Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fresh and healthy

Making applesauce from scratch was one of the most satisfying things I've done in the kitchen. It was so fun to know we grew the apples in our own yard, then slow-cooked them into this delicious, healthy puree. It was by far the best applesauce I've eaten in my life. Halfway into the cooking, your house will smell like a cider factory.

This is beyond easy! You can make as big or small a batch as you want. Use naturally sweet apples whose flavor you love, and you won't have to add a single bit of sweetener. I used honeycrisp apples from our tree, which we have been told are some of the best apples people have ever eaten. They made the sweetest, most flavorful sauce. I am excited to make this pie with it.


1/2 c. water

Peel and core apples before slicing into eighths. It doesn't matter if the air turns the apples a little brown while you're working. Fill Crock-Pot with desired amount of apple slices. A full pot will cook down and make about half a pot of applesauce. Pour 1/2 cup water over apples. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, or low for 8 to 10 hours.*

Puree apples to desired consistency. An immersion blender is fantastic for this. A regular blender works as well, or if you like a chunkier sauce, use a potato masher. Eat your applesauce warm, right out of the pot! Refrigerate leftovers. (Applesauce is also great for canning.)

*I do high for 6 hours, but every Crock-Pot is different, so you'll have to figure out what's best for you. I have two Crock-Pots, and one of them has a tendency to burn the top edges of food, so I spray the sides of that one with cooking spray before I put apples in it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Satisfying stroganoff

This is a simple and delicious recipe for stroganoff. It's fresh and well seasoned. My kids love mushrooms, so they devour this meal. It can be served over noodles or rice. Although the picture above shows enriched noodles, I usually use whole wheat, which I highly recommend.


1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
16 oz. mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
6 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. milk
3 c. beef broth
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. sour cream

In a very large skillet -- I use my electric skillet -- start breaking up and browning beef. Add onion, pepper and mushrooms. Cover and cook for several minutes, until beef is cooked through and vegetables are tender. Add cream cheese and cover to melt.

In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch and cold milk until smooth. Pour broth into skillet, then add cornstarch mixture and stir well. Add salt and pepper. Cover and bring stroganoff to a boil. Uncover, add sour cream and simmer until thickened. The longer it sit, the thicker it gets. Serve over rice or noodles.

*Note: This recipe can be made gluten-free with very little hassle.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crispy, buttery crumbs

The recipe for this plum tart comes from Ina Garten. It was very easy to make, and the crust was divine. You can substitute peaches or nectarines for the plums, which I will definitely be doing now that my nectarine tree is ready for harvest!


2 c. flour
3/4 c. finely chopped walnuts (not ground -- leave a little texture)
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
12 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
2 lbs. plums, pitted and quartered (for me, this was 8 plums)
2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, nuts and sugar, then add butter and egg yolk. Mix with a pastry blender or fork or food processor until crumbly. Press 2 cups of crumbs into bottom of 9-inch springform or tart pan.

Arrange plum quarters, skin side down, in pan. Make a ring of plums around the outside edge and work inward. Sprinkle sugar over plums, then sprinkle remainder of the crumbs evenly over plums. Bake about 40 minutes, or until tart is golden brown and juices are bubbling. Cool, then serve with vanilla ice cream.

Below is a picture of a pastry blender. It's a great tool to have for cutting cold butter into flour: