Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Casserole

I couldn't wait to try this recipe. It's so unique and different when compared to the typical overly sweet marshmallow laden dish we normally serve for Thanksgiving. My dad had bought me an organic pie pumpkin on my birthday and I thought this was the perfect dish to highlight the beauty of that squash. The small pumpkin equalled just over 3 cups when cooked so I used it all. I substituted apple juice (homemade, of course) for the orange juice concentrate and shelled pumpkin seeds for the pecans. I wish I had taken a picture. The green of the seeds against the bright orange was amazing. We had one slight problem. I assembled the dish and took it to my dad's to bake it. The topping fell into the pumpkin but the taste was divine. I can't wait to make it again. I have a few sweet potatoes sitting on my counter that may just need to casseroled.

Sweet Potato Casserole
2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (3 medium), peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup 1% milk
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
For the Topping
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans (1 3/4 ounces)
FOR THE SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE: Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan; cover with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and return to the pan. Mash with a potato masher. Measure out 3 cups. (Reserve any extra for another use). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat an 8-inch-square (or similar 2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Whisk eggs, oil and honey in a medium bowl. Add mashed sweet potato and mix well. Stir in milk, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Spread the mixture in the prepared baking dish.
FOR THE TOPPING: Mix flour, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, oil and butter in a small bowl. Blend with a fork or your fingertips until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture. Bake the casserole until heated through and the top is lightly browned, 35 to 45 minutes.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Impossible Pumpkin Pie

When I saw this recipe a week or so ago on one of the blogs I follow, I was intrigued. The author said this pie makes it's own crust. The one thing I struggle with is crust. I'm not a crust fan and making it is not on my list of favorite things to do. This pie was simple enough to slip it into my Thanksgiving cooking and was a hit with the family. What I loved about this pie is that it doesn't really have a crust but it's not so soft that it loses it's form when cut. Most of the family thought this was the perfect pie. I plan on playing with it some to make a gingerbread/apple version.

Impossible Pumpkin Pie
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup biscuit mix
1 can (16 oz) pumpkin
2 tsp. butter
2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 can (13 oz.) evaporated milk
2 tsp. vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 inch pie pan. Beat all ingredients until smooth. Pour into pan. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Applesauce cake

I'm sitting here eating cheese, crackers and pickled pears playing on the computer when I remembered I still hadn't posted today's recipe. Last weekend I decided to make a cake with just fruit - no sugar, no oil. I ended up skipping the eggs too. The only fat that comes from the cake is in the Walnuts and the sugar is all fruit based. It's not an overly sweet cake and has that slightly gritty texture of pears. It's rather dense and not very flavorful. That would seem like a poor description for a cake but what I found is this cake is the perfect base to showcase a great topping. Hot out of the oven we served it with a little bailey's irish cream and a few chocolate chips. Today I ate it with a "frosting" of all natural chocolate peanut butter. Add a little rum when the cake first comes out of the oven to help preserve the cake and extend it's shelf life. I put a little cocoa powder in the cake, I'm not sure how much flavor it lends. Feel free to add spices such as ginger and cinnamon to make it more gingerbread like (might be the next version).

Applesauce Cake
3 cups applesauce
6 cups apple or pear juice boiled down to 4 cups
3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teas baking soda
1/2 teas baking powder
2 TB dark rum (or vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Extra Rum, optional
Mix apple sauce and juice. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well. Add extract or rum and walnuts. Mix until incorporated. Pour into greased 9x13 pan (we used a cooking spray). Bake at 350 for 60 to 75 minutes until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. The cake is so moist that the toothpick will not be completely clean. Drizzle over rum (or other alcohol). Serve hot or cold.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Last week I had the privilege of reviewing the Food52 Cookbook. I was immediately in love. All the recipes from the book are on their website Food52. It's an amazing site. They have a section called Dinner and a Movie. The author pairs older movies with recipes from the website. I don't necessarily agree with all the choices and I might be moved to start my own dinner and a movie post once a month just because.
I recommend visiting the site and sign up for free membership so you can save the wonderful recipes you find.
I know sharing a website is a bit of a cop out but I am in the middle of experimenting with recipes and just don't have anything to share with you today. Tomorrow I will share my applesauce cake. It's a good base cake and still needs some tweeking but I think as a recipe it works. I'll have some recipes for you Monday through Wednesday next week but will be taking Thursday and Friday off. I'll resume the normal schedule November 28th and should have a bunch of new things to share.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup has always puzzled me - I love it in restaurants but I hate it at home. I got to thinking about the types of tomato soup that I would get in restaurants and realized it's not the same. The soup I get out is a thin broth with chunks of tomato and a variety of other things, usually pasta. Where the home (canned) version is a thick pasty cream of tomato soup. I decided that tomato soup would be a good use of the ever-ripening pile of tomatoes on my counter. I did a quick search and could not find a recipe that I liked. I made mental notes and headed for the kitchen. What I created, not only satisfied my soup craving, but was so good my son ate several bowls (my tomato hating son). I tried to keep exact measurements but wasn't so successful with the tomatoes. I use cherry tomatoes and cut them in half.

Tomato Soup
1/2 onion, minced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 tb minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
4-6 cups chopped tomatoes
2-3 teas. Basil
Cover the bottom of your dutch oven or pot with a thin layer of oil. Saute the minced onion until somewhat translucent. Add the celery and garlic. Saute until tender or you get bored. Add chicken broth. Stir to bring up the bits that may have gotten stuck at the bottom. Add tomatoes and basil. Let come to a boil, then reduce to medium low to simmer. Add water as necessary. Cook until the flavor of the tomatoes have over-powered the flavor of the chicken broth (about 20 minutes). Serve hot.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Ornaments

Making all that applesauce coming up on the holidays makes me think of cinnamon apple ornaments. These are a family favorite for gifts and decorations. They are super easy to make - I either roll it out and use cookie cutters or press the dough into cookie molds. This year I plan on making some miniature gingerbread houses out of the dough.
After making all that applesauce and starting to brainstorm ideas to use it, I was reluctant to use it for inedible ornaments. However, when I was getting to the end of the apples, I had a few going bad. I thought what a perfect experiment - use the waste apples to make applesauce for the ornaments and then I have less waste. I still threw out a bit of apple waste (we need to look into composting at our complex) but I managed to salvage enough for the ornaments. I made a quadruple batch of dough from the waste apples, cheap bulk cinnamon and school glue. At this moment, it cost me nothing to make the ornaments because I bought several pounds of cheap cinnamon last year and I stocked up on glue one year when it was 20 cents a bottle. We often decorate the ornaments with glitter glue and ribbon.

Cinnamon Apple Ornaments
1 cup cinnamon
3/4 cup applesauce
1/3 cup white glue
Mix together with a spoon until most cinnamon is incorporated. Knead remaining cinnamon into dough. The dough will be stiff and dry. Roll 1/2 inch thickness and cut into shapes with cookie cutters or press into molds. Make a hole at the top for a hanger using a toothpick or straw.
Lay on racks until completely dry (I use my dehydrator for this). Decorate as desired.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apple Lasagna

I meant to post this Friday but the holiday messed me up. I injured my wrist yesterday so I am finally getting around to this. I made this Apple Lasagna last weekend using my homemade apple pie filling. I used about 4 cups of filling per 20 oz can. I also only used 3 noodles per layer instead of 4. This was great and everyone loved it.

Apple Lasagna
12 lasagna noodles
2 (21-ounce) cans apple pie filling
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup quick oats
Dash of ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles to desired doneness; drain and set aside. Coat a 9- 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Layer 4 noodles on bottom of prepared dish. Spread 1 can of apple pie filling on top, slicing any extra-thick apples. Layer 4 noodles over the apples. In a large bowl, mix together the Cheddar cheese, ricotta cheese, egg and granulated sugar; spread them evenly over the noodles and top with the remaining 4 noodles. Spoon remaining can of apple pie filling over noodles. In a small bowl, crumble together the flour, cinnamon, margarine, brown sugar and quick oats. Sprinkle over the apple filling. Bake 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes then slice into serving-sized pieces and serve warm or cold.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apple Pie Filling

This past weekend, I made a recipe called Apple Lasagna. It's like an apple pie with noodles (will post recipe tomorrow). The recipe called for apple pie filling. There was no way I was going to buy filling when I had a ton of apples. So I went to my trusty Ball Canning book and found a recipe. If you want to follow that recipe, you can find it here. I didn't quite like the recipe so I made up my own version.
Since the lasgana is cooked, I didn't cook the apples. I used about 4 cups of filling to equal a 20oz can and made 2 lasagnas. I still ended up canning 2 and 1/2 quarts.

Apple Pie Filling
12 cups of cubed apples (I wash and cube, removing stems, seeds and bad parts but leave them peeled - drop in cold water with lemon juice while cutting all the apples to keep them looking good)
2 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp gd cinnamon
1/2 tsp gd nutmeg
2 cups apple juice (I used pear juice because I had just juiced pears)
1 1/4 cups cold water
1/2 cup lemon juice

Mix sugar and cornstarch in large pot. Add spices. Add apple juice and water, mixing thoroughly. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. As it boils, stir constantly until the syrup is thickened. Add lemon juice. Bring back to boil and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat and add drained apples. Stir well to coat apples.
Use in pie or other recipe.
To can - ladle into quart jars. Clean rims and cover with lid and rings. Place in lukewarm water in water canner. Bring to boil. Boil for 25 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Easy Granola

I got this recipe from Food in Jars but I've once again altered the recipe. I was so impressed with the idea of using fruit butter to make granola that I had to try it. The family loves it and my son had to share it with everyone he could. I'm not a granola fan but this was great. We eat it dry but I did try it with milk. I didn't mind it (we've switch powdered milk brands and I don't like the taste).
I doubled this recipe and it took nearly an hour to get it to dry out. You can double it but spread it out really thin using 2 baking sheets if necessary. I had mine too thick. We did break it up and re-cook it on two baking sheets and it came out beautifully. I added a small package of dried cranberries which might have been slightly over a cup of berries.

Easy Granola
2 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups nuts and/or seeds
1 cup fruit butter
Dried fruit, optional
Mix together. Lay out on a baking sheet. Bake at 325, stirring every ten minutes, until the granola is dry. Add dried fruit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Apple Butter

This week my recipes are two part. I made apple butter several weeks ago and made it into granola this past weekend. The apple butter can be made with apples or pears (I will be sharing some pear butter recipes later this month as well). I sauced the apples and then measured it for the apple butter. This stores well in the fridge or cans beautifully.

Apple Butter
12 cups apple sauce/puree
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp gd cinnamon
1/2 tsp gd cloves
In a large stainless steel pot combine all ingredients. Stir until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and holds it's shape on a spoon.
If canning, prep jars, lids and rings. Pour hot butter into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Boil in water bath for 10 minutes (adjust for elevation).

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

One dish my husband looks forward to every fall is fried green tomatoes. I was able to get some green tomatoes from a local organic farm. I paid more than I would have normally ($1 a pound) but I felt this was a special request and a gift for my husband.
Making fried green tomatoes is really easy and I have finally found a breading that everyone loved. The only thing about the frying is that I use little oil and it gets dirty so after every 3-4 batches I would have to clean out the pan. I don't have a good solution but it didn't really detract from the process. I set up a funnel with a coffee filter in a jar to dump the oil into and used a paper towel to quickly wipe away the crumbs left behind.
I don't have measurements because this is not really a measurement sort of recipe - it's more a technique.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Large, firm green tomatoes (at least the size of a tennis ball)
Seasoning Salt (I used New Orleans Seasoning)

Slice the tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices, try to keep them uniform but it's okay if there is some variation. Set out four bowls. Pour milk in the first bowl. Place 3/4 cup flour in the second and add seasoning, mix with a fork. Add 2 eggs to the third bowl and beat until combined. In the last bowl put about 3/4 cup of corn meal.
Take a deep skillet and add about 1/2 inch of oil. Let heat up while prepping the tomatoes.
Dip the tomato in the milk. Let drip until not dripping anymore. Cover with flour. Shake of excess. Dip in egg - make sure the entire surface gets egg on it and stays. Let excess drip off. Dip in cornmeal.
Set tomato in oil and let fry until golden. Flip and fry until golden. Let tomato drain on a baking rack layed over a baking sheet.
Serve with gravy or ranch dressing and enjoy.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Yesterday's post made me think of toffee. For those of us in Washington, this toffee recipe is often called Almond Roca after the popular candy (made in Tacoma Washington - some day I will visit that factory). This recipe can easily be converted into the toffee topping for the Chewy Toffee Almond Bars. Omit the chocolate and the almonds, then break up the toffee for the bars.
If you aren't interested in doing that much work - then just make the toffee as instructed and enjoy. We love this candy and I think I'll be putting together a batch this weekend.

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla or corn syrup
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup finely chopped almonds
Boil butter, sugar and water (and corn syrup if using) until mixture browns and pulls away from side of pan (about 10 minutes/ 290 degrees). Add vanilla and 1/2 cup nuts if using. Pour onto buttered cookie sheet and place chocolate on top of hot mixture. Spread evenly as it melts. Sprinkle nuts over chocolate. Cool and break into pieces.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chewy Toffee Almond Bars

As part of our mad baking day on Sunday, my dad was trying to clean out his pantry. We found a bag of toffee bits and a recipe for chewy toffee almond bars. I made two major changes to the recipe. We had whole almonds so I smashed them up with a rolling pin instead of using sliced almonds and when it was all done we topped it with chocolate chips. We let the chocolate melt a little and then spread it over like a frosting. I think our toffee bits were a little stale or we over cooked them because the toffee was rock hard. It was a fun contrast to the soft cookie and made a great but tasty mess. After they had sat for a day, the cookie hardened and they were a little less tricky to eat but the toffee was still really hard. However, the taste was amazing. I really like these and think it wouldn't be hard to make a version with homemade toffee.

Chewy Toffee Almond Bars
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-3/4 cups English Toffee Bits
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sliced almonds, divided
3/4 cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes, divided
Heat oven to 350°;F. Grease sides of 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Gradually add flour, beating until well blended. Press dough evenly into prepared pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Meanwhile, combine toffee bits and corn syrup in medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until toffee is melted (about 10 to 12 minutes). Stir in 1/2 cup almonds and 1/2 cup coconut. Spread toffee mixture to within 1/4-inch of edges of crust. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup almonds and remaining 1/4 cup coconut over top. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until bubbly. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pear Chutney

I found this recipe on the Food in Jars blog. It's a wonderful way to use up those pears we foraged. I was lucky enough to find all the ingredients sitting in my pantry. My aunt had given me a 2 pound bag of dried cherries from her senior food baskets and all the spices are ones I had in my pantry. I used ginger juice from GingerPeople instead of fresh ginger. I served this with zucchini fritters. My fritters were far too dry so I will need to work with them some more before I post the recipe (I think I wrung out too much liquid in my zucchini).
This recipe took almost no effort to make - the most being cutting up the pears. Since the pears we foraged were small, I cut up more. The only substitutions I made were I used pomegranate vinegar and amaretto in place of red wine vinegar and apple brandy. The taste was amazing.
I plan on trying a version with apples because we have so many of them leftover as well.

Pear Chutney with Dried Cherries and Ginger
makes 3 half pint jars

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped roughly
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons apple brandy
4 cups roughly chopped Bartlett pears (4-5 medium pears)
2/3 cup sugar

Place dried cherries in a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup and pour boiling water over top. Set aside.
Heat a large, non-reactive pot or skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onion and sea salt and cook until the onion softened and develops a bit of color. Add ginger, mustard seeds and cardamom and cook until spices are fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop.
Add vinegar and brand to pan and use a wooden spoon to work up any bits of fond on the bottom of the pan. Add dried cherries and their liquid. Add chopped pears and sugar and stir to combine.
Reduce heat to low, put a lid on the pan and let pears simmer gently for 30-35 minutes so that they soften.
When the pears can be crushed with the back of a wooden spoon, remove the lid from the pot. Increase the heat to high and cook quickly, stirring regularly, to help reduce any remaining liquid.
When chutney is no longer at all watery and looks deeply colored, take a taste. Should it need it, add a splash more vinegar, a pinch more salt or a spoonful more sugar. Do make sure to taste for adjustments before canning, as ingredients can vary from kitchen to kitchen and it’s the only way to ensure that you’ll wind up with a product that you like.
When chutney is fully cooked down and tastes good to you, ladle it into three prepared half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
When time is up, remove jars from canning pot and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and eaten within a week. Sealed jars can be kept in the pantry for up to one year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Turkish Delights - Blackberry Jellies

Between here and the mountains is a small town called Cashmere in Washington. It's not a significant sort of place except for one thing - Aplets and Cotlets. Aplets and Cotlets are a mass produced sort of Turkish Delight. They are amazing candies and quite popular in Washington. I hear they have some popularity all over but in Washington they are famous. We stop at Cashmere to enjoy the factory and the gift shop every couple of years or so.
One year I wanted to learn how to make them at home. Several failed attempts later, I pretty much gave up on the idea. Then last Christmas I came across a recipe for something called Blackberry Jellies. These were different but had so much potential. I undercooked them and created a really tasty jelly for sandwiches. I decided to try again this past weekend and they were perfect. The recipe is not difficult, it requires patience. I, apparently, lacked that patience last Christmas. The candies are wonderful. I haven't taken the time to dredge them in sugar so they are really sticky but I plan on trying them dredged in powdered sugar to see how they compare to Aplets and Cotlets. I, also, plan on trying an apple version (with and without walnuts) to see if I can, indeed, replicate the candy.
I didn't start with frozen blackberries. When we go blackberry picking, I run the berries through my food mill to remove all the seeds and anything else because the berries are often too soft and mushy by the time we return home. I freeze this juice and used that to make this candy. It takes 2 cups of fruit puree so I used 2 cups juice and will use 2 cups apple sauce when I make an apple version.
This recipe has you dredge with granulated sugar, Turkish Delights uses powdered sugar - either will work.

Blackberry Fruit Jellies
1 bag(s) frozen blackberries
2 teaspoon(s) powdered pectin
2 3/4 cup(s) sugar, divided, plus additional for coating
1 tablespoon(s) lemon juice or lime juice
Puree fruit and 1/2 cup water in blender until smooth; strain out seeds.
Place 2 cups puree in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Thoroughly mix pectin and 1/4 cup sugar, whisk into fruit puree, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 1/4 cups sugar and cook mixture until it reaches 225 degrees F, stirring constantly. Stir in lemon or lime juice; cook 30 seconds more. Pour into a lightly oiled 9" x 13" baking pan, sprinkle sugar on top, and allow to set, about 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch squares, or use a lightly oiled cookie cutter to make other shapes. Dredge in sugar and dry on a cooling rack overnight. Scraps can be remelted and reset. Store in a box or paper bag at room temperature for up to two weeks.