Sunday, November 30, 2014

Beer Butter Mushrooms

I'm not a huge fan of beer, but Dave really enjoys it. One of his friends gave him a big multi-pack of Sam Adam's for his birthday, so I put this recipe together as a side dish to the Baked Ziti that I blogged yesterday.

Recipe for Killing Thyme.

-4 cups of button mushrooms, washed
-3 tablespoons of butter
-1 cup of beer
-1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped
-1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped
-sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Melt the the butter in a skillet.

Add the washed mushrooms to the skillet and toss them around to coat. Pour in the beer, and bring to a simmer on medium-low heat. Add the fresh herbs, and sea salt and ground black pepper.

Cook for 30 mins, stirring occasionally.

These had a pretty strong beer flavor. I thought they were just okay (remember that I hate beer), Dave loved them. He ate almost all of them and was incredibly happy with this a side dish. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Crock Pot Baked Ziti

Using the slow cooker for pasta is one of the greatest things I have discovered. This allowed me to get so much done around the house while dinner was cooking in the crock pot. Make sure to check the ziti in the last hours of cooking -- my crock pot is super hot on the back wall and tends to burn pasta. I just cut the burnt part out and discard it, but if you check the ziti during the last hour or so, you may be able to prevent it from burning.

Recipe from Dinner-Mom.

-1 lb. box of ziti noodles, uncooked
-15 ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese
-2 eggs
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-½ cup Parmesan cheese + ¼ cup divided
-½ cup + 1 cup low-fat mozzarella cheese divided
-½ teaspoon salt
-¼ teaspoon pepper
-2 24-ounce jars pasta sauce

Coat the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray. Rinse noodles in a colander and set aside.

Combine ricotta, eggs, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, ½ cup mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Place half of the noodles (about 2½ cups) in the crock pot. Pour 2 cups of pasta sauce over the noodles and use a spoon to make sure the noodles and pasta sauce are evenly layered in the bottom of the crock pot. Layer half of the ricotta mixture in the crock pot by dropping small spoonfuls and then using the back of a spoon or fingers to create an even layer of cheese.

Repeat the noodle, pasta sauce and cheese layers.

Evenly pour the remaining pasta sauce over the top.

Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.

Ten minutes before serving, top with the remaining cheese and replace the lid to allow it 

Dave wasn't sure about this recipe when we first had it for dinner, he thought it was just okay. However, when we had the leftovers the next day he really enjoyed it. I think this improved as leftovers, however, I was happy with it overall. It gave us a filling dinner and plenty of leftovers for work/school lunches. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

Apples Used: 36/40 -- We finally used all of the apples. It took us a month, and four of them spoiled, but we managed to use our half bushel of apples to the fullest potential.

As above, this was the very last apple from our orchard trip, a small red apple, fit for a sweet breakfast and a fond farewell to the fall season.

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original.

-Pancake mix, 1/2 portion makes roughly 6 pancakes
-1 apple
-1/2 c pecans, crushed
-1/2 c cinnamon chips
-1 t lime juice

Peel, core and finely dice apple, into less than 1/4 inch pieces. As you cut the apple, toss the apple pieces in lime juice to slow oxidation.

Mix up pancake batter, make sure it is loose and not too clumpy but not runny, carefully add small quantities of water to reach the desired consistency.

Spray griddle / pan with cooking spray and spoon on batter, to size not too much greater than your spatula, or to your desired pancake size.

As the pancakes cook, evenly distribute apple, pecan, and cinnamon chips onto the pancake underside. When the bubbles that form on the underside of the pancake don't close up when popped, or when the edges of the pancake start to look dry, it is ready to flip. Take care not to leave the pancake too long on either side, but the added ingredients could have the potential to cook differently or leave residue that may burn. Clean the pan between pancakes if necessary.

Serve up a big stack with extra apple and crushed pecan and a generous drizzle of syrup. This breakfast is hot and sweet and very satisfying, perfect for a busy morning and early afternoon.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Salted Caramel Apple Handpies

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I'm sure you have a lot to be thankful for today. Dave and I are participating in a Turkey Trot this morning, before spending the day with family.

This recipe is the dessert component of the Thanksgiving 2014 series. I liked the idea of making individual desserts, these are easy enough to make the day before whatever event you're hosting.

Apples Used: 34/40

Recipe from Just a Taste.

A Turkeyless Thanksgiving:

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
-1/2 cup cold Greek yogurt

For the filling
-2 cups small diced (peeled) Granny Smith apples
-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 cup sugar
-2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
-8 store-bought soft caramels, roughly chopped
-Sea salt
-Egg wash (1 egg lightly whisked with 1 Tablespoon water)

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter to the bowl and use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the mixture is a sandy consistency.

Stir in the Greek yogurt and then turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface.

Knead the dough a few times until it comes together, adding more flour, a pinch at a time, if the dough is too sticky to handle. Roll the dough into an 8x10-inch rectangle and dust both sides with flour before folding it into thirds (like a letter).

Rotate the dough 90º and roll it out again into an 8x10-inch rectangle. Fold the dough again into thirds then wrap it securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.

This process will make the dough incredibly flaky, it should not be too difficult to complete, it's mainly repetition.

While the dough is in the fridge, make the filling by combing the apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and flour, and thoroughly mixing.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unfold it onto a well-floured surface, rolling it out to a 14x14-inch square. 

Using a 3-inch circular cookie cutter or cup, cut out as many circles as possible. Combine and re-roll the scraps and continue cutting out circles until you run out of dough, ensuring you end up with an even number of circles.

Place six baking spray coated cookie sheet. Spoon a small portion of the apple filling into the center of each circle, leaving a border around the filling. Top the apple filling with some chopped caramels and a pinch of sea salt. Place a second dough circle atop each filled circle then use a fork to crimp the edges together.

Brush each pie with the egg wash, and using a sharp knife, cut two or three vents on the top of each pie. 

Bake the pies for about 15 minutes, or until they're golden brown. All to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Repeat with the rest of the ingredients. 

Dave and I really enjoyed these. The crust was buttery and flaky, the filling had the right amount of apples and seasoning. The caramel added a creaminess to the dessert and the salt helped make that sweet/salty combination. I enjoyed that these were handheld and individual servings. The perfect amount of sweet after a large and satisfying Thanksgiving dinner. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

I had a different main dish planned, but once I saw this whole roasted cauliflower I knew it was something that I needed to try for Thanksgiving. To me it seemed similar to roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving. However, this takes much less time and planning to roast than a turkey. 

Recipe from Huffington Post.

A Turkeyless Thanksgiving:

-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 head cauliflower
-1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
-1 lime, zested and juiced
-2 tablespoons chile powder
-1 tablespoon cumin
-1 tablespoon garlic powder
-1 teaspoon curry powder
-2 teaspoons kosher salt
-1 teaspoon black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt with the lime zest and juice, chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, curry powder, salt and pepper.

Brush the cauliflower with the sauce.

Bake at 400 on a greased baking sheet until the surface is dry and lightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes. The marinade will make a crust on the surface of the cauliflower.

Serve with greens.

This cauliflower turned out impressively, but overall we weren't thrilled with it. The marinade was highly seasoned, a little too much. The marinade made far too much, we had a ton of leftovers and were sorry we had wasted the yogurt. Dave chopped up some of the leftover cauliflower to make breakfast tacos, which he enjoyed (I didn't). After a few days I removed as much of the marinade as I could and made some Buffalo Cauliflower "Wings". If you really enjoy curry this would be a good recipe for you, we were just disappointed. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lemon Garlic Brussels Sprouts

This side dish was designed to add a little acidity to the meal (maybe we've been watching too much Chopped). I was never a fan of brussels sprouts before Dave and I started dating. The complex flavor of these might make a bussels sprouts fan out of you.

Recipe from What's Gaby Cooking.

A Turkeyless Thanksgiving:
-Kahlua Brown Sugar Baked Brie, appetizer
-Slow Cooker Mulled Wine, cocktail

-1 pound brussel sprouts, cleaned and quartered 
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 lemon, juiced and zested
-3 tbsp swiss, grated
-sea salt

Heat the oil in a skillet and saute the brussels sprouts until they are beginning to caramelize (about 10-15 minutes).
Add the garlic about half way through the cooking time.
Once caramelized reduce the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.
Season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving allow a little Swiss cheese to melt over top.

Very easy to make, everything took place on the stove top in one pan. These had a lot of lemon flavor, partially because we cut the recipe in half, but Dave did not cut the lemon in half. Despite the strong flavors, Dave and I both enjoyed this recipe. The lemon and garlic weren't unpleasant or overpowering, just strong. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Slow Cooker Mulled Wine

Dave and I were not dating during the 2013 holiday season, but he did express his displeasure with my choice of cocktail for last year's Thanksgiving series. He thought that mulled wine would have made a more appropriate cocktail for Thanksgiving and this year he got his wish. This is heated in the crock pot to give you additional room on the stove top.

Recipe from Kitchen Treaty.

A Turkeyless Thanksgiving:
Kahlua Brown Sugar Baked Brie, appetizer

-1 750 ml bottle of Merlot
-2 cups orange juice
-1 cup fresh whole cranberries, rinsed and picked through
-1/3 cup granulated sugar plus more to taste
-2 clementines
-2 tablespoons whole cloves
-2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
-1/2 cup brandy

Wash the clementines well and stud with the cloves.
I used the corkscrew to poke a small hole in the rind before pushing in the cloves. 

Add the wine, orange juice, cranberries and sugar to the slow cooker.
Stir to help dissolve the sugar a little.
Add the clementines and cinnamon sticks.
Cook on low for 2-3 hours. Make sure not to boil the mulled wine!! Before serving remove the cranberries, oranges and cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon.

Stir in the brandy and set slow cooker to the "warm" setting.

For serving: Add some clementine slices, berries and cinnamon sticks for garnish.

This was incredibly tasty. It was smooth and the kind of drink that will sneak up on you. Dave and I drink a lot of wine, but I'm not too big of a fan of red wine. This was fantastic though. It was like a mulled wine sangria. Not too sweet or too spicy, but it had a nice complexity of flavor. It was nice to prepare this in the slow cooker, because we were able to prepare the rest of the meal and not worry about this on the stove. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kalhua Brown Sugar Baked Brie

Welcome to the first post of the Thanksgiving series for 2014. This is the second year that I created an entire meal and photographed everything at once. I could not have done any of this without Dave's help -- he was the genius behind the tablescape and second set of hands in the kitchen.

You can also check out Thanksgiving 2013 and 2012.

This meal starts out with a decadent dessert of baked brie coated in a delicious Kalhua based sauce. This appetizer didn't take too much work and was very easy to make. Since the main course was cooking in our oven, I baked the brie in our toaster oven. You could do both together, but it would be easiest if you were doing both in separate ovens.

Recipe from Noble Pig.

-1 whole wheel of brie 
-1/2 cup Kahlua
-1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
-1/2 cup chopped pecans 
-Accompaniment: crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Start by carefully slicing around the rind off the top of the brie wheel, but do not remove completely.  Bake for 15 minutes.  When the Brie is done baking, the top can be easily removed to expose the creamy cheese inside. 

While the Brie is baking, in a medium saucepan, bring Kahlua and brown sugar to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, until syrupy.  Throw the pecans in for 2 minutes at the end to warm them through and completely cover with the sauce.

Pour Kahlua sauce over the brie and serve warm.

This baked brie was heavenly. The cheese was a wonderful and gooey consistency. The Kalhua brown sugar sauce added the right amount of sweetness while the Kalhua added a light coffee bitterness. And the pecans added a nice crunch. We served this with some Ritz crackers. This was the one recipe we had no leftovers from, Dave and I polished off the entire wheel of brie. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberry

Tomorrow the Thanksgiving series starts, check back for five wonderful recipes from tomorrow until Thanksgiving. Here's a sneak peak.

I had never tried acorn squash before this fall, it's a wonderful fall ingredient. Plus Dave and I get a nice amount of food from just one squash, if you're serving two people there are sure to be leftovers. I served this as a side dish to the Beet Reubens I made two weeks ago.

Recipe from Let the Baking Begin.
-1 acorn squash, cut in half
-½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
-½ cup cranberries, frozen or fresh
-4 tablespoons brown sugar
-2 tablespoons butter

Combine walnuts, cranberries and brown sugar. Cut each acorn squash in half -- remove and discard seeds. Split the walnut, cranberry, brown sugar mixture between two halves of the squash. Top with 1 tablespoon butter each half.
Place in a baking dish, loosely cover with foil and bake in a for 1 hour 30 minutes at 375

Dave and I both enjoyed this recipe. It's best if you get a bite of everything on your fork. The filling was sweet, but not too sweet, and paired nicely with the squash. Dave likes squash a little more than I do so he took care of all the leftovers. As I mentioned above, this is a squash that you can get quite a bit of leftovers out of .

Friday, November 21, 2014


A tangy and pretty condiment or snack, and an excellent use of nearing-end-of-life apples.

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original.

Apples Used: 32/40

-9 small assorted apples
-juice of one lemon
-1 c sugar
-1/2 c whole cranberries
-dash cinnamon

Begin by cleaning your apples, lemon, and cranberries. Cut the lemon and squeeze the juice into the bottom of a large bowl, remove seeds.

Cut the apples into wedges, removing the core. You may leave the skin on for now, because it gets left behind later and can impart flavor into the sauce while it cooks. Drop the wedges into the bowl and periodically toss them to coat the apples in lemon juice. As you know, the lemon juice slows the oxidation of the apple flesh, the browning of the flesh at exposure to the oxygen in the air.

Pour all ingredients into a large pot and begin to cook, lowering the temperature as you go and stirring regularly. You want the apple to totally cook through and break down completely, towards the end you may want to stir more frequently as a precaution against burning.

Remove the sauce from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Next, strain the sauce through a sieve, or whatever kitchen tool you have that most resembles a sieve. I remember when I was a child my parents used a certain metal cone with a wooden pestle. For this sauce, I used a colander with small holes in the base and a wooden spoon. The goal is to encourage the sauce through the holes, leaving behind the apple and cranberry skin.

I made this applesauce for its own sake, to use up a bunch of older apples and a handful of frozen cranberries we had needed for another recipe. However, it would be a good complement probably to a cheesy meal or maybe some kind of stuffing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Baked Apples

Another variant on the apple as dessert, these are apples stuffed with apple and crumble and baked to perfect softness.

We used a stoplight trio of apples for this recipe - as you would expect, the granny smith stayed firmer than the red apple - but the apples can be tailored to their consumers' preferences.

Apples Used: 23/40

Recipe from Creme de la Crumb.

-3 Apples
-1 T butter
-2 T brown sugar
-pinch cinnamon

-1/8 c flour
-1/8 c oats
-1/12 c brown sugar
-1/16 c white sugar
-pinch salt
-pinch cinnamon
-1 T butter, cold

Core, peel and chop one apple. Saute this in a pan with 1 T butter, 2 T brown sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon, until the apples are cooked and soft.

Meanwhile, prepare the crumble base by combining flour, oats, brown sugar, white sugar, salt and cinnamon. I know that I included small measurements, and one of them I miscalculated from the source recipe, but do your best to approximate the quantities. Core the remaining two apples and scrape out a sizable cavity for the filling, I used a grapefruit spoon for effective control.

My aunt gave me two ceramic dishes specifically made for baking individual apples. They have little clay points in the bottom around which a cored apples fits nicely. You do not need a ceramic apple baking dish, however, you can use a glass baking dish.

Stuff the apples half each with sauteed apples, really cram it in there. Finish the crumble by cutting the remaining 1 T butter into small pieces and mixing into the crumble base. Top off the apples with crumble and surround with any remaining filling.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or more as needed or until the crumble looks golden brown.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

The ice cream lent a lovely smoothness to the dish. It amounts to the dessert equivalent of a twice-baked potato, self-containing all the assortment of flavors you would expect with an apple crumble dessert.