So Many Apples…

Apple ButterSometimes it takes the right recipe to change your mind about a food. I could never understand why people got so hype over apple butter. It always tasted so one dimensional to me. Then, The Bestie gave me some of her mom’s apple butter. I had that eye popping moment of… “Whoa! It really does exist!” (from the M&M commercials with Santa) — There really is “good” apple butter! Her mom slow baked it with a lot of cloves so it was thick and had a ton of flavor. So, oddly enough my first thought was… This would be amazing in my yogurt! The yogurt took an extra tablespoon of honey per jar because she makes it with sweet apples and doesn’t add sugar, and it was amazing.  It would probably be amazing in ice cream too.

When it was done, I figured, I’m going to see if I can figure out how to make apple butter myself. I still had three half bushels of apples from my trip up to Weaver’s Orchard (my new favorite spot to get apples and other fruit) with The Bestie. So, I certainly had enough that if I messed it up I would still have enough to try again. Since I usually get tart apples, I knew I would need to add sugar. I laid out every cookbook I had that had an apple butter recipe in it and started trying to figure out how to get started. I couldn’t believe how many of the recipes called for just a teaspoon of cinnamon for the whole batch. I love spices so that wasn’t going to work for me. So, I opened up the spice drawer and pulled out everything that sounded interesting.

Apple Butter Yogurt

Apple Butter Yogurt

It took forever to bake, which was fine since I didn’t have to do anything but check it occasionally to make sure it reached the thick consistency I was looking for. When I was done I ended up with 5-1/2 quarts so I had to can it since the freezer had absolutely no space left. I used a huge bag of apples so you can adjust the recipe proportions down as needed. The apple butter ended up being perfect on my buttered bread with my Curried Cauliflower & Potato Soup. The tartness was fantastic with the earthy spices in the soup.

 

Apple Butter

16 pounds tart baking apples (I used courtland apples), cored and quartered (leave the skins on the apples)
16 cups apple juice/cider

Zest & Juice of 3 small lemons
2 cup sugar
2 cups maple syrup
2 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cloves
1 Tbsp allspice
1 tsp ginger
1/2 t cardamom
1 cup port
2 star anise pods

In a large stock pot over medium-low heat, cover and simmer apples in apple juice/cider for 2 hours (from the time it starts to bubble). After 2 hours apples should be soft enough to process through a food mill to puree and remove the skins.

Preheat oven to 250F.

Put the pureed apples in a non-reactive large roasting pan (glass or stainless steel). Add lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, cardamom, port and star anise pods. Stir to combine. Leave to bake for 10 hours or until it reaches the desired consistency.  Remove the star anise pods before storing or serving.

Serve on warm biscuits.

 

Refrigerate the apple butter if using in the next few weeks.  Use a water-bath canner to can any apple butter you can’t use (or give away).

 

Freezer Waffles

I’ve been buying frozen waffles for The Kid for months when I had time to shop and coupons to cover them.  They were organic and multi-grain, etc. etc. so needless to say they weren’t particularly inexpensive.  This week, I finished the last box of waffles.  I was talking to the Bestie and she said she just makes waffles and freezes them for my goddaughter and I was inspired to give it a try.  I tried a mix and didn’t really like it so I’ve been putting off looking for a new one.  Due to time restraints, I’ve been shopping mostly in bulk online.  (Subscribe & Save is my version of a personal shopper.)  Unfortunately, bulk shopping makes trying out recipes easier than trying out mixes.

Of course, today, I also realized that I needed to feed my multi-grain sourdough starter (I’ll discuss this adventure later).  Which means I had to take out a cup of sourdough starter.  I still have bread from last week’s feeding. So, since I have a completely sappy inability to throw out any of the sourdough, I had to figure out something to do with it.  What can I say… I’ve become attached to my sourdough starter.  If I feed something/someone on a regular basis I tend to get attached.  I knew the risks when I ordered the sourdough starter… so this is not a surprise for me or anyone who knows me.

 

Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles
(makes 4 Belgian Waffles)

Buttermilk Sourdough Waffles

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup dried buttermilk powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup coconut oil
4 eggs (separate the egg whites from the egg yolks)
1-1/2  cups flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

 

NOTE: If you have an 8-cup glass measuring cup this is the ideal “medium size bowl” so you can see if something is really doubled.

In a medium size bowl, add the starter, warm water, buttermilk powder, salt, sugar and coconut oil.  Whisk to blend.  Whisk in the flour.  Whisk the egg yolks then add to the flour mixture.  Leave the flour mixture to sit until it doubles in volume.  This may take an hour depending on how warm it is in the kitchen.  (Check on it earlier if it’s warm and check on it later if it’s cool in the kitchen).  Leave the egg whites covered on the counter until they reach room temperature.

When the dough is doubled, preheat the waffle iron.

Beat the egg whites until you get stiff peaks. (Turn the beaters upside down.  If the point stands up, It’s ready.  If it falls limply to the side, keep on beating).  Add the vanilla and about a third of the egg whites to the dough using a whisk.  When the egg whites and vanilla are incorporated, add the remaining egg whites to the dough.  You want to add the egg whites without deflating them.  So, use the whisk to fold the egg whites into the dough slowly.

Every waffle iron differs so you’ll need to check the instructions on your waffle iron to determine how to make your waffles.

If serving, hold the finished waffles in a 200F oven until you are ready to go to the table.

If freezing, let waffles cool on a cooling rack then store in plastic bags freezer.  Toast from frozen when ready to serve.

Life Happens… And so do quick meals…

I have a rolling list on my phone (and fridge) of every meal that The Kid and I eat in the week (I used to pack lunches for The Hubs but it got confusing so he handles his breakfast & lunch himself). I have this week’s menu complete and I am starting to figure out next week. Yes, it’s true, I have meal planning OCD. I used to think I was crazy, but thankfully, my Bestie assures me that she has a list too. It’s the only way we know exactly what we need to have available in the fridge (either buy it on the way home or defrost it ahead of time) and how we manage to keep food on the table and lunch in the lunch boxes. No one seems to care how food gets to the table, but they surely want to know what happened when it doesn’t get there. And this is how I ended up standing over the stove at 6am Monday morning cooking coconut rice so it would be ready for me in the evening so I could give I could make something for The Kid’s lunch for Tuesday (how’s that for a breadcrumb trail…lol)

The coconut rice is of course simple. I make my rice using my Foolproof Method but substitute the oil with coconut oil, and substitute the water with a mixture of 1 can of coconut milk and enough chicken stock to make 4 cups. This is of course for 2 cups of uncooked rice. When it’s cooked transfer the rice to a storage container & put it in the fridge. (Feel free to race off to daycare drop-off & work like I did when you’re done.)

I’ve found that my “fried rice” recipes work best with rice that isn’t freshly made. You can use freshly made rice, but I’ve found that the cold rice doesn’t absorb the oil like fresh rice would and you maintain a much better texture with individual grains of rice.

So, fast forward to the evening and I leave work an hour and a half late. I have half an hour before I have to pick up The Kid and nothing else ready in the house for his or my lunch tomorrow. Ooops!!!

Now as luck would have it I had just roasted some red peppers over the weekend, we had steamed snow peas for dinner last Friday, I had a butterflied chicken with two breasts and a thigh left (save the thigh for something else) and two containers of fresh cremini mushrooms. There was no time to cut onions (it was a miracle i sliced through the mushrooms as fast as I did without causing myself harm) and I also had to set up my coffee and The Kid’s breakfast and sippy cups on top of everything else so… trusty roasted garlic purée to the rescue. If I had more time to make it I would have added 1 cup of minced onions.

This is a cut as you go recipe so if you prefer to get everything sliced up before you start expect to stand around in some parts. It was all done and under a lid in less than half an hour, but I apologize since I was trying to beat the clock I can’t give you individual times for everything, just the visual cues.

Chicken & Mushroom Turmeric Fried Rice
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2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 (8 oz.) containers cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin
1 cup minced onions, optional
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp roasted garlic purée
1 roasted red pepper (skins & seeds removed), minced
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1-1/2 cups snow peas, cooked or defrosted from frozen, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock/drippings
Coconut Rice
1 tbsp salt

You’ll need a very large skillet. If you don’t have one (or aren’t feeding a child with an appetite far beyond his years….) Halve the recipe and use a normal skillet.

Get the skillet on the stove over medium heat before you start doing anything else. You want the pot really hot to caramelize (not steam) the mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms while the pan is heating up. You know the pan is ready if you drop a few small droplets of water in the dry pan (no oil yet until the pan passes the test) and the water droplet dances around the pan. Then add the oil followed quickly by the mushrooms. Spread the mushrooms around and go start cutting up everything else. Leave the mushrooms alone until you start seeing them turn a caramel color and start to curl. Then, move them around the pan so the get coated in oil. (If you are adding onions this is the place to do it. Let the onions get just a little browned, but not burnt.) When the mushrooms look wilted and caramelized, add minced roasted red peppers, garlic purée, turmeric, and smoked paprika. Move everything around the pan. The spices should begin to stick. Add the chicken and coat with the spiced mushroom mixture. Next add the chicken stock/drippings and scrape up the all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the corn and peas. Finally, add the coconut rice. You will likely need to use your hands to break up the rice to get everything mixed together. When everything is mixed, turn the heat to low, cover and leave for at least half an hour for the rice to warm through and the favors to meld.

Breakfast of Champions (…who like spices)

I have not been able to prove it yet, but I am sure there is a little man pushing fast-forward on all the clocks around me. Sometimes I just don’t know where the time goes. So, lately most of the cooking I’ve been doing is the multi-tasking variety. The food kind of cooks itself while I do everything else and when I come back, I push a button (of sorts) and it’s all done. That’s how I got to this morning’s breakfast. Thanks to The Bestie, I fell in love with horchata recently. She has been a huge fan for years, but for some (completely ridiculous reason) I refused to try it. Then I made it and after one sip, I was done for. Completely, utterly in love! Which led me to another thought… I could “horchata” any grain not just rice.

This was the winter that wasn’t which I suspect is going to be good and bad. Plants are going to get a head start and look awesome, but allergies are going to be monster, so I’ve been putting local honey in something for everyone in the house on almost a daily basis. Even though I’m excited for all the seasonal spring foods my usual winter craving of oatmeal has suffered. There is something about winter that makes me crave oatmeal, but I just can’t eat it when it’s warm outside. Maybe it’s a mental block, but I just can’t. I used to do a lot of baking so the oatmeal could go into oatmeal-raisin cookies during the summer. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you spin the coin), The Kid doesn’t like sweets so I haven’t baked in what feels like forever.

 

HorchataPreSoak.jpg

Then last night, I figured I’d try something out…. Cinnamon-Cherry Oatmeal Horchata…. sounds reasonable… I can make a cookie without making a cookie… So, I filled the blender with

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups water
1 tablespoon local honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup tart dried cherries

CinnamonCherryOatmealHorchata.jpg

and let it sit overnight. Then this morning, I just pureed, poured over ice and ran out the house. I took a sip in the driveway just as I was about to hit reverse and… Hold the Phone! This is GOOD. I actually paused to take another sip. The plan was to drink it at my desk, but before I got to work it was all gone.  I blame the traffic lights. Alas, I will endeavor to try again tomorrow. Oh the possibilities… I think I’m adding about an ounce of raw cashews tomorrow.

I also grabbed a Ginger-Vanilla Yogurt with Apple Pie Spice on the way out too. I have developed a bit of a yogurt obsession and I think I’m going to have to make a page dedicated to my yogurt experiments. There was a Bananas-Foster Coconut Yogurt trial that was surprisingly good. So I know I’ll need to remember that one for the future. But back to the yogurt at hand. I have tons of preserves and jams that I picked up when I was making cookies, but have been

GingerVanillaYogurtApplePieSpice.jpg

sadly ignored lately. Now that I’m making yogurt, this seems like the best opportunity to use them all up and make more room in the pantry since I want to start trying to make my own preserves with whatever fruits look good this summer. When I saw the container of ginger preserves in the cupboard, I instantly thought of a Ginger-Apple Pie. So, I figured I’d run with it. I spooned 1 heaping tablespoon ginger preserves in each of the yogurt maker’s 7 glass containers, heated up 1 quart of whole milk to 180F, and left it to cool down on the stove until it was under 100F (okay, yes, I’ll admit that I forgot about it on the back of the stove for a bit), then I mixed in 1 packet of freeze dried yogurt starter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon apple pie spice. Then left it for 11 hours until the machine beeped. I added 1 tablespoon local honey to each of the yogurt maker’s 7 glass containers, sealed them all up and refrigerated until cold.

I’ve been eating this Ginger-Vanilla Yogurt with Apple Pie Spice for the past few days and it is phenomenal. Ok… I should start by saying that I love ginger. LOVE!! I have no idea where I got the ginger preserves that I used, but now I’m determined to figure out how to make ginger preserves. I must make this again!

 

“Excuse me, What is that in your cup?!”


Chia Seeds

I drink a LOT of water. I’m not a big fan of soda and I water down juice because I think it’s too sweet. My best friend (The Bestie) laughs at me for drinking juice like a kid, but my mom always watered it down when I was a kid and I guess I just never really got the taste of it full strength. When you drink as much water as I do, you tend to start adding things to the water to make it more interesting. I used to add lemon, then when I was pregnant the acid would make me sick. The memory of the taste and the feeling still lingers for some odd reason so now I can’t drink lemon in water.

When I was pregnant, I found out about Barefoot Running and Chia Seeds through Christopher McDougall, the author of Born to Run. He explained that one of the secrets of the Tarahumara’s endurance was Chia Seeds. I am definitely someone that will try anything. So, I searched on the internet and ordered a bag online. (Of course now they’re in the Natural/Organic section of just about any supermarket so it makes it easier to pick up.) I decided to be careful and wait until after I was pregnant to try the Chia Seeds since I just didn’t want to take any chances with The Kid. Instead, I started researching it and used The Hubs as the test subject. The Hubs said he definitely felt a difference on days he had Chia before a run vs. days he didn’t. He just had more gas in the tank. I was amazed that there was so much information out there on this little seed and I’d never heard of it before.

Chia Seeds in Water

The most interesting claim I found was flax seeds which everyone was eating whole weren’t in a form that the body could break down. Seriously? Do you know how much flax I ate? The antioxidants and nutrients in the Chia Seeds was easily available since the seed coat breaks down when you soak them in water. Once you see the gel come out (and they look like alien eggs) you can get all the nutrients without having to grind them. And considering the flax seeds had to take up residence in the refrigerator because they could go bad and lose their nutritive value, I jumped on the Chia Bandwagon quickly because space is always at a premium in my fridge.

Now I put chia in my water daily partly because I know it’s good for me and partly because I like the texture. Okay… it’s mostly because I like the texture. I usually have water in my cup so I have to find ways to keep it interesting. You can make the gel and add a few tablespoons of gel to your water, but I just shortcut it and put about a 1/8 – 1/4 cup of the Chia seeds in my 24 oz water cup in the morning let it sit for while I’m drinking my coffee so the seeds release the gel then keep refilling it with water as needed until I get home. There’s enough Chia to last all day and FYI, it looks crazy. I have had people stop me in the hall at work and ask what is in my cup. People who like bubble tea with the tapioca balls in the bottom say the texture is close to that. Of course I drink it with a straw which helps. If you’re really not into the whole texture thing, then Chia seeds are perfect in smoothies. That way you get all the nutritional benefits and no seeds. Oh… and no people looking at you sideways when they see you walking by with your cup in hand.

Odd Food Cravings aren’t just for the Preggers

When I was pregnant, I craved two things: Vegetables and Steak. I thought all chicken smelled rotten for the first 6 months (except for the AMAZING fried chicken one of my friends made) and the only thing that left me truly nauseated was sugar. There was one incident while I was pregnant that illustrated the full madness: I was craving something all day at work, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I drove almost all the way home when I realized I was craving eggplant and crossed two lanes of traffic to turn into the supermarket at the last possible second. While I was there, (and I should preface this story by saying I was not showing at the time) I was trying to find a whole grain baguette for dinner. All they had was regular white flour baguettes. Unfortunately, regular white flour baguettes weren’t an option because they produced the same nausea as anything sugar related. So, I was circling the bread display trying to find a reasonable alternative when the smell of the cake frosting on the cakes in the bakery display started wafting toward me. I started gagging with a vengeance. The woman at the bakery counter started glaring at me, HARD! I’m guessing she thought I was saying her cakes smelled terrible, because that’s how hard she was glaring at me. Of course I was gagging so I couldn’t give the “It’s not you, I’m pregnant” speech, which suddenly struck me as funny and just made the gagging worse. Needless to say I just left the bakery area and gave up on the idea of bread for dinner.

Despite all the promises of “you can eat anything you want when you’re pregnant”, the closest I could get to sugary desserts was fruit. At my shower there were all kinds of cookies and cake and chocolate covered Oreos and I passed them all up for huge cupfuls of the fruit salad that the Bestie (my best friend and food companion) made so I could have something for dessert.

So, I didn’t have any crazy food combo cravings like ice cream and pickles that I had to have while I was pregnant or at least I should say none of the combos were new. I think everyone has weird food combo cravings that they may not eat in public (or admit to eating), but still love to eat at home. And I love finding out what everyone’s secret food combos loves are. One of my main combo loves is hot rice on salad. I love lettuce and other veggies barely wilted under the heat of the hot rice and salad dressing on the whole thing. I cannot understand cold rice salad. I tried it and hated it. During good salad season, I keep rice in the fridge so i can heat it up to add to the salads. My other odd one is grain chips crumbled on fried rice. By grain chips, I mean something like corn tortilla or brown rice chips. Potato chips or any of the other root vegetable chips don’t work for this. I still love regular salads and fried rice on it’s own, but somehow my crazy cravings make them taste even better to me.