Tag Archives: sweet

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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Filed under Sauces

A Peck of (Really Hot) Pickled Peppers

Hello, friends! 

It feels so good to be able to cook and blog every day.  I will never, ever, ever take having power for granted ever again until probably this weekend when I get used to everything running smoothly without any effort on my part.

But I shouldn’t take it for granted, because it is so awesome to have power.

To finish up my fall prep by canning the rest of the goods from my parents’ garden, I decided to make pickled banana peppers.  We’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches (brown bag lunches at school, ya know), and I thought a sweet and spicy pickled pepper would be perfect to jazz them up through the winter when veggies are a little lackluster.

I also discovered that what I thought were harmless banana peppers were actually super HOT banana peppers, and now my poor innocent hands are burning like fire since I wasn’t wearing gloves when I cut them.  Word to the wise: wear gloves.  You could use this recipe with mild or spicy peppers–doesn’t matter one bit.

Pickled Banana Peppers

  • 25 banana peppers
  • 2 C water
  • 3 C white vinegar
  • 1/2 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C salt
  • 2 T whole peppercorns
  • 1 T caraway seeds
  • 1 T dill seeds
  • 2 t ground allspice

These are getting canned into four pint-sized jars, so get all that canning stuff ready–big stock pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars, smaller saucepan to simmer the lids in, big tongs, and dish cloths and potholders to protect your sensitive mitts.  Especially if you’ve already burned the crap outta ’em with hot pepper juice.

Start by slicing the peppers–I cut off the tops, removed the core and as many seeds as I easily could with a knife, and then sliced them into thin rings.  Soak all the peppers in a giant bowl of ice water with a T or so of salt in it for at least an hour.  I’m not sure exactly what this step is for, but since everyone else is doing it, I’ll do it too.

Once the peppers are ready, sterilize the jars by boiling them in water for at least ten minutes.  While the giant pot of water is coming to a boil, bring the remaining ingredients (water, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices) to a boil as well. 

Once the jars are sterilized, pack them full of peppers and cover with the vinegar mixture.  Careful with all the hot stuff–no burns, please!

It might be helpful to strain the liquid through a strainer as you pour it in the jars, and then you can evenly divide the spices among the four jars.

Put the lids on the jars, screw the tops on (not too tight, just a gentle closure), and return them to the boiling water to process.  Boil the jars vigorously for 40 minutes, then remove from the liquid and set on a dish towel to cool.  If the lids pop and don’t spring back when pressed, the jars have sealed properly and you are good to go.

Don’t they look gorgeous?

I’d let them pickle in the vinegar for a few weeks before eating them.

I’d also be careful about eating them if you used the same kind of death-in-disguise super-hot banana peppers that I used.

Winter sandwiches have officially been jazzed.

I leave you with a few pictures from a trip downport that Fritz and I took the other day with our good friends Cait and Jeff:

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Filed under Side Dishes, Snacks

South African Sosaties

Spending over a week with a handful of South Africans means that you must be ready to eat a lot of meat.  A lot of meat, prepared on the grill.  A lot of grilled meat, accompanied with salads and fruits and grilled corn on the cob.

I am so okay with this.

So here’s an awesome recipe for yet another South African grilled classic, sosaties (in Afrikaans meaning “skewered meat with spicy sauce”, thanks to Wikipedia).

South African Sosaties Printable Recipe Card

for the sauce (sous):

  • 1 large onion, sliced into half-rounds
  • 4 C water
  • 2 T mild curry powder
  • 1/2 T ground turmeric
  • 4 T sugar
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 C malt vinegar
  • 2 C apricot jam
  • 1/2 T lemon juice (optional)
  • salt and white pepper to taste

for the skewers

  • 3-4 lbs beef or lamb roast, cubed into 1″ cubes
  • 1 small package dried apricots
  • 1/2 package of bacon (1 strip for each skewer)
  • about a dozen skewers, if wood, soak in water before using

The meat must be prepared ahead of time and marinated for at least 24 hours in the sosatie sauce, so make sure you have time and room in the fridge!

To prepare the sauce, first slice the onion and bring it to a boil in the four cups of water.  Set aside.  Combine the dry ingredients (curry, turmeric, sugar, cornstarch, and some salt and pepper), then add in the wet ingredients (jam, vinegar, and lemon juice).  Pour this mixture into the pan with the onions, and bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes, until it starts to thicken.  Set aside and allow it to cool.

Once the sauce is cooled, you can prepare the meat for the marinade.  Layer apricots, bacon, and the cubed meat in a plastic or glass container.  Cover with the cooled sosatie sauce.  This container was really convenient because it can be flipped to allow for the easiest mixing ever–but otherwise, you may have to get your hands dirty. 

Keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours before grilling.

To make the kabobs, skewer the beef, apricots, and the bacon (we’d suggest not having apricot on the ends, because they’ll tend to fall off during grilling). 

Grill the sosaties over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until they are cooked through.  Baste periodically with leftover sosatie sauce.

Enjoy!  These are tender and juicy, and the perfect combination of sweet and spicy.

And if you have never had a grilled apricot, then you haven’t lived.  Trust me when I say you might want to go out and find a South African to marry, if you haven’t already, because they make really great food:

The men are also quite handsome:

The sosaties were even better the second day, warmed up for leftovers with a giant salad–but I can promise you that the leftovers won’t last long.

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Filed under Entrees

Cinnamon Streusel Zucchini Bread

I am totally in love with the weekend.  Fritz and I zipped through quite a bit of our (lengthy) to-do list, and I still had time to do some reading, make this bread, and am now making pizza for dinner!

One is a veggie pizza with red sauce (broccoli and green onion from our CSA box) and the other is a white pizza with pesto, ham, and fresh-picked basil.  The pizza dough is resting as we speak and the pizza stone is heating up in the oven.  Sometimes it’s really nice to make dinner and not blog it–I can move quickly, not worry about making a mess, and also not care a whit that it’s raining outside and my light is rapidly disappearing.  Not to mention Fritz will actually get to eat hot food for once!

Today was also Fritz’s first time ever having zucchini bread–and now he is one step closer to being a real American.

Cinnamon Streusel Zucchini Bread (adapted from Oh She Glows) Cinnamon Streusel Zucchini Loaf Printable Card

  • 2 C flour–I used 1 C white and 1 C whole-wheat
  • 2 T wheat germ
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/3 C each raisins and chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 C shredded zucchini (just wash it, but leave the skin on)
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 C skim milk

For the topping:

  • 2 T flour
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 T butter

This is a quick and easy recipe to throw together, with an impressive taste.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a loaf pan, then line it with parchment paper (makes it much easier to get the dang thing out).

I just love the way a loaf pan looks, all ready to go.  So full of possibility.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, wheat germ, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, raisins, and walnuts.  Give them a quick stir, then add the rest of the ingredients (except for the stuff for the topping…duh).  Mix until combined and relatively lump-free (I mean, there are raisins in there and stuff), then pour into the loaf pan.

For the topping, use a fork to squish all the ingredients around until they form large crumbs, then drop over the top of the bread batter.

Bake on a middle rack in your oven until an inserted skewer comes out dry and it is a totally gorg deep brown, about an hour.  Remove and cool before slicing (riiiiiight…).  My topping sank down a bit into the loaf while baking, which actually made for a nice suprise during the subsequent consumption.

Serve this baby with butter, and iced coffee left over from the dregs of your husband’s earlier pot.  Yum.  A new and rare indulgence.

I handed a plate with a piece of bread on it to Fritz while he was locked away in our bedroom studying, and he came dashing out of the room looking incredulous.  “Zucchini!”, he cried.  “Such a moist loaf with the glorious textural addition of walnuts!”

Or something like that.  Needless to say, he really liked it.

He’s a real American now.

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Filed under Breads

Sweet ‘N’ Sour Cabbage

Can you believe that it is week five of my CSA box already?  I have probably tripled (at least) my greens intake over the last month, and I have to tell you, I have never felt so great.  I have a green monster every day (either for breakfast or lunch), then usually a big salad (lunch or dinner), and of course there are always more veggies on the side of whatever fancy dinner I feel like making.  I am constantly finding ways to use all the fresh vegetables in the fridge in ways that are different and exciting and filling.

It’s been quite a fun adventure so far!  Here’s what came in the box this week:

Fritz and I are traveling to my parents’ house in upstate NY tomorrow for the long weekend, so we’ll have help finishing off all these vegetables from all of our family and friends.  We’ll need the energy, because my mom informed me that she booked us for a level III/IV white water rafting trip on Friday.

I’m scared.  I’m also glad that Fritz is a certified lifeguard.

So with all the vegetables from the CSA lying around, I can’t attempt to explain what would possess me to stop at the farm stand and buy more other than that I found a really yummy looking recipe I was dying to try.  So here it is:

Sweet ‘N’ Sour Cabbage  (adapted from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook by Allison Fishman)  Sweet ‘N’ Sour Cabbage Printable Recipe Card

  • 1 small head of red cabbage, shredded (I’ll show you how!)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/3 C red wine vinegar

To shred the cabbage, rinse and remove the outer wilty layers.  Trim the stalk end, then slice in half vertically.  Place on half cut-side down, and slice horizonally very thinly starting at the end opposite the stalk.  Voila!  Shredded cabbage.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onion until softened.  Add the cabbage, sugar, salt, thyme, and water, and stir.  Partially cover and allow to cook until the cabbage is softened, about half an hour.  Check the cabbage frequently enough to make sure there is enough water. 

Remove from the heat and admire.  Once you add the vinegar, the cabbage will turn from deep purple to a more bright red color, through some magical chemical reaction that I’m sure my mom knows all about (something about acidity, I’d wager a guess).

Add more salt to taste if desired, and store in a jar in the fridge–you can also add red pepper flakes.  I forgot, but I may toss in a pinch when I have this as part of my lunch tomorrow.

Perfectly sweet and tangy without being overpowering.

You can eat this warm or cold, alone or on a salad, or next to a big chunk o’ meat.

Speaking of meat, I need to make a meal with some real soon.  Fritz asked me sadly today if we are turning into vegetarians (ha!).  I don’t realize how little meat we are eating, because I usually have some in my salad every day.  Sorry Fritz! (By the way, I put some sliced ham into the Cheesy Peasy Couscous from yesterday to give to Fritz for dinner today, and he was mollified).

Anyway, I have a big urge to lie down and read (I started Mansfield Park today) and I also have to finish (…or start) packing for our weekend.  Au revoir!

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Filed under Side Dishes

Mom’s “Special” (Amaretto) Ice Cream

Mom was worried that she may come across as having a bit of an alcohol problem on this post.  I reassured her that she needn’t be worried, because she clearly doesn’t have one…she just enjoys an occasional sip of wine, you know?  And perhaps a rare enjoyment of amaretto poured over her ice cream.  And Bailey’s in her coffee.

Okay, okay, I kid.  She uses Bailey’s flavored creamer–she’s a working woman, you know.  And there’s not much ice cream to be found in these parts anymore.

Or there wasn’t, until I came home for break.  When we were kids, my mom would sometimes serve herself a bowl of ice cream and settle in for a movie.  When we clamored for a taste, she’d inform us that it was “Mommy’s special ice cream” and we couldn’t have any. 

Only when we were adults did we discover that “special” meant “21 and over” or “doused in amaretto”.

So in honor of a special lady, I thought I’d recreate the ice cream treat, only this time around with the “special” mixed right in.

 

Amaretto Ice Cream (original recipe here)

  • 1 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 C whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks (save those whites for a healthy omelet!)
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 T light corn syrup
  • 3 T amaretto
  • 1/3 C chopped toasted almonds

 

Oh, yes.  Did I mention that this is a treat?  If you want a healthy frozen dessert, try this banana frozen yogurt.  However, if you’re ready to give yourself the gift of rich, custardy, creamy ice cream, then stick with me.

Now, if you are using an ice cream maker, don’t be like me.  Read the instructions and realize that you need to freeze the bowl for 6-12 hours before using.  Do that the day before.  Save your sanity.  If you aren’t using an ice cream maker, than you can put it in the freezer and just take it out and stir every once in a while to prevent big ice crystals from forming.

Bring the milk and cream to a simmer in a medium-sized heavy saucepan.  Not a rolling boil, just a nice chill simmer.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and corn syrup.

Slowly add the hot cream mixture–go slowly, because you don’t want scrambled egg yolks as part of your ice cream!

Give it a nice whisk, then pour back into the saucepan.  Place over medium-low heat and continue whisking until the custard thickens–it should coat the back of a spoon without running.  Once again, go slow and steady to avoid the eggy thing–it should take about ten minutes.

If you think you have egg bits, then strain back into the bowl; otherwise, just dump it back in.  Add the amaretto and chill in the fridge until completely cool. 

Now, either place it in the freezer and stir, or use your ice cream maker as directed.  Right before freezing, add the toasted almonds and do it up.

Yum.

This is so rich and creamy that you really won’t need a big bowl to feel satisfied–and the crunch of the almonds goes perfectly with the smooth amaretto.  It does melt quickly because of the alcohol content, so be prepared for drips–and don’t be tempted to add extra alcohol, because the taste is strong enough as is, and you don’t want to mess up the freezing process.

Special ice cream, indeed.

 

We had breakfast this morning with some family friends at Denny’s.  It’s always so nice to catch up (and Cora made another appearance, of course).

By the way, I shot the pictures for this post using our new Canon T3i!  Exciting, huh?  I also was using the manual setting for the first time ever in my life–what do you think?  Any tips?

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Filed under Desserts

Mexican Hot Chocolate Spiced Almonds

Fritz and I both have a sweet tooth.  Luckily for me, I can usually distract mine from chocolate and candies with fruit–Fritz, not so much.  He says he doesn’t even have a real sweet tooth, more of a “snack tooth”.  The kid loves to snack. Like, he really loves a snack.

Instead of fighting this primal need of his, I try to keep the cupboards stocked with healthy snacks–granola bars, nuts, pumpkin seeds, yogurts, peanut butter, etc.  A lot of snack choices = a happy Fritz.  (This is supplemented by my parents generously supplying him with extra-large bags of peanut M&Ms, of course).

I decided to make a sweet snack that would still be healthier than say, chips, but still have that grab-a-handful-on-the-way-by appeal that a true snack has.  I was looking through Vegetarian Times and stumbled upon the perfect easy snack recipe–Cocoa-dusted Glazed Almonds.  After I made them, I renamed them because they reminded me exactly of Mexican hot chocolate–sweet, spicy, and perfectly satisfying.

 Here’s the recipe for you to try:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Almonds

  • 3 T maple syrup
  • 2 T brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 2 C raw almonds
  • 1 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine everything except the almonds and the cocoa powder into a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Add the almonds, and cook for three minutes, constantly stirring.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread them out into a single layer–this takes a little effort, ’cause they are very sticky at this point!

Bake in the oven (middle rack) until the syrup around the almonds turns a darker brown, about 20 minutes.  Keep your eye one these, because nuts burn fast in the oven and there’s no way to turn back once you’ve gone too far!  When finished, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Meanwhile, place the cocoa powder into a resealable bag.  When the almonds are cool, break them apart and toss ’em in the bag until they are dusted with cocoa.

Enjoy!

These almonds were a tremendous success.  They have a surprisingly complex flavor but it melds perfectly with the cocoa powder.  When I was just making the syrup, I was worried it was too salty and too spicy, but once you taste the toasted almonds with it–perfection.  These went pretty quickly.

And they go perfectly with a glass of milk.

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Filed under Snacks