Saturday, September 24, 2011

Naked Applesauce....just one ingredient

Naked applesauce...ok, I broke down and sprinkled in some cinnamon.

Once again, my friend and co-worker, Brenda, was kind enough to bring me some produce....this time some apples. I'm not quite sure where she got the apples (and I'm not asking--lol), but I was happy she shared some with me. The thing is, while these apples were tasty--crisp and tart/sweet--they were pretty ugly.

When life gives you ugly apples....make applesauce!

I managed to eat a few...really who cares what they look like? Still, I had several left and, while I am the queen of naughty desserts (stay tuned for the Apple Crack I plan to make), I was coming down from a sugar high when I decided to make some good, old-fashioned applesauce. Seriously, there is no recipe for this....just follow along.

Rinse off your apples. I'm not going to peel these...just make sure to use organic apples if you don't. Your local apple orchard may just sell you some of their less-than-perfect apples for a good price. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Cut off any real icky spots (no worms, please) and then just quarter the apples and put them, seeds and all, in a large saucepan. The water from rinsing them is probably all you need, but if your apples aren't very juicy, add a tablespoon or two of water to the pot.

Now, put a cover on the saucepan and place the pot over medium heat. Let the apples cook (add a little more water if it seems that they are scorching) until they are fork tender, 15-20 minutes. They will smell awesome. 

This is a food mill. They cost about $25 and come in handy for many things. I like to put roasted tomatoes through the mill for excellent tomato soup. 

Add the cooked apples to the food mill and turn the crank clockwise and then counter-clockwise several times (this  gets all the pulp out of there and leaves behind the skin and seeds). Depending on how many apples you have, you may have to batch this out.

Stir in a bit of cinnamon, if you like. It really doesn't need sugar--trust me. The sweetness will really depend on the kind of apple you use. Try Golden Delicious if you like it sweeter.

What kind of apples should you use? Shoot, I wasn't even sure what kind I had--I'm thinking they were McIntosh--but use a good cooking apple. Haralson, Honeycrisp. McIntosh, Golden Delicious....the possibilities are endless. If you are into canning (I don't have a clue how.. plus I made a fairly small batch), go ahead and do it while the sauce is warm. I like to eat it while it's warm...

Yum...peanut butter on raisin bread toast with warm applesauce.

How do you eat your applesauce?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

Last weekend was the official start of my Fall baking season. It was cold and a little rainy...perfect weather to stay in and bake. Really, I should have been at the apple orchard on Saturday, but that will keep for this weekend when the weather will be back in the 70's......

One thing I made that I haven't made for a while was a batch of cinnamon rolls. In fact, I fully intended to post a how-to on the making of basic cinnamon rolls, but I got a late start. It was a pretty good batch, too. I added some apple pieces instead of pecans, and put some cinnamon in the icing....not fancy, but pretty darn good. My cinnamon roll recipe turns out 12 relatively large rolls....too many for us, now that my daughter and her boyfriend are at school. And those homemade rolls get stale pretty quickly, no?

Day-old cinnamon rolls make might fine bread pudding.....

What to do? Well, I was born and raised in the Midwest, where no self-respecting home cook wastes anything. Stale bread makes great French toast. Stale cinnamon rolls make great bread pudding.

Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding

6 stale cinnamon rolls
6 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Spray a 2 1/2 QT casserole dish with cooking spray.
Crumble cinnamon rolls into the casserole dish.
In large bowl, whisk together the beaten eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Pour evenly over the cinnamon rolls. Let mixture sit for about 20 minutes to allow the eggs/milk to soak in.
Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until set.

Easy, right? I didn't actually have 6 cinnamon rolls left...I only had 5. So, I just adjusted. Think one egg and 1/2 cup milk for each cinnamon roll. 

Just crumble it all up and pour the egg/milk mixture over it.

Pull it out of the oven when it's all set...then eat it warm or cold.

To make it even better, pour a boozy sauce over it....

Butterscotch Hard Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup cream
3-4 tablespoon Butterscotch Schnapps

In a medium-size saucepan over low heat, melt butter; add sugar, beaten eggs, and cream whisking to blend well. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in Butterscotch Schnapps to taste; let cool. Whisk and reheat before serving. The sauce should be soft, creamy, and smooth. 
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Homemade Veggie Burgers...and a winner!

Homemade Veggie Burgers...

First a big WootWoot to LadyTink_534, aka Jen, the winner of the Gold Medal White Whole Wheat Flour giveaway. Jen will receive a VIP coupon for a free bag of the flour, a set of recipe cards, and a nifty blue Gold Medal cookie jar! Jen, let us know how your snickerdoodles turn out using the white whole wheat flour.

You all may remember me talking about how my daughter, Taylor, is a vegetarian. The phase that I thought she would outgrow has turned into a permanent lifestyle change and, while I remain a true carnivore, I gladly embrace most of the food that she now prefers. Good food is good food, after all. Now, my husband has seen how healthy former President Bill Clinton is looking these days (rumor has it he had become a vegan), and has decided to jump on the "mostly" vegetarian bandwagon. I really have to go with the flow here....

This weekend, I had a request from Taylor for some homemade food. As a poor college student (that dang chemistry book was $400!), she has been existing on ramen noodles. She specifically requested a couple of homemade pizzas--one veggie for her, and one pepperoni for the boyfriend--and some veggie burgers. The veggie burgers are a relatively new invention of mine. They even have a secret ingredient. Care to wager a guess? No? OK, then. I'll spill the beans. Pun intended. :)

The soup adds some liquid and some flavor to the veggie burgers.

Homemade Veggie Burgers
4-6 tablespoons olive oil for frying
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet corn
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (19 oz) can ready-to-serve lentil soup
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
¾ cup Panko bread crumbs
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Turn down the heat to medium, and add the onions and peppers, then saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, corn, and garlic, then continue to cook until the mushrooms are softened and browned, 5-6 minutes. Stir in the corn. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Reserve skillet for sauteing the burgers. While the vegetables are cooking, place the black beans in a large bowl and mash slightly with a fork. Stir in the can of lentil soup and the beaten eggs. Add the vegetables and the spinach and stir to combine.
Combine the oatmeal, breadcrumbs, and seasonings in a medium bowl. Add to the lentil and bean mixture, mixing well. To form the patties, line a custard cup with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang and fill with the bean mixture. Carefully pull the bean mixture out of the custard cup and fold the plastic wrap over the top to form into a patty. Repeat until 12 patties are formed, leaving wrapped in the plastic until ready to cook (you may freeze the patties at this point). Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat over medium high heat. Unwrap 2-3 bean patties and carefully add to the heated skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and fry for about 5 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Repeat for the remaining burgers, adding additional oil to the skillet, if needed. 

I chose the red bell pepper for some color. Feel free to use green instead.

I used Trader Joe's Roasted Sweet Corn...because I like it. :)

Instead of canned black beans, I cooked my own. The only problem was that they were a little hard, so I pulsed them in a food processor. All was good.

Here's where I could have added a slew of fresh herbs...but I didn't have any. Feel free.

Isn't this a clever way of forming the patties? No fuss, no muss.

I filled them almost to the top and got 12 patties.

At this point you can freeze the patties. Once they are frozen, they are easier to handle. When I fry them from frozen, I put a lid on the pan so that they cook through.

Of course, I toasted the bun with a little butter, then I spread some basil/tomato hummus on the bottom bun and topped it with some fresh spinach.

Have you seen the Pretzel Buns at Trader Joe's? Yum!

You can add whatever toppings you love. I used some prepared Taboule that I bought at Costco.  MMM...tomatoes, onions, parsley, cracked wheat, seasonings, olive oil....this was great on the burger.

The bottom line is that these veggie burgers are tastier and far more economical that the ones you find frozen  at the store. In fact, the husband is wanting me to make a second batch for our own freezer....they must be good!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pineapple Muffins...and a giveaway!

Pineapple Muffins with Coconut Streusel

As you may have guessed, I've been on a muffin kick lately. First the Sugar-Crusted Raspberry Muffins, and then, on the same post, the Lemon-Blueberry Muffins--I can't seem to get enough. Wouldn't it be nice if we could make these muffins just a bit healthier? Maybe by adding some whole grains to the recipe? I know, I know--whole grains can make for a rather dry muffin (is anyone thinking Betty White and her "Dusty Muffins" on SNL?--heehee). Seriously, though, it looks like there's a new kid in town: Gold Medal® White Whole Wheat Flour.

While most whole wheat flours are made from hard red spring wheat, Gold Medal® White Whole Wheat Flour is made from hard white spring wheat. So, it's whole grain, but with a similar taste and texture to all purpose flour. That's what I was told...but since I am a skeptic, I thought I had better try it out. 

I've been toying with the idea of a pineapple muffin for a few days. I wanted to incorporate Greek yogurt, like I did for the Lemon-Blueberry Muffins, and I also thought a coconut streusel topping sounded good. So, with the goodness of whole grain added in, here is the final creation:

Pineapple Muffins with Coconut Streusel

¼ cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
2 tablespoons cold butter


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ cup sugar
1 (6 oz) container pineapple Greek yogurt
1 egg, slightly beaten
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 (8 oz) can crushed pineapple with juice

Preheat oven to 375 ° F. and line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup white whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon and coconut. Cut in the butter with a fork until it forms coarse crumbs; set aside.

Truth be told, for my second batch of muffins, I used 1/4 cup of brown sugar and left out the coconut. Both were good, but the coconut one was prettier. :)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom and sugar; set aside.

I always spoon the flour in, so I don't get too much. This would be especially important when using whole wheat flour. Gold Medal suggests that at first you sub 25%-50% of your all purpose flour for the white whole wheat. I did 50%.

Adding the cinnamon and the cardamom was a second thought, but it really made these muffins taste great. If you don't have cardamom, just use the cinnamon. 

Stir together the yogurt and the egg in a microwave safe bowl or large measuring cup. Microwave for 20-25 seconds, or until the mixture is at room temperature. Stir in the melted butter, vanilla, and pineapple.

Don't over mix or you'll have one tough muffin.

Add the pineapple mixture to the flour mixture and gently stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just blended. Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Sprinkle the streusel over the muffin tops. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.

I used a cookie scoop to put the batter in the liners.

Dang--they didn't last long. White whole wheat flour rules!

So how about a chance to try out that flour for free? I won't make this hard--just leave a message on this post and tell me what recipe you would change up by including Gold Medal® White Whole Wheat Flour, and you will have a chance to win this prize package:

The prize packet includes: a VIP coupon for a package of Gold Medal® White Whole Wheat Flour, instructions for conversion, a cookie jar, and recipe cards. You must be 18 years of age and reside in the USA. Also, please leave me an email address, so I can contact you if you win. I'll choose the winner on September 18, 2011 using Random.Org. Good luck!

Disclosure: The Gold Medal White Whole Wheat flour product, information, and giveaway have been provided by Gold Medal through MyBlogSpark. The recipe and all opinions are my own.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Impossible Zucchini Pie

Impossibly Easy Zucchini Pie

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seemed like one big coincidence? Let me tell you how I came to make my zucchini pie.

My friend and co-worker, Brenda, is forever bringing me all sorts of veggies from her sister's farm back home. This week was all about string beans and zucchini, or summer squash as she calls it.

Usually, I'm all about making that zucchini into a nice fattening loaf of Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (and I did), but this time I also wanted to make something a little healthier. As it happens, another co-worker, Jan, stopped at my desk to give me a copy of a recipe she had printed out from the Betty Crocker site (if you haven't guessed, food is the main topic of conversation at work). At any rate, the recipe she handed to me was for an Impossibly Easy Zucchini Pie. Immediately, I was transported back in the early '80's in San Diego. Pete was in law school back then, and we hung out with a lot of his law school buddies. They were all nice guys, but we rarely had a chance to socialize with other couples. Luckily, one of his classmates was engaged to be married and we had a chance to spend some time with him and his fiancee. For our first get together, we spent the day in Tijuana, Mexico and then we had dinner at their apartment. We were students, so cash was tight, but the simple meal we shared was really tasty---it was a vegetable impossible pie. 

It wasn't long after that we moved out of California and lost touch. Years later, we saw that Pete's friend had  become very successful--we spotted him on 48 Hours or 20/20--he was a hot shot. Pretty cool. And then I didn't think of him or his wife again...until I saw that recipe. I folded it up and put it in my purse, figuring I might give it a try. It would require a stop at the store for Bisquick and I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy it, although it does call for the "Heart Smart" variety.

Pete picked me up from work and as I got in the car, he handed me a printout from the computer. "You have to read this..." he, says. The article he printed out was all about our former friend from San Diego! How weird is that? It wasn't a nice article--he's in some hot water--really hot water. The FBI may or may not be involved....hmmm. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes. All I could think of, though, was how weird that I hadn't thought of him in so many years and then in one afternoon.....

So now I had to buy the Bisquick. Strange universe vibes were at work here. Must. Make. Impossible.Pie.

Ok, so it looks almost healthy...I'll give it a try.

Easy to put together. Shredded zucchini, diced tomatoes, chopped onions....I was out of Parmesan cheese, so I subbed cheddar.

Mixed up a little of the mix with some milk and an egg...

Poured it over the cheese and veggies....

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes...

And, Voila!...Impossible Pie.

Here it is--the pie that was meant to be.

Impossibly Easy Zucchini Pie  a.k.a. Coincidence Pie

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Minnesota State Fair 2011

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Warm Wild Blueberry Sauce

This year, I decided to do just a little bit of research on the Minnesota State Fair, a.k.a."The Great Minnesota Get-Together". Did you know, for instance, that Minnesota has the second largest state fair in the country? It is surpassed only by the Texas State Fair in total attendance, and that is only because the Texas State Fair runs twice as long. Minnesota has everyone beat with its daily fair attendance. Yesterday, the second Saturday of the fair, my husband and I stood in line with 215,845 other people. I think most of them wanted to try the Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Warm Wild Blueberry Sauce.

This was the sea of people waiting for a fish taco.

Avoiding crowds was out of the question, so we just focused on trying out a few new things that sounded good to us, some old standbys, and checking out some of our favorite attractions. Now, I'll be honest--we actually spent two days at the fair, so not all of this food was consumed in one day.

Fresh Fruit Wrap

Aside from a few favorites, Pete and I don't generally go for the deep-fried-food-on-a-stick things. We were there early on the first Saturday (6:30 A.M.--yikes!), so I found this fruit wrap to start out with. It was pretty good.

Fresh French Fries

So far we have managed to keep "fresh" in the title. All of the potatoes at the Fresh French Fry booth are Minnesota grown and not out of the ground for more than 2 days--hence, fresh. Traditionally, we stop for the Fresh French Fries first, but today we waited until it seemed a reasonable hour for fries: 9:00 A.M.

Funnel Cakes

Chocolate Malt

It was getting to be time to check out some of the attractions. 

A woman on stilts...

A piggy.

Nope..not us on this ride...

A Kemp's Cow.

A quick cooking demo: How to make a Black Forest Cake. Donna Nowicki did a great job decorating this and explaining the how to's. She wanted me to point out, however, that she didn't have a chance to finish it off with piping on the bottom.

And on to more food. My list of must haves included two things from the Blue Moon Diner:

Asian Pulled Pork Tacos....

And the good enough to post two pictures, Sweet Corn Ice Cream...I've gotta learn how to make this stuff....

Pete had a veggie burger with chipotle mayo...I stole a bite.

A visit to the Fine Arts Exhibit...this one is called "Wild Ride".

Complete with thong underwear....

Fresh Lemonade.

Why indeed.

The Minneapple pick as best food of the day!

The crust was like a warm cookie...sooo tasty.

And another Summer comes to an end. Now bring on the pumpkins--I'm ready for Fall!