Monday, September 28, 2009

Apple Butter

One thing I wanted to do with my mass of apples was to make Apple Butter this year. I overcame my fear of canning when I made my homemade pickles over the summer, so I was excited to jar the apple butter as well.

I chose this recipe because it didn't require the use of a food mill since I don't have one, nor do I want to buy one. Looking back, I'm sure I could have used any Apple Butter recipe and just pressed the apple mixture through a sieve instead of running it through a food mill like I did for this one, but I liked that there was no mention of a food mill in the recipe itself!

This recipe was great. I used the stovetop directions because it was quicker, and it was really easy and fun to do. The only part that is tedious was peeling, coring and chopping the apples, but this little tool came in very handy for that and made the process much easier.

The apple butter itself is smooth and rich, with great subtle hints of fall flavors and spices. Spread this apple butter on toast, English muffins or even pork chops to bring the flavors of autumn to your meal. This recipe is certainly a keeper...I've already made it 3 times this year alone! Additionally, you don't need to jar the apple butter (although it makes great gifts) can also put it in a bowl and refrigerate for up to a week. Enjoy!

Recipe can be found at and is from Cooking Light.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apple Crisp

It's apple season in my neck of the woods, and boy have I been going crazy with apples! My husband and I went picking 2 weekends ago and ended up with 48 lbs...yes you heard me...48 lbs. of apples! So I needed to think of something to do with them all! Apple crisp is one of the favorites of my coworkers, so I made some to bring in to work after our apple picking extravaganza!

This is a new recipe I tried this year, and turned out great. However, I had to double the crisp and lessen the apples. The flavor was great, but the proportions are off, so I noted what I did in the recipe. I had a recipe last year that I loved but lost the recipe. Then after I made this, I found my recipe from last year! So I'll be making the old one again as well and blogging about it in the next few weeks.

Overall, this was a simple and easy recipe that resulted in a deliciously fall flavored apple crisp that my co workers loved!

Adapted from a recipe by Rachel Ray's Sister

6 McIntosh apples, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces (I used large apples, and this was too many. I'd use more like 4-5)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used about 2 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I used more like 4-6 tbsp...2 was not nearly enough)
1/2 cup flour or fine graham cracker crumbs (I used flour, and doubled this)
1/2 cup brown sugar (I doubled this)
1/2 stick butter (I doubled this)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a 9 by 12 baking dish, combine apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. In a small bowl, mix flour or graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and butter together using the tines of a fork and your fingers, working until even, small crumbles form. Sprinkle topping evenly over apples and bake 15 to 20 minutes (I baked mine for about 30 minutes) until apples are just tender and topping is golden brown.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homemade Pickles

This year I worked really hard on making my garden thrive, and all my hard work certainly paid off! I had an abundance of zucchini, butternut squash, heirloom tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, shallots, corn, pumpkins and...cucumbers! And what to do with all of those cucumbers?! Make pickles! I was really excited to do this because I had ever canned or pickled anything before and was anxious to try.

This recipe, albeit time consuming, was really easy to follow and great for a beginner pickler like myself. I am actually hesitant to post this recipe at present because I have not tried a pickle yet since the recipe says to leave them for 8 weeks before opening. But the season is quickly dwindling so I thought I'd better post this! If they turn out horrible I'll let you know. :)

Another great thing about making homemade pickles (besides using up your mass of cucumbers) is that they make great Christmas gifts. They are inexpensive to make and come from the heart. Your friends and family will love getting a jar of homemade pickles for Christmas this year!



12 pint size mason jars with lids and rings

30-40 cucumbers approx 4-5 inches long

2/3 cup pickling salt

4 cups white vinegar

12 cups water

24 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

approx 60 sprigs of dill weed

Large enamel pot

Large pot filled with water


To prepare cucumbers: Wash thoroughly and cut into spears. Place cucumbers in a large plastic container and cover with water. Refrigerate for at least two hours, but no longer than four.

Boil jars and lids in a large pot for ten minutes to sterilize. (I read elsewhere that the dishwasher is also fine to sterilize jars. So I sterilized my jars in the dishwasher, but used a pot of boiling water for the lids). Place jars on a cookie sheet covered with a thin dish towel. Leave lids in hot water. Put three dill weed springs and two garlic clove halves in bottom of each jar. Pack each jar with cucumbers. Place two dill weed sprigs and two more halves of garlic on top of the cucumbers.

Combine water, vinegar, and salt in an enamel pot. Bring to boil. Ladle boiling brine into each jar. Leave 1/4 inch at top of jar. Gently jiggle jar to release any air bubbles.

To seal jars:
Wipe top of jar with a clean damp cloth. Remove lid from hot water and place on top of each jar. Gently screw on rings. Bring water used for sterilizing back to a boil. Place jars in pan. Water should cover more than half of the jar. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water and leave them undisturbed for 24 hours. Check to make sure jars are sealed properly and store for up to two years. Pickles can be eaten after eight weeks.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

The other day my husband asked me to buy some cinnamon raisin bread at the store for breakfast. I was sick of cereal so I definitely complied. Well after I ate some and realized how good it was, I decided that I definitely needed to make my own!

This recipe was great. The bread was fluffy and rose nice and high. Although keep in mind it does make 3 loaves so the dough was busting right out of my standard Kitchen Aid mixer during kneading! But I definitely think you need to make the who 3 loaves. By the time you make one for yourself, give one to your neighbor and then bring one into work you are all out!

This recipe was certainly a winner in my book and pairs perfectly with a hot cup of tea in the morning. This would also be great to bring to a brunch. I will definitely be making this again.

Source: Recipezaar, Recipe # 98867

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup warm water (must be between 110-115 degrees)
2 (1/4 ounce) packages active dry yeast
3 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup raisins (I used 2 cups which was just enough, in my opinion 1 would have been far too few)
8 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted (I omitted)

Warm the milk in a small sauce pan on the stove until it just starts to bubble, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.Let cool until lukewarm, about 120-125 degrees.

Dissolve yeast in warm water (I also added a pinch of sugar) and set aside until yeast is frothy, about 10 minutes or so (make sure your water is at the correct temperature or the yeast won't activate.) Then in a large bowl (I used the bowl of my KA mixer) mix in eggs, sugar, yeast mixture, butter, salt and raisins. Then stir in the cooled milk slowly so you don't cook the eggs. I also added a pinch of cinnamon to the dough itself.

Add the flour gradually to make a stiff dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until smooth. (I mixed and kneaded with the dough hook of my KA mixer). Place in a large, buttered, mixing bowl and turn to grease the surface of the dough.Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let rise (I like to let my bread rise in the oven with the light on. It has just the right amount of heat and keeps the bread out of drafts.) Allow to rise until doubled, usually about 1 1/2 hours.

Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a large rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Moisten the dough with 2 tablespoons milk and rub all over the dough with your hands. Mix together 1 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons cinnamon and sprinkle mixture evenly on top of the moistened dough. Roll up tightly (the long way). The roll should be about 3 inches in diameter. Cut into thirds, and tuck under ends and pinch bottom together. Place loaves into well greased (you can use Crisco or butter for this) 9 x 5 inch pans and lightly grease tops of loaves. Let rise in warm place, uncovered, again for about an hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped (mine were done after about 35-40 minutes). Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Take melted butter and spread over tops of loaves (I omitted this step) After about 20 minutes, lay loaves on their sides and remove from pans.Allow to cool before slicing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Anniversary Cake

This past weekend my family and I got together in celebration of my parent's 35th wedding anniversary. I had a small party at my house, and the cooking and entertaining was fun of course, but the biggest part of the weekend (for me at least) was giving them their anniversary cake!

I had it planned for weeks, and watching it come to life was really fun. This was the 1st 3-tiered wedding type cake I've done, so I was admittedly (very) nervous about it, but all in all it came out great and wasn't as hard as I thought!

I did two layers of chocolate cake (one filled with raspberry jam, the other with hazelnut chocolate frosting) and one layer of spice cake filled with blackberries (recipe is forthcoming!) and topped the whole thing with buttercream and homemade marshmallow fondant. The calla lillies, leaves, and "35" on top of the cake were made of gumpaste and brushed with silver luster dust.

In terms of assembling the cake, I just placed each cake on top of a piece of cardboard exactly the size of the cake that sat on it, and placed one wooden dowel in the center of all the cakes (make sure you cut a whole in the center of the cardboard before you put the cake on!) so they didn't slide from side to side. Then on the bottom and middle layers, I studded the cakes with wooden dowels the exact height of the cake to support the layer above it.

The cake was a success, and my parents were very appreciative of it and the party!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sugar Plum Pie

I often go to the Farmer's Market with no idea what I'm going to get. Whatever looks fresh and delicious that day, I'll try! I especially love getting something that I've never tried before and then figuring out what to do with it when I get home. This happened with Sugar Plums! They were all over the market, so I had to get some! Like all plums, these had a tart golden skin with a sweet flesh. So since I hadn't made a summer pie, I decided to give it a whirl!

This recipe was great. I didn't skin the plums, thus the pie itself was a bit on the tart side which is what I wanted. I didn't want it to be overly sweet for the summer. However, if you do want it sweeter just add some more sugar. The recipe itself was easy to follow and made a great filling for the pie.

Source: Dessert Internet Cookbook, Recipe from the Serenity Inn - Sonora, California

1 Recipe Pie Dough
11 or 12 plums, pitted and thinly sliced

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg, slightly beaten

Place one half of pie dough in pie dish and trim the edges. Set aside.

To make the filling, cook plums and water in skillet over medium heat until juice thickens slightly. Remove from heat. In small bowl, combine remaining flour and sugar with baking powder and egg and enough juice from plums to form smooth batter. Stir unto plums until evenly coated. Pour into crust. Top filling with other half of pie dough. I made a lattice design and surrounded the edge of the pie with daisy cut-outs, but you could also lay the sheet of pie dough over the whole thing. Just make sure to pierce the top to let the steam escape.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool. Cut into 8 pieces. May be garnished with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Parmesan Cheese Bread

Fall is starting to settle in up here...the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. This is perfectly fine by me, since fall is absolutely my favorite season. This is the time of year where I start to cook heartier and bake lots of breads. I decided to try this recipe to pair with my favorite Corn Chowder, and it was absolutely delicious.

This was such a simple bread to make. It came together quickly and resulted in a wonderfully flavorful and well textured bread. I like that it's baked as rolls, so they are easy to pull apart.

The only things I did differently were: 1 - I used way more then 1/2 cup Parmesan. After I went through the first 1/2 cup I just kept shredding until I had what I thought was enough. So really after the first 1/2 cup I stopped measuring...but just know that I did use more then what the recipe called for. 2 - I made 6 very large rolls rather then the 12 listed in the recipe. It was just my husband and I eating them, so 6 big ones worked out well for us (and still yielded leftovers).

This is a great recipe and would be just perfect for company. After all, is there anything much better then bread and cheese?!

Source: Williams-Sonoma

3 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed
1 Tbs. (1 package) active dry yeast
2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I used more)
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing


In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, combine the 3 3/4 cups flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed together. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the dough. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and begin mixing and kneading on very low speed. When the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 12 to 15 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is too sticky. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead by hand for 1 to 2 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, brush it with a little olive oil and return it to the bowl. Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 425°F. Brush a 9-inch round pan with olive oil.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on a plate. Punch down the dough. Return it to the floured work surface and knead a few times. Then, using your palms, roll the dough to form a log about 12 inches long. Cut the log in half crosswise, then cut each half crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Knead each dough piece a couple of times, roll it between the palms of your hands into a ball, and then roll it in the cheese to coat lightly and evenly, shaking off any excess. (I had to add more oil to each ball of dough as it was too dry for the cheese to adhere. This worked well.)As each ball is coated, place it in the prepared pan, resting it against the rim and pressing down slightly to form a 2-inch disk. Arrange 9 balls around the rim and 3 balls in the center. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30 to 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the top with the cheese remaining on the plate. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, cut a slash 1/4 inch deep in the top of each ball. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until brown and crusty, 20 to 30 minutes more. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the rolls rest in the pan for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove them from the pan; the rolls will come out in a single loaf.

Serve the loaf warm, breaking off the rolls at the table. Or let cool, top side up, on the rack. Makes 12 rolls (or 6 large rolls).

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