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Monthly Archives: December 2012

[15/100] Rescued Apples

Technically, this recipe should be called “baked apples” or “baked stuffed apples,” but really . . . what we’re doing here is rescuing some apples that were going bad.  It makes me sad to lose any fresh produce.   But first, a little bit about the French.

I remember hearing a story once, which may or may not have involved my Great-Grandpa Harvey LaMonte, in which a French cook was asked why he was so scornful of American cooks.  He answered, “Because Americans BUY their bread crumbs.”

Harvey, whether he was the subject of this interview or not, was a great believer in what I call “life cycle” cooking.  On a particular day of each week, he’d bake a bunch of bread.  After the first day or so of ideal freshness had passed, he was making toasted sandwiches and French toast out of it.  By the end of the week, he’d cube it up to bake and season some croutons, and then swept the crumbs into a bag to
freeze until it was needed.  The idea of *buying* breadcrumbs was ridiculous to him.

Now, I admit that I buy breadcrumbs.  We go through a lot of bread, but we don’t bake it fresh . . . and we seldom have bread go unused such that it gets stale for any of these other recipes.  But I still like to use things rather than have them go bad.

Back to the present moment.  It was a quiet evening and I was still bustling with domestic creativity, being in the midst of baking for gifts and such, when I notice the apples languishing on my table, which happened to be Red Delicious (which nobody really likes as eating apples around here, so I can’t be 100% surprised).  I don’t
want to *make* people eat them, but I don’t want them to go bad. Answer:  BAKED APPLES.

ugly applesI’ll warn you now:  This is not a pretty recipe.  (I don’t know how food photographers make ’em look good.) But they’re YUMMY, I promise you.  Making them isn’t so much a recipe as a formula, so you can make them a little bit differently every time if you like.  The idea is to have some depth of flavor with the brown sugar (which I’d recommend over white sugar every time for this dish), some sweet/tart contrast from the dried fruit, and some crunch with the oats or even some chopped nuts.  Once, we totally forgot to add the nutmeg and cinnamon, and everything turned out just fine without those, so REALLY.  Don’t overthink this.  Here’s how we did it last week:

  • Four apples.  If you’ve got a choice, a crisper “meat” (like Granny Smith or MacIntosh) will bake better, but the recipe is great for salvaging the taste of not-so-great apples that happen to be past their prime, so there’s no need to be picky.  Unless you’re French.
  • That’s on you.
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup rolled oats (even instant oatmeal mix will work, in a pinch)
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup chopped dried cranberries (but you can use raisins if you like, or nothing)
  • ¼ cup chopped nuts (if you like them, which I don’t)
  • 4 Tbsp butter (actual, unsalted butter)

Line a baking dish with foil.  OMG don’t forget this step or clean-up will be a real bear.  Wash and core your apples, making sure to leave enough of the bottom that the juices won’t just run straight through. If you accidentally go too deep, then plug up the bottom with some balled-up aluminum foil.  (Just remember to take that bit out before serving!)  Sprinkle the apples with lemon juice.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Portion out and stuff those apples until they can’t take any more, plus a bit on top. Finish each apple with a little “hat” of butter shoved into place. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  After letting them sit for a few minutes, serve with ice cream or whipped cream or caramel.  Keep napkins handy and enjoy!

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2012 in Recipes

 

[14/100] Cranberry Bread Love Affair

It’s no secret that I love cranberries.  I also love baking with cranberries.  And apples, and eggs.  Call it a New England thing.  Anyway…back to cranberries.  This is a recipe I originally got from my mother, but have used often enough, made enough adjustments to, and prepared with such success that it is now MINE ALL MINE.  It’s something we love here at home, but it’s also a surefire way to make friends happy with baked goods as gifts.  You’ll need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached preferred, but it doesn’t matter a whole lot)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, mixed with 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Pro tip:  the difference between baking SODA and baking POWDER really matters.  Maybe you’ve never mixed ’em up, but I have, and it’s awful.

  • 2 Tbsp shortening (I use butter-flavor Crisco-type stuff in stick form for easier measuring)
  • 3/4 cup OJ (don’t go with low-acid or low-pulp; somehow, it doesn’t quite work)
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 cups cranberries

Let’s take a moment to discuss the cranberries.  Here’s how I do it:  I buy 4-6 bags of cranberries when they start to show up at the grocery store.  Freeze them.  When you’ve got a quiet afternoon, pull out the frozen cranberries and give them all few quick pulses in the food processor.  I use my food processor maybe once per year, and it’s totally worth owning the appliance if I only use it for this purpose.  You just want them broken up a bit, because they’re usually too large to really incorporate into the batter and release their flavors when they’re whole.  It’ll be noisy, but do this when they’re frozen, because otherwise it’ll be like cranberries have BLED and DIED all over your kitchen.  When you’re done, dump them into a resealable baggie and freeze them again, to measure out when you need them for whatever recipes.  It’ll add a few minutes to the baking time, but using them frozen also keeps them from turning the batter pink.  (Pink bread is tasty, but it doesn’t look as nice.)

Sift together all the dry ingredients, then cut in the shortening until it’s finely distributed.  Combine egg and OJ, then mix until moist.  Gently fold in 2 generous cups of cranberries at the last minute.  Spoon into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 45-60 minutes.  Image

This is a big range, I know, but it kinda depends on your oven.  You can use the “stick in a toothpick and see if it comes out dry” technique.  I usually just sort of thump on the top of my loaf with my fingers.  When it sounds a bit hollow and smells really toasty, then it’s done.  You want to middle top to seem quite set.

Stay tuned for a baked apple recipe for a note on the (optional) struesel topping we tested this year!

Also, I need better photography, because they’re totally tastier than they look here.

*For the holidays, I typically double the recipe, which is still manageable in a regular mixing bowl.  That amount of batter will fill up three of those smallish foil pans.  

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2012 in Recipes

 

[13/100] Cocoa Mix (in which measurements matter)

You know how, in lots of recipes, precision in measurement doesn’t really matter?  Like stew.  And in others — like, baking recipes that are more like chemistry — it really does matter?  Like cornbread.  This is one of those recipes where it matters, but not quite in the way you’d think.  Stay with me.  

This is a “big batch” recipe for hot cocoa mix, a family tradition that’s sort of evolved into The Gift We Give to Teachers (and coaches, and bus drivers, and and and).  I have never made less than one batch of this; likewise, it’s very difficult to make a double batch because a single batch uses my largest mixing bowl!  You’ll need:

  • 1/2 tsp salt — doesn’t seem like much, but it matters
  • 2 cups nonfat dry milk
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar — YES, FOUR CUPS
  • 4 1/4 cups chocolate mix for milk — do not use hot cocoa mix
  • 2 3/4 cups non-dairy powdered creamer (unflavored)
  • 2 cups non-dairy powdered creamer (flavored) — any flavor works, as long as you like it

I would recommend adding only one ingredient at a time and mixing it in thoroughly before adding the next.  Store in an airtight container.  Will keep all winter.  To serve, mix 2 heaping Tbsp into a mug of warm milk or water.  Paleo schmaleo.  If you want to use this for gifting purposes, just know that one batch will fill something like six 1-pint glass jars.  Tiny hats optional.

Image

Here’s where measurements matter, and where I tend to mess up:  16 oz by weight is not the same as 15 oz by volume.  Let’s say you purchase a standard-size container of non-diary (dry) flavored coffee creamer.  The label says NET WT 15 OZ.  Do not assume that, because 2 cups (by volume) equals 16 oz, you can just dump the whole container in without measuring.  Because I assure you there is much more than 16 oz by volume in that container.  

Of course, this kind of error won’t make your cocoa mix FAIL.  It could very well be AWESOME and what you want to do every single time for ever and ever, amen.  But if you make an error like this with, say, bread cubes for stuffing, it’ll throw everything way off and you’ll end up with stuffing out the wazoo.  Just saying.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

[12/100] Spaghetti with Sausage and Squash

If you’ve been reading this, by now you understand there are certain qualities I like in a recipe.

  1. Does it require less than 30 minutes of hands-on time and effort?  Just what I need.
  2. Does it use fewer than three pans? I’m listening.
  3. Does it include veggies such that I don’t have to cook a separate side? SIGN ME UP.

This particular recipe fulfills all those desires (oh, baby) and more.  Butternut squash, I’m looking at you. Image (I’ll be honest and say I made this dinner on a night when my husband was out of the house, because he’s scornful of butternut squash and the turkey sausage I used in this recipe.  But everyone else loved it, I swear.)  Very nice autumnal scents and flavors, plus a lot of ease and ZERO leftovers.  Here’s what you’ll need for six hearty servings:

  • 2 x 12 oz baggies of pre-cut butternut squash, as pictured here (or probably one medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed all small and adorable) — I think cubing butternut squash has got to be one of the most tedious prep cooking tasks een ze vorld, so I’m happy to avoid doing it.  There is nothing added to the pre-cut stuff other than a bit more $ per ounce, but the added safety and time savings are well worth it to me.  
  • approx. 8 oz of turkey sausage, all crumbled-like (but not pre-cooked) — I prefer the sweet “breakfast” style of sausage, generally…you’ll need to cut it outta the skin and sort of pinch off bits and pieces with your fingers (messy but not difficult)
  • 1 red onion, sliced into rings or half rings — yes, the sort of onion matters here
  • some spaghetti sufficient for the meal — I never know quite how to measure the servings and either do not quite enough or 47x what we need
  • about 1 cup of some sort of shaved or grated hard cheese, like pecorino or romano or parmesan (depending on your choices and level of snootiness)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  On a rimmed baking sheet (even a cookie sheet will do), toss the squash with the sausage and onion.  I recommend lining the sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil first, because hey.  CLEANUP.  The sausage will generate some juice, so you don’t need to add oil, but feel free to sprinkle on some kosher salt and black pepper if you like.  Kinda depends on how seasoned your sausage is already.  Place in the oven and roast, tossing occasionally, until tender.  This will take about 30-35 minutes.

While that’s happening, prepare your spaghetti — or whatever pasta you prefer — according to the directions on the packaging.  Before draining, reserve about one cup of the cooking water.  After draining, toss the spaghetti with the roasted veggies, the cheese, and as much of the cooking water as you need to make it all smooth.  (It might be just 1/2-cup, so start slowly.  You don’t want this to get all watery!)  

As an alternative, you can serve the spaghetti on its own and allow diners to spoon the veggies on top and garnish with cheese.  In that case, you don’t need to save the cooking water.  Still quite yummy.  Reheats like a BOSS.  

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Uncategorized