Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Taste of Fall: Applesauce

Every year for the last seven years I have gone apple picking.  It started as a tradition with my sister-in-law when she was a junior in high school.  Once she moved away for college, my friend Erin started going apple picking with me.  Erin and I have gone every year since.  It is one of my favorite fall traditions.  I hope that I am able to continue apple picking in the fall as life moves forward.

We always pick a peck of apples.  According to Wikipedia, a peck is equal to two dry gallons or a quarter of a bushel.  I must admit, this makes no sense to me.  Why doesn't a peck equal a specific mass?  Maybe that is just the metric-system lover in me.  Anyway, here is what two one-peck bags of apples looks like:

Erin and I decided this year that we were going to be smart and only pick Cortland apples.  Cortlands are red apples which are tart and crisp and perfect for baking.  Since we only really use the apples for baking, we felt only picking the baking ones would be the best use of our pecks.  I definitely picked enough apples to last me through the next week or two of baking. 

This morning, I asked TS what I should make with the apples.  He asked me how hard it would be to make applesauce.  I told him, probably not difficult at all, if I used my Crock Pot.  I was definitely correct that it would not be difficult.  This could not have been an easier food to make.  Because it is so easy, I may never buy applesauce again.  TS even said it smelled so good that he "wanted to eat the house." 

Here is your super easy Crock Pot applesauce recipe:

Makes 3 small jars.

5 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1/4 c. water


1. Place peeled, cored and quartered apples into the Crock Pot.
2. Sprinkle cinnamon and brown sugar over all the apples so all apples are evenly covered with sugar and cinnamon.
3. Pour vanilla over all the apples.
4. Pour water into the Crock Pot.
5. Cook apples for 4-5 hours on low.
6. When apples can be mashed with a fork, they are done.  Mash the apples until desired consistency.
7. Place in a separate container (I used jars) and set to cool. 

See?  How easy is that?!  Enjoy your taste of fall with this recipe.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mexican Cooking Challenge #3

Last night I made meal number three from the Saveur Mexican cooking issue.  I had to make this recipe last night because one of the ingredients is this close to being out of season and after this week will be completely unavailable until next August/September.  That would not work with the fact that I would like to make all of these recipes before spring sets in.  The ingredient at issue - squash blossoms.

Squash blossoms?  Yes, they are the flower that comes before a squash grows.  Yes, the flower is eatable.  In this recipe it is more decorative than flavorful.  But, I did not know that until we ate them last night. You are probably wondering what I made with squash blossoms.  Soup.  Sinus clearing spicy, chicken soup.  This recipe was actually really easy to make.  So, if you have a cold and are not feeling well, this chicken soup is spicy enough to make that cold go away.  You really don't need the squash blossoms to make this recipe, but it was required as Saveur wrote the recipe, so I used them.

Before I continue, I must say "Thank you" to my neighbor Jenny for the squash blossoms.  She and her sons are growing squash this year.  She allowed me to go into her backyard and pick as many as I wanted.  So, thank you Jenny.  I dedicate this soup recipe to you.

 I must also let you know that I partially made a second recipe.  I made a tomatillo salsa that is supposed to be served with an avocado.  I had everything in the house, but when it got around to the avocado, it was not quite ripe (I forgot to tell TS how to tell if an avocado is ripe when he went grocery shopping).  Not ripe avocados are not tasty.  I went ahead and served the salsa with the queso fresco and tortillas as a side to the soup, but I will have to make this recipe again so I say I made the complete recipe.  I will give you the recipe for the tomatillo salsa in the mean time because it was really good.  It was actually kind of mild and a nice addition as a side to the soup. 

First the soup recipe: Caldo Xochitl con Flor de Calabaza (Squash Blossom Soup)
(The Saveur recipe can be found here)

Serves 6-8

8 cups chicken stock
8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups crumbled queso fresco
1 cup cooked rice
8 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
4 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
½ medium white onion, minced
1 cup roughly torn squash blossoms
½ cup minced cilantro leaves

1. Bring stock and chicken to a boil over medium-high heat
2. Once boiled, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
3. While chicken is cooking in the broth, assemble the queso fresco, the chipotles, serrano chiles, onion, squash blossoms and cilantro.  As each one is chopped, minced or torn, put that ingredient in a separate bowl.
4. When chicken is cooked, remove chicken and transfer to a bowl and finely shred chicken.
5. To serve: divide chicken, cheese, rice, both chiles, and onion among serving bowls; top with squash blossoms, and then ladle hot broth into bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Now for the tomatillo salsa recipe:

8oz. tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed
⅓ cup plus 2 tbsp. roughly chopped cilantro
¼ cup minced white onion
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste

  1. Bring tomatillos and 4 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan; cook until tomatillos are just soft, about 5 minutes. 
2. Drain and set tomatillos aside to cool.
3. In a food processor, put tomatillos, 1/3 cup cilantro, 2 tbsp onion, serrano chile, garlic and salt.
4. Pulse food processor until slightly chunky (about 20 pulses).

I will probably make the full recipe, as posted on Saveur, later this week when the avocado has ripened. 


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kugel: What is Served at Every Break-the-Fast

L'shana Tova!  Happy New Year!  On Yom Kipur you fast all day and end the fast with a big meal with family and friends to break the fast.  At this meal you have traditional Jewish foods. For example, last year I think we had bagels, lox, salad, kugel, quiche and my apple upside down cake for dessert.  This year, TS and I are going to my friend Sheila's house.

As a good friend should do, I asked Sheila what I should bring with me for the Break-the-Fast.  The one thing she requested was kugel.  For those who do not know, kugel is a noodle or potato pudding.  It can be sweet or savory.  I make both, but for this meal it was a sweet one.

Everyone has their own sweet kugel recipe, but the base is the same.  Egg noodles, sour cream or cottage cheese or cream cheese, cinnamon and sugar.  After that the additions vary according to families.  My sister and I have been making kugel together for years.  This is actually the first Yom Kipur in probably 4 years where my sister has not been here to assist in the kugel making.  It was kind of sad.  We normally make the kugel while drinking diet cokes (we consume liquids without calories on Yom Kipur -- our version of fasting) and talk about what foods we want to eat.  This time, I was alone in the kitchen, drinking a diet Dr. Pepper and thinking about how I wanted to lick the spoon and eat a slice of pumpkin pie.  One had just come out of the oven, see below.  Oh well. My sister is at work in a hospital right now, probably drinking a diet coke and thinking about the kugel she has in her bag for breaking her fast. 

Here is my kugel recipe.  Or at least the recipe I made for this year's break the fast.  You may notice in the picture, and the recipe, there are raisins in only half the kugel.  TS does not like raisins.  This year I was nice and instead of him not eating the kugel because there were raisins, he now has a half to choose from that does not have raisins in it.  The recipe shows you how to add raisins to just one half of the kugel.

8oz wide egg noodles
2 cups sour cream
16oz cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
6 eggs
1/2 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven 375 degrees.
1. Boil egg noodles for 4 mins, then drain
2. In a large bowl beat eggs for 1 minute, then add sour cream, cottage cheese, pineapple and cooled, melted butter.  Stir together until fully combined.
3. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar, 1.5 tsp cinnamon to egg mixture.
4. Fold in cooked, drained egg noodles to egg mixture.
5. Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
6. Pour noodle mixture into baking dish.
7. Stir in raisins into half the noodle mixture. (if you want raisins in all of the kugel, then mix them when you add your pineapple)
8. Mix together 1 Tbps sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in small bowl, then sprinkle mixture over all of the kugel.
9. Bake for 40 mins.
10. Cool and serve.

What I was thinking about while making kugel:
pumpkin pie with homemade pie crust.

L'SHANA TOVA or as my Grandmother says "Gut Yuntif"

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mexican Cooking Challenge Part 2

I was serious when I said I was going to cook every recipe in the Saveur Mexican Issue.  (In case you forgot the magazine can be found at There are well over 30 recipes in this magazine which includes everything from salsas to stews to churros (that's going to be a fun one to make).  Well, I have now made 2 of the recipes.

Friday night I decided to make the Enchiladas de Chile Ajo (Oaxacan Red Chile Enchiladas).  I must give warning ahead of time that this is a spicy recipe, so you Minnesotans who are reading this blog, you might want to "have some beer or a pop next to you" when you eat it.  (That is what the cheese/general store owner told TS and I when we were buying spicy cheese curds last weekend when we brought my parents to see the twine ball.  The cheese curds aren't that spicy).

The recipe may seem intense, and I'm not going to lie, it did require me to perform multiple tasks at one time.  I recommend reading the whole recipe through so you know what has to be done at each step.  It is not like I don't read every recipe all the way through multiple times before I start, but with this one I was especially glad I did.  If you do read the recipe all the way through, it is not much to tackle.  Just make sure you are using the time stuff is resting or cooking to do something else.

All that being said, this recipe was well worth the effort.  All the time and effort was put into making the enchilada sauce.  This recipe made A LOT of enchilada sauce.

This is the leftovers! Let's just say TS and I will eat a few more meals using the enchilada sauce.  To me, making a recipe that provides leftovers is the next best thing to going out.

And the final product looked like this:

The recipe from Saveur for Enchiladas de Chile Ajo can be found here.  My adaption (which isn't much of an adaption) is below.

3 oz. dried guajillo chiles (can be found at your local Mexican market)
8 cloves garlic, peeled
6 plum tomatoes, cored
2 serrano chiles, stemmed (also can be found at your local Mexican market)
½ large white onion, cut into ½" slices, plus 1 medium white onion, minced
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 slice white sandwich bread, toasted and crumbled (I actually used some left over challah that my mom made for me last week)
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt, to taste
18 6" corn tortillas (for 2 of us I only made 7 tortillas, but as you saw there was plenty of sauce)
1 ½ cups shredded cooked chicken  (I used left over chicken breasts and shredded the meat, but if you do not have left over chicken you can buy a roasted chicken from your grocery store and shred the meat)
¾ cup crumbled Cotija cheese, plus more to garnish (you can find this at your local Mexican market)

1. Heat a 12" skillet over high heat, and add guajillo chiles.
    1a. Cook, turning once, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
    1b. Transfer to a bowl and cover with 3 cups boiling water; let sit until soft, about 20 minutes.
    1c. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid, and remove stems and seeds.
    1d. Transfer chiles to a blender along with 1 ½ cups soaking liquid; purée until smooth, and set chile purée aside.

2. While guajillo chiles are steaming, return skillet to high heat, and add garlic, tomatoes, chiles, and large onion slices.
    2a. Cook, turning as needed, until vegetables are lightly charred all over, about 8 minutes for the garlic, 14 minutes for the tomatoes, chiles, and onion slices.
    2b. Transfer vegetables to a bowl, and let cool.

3.  Once vegetables are done cooking and set to cool and you have followed all of step 1, return skillet to high heat, and add 1 tbsp. oil; add chile purée, and fry, stirring constantly, until thickened to a paste, about 12 minutes.

4. After making the paste, pour it into a blender adding charred vegetables, chicken stock, oregano, thyme, pepper, and bread; purée until smooth, at least 2 minutes.

5. Pour through a fine strainer into skillet, and return skillet to medium-high heat; bring to a boil.
    5a. Once sauce has begun to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until slightly reduced, about 6 minutes.
    5b. Stir in brown sugar and lime juice, and season with salt.
    5c.  Keep enchilada sauce warm in skillet.

6. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
    6a. Heat 1 tortilla at a time, about 30 seconds on each side.
    6b. Grasp tortilla with tongs and transfer tortillas to skillet with enchilada sauce, flip the tortilla so each side is coated.
    6c. Place coated tortilla on a place and add some cheese, diced onion and chicken in the center of the tortilla and roll tortilla to form tight roll.
    6d.  Transfer rolled tortilla to a baking pan (I used my Pyrex baking pan) and repeat steps 6a-6c until complete.

7.  Sprinkle cheese on top of enchiladas and serve.

TS said that this recipe was one I could make anytime I wanted to!  Seeing how much sauce I have left over, we will be eating this again really soon.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Something Sweet for the New Year

Note: This was to be posted on Wednesday, but life kind of got in the way and I am just completing this now on Saturday.  

 My parents were in town to celebrate Rosh Hashana with TS and me.  I love it when my parents come up because we eat well, and in my book, eating well is the best thing ever.  I think my parents enjoyed seeing the largest ball of twine made by a single man more than the restaurants.  But, then again, who wouldn't love seeing the ball of twine in Darwin, MN?

Before I get sidetracked on the ball of twine, I must provide you with a recipe.  My friend Sascha and I decided to make Erev Rosh Hashana dinner for our parents (and it turns out Marisa came too!).  Since it is Rosh Hashana we had to have apple something.  Well, we doubled up on the apples for dessert.  Sascha made a French Apple Torte that was delicious with my Apple Cider Cinnamon ice cream.

Now, I take no credit for this recipe coming out of my creation.  I just followed a recipe from Saveur.  Remember?  That is the magazine from the last post.  Now you can see why I love my father so much for giving me a subscription to this magazine.  The ice cream was perfect!  Smooth, creamy, apple-y, cinnamon-y and the perfect complement to Sascha's torte.

If you are going to make this recipe, you do need an ice cream maker.  When TS and I were registering for gifts some of the "fun" kitchen items for which we registered were an ice cream maker and a malt/shake maker.  Highly recommended for your kitchen on our opinion.  If you are going to get an ice cream maker I recommend the Cuisinart 2 Quart Ice Cream maker.  I have yet to have any complaints with it.

Now you are probably anxious for the recipe.  The official recipe is here, but mine adaption is below:

2 cups apple cider
¾ cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups heavy cream
¼ tsp. ground vietnamese cinnamon (you can use regular cinnamon, but I have learned that Vietnamese cinnamon is stronger and more intense)
6 egg yolks


1.  In a 4 quart saucepan add apple cider, sugar and cinnamon stick and whisk together.
2.  Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat.
3.  Once mixture has boiled, reduce heat slightly and continue to boil and stir until reduced by at least half (boil for about 25-30 minutes)
4.  When reduced, remove pot from heat and take out cinnamon stick.
5.  Stir milk and cream into apple cider mixture until smooth.
6.  Add ground cinnamon and egg yolks to milk/cider mixture and whisk together until smooth.
7.  Put pot back on stove and stirring often, cook mixture until the mixture thickens and will coat the back of a wooden spoon. (about 20-25 minutes).
8.  Pour thickened mixture through a strainer and into a medium sized bowl.
9.  Refrigerate mixture about 2-3 hours until chilled.
10.  Once chilled, pour mixture into your ice cream maker and follow ice cream maker's instructions for making ice cream.  (mine I had to pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and turn it on for 20-25 minutes, until the mixture was thick, and slowly moving over the blade, but not so slow that it looked hard.  Almost the consistency of partially melted frozen yogurt)
11. Pour mixture from ice cream maker into a bowl and freeze for at least 4 hours. 

This ice cream was a hit at Rosh Hashana dinner.  However, it would be a great addition to any meal during the year. 

L'shana Tova! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mexican Cooking Challenge

This blog seems to be an every-now-and-then-when-I-have-time-and-when-I-make-something-good type of blog.  So, after a 2 month hiatus, I have another post.

I subscribe (thanks to my loving dad) to Saveur magazine (  This is a fantastic cooking magazine that provides me with recipes from around the world.  What I love about Saveur is that there are not only recipes, but articles describing the region of the world from which the dish came.  The most recent issue is all about Mexican cuisine.  Now, if you know TS and me, you know that after seafood, we love Mexican, Central American and South American food.  It is almost our go-to comfort food.  So, this issue of Savuer really piqued our interest.  The cover was even so appealing that TS opened it up and started reading it.

After making one dish from this issue last night, I have now decided it is my goal for the winter to not only perfect my pie crust (another story for another time) but to also make each recipe in this magazine.  The dish last night was carne asada (steak tacos). 

Carne asada was actually a really easy and quick dish to prepare.  What I love about making steak like this is the fact that it has to marinate.  Marinating means you can do other stuff while your meat gets all yummified.  This marinade also allowed me to pull out my blender, which I love but rarely use.  I didn't let the steak marinate a long as the recipe called for because it was late when I started and I was hungry.  Instead of letting it marinate for an hour, I only let it marinate for 40  mins. It still turned out well. 

This meal, after the marinade was made (which only took me about 15 mins to make), only took about 30 mins to cook and put on the table.

Here is the recipe for Carne Asada from Saveur Magazine - somewhat altered by me.

4 cloves garlic, peeled (keep whole)
3 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
6 canned chipotles in adobo, roughly chopped
1 large white onion, sliced crosswise into ¾"-thick rings
1 small white onion, roughly chopped
2 limes
1 ½ lb. trimmed skirt steak, cut into 4 steaks
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 jalapeño, halved and stemmed
Warm tortillas, for serving

1. Heat an 8" skillet over high heat; add garlic, and cook, turning as needed, until charred all over, about 12 minutes.

2. In a blender puree charred garlic, chipotles, small chopped onion, and juice from 2 limes.

3. In a 9" x 13" baking dish add steaks. Pour puree over and toss steaks in marinade to coat; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 1 hour or in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.

4. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot. (Alternatively, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat -- THIS IS WHAT I DID BECAUSE IT WAS RAINING OUTSIDE) Brush marinade from steaks and transfer to the grill; cook, flipping once, until charred and cooked to desired doneness, about 8 minutes for medium. Transfer steaks to a cutting board, and let rest for 5 minutes.  NOTE: I cooked mine on medium-high heat in a grill pan for 6 minutes on each side and it came out medium rare. 

5.While steak is resting, place remaining onion and jalapeño on grill (or in grill pan), and cook, turning as needed, until charred and softened, about 10 minutes.

6. Finely chop steaks after resting for 5 mins, and place in medium sized mixing bowl.

7. Finely chop browned/charred onions & jalapeno and add to chopped steak.

8. Toss grilled vegetables and steak in bowl.

9. Serve with tortillas, lime wedges and salsa verde on the side. I did not have time or the ingredients to make salsa verde, but I did have regular red salsa so I served the steak with that.

I ended up serving this meal with black beans and a salad.  It was a great meal and I am looking forward to making the next dish from Saveur.