Happy Thanksgiving!

tday2How has your week been so far? Did you cook over the weekend? Have you cleaned out the fridge so there is room for the turkey? Are your linens pressed? Do you have your time-table ready for the big day or are you one of the lucky ones and eating at someone else’s home?

Despite the fact they are predicting snow for the big day, I am forging ahead with the biggest culinary day of the year and not listening to the forecast! I am a little bit behind the 8 ball this year and next week I’ll tell you why! I made my favorite Astor House Rolls over the weekend, but I still have squash to roast, creamed onions to make (I’m probably the last person on earth who likes these, but I had a craving for them this year), and I still need to make a pie! No rest for the weary cook! But in the meantime, I raise my glass to my ever faithful and supportive readers for a happy holiday and for a meal filled with delicious food!

Happy Thanksgiving!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving Day Culinary Crisis Averted!
endors2I enjoyed listening to a recent “America’s Test Kitchen Radio” podcast, where Christopher Kimball chatted with an expert from Butterball’s Turkey Talkline and some of the questions they have received through the years. So don’t worry if you have questions about your turkey on Thursday, they will be available to answer them for you! Just call 1-800-Butterball! Or a local chef who has her own cooking shop has her own Thanksgiving hotline and will be accepting calls from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Thursday! You can call Chef Contos at 802-318-7328.

Recipe Redux: Astor House Rolls

I first brought you this recipe two years ago around this time and since then they have become an early winter staple in our house. If you aren’t afraid of yeast and want to make rolls for your Thanksgiving meal, these are the ones to make! Warmed with some good butter, they are to die for. I like all rolls, but those made with milk add a bit of richness to them. Light and airy, I have made these several times and have never had any problems with them—a foolproof recipe! You can make them this weekend and pop them in the freezer; take them out Thursday morning and they will be thawed by dinner time!

astoruseAstor House Rolls
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser, p. 652

1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
About 6 cups all-purpose flour, or more as needed
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups whole milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
7 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter

1. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy. Put 5 cups of flour in a large bowl (you can use a mixer with a dough hook if you want) and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, softened butter, and milk and stir, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Then stir and beat the mixture until a ball of dough has formed. Pour the dough and any remaining flour onto a work surface and gradually knead in the remaining 1 cup flour.

2. Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let rise until light and fluffy and almost doubled.

3. Punch down the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes–you should need very little, if any, extra flour for this step. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.

4. Punch down the dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round (see ** at end), keep the other pieces covered with plastic wrap while you work. Beginning with the first round, flatten each roll, seam side up, to 1/2-inch thick. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the center, lift one edge of the dough, and pull it up and over the butter, forming a turnover-shaped roll, and pinch the ends firmly closed to seal in the butter. Arranged rolls 3 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets (or baking sheets covered with parchment). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

5. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Bake until the rolls are puffed, golden, and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool on baking racks.

Makes 22 rolls.

Originally published in the New York Times, October 27, 1878: “Useful Hints for Housekeepers.” Recipe signed Lillie.

** To shape rolls, follow the instructions of Nancy Silverton in her book Breads from the La Brea Bakery: “Shape the dough into balls by cupping your hand lightly around the dough and rounding it against the friction of the work surface to form a smooth bun. Begin slowly and increase speed as the ball becomes tighter and smoother. Use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking.”

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving all in one place!
I know I extol the ingenuity of The New York Times probably a little too much, but when it comes to holidays, it is one of my first stops! So if your Thanksgiving meal isn’t completely planned, take a look at their website, where you can find everything from the turkey to the desserts and everything in between. Tips on how to roast a turkey, make a pie crust, how to make gravy, plus tips for a vegetarian meal. You name it, they have you covered!

I’m not completely set on my menu, so I know I’m going to spend a lot of time here this week! You can find this great resource here.

Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti

As someone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd for several years now, I find one of the hardest things to make for the meal is mashed potatoes. I don’t have a microwave, so if I make them in advance they are difficult to reheat, but then I don’t want to make them at the time I’m head over heels fixing the turkey and gravy either. So when I suggested to the Eater of the House the idea of a different kind of potato dish that I could make in advance and reheat easily, I was greeted with silence. “Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?” I heard a few minutes later. I got it. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

But, if I were making a potato side for the meal, this would be it. I tried it out with a roast chicken supper one Sunday night and it was so delicious. Crispy potatoes and leeks, my favorite, with a hint of smoky meat and fresh sage. I substituted three slices of bacon for the pancetta and it was delicious. It would also make for a tasty weeknight main dish with a side salad. So for those of you looking for a different kind of potato side for your Thanksgiving meal, try this! And you can make it ahead! Cool on a wire rack, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in an ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it is recrisped. And just leave out the pancetta for the vegetarian version!

rosti
Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

4 1/2 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 2 pounds)
3 ounces diced pancetta (such as Boar’s Head)
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place shredded potato on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; squeeze cheesecloth to extract excess moisture. Place potato in a bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Stir in leek; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add pancetta mixture, flour, sage, salt, pepper, and egg to potato; stir well to combine.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add potato mixture to pan; flatten with a spatula into an even layer. Cook 12 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Place a large plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate. Carefully slide potato cake into pan, browned side up; cook 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place potato cake on a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut into 8 wedges.

chefMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “Chef”
Enough about Thanksgiving! If you are looking for a feel-good movie that is a love story to food, check out “Chef.” It’s just out on DVD. I had been wanting to see this movie all summer when it was in the theater, but there was never a right time. So a lazy November Sunday afternoon it was! A well-known chef quits his comfortable job in a restaurant where his creativity is hindered and decides to open his own food truck where he lets his creativity shine. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel good, which seem to be few and far between these days. It has a happy ending, a bit unrealistic, but I walked away inspired, wanting to get in the kitchen and start cooking! And you’ll also think about making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me!

 

Recipe Redux: Candy Corn Cookies

jackolanternSince it’s Halloween week, I thought I would pop in a day early with this week’s recipe so you have extra time to grab these ingredients if you want to make these cute little sugar cookies! While I don’t normally give you two sweet recipes in a row, I couldn’t resist a trip back to these cookies, which I originally posted in 2012.

Living in the country, we don’t get door-to-door trick or treaters; the only ones who have visited through the years were our next door neighbors and all four kids have since grown up. So when I made these, I gave bags to co-workers and friends as this recipe makes a lot because I made them the actual candy corn size, but you can always make the cookies bigger. And watch out, these are delicious and being so small, you can definitely get carried away with having “just one more!”

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Aren’t these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!

Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

marthaMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Thanksgiving-Themed Cooking Magazines
Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. Since it is a little later than usual this year, now is the time to gather together the Thanksgiving-themed magazines to see what recipes you’d like to try out for this year’s meal! There are so many out there: Cooking LightMartha Stewart Living, EatingWell, Bon Appetit. I guarantee you’ll find more recipes than you can cook for your Thanksgiving dinner!

Speaking of Pumpkin…

The days of warmth and color are quickly becoming a memory.

The days of warmth and color are quickly becoming a memory.

Last week I talked about how everything lately is pumpkin spice flavored. So I had to bring you a recipe; I began the season with apples, and now that’s it’s crisp and dark outside, it’s time for the warmth of pumpkins!

The Eater of the House likes anything pumpkin: bread, pancakes, but his favorite is pumpkin pie. One year I said I’d make one, but in a fit of laziness, decided to make it without the crust and it became a new fall favorite! And without my beloved crust, it makes for a lot easier and healthier dessert.

The recipe, believe it or not, comes from the back of the condensed milk can! One bowl and five minutes, it takes longer for the oven to preheat than it does to actually mix it all together. I call it a pudding, because without a crust, cutting it into an actual pie slice is rather difficult. So I do my best, and put it in a serving dish. But of course, you can put it in an unbaked pie crust and serve it for Thanksgiving dessert!

unnamedPerfect Pumpkin “Pudding”
This recipe is adapted from the original Eagle Brand® recipe for Perfect Pumpkin Pie.

1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Pour into a greased pie pan. Cook for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the pudding comes out clean. Cool. Top with whipped cream.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: New York Times Cooking Newsletter
unnamedIf you’re like me and can’t get enough stories about food, the New York Times now has a cooking newsletter that can be delivered right to your inbox several times a week! Written by food editor, Sam Sifton, you’ll find food stories and recipes, and I’ve found it’s a great way to get inspired for dinner and other meals. For example, Sunday’s newsletter was “Cook on Sunday, be Thankful on Monday.” Who doesn’t want that? In addition, you have access to all of the recipes printed in the New York Times and you can create your own recipe box to save recipes for later instead of printing it out. A few days ago, Sifton wrote about stuffed baked potatoes and I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind. Stay tuned, I’m sure I’ll be making some soon!

To subscribe, click here.

 

A Homemade Valentine’s Day Dinner

I thought I’d pop in early this week to pass along a Valentine’s Day dinner menu for you in case you were thinking of making a special meal on Friday night! I’m not one to really celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I never need an excuse to make a nice dinner. Restaurants always raise their prices and they’re usually packed, so I usually opt for making a special dinner at home. CookingVintageValentineSince Friday is a work night, the choices on this menu is special enough for the holiday, yet easy enough to put together after a long week at the office.

So let’s start with cocktails! Since it’s a special night, it calls for making a special cocktail! Care to go retro? Try my ManhattanIf you want to splurge on the juice, try a pomegranate martini. Or if your meal is on the spicy side, how about a margarita?  

You must have something to serve alongside your cocktails! The stuffed mushroom recipe I make is easy, and you can make these the night before and just pop them in the oven when you get home. If you have extra time, this recipe for gougères is to die for, and are best right out of the oven–just don’t burn your tongue! Or this recipe for Artichoke Dip is always a crowd favorite. If it’s just the two of you, you can refrigerate the leftovers and warm the next evening and it will still be delicious.

Soup or salad? I will always go for salad whenever given the choice. You could make a simple salad of  greens but include something special like avocado or my favorite, Hearts of Palms. These run about $3+ a can, so I buy them only on rare occasions. Maybe a few grape tomatoes, a quick vinaigrette, and you’re set!

I always think seafood makes a special meal. You could make this scallop recipe (and forego the aforementioned salad), or linguini with clam sauce, which is quick and easy. Or what about this salmon recipe? Just pop the fish in the oven and make the quick sauce on the stove. If you have a little extra time and money, this Brazilian Stew is fantastic! A bit of crusty bread and dinner is served!

Dessert anyone? If you want something chocolaty, you could make these brownies the night before and serve warmed with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. Or what about gingerbread? This cozy cake is another recipe you can make in advance. Of course, one of the most special recipes of all is Julia Child’s chocolate mousse. This must be made in advance, so that way it will be ready and you can focus on the rest of the meal.

Whatever you have or make for dinner on Friday, whether it’s an elaborate four course dinner or takeout pizza, I hope you can share it with someone you love. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Merry Christmas!

vintage_christmas_girl_baking_cookies_poster-p228519991634616872836v_500 I thought I would pop in early this week to wish you a Merry Christmas and to give you one last holiday recipe for 2013! And it is one you can easily make to serve on Christmas morning if you like!

I love eggnog and eggnog flavored anything, be it ice cream, lattes, or coffee. Anytime I see something eggnog flavored, I will try it! So when I found this recipe for Eggnog Coffee Cake, I knew I had to make it.

Moist, easy to make, I cut this into half and tucked some into the freezer for a lazy Sunday morning later on this winter!

Merry Christmas!

Eggnog Coffee Cake
This recipe originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Cooking Light.

Crumble:

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cake:

6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Baking spray with flour

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare crumble, combine first 4 ingredients in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter using a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in toasted pecans.

3. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 6.75 ounces flour and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt); stir with a whisk. Place 3 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Add whole egg and egg yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, sour cream, and vanilla; beat at low speed for 1 minute or until well combined. Add the flour mixture; beat at low speed 1 minute or just until combined.

4. Spoon half of batter into an 8-inch round metal cake pan coated with baking spray. Sprinkle with half of crumble mixture. Spread remaining batter over crumble, smoothing top with a spatula. Sprinkle evenly with remaining crumble mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Place a plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate. Place another plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate.

My Vermont Kitchen Gets Out of the Kitchen! Plus a Christmas Cookie Recipe

Chris isn't in Vermont anymore!

Chris isn’t in Vermont anymore!

I mentioned right after Thanksgiving that the month of December was crazy, and that’s no lie. Between work during the week, the weekends have been devoted to traveling, so I’ve been getting out of the kitchen and having other people cook for me, which I admit has been quite the treat!

But before I get to my travels, I thought, since it tis the season, I’d bring you my favorite Christmas cookie recipe. Apologies in advance to my longtime readers, who see me haul this out every year, but to be honest, if I have time to make just one Christmas cookie (or eat one!) during the season, these are it. I can think of nothing better than butter, sugar, and walnuts. So for my new readers, this is my hands down favorite Christmas cookie. No need to pull out the cookie cutters and they are hardly fussy.

This is a family recipe that I think everyone in my family has made at one point or another in their cooking lifetime. The original recipe calls them Butter Fingers, but to be easy, we always formed them into little round balls, hence their “new” name. I recommend a nice cup of coffee or tea with a cookie or two. They are moist and yummy, and like all older recipes, the directions are sparse!

butterball2
Butterballs
14 Tablespoons butter, softened
4 Tablespoons confectioner sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup ground nuts (I usually use walnuts, but pecans are good, too)
2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon water, mixed

Mix and shape with hands. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Watch to make sure they don’t get too brown. When cool, roll in confectioner sugar.

* * * *

A really bad hair day, but I'm very happy!

A really bad hair day, but I’m very happy!

Last weekend I took the bus down to New York to meet up with my friend, Jana, who lives in Seattle. Besides going to museums and walking through Central Park, we ate at some pretty spectacular places, most which might not make it on your radar, so I thought I’d give a little synopsis in case you find yourself in the Big Apple in the near future and are looking for something to eat!

(I’m sorry for the lack of photographs. I tried taking a photo at the first restaurant, it turned out terrible, so I decided to go without. But the pictures and flavors are in my mind and memory, I just wish you all could enjoy them!)

We started late Saturday afternoon by walking to East Harlem and we went to El Paso http://elpasony.com/ (1643 Lexington Avenue) for a late lunch. I was famished; I’d been on the road since 7 a.m., so my three tacos: chirizo, cecina [salted beef], and asada [grilled beef] were spectacular. Also incredible was the guacamole (probably the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant!) and house-made totopos (tortilla chips). Next time I could just order that and be very happy. I should have taken the traditional route and tried one of their specialty margaritas instead of my usual vodka martini. This was a  wonderful restaurant if you want authentic Mexican food, as my sister-in-law would say. The service was wonderful and the food incredibly delicious. What more could you want?

DSCN0787

I read that this year’s tree had FIVE miles of lights on it! I thought I might be disappointed, but I wasn’t, despite the crowds!

From here it was a train ride to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree along with two million other people, and a walk down 5th Avenue. We decided to stop in at a lovely Italian restaurant, Mozzarella & Vino (33 West 54th Street). I decided to have a glass of Italian chardonnay, which was lovely. After sitting and chatting for quite some time, we decided we were hungry again and decided to have another bite to eat. Since mozzarella is half the name of the restaurant, they obviously focus on cheese, so we ordered a tasting platter of three different cheeses with some bread: mozzarella, burrata, and a smoked mozzarella. I’ve only read about burrata cheese in cooking magazines; the outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream; in other words, heaven. I am going to have to seek this out in Vermont. Yet again, I could have ordered and eaten this entire appetizer by myself and been perfectly content. Next time!

rtr-300x225Lots more walking and we were getting tired. Near Times Square and getting cold, we made our way to the subway. Walking past Carnegie Hall and lots of old New York landmarks, I was cold but excited to see these places in person. And then it was right in front of us: The Russian Tea Room (150th West 57th Street)! Almost my entire life I’ve heard about this restaurant, through books and movies. When my book club read Anna Karinina and I was hosting, I went to their website to see what they served so I could cook an authentic Russian meal. Even though they were closing in 30 minutes, we  had enough time to have a cocktail and nightcap at the bar. Stolichnaya martini for me (of course, I had to be authentic and it’s my vodka of choice!) and Irish Coffee for my friend. It would be exciting to be there on New Year’s Eve, but their $500 per person for the six-course meal is a bit cost prohibitive!

Sunday morning, dark and gray, but after a brisk walk through Central Park, we made our way to a nice coffee shop for breakfast. Apologies, I didn’t pay attention to the name, but the breakfast burrito was delicious and held me through a late morning and afternoon of museum walkings until a slice of New York veggie pizza late afternoon. Then dinner was mecca: Mario Batali’s Eataly (200 5th Avenue in the Flatiron neighborhood).

Like I said, bad photos, but this is what greeted us at our table.

Like I said, bad photos, but this is what greeted us at our table.

Mario isn’t my favorite celebrity chef, but he does have a connection with Italian cook Lidia Bastianch, so I was still excited. I’ve never been to a place like this; it’s a market, but also a sort of cafeteria. Over here is the antipasto section, the shellfish area, the fish area, the pizza and pasta area over here. So diners choose what and where they would like to eat. After walking all over Manhattan and two museums that day, we were pooped, so standing at the antipasto area was out of the question. We chose to take the elevator up 14 stories to eat at their brew pub, Birreria. We spent about 15 minutes trying to decide what I wanted to eat because everything looked delicious! And it was. We had a grilled portobello with whipped burrata (again!) with small raw beets and a house-made pork and beef sausage with braised red cabbage and speck. (This was the second time we saw speck on a menu, and I investigated what it was, because I had never heard of it before. Click on the hyperlink. Trust me, it’s delicious.) Our waiter was wonderful and I’m still trying to place who he reminds me of, although we confirmed our paths have never crossed, and it was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

Monday morning, with a few flakes of snow in the air, we decided to take a historic walk through Harlem, which was exciting and educational. But it was getting to be late morning, we hadn’t eaten and we were hungry. So our trusty guidebook took us to Amy Ruth’s, and I couldn’t have been more happy to be here for my last meal in the city. A traditional “soul food” restaurant, a description I sort of dislike, but this was it–and it was incredible. Each meal was named for a famous African American; I ordered the President Barack Obama (fried chicken with cheesy grits and collard greens) and Jana ordered the Rev. Al Sharpton (smothered chicken and waffles), with fresh, moist cornbread to start. For me, fried chicken will always be on the menu for my last supper; growing up my birthday dinner request always was fried chicken and chocolate cake. And with all due apologies to my dad, this fried chicken, eaten at 11:30 in the morning in Harlem, was the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten.

The chicken was able to tide me over until Massachusetts. My bus driver surprised me by stopping at a store so us weary travelers could stop and pick up something to eat. Needless to say, the stale roast beef and cheddar sandwich was my least favorite meal of the weekend.

There are a million other restaurants in New York, I’d love to try them all, but to be honest, if I went back to these restaurants, I’d be happy as a clam!

Homemade Applesauce

DSCN0687How could I let the month of October go by without an apple recipe?

Growing up, every Sunday we would pile into the car and go about eight miles to Ellie’s to pick up our weekly apples. Ellie reminded me a lot of my Grandma Koli, and she had a wonderful farm stand and gift shop, which was a bit on the old-fashioned side with little china trinkets. (It was the first time I saw the sign, “you break it, you buy it” which always led me to wonder if I actually had enough money in my piggy bank, just in case!) Ellie always let my brother, sister, and myself pick out one apple to munch on the way home. The apples would be in wooden crates and I would always dig through to find the biggest, reddest apple. It is an autumn tradition I remember fondly.

Subconsciously–or not–I’ve continued this tradition every fall. The apple orchard in our little town used to be on my long Sunday walk, so I would walk, pick up my apples (and cider doughnuts), and then walk back, exercising off the just-eaten doughnuts. But a few years ago, they moved their “store” to their other orchard, a few miles away that is not on my regular walking route. I have walked it, but it’s on a main road and my backpack would be laden down with apples, cider, and sometimes maple syrup, so it’s just not fun. Since the move, I drive over every Sunday after 4 p.m., when the apple picking crowd is starting to thin, and select my apples and Concord grapes for the week.

Helpful Kitchen Tip: I use Cortland apples for both applesauce and pies, as their flavor is sweet, not too tart, and they have a bit of water which is good for baking. If you select a harder apple, like a McIntosh, they will be great, they’ll just take longer to cook and more sweetener, depending on your taste. Another tip, if you have a food mill, you don’t have to worry about paring the apples; just core, dice, and the food mill will eliminate the skins for you! Cooking with the skins on adds a bit of pink to the sauce!

Homemade applesauce is delicious and easy to make. All you have to do is peel and dice some apples, put it in a saucepan with a little bit of water, and leave it on the stove top to cook. Add some more water, if needed, sweetener, cinnamon and/or nutmeg, and you’re done! And this time of year is perfect; a roasted chicken, some roasted root veggies, a simple green salad, and you have a perfect autumn meal to warm you on a chilly evening!

DSCN0686
Homemade Applesauce
I like my applesauce to have a little bit of texture, so I sometimes don’t cook the apples fully, so there are pieces of apple. Honey adds a different layer of flavor, but you can always use white or brown sugar.

4 Cortland apples, fairly large
1-2 Tablespoons honey or sugar
¼ cup of water, more if necessary
Cinnamon
Nutmeg

1. With a paring knife, peel and dice the apples. Place in a saucepan with ¼ cup of water.

2. On low heat, cook the apples, occasionally stirring them. Add more water, a quarter cup at a time, if you find they are getting too dry. When the sauce it at the consistency you like, add one tablespoon of honey or sugar, taste test, and add more to get the right sweetness.

3. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. You can keep this in the refrigerator for at least four weeks.

Just in Time for Halloween!
In case you missed this recipe last year, I thought I’d bring it to you again. Surprisingly enough to me, it was my most popular recipe EVER! Sadly, it is not my own, but it was fun to make and you could whip up a batch this weekend for the little trick-or-treaters who will knock on the door next Thursday or give away to your co-workers like I did!

Candy Corn Cookies