Julie’s Apple Butter

The cooking club members gathered at Julie’s house this past week to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall we have had this year.

2013 Fall

We had a fall assortment of dishes; tomato bisque, mini pepper appetizers, apples with salted pumpkin caramel sauce, fresh grapes, pumpkin bread, and sweet potato pie. We also got an lesson on how Applejack liqueur is made from fermented apples that freeze in the winter. I mixed my 1/2 shot of Laird’s Applejack with warm apple cider. My legs got a little warm and numb with that 80 proof concoction.

applejack

Afterward, we commenced to making Julie’s family apple butter recipe. She cut the original recipe down for an easy undertaking.  Julie likes using Pink Lady apples.

Julie’s Apple Butter

6 C diced apples (about 6 medium to large apples)

1 2/3 C apple cider

1/4 C apple cider vinegar

1 1/3 C sugar

2/3 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp cloves

1/8 tsp allspice

Peel, core, and dice 6 medium to large sized apples to make 6 cups.

pink lady apples

Place in cooking pan and add the cider and cider vinegar.  Place on high heat until boiling for about 20 minutes, stir occasionally. Reduce to medium heat and add the sugar and spices, mix well and stir occasionally.  After another 20-30 minutes reduce the heat again to medium-low and cook for another 40-45 minutes. The apples will be soft and with a brown syrupy liquid. Remove from heat then mash the apples to eliminate the lumps. Place into jars and either process for canning or place in refrigerator for up to one week (if it lasts that long :))

cooking it down

Patty’s Points:

1.  Since the cooking process is 1 1/2 hours, we had to leave Julie’s house before seeing the final product. I made a batch at home tonight. It was easy to let it cook on the stove while I did other chores around the house.

2. I couldn’t find Pink Lady apples at my local supermarket. I found this website on the best apples for making apple butter. I chose Fuji apples from the list. The apple should be a softer type apple

3. I used my apple corer-slicer-peeler and the process went very quickly in prepping the apples.

apple peeler

4. I used my hand emulsion blender when the apples had cooked through to mash the apples into butter.

emulsion blender

5.  It is a very sweet butter with the sugar and the apple cider combination. You could easily decrease the sugar to one cup or less to your taste. I also substituted the spices listed in the recipe with 1 tsp of apple pie spice. What a yummy, smooth and sweet butter. It was yummy to top on buttered, whole wheat bread.

apple butterI had never made apple butter before this week. I felt my midwestern roots when making this classic recipe. A  flashback to childhood.

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Garden Variety

The produce from our garden has been busting out all over.chard in the basketI love Swiss Chard and it grows so easily in our garden. Within a week after trimming out 1/3 of this bed, it grew right back.

Swiss ChardI had to search for recipes that would be a challenge for me other than sautéing chard in olive oil and shallots.

I furrowed out a Bon Appétit  magazine from May 1999 profiling Provence, France. It was a Special Collector’s Edition. The main article profiled 20 essential ingredients of the region: fresh produce, herbs, dairy, meats, seafood and breads.

Bon Appetite May 1999In France, Swiss Chard is called blette. It has white or red stem varieties. The leaves need to be trimmed away from the stems before using in a recipe.

I have never made gnocchi before so I chose the recipe Swiss Chard Gnocchi (Gnocchi aux blettes) to prepare. On top of this, I have never even eaten gnocchi before!

Swiss Chard Gnocchi (Gnocchi aux blettes)  8 servings

1 pound russet potatoes (about 2 large)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/4 pounds Swiss Chard, stems and ribs trimmed

1 large egg

1 TBSP olive oil

1 3/4 C all-purpose flour

1 stick butter (1/2 Cup)

4 C homemade or purchase tomato-herb sauce

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Steam or boil potatoes, about 50 minutes until tender. Cool potatoes, slightly then peel . Mash potatoes in large bowel until smooth, add the salt and pepper.

Steam or boil the Swiss chard until wilted, about 3 minutes. Once it has wilted, drain, until cool and then squeeze out as much water from the chard as you can. Finely, chop the chard by hand or with the food processor.

Mix the chard in the mashed potato mixture add egg and oil. Gradually add the flour until combined, forming a slightly sticky dough.

sticky dough

Dust a board with flour, I used pastry fabric. Working in batches and with floured hands, roll 1/4 cup of dough and form a 12 inch long rope. Cut the rope into one inch pieces.

rolling and cutting the rope

Roll each piece between palms forming a ball. Using a whisk, roll each ball down the length of the wires to make a ribbed impression.

ribbed impressions

Transfer gnocchi to a baking sheet with parchment paper to rest.

gnocchi on baking sheet

Place the gnocchi, in batches of 10-12 in a large pot of boiling salt water cooking for 6 minutes, until the gnocchi rises to the surface of the boiling water and are tender.

boiling gnocchi

Using a slotted spoon transfer the gnocchi to a large bowl.

Gnocchi cooked

Melt butter in large heavy skillet over med-high heat. Add the gnocchi and sauté until coated with butter and cooked through for about 3 minutes.

Serve the gnocchi atop hot marinara red sauce or white sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

red sauce

IMG_3030

1. The gnocchi can be frozen up to 1-2 months in the freezer after boiled. When ready to serve, thaw, then cook with butter in a sauce pan before serving.

2. I used all-purpose vinyl gloves to mix and roll the dough. It was way to sticky not to!

3.  I enjoyed the white sauce better than the red sauce with the gnocchi.  The white sauce gave it a richer taste. If using a red sauce, it would be best to pick a light one, nothing heavy. Of course the shaved parmesan atop made the flavors pop.

4. Okay, I have to say it. The green-ness of the gnocchi was visually off-putting. It reminded me and my daughter of insect larvae.

5. When produce comes out of the garden I have to wash it two to three times. Dirt and bugs hang onto the leaves pretty easily.

Sorry if talking about bugs grossed you out.

Enjoy your meal – Bon appétit!

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Will and Kate cook

The royal couple took over my kitchen the past two weeks. Will and Kate.

Will and Kate

My daughter Kate, home for the summer, had surgery before heading off the vet medicine school this fall. Her boyfriend, Will, came to visit this past week. While we were at work, they cooked up dishes they never had space or time to make in a tiny college kitchen. She is putting a dent in this cookbook I am sending with her to school next month.

America's Test Kitchen Quick

Courtly Calzones

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F

10 oz frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry

4 oz each of crumbled goat cheese, ricotta cheese & shredded mozzarella cheese

1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 egg yolk

2 minced garlic cloves

3/4 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb pizza dough, room temperature

1 egg beaten with 2 Tbsp water

Combine all the ingredients down to the pizza dough and set aside. Divide the dough in half. Roll out each pizza dough on a floured board. Transfer the round dough onto parchment paper. Divide the filling and spread onto one half of the dough leaving a one inch border. Fold over the dough for the edges to meet making a half-moon and crimp the edges to seal. Cut 5 slits atop the pie dough then brush with the egg wash. Slide the calzones with parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes turning the sheet halfway through the time. Cool 5 minutes before serving. Makes 2 calzones, 4 servings.

Will calzone

Will’s Calzone

Kate calzone

Kate’s Calzone

Kate’s Comments:

1. Kate is not a fan of spinach unless it was mixed with lots of cheese. The cheese mixture called for four kinds of cheese: parmesan, mozzarella, goat, and ricotta mixed with an egg to bind it altogether = yummy. She just didn’t care for the spinach, the cheese didn’t hide the flavor for her.

2. Will had a better handle on the pizza dough and was less afraid to stretch and form into a circle for the calzone base. Kate admits she was more afraid of the dough.

3. Kate overfilled her calzone with filling as it oozed out of the edges.

4. The cookbook had great pictures on how to form the calzone, pinch the edges and vent the pie top.

in the oven

 Chivalrous Chicken Parmesan Roll-ups

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F

1 chopped fine onion

3 Tbsp olive oil

6 minced garlic cloves

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 C chopped fresh basil

salt and pepper to taste

6 oz shredded  mozzarella cheese

1 oz grated Parmesan cheese

6 chicken cutlets, 4 oz, 1/4 inch thick

1/2 C panko crumbs

Sauté the onions and garlic in 2 Tbsp olive oil for about 3 minutes until translucent. Add the tomatoes and simmer about 3 minutes, then add half the basil, salt and pepper. Set aside briefly before placing half of the mixture on the bottom of a 8-inch square baking dish.

Mix the cheese and basil mixture together in a bowl and set aside. Place the cutlets out and mound the cheese mixture at the wider end leaving an inch at the narrower end. Roll it up and place into the square baking dish seam down. Place the remaining sauce atop each cutlet and sprinkle with panko. Drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Bake about 15-20 minutes until chicken reaches 160 degrees with a meat thermometer. Serves 4-6.

chicken pounding boy

Princely pounding of the chicken cutlets

crutch girl

Princess posing with crutches

Chicken Parmesan Roll-ups

The Royal Dish

Will’s wise words:

1. Will liked pounding the chicken. I showed him how to wrap the chicken in plastic and use the flat side of the meat tenderizer to pound the chicken cutlet flat.

2. Kate made her own cutlets by slicing a chicken breast in half. She was so proud she aced the technique after following the picture directions.

3. More cheese.  One point Will and Kate both agreed upon. The recipe called for 1/2 C parmesan, 1 1/2 C mozzarella cheese and 1/2 C fresh basil divided into the filling and the topping. The flavor of the cheese was hidden by the tomato sauce and panko crumbs. They decided that whatever the recipe called for in cheese, that they should double it.  It is always better to have more cheese and not need it than to not have enough cheese and wanting more.

4. The oven temperature was pretty hot at 450 degrees, browning the crumbs too quickly. After 5 minutes they turned down the temperature to 375-400 degrees.

4. Scrumptious and served with a side of spaghetti.

We’re back to being commoners again. Thanks from dropping by Will and Kate!

Fearless Cook Junior Edition

‘I want to learn to cook!’ my chip off the block chirped. Okay, Kate is 22 years old, she’s cooked before. During her college days she ate dorm food, made a few recipes I handed down to her, and tested the Pinterest web recipes.

She wants to feed herself in Veterinary Medicine School for the next four years. Her challenge for the this summer is to improve on cooking techniques,learn basic recipes and try to stay within a budget. My challenge is to give direction on what I’ve learned from trial and error in the kitchen.

See how enthusiastic she is?

Jr Fearless Cook

Here are all the recipes we’ve made individually and together.

Banana Bread

Chocolate chip and Peanut butter chip Banana Bread

omelets and falafels

Omelet with Falafel

beer batter cheese skillet bread

Skillet Beer Batter Cheese Bread from Quick Family Recipes

Nutella Bread

Nutella Swirled Banana Bread

radish, cucumber and apple salad

Red radish salad

Pork chops with the Dean brothers spice rub

Pork Chops with the Dean Brothers Dry spice rub

white chicken pizza

White Chicken pizza

cherry crisp pie

Cherry pie with almond crisp topping

frozen lemon yogurt

 Lemon Frozen Yogurt

Kate’s Komments:

1. Pitting the cherries for the cherry pie crisp was fun. About 10% of the cherries still had the pits inside despite using the cherry pitter.  We found two websites on how to pit cherries without  using a pitter at Our Best Bites and Baking Bites.  The cherries splattered juice everywhere while pitting them. We had just watched Django Unchained the night before and scenes from the movie came back to haunt us!

2. The Skillet Beer Batter Cheese Bread called for Gruyère cheese which was pretty tasty, but a little pricey for someone on a budget. For a similar and cheaper substitute use Swiss Cheese.

3. Her favorite recipe was the Nutella Banana Swirl Bread. Her mistake was that she set the oven for 250 degrees, not 350 degrees. The recipe in turn took longer to complete after she discovered  that the bread was still mushy inside and then adjusted the oven temp. As a taste tester, I thought the bread was delicious and moist. I didn’t know about the temperature error until much later. Gotta check the oven!  There are chocolate hazelnut butter knock-off brands that are cheaper.  They all vary in quality, so test out what brand you like.

4. Kate said she had never eaten a Falafel before and liked them. She also said she is not a fan of radishes, but we had them growing in the garden and we had to make something! She said the radishes were good as long as they were “hidden”.

5. Pizza is always a favorite and economical to make. We made a garlic butter sauce for the base of the crust. It was yummy with mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, halved yellow cherry tomatoes, red onion and grilled chicken thigh strips.

I bought her the America’s Test Kitchen ‘Quick Family Cookbook’ to take with her this fall. She loved leafing through the recipe book. The pictures are great with many step-by-step tips and techniques to master.

My parting wisdom: you can buy the ingredients to make your favorite recipes or you can look up recipes and decide what to make based on the ingredients you already have in your pantry. The key is use your ingredients thoughtfully. Way to go Fearless cook junior!

Dandelion Blossoms

dandelions on table

Dandelions. For me growing up I thought they were cute little flowers that popped in the lawn. I hated when they turned to seed, I loved them when they were pretty yellow. Of course, we didn’t fertilize our lawn so they were everywhere.

You are starting to see more about dandelion health benefits these days, most notably with dandelion root tea. It is a tea that provides natural detoxification benefiting digestion and liver health.

So why dandelions? Why now? Well today is Mother’s Day and my mother passed about three months ago. I was sorting through books and came across this binder of recipes from my home county that belonged to my mother. There was date or year noted in the book but I am guessing it was circa late 1960s, early 1970s. My mother never contributed recipes to this cookbook but she referenced it quite a bit.

cookbook

Near the end of the book was this recipe for Dandelion Blossoms. I was taken aback, really dandelions?  I am sure my mother never attempted this recipe and we as kids, would’ve turn up our noses at it.

recipe

I did find Dandelion Fritter recipe. The website was a little more dainty with the dandelions than I was.

soak em

setting it up

fry em

long view of dish

close up of dish

Patty’s Points:

1) Make sure you don’t have allergies to dandelions before you eat them. ALSO make sure there are no fertilizers used in the area you pick your dandelions. You can also  grow them from seed  in your own backyard or indoors.

2) I used a Louisiana Fish Fry for the dry ingredient, lemon-spiced. I could barely tell I was eating dandelions. My husband ate one. My son thought they were mushrooms; I didn’t tell him any differently.

3)  My mother was fearless, in my eyes, when canning produce from the garden: pickled beets, cucumber relish, bread and butter pickles, and tomatoes. I admired that about her.  This recipe was adventurous for me. I’m sure my Dad would think I was a little crazy to eat dandelions. I probably won’t tell him I made these.

Happy Mother’s Day. I miss you Mom.

God took the fragrance of a flower, the majesty of a tree,

The gentleness of  morning dew, the calm of a quiet sea,

The beauty of the twilight hour, the soul of a starry night,

The laughter of a rippling brook, the grace of a bird in flight,

Then God fashioned from these things, 

A creation like no other,

And when His masterpiece was through,

He called it simply…Mother.

Herbert Farnham

Taking stock of Turkey Day

To say I have been busy is an understatement. The same is true for the rest of The Fearless Cooking club members. Thanksgiving came early this year, darn it. I have to work 3 days this week and family is coming in. I made something I have never made before and I could give it to my fellow cooks: turkey stock.

I used Alton Brown’s Chicken Stock recipe . If you look at the recipe it says it takes 14 hours. What a great recipe to put on the stove and forget about while cleaning the house.

The carrots were the final product of the garden and added to the stock.

Two gallons of water with the veggies.

Four turkey thighs added to the pot.

I didn’t have a stockpot big enough so I divided it into two pots.

Cooling off the stock.

Quarts of stock.

Patty’s Points:

1. Don’t tell Alton Brown but I didn’t follow his recipe to the letter. I used four turkey thighs that I roasted in the oven then added it to the stock pots. I read once that roasting the meat brings out great flavors before making gravy so I thought it would work for stock as well.

2. At the end of the day, I used the turkey meat and one quart of the stock for turkey noodle soup. It was a nice meal at the end of a long day of cleaning.

3. It made exactly five quarts of stock as the recipe stated. The slow, medium-low heat reduced the mixture into a fine concentrated stock. I will be sharing the stock with Joy and Char as they use it for their gravy or stuffing.

This cute little turkey made of pipe cleaners and a pine cone, made by my mother many, many years ago. I won’t be able to spend the holiday with Mom and Dad. They are getting older and I get out to visit them every two months. Each visit is a precious moment of remembering good times, despite the daily challenges they face. Thanksgiving is a holiday of purely being thankful without any pretenses or expectations. Happy Thanksgiving Mom and Dad.