Cooking

Apple Pie Filling

Apple Pie Filling

While I think the best pie is made with fresh apples, I also like making and canning my own apple pie filling. It is a handy way for me to enjoy local apples throughout the year. It is also a whole lot better than any commercial pie filling I have tried. Loaded with plenty of big chunks of apples and seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg- I think it the next best thing to fresh apples for baking.

I am picking up a couple of bushels of apples this weekend, so I know I will be using some of them to make pie filling.

I use my canned filling  to make pies, but I also use it for kolachy, blintzes, cakes and more.

The hard part, for some, is getting a hold of Clear Gel. It is a special type of cornstarch. I buy mine on line, but you can find it in stores where the Amish shop. Clear Gel stays thick, even if it is reheated. Regular cornstarch will not.

Here is the recipe I use. You can tweak the seasonings to suit your own taste, but keep in mind that spices sometimes get stronger when canned, so don’t go too crazy!!

 

Apple Pie Filling

6 qts. apples, sliced and blanched

5 1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. Clear Gel- modified cornstarch available on line and in Amish stores

1 T. cinnamon

1 t. nutmeg

2 1/2 c. cold water

5 c. apple juice

3/4 c. lemon juice

If apples lack tartness use an additional 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Wash, peel and core apples and cut into 1/2 thick slices. Place in water treated with either lemon juice, citric acid or ascorbic acid to prevent darkening. Remove from solution and drain well. Blanch in boiling water- 2 quarts at a time- for 1 minute. As you finish each batch place in a bowl and cover to keep warm. In large pot combine sugar, Clear Gel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water and apple juice. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute. Add drained apples and stir gently to combine. Ladle into hot, clean jars leaving 1 1/2 inches of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process in a boiling water bath- pints or quarts for 25 minutes. After the time is up, turn off canner and let jars sit in water bath for 5 minutes before removing. This will reduce the chance of siphoning.  Makes 7 quarts or 14 pints.

For only 1 quart

3 1/2 c.apples

3/4 plus 2 T. sugar

1/4 c. Clear Gel

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/8 t. nutmeg

1/2 c. cold water

3/4 c. apple juice

2 T. lemon juice

Apple Fritters

Apple Fritters

I love apple season.  Besides eating them fresh, I enjoy cooking with fresh apples. One of my favorite apple dishes is apple fritters.

Fritters are  similar to doughnuts. Rather than being made from a dough that is rolled and cut, like doughnuts, fritters are made from a batter. The fritter batter  is spooned into oil for frying. They are actually very easy to make.

Good fritters are light and airy inside, with a crisp outside.

These are very good fritters. These fritters have diced apples and cinnamon in the batter and cook up tender and light.

You could play around by adding other fruits, like pears, peaches or even berries. They are good plain, but can be rolled in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or drizzled with a powdered sugar glaze.

So enjoy one of the best recipes of the season, and make yourself some fritters.

 

 

Apple Fritters

2 c. flour

2 T. sugar

2 T. baking powder

1 T. cinnamon

1/2 t. salt

1 c. milk

2 eggs, beaten

2 T. melted butter

1 c. diced apples

oil for frying- I used coconut oil

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together milk with the eggs and butter. Stir in dry ingredients until just moistened and add the apples. Heat oil to 375. If using gluten free flour heat oil to 350. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Don’t do more than 4-5 at a time. It will take about  4 minutes in total but you need to turn them to brown evenly so 2 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. While warm roll in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or drizzle with a powdered sugar glaze. Makes about 32.

Mediterranean Pasta with Greens

Mediterranean Pasta with Greens

Since I am still harvesting greens from my garden, I decided to use some for dinner last night. This recipe is easy to make, and full of wonderful flavors. The fresh cooked pasta is combined with greens, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, onion and cheese. The combination is wonderful.

You could use any number of greens in this recipe. I used collards because that is what I had. Chard or kale would work well. Spinach, too.

While the pasta is cooking, I start prepping the rest of the ingredients. This dish comes together in no time.

Feel free to play around with this dish a little. I could see adding toasted nuts to it, or maybe a protein like chicken breast or prosciutto. Here is the recipe. Enjoy!!

 

Mediterranean Pasta with Greens

1 (16 ounce) package uncooked pasta

1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or collards,  stems removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup pitted, sliced black or kalamata olives

1/2 cup pitted, sliced green olives

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago  cheese

 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Stir in pasta, cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente, and drain. Place greens in a microwave safe bowl. Fill bowl about 1/2 full with water. Cook on high in the microwave 5 minutes, until limp; drain. You can also steam the greens on top of the stove. If cooking collards, give them an extra couple of minutes.  Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until tender. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, green olives, and garlic. Mix in the greens. Cook and stir until tender. Toss with pasta and adjust seasonings. The olives are pretty salty, so you might not need additional salt. Sprinkle with cheese and serve. Serves 8

Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes

Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes

If you only use parsnips in savory dishes (or maybe you never use parsnips at all), you might be surprised to see them used in a dessert.

 

Truth is, parsnips are similar in flavor to carrots and carrots are used in cake quite successfully.  While not exactly the same in flavor, think of parsnips as white carrots.

 

Combined in a spiced batter, they make wonderful cupcakes. Good any time of the year, they seem especially nice for an Autumn dessert.

 

I have company coming for dinner later. I had some parsnips, so I decided to make cupcakes for our dessert.

Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes

1 1/2 c. flour

1 c. sugar

1 T. ground ginger

1 T. cinnamon

2 t. baking powder

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. allspice

1 t. salt

1/2 t. cloves

3 eggs

1/2 c. oil

1/2 c. milk or half and half

2 t. vanilla

2 c. packed peeled and shredded fresh parsnips, 2-3 large

1/2 c. chopped nuts, optional plus extra for topping, optional

1 recipe cream cheese frosting- see below

Preheat oven to 350. Line 24 cupcake pans with paper liners- or grease lightly. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In smaller bowl combine eggs, oil, milk and vanilla and mix well. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until smooth. Stir in parsnips and nuts, if adding. Spoon batter into the prepared pans, filling half-full. Bake for 15 minutes – or until toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Cool and frost. Sprinkle with fine chopped nuts, if you like. Makes 24.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 0z. (1 stick) butter, softened

1 c. powdered sugar

1 t. vanilla

Beat all ingredients together until fluffy. Frost cupcakes and chill until ready to eat.

Parsnips

Shredded parsnips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh out of the oven

Halloween Candy Spiders

Candy Spider

This is the only kind of spider I want in my house. If you are looking for a quick spooky decoration/treat idea, you might want to make some candy spiders. These are about the size of a tarantula. Super simple, and kids can make them, too. You only need a few ingredients.

The body is made from marshmallows, the legs are chow mein noodles and the eyes are small candies. I used melting chocolate, but you can use any kind of chocolate you like.

 

To start, melt some chocolate. Dip the chow mein noodles in the chocolate and tap gently to remove excess. I leave one end un-dipped to make it easier to stick in the marshmallow later. Allow to harden up before going to the next step. I set them on a flexible cutting board, but wax paper is good, too. You have to peel them off later, a flexible surface is best. You’ll need 8 for each spider- so be sure to make enough. Allow for breakage.  Set a marshmallow flat side down and poke 4 holes in each side, 8 total. I used a bamboo skewer. Stick a noodle “leg” in each hole. Spoon chocolate over the marshmallow until coated. Whatever drips off can be re-melted and used again. While the chocolate is still soft, press 2 candy eyes into place. Hold them for a minute to be sure they are secure. Now, you can decorate cakes with them, use them on a dessert tray- or just eat them.

Chow mein noodle legs

Chow mein noodle legs

Insert legs into marshmallow

Insert legs into marshmallow

Spoon chocolate over the marshmallow to cover it.

Spoon chocolate over the marshmallow to cover it.

My Favorite Caramel Apples

Caramel Apple dipped in Pumpkin Seeds

I did a program with kids recently, and we made these caramel apples. The kids loved them and I wanted to share the recipe. Making caramel apples is a wonderful childhood memory for me. Every Autumn, we would make a batch.

We used those little store bought caramels. I was often the one tasked with unwrapping them. I can remember unwrapping one after the other. It seemed to take forever.

I wanted to make my own caramel, so that is what I did with the kids. It is so much better than the store bought version.

Caramel is not that hard to make. You do need to keep an eye on it. Stir constantly. Just a hint, be sure your candy thermometer is really secure. Mine was a little slippy on the pan I was using. At one point the thermometer slid into the caramel. Not what you want to have happen!!!

Once dipped in the caramel, you can dip the bottom of the apples in nuts, pumpkin seeds, sprinkles, cereal, or even popcorn.

Homemade Caramel Apples

1/2 c. butter, cut in cubes

2 c. packed brown sugar

1 c. corn syrup

pinch of salt

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 t. vanilla

8-12 apples

chopped nuts, pumpkin seeds, cereal, sprinkles, popcorn for dipping the bottoms of the caramel apples, optional

 

In heavy saucepan combine the butter, sugar, syrup and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. This will take about 10 minutes. Add milk and bring mixture up to 248 degrees. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Place a Popsicle stick, skewer or chopstick down the center of each apple. Dip apples in the caramel, allowing excess to drip off- or not. Dip bottoms of apples into nuts, seeds or whatever ingredient you picked. Place on wax paper and allow to set up. If you don’t want to dip the bottoms in anything, place the dipped apples on lightly buttered wax paper. Cool before serving. Makes 8-12 caramel apples.

Note: You could also use pears in the recipe.

The kids dipped their apples in cereal.

 

Beet, Carrot and Red Onion Salad

Beet, Carrot and Red Onion Salad

This recipe was inspired by pickled beets. I love that sweet/sour flavor combination and wanted to make it into a salad. Besides, it has been unseasonably warm. Puts me in the mood for salads.

I got some lovely beets at a local produce market. Picked up the red onions there, too. I already had carrots at home.

I chose to roast my beets, but you could also boil or steam them. Once cooked, the carrots and beets are combined with the onions in a dressing that is similar to what you would use to pickle beets, or other veggies.

Once you have dressed the veggies, just place in the fridge and let the flavors blend. The veggies almost become “pickled” in a day or so.

I shared some with my neighbor and she really loved it. I added cubes of cheddar cheese just before serving.

Beet, Carrot and Red Onion Salad

1½ lbs. beets
1 lb. carrots
2 red onions
Dressing:
1½ c. apple cider vinegar
½ c. oil- I used olive oil
½ c. sugar
¼ c. lime juice
2-3 T. chopped parsley
1 T. mustard seed
1 T. salt, or to taste
2 t. dill weed
1 t. celery seed
½ t. ginger
Hot sauce to taste

You’ll have to cook the beets. You can roast them or boil or even steam them. To roast the beets- Place beets in a roasting pan and drizzle with a little oil. Cover pan and place in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Smaller beets will be cooked in less time- about 35 minutes. Really large beets could take up to an hour. I always check by poking one of the beets with a fork. If boiling, just place beets in a pot with enough water to cover them and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the beets are tender, about 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. When beets are cool enough to handle, removed the skins and cut into bite sizes cubes. Place in mixing bowl. To cook the carrots, just peel, slice and steam or boil until just tender. Combine with beets in mixing bowl. Peel and slice the red onions. Place in a saucepan with the dressing ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until onions are wilted and tender. Pour onion and dressing mixture over beets and carrots and stir to combine. Chill overnight. Serves 6-8.

 

Coconut Almond Sorbet

Coconut Almond Sorbet

As soon as the weather gets hot, I start making frozen desserts. However, this isn’t usually the case in  October. Since we are looking at above average temps for another week, I thought I would make a frozen dessert.

Inspired by a friend who can’t have dairy, I made this coconut sorbet. I started with a can of coconut milk, added some almond milk, sweetened it, and added vanilla for a little added flavor. So simple and really tasty.

It has a lot of the creaminess of a dairy based dessert.  In fact, if you didn’t know, you would probably think there is some milk or cream in this sorbet, even though there isn’t.

Looking forward to making some for my vegan niece the next time she comes to town.

Coconut Almond Sorbet

1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk

1 c. almond milk

¼ c. sugar- or to taste

2 t. vanilla

 

Combine all ingredients in bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place in an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Makes 1 quart.

Note: If you don’t have an ice cream machine, you can freeze the sorbet in a shallow tray. Once frozen, remove from freezer and let it soften a few minutes. Break into chunks and process in a food processor to soften. Return to freezer until ready to eat.

Spiced Cauliflower and Carrot Soup

Spiced Cauliflower and Carrot Soup

I love to cook with what I have on hand. Some of my best meals have come out of a forage in my fridge, freezer and pantry. This is one of those recipes.

I had been to a favorite produce market and they had the most beautiful fresh cauliflower.  I couldn’t resist. I had also picked up some other produce.  I had picked up a lot of other produce.

I can’t help myself. I see the bounty of fruits and veggies and I buy more than I should. Not a surprise, the cauliflower got pushed to the back of the fridge.

A few days later, I was looking for inspiration- and there it was- this lovely head of cauliflower.

I thought of soup right away. I often use cauliflower in soup. I also had a bunch of carrots, so I decided to use them together. The combination, paired up with some of my favorite seasonings, made for an excellent meal.

I served it with a drizzle of hot sauce, and a little fresh parsley from the garden. This soup freezes well, so I may save some for another day.

While I ate it hot, this soup could be served cold.

 

Spiced Cauliflower and Carrot Soup

3 T. oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small to medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 c. diced fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes, I used a pint of home canned tomatoes.
4 c. chicken or veggie stock*
2 T. curry powder
1 T. ground cumin
2 t. smoked paprika
2 t. ginger
Hot pepper sauce, to taste, plus extra for topping the soup
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped basil, cilantro or parsley for garnish, optional

Heat oil in soup pot and cook onions until golden brown. Add garlic and cauliflower and cook another couple of minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the rest of the veggies, the stock and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook soup, covered, until veggies are tender. I like the soup to cook at least an hour so the veggies are really tender. Puree soup until smooth. I use an immersion blender. If you are using a standard blender, and the soup is hot, puree in small batches and remove the middle piece from the blender lid. Place the lid on the blender and cover with a towel. Hot soup will splash up, and you need to be careful not to get burned. Adjust seasonings. Can be served hot or cold and freezes well. Drizzle some hot sauce on soup when serving and some chopped fresh herbs, if you like.

* You might need a little more stock, depending on how thick you like your soup. I often add extra stock at the end.

Classic Pear Cobbler

Classic Pear Cobbler

Cobbler is one of my favorite desserts for this time of year. I really enjoy making this pear cobbler for family and friends.  Like apples, pears always remind me of Fall.

While cobblers can be made with any number of different fruits,  I love using pears. It is one of the simplest desserts you can make from scratch, and one of my favorites, for sure.

In the time it takes to preheat the oven, you can have it ready to bake. This recipe calls for baking mix, like Bisquick. I make my own- recipes follows, but use what you like.

The cobbler is fine served plain, or with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream. It can also be served cold, but I prefer to serve it warm.

If you prefer, you can also make the cobbler with a combination of pears and apples.

 

 Classic Pear Cobbler

4 c. peeled and sliced pears

½ c. sugar

1 T. plus 2/3 c. baking mix (Like Bisquick or Jiffy Mix or even homemade)- recipe follows

1-2 t. cinnamon

2 T. packed brown sugar

¼ c. butter

2 T. milk

In 1-quart shallow casserole, combine fruit, sugar, 1 tablespoon of the biscuit mix and cinnamon. In medium bowl combine remaining biscuit mix with sugar. Cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Stir in milk to make a soft dough. Drop by spoonfuls over fruit mixture. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into dough comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes. Serves 4-6.

 

Baking/ Biscuit Mix

8 cups sifted, all-purpose flour
1 c. powdered milk
1 c. powdered buttermilk
¼ c. baking powder
1 T. salt
2 c. shortening*
Sift dry ingredients together 3 times. Cut in shortening to resemble cornmeal. Keep in an airtight container. Store in a cool dry place and use within six months.

*You can use butter or coconut oil in place of the shortening. Just store in the fridge, if you do. I use coconut oil.