza sauce = the best fall inspired pizza known to mankind.

Seriously.  And don’t just take my word for it.  Make it yourself.

I was inspired by a recipe in a vegetarian cookbook I read through at the thrift store–they are the ones who gave me the idea for butternut squash and sage together on pizza.  The execution is so basic that you don’t need a real recipe, anyway.  But here’s some anyway, “just in cases” (10 points if you can name that quote).

Here’s the basic pizza dough recipe, and here’s the roasted garlic and pepper tomato sauce I used.  The pizza dough recipe makes enough for three pies, but this recipe made two pies.  Freeze the last third of the dough to use some other time!  My measurements are all very approximate–because I didn’t measure and because pizza is so specific to individual tastes!  Just try it and see.

Sage & Butternut Squash Pizza

  • pizza dough for two pies
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
  • dash of salt
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • handful of fresh sage leaves (about 20 per pie)
  • 1/2 C-1 C sauce for each pie
  • 3 oz crumbled goat cheese (to split between the two pies)
  • 1-2 C shredded mozzarella cheese (depends on your personal taste)

Spread the butternut squash and half the sage leaves on a baking sheet (I used a deep glass one).  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender.  I did this while the pizza dough was rising.

This is quick and easy.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (the hotter the better!) and set your pizza stone inside to heat up.  If you don’t have a stone, you can use the back of a baking sheet to bake the pizza on, but don’t worry about preheating it beforehand.

Spread the dough out to a circle with a roughly 10″ diameter on top of a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal.  Spoon the sauce on top, and sprinkle with the two types of cheese.  Layer half the butternut squash and sage leaves over the top, and add a few more fresh sage leaves.

Don’t forget to brush the edges with olive oil!

Slide the pizza and parchment paper from the table top on to a large plate or baking sheet back, then transfer it on the stone in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the bottom and edges are browned and the cheese is bubblin’.

Best served sliced and eaten immediately so the cheese burns your mouth.

Then again, that might just be my way.

I absolutely love the taste and texture of goat cheese on pizza–it’s so good!  It makes the slightly boring taste of butternut squash become exciting.

Lastly, this pizza is ridiculously filling with all the squash on top–Fritz and I didn’t even finish a pizza between the two of us (but we really, really wanted to).

Have a good night!

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Filed under Entrees, Vegetarian

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

It’s almost unbelievable that it’s been ten years already since that day when, in the midst of my ninth grade ignorance, I found myself watching live footage of a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center with my fellow classmates.  I don’t remember much except being shocked and a little detached–I don’t think I was old enough to really understand the significance of what happened.

Well, ten years later, we’re still here–and I understand a lot more about what happened that day.  I watched an incredibly powerful video in church today documenting the men and woman who, through either circumstance or choice, gave their lives in that tragic and terrible event.  And even just by writing about this on my blog, I’m reminding myself that though ten years can encompass new pets, a couple of boyfriends and a husband, a high school diploma and a degree and a half, several moves across the state, purchasing two cars, and the promise of a brand new niece or nephew, I won’t forget.

September 11th also marks another anniversary–the one year anniversary of my blog!  If you want to see how far I’ve come–here’s the first post I ever wrote (and what an ambitious one it was, making apple pie): A Brand New Beginning.

A couple of people gave me suggestions for what to make with cilantro, and I decided to go with my sister, Erin’s idea, for cilantro and lime rice.  She sent me this recipe, which I used as inspiration for this fresh and yummy side dish.

Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 C uncooked brown rice
  • 2 C hot water
  • 1/4-1/2 C cilantro (I measured the amount before I diced it), finely chopped
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of half a lime (but adjust as you like it–this was about 2-3 T)
  • salt to taste

I decided to make this in a fried-rice style because I love the nutty taste it gives to brown rice.  Start by browning the shallot over medium heat, then toss the dried rice into the oil as well.  Let the rice fry with the shallots for a few minutes until it starts to smell toasty. 

Pour the two cups of hot water over the rice, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low.  Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the lime zest, juice, and cilantro, and season with salt to taste.

I actually loved this rice–very simple flavors, but bright and fresh with the lime and cilantro.  It would be so good with tacos.  So good.

Erin–good call!

I think that for lunch tomorrow I’m going to throw some chickpeas in there to make it a heartier meal and have it as a main dish.  Since Fritz hates cilantro, I’m going to be able to try this rice in a couple different ways.

It’s also quite simple and quick to make, which is always a bonus.

For the remaining cilantro, which was looking a bit wilty, I chopped it up and froze it (see here for a tutorial).  I’m planning on using it in a Thai pork kind of meal (also an inspiration from another blog reader!).

And aren’t these baby red potatoes a beauty?  I cooked ’em as salt potatoes tonight with fantastic results–they were creamy bite size potato packages.

I want to leave you with a question tonight–what is your most powerful memory of 9/11?

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Filed under Side Dishes

A Cat Family Portrait

I didn’t cook today.  Not one bit.

Fritz made us whole-wheat pancakes for breakfast, we went to a farm stand for some squashes and picked some apples, then we went to a birthday party for my BFF’s mom for dinner.  Overall, fun day. 

Did you guys know that I have a very handsome cat?

Henry noticed I had the camera out and asked if I could do a quick family portrait for him–this first one is Henry and his main squeezes (can you have more than one main squeeze?):

Once he saw how great this photo was, he asked if we could get everyone involved in a shot that was a little less formal:

It was all going swimmingly until a spark plug disconnected in Henry’s brain.  Things escalated quickly.

Once Henry leaves “nice cat” land and enters his “crack cat” phase, there’s nothing you can do but wait it out.

Luckily, once he gets it all out of his system, he’s back to being the most handsome and sweet cat ever.

For a short time, at least.

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Filed under Non-food things I like, Uncategorized

Quick Norwegian Flatbread (and How to Make it Lunch)

You know when you wake up from a nap, and it feels so good to stretch out?

Henry knows all about that.  I call this The Morning Dance of the Cat:

It took me a little while to wake up this morning, too, but once I got my butt in gear, had a piece of peanut butter and banana toast, and drank my tea, I headed off to the gym.  Try not to be too impressed, but I ran 2.6 miles–quite an accomplishment for a real running-hater like myself.

Though I have to clarify–I hate the actual running, but it feels so good after. That’s why I keep doing it.

Anyway, once I got home, I had some lunchtime inspiration from my CSA box (no picture this week, sorry!) and the giant tub of hummus (best batch yet) that I made yesterday.  Sungold cherry tomatoes + hummus + herbs from the garden + flatbread = lunch.

Quick Norwegian Flatbread (from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads)

  • 1 1/2 C rye flour
  • 1 1/2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 C butter, melted
  • 1 C buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  While you are getting the ingredients ready, I’ll give you two short cuts that I used today.  One, to bring an egg rapidly to room temperature, let it sit in a cup of hot water for a minute.  Two, if you don’t have buttermilk, just combine some milk and a little lemon juice for a quick fix.

Combine the egg and buttermilk in the mixer.  Add the melted butter and mix again to combine.  In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and pour them into the liquid, mixing until a dough forms.  Knead with the dough hook for a few minutes until smooth, adding pinches of flour if necessary to make the dough pull away from the bowl.

Divide the dough into two pieces on a floured countertop, and roll out with a rolling pin until about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.  Traditionally, this is rolled into a circle, but I went with a more rectangular shape just ’cause it’s easier.  Transfer on a greased baking sheet and bake in the oven on the medium rack until browned on the bottom and lightly golden on top, about 15-2o minutes.

This was so delicious as is.  If you want to toss together a quick bread for dipping in soups, eating with hummus, or with jam and butter, this is a great choice.  So soft and the subtle rye taste is irresistible.

But I needed lunch.  I set one flatbread aside (in a ziplock bag), and got to work on the other.

I spread a nice layer of hummus over the top of the remaining flatbread, then sprinkled it with some lemon thyme from my herb garden.  I sliced a handful of cherry tomatoes, placing them cut-side up on top of the hummus, and sprinkled the whole thing with a bit of salt and pepper.  Just a few minutes under the broiler and voila!  Lunch is served.

Next time I’d spread the hummus all the way to the edges to keep them from browning too rapidly…and because hummus is just delicious.

These tomatoes from my CSA box are also super sweet–I can’t resist eating them whole, which is quite unusual for me, since I was never a big tomato fan.

In fact, as a child I threw up when my parents made me eat one, and they stopped making me try after that.  My feelings for raw tomatoes are definitely improving this year–but they are even better cooked.  On flatbread.  With hummus.

What else came in our CSA box this week?  Well, the size of the box is a little small this week, thanks to Miss Irene, but we still got some good stuff:

  • 2 acorn squashes (yes!!!!)
  • 1 pint of Sungold cherry tomatoes (that you’ve seen here today)
  • Red beets and their greens
  • Baby leeks
  • Bunch of cilantro
  • Several big red tomatoes
  • 1 bag of green beans

Though it was a slightly smaller box, it was full of all of my favorite veggies, so I’m pretty excited to have our kitchen restocked.  I’m still trying to plan something to do with the cilantro (Fritz is not a fan), but most of it will likely have to be frozen.

Have a good weekend!

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Filed under Breads

Sunrise Muffins

I’ve wanted to make these muffins ever since I bought Allison Fishman’s You Can Trust a Skinny Cook–mostly because the recipe involves putting an entire orange (peel, pith, and all) right into the blender.

That just appeals to the green monster-making side of me–and I’m so used to using and washing the blender every day that I don’t mind breaking it out again.  Combine that with the chilly, rainy weather that woke me up this morning, and sunrise muffins became a necessity.

Sunrise Muffins (makes a dozen muffins)

  • 1 orange (I actually used a tangelo), sliced into eighths
  • 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour, with excellent results)
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 dried fruit (I used a dried berry mix–cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line muffin tins with papers.

The fun part: in the blender, combine the eggs, oil, orange juice, and sliced orange sections, and blend until smooth.  While blending, mix the remaining ingredients except the dried fruit in a medium bowl, and create a well for the orange mixture.  Pour it in, mix until a smooth batter forms, and fold in the dried fruit.

You may regret tasting the batter at this point because it is so gosh-darn, finger-licking, re-taste, save-a-little-extra-in-the-bowl-who-cares-if-the-muffins-are-tiny good.  Anyway, divide the (remaining) batter evenly into the 12 muffin tins.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Cool on a rack.

I love how golden these are, thanks to the orange–they really do look like a sunrise.

And the taste.  Wow.  I wasn’t expecting anything magical from these muffins, but these really served to remind me that basic can be best!  They are sweet and tangy but also have the perfect amount of salt.

A teaspoon of salt can do so much for a basic muffin.  I ate one muffin.  I want to eat many more muffins.  Morning can’t come soon enough.

Oh, and for those who are interested, these muffins are only 175 calories each!

In case these muffins aren’t enough to brighten your day, here’s some of my absolute favorite new photos from an apple-picking session I went on with my mom and younger sister Kristen a few weeks ago:

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