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When the weather turns blissfully chilly I think of comfort foods, nothing to fancy, just bowls of soup and bits of bread.

 

I have been in a soup making frenzy lately. It’s the season of course. I switch gears in the kitchen to winter squash, root vegetables, figs, apples, and braised meats. I notice I reference braises a lot, even in warmer months of the year. I like braises, I like the rich homey aroma they give. Like soup how could one not feel at home?

To celebrate the arrival of mellower days, I keep to the kitchen making soup and lots of it seems. It’s that time of year when you don’t have the urgency of the plants and the garden. The start of each season is a flush of new flavors reviving the tired day to day meal.

 

Apple & Fig Salad w/ hazelnuts

Fig & Goat Cheese Tartines

I think I had soup every day this week and hearty meals to keep that inner fire going. I experiment, play around with ideas, but I always fall back on simple easy soups, no fuss. A butternut, root vegetable soup like this one is just right. Perfect comfort food.

Besides soup and braises, I made recently a chicken sausage & shrimp “dirty” rice. A not so typical rendition, something I just put together. It was delicious!

 

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash, Celeriac, Parsnip & Apple Soup [serves 4-6]

1 ½ cups leeks, halved & thinly sliced

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ½ cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped

1 cup celeriac, peeled & chopped

½-1 cup parsnips, peeled & chopped

4 cups homemade chicken stock

2 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 medium apples, peeled, seeded & chopped [I used a red & green variety]

1. Saute leeks in butter on medium-low heat until tender and translucent.

2. Add squash, celeriac, parsnip, stock, thyme and salt.

3. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until nearly tender.

4. Add apple and continue to cook until everything is tender enough to puree.

5. Puree soup in a blender and season with additional salt to taste.

Chicken Sausage & ShrimpDirty Rice” [serves 4]

½ cup basmati rice [3/4 cup chicken stock -or- water]

¼ cup wild rice [1 cup water or more]

¾ pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ pound cauliflower, cut into florets

1 Tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ medium yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

½ large green bell pepper

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

1-2 large garlic cloves, minced

1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup homemade chicken stock

½-1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

¾ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed chilies

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Andouille chicken sausages [bake in oven until cooked, cool & sliced]

8 jumbo shrimp [such as Tiger shrimp]

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.

1. On separate baking trays toss butternut squash with oil and seasoning; cauliflower with oil and seasoning. Roast in oven until tender.

2. Meanwhile cook the rice in the amount of water specified. Drain wild rice if needed after it is cooked.

3. In a roomy pan sauté sausage in olive oil until browned. Remove from pan.

4. In the same pan, sauté onions, celery and bell peppers until tender, adding more olive oil if necessary.

5. Add garlic, cook for a minute then add remaining spices and cook for another minute.

6. Add tomatoes, stock and thyme. Simmer on low until mixture has thickened, approximately 15 minutes.

7. Add shrimp, cover and cook through.

8. Fold in cooked rice, sausage, squash and cauliflower adjusting seasoning to taste. Sprinkle with parsley.

I look forward to the one day J. and I can sit down for breakfast. I am usually up early, running around while sleepy sounds are heard far from the kitchen. What will it be this morning? Coffee and croissants? Eggs with braised lentils and vegetables?

Perhaps something on the sweeter side…

 

 

I feel great excitement during the summer when I can make my way out to the herb garden and pluck a few fresh herbs to work into breakfast. Fresh thyme or rosemary for the scones or a mixture of sweet herbs for the scrambled eggs.

Such decisions… so early in the morning…

 

 

After the clanking, mixing and cracking of eggs, we can sit down to enjoy breakfast for some unhurried conversation before the day takes off. Since I rarely sleep in on the weekend, this quick pace early in the morning energizes me after a long restful night and sets the mood for a good day to come.

 

 

As with most recipes that have gluten in them, the conversion is pretty simple for gluten-free. Sometimes there are ones that need a little tweaking to have them turn out properly. Various gluten-free flours all have different reactions, but can easily be overcome if any issues arise.  I like to think the gluten-free mix I make at home will work every time, but there are recipes I use this mix for poorly resemble the real thing. But not to worry, a few alterations and were back on track.

 

For these good morning muffins, I added just a bit more mix to have them looking and tasting like traditional muffins.

 

“Delicious,” J. replied as the final test muffins were inhaled.

Bingo! Mission accomplished.

 

 

If you are not going gluten free, I encourage you to give these muffins a try. I thank all of the wonderful creative gluten-free bakers out there who have paved the way for us to enjoy a better gluten free life!

Enjoy!

 

Coconut Apple Carrot Muffin Recipe [makes 12 small muffins]

 

1 ½ cups gluten-free baking mix*

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon sea salt

 

½ cup dark brown sugar

2 large whole eggs

 

½ cup buttermilk

6 Tablespoons sunflower oil

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

 

1/3 cup flaked coconut

1/3 cup apples, diced

1/3 cup carrots, peeled & diced

1/3 cup currants

 

½ cup flaked coconut [optional topping]

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

 

1. Whisk g/f mix, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt together. Set aside.

2. Mix together buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract together and set aside.

3. Whisk eggs and sugar together until pale and airy.

4. Mix wet ingredients and sugar mixture into the dry ingredient just until smooth.

5. Fold in coconut flakes, apples, carrots and currants.

6. Place one #20 scoop of batter in each baking cup.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until centers are done when tested with a toothpick.

*note: You can sprinkle the optional flaked coconut on the batter before baking or sprinkle a little sugar for a nice sugar crust.

 

Apart from eating food for nourishment, food is a way of communication. We can all recall hearing the stories and recipes our grandmother used to make. It seems fitting as a way to pass on culinary traditions especially during holidays.

 

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, can one recipe stand out from the rest as being the best? I like to think that no one recipe makes a great Thanksgiving dinner. It is an orchestra, the sum of all the parts. Each dish provides the right note, right texture and the right balance making the entire meal a success.

fall love

In keeping things a little lighter, I made a simple apple juice glaze for the game hens. It worked out very well, even better the second time. Though the glaze is not sweet, it makes a wonderful golden bird with a light, crisp skin.  

Apple Glazed Game Hen Recipe

 

2-24 ounce game hens

 

½ cup apple juices concentrate

½ cup chicken stock

2” piece of cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

1 star anise

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.

 

1. Truss chicken and season with salt and black pepper.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.

3. Reduce by half and strain into a small bowl.

4. Brush glaze over game hens and roast for 20 minutes.

5. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and baste hens with more glaze every 15 minutes until juices run clear.

6. Stop applying glaze so skin crisps just before it in finished.

 

Apple & Sage Wild Rice Recipe

 

1 cup wild rice

3 cups water

¼ teaspoon sea salt

 

½ cup basmati rice

¾ cup chicken stock

¼ teaspoon sea salt

 

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, finely julienne

2 large Fuji apples, peeled, cored and chopped

6 large sage leaves, finely chopped

Sea salt to taste

 

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

¼ cup pomegranate seeds

 

1. Cook wild rice with water and salt until tender, drain off any remaining water.

2. Place basmati, chicken stock and salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

3. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook covered until water is absorbed.

3. Sauté onions in olive oil on low until translucent.

4. Add apples and continue to cook until just tender.

5. Stir in sage and season to taste with sea salt.

6. Combine rice, apple mixture, almonds, and pomegranate seeds.

Autumn is ripe for the picking so to speak.  The first few frosts of fall signals the best time to hand pick apples if you are inclined. Those chilly nights help to sweeten the local apple crops. And we all have our favorites, with around seven thousand varieties around the world there is an apple for everyone.

I wanted to make a welcome to fall apple treat, nothing fancy, and yes, I also wanted the house to smell great, apples baking in the oven and with this cake recipe, cinnamon too.

A basic apple cake just didn’t sound that interesting even if it tasted good, so I decided to pair it with some salted caramel. How can you go wrong with such a classic match made in heaven? A simply, so good combination perfect for lifting up the chilly weather ahead.

 

Cinnamon Apple Cake Recipe

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

1 cup brown sugar, packed

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

 

2 eggs

½ cup buttermilk

2 cups diced apple, peeled

 

Buttermilk [for brushing]

Cinnamon Sugar [mix together 4 teaspoons granular sugar & 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon]

 

Preheat oven to 350°F

 

preparing the cake pans:

1. Cut eight 9-inch circles of parchment and line cake rings.

*note: The cake rings used were 3.25”x2.” I used cans that once held water chestnuts! If you do not have any and want to use a different pan, this recipe will fill a 9”x9” pan or a standard bread pan.

 

preparation of the batter:

1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sea salt, nutmeg and black pepper.

2. Cream together brown sugar and butter until light, approximately 3-5 minutes.

3. Beat in one egg at a time until thoroughly incorporated.

4. Gently stir in half of the flour followed by half of the buttermilk until combined.

5. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk.

6. Fold in diced apples.

7. Fill each parchment lined round two-thirds full.

8. Brush tops with buttermilk and sprinkle the full amount of cinnamon sugar evenly over each cake.

9. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Makes 8 mini cakes.

 

Salted Caramel Sauce Recipe

 

1 cup granular sugar

¼ cup water

 

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

½ cup heavy cream

 

¾ teaspoon fleur de sel [-or- sea salt]

 

preparing the caramel:

1. Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

2. Use a skewer to swirl the sugar so it colors evenly.

3. Cook until sugar has is amber in color and turn off heat.

4. Toss in butter bits and then the heated cream [mixture will violently bubble.]

5. Whisk until smooth and has cooled.

6. Stir in fleur de sel.

Makes 1 ½ cups.

 

To Serve: Remove the cake rings and parchment paper and serve with salted caramel sauce over.

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