Friday, December 31, 2010

What I made with my apples...

My name is Erin and I'm a u-pick-aholic. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples -- I always come home with way more than I should. Luckily, the berries freeze, and freshly picked apples have a pretty long lifespan. This fall, I picked about 25 pounds of apples at Jones Creek Farm, a lovely u-pick orchard north of Seattle. They grow a ton of varieties and don't label most of the trees (you are welcome to sample as much as you want from the trees to find what you like instead), so it's always an adventure seeing what you end up with. I got a bag of tart (baking) and one of sweet (eating), but not really sure what actual kinds of apples I got beyond that!

I cooked with the apples in various spurts throughout the last few months, finally finishing them off with a desperation applesauce-making round this week. I made some yummy things, and with the applesauce sitting in the freezer, I predict making more yummy things in the months to come!

Apple Spice Bread

I have no idea what I did wrong, but this was a pretty bad flop. I baked it well over the suggested time and the outside got very dark, but the inside was still very gummy when eating it.

Apple Oatmeal Bread

This bread is very dense, but in a good way. The raisins add a great textural contrast and the flavor is good. Definitely more of a breakfast/tea time type quick bread. I can't wait to try this with honey butter.

Unsweetened Applesauce

I converted six pounds of apples into this. The taste and texture are both great -- so much better than store-bought. Since I don't have a baby to watch out for like Smitten Kitchen, I leave the lemon zest in and puree it up with the sauce. I'm planning on converting this into granola and some baked goods - will need to do a follow-up post!

One of the items I made with the applesauce was spiced applesauce cake, discussed here.

[Update 1/14/11] I used some of this applesauce to make this granola.  It was delicious, and not too sweet.  I halved the recipe and it still provided several weeks worth of breakfast yogurt topping.

Slow Cooker Sweetened Applesauce

You can't get much easier than crock pot cooking. This applesauce has just the right amount of sweetness and has an appealing texture. My only regret is that I ran out of flour before I could make the accompanying buttermilk biscuits!

Savory recipes documented here and here

2010.12.30 - Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs, Cranberry Spritzer, Pac Man Cake

Last dinner of 2010! This was also the first time baby F, the daughter of P and M, attended! She's too young to sample thursday night dinner food, but she'll be ready someday :) [not "ready" in the jonathan swift way, of course]

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs

I've never had spaghetti squash before, and am still kind of amazed that it really does come out looking like noodles! This recipe was delicious and seems fairly healthy. I doubled it and served five, so I'm not so sure about the stated servings (4 for the recipe as is).

Roasting spaghetti squash is quite easy, although I was unsure how to tell if it was done. I ended up flipping the squash over and sticking a fork in it to test tenderness. It was rather awkward trying to flip the squash over (mine was over five pounds) when it was hot out of the oven. Pro tip: the squash cools off a lot more quickly for handling if you flip it over so cut-side is up, rather leaving it cut-side down and keeping the steam trapped beneath it. d'oh.

The parmesan cheese added a *lot* of flavor to the turkey meatballs. Definitely essential.

I left out the mushrooms from this recipe altogether because I don't like them. I skipped straight to simmering the browned meatballs with the reserved onion mixture and stock. I should have reduced the amount of stock to account for what would have been absorbed by the mushrooms, so my end result was pretty watery (I also just dumped the whole skillet into the bowl with the squash rather than prettily plating individually as Martha would have done).

White Cranberry Spritzer

Since I've stopped drinking Crystal Light iced tea (expensive, trying to eliminate artificial sweeteners besides coke zero at restaurants), I try to remember to make a special drink when people are coming over, usually not succeeding. This week I managed to remember. I made this spritzer without the booze, but believe it would taste great with the suggested rum too. It was a little overpowered by rosemary, so I think I would adjust the proportions of mint and rosemary next time. Overall, very good though. White cranberry juice definitely is a lot more mild than regular cranberry juice.

Pac Man birthday cake, inspired by this and this

A turned 30 in December, so I wanted to make him a birthday cake based on one of his favorite things - Pac Man! I found some good inspiration links by searching the net and made a pretty neat cake.

I baked brownies (box mix, gasp) in the Baker's Edge pan to make the course (right term?). I put parchment in parts of the pan and oiled it well, and luckily the brownie came out of the pan just fine. I then outlined the edges with blue frosting (Betty Crocker decorator icing in the spray can, gasp again) and used a star tip to make the pellets.

For pac man and the ghosts, I made sugar cookies using this recipe. I could not find a tulip cookie cutter, so I had to hand cut the ghosts, which was a minor disaster. The cookie dough warmed up extremely quickly (even in my cold house) and was then impossible to work with because it was so sticky. I needed the speed provided by a cookie cutter, but unfortunately had to settle with cutting one out by hand, freezing the dough, and then doing another.

This was my first ever attempt using royal icing. I used meringue powder instead of a raw egg white. I was so worried about the initial thickness of the icing that I added way too much water to thin it out, and then had to add in a ton more sugar to thicken it up. In the end, it still wasn't thick enough and ran a little bit. I used ziploc bags as the piping bags and the tip from here about putting the bags in cups for easy filling was great.  I always make such a mess of filling piping bags, but not this time!

I thought the icing tasted too corn-starchy and not good at all, I will have to experiment with other recipes. The cookies themselves were delicious -- the buttermilk adds a much needed interesting flavor to the otherwise typically cloying sugar cookie.

Other Goodies

C got a breadmaker recently, so she volunteered to bring some corn bread. As soon as I heard corn bread, I thought honey butter, so I made this recipe. I looooved this honey butter. The cinnamon and vanilla added an amazing taste.

C also brought some raspberry Chocovine, a chocolate/wine combination. I had been seeing this stuff in stores for the last couple weeks and was curious/disgusted. It was pretty terrible -- I compared it to yoohoo mixed with cough medicine. It is seriously disturbing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010.12.02 - "Beef and Broccoli" Salad

After two weeks of Thanksgiving dinners, I wanted to provide my friends with taste bud relief!  Nothing that tasted remotely like Thanksgiving would be found on my table.  I also needed something simple, so I gravitated towards a mashup of two salads.

Broccoli Slaw with Oranges and Crunchy Noodles combined with Asian Beef and Mango Salad

I took the ground beef of the Asian beef salad, cooked it with a bit of the dressing from the broccoli slaw, and combined it with the rest of the broccoli slaw salad.  I thought the toasted ramen topping was a bit odd and unnecessary, but the rest of the salad was really good.  Nice and light after marathon eating.

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping

I love to keep banana breads in the freezer so I can take some out if I need a dessert or a hostess gift.  This was one of my freezer breads, and of course they freeze and defrost beautifully.  Molly has the best banana bread recipes and this is certainly one of them.

2010.11.25 - Real Thanksgiving

Although not a Thursday dinner with friends, real Thanksgiving was a dinner on a Thursday that I prepared (with help!), so I think it counts :)

Herb Roasted Turkey

Everyone said this turkey was one of the best they'd ever had.  It was quite moist -- I almost thought it was undercooked, but the temperature and color were right.  I think I am just used to overly dry turkey and didn't know how to process this texture!  Flavor was great.  Ina, as usual, can do no wrong.


I made this on Fake Thanksgiving as well.  Awesome gravy.

Rosemary Sage Stuffing Balls

I can never decide how substantial a stuffing to make on Thanksgiving.  I like stuffing with sausage in it, but it feels to heavy for a day with so much other food.  These stuffing balls are on the lighter side, especially if you form the balls into small portions.  I thought this stuffing was ok, but not spectacular tasting. 

Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes

These are the world's best mashed potatoes.  Nothing else comes close.  Time saving tip - we use steam and serve potatoes from the freezer section cooked in the microwave.  Foodie card revoked, I know.

Rutabaga Puff

This was ok, but I thought it was a little bitter.  I would be interested in trying this again with turnip instead. 

Carrots and Parsnips with Honey

I make these all the time - yummy!

Brussels Sprouts Salad

The inspiration salad in the post is one at Picnic, a cute food store/restaurant in Seattle.  I looooved the brussels sprouts salad I got there (for free as a sample on the side of my turkey sandwich -- it outshone the sandwich!), but this one did not even come close.  I think the dressing must be different.  I prefer roasted brussels sprouts for now, unless I am headed to Picnic :)

Corn, Peas

Frozen corn, nothing special.  The peas are a tradition in my family, from my mom's uncle I believe.  I call them "silver can peas" -- they are LeSueur early peas and come in a silver can, obv.  They are their own unique flavor.

Framboise Cranberry Sauce

Dad vetoed the "fancy cranberry sauce", so this cranberry sauce was also accompanied by one from the can.  He can't have Thanksgiving without slicing off some cranberry jelly, using the can markings as cut lines.  I stuck to the framboise cranberry sauce, and it was delicious.  I think I prefer Ina's cranberry conserve from Fake Thanksgiving, though -- it is more interesting.

Orange Pumpkin Cloverleaf Rolls

These were the biggest disappointment of the night.  My yeast was either dead or I killed it, because these barely rose and were dry and dense when cooked.  I also didn't taste much orange or pumpkin.  Sad :(

Coffee Toffee Pie

The filling and whipped cream parts of this pie were delicious, but the crust could use improvement.  The rice krispies/melted sugar combination was difficult to work with and kind of bland.  The recipe did not call for nearly enough chocolate to provide a seal on top of the crust, which would have helped with some sogginess issues. 

We were also lucky to have a myriad of cookies and other pies from my mom and her friends.  Too much dessert!