Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cinnamon Maple Applesauce


One of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions is to make homemade applesauce.  Usually my Nanny Paula makes the applesauce and man-oh-man is it good!  She uses these special plums she can only get 2 weeks of the year and leaves on the skin so that it has a distinct pink color and unique flavor.  This year, we're hosting my dad's side of the family which means we won't get to have Nanny Paula's. I attempted to make an apple sauce that could even compare to NP's - so of course I consulted the blog-o-sphere and the adjusted to make it my own.

Macintosh Apples

We decided to use Macintosh apples partially because they were on sale at Whole Foods ($1.99 per 3-lb bag) and partially because they mush perfectly into apple sauce.  You can use any kind you like.  I actually recommend buying whatever is local to the region you live in - these Macintosh were from around here in Canton, MA, but if I was still in Michigan (GO BLUE! BEAT OSU!) I'd probably use Honeycrisp.  Mmmm there is nothing like a Michigan-grown Honeycrisp. (Sorry, I digressed a little there, Thanksgiving is also a BIG football weekend this year!!)

Apple Sauce - before cooking

This recipe is incredibly easy to make.  Just like my rhubarb applesauce, it's a one-pot, throw-it-in-and-let-it-do-its-thing kind of recipe.  Love those.  Especially for big holiday meals. It was nice to be able to make this a couple days ahead of time and get it out of the way before Thanksgiving Thursday.  Mom and Dad helped me peel and cut all the apples, which was a huge help and a fun family activity.  We were certainly missing my baby bro and his extra set of hands.

Applesauce - this is how you know it's done!

The flavor was pretty amazing.  For the amount of apples, there wasn't too much maple syrup or sugar so it wasn't too sweet.  I can't stand store-bought sweetened applesauce with HFCS and I promise this is nothing like that.  Granted, it was no where near Nanny Paula's applesauce, but I think I did pretty well for myself.  My bestest friend said it was amazing, and she would know, she eats with the best chefs in Chicago every day.  Now it's sitting in the fridge waiting for a fun Thanksgiving tomorrow!  I can't wait to eat some more.  Have a wonderful Turkey Day, everyone!


Cinnamon Maple Applesauce
loosely adapted from How Sweet
makes about half a gallon, maybe more

9 lbs apples (I used Macintosh)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks
dash salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1. Peel 2/3 of the apples.  Cut all of the apples into slices (using an apple corer or just a knife).  Discard the cores.
2. Add 1/2 cup water to a large dutch oven or heavy pot.  Add apples and remaining ingredients and toss well.
3. Cook over medium to medium low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until apples have completely turned to mush and applesauce is beginning to boil.
4.  Smash any apple slices that remain whole with the back of a wooden spoon.  Remove cinnamon sticks and, if desired, remaining apple skins.
5. Serve hot or refrigerate until very cold, then serve. Can also be frozen and defrosted in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 21, 2011

In the meantime...

I realize I have been leaving you in the lurch lately... I do have a recipe that I need to edit photos for and there will be many to come after Thanksgiving.  In the meantime, I wanted to remind you of a recipe I posted earlier this year that we're bringing back out for Thanksgiving.

These mint chocolate chip cookies are the BOMB.  One of the weirdest cookie doughs I've ever made, but they come out like mint chocolate brownie cookies.  I think they were the first cookie I ever made for the Monkey Scientist and I believe they were the key to winning his heart. Mom and I are baking a batch up tonight and then heating them up again on Thursday.  If you need a chocolate dessert I promise they'll be a winner.

Read the full original post and see the recipe by clicking here!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spicy Chicken, Barley, and Sweet Potato Soup

Spicy Chicken and Bulgar soup

I think that cold snap has officially happened.  My toes are chilly.  More importantly, my soup cravings are in full swing.  Soup has been on my mind even more often than usual because my bestest friend is cooking through a soup cookbook.  If only I was living in Chicago and could eat along with her!

cooking down onions

Speaking of Jewish women making great soup from scratch...DC-ers, have you ever tried SouperGirlSara Polon, the SouperGirl, and her mom are living my dream.  They make homemade soup every week and deliver it to locations all over the District, as well as selling it out of her newly-opened store in Tacoma Park. Each week, she emails out adorable and cute descriptions for 2 soups - one pureed and one chunky - which you can place an order for and pick up the following week.  Her soups are certified Kosher, frequently if not always vegan, and use fresh, local, and organic ingredients.  While I always encourage you to cook at home, if you want to buy something pre-made, her stuff is the good stuff.

Spicy Chicken and Bulgar soup

OK, I have to admit, I've never actually ordered her soup.  I get her emails every Monday, but I'm way too spontaneous in my eating to know what I'm going to want to eat the next week.  Plus, I just love making soup. Every week I very seriously think about ordering from SouperGirl, but I haven't quite made the leap yet.  Instead, I let her be my inspiration in the kitchen.

Spicy Chicken and Bulgar soup

On Halloween morning, SouperGirl sent me an email about Soul Warming Barley Sweet Potato Soup.  I have always been a believer that the only reason we eat soup is to warm the soul, so I was very intrigued.  I did a little google searching and found a recipe that included all the ingredients that Sara used in her soup (plus chicken, which I assume she left out to keep it vegan).  The recipe I found called it Spicy Chicken Barley Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach, and I knew it was meant to be.  Spicy is basically a synonym for "something the Monkey Scientist would love."

Spicy Chicken and Bulgar soup

Not only did the Monkey Scientist love this soup, but I did too! I got a little nervous when I was making it because high heat + lots of spices = spice in the air.  My roommate and I were coughing up a storm from inhaling too much cayenne.  It was actually quite spicy when I tasted it after step 4 (I may have added some extra cayenne beyond what you see below), but when it finished cooking it had mellowed out a bit.  This soup is very hearty, especially the next day when the bulgar has soaked up a lot of the liquid.  With the perfect amount of spice, sweetness from the sweet potatoes (I may or may not have used yams instead, oops), protein from the chicken, and lots of nutrition from the spinach, this soup is definitely a winner! It makes a great meal on a chilly night, like slippers for the soul!

Spicy Chicken and Bulgar soup

Soul Warming Spicy Chicken, Bulgar, and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Stylish Cuisine

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp. sweet paprika
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp of cayenne
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
2 cups water (+ additional for adding later)
1 cup bulgar, rinsed well
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
5 oz. (1 bag) baby spinach
½ cup chopped fresh mint (I actually left this out)
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté until limp, about 3 minutes.
2. Add all the spices and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
3.Add the tomato paste and sauté for another minute, until darkened but not burned. (If the tomato paste looks too dark too quickly, lower the heat.) Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 1 minute longer.
4. Return the heat to high if you lowered it, then add the broth, 2 cups of water, and the bulgar to the pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add the sweet potato and continue to cook until the bulgar and sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes or more, adding more water if needed. (I added about another cup here)
6.Add the chicken, partially cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Add the spinach and mint and simmer until wilted. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt (I used smoked salt from Trader Joe's).
Serve with the lemon wedges on the side.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Buttery Cloverleaf Rolls

Butter Clover Rolls

There is something so absolutely wonderful about baking bread.  The smell of yeast when you first bring it back to life. The texture of dough that has just finished rising.  The aroma that fills the apartment while it bakes.  The warm steam that rises as you break a roll open.  It's something magical.

let the yeast do it's thing

And yet, it's been so long since I last baked bread.  It's such a shame.  The truth is, I just don't eat that much bread in a regular week.  Not to say I'm not a huge carb-loader, but pasta tends to be my gluten of choice.  But, with the holidays coming up, I wanted to try some dinner roll recipes that we could use for Thanksgiving.

dough before risingdough, finished rising. Looks like a baby's belly

I decided to halve this recipe because I knew it would probably just be the two of us eating them.  Let me rephrase... I decided to halve this recipe so I wouldn't eat 30 dinner rolls in one sitting.  Because, believe me, I would have.  (By the way, half a large egg = 1/8 cup scrambled egg)  Half of the recipe actually only made a dozen rolls instead of 15, which was great because I only needed to make one batch (I only have 1 muffin tin). I also decided that I would top some of them with fun spices - some with garlic salt, a few with cinnamon sugar, and even one with smoked salt from Trader Joe's.

Butter Clover Rolls
Buttery Cloverleaf Rolls - after the 2nd rise

All of the rolls came out absolutely amazing.  The cinnamon sugar was by far my favorite - next time I'd probably put cinnamon sugar in the butter that you use to coat the muffin tins as well.  I served them with Roasted Pumpkin and Lentil Soup with Chorizo that I had hidden from myself in the freezer.  Don't you love when you do that?  I liked sopping up the soup with the bread - so tasty.

The best part about these rolls is the clover shape.  It looks absolutely adorable, but it also makes the rolls easy to peel into thirds.  It made a perfect excuse to keep eating more - "oh I'm just going to have 1 more clover of a roll!"  It seems perfectly reasonable to leave behind 2/3 of a roll when it splits off so nicely!  I should also mention that I used bread flour instead of AP flour, simply because I was all out of the regular stuff.  I don't think it affected them at all, so feel free to use whichever you have hanging around.  Either way, you should definitely make these.  (Just make sure you account for enough time for the first and second rise!) I promise you won't regret it!

Buttery Cloverleaf Roll

Buttery Cloverleaf Rolls
from How Sweet It Is

4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups warm milk
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour, or more if needed
melted butter for brushing

1. In the bowl of your electric mixer (with an attached dough hook), combine warm water, yeast, olive oil and 1 tablespoon honey and mix with a spoon. Let sit until foamy, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add warm milk, remaining honey, egg and butter, and mix on low speed until just combined, then add in 2 cups of flour and salt. Mix on low speed, gradually increasing to medium as flour becomes incorporated.
3. Slowly add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, stopping at 5 cups. Knead the dough on medium speed for 4-5 minutes, then check to see if the dough is sticky. If it is too sticky, add a bit more flour and knead until it becomes smooth, but you want some stick to it. Remove dough from the bowl and form into a ball with your hands, covering with a bit more flour until it is no longer sticking to your hands.
4. Brush a large bowl with melted butter. Add dough to the bowl, turning once or twice to cover in butter. Place a towel over top and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2-2 hours.
5. Punch dough down, then transfer to a floured workspace. Tear small pieces of dough off the larger piece, and roll into balls slightly larger than one inch wide. You will end up with about 90 dough balls. Brush a muffin tin with melted butter, then add 3 dough balls to each tin. Cover and let rise again, in a warm spot, for about an hour.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the tops of each clover with a hefty glug of melted butter. Bake for 11-12 minutes (mine actually took closer to 20 minutes), or until tops are just golden brown. Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter again, repeating the brushing another few times as the rolls cool (I actually skipped this step and they were buttery enough!) Remove from the tins and serve.

The muffins are best when eaten on the same day they were baked, however if you’d like to make them the day before, make sure to let them cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Spaghetti & Meatballs


If I've learned anything by reading cooking blogs, it's if you're going to make something with meat, that's pretty traditional, and you're not trying to skim on calories/fat, go to Ree Drummond.  Her short ribs, for example, are out of this world.  I'm pretty sure my mom and all her friends still make them at least once a month since I showed them this recipe year or two ago.


And let me tell you, Ree's meatballs are no exception.  Ever since I made this recipe back in early 2010, I won't make any other.  It's absolutely perfect and incredibly easy - what else can you really ask for?!  I especially love that you can really use any type of ground meat that you want, because I usually use what's on sale.


Now, I have to admit, these aren't nearly as good at the meatballs at 2Amy's, which are hands down one of those best things I've ever eaten.  I don't think the Monkey Scientist will ever forget the day we discovered them.  Or better yet my face when I first ate them.  I was starving one day, and we went to 2Amy's for a late lunch, when I saw the waitress bring over a steaming cast iron dish of sauce to the table next to us.

meatballs - browning

I didn't even know what was in it, but I grabbed the waitress and insisted she bring us one.  Then, I saw someone at the next table dig in.  I was mesmerized. I could see the Monkey Scientist realized I wasn't exactly with him anymore.  All I uttered was, "oh my, she just pulled a little meatball out of that...." And then it came to our table, and it was the porky-est, most delicious meatball I had ever had in my life.  I swear, I discovered the reason why that one group of people never actually leaves DC.  They don't want to move too far from these meatballs.  Plus, the rustic bread they serve it with is perfect to sop up the extra sauce.  For my New England friends, all I can compare it to is the artichoke appetizer at Artichokes in Wakefield, MA (formerly in Malden Center).  It's like digging through a puddle of warm, amazing sauce, only to find nuggets of pure food-gold.

meatballs - sauce

I don't even try to make meatballs like that.  Still it got me on a kick of really wanting to make meatballs for the first time in a long while.  Aren't you craving meatballs after thinking about 2Amy's?  I decided to stick with the more traditional, matzo ball-sized meatballs on top of spaghetti. (Only a true Jewish food-lover would refer to a meatball as matzo ball-sized instead of the reverse haha)  I thought that would be easier to accomplish than the 2Amy's version.

meatballs - steaming in sauce

So, while it won't exactly hit your 2Amy's craving, this meatball recipe will definitely do you some good.  It isn't quite as porky as 2Amy's, and it doesn't have quite the same texture, but they are really tasty.  Plus, here's my little trick: I buy a loaf of French bread and cut it in half.  I make garlic bread with one half (softened butter, garlic salt, rub in a garlic clove, bake it) to serve with dinner and then I use the other half for meatball subs with the leftovers the next day!  A perfect 2-for-1 meal!

meatballs with garlic bread

Spaghetti and Meatballs
adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman

3/4 pounds ground veal
3/4 pounds ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
3/4 cups grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
splash of milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 whole yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white or red wine (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
freshly ground pepper
2 pounds spaghetti, cooked to al dente

1. To make the meatballs, combine meat, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, and a splash of milk in a mixing bowl. Mix together well with hands. Roll into 25 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.
2. To brown the meatballs, heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Make sure each meatball is really brown on each side - you shouldn't really be able to see any pink, even though they'll be pink on the insides still. Remove and drain on a paper towel after each batch. Set meatballs aside.
3. In the same pot, add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes, or until translucent. Pour in whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and wine, if using. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.
4. Add meatballs to pot and stir in gently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer.
5. Serve over cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with extra Parmesan.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Skinny Spinach Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce

stuffed shells

With the holiday season just around the bend, it's time to kick those healthy habits into high gear! It takes lot of work for me to focus on eating healthy and exercising as the weather turns colder and the opportunities for eating junk pile up.

stuffed shellsstuffed shells - meat sauce

This weekend, we took advantage of a gorgeous sunny day and went hiking on Bear Island in Potomac, MD.  We ended up doing the most challenging path, Billy Goat Trail A, which surprised us both in length and challenges!  It wasn't so much climbing uphill but tricky footing and small ledges that kept us on our toes!

stuffed shellsstuffed shells

Of course one of the best places to start a healthy kick is in the kitchen, so we've been trying to make healthy meals when we cook at home.  I loved this recipe because it is a classic comfort food but healthified.  Even though it's been reduced in the calorie and fat departments, it's still loaded with meat and cheese so it remains a filling dinner.

stuffed shells, pre-bakingstuffed shells

We really enjoyed this recipe.  I ended up eating it for lunch and dinner a few days in the row.  I enjoyed getting my cheesy kick without the guilt of the full fat version.  Even the Monkey Scientist was able to fill up on this for dinner.  Plus I love when you put pasta in the oven and it gets a little crispy around the edges.  It's one of my favorite things :)

stuffed shells

Skinny Spinach Stuffed Shells with Meat Sauce
from Gina's Skinny Taste

27 (9 oz) jumbo pasta shells
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
32 oz crushed tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
2 cups fat free or part skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
16 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed well
8 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Boil water and cook shells according to package directions, make sure to make them al dente.
2. Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in oil. Add turkey and salt and brown until cooked, breaking up in small pieces. Add tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and basil, then simmer on low, covered, about 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, egg, spinach, mozzarella, and parmesan.
4. Once shells are cooked and cool, fill each shell with (about 2 heaping tbsp) cheese mixture and place on a large baking dish, or two smaller dishes, covering the bottom of the dish with a little sauce.
5. Top shells with half of the sauce, cover with foil and bake 40 minutes; uncover foil and bake 5 more minutes. Serve with additional sauce on top.