Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cranberry Apple Cider Sauce...good enough to eat plain

Thanksgiving is in T-minus 24 hours (I am planning on sitting down for our feast at 2pm so we can still have some daylight to take a turkey hazed walk before gorging on pie.) I actually made a schedule for myself and I am pleased to have completed my Wednesday tasks! I made my cheese ball, spiced nuts, dough for potato rolls (which is quite the involved process since you have to make mashed potatoes first), and cranberry apple cider sauce. I had heard of a similar concept on some food network show so I took the idea and ran with it. I had never made this recipe before since I made it up but I am so ridiculously pleased because I could eat this cranberry sauce plain...and may have done that a bit...*shame face*.

Cranberry Apple Cider Sauce:
This is a really easy recipe and it let me get rid of the last of the apples from the orchard and I think I will eat this sauce on biscuits, yogurt and fingers so do yourself a favor and make only takes like 20-30 minutes so go do first read the recipe then do it :)
The Cast! Except for the secret ingredient...
Since this is not a traditional sauce you replace the water for apple juice or apple cider (whichever you have) although if you use apple juice you may want to put more spices in it. Add the juice and your sugar and dissolve in a pan over medium heat and then add the secret ingredient!

Just a shot or so, enough to make it full of deliciousness
Then add your cranberries, chopped apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I tossed in a few cinnamon sticks because I am wild and crazy like that.
Stir it all up and let it heat over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. It is awesome because you will hear the cranberries make these popping sounds as they explode. Let it heat until all the cranberries have exploded because as they do this they will release pectin which will thicken your sauce nicely.
I kept taking pictures because I thought it was so pretty.
After a while it will be nice and thick so give it a taste to see if you need anymore sweetness and spiciness. I will warn you, the quantities in the recipe make a fairly tart sauce because that's what I like so adjust if you need a really sweet sauce.
Voila! Delicious cranberry apple cider sauce!
This recipe makes about a bowl full and seriously, it is really yummy on just about anything. Let me know if you have any variations of cranberry sauce that you use, I am new to the cranberry and I am excited to try new recipes. The next cranberry one on my list is:
It looks so tasty and her recipes are always yummy.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Apple Cider Sauce
1 12oz bag of cranberries
1/2 cup of apple juice or apple cider
1/4 cup of sugar *add more if you like a sweeter sauce
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped-as always I like Granny Smith
1 Tsp of cinnamon *and feel free to toss in some cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp of nutmeg

And lastly for your enjoyment, a picture of my cat sticking her tongue out at you :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Menu

My family and I take Thanksgiving and Christmas very seriously. We create entire menus, make everything from scratch and always make too much food. Usually my mom hosts Thanksgiving where we cook for most of the day and then sit down to a nice meal and talk about what we are thankful for and write it down and put it on the Thanksgiving tree--this is a family tradition that started because I love having a Christmas tree up but it is just too early so we decorate it in Thanksgiving colors and write down on paper turkeys and autumn leaves what we are thankful for and prayer requests on put it on the tree. The best part is that we save them throughout the years and it is really fun and nostalgic to look through the thoughts of years gone by.

This year Logan's vacation isn't for another few weeks so I am creating a Thanksgiving menu for two. Making a menu for two people is ridiculous for Thanksgiving because I just can't eliminate anything! I have to have my favorite sides and desserts so I cut down a bit but there is still going to be a ton of food.

Thanksgiving Menu 2010

Spiced Hot Buttered Rum Cider
Roasted Spiced Pecans
Chives and Herb Cheese Ball

Main Course:
Herb Encrusted Turkey Breast with Giblet gravy

My Aunt's world famous, prize winning Potato Rolls
Cornbread Stuffing with Spicy Sausage and Sage
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan
Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Bacon
Apple Cider Cranberry Sauce

Southern Sweet Potato Pie
Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Maple Rum Whipped Cream

I have never made this much food in one day (although I am making the potato roll dough the day before because it sits for 8 hours) so I am nervous we are going to end up eating at 9pm. At least I am making rum cider so I will be very happy while I toil in the kitchen. This has been the first time I have gotten to choose what is on the menu and make exactly what Logan and I want so it will be fun to try new things. I haven't had gingerbread in years and I never have made a homemade cranberry sauce! I can't wait to share the holiday with my husband for the first time. In other news, we bought a Christmas tree yesterday and I am making holiday cookies this Saturday to nibble on while we decorate the house for my favorite holiday :) I'll post pictures next time. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! What dishes are you going to make?

I am making Scented Pine Cones to make the house smell nice and I love to decorate with nature. So here is a quick recipe for those that have a surplus of pine cones: get a bunch of pine cones and rinse them off and let them completely dry. Put them in a sealed bag with several drops of scented essential oil (I am using a combination of cinnamon, apple cinnamon, and Christmas wreath-you can get these at craft stores like Michael's) Seal the bag and shake several times to distribute the oil. Keep the bag sealed for at least a couple days although the longer the better.Shake the bag every few days. Once you open it you will have wonderfully scented pine cones! I put mine in a tall glass vase and I think it is mighty can also put them in a basket with some dried orange slices or cinnamon sticks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Best Apple Recipe Ever

It is starting to get really chilly up North and we actually got our first snow a few days ago! I was so excited but it was pretty much the most lame snow ever since it was barely a sprinkling, melted within a couple hours and was then warm enough later for me to rake leaves. I can't wait for the first REAL snow because I absolutely love walking around while it is snowing and coming home and having a cup of hot chocolate. Snow also equals holidays for me and starting next week I am going to go ahead and decorate for Christmas. I don't really have any Thanksgiving decorations and I like Christmas ones much better so it is going to come a bit early in our house. Last year we didn't get to celebrate Christmas in a traditional way (since we were laying on a beach drinking cocktails on our honeymoon) so this year I really want to go all out.

Now for the promised apple recipe:
I don't want to be responsible for destroying all other apple recipes but seriously this is one of the absolute best recipes and it is so simple. I have made this recipe countless times and I always get tons of compliments and people wanting to take leftovers home which is my favorite compliment :) Please, just make this and you will not be disappointed.

Apple Butterscotch Tart
This is a ridiculously simple recipe that really tricks the people who eat it into thinking that you slaved over a stove but I can write this recipe in just a few steps. First, you line your tart pan with pie dough (I waver between making my own crust and using store bought dough depending on how much time and energy I have...both versions turn out well) and trim away excess dough. I like to combine all the leftover dough and then cut out themed shaped like leaves or pumpkins to decorate the tops. Williams-Sonoma has great crust cut-outs that I REALLY recommend. It makes it much easier and it ends up looking great. Fall Crust Cutters
Then you get to work on your apples. I like to use Granny Smith apples in this recipe since it can become too sweet if you aren't careful and so you really need the tartness of granny smith, also they cook beautifully. Peel and slice about 5 cups of apples thinly.
Toss your apples into your crust and then sprinkle the butterscotch chips over the apples. I kinda shake it a bit to get the chips distributed and because I like a lot of butterscotch chips. it!
Then you blend your flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbles. I use a pastry blender sometimes but I get annoyed when the butter keeps getting stuck between the blades so if I am impatient I just use my hands and it goes much faster. Toss in your chopped pecans and you're good to go! Sprinkle the deliciousness over your apples/butterscotch chips and you're pretty much done.
This version has no pecans because I was out but trust me, it is much better with pecans, it gives it a bit of salty crunch. I also did a last sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
Just toss your creation in a 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until your apples are nice and tender and that's it! Let it sit for a while before you try to remove the side of the tart pan or it may get a bit messy.
All baked and ready to eat
Logan loves this served with vanilla ice cream but I am purist and love it by itself with maybe a bit of whipped cream. This recipe is one of my absolute favorites because it is ready quickly, has few ingredients and gives you such a warm, comforting, and flavorful result. This tart is equally at home on your table for a quick weekday dessert or all dressed up for a formal sit down Thanksgiving meal but no matter where you eat it, I guarantee you will enjoy the wealth of fall flavors.

Apple Butterscotch Tart
1 Pastry for single-crust
5 Cups of peeled, thinly sliced apples (recommend using Granny Smith or any other tart cooking variety)
1 Cup of butterscotch chips
3/4 Cup of flour
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1 Tsp cinnamon
a dash of salt
1/3 Cup of chopped pecans
*ice cream or whipped cream for topping*

Thanksgiving is in less than two weeks! I'll definitely be posting my menu (I am making a ridiculously large amount of food for just two people) and posting pictures of my first year of holiday decorating in a house! What are your own Thanksgiving menus looking like? Are you going traditional turkey feast or outside the box?
Counting down till Thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apples, Apples Everywhere

I will warn you that my next few posts will include apple recipes because last weekend Logan and I went to a Pick Your Own produce farm and came home with tons of apples. I already have made an apple butterscotch tart (will post about that next time) and today I made homemade applesauce and in a few days I'm planning on making Apple Bisque with Chestnuts (will post about later). I am nervous about the apple bisque because I can't really imagine an apple soup but I am assured that it is not really that sweet so we shall see...and also I have no idea how to cook with chestnuts. I told my mom about the chestnuts and she said "Stephanie, that is a Yankee thing. Don't get too attached to the chestnuts" :) This is why I miss my mom.

Homemade applesauce is one of those ridiculously easy recipes that gives you an amazing product. You can make as much or as little as you want and it freezes so well. I know that come February I am going to be so happy to eat some applesauce that actually tastes like fresh fruit so with no further ado...
I love how Pioneer Woman has all her ingredients set out in her pictures so here we go.
At the orchard we picked Red Romes, Red Delicious, and Granny Smiths. These are all great cooking apples. I really recommend mixing your apples when making applesauce because you will get a much more rounded flavor. The most labor intensive part of this recipe is the apple prep. You need to peel, core and quarter your apples. I usually use around 3-4 lbs of apples but this recipe adjusts really easily so just use what you have available. Put your naked apples in a big pot with around 1 cup of water, lemon peel, lemon juice from 1 lemon (more if you like tart applesauce), lots of cinnamon! I put in 4 sticks of cinnamon and a good sprinkle of cinnamon (if you aren't crazy about cinnamon then use 1 stick and as much cinnamon to your taste), salt, brown sugar and white sugar (I use splenda to keep calories down and it works great). I also tossed in a bit of nutmeg because I am nutty like that :)
I love recipes where you just toss everything in one pot.
Now, you are pretty much done. How quick and awesome is that?!? Turn up the heat until the water boils and then turn it back down low/medium, cover your pot and simmer for around 30 minutes or until your apples are all squishy and falling apart.
The apples will produce a lot of liquid and will fall apart when poked with a spoon when they are ready.
 Remove your cinnamon sticks and try to remove your lemon peel. I couldn't find mine so it got mashed up with the apples, oh well. *Edit-after the applesauce cooled and I was packing it up I actually found most of them so apparently the trick is to go fishing after it cools*I also usually rinse my cinnamon sticks and use them again unless they have been used a ton. Now the last step it is kind of up to personal preference. I like a rustic, kind of chunky, applesauce so I just squish mine with a pastry blender (because I don't have a potato masher) and it works just fine but I imagine you could use an electric mixture or even a blender on a low setting if you want a really fine, smooth applesauce. This is also a good time to taste it to see if it needs more spices, sugar, salt etc. delicious
Applesauce is great hot or cold and freezes beautifully so go crazy. I love it on peanut butter toast (sounds nasty but it is delicious. This is a great holiday/fall recipe because like many of my favorite recipes, it makes your whole house smell so yummy. I recently discovered the music channels on our tv so I have been playing Christmas music non stop and starting my Christmas decorating so to me this just smells like the holidays. Do you guys/gals have any recipes that you *must* make during the holidays? Applesauce is one of mine, as are sugar cookies, gingerbread and lots of things with pumpkin :)

Homemade Applesauce
3-4 lbs of cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered-I like to use Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Red Rome, or Fuji ( I think I ended up using around 10-12 apples)
1 cup of water
3/4 strips of lemon peel
Juice of one lemon-around 3/4 Tbsp
Cinnamon Sticks-I used 4 but 2 had been used before for making cider last weekend so they weren't full strength
A really healthy sprinkle of cinnamon (I like a really cinnamon-y applesauce so I would suggest starting with a bit and work your way up unless you are a huge fan like me :)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of sugar -I use splenda and it works great. (you may need to use more or less depending on how sweet your apples are so I usually start with a bit under a 1/4 cup and add more after cooking if it needs it)
1/2 tsp of salt
a bit of nutmeg if desired

Hope you bring a bit of the holidays in your home,