Cooking

Apple Pie Blintzes

Apple Pie Blintzes

Since I posted the recipe for making your own apple pie filling recently, I thought I’d share a fun way to use it- other than in a pie. I made blintzes with the pie filling.

I used flour tortillas for the crepes. Don’t get me wrong, I love making real crepes. But, when you don’t have the time, the tortillas are a fun and tasty substitute.

I soaked the tortillas in milk. By soaking the tortillas in milk, they soften up, and can be used like a crepe. Soak them for at least 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. I placed the tortillas in a shallow baking pan and made sure to drizzle each one with milk as I added them to the pan.

For the filling, I used some of my homemade apple pie filling. If you have fresh apples, you can just peel and slice the apples, then cook them in a little water and sugar until softened. You can make them as sweet as you like. You made need less sugar if the apples are extra sweet. Add some cinnamon and nutmeg, too. If they are too watery- combine a little cornstarch with cold water and drizzle the mixture in until the apples thicken up. Don’t add too quickly or you might them too thick and gummy.

To assemble the blintzes, place a softened tortilla on your work surface and spoon a little apple filling in the middle. You can do this with hot filling, but cold or room temperature filling is easier to use. Don’t over fill them or you won’t be able to fold them up. I used 8-inch tortillas and used about 1/3 cup of filling for each one. Fold the sides in until they almost meet in the middle and them roll the tortilla up to cover the filling. Place seam side down until ready to fry them.

Heat butter in a skillet, and brown the blintzes over medium heat until lightly toasted on both sides. They will be crispy on the outside, but tender in the middle. Put on a serving plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve while warm. These are fine just as they are, but feel free to add ice cream or whipped cream, too.

My guests really liked them and said they did not realize they were made from tortillas. I have made these before and use different fruit fillings. I’ve even made a cheese filled version a few times. It seems I usually have a package of tortillas, so it is a go-to dessert for me in a pinch.

Homemade Pita Bread

Pita dough rising

After tasting fresh baked,  homemade pita bread it’s nearly impossible for me to eat the stuff I find in stores. Pita is fun to make and not difficult at all. We made fresh pita in a bread baking class last night. I think most of my students were  surprised at how easy they were to make.

Although the recipe calls for placing the rolled out dough directly on the oven rack, we placed the dough on baking sheets in the oven. Just a little easier and neater.

If the pita doesn’t puff up, it will still taste wonderful. Most of ours puffed up last night. The more careful you are when rolling out the dough- the better your odds of a good puff.

You can add some whole wheat flour, if you like. The dough pictured is a batch I made for home. I added about 2 cups of whole wheat flour to the dough, in place of some of the white flour.

Pita Bread

 4 ½- 4 ¾ c. flour

1 pkt. Active dry yeast

1 ½ t. sugar

1 ½ t. salt

1 ¾ c. water

2 T. oil

In large bowl combine 2 cups of the flour with other dry ingredients. Heat water and oil to 120-130 degrees (warm) and add to flour mixture in bowl beating until smooth. Beat three minutes then begin stirring in enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover dough with plastic wrap and then a towel and let rest on board 20 minutes. Punch dough down and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a smooth ball and place on board, allowing space in between. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Roll dough balls into circles. Place 3 circles at a time directly on oven rack. They will puff up and brown in about three minutes. Remove to rack to cool and repeat with remaining dough. Makes 12.

Wonton Soup

Wonton Soup

With a chill in the air today, I decided to make wonton soup. It is one of my childhood favorites. Wonton soup is actually not that hard to make, and everyone seems to like it.

For me, Wonton soup always brings back memories of going out for Chinese food with my family, when I was a kid. The restaurant would serve it family style, and my mom or dad would ladle out everyone’s soup. It always looked and smelled wonderful. Tasted wonderful, too. Even more special, because we only had it when we out to dinner.

The one problem I find when trying to make this soup at home is finding wonton wrappers that are thick enough. The square ones I find at the neighborhood grocery store are OK, but thinner than the ones in Wonton  Soup at a restaurant. At a local Asian grocery I have found round wrappers that are labelled for dumplings and are thicker. That is what I used. They worked out better. I normally add strips of roast pork to wonton soup, but one of my friends doesn’t eat pork, so the use of chicken thighs was a great substitute. You can play around with fillings, too. I often add shrimp as both a filling, and to the soup itself.

Wonton Soup

1½ lb. chicken
1 head bok choy
3 T. hoisen sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
24 won ton wrappers
2 qts. chicken stock
1 t. ginger
1 t. hot pepper sauce
Chopped green onions
Sesame oil

Bake the chicken until cooked. I used boneless chicken thighs, but even leftover roasted chicken would work. Once cooled, I minced enough of the chicken to give me 1 cup of meat. The rest I cut into thin strips. I then took stems from the bok choy and minced enough of them to make 1 cup. Combine the minced chicken with minced bok choy, the hoisen and the garlic. This is the filling for your wontons. Slice more of the bok choy- using mainly the leaves, into thin shreds. This will go into the soup later, along with the strips of chicken. You should have at least a couple of cups of the shredded bok choy, but more is OK, too. To make the wontons place one on your work surface and spoon a rounded teaspoon of the filling into the middle of it. Moisten edge with water, fold in half and press to seal. I used round wrappers, but square wrappers are fine, too. Repeat with remaining wontons and fillings until done. Bring stock to a boil and add the ginger and hot sauce. Add the wontons to the simmering stock. Simmer gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the strips of chicken and the shredded bok choy greens. Cook about 5-6 minutes longer. Finish soup with chopped green onions and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serves 6-8.

Homemade Pumpernickel Bread

Pumpernickel Bread

There are few aromas I like more than freshly baked bread.  I don’t bake much during the hot summer months, and look forward to cool Autumn days and fresh baked bread. I enjoy baking all sorts of breads.

The dark color comes from a mixture of rye flour, strong coffee, cocoa powder and molasses. These ingredients also give this bread a richness and texture I adore.

It’s hard for me to find a store bought Pumpernickel bread that comes close to this one. Some store bakeries rely on caramel coloring for the color in the bread. For real flavor you need the real ingredients. It is worth the time to make your own.

Pumpernickel Bread

2 Packages active dry yeast

½ c. warm water

2 c. lukewarm strong coffee

¼ c. each molasses and unsweetened cocoa

2 T. Caraway seeds

2 t. salt

5-6 c. flour- I use bread flour

2 c. rye flour

Cornmeal

1 egg white, slightly beaten

In large bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in coffee, molasses, cocoa, seeds, salt and 3 cups of flour. Beat with wooden spoon about 2 minutes. Stir in rye flour and enough of the remaining regular flour to make soft dough. Turn onto floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top, cover and let rest until doubled, about 1 hour. Grease large baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside.

Punch down dough, divide in 2, and form into balls. Place on baking sheet and cover. Let rise until double, brush with egg whites, slash tops and bake at 375 for 35-40 minutes. Makes 2 loaves.

Pink Applesauce

Pink Applesauce

I really enjoy the flavor of homemade applesauce. I try to can at least a few batches this time of year.

I decided to mix things up a little by making a batch of applesauce with cranberries. It came out a pretty shade of pink. The cranberries also added a nice tartness to the mix.

You don’t have to add sugar, if you don’t want to.  You add the amount of sugar you like, or leave it out completely. I like to mix different varieties of apples, for different flavor in your sauce.

You can also freeze the mixture if you don’t want to can it.

Pink Applesauce

60 medium apples, I used mostly Melrose and some Jonathans

12 oz. cranberries

water

1 c. lemon juice

sugar to taste

Peel and core apples. Put in water with some ascorbic acid, citric acid or lemon juice to prevent discoloration. Place apples in a pot with enough water* to prevent sticking and add the cranberries and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat until soft. I wanted smooth applesauce, so I ran the cooked apple mixture through a food mill on the medium blade. Return apple mixture to pan and bring to a boil. Sweeten with sugar, if you like, or leave unsweetened. Have water bath full of boiling water and have hot, clean canning jars and lids and rings ready. Ladle hot applesauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe rims and apply lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes for pints or quarts. Turn off heat and let jars stand in water bath 5 minutes before removing. Set in a draft free area to cool down. Yield: 8 quarts or 16 pints.  *rather than add water, to prevent the apples from sticking, you can use cider instead.

Adapted from Ball Blue Book directions.

Green Tomato Sweet Relish

Green Tomato Sweet Relish

This sweet relish is a great way to preserve those last of the season tomatoes. It is every bit as  good as relishes made from cucumbers.

I am always a little sad to see fresh tomato season come to an end. I have canned tomatoes and dehydrated some, too. Now it is time to preserve the green tomatoes that are left. No sense in letting them go to waste.

Someone asked me for the recipe- so here it is.

Green Tomato Sweet Relish

6 pounds green tomatoes, about 22 medium

2-3 medium onions

2 medium sweet red peppers

1 sweet green pepper

1 large rib celery

1 3/4 c. white or cider vinegar ( 5% acidity)

1 2/3 c. sugar

3 T. canning salt

1 1/2 t. celery seeds

1/2 t. each cinnamon, cloves, allspice and turmeric

1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Wash trim and quarter vegetables. Put vegetables through food grinder using medium blade or pulse in food processor to chop finely. Drain, discarding liquid. Wash jars in hot, soapy water. Rinse and set aside. Combine vinegar with remaining ingredients in large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Continue simmering while packing hot jars, one at a time. Fill to within 1/2 -inch from top of jar. Wipe rims and place on lids. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 5-6 pint jars.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes

I am a big fan of sweet potatoes. They are so versatile to cook with. For me,  just roasting or steaming a sweet potato, and enjoying with salt, butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg is fine. This time of year, I find myself cooking with sweet potatoes all the time.

For dinner with a friend the other night, I was looking for something different to do with sweet potatoes. I didn’t want to just roast or steam them. I ended up shredded them and making sweet potato pancakes. I had duck fat so that is what we used to fry them in.

They were amazing. Crispy on the outside and tender in the middle. I am definitely going to make them again. I could see making smaller pancakes and serving as an appetizer. Here is the recipe.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded- you want to end up with 3-4 cups of shredded sweet potatoes- 1 medium /large one would also work
2 eggs
½ c. panko bread crumbs
1 T. parsley flakes
1 t. hot pepper sauce, or to taste
½ t. garlic powder
½ t. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying- we used duck fat and it was wonderful

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir until well mixed. Heat oil or fat in large skillet to 350 degrees.*  Spoon batter into skillet in 4-5 pancakes, depending on the size you prefer. Cook until golden on one side- and starting to firm up- about 5 minutes. You might have to cook them in two batches – depending on the size of your pan. Don’t over crowd. They are tricky to turn over. Turn over carefully and cook at least another 5 minutes or until both sides are golden brown and crispy. Makes 4-5

* A little trick to know when your oil is hot enough. Place an un-popped kernel of popcorn in your pan with the oil when you are heating it up. Popcorn pops at 350 degrees. When the popcorn pops – it is time to add the batter.

Sweet potato pancakes cooking

Sweet potato pancakes cooking

Apple Galette

Apple Galette

If you like apple pie,  you will like apple galette. A galette is made by rolling out your crust, adding filling and folding up the edges. No pie pan involved.

I actually find a galette easier to make than pie. You don’t have to try to roll out your dough to fit into the pie pan. Nor does you dough have to be rolled into a perfect circle.

That takes a lot of pressure off, if rolling a perfect circle of dough is not your best talent. I must confess to liking its rustic charm. I make my own crust, but you can used purchased crusts, if you prefer.

You can serve your galette with ice cream, whipped cream or dusted with powdered sugar. You can make it with other fruits, as well. Any fruit pie can become a galette.

Apple Galette

Flaky Pie Crust

2 c. flour

1 t. salt

3/4 c. butter, chilled

1 T. cider vinegar

4-5 T. cold water

Combine flour and salt and cut in butter. Toss in vinegar and water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough holds together. Use a fork to toss the ingredients together and as soon as the mixture holds together stop adding water. Makes 2. Chill well before using.

Filling:

5-6 medium apples- I used Jonathan, Gala and Macintosh

2/3 c. sugar- plus extra for sprinkling

3 T. cornstarch

1 T. cinnamon

1 T. Lemon juice, plus extra for treating the apples

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. salt

Prepare dough. Roll half the dough into a 10-inch circle- repeat with remaining dough. Keep covered with plastic wrap until ready to use. Peel and core apples and slice thin. Place apples in water with lemon juice added to prevent browning. Drain apple slices well and place in a bowl. Toss with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and seasonings. Place one of the crusts on a baking sheet. Pile half of the prepared apples on the center of the crust. You should have about a 2-inch circle of dough around the edges that is uncovered. Fold edges of the crust up over the apples pressing lightly to hold in place. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar. Repeat with the remaining crust and apples. You will have a little liquid in the bowl from the apple mixture- save that for now. Place the galettes in a preheated 425 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down heat to 350 and bake for another 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown. While galettes are baking take the liquid left from the apples and cook in a small saucepan until thickened- it will take a minute or two. This will be used to glaze the galettes. When galettes come out of the oven brush the apples with the thickened  glaze.  Cool on wire rack. Makes 2.

Homemade Vegetable Soup Base

Vegetable Soup Base Ingredients

I have made a lot of stuff from scratch- could I make my own soup base? I could and I did! Not soup stock, but the stuff in jars that you just mix with water for instant broth. I wanted a no-meat soup base for when I was cooking meat-free.

I made a vegetable soup base that is a mixture of vegetables, both fresh and dried, herbs, mushrooms, nutritional yeast,  spices and salt. There is pretty good amount of salt, but I wanted to be able to store it in the fridge and be safe.

It worked out that every teaspoonful of the finished base has less than 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Not great, but a lot less than bouillon cubes.

If you want to make yours with less salt or no salt- you’ll have to freeze the mixture in ice cube trays and take it out of the freezer as needed. Sort of like your own bouillon cubes.

The nice part is, I can now make a vegetable soup easily and I know exactly what is in it. It can also be added to chicken or other meat-based stocks, in place of the salt, to add extra flavor.

Homemade Vegetable Soup Base

4 carrots, peeled and cubed

3 celery ribs, washed and cubed

1 large sweet onion, peeled and cubed

3 green onions, washed and cut up

1 c. sun- dried tomatoes, soaked in water 30 minutes, and drained

1 c. dried mushrooms, soaked  in water 10 minutes and drained

1 c. chopped cabbage

1 c. parsley, chopped

1/2 c. chopped sweet pepper

1/4 c. nutritional yeast, optional

2 T. turmeric

8 oz. salt- I used sea salt and used a scale to weigh it. It’s around a cup but will differ if you are using a coarse salt

Combine all ingredients, except the salt,  in a food processor and blend until smooth. I have a decent size Cuisinart and still had to do this in batches. Combine in a bowl with the salt and stir well to blend. Store in a clean jar in the fridge until ready to use. I ended up with about 5 cups of soup base. To use, add about 1 teaspoonful to a cup of hot water for vegetable broth. Use less or more according to your taste. Use in place of salt in other soups, stews and sauces.

Pickled Green Tomatoes

Green Tomato Pickles

The garden season is winding down around here. A number of friends have posted pictures of their last ripe tomatoes of the year. That is a sad time. But, don’t forget about those green tomatoes. You can make fried green tomatoes, which are great. You can also make these pickles. That way, you can enjoy those home grown tomatoes a little longer.

The recipe is pretty simple. I sometimes add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes to each jar for a spicy version. The hardest part is waiting. Once the tomatoes are canned, you have to give them 4-6 weeks for the pickling to finish. Trust me, it is worth the wait.

Just because your ripe tomatoes are done for the year, harvest those green ones and get a little something more from your garden.

Green Tomato Dill Pickles – Kosher Style

Green tomatoes
6 ribs celery, cut in 2-inch pieces
6 Sweet green peppers
6 cloves Garlic
2 quarts water
1 quart vinegar- 5% acidity- you can use white or cider vinegar
1 cup canning or pickling salt
Dill, optional

Use small firm green tomatoes. Pack into hot, clean canning jars. Add to each quart jar a bud of garlic, 1 piece of celery, and 1 green pepper cut into fourths. Make a brine of the water, vinegar, and the salt. Boil with the dill for 5 minutes. Pour the hot brine over the pickles to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Put on cap, screw band firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. These pickles will be ready for use in 4- 6 weeks. Yield: About 6 quarts. Source: NCHFP