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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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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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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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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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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Sweet and Spicy Fish (Vietnamese)

Happy weekend!

Fritz and I were running around all morning (we went to the gym, the library, donated blood like good, caring citizens, and then headed to the mall for some returns) and we got completely and totally exhausted.  It was probably due to the missing pints of blood, but at 3:00 we got home and just collapsed onto the couch.  It was definitely a movie moment, so we watched Bourne Identity  until I had mustered up enough strength to make dinner and force Fritz into his study mode. 

It had been a while since I’ve been that tired.  How do all those 14 year olds stay at the mall all day long?  When did I turn 79?

The food definitely revived us, so on a second wind I decided to blog the second half of our Valentine’s Dinner.  This fish worried us a lot as it was cooking (let me tell you–Thai fish sauce does not smell good.  Like Henry’s morning breath), but as the sauce thickened and the flavors developed, we were won over by the perfect sweet and salty balance.

Vietnamese Sweet and Spicy Fish (adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet)

  • 1/2 lb fish (we used tilapia–in traditional Vietnamese recipes ca bac is used)
  • 1/2 t white pepper
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 C warm water
  • 2 T Thai fish sauce
  • 2 t vegetable oil
  • 1 T finely minced lemongrass
  • 2 scallions, minced

Dry the fish and sprinkle with the pepper, and set aside. 

While you’re at it, soak some rice noodles in warm water (they need about 20 minutes), so you can serve the fish over ’em.

  Place a heavy skillet over high heat.  When it’s hot, add the oil and coat the pan by swirling.  Toss in the lemongrass (we only managed to find a tube of pre-minced lemongrass paste, but it worked fine!), and immediately place the fish in the pan and sear for a few seconds, then flip and repeat on the other side.  Add the water, sugar, and fish sauce and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat to medium and add the scallions.

This is the part where you might be nervous.  Some boring fish fillets floating in a watery yet incredibly stinky sauce.  But don’t give up now!  As the fish continues to cook and the sauce thickens, turn the heat down to prevent burning.  Soon the sauce will be a thick, brown, bubbly, fragrant syrup–exactly what you want! 

And if you dare–taste it.

So good!  You won’t believe what your taste buds are tellin’ you.

When the sauce is almost-but-not-quite fully cooked down, drain the rice noodles and toss them in a hot skillet with a touch of canola oil for a minute or two.  They cook fast, so be ready!  We also microwaved a steam-fresh pouch of frozen asian-inspired veggies to go along with this and the spring rolls.

Serve immediately over the hot noodles, and spoon some of the extra sauce over the top.

You may need to physically restrain your dinner guests as this point (and your cat should definitely be locked in another room).

Fritz and I were so relieved that this turned out well, since it was supposed to be a romantic dinner that we weren’t too sure about once we opened that fish sauce bottle.  It just goes to show that you can’t judge a food by its inital stench.

Actually, you probably can for the most part. 

This might just be the exception!

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Chicken a la Nueces de la India

Otherwise known as chicken with a ground cashew sauce.

Yum.

By the way, I’m sorry that I haven’t been as consistent with my blogging lately.  Tomorrow is my last day of vacation (sad), and then I’ll be back to my regular routine again.  However, we spent one of my last nights of freedom doing this:

Oh, I just love my friends.  Eber, Bre, and Zev (henceforth known as Breberz) came to visit!  We met up with Jun Oh and had a lovely night.  Crazy, and lovely.

But back to the chicken.  This is Fritz’s new favorite way to have chicken breasts–and that’s a big statement coming from a man who only makes chicken when he’s home alone.

Chicken a la Nueces de la India (from Padma Lakshmi’s Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet)

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • dusting of flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C cashews
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 C onion, diced
  • 1 t red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • 3 T honey

Layer the chicken in plastic wrap and pound with a mallet (or in my case, large, heavy spoon) until they are about an inch thick.  Dust both sides with flour, and lay in a glass roasting pan (sprayed with oil) and roast in the oven at 350 degrees until cooked (about 20 minutes).

Meanwhile, make the sauce.

Toast the cashews in the oven (350 for about ten minutes), then grind them in a food processer into powder.

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until translucent.  Add the pepper and thyme and cook for 2 more minutes, then add the chicken stock.  Pour in the honey and stir until the mixture comes to a gentle boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low and slowly add the cashews (I actually just dumped it all in, which turned out fine!), mixing constantly to avoid lumps.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and allow the sauce to thicken to a gravy-like consistency.

Padma’s book says the chicken can be added to the sauce and served, but I chose to cut each breast in half (they’re huge!), and plate them on top of a mound of cooked bulgur wheat, and pile the sauce on top of the whole thing.

Yum-my!

This was a delicious number, and the sauce tasted very creamy and sweet–perfect over the bulgur wheat.  Definitely try this recipe–I give it five stars for being even better as leftovers.

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Scottish Shortbread; Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

I have my first big test of the year coming up on Thursday, which is why I have spent every day baking and making large, involved dinners.  Basically I’ll do anything to avoid studying, but especially when it’s cold outside (finally!) and I have gone grocery shopping twice in the last few days.  

I wanted to bake a surprise for Fritz, and I found a Scottish cookbook and shortbread mold that was given to us as a wedding present by the Zietsmans’ (Scottish…duh) family friend, the Mitchells (thanks!).  Having never used a wooden mold before, I had to do a little scientific (google) research first, but I knew Fritz liked shortbread and thought it’d be fun to try.  

Basic Shortbread (adapted from Scottish Home Baking)  

  • 6 oz (175 g) plain flour
  • 2 oz (50 g) rice flour
  • 2 oz (50 g) caster sugar (I substituted powdered sugar)
  • 4 oz (110 g or 1 stick) butter

  

Sift together the two flours (I only had all-purpose flour, so I used 8 oz of that), then cream the butter and sugar in a separate bowl and work in the flour.  Knead until the mixture is smooth and without cracks.  I used my mixer for this, but eventually it does have to be kneaded by hand to warm the butter and improve the flour absorption.  You can now cut in half and simply shape the dough into two rounds, about 1/4″ thick.   

Otherwise, if using a mold, shape the dough over the mold, then remove carefully from the mold and bake on a cookie sheet, on parchment paper.  For me, that was easier said then done.  I tried first oiling the mold and then flouring it to get the dough to unstick from the mold.  Neither really worked that well, most likely because either I had too much butter in the shortbread ratio or my caster sugar/powdered sugar substitution didn’t work very well.  I ended up basically prying it out and reshaping the edges afterwards.

 

 

Now is a good time to refrigerate the dough so it will maintain its shape while baking (I skipped this step–bad idea).  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then bake for about 1/2 hour or until golden brown.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar and let cool on a wire rack.  Cut into wedges to serve. 

The shortbread only lasted for about 2 days, and I am definitely a bit suspicious that Henry was unfairly blamed for this (umm…Fritz?). 

For an equally rich tasting but much healthier fall food, today I made a big pot of butternut squash and sweet potato soup.  I am super excited to take it to school for lunch tomorrow, when I am freezing cold (why they can’t regulate the temperature in there, I don’t know) and bored.  Yum!  Fritz also misleadingly calls this “pumpkin soup” and I’m deducing that in his vocabulary, pumpkin means any squash.  Is that normal? 

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 T butter or olive oil
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 5 C chicken broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • dash freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 C skim milk

Brown the onion in the butter until soft.  Add the squash, potato, thyme, cinnamon, and broth, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the squash and potato are soft.  Remove the thyme and cinnamon stick, and blend in batches until smooth.  

 

Add milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and return to a simmer for about two minutes, then remove from heat.  Serve with a fresh dash of nutmeg on top. 

 

You’ll love this, I promise.  The original recipe didn’t have sweet potato or cinnamon, but I wanted the soup to have a sweeter taste, which worked out wonderfully.  Anyway, I need to stop procrastinating and start learning some Adult Neurological Rehab for my test–please let me know if you have used a shortbread mold before and have had more success!  Also, I just bought some cans of pumpkin on sale, and I’d love some unexpected or unusual recipes to try (Mom and I settled on pumpkin muffins for one of the cans, but I have some more that are unclaimed!).

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Filed under Desserts, Soups/Stews