Kitchen Fail: Adorable Food

diy-mini-caramel-apples(photo from athomeinlove.com)

These mini-caramel apples have been making the rounds on facebook, pintrest, cooking blogs and various other parts of the internet. They don’t seem all that hard, really.  And yet….  I could not make them work.  No matter what I did.

I started out easy- scooped out the mini apples from a whole apple using a melon baller. photo 1 photo 2I melted the caramel and got my toppings ready.

photo 4I speared an apple with a toothpick and got to dipping.

photo 2But then this happened.

photo 4Back to the blog posts.  I tried freezing the apples first.  I tried drying the apples first.  I tried hotter caramel. I  tried cooler caramel.  I tried dipping in caramel and then sprinkles.  No good.

photo 3I have been bested by mini caramel apples.  Never fear.  I will conquer this.  Someday.  Maybe.  To help me, feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments.

5774

L’shanah tovah!  Happy new year!  Once again, Rosh HaShanah is upon us.  This year it came so very early.  So early, in fact, that it is still 80 degrees and no one feels like eating fall food.

photo 1

Family photo for the new year.

Which is handy since this year, for the first time in at least ten years (probably more), I did not host a gathering for the holiday.  I started adjuncting (is that a word) at a new college yesterday and was not able to either cancel my class (first one of the semester) or manage to cook for all.  I had thought maybe a brunch today but most of those who would attend were working (naturally).

So it was just a small family dinner this time.  I made a roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, sautéed greens (leeks, kale and spinach with garlic), cole slaw (I had some cabbage to use up) and cauliflower. Not really holiday food.  But the desserts…. those involved the apple and honey that the holiday requires.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_15I made individual upside-down honey apple cakes and a honey walnut apple crisp.  Neither were particularly fancy or pretty but both were pretty delicious and homey feeling.

I used Mark Bittman’s recipe from his How to Cook Everything book– but I have the app on my iphone– it was free or very, very discounted at one point- and it was ok.  Kind of bland so if I were to do it again, I’d probably up the apples and maybe incorporate them into the batter as well.  The apple crisp was a total improvisation.

Either way, I wish you all a new year filled with joy, laughter, happiness and love and free from pain, sorrow and hardship.  Happy 5774!

Mini Honey Apple Upside Down Cake (Mark Bittman)

Ingredients

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar

2-3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1/2 cup white sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

a few tablespoons of honey

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and use it to liberally grease the muffin tins- along the sides as well as the bottom.  You may not use all the butter but there should be a good amount in the tin when you’re done.  Sprinkle the brown sugar in the bottom of each muffin slot.

Peel, core and chop your apples.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_14MIx them with the honey so that they are coated.  Sprinkle these into the muffin slots on top of the brown sugar.  Set this aside.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_13In a medium bowl, mix the salt, sugar, flour and baking soda.  Technically, Mark suggests to mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and to add them gradually to the dry ingredients.  I did not do this.  Instead, I dump the wet, unmixed, into the bowl and then mixed it all that way.  Either way you choose, add the buttermilk, eggs, and the rest of the butter (melted) to the dry ingredients and beat until combined.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_11Pour the batter into each muffin tin, ensuring that all the apples are covered.  Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_6Let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes.  Run a knife or soft spatula around the sides of each muffin to loosen them.  Then, place something large, like a sheet pan over them.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_4Flip this over.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_3Each little cake should release.  If it doesn’t, sort of wiggle and shake the pan and if that still doesn’t work, use the soft spatula to scrape out the rest and sort of put it back together with your fingers.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_1Let them cool a bit before you eat them as the sugar/butter/apple combo is the temperature, roughly, of molten lava.

I had lots of apples leftover and so made a sort of shallow dish apple crisp.

Improvised Apple Crisp

Ingredients

1-2 peeled, chopped apples

few tablespoons of honey

dash or two of cinnamon

1/2-1 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar (white)

1 stick of butter, cool, sliced into cubes

Directions

Toss your apples with the honey and cinnamon.  Add the walnuts and place into a shallow-ish baking dish.  I used a pie plate.  (Full disclosure- I forgot I had walnuts and added them in on top of the apples but under the topping.  If I did it again, I’d mix it in with the apples so this is a case of do as I say, not as I did!)

My HipstaPrint 995575301_10

In a small bowl, mix the flour and sugar. You can add some cinnamon here, if you like.  Cube your butter.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_9

With clean hands or a pastry cutter, add the butter.  Mush it around until it’s sort of sandy and pebbly feeling.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_8

Spread/sprinkle the topping over the walnut-apple mixture.

My HipstaPrint 995575301_7Bake at 425 for 10-20 minutes or until the top starts to brown.  Turn the oven down to 350 and bake until the apples are tender.

My HipstaPrint 995575301

Festival of Lights, Night 5

Applesauce.  So simple, yet so tasty.  It’s perfect for snacking, dessert, adding to cakes and, oh, yes, eating on top of latkes.  Now, I know that there are a zillion and one recipes for applesauce.  Some have you add apple cider or juice, some use rum, others use sugar or honey.  I prefer my applesauce plain with a little bit of cinnamon.  If you choose the correct apples, you don’t really need any sugar- they’re just sweet enough and tart enough on their own.  The cinnamon adds a bit of warmth and it’s all just so yummy and comforting.

So here’s my method.  The measurements are sketchy (that is to say, well, nonexistent!), the method is what counts.

Ingredients:

4 apples (I used two golden delicious and two honeycrisp)

Cinnamon

Directions:

I have to fully confess that I used my beaba babycook to do this.  I made several small batches and then just zipped it with the blades.  So easy.  But I will write this as though I didn’t do that.

Wash your apples.  Don’t bother to peel them.  Chop them up into small squareish pieces and place them into a steamer basket.  Boil a few inches of water in a saucepan and put the steamer basket into the pan.  Cover and cook until the apples are soft (don’t let the water boil away or you’ll ruin your pot).  Once they’re soft, put them into a bowl.  Add some of the water from the pot and use an immersion blender to puree them (you could also use a regular blender).  Add water from the pot until it’s the consistency you like.  Sprinkle in some cinnamon and ta-da!!  You have made applesauce. 

Now, you could season it up a bit, with nutmeg or brown sugar or cloves or whatever you like.  I like mine plain and simple.  Mmmmmm.  Comfort food!

Unexpected and Not Pretty

We’re off for a day trip to Maine and then we have lots of visitors this weekend, including the lovely Hungry Hippo.  We’re very excited and will likely not be cooking much (although, when the Hippo and I get together in the kitchen only good things ensue so who can tell?).  I did want to leave you with a quick not pretty but tasty recipe for those lazy summer days.  It comes from an unexpected place:  my mother.

You see, as I have explained, my mother was not one to cook.  In fact, perhaps my favorite non-cooking story is the following.  We had been living in my mother’s condo for about 7 years when I moved out to go to college.  I went far away, to Colorado and about two weeks into the semester, I got a phone call from my mother, reporting that the oven was broken.  I was highly suspicious- why was she using the oven?  Generally she used the oven for storage of sheet pans and/or dirty dishes when someone stopped by unexpectedly (we lived 5 flights up with no elevator so from the time she hit the buzzer to open the doors downstairs to the time the unexpected guest arrived at our front door was just enough to sweep any dirty dishes and other things out of sight.).  It seemed unlikely to me that she had used the oven so much in the last two weeks that it was worn out.  So I started to problem solve with her by asking what was broken about it.  “It won’t get hot,” she informed me.

“Well, did you turn it on?”  I asked, a little dismissively.

“YES,” she replied, “I’m not a total idiot.”

“Both knobs?”  I shot back.

“……………There are two knobs?”  She asked.

Right.  Seven years in this condo and she had no idea that you had to turn one knob for temperature and one knob for setting (bake, broil, etc).

I’m happy to report that 17 years later, my mother is actually a pretty accomplished cook. She can make a mean antipasto plate, several salads and even some main dishes.  She is far more willing to attempt new cooking adventures and is now famous for starting to make something and then calling me partway through to ask questions.  Funny, as that’s what I used to do with her mother when she was alive.  I’d call Grandma partway through many a recipe to clarify something.  It’s a nice little circle, I think.

Anyway, this salad which was not pretty the last time I made it, comes from my mother.  She read it in a magazine last summer and made it for me.  It’s an unexpected combination which works and from an unexpected source, her.

Peach, mozzarella and Basil Salad

Ingredients:

Fresh mozzarella  (either the small balls, sometimes called boconccini, or the bigger balls, cut into smaller pieces) Don’t use marinated.

Fresh Peaches (probably depends on how large a salad you want.  I’d start with 2-3 for a salad for two)

Fresh Basil  (how much is dependent on how much you like basil.  I’d start with 3-4 big leaves)

Olive oil (between 2-4 tablespoons, dependent on taste)

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Cut the mozzarella into bite sized pieces and place in a medium bowl.

Cut the peaches (no need to peel) by cutting them in half and then cutting wedges around the pit.  Alternately, cut them in half, wrestle out the pit and cut the pieces into bite-size.  Either way, the goal is to have mostly intact peach pieces and too much wrestling with the pit can quickly reduce your peaches to mush.  Add these to the bowl.

Stack your basil leaves on top of each other.  Roll them up, like a cigar and make small slices from one end to the other.  You’ll end up with small slivers of basil.  It’s a technique called Chiffonade and you can find photos and a how-to here.

Mix all of this together in the bowl and add some salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.   Serve at room temperature.

Sour Grapes…er, Blueberries

Sometimes I’ll bring you recipes that are classic, tried and true and generally based in my family history.  Sometimes I’ll present you with something else entirely- a recipe that I’ve improvised out of what was on hand, a recipe that is neither tried nor true nor particularly well measured or thought out.  Something for you to try at your own risk.  This is one of those times.

I bought blueberries at the Farmer’s Market last week because my husband is a blueberry fiend.  He’ll eat them by the handful until his lips, teeth and fingers are purple (which makes me wonder why they aren’t called purpleberries but I suppose that’s another post).  Sadly, the ones that I purchased were a bit, um, tangy.  Sour even.  Not that this stopped my husband from trying to eat them all. He got a few handfuls in and then had to give up.  Tart blueberries: 1, Husband: 0.

So I decided to take the ones that were left and sweeten them up a bit.  I’d made this blueberry kuchen from Lady Gouda a few weeks ago and it was met with great delight at my house.  I didn’t have enough blueberries to justify an entire tart.  I also had in mind the peach blueberry crumble I posted about here.  But I had no peaches.  So I sort of mooshed those together in my mind and ended up with very small blueberry tarts with crumble topping.  A nice cross between the two.

Mini Blueberry Crumbles

Ingredients:

Crust (which is taken from Lady Gouda’s Blueberry Kuchen, I just halved it)

3/4 cup of flour

2 Tablespoons white sugar

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into smallish pieces

3/4 Tablespoon white vinegar

Filling:

Blueberries (I probably had about half a pint)

Cane or white sugar (I think I used 3-4 tablespoons)

vanilla (I used about 1 Tablespoon)

cinnamon (just a dash or two)

Water

Topping:

1/4-1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup white sugar

4-6 tablespoons butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a muffin-tin lightly with Pam or some other nonstick spray (or use a nonstick tin, like I did).

Make the crust:  in a food processor combine the flour and white sugar and maybe a pinch of salt, if you’re so inclined.  Give it a few whirls.  Then, add the butter and process until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the vinegar and process again- at this point, it should be a sort of dry-ish dough.  If you don’t have a food processor, never fear.  You can combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or some knives or your fingers.  Once the butter is the size of peas, sprinkle in the vinegar and combine.

Press the crust into the muffin tins- you want enough to cover the bottom and a little bit up the sides of the tin.  Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes or until slightly golden- not too much as these will bake again in a little bit. Set them aside to cool.

Make the filling:  In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, sugar and a few tablespoons of water.  How much you add will depend on how many blueberries you have.  I combined all of this and let it sort of melt and boil down.  In the end, I had a sort of chunky syrup, not quite as thick as pie filling.  You want it to boil down but not burn so keep an eye on it.

Make the topping:  In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except the butter.  Cut the butter into smallish pieces and use your fingers (or a pastry cutter) to break it up into roughly pea-size.  For more details and photos, check out this post.

Spoon the filling into the baked crusts. Just a little bit- make it look kind of like a mini-tart.  Sprinkle the topping over each one.  I had lots of topping left over.  Shucks.  I’ll have to make something else this week that requires brown sugar/butter goodness.  Darn.

Bake for about 5 minutes or until the topping is sort of bubbly and brown(er).  Let them cool and be careful removing these as they are somewhat fragile.

Summer Thursdays With Grandma

Growing up, I spent summers with my Grandmother and cousins.  We called it “Camp Grandma” but more on that in another post.

Summer Thursdays were Farmer’s Market days.  It was always fun.  Tons of colorful vegetables, fruits and baked goods.  We’d buy mini-loaves of fluffy, white bread.  We’d snack on sweet strawberries and tart blueberries.  Grandma would buy beans, onions, squash, zucchini and all sorts of other vegetables that were in season.  And always tomatos.  My Grandfather lived for tomatos.  He would eat them like apples, taking huge bites out of them.  He always tried to grow his own but was never able to cultivate them to his satisfaction.  Grandpa also loved blueberry pie.  It’s funny, I don’t think my grandmother made a lot of pie.  Cookies, cakes, breads, yes.  Pie? Not so much.  So often we’d buy pie at the Farmer’s Market.  My grandfather would grumble that it wasn’t as good as something my grandmother could make but the pie wouldn’t be around for long.  He was fond of pie for breakfast.

I go to the Farmer’s Market now and I bring my 4 month old daughter with me.  We look at all the colorful vegetables and fruits and I talk to her about what I might make with the things I buy.    I’m hoping to instil in her the same love of fresh ingredients that I learned from my grandmother.  Sometimes my husband comes too and it becomes a Family Outing.  We went this week and there was just so much gorgeous stuff!  What really caught my eye were the peaches.

There were so many.  They smelled delicious.  I couldn’t resist.  So I bought some.  Ok, ok, I bought a lot of them.  I’m saving some for a salad later on in the week but with the majority of them, I made a peach/blueberry crumble based on one Ina Garten makes. What can I say?  The blueberries were also plentiful.  The crumble is delicious and I don’t generally like fruit desserts.  But in making it, I am reminded of summer nights at Grandma’s, eating blueberry pie from the Farmer’s Market.  I might even have some for breakfast.

Peach and Blueberry Crumble, Based on Ina Garten’s Peach and Blueberry Crumble

Ingredients:

For the filling:

8-10 peaches, peeled* and cut into wedges

1/2 c. flour

3/4 c. – 1 c. sugar (depending on how ripe your peaches are and how sweet you like your fruit.)

1 pint of blueberries (I used more but ended up with more of a blueberry-peach crumble.  So it’s your call.)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

*Don’t know how to easily peel peaches?  Stick with me, more on that below.

For the topping:

1 c. flour

1/3 c. white sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar (I used more, probably 1/2 cup)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, coolish and cut into small pieces

Directions:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Butter a baking dish.  I’m partial to square shaped pyrex or sort of casserole type dish.  Just don’t use a cake pan- you want something a bit larger and slightly more shallow.

To peel the peaches, boil a pot of water.  Once it’s at a rolling boil put the washed peaches into it.  Boil for about 1 minute or until the skins peel off easily  (could be less/more than a minute depending on how ripe your peaches are). 

Immediately place the peaches into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Peel the skins off and then slice the peaches into wedges.  I mainly cut around the pit so had some great wedge shapes but also some more mushy, not-so-shapely pieces.  I also didn’t peel all my skins- what can I say?  I’m lazy.

In a medium bowl, place the sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla, peaches and blueberries.  Combine them gently- you want the fruit to be coated but you don’t want to mash everything together.  I find using my hands to be the best method- I tend to be no-holds-barred with a spoon and end up smushing the blueberries everywhere.

Once everything is nicely coated and there’s no white flour left just floating around, pour the fruit into your buttered dish and spread it around so that it’s even.  It’ll be pretty and glossy and look a little bit like the inside of a fruit tart.

Put that dish aside and into another bowl (this is not a low-dishes endeavour) place all ingredients for the topping (white and brown sugar, cinnamon, flour and small pieces of butter).  Here is where Ina and I differ- she says to use a stand mixer and a paddle and to mix until the pieces of butter resemble peas in shape.  I say pulling out my big mixer is a pain in the tuchus and so I just use, once again, my hands. 

I sort of mash and mix it all together so that it’s like a cookie dough.  Just like before, your goal is to have it evenly combined, with no white flour showing.

When it’s all combined sprinkle it over the fruit, sort of breaking it up as you go so that it’s covering evenly in small pieces.

Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes.  You’re looking for browned topping and bubbly fruit underneath.

Let it cool before you eat it (hot fruit with sugar is molten lava, trust me (and the roof of my mouth) on this one).  Also delicious with vanilla ice cream.  Even for breakfast.