Category: Fruit


I haven’t published since November. That is just astonishing to me. On one hand, it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. But on the other hand, some pretty huge things have happened since then and it feels like an eternity. My husband was furloughed from the railroad (temporarily laid off and waiting to be called to return) which nearly cost us our house and came very close to ruining us financially. The kids started going to public school again, which was a very good thing but was also a blow to deal with because we had wanted to homeschool for SO long and it just didn’t work for us. In early February I was hospitalized for 3 days with what was thought to be Multiple Sclerosis. I had been having problems for 2 weeks before that and for a month after coming home I had to deal with issues. Ultimately it was decided I don’t have MS yet but we’ll watch it and my symptoms eventually went away on their own. Those are just the big things that have happened since my last post. That’s not even mentioning all of the smaller things that piled up. I wanted to blog, but the give a damn just wasn’t there. That, and I just wasn’t properly cooking as much. Life was kindof in this awful limbo where we all wandered around, waiting to see what would happen.

Then in April my husband was called back to work after 4 months of furlough and it was like the world became light again. We were able to start living again and planning again and looking forward to getting up in the morning again. We all had purpose once again. But blogging still just wasn’t happening. I suppose I felt like there wasn’t really any point because I wasn’t a “famous” blogger. I felt like I didn’t make any difference in the blogoshpere at all and no one really cared about or noticed my little space. But recently I’ve had a few people ask me when I was going to start up again because they missed me. They missed me! Me- the small time hack! That’s when I remembered that I always said I would keep doing this even if it helped just one person feel better about themselves in the kitchen. So here I am, back in the saddle. But I’m starting with a trail ride instead of a fox hunt 🙂

I’m sure that, despite my extended absence, most of you will recall my preference for homemade pudding over the boxed stuff (like here and here). But I found this little gem a few years back in one magazine or another while waiting for the kids at the dentist’s office (it might have been the family mag that Disney puts out) and knew I had to try it. It’s insanely easy and who doesn’t seem to always have a box of pudding or two hanging out in their pantry? Here is the very basic group of ingredients:

IMG_20160708_130938206

That’s it! This recipe can be as simple as just 4 ingredients. I like to add kiwis, grapes, and apple, but I had none of those on hand when the kids asked me to make this last week. The bananas were also about 1-2 days too ripe, but it still worked out fine.

I don’t have step by step photo directions for this one because there’s only three steps: chop anything that needs chopped into 1/2 inch cubes, drain the mandarin oranges (but NOT the pineapple!!), and then mix all the ingredients. That’s all there is to it! I do have some tips that the original recipe didn’t include though:

  1. To be able to eat this salad at it’s best, make sure you give it at least 2 hours to sit in the fridge because the pudding mix needs time to soak up the pineapple juice and get smooth. It will be grainy for awhile and tastes fine, but the texture isn’t great. So give yourself plenty of time.
  2. Mix the pineapple and pudding mix together before adding the rest of the fruit. For some reason if you try to just stir everything together the pudding mix will get lumpy.
  3. If you want to eat this the same day and have it be cold like it’s supposed to be, make sure the pineapple and the oranges are cold before you mix everything.

Once you’ve got everything mixed up and chilled this is what you get:

IMG_20160708_170153655

Is that a cheerful looking bowl of fruit?! It’s a little on the saucy side because I didn’t have the kiwis, grapes, and apples to add, but the kids didn’t mind a bit 😉 This is also a great fruit salad to make during the winter when the majority of fruits aren’t in season and you can only get your hands on canned fruit.

So there it is: my first post in half a year. It feels good! I may not be famous, and I may not have thousands of followers across the world, but I do have those that like what I do and enjoy stopping by my little corner of the internet. To those who fit that description, thank you- from the bottom of my heart.

The Recipe:

1 Small (3.4 ounce) Box Vanilla Pudding (Lemon works nicely too)

1 Can (20 ounces) Pineapple Tidbits WITH the juice

1 Can (15 ounces) Mandarin Oranges, drained

2 Medium-Large Bananas, Ripe (but with only a few spots of brown), Peeled and Diced to 1/2 Inch Dice

Optional Fruits, all diced to about 1/2 inch and in a quantity to match the bananas:

Apples

Kiwis

Grapes

Strawberries

The Method:

*Chill the canned fruits.

*In a bowl big enough to hold all the fruits, combine the pudding mix and the undrained pineapple tidbits until no lumps remain.

*Add in the rest of the diced fruits and stir to coat.

*Cover the salad with plastic wrap actually touching the surface to prevent the bananas from browning too much.

*Chill at least 2 hours.

*Eat within 2-3 days.

This week’s recipe is rather a show stopper. Especially when you tell people what it is. I have to smile at people’s reactions when I tell them I’ve made a FIVE POUND apple pie. There’s always the stop-to-make-sure-they-heard-that-right face and then the “Wow!” as they let it sink in. I have fun “wowing” people with my food 🙂 Yes; a full 5 pounds of apples go into this pie. It’s my special pie. The one I make when I want to perform a true culinary labor of love for someone. This pie takes the better part of half a day to make- more if you make the pie crust yourself. DO NOT let that put you off! The majority of that time is cooking, cooling, and baking time. Making the pie is really easy; it’s just that the preparation takes time. But sometimes the very best things take a lot of time…

Start with a whole bunch of apples and a few other ingredients:

IMG_20151117_103453577

Now, the original recipe that this idea came from had a whole convoluted list of steps- most of them unnecessary. I’m not sure if the lady was just trying to make it sound like she was positively slaving away over the pie to get a pat on the back or if she really, truly thought that making a pie had to be that difficult. People tend to think that pie making is complicated, but it really isn’t. In fact, a pie is one of the very simplest things to bake. There’s no raising of dough or tiptoeing around the house because  you don’t want what’s in the oven to fall. You make the filling, make the crust if you don’t want to buy one (another process that’s touted as difficult, but that’s another post), put the former into the latter, and bake until done. So, while this particular recipe has a couple of extra steps compared to a “regular” apple pie, I’ve simplified this process to be as easy as it can get. In that vein, let’s get started!

The first step is peeling, coring, and slicing the apples. Make sure you have a big bowl of acidulated water for your apples to go into so they don’t rust (turn brown). All that means is water with acid in it. If you have lemon juice, use that. Orange or lime juice works too. If you don’t have any of those, you can use apple cider vinegar. For 2 liters of water use a tablespoon of whichever acid you happen to have on hand. So, I peeled and cored my apples- cutting them into halves so I could use a melon baller to cut the core out…

IMG_20151117_110225080

But I totally cheated with the slicing part. I’ve wanted a food processor for YEARS. As in, since I left home at 19. I’m 36 as of this writing. So when I found an insanely wonderful deal on the food processor I’ve wanted since I first saw it, I went to my husband and asked pretty please. Being the wonderful man and biggest fan of my food that he is, he said yes! So today, for the first time, I used my beautiful, brand new Kitchenaid food processor!

IMG_20151117_111343812

That is absolutely a dream come true. Yes; I’m a food nerd. I accept that. 🙂

So now that the apples are sliced and ready, the hardest part of making the filling is over! Drain the apples well and put the whole batch into a frying pan or pot big enough to hold them along with the butter, sugar, and spices.

IMG_20151117_112254250

Cook them until they are just beginning to soften. You want them to have plenty of crunch left, but they should be partially cooked.

IMG_20151117_113335292

Once the apples are cooked enough, turn off the heat and take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon. Make sure you drain as much of the liquid off of them as you can. Put the apples slices into a colander over a bowl (or, in my case, the pasta insert that goes into my stock pot) and set it aside while we deal with the leavings in the pan.

IMG_20151117_113745104

We’re going to cook this down into what amounts to caramel. Don’t panic; this step is very easy, it just takes some time. Turn the burner back on and bring the apple liquid to a fast boil.

IMG_20151117_120027130

Give this a stir every couple of minutes and continue to cook at a fast boil until the liquid begins to thicken. Check the bowl that the apples are over a couple of times to add any more collected liquid into the pan. Thickening the liquid can take upwards of 8-10 minutes. Just keep an eye on it.

This is pretty much there:

IMG_20151117_120030404

At this point you should stay with the pan, stirring continuously. Lower the heat a bit so that you get a steady boil instead of a fast boil. You’re looking for larger bubbles that are a little slower to pop. Keep cooking and stirring until you end up with the consistency of the caramel topping you would put over ice cream.

Now you can turn the heat off (so the caramel doesn’t burn) and add the vanilla and heavy cream…

IMG_20151117_120216710

Turn the heat back up to medium low and boil the caramel until it’s nice and thick again. You should be able to scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pan and leave a nice clean path:

IMG_20151117_120444840

Add the apples back into the pan and discard any liquid that may have accumulated in the bowl under them. Stir the apples to coat them in the caramel and let the pan sit until the apples are at room temperature. You’ll need to stir them every 4 or 5 minutes to keep the cooling process going. You’ll notice that the apples have quite a bit of liquid in them again and that’s ok. We can fix that:

IMG_20151117_122356142Cornstarch to the rescue! Once the apples are at room temperature, sprinkle them with 3-4 tablespooons of cornstarch. Stir the apples well to mix the cornstarch into the liquid and you’re set! The sauce will be very cloudy, but that will clear up once it’s cooked.

IMG_20151117_122444506

Do not, I repeat: DO NOT try to add the cornstarch while the apples are hot!! Anyone who has tried to make gravy by adding cornstarch directly to the hot drippings and broth can tell you that doing so will only end in gluey lumps of cornstarch. So do yourself a favor and wait until the apples are cooled to add the cornstarch.

Before the pie is assembled, mix up the egg wash. This is what you’ll brush over the top of the pie to give it that nice, shiny top crust that you find in restaurants. You can mix the egg with a tablespoon of water, but using heavy cream instead will give you a slightly thicker, and much richer wash. Take my advice: use the cream.

IMG_20151117_123111928

Mix the cream and the egg VERY well; you don’t want streaks of egg white on top of your pie.

Now put your bottom crust in your pie pan and add the apples to it. I like to mound them slightly in the middle; it gives the pie a very classic shape and, since the apples are already cooked, you don’t have to worry about them getting cooked all the way through or the apples shrinking as the pie bakes, leaving a disappointing hollow cavern under the crust.

IMG_20151117_123432197

Take your top crust and put it over the pie pan, crimping the edges to seal the top and bottom crust together.

IMG_20151117_123708035

I do a simple roll under and crimp, but if you want to do something fancier, have at it. The pie will be all the more impressive for it!

The next step is to brush on the egg wash. You don’t want it pooling all over the place, but do brush the egg wash on with a fairly heavy hand.

IMG_20151117_123901342

With a sharp knife, cut some vents into the top. You could cut shapes, but I stick with simple, classic slits. Just make sure you vent the pie somehow, or the top crust won’t survive and the steam won’t be able to escape and you’ll have runny filling.

Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil or put a pie shield on it and into the oven it goes at 400 degrees. My pies usually take a total of 70-80 minutes, but that will vary by oven. After the first 40 minutes, check the pie. It should still be fairly light but beginning to brown. Go ahead and uncover the edges and continue baking it. At the one hour mark check it again. It should be browning well now and you should be getting a little bit of bubbling from the filling. For the pie to be done, it needs to be uniformly browned and the filling needs to boil for at least 10 minutes.

IMG_20151117_140336760

Isn’t that a beautiful color?! That deep, rich, glossy color comes from the egg wash. The crust would be dull and pale without it- not unlike the pre-egg wash photo above. My crust buckled a bit, though, and I can tell you why: I made the mistake of making the top crust too tight. I know; it sounds funny, but it’s true. I didn’t make sure the middle had enough dough before crimping the outside. I should have laid my crust over the top, run my hands over the mound in the middle, and then crimped the edge. The crust shrank as it baked (naturally), so it separated. It really doesn’t matter though; I’m not entering it into a beauty contest and the taste far outweighs any homeliness the pie may posses!

IMG_20151117_174134011

This is not a super sweet, gloopy, apple-esqe flavored pie. The sauce to fruit ratio is very nearly perfect and the flavor is absolutely, without a doubt APPLE. At least 95% of the filling you see above is actual, honest to God fruit- not some fruit flavored, sugary gel with a few pieces of apple in it. This is a prime example of everything an apple pie should be. And once you’ve tasted it, you may never want a piece of any other kind of apple pie again. And that’s ok; you know how to make your own now! So go ahead; make this pie and wow your family and friends. I think you’ll find it just as fun as I do 😉

The Recipe:

5 Lbs Apples (Honeycrisp or similar firm fleshed, sweet-tart apple)

6 T Butter (salted is preferred, but unsalted will work too)

1/2 C Brown Sugar, packed

1/4 White Sugar (add extra if the apples are too tart)

1 t Cinnamon

Large Pinch Nutmeg

1/4 C + 1 T Heavy Cream, Divided

1 t Vanilla

3-4 T Cornstarch

1 Egg

2 Ready Made Pie Crusts or Enough dough to make a double crust pie

The Method:

*Fill a very large bowl about halfway with cold water. Add the juice of half a lemon, lime, or orange. OR add 1 T Apple Cider Vinegar.

*Peel, core, and slice the apples to about 1/8 inch, keeping them in the water as much as possible to prevent rusting.

*In a pot or frying pan large enough to hold the apples, melt the butter over medium high heat.

*Add the apples, sugars, and spices and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. The apples should be starting to cook through but still have plenty of crunch.

*Remove the apples with a slotted spoon to a colander or other strainer set over a bowl.

*Bring the liquid from the apples to a fast boil and hold it there, periodically adding any accumulated liquid from the bowl under the strainer.

*Once the liquid begins to thicken, lower the heat until you get a moderate boil; the bubbles should be a bit larger and pop more slowly than before. Hold this boil until the sauce has reduced to the consistency of the caramel sauce that goes over ice cream.

*Shut the burner off at this point and add the vanilla and the 1/4 C of heavy cream.

*Turn the burner back onto medium low and boil the caramel until it is once again thickened as in the last step.

*Take the pan off the heat and stir in the apples.

*Cool the mixture to room temperature. This may take a couple of hours.

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

*Sprinkle cornstarch over the filling and mix well to incorporate.

*Whisk the egg and 1 T heavy cream very well and set aside.

*Prepare a 10 inch common depth or 9 inch deep dish pie plate with a bottom crust.

*Pour the filling in and place the top crust over it, making sure to secure it (run your hands over it to smooth it) from the middle outwards before crimping the edges. Make sure the edges are sealed.

*Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the pie. Don’t skimp on this step.

*Cut steam vents into the top crust.

*Wrap the outer edge of the pie plate with foil (make sure it doesn’t rest on the crust) or cover with a pie shield.

*Bake the pie until beginning to brown.

*Remove the foil or shield.

*Bake until uniformly brown and the filling has bubbled for at least 10 minutes. May take 70-80 minutes total bake time.

 

 

 

So after being informed by my BFF that the print feature I added awhile back actually prints the entire blog post instead of only the recipe like I wanted it to, I have (with a little help from a more experienced blogger) figured out how to make only the recipe in each post printable. Yay! So from now on you will be able to print only the best part of each post: the recipe! And when I get time here and there I will go back and add the feature to all of my other posts (which number 72 as of today, so it may take me a little while to get it done). Thank you all for sticking with me thus far! ❤

My goodness gracious; it’s cold! That’s true for just about everywhere in America right now, but it goes double for the Northern Plains where I’m at. Everywhere I go there’s talk of wishing for summer and lamenting how crazy cold it is. I can understand why they feel that way; not everyone dislikes summer like I do. For those of you who share the summer loving sentiment I have a wonderful recipe that will be like sunshine you can pull out of your oven! And for those of you that share my winter loving tendencies, these Lemonies will be a wonderful treat to indulge in while cuddled up in a blanket watching the season go by out your window 🙂

These bars are so easy and incredibly basic. In fact, it’s very likely that the only thing you will need to buy is the lemon. Here’s what you’ll need:

IMG_20141219_124748279_HDRWhile your oven is preheating, the first thing you’ll want to do is brush a 13×9 pan liberally with butter. You don’t have to flour the pan if you don’t want to, but you do definitely need to butter it. Once done, put the 2 sticks of butter in a small sauce pan over very low heat. Now zest your lemon. You can easily do that with a regular box grater. The little rasp-like side that is useless for almost everything on your box grater? That’s for zesting citrus! If you don’t have a box grater with a rasp side, use the smallest holes you can on a regular grater (most have 2 sizes these days). If you only have the one “regular” size option on your grater, you can use that and mince the zest with a knife like you would garlic. Whichever you use, make sure you only grate the yellow part and not the bitter white pith beneath. Set the zest aside and cut the lemon in half around the equator (the middle, not end to end) and squeeze the juice out of it over a strainer set over a bowl to catch the seeds. Set the juice aside. Keep an eye on your butter while you’re doing this so that it doesn’t burn. Once it’s melted, take it off the heat and continue with your lemon.

It’s time to start combining everything. First your dry…

IMG_20141219_130110670

Then your wet ingredients + half of the lemon zest (but not the butter yet), making sure to measure out only enough lemon juice to satisfy the recipe- some of the rest will be for the glaze or frosting you’ll need. I’ll get to that later.

IMG_20141219_130335109

Once you have that done, pour the butter into the flour mixture and mix it in. The batter will be very stiff and you don’t have to get it completely mixed.

IMG_20141219_130456607_HDR

 

IMG_20141219_130552553_HDR

Once you’re at this stage add the rest of the ingredients (giving them a whisking with a fork first!) and mix thoroughly. Make sure it’s completely mixed and smooth, but don’t try to whip the ingredients like a cake. These are the lemon equivalent of dense, chewy brownies so the batter is going to be very heavy.

IMG_20141219_130703967_HDR

IMG_20141219_130926090

These now go in the oven until the bottom and edges are beginning to brown and the center is set. You should be able to insert a toothpick in the center and have it come out clean when they are done.

IMG_20141219_135558660

You have 2 choices now: cover these in a delightful lemon glaze or spread on a wonderfully smooth lemon cream cheese frosting. I’ll include the recipe for both below. But you have to cover these with something; they won’t be very good and they will dry out terribly if you don’t. Despite being similar in texture, these are very different from brownies- you can’t just leave them plain.

Alas; I don’t have a money shot for these! They got taken on vacation with us and I never did get a picture. I do apologize for that! You’ll just have to give these amazing bars a try for yourself to see the finished product 😉

 

The Recipe:

1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 C Sugar (White, granulated)

1/2 t Salt

1 C (2 sticks) Butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 Eggs

1 t Vanilla

2 T Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed- NOT from a bottle

1 t Lemon Zest

 

The Method:

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

*Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 inch pan. Flouring the pan as well is optional.

*In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and let sit.

*Zest the lemon as fine as possible and set aside.

*Cut the lemon in half short-ways (around the equator) and squeeze well to get as much juice as possible. Set the juice aside.

*In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well.

*In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients; including 1 teaspoon (or roughly half) of the lemon zest.

*Mix the melted butter into the dry ingredients until mostly combined.

*Add the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

*Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until set.

*Remove from the oven and cool completely before glazing or frosting.

 

The Lemon Glaze- The Recipe:

1 C Powdered (Icing or Confectioner’s) Sugar

2 T Milk

1 T Lemon Juice

1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)

The Method:

*In a bowl, add the wet ingredients to the powdered sugar and stir until completely smooth.

*Spread over completely cooled bars.

 

The Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting- The Recipe:

8 oz Cream Cheese, softened to room temp (any fat content you please)
1/2 C Butter, softened to room temp
1/2 Lb (1 C) Powdered Sugar (or more to suit your taste and texture preferences. More sugar=stiffer frosting)
1 T Lemon Juice (you should have some lemon juice leftover from the bars)
1 t Lemon Zest (or whatever is leftover from the bars)
The Method:
*In a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy & lightened.
*Add lemon juice & zest and mix well.
*Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix very well.
*Spread over the top of the completely cooled bars.

I’ve had some requests for a “print recipe” feature, so I looked around and found one of those! You can now find a new button on each post. It’s labeled “print and PDF” and it can be found at the very bottom of each post along with the sharing buttons. You’re welcome and thanks for your continued support! ❤

I almost didn’t do this post. I almost threw the Christmas pudding away and said “forget it” to Christmas dinner. The two months running up to Christmas were awful. (Things still aren’t great but no one wants to read my belly aching- not even me.) The last thing I felt like doing was making a big dinner and a big to-do. But in trying to hang on to the true reason for Christmas I found that making the season bright for my kids this year meant doing little things- like making treats and listening to Christmas music that told the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth. And they were excited to try the Christmas pudding so I had to finish the series. Thankfully it was done, for the most part. All I had to do was put it in the steamer for a couple of hours and make a super simple sauce to go over it. Actually, the whole thing was really simple now that I look back on it. The hardest part was shredding the suet- that was pretty messy. But now I know that I need to freeze it first so it doesn’t melt all over my hands. Other than that, it was easier than making a cake the modern way; I didn’t even have to bother greasing and flouring a cake pan!

You have to have a pretty big steamer to heat this pudding. I have a stock pot with a pasta basket insert so I used that. I left it to steam the entire 2 hours the recipe called for. I thought about letting it go only an hour because the 2 hour time was for the full sized pudding and I only made a half batch. But when I checked it at one hour I could tell the pudding wasn’t soft enough- the middle wasn’t going to be anywhere near hot and soft like it should be. So it took the entire 2 hours. In the last 5 minutes of the cooking time I made the sauce. It called for powdered sugar, butter, and rum (the recipe is below). I wanted my kids to be able to eat the sauce so I used milk instead. Here’s the pudding when it came out of the steamer and I managed to get it out of the towel:

IMG_0621

Let me tell you: getting the string off of the top of the towel to unwrap this pudding was an adventure. It was HOT!! But it only took a second once the proper knife was brought out (a thin fillet knife) and the whole pudding came right out of the flour sack towel easier than a cake coming out of a greased pan. The towel is permanently stained, but I don’t care. I didn’t buy them to be pretty & white & hang on a towel bar for guests to admire. I bought them to be used. Heavily. It’s doing it’s job. So don’t use a flour sack towel you want to keep looking pretty.

The next step is purely for presentation. I didn’t have to do it. But I knew the kids would love it. I took about 4 ounces of rum, poured it over the pudding, and lit it…

IMG_0625

Ooh and ahhs all around, I assure you! The kids thought it was grand and even my husband was very impressed. The picture doesn’t do it justice- you’ll have to try it for yourself!

I gave everyone a slice that was about 1/2 in thick and poured a good helping of sauce over each…

IMG_0631

As it turns out I should have made a quarter batch. I had about half of my pudding left over. Ron & I really liked it, Zachariah kind of liked it, but the girls both hated it. They didn’t like the texture of the raisins (one doesn’t like raisins at all so was rather set against it from the start). The flavor was very rich but not overly sweet- even with the healthy serving of sauce. I think I will make another, smaller batch this year and wrap it in a second flour sack towel to avoid the pantry problem I had with this attempt. Maybe another 11 months will develop the kids’ palates enough to enjoy it 😉 And maybe next year Christmas will be a little better time and I can enjoy the busyness more than I did this go round.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and your new year is going smoothly! I hope to continue to bring weekly installments of wonderful food, helpful hints, and a bit of snark this year. I really do enjoy being a food blogger- it’s a lot of fun for me! I hope you will continue to join me here in my little corner of the blogosphere!

The Recipe- Hard Sauce: 

2 C Powdered Sugar

10 T Butter, Softened

Pinch Salt (If using unsalted butter. If using salted butter, leave this out)

2 T Rum, Brandy, or spirit of choice (I wanted the kids to be able to eat this without the strong flavor of the alcohol so I used milk)

The Method:

*Mix the powdered sugar, butter, and salt (if using) together in a bowl. You can just stir it by hand with a fork or spoon- you don’t have to use a mixer if you don’t want to.

*Add in the liquid and stir well. The sauce should be runny but not watery. If you need more liquid add it in by the teaspoonful.

*Spoon desired amount over each slice of Christmas Pudding- just don’t go over board. You have to have enough for everyone 🙂

I think one of my absolute favorite desserts is pie. I love cake- but only with a generous amount of frosting on top, thank you very much. And I adore New York style cheesecake, especially with some caramel drizzled over it. (I’ll eventually get around to posting my cheesecake recipe). And ice cream is always a hit with me. But when it comes right down to answering the “what dessert would you choose if you could only have one for the rest of your life?” question I think the answer has to be pie. There are infinite variations and it’s so homey and comforting. My favorite pie, as I’ve mentioned before, is apple. A nice apple pie with a good, thick double crust is a sure way into my good graces. Add some quality vanilla ice cream along with fresh whipped cream and I’ll do just about anything you want. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to make an apple pie- or any kind of pie- for months now, as my inlaw’s oven is broken and looks to be staying that way indefinitely. So my baking adventures are fewer now; I have to drive to my parents’ house across town and use their oven. I do that at times but I try to make things that don’t have heavy ingredients. Like the 5 pounds of apples my special apple pie requires. So what am I to do? My family loves apple pie too so this is hard for them as well. I had to come up with something. So I thought on it… and it finally dawned on me one day while I was making my monthly dinner menu. I needed a way to change up the weekly breakfast-for-dinner offering and things just came together: apple pie waffles!! I made Belgian-style waffles with a homemade apple pie “filling” to go on top and put a dollop of freshly made vanilla whipped cream on top of that. I can’t even tell you how good they were from the very first try! They have become very popular around my house and the kids asked to have them this month so I thought I would share them with you too! Now you can have apple pie without having to use the oven! Very handy for when the oven is on the fritz or in the summer when it’s just too hot to bake a pie 🙂

Really this is more of a method post instead of a specific recipe post- you could make this dish with frozen waffles and canned pie filling if you really had to, but using all homemade is so incredibly good that I BEG you to not go that route! And making waffles at home is so easy and so satisfying! The same goes for the pie filling- store bought has nothing on homemade! So I’ll include the recipes below to make things a little easier.

You can make the waffles or the pie filling first- it really doesn’t matter (Oh- and blueberry pie filling is amazing over waffles too! Don’t limit yourself to just apple.). One reheats just as well as the other so you don’t have to worry about having one ready & waiting for you before you start the other. This dish really is much easier than it sounds!

In all honesty you could use pancakes or crepes for this recipe just as easily as the waffles but we love waffles in my house so that’s what we use. And, incidentally, the recipe I’m going to give you makes such amazing waffles that my kids often ask for them plain– no butter, no syrup, no honey, no nothing. Please, please give it a go!

So get your waffles waffled and your apple pie “filling” cooked and ready to go, then start assembling. If you decide to make Belgian-style waffles out of the recipe below I would recommend starting out with half or a quarter of a waffle; this is a very filling dish! Make sure your waffles and your apples are hot and then spoon some “filling” over your waffle, add some freshly whipped cream on top just before serving (it will melt QUICKLY!) and enjoy.

IMG_0526

IMG_0523

Add a glass of milk & you’re set with a balanced meal! 😉

The Recipe- Waffles:

4C Flour

6T Sugar

3t Baking Powder

1t Salt

4C Buttermilk (sometimes I have to add a little more plain milk- depends on the humidity outside)

1T Vanilla

12T (one stick + 4 T) Butter, melted (Sometimes if I’m short on butter I’ll use 1 stick plus 4 T oil)

The Method:

*As I never have buttermilk on hand, the first thing I do is measure 4T white vinegar into a 4C measuring cup and add enough milk to bring it up to 4C. Let this sit 15 minutes & you’ve got buttermilk.

*Combine dry ingredients well.

*Add wet ingredients and whisk thoroughly.

*Let batter rest while waffle iron heats up.

*Once the waffle iron is hot, check the batter to see if you need a little more milk. If it doesn’t fall from the spoon in one smooth motion it needs a bit more milk.

*Make waffles according to your irons’ directions.

*This recipe freezes very well. If you make thinner waffles (not belgian style) you can even put them in the toaster just like store bought- only these are MUCH better!

The Recipe- Apple Pie Filling

4 Large Apples, sweet or tart, depending on your preference. I use sweet apples.

2T Butter

1/2C+ Brown Sugar (adjust to your tastes)

1t Cinnamon

1/4t Nutmeg

1T Cornstarch

1/4C Apple Juice

More Apple Juice as needed

The Method- Apple Pie Filling:

*Peel, core, quarter, and slice apples.

*Melt the butter in a large skillet

*Add the apples, sugar, and spices.

*Cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are to desired doneness. If you’re using these for this recipe you can leave them crispy or cook them until they’re soft- whichever you prefer. If you’re using this for an actual apple pie, leave them a bit crispy.

*Combine cornstarch and 1/4C apple juice to make a slurry.

*When apples reach desired doneness, add the slurry and stir through the apples.

*If the mixture is too thick (is seized up and too stiff) add more apple juice, a little at a time, until the filling is looser and spreads easily.

*Serve warm over waffles, pancakes, or ice cream. Also works well as a filling for crepes or even a pie.

*Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Something rather upsetting happened last night: fruit flies became VERY interested in our Christmas Pudding 😦 We took it down from it’s happy hanging place and put it in the fridge. We still have high hopes for enjoying it after our Christmas feast and I will still follow up with that post to let you all know how it turned out.

We are definitely disappointed that we had to put the pudding in the refrigerator. Not so much because we don’t want cold pudding, but because this was also an experiment in keeping food in the Victorian way. I know what some of you are thinking: “That’s why they invented refrigerators. Duh!” My husband & I are trying to move away from things like microwaves, refrigerators, ranges, and- well, electricity in general. Our goal is to start putting food by in it’s most nutritional form which DOES NOT include refrigerators. Refrigerators are actually very bad for food- that’s why they have to be so cold. Fridges create a very damp environment, which bacteria like and is why they have to make the internal temperature so cold. And the cold temperature diminishes the nutrient content as well as the flavor of foods. Traditional pantries, cold pits, and root cellars are actually MUCH better places to store food and that is what we are working towards. That is why this was so disappointing.

But we think we’ve also found a solution for next time: another flour sack towel. Yep. It’s that simple. All we should have to do is wrap the pudding in another clean, dry flour sack towel and then hang it. Problem should be solved! But for now, we’ll keep the pudding in the fridge and see how it turns out.

First off, it came to my attention from my dearest friend that the links in the previous post were not working. I corrected the problem and they work a treat now!

So! Here we go! I’ve been very excited to try this recipe- I hope it works out! This is a bit of a plunge for me because this will be the first recipe I’ve ever posted that I haven’t tried first and therefor have no guarantee of success. I have to admit that I am the type of person who doesn’t do what I’m not certain I’m good at. This affects my life in lots of ways, one of them being a certain amount of perfectionism. My cooking doesn’t have to come out looking like food porn, but it does have to come out tasting how I wanted it to. The dish has to WORK. If it doesn’t I usually get somewhat mad then get back to the drawing board. I certainly don’t post about a dish before I actually try it. What if it doesn’t work?! But I really wanted to try this recipe and I really wanted to share it for this Christmas. And to do that I have to get over my various neuroses and post it as what it is; an experiment. A long, drawn out experiment. This will be sitting in my pantry until Christmas night- just like the Victorians would have done it, with no refrigeration, for almost 7 weeks. There was just something about doing it this way that was… intriguing. Yes; I’m nervous about it, but it’s also fun!

If you’re familiar at all with Victorian recipes then you know that sometimes they can call for some pretty interesting things that aren’t really widely available anymore. Things like whole pheasants, tincture of ginger, and apple marmalade, to name a few. But, as you can see below, the ingredients for this very traditional pudding are rather mundane. You more than likely have most of them in your kitchen right now. The exceptions being the suet and possibly some of the fruits. I don’t usually keep dates on hand. We really like them but our desire for them goes in cycles so I usually buy them when I need them for something and we enjoy the leftovers. Use whatever fruits you like. You want to actually enjoy this when it’s done. If you don’t like raisins, don’t use them. You can use whatever dried fruit you enjoy- go traditional or contemporary. It’s up to you! A note on the bread: this is what was recommended on another blog with a recipe for Christmas pudding. You need fresh breadcrumbs- not canned- and this bread has a very good texture for making fresh crumbs.

IMG_0463

To make the above mentioned breadcrumbs, simply lay the needed number of slices out on a cookie cooling rack overnight. We live in a somewhat dry climate, so they bread slices were nicely dried after about 8 hours. I needed 8 ounces of bread crumbs, so I weighed about 10 ounces of bread to make sure I still had enough after the bread lost some weight due to moisture loss. I was just about spot on in the end. After I got the kids fed & the girls on the bus I got out my box grater and grated the bread slices on the side that finely shreds cheese. It worked perfectly!

Speaking of the grater, I used that for the suet too- only the larger cheese grating holes this time. You can usually get suet from the butcher counter at the grocery store- that’s what they use to add fat to the fresh ground beef they do every day. Let the butcher know that you are using the suet for a dessert so the fewer meat scraps on it, the better. Get a few more ounces than what is called for in the recipe because there is a membrane on the suet that doesn’t grate well. That means there will be bits that you can’t use so you need a little extra to make up for it. This was a messy job but it went pretty quickly.

You can zest the lemon on the box grater too. You can use the “burr” side that is impossible to clean effectively, or you can use the fine cheese grating holes and still come up with perfect zest. You want only the yellow part, of course, as the pith underneath is bitter. Don’t have an immediate use for the lemon juice? No problem…

IMG_0479

Wrap the whole lemon in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for later. I’ll be making my husband a big batch of iced tea tomorrow so this will get used quickly. If I wasn’t going to use it in the next few days I would squeeze the juice and freeze it.

Now the only thing left to prep is the dates if you’re using them. You could cut them into little pieces with a knife. But it’s sticky & messy & I don’t recommend it. I use a pair of kitchen shears to cut them into small pieces. If you don’t have kitchen shears I highly recommend getting a pair. There are SO many things that are made easier with shears! You’ll find new uses all the time!

So you’ve grated, zested, and chopped; now you just combine it all. I used cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg as the spices but feel free to use what you like, just like with the fruit. Put all of the dry ingredients in a big bowl & stir together. This step made me nervous. Here’s why:

IMG_0469

That’s A LOT of fruit for just a little bit of flour & breadcrumbs. I mean, I know this is supposed to be a dessert that goes to excess with “luxury” items like raisins & spices but that’s ALOT of fruit. The next step didn’t help the anxiety much. Now you add the wet ingredients…

IMG_0473

THAT’S A LOT OF FRUIT! I was worried this wouldn’t work. I was picturing a crumbly mess of fruit and dabs of cake here & there on Christmas evening after dinner. But I forged ahead. This was how the recipe said to do it and it worked for millions of Victorians before me.

You will need a flour sack towel for this recipe. You can’t get around it. I have several because I find them indispensable for just about everything but drying dishes. Wet the towel and then wring it out as much as you can. Spread it out on a table so that it’s completely flat. Take a small handful of flour and start spreading it in a thin layer on the damp towel. Like so:

IMG_0471

You don’t need a lot of flour. What you’re doing is making the layer that will seal the cake in and enable you to keep it unrefrigerated for several weeks (up to 3 months says the website, but I have heard about them being kept much longer) as well as keep the water out during the boiling process. Now put the batter in the middle of the flour thusly:

IMG_0475

Try to ball everything up in the middle and then bring all of the edges of the towel together and secure with kitchen twine (also incredibly useful in the kitchen & around the house. If you don’t have any, get some!). Pull the twine and tie it as tightly as you can manage- you don’t water to get in through the top.

Now you just drop this into your pot of water…

IMG_0477

IMG_0464

I suppose I should have mentioned that you need a HUGE pot of water for this, like the one above. I’m using my 20 quart stock pot, 3/4 full, along with the rack from my pressure canner. The rack ensures the cake doesn’t come to rest on the bottom in the event of your water level going down too far. Keep some water hot in a kettle or another pot so that you can top up the boiling water every now and then.

I made a half batch of Christmas pudding and it took about 4 hours to get it cooked through. I was worried for awhile because I had no idea how to figure out how this thing was going to be done! I couldn’t stick a skewer into it or open up the cloth because I would break the flour seal I put on the towel and I wouldn’t be able to keep it without refrigeration. So I had to check on it often and pick it up out of the water (with tongs!) and poke at it a bit every now & then. At the 3 & 1/2 hour mark it started smelling wonderful- nice and spicy with a hint of the fruitcake peel & fruit mix I used- and when I poked it with my finger there was definite resistance. I let it go the final half an hour & checked it again. This time it sprang back when I poked it. I decided to call it done. So I put it in a strainer over a bowl & let the excess towel cool down enough to touch. My husband wrung the water out of the excess towel at the top while I made a place for the drip bowl downstairs in the pantry. Here is the sight that welcomes us upon going down to our space in the basement:

IMG_0485

This isn’t quite as dark a place to put it  as I had wanted but it will have to do. I’ll keep the drip bowl under it until the towel is dry. Beyond that all I have to do is watch for mold & bugs. Hopefully there won’t be any of either and we will enjoy a wonderful Victorian treat for dessert Christmas night! I’m so excited- I can’t wait to try it!

The Recipe: Please note that this makes a HUGE batch- enough for 10-12 people. I halved the amounts show here. 

1 lb Beef Suet

8oz Flour
8oz Fresh Breadcrumbs (Bought bread crumbs can be used but the quality will suffer.)
8oz Sugar
1lb Raisins, Light or Dark (I used Golden)
1lb Dates
2 tsp Mixed Spice (I used cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger)
4oz Candied Peel, chopped (I couldn’t find candied peel at the store and didn’t have time to make any so I used a store bought fruitcake mix that has candied peel in it. You can leave this out. You could also substitute chopped nuts.)
Pinch Salt
1 Lemon, rind only (I halved the recipe but used the whole lemon rind anyway since I didn’t have the candied peel.)
8 Eggs, beaten
10½fl oz Brandy (I used Spiced Dark Rum because that’s what we like.)

The Method:

*Put a LARGE stockpot on to boil. You need a pot large enough to make sure the pudding floats and is completely covered the entire cooking time.

*Shred the suet, set aside. This can be done ahead of time & stored in the fridge.

*Wash & dry the grater.

*Grate the breadcrumbs, set aside.

*Zest the lemon, set zest aside and deal with the lemon- don’t waste it!

*Measure out the rest of the ingredients.

*Mix dry ingredients well.

*Add the wet ingredients, mix VERY well. Make sure all of the dry ingredients are incorporated and no dry breadcrumbs remain.

*Wet a clean flour sack towel that has not been treated with fabric softener. Wring the water out until the towel is damp.

*Spread towel out completely and rub a thin layer of flour into it.

*Dump the pudding batter onto the towel in the middle of the flour layer.

*Bring all the edges of the towel together and tie VERY tightly with kitchen twine, making sure that no water can get in through any gap in the top.

*Drop into pot of boiling water and boil, covered, 5-6 hours or until cooked through. (My halved recipe still took the full 4 hours)

*Drain, pat dry, and hang in a cool dark place.

*Check periodically for mold and pests. If either is present discard the pudding.

The weather has been blissfully cool and gloomy for the last few days. I’ve been in heaven! And today… Oh, today! It’s cool with a tiny breeze and the sunshine has been gentle and golden; today is a perfect early autumn day. By the time you read this, a few days will have gone by and we could very well be in the 80’s again. So I am enjoying every second of today. We had fire grilled steak for a leisurely lunch and for dessert after an equally leisurely dinner I have apple crisp planned. No, the oven is still not fixed. I have decided to start finding alternative methods of dessert production. As it turns out, the slow cooker is actually pretty fair at making desserts. I have found several recipes that I will be trying and, probably, posting here. I have been craving apple crisp terribly and decided to try it in the slow cooker. It worked really well! You just have to plan ahead a little more than you would with the oven version because it takes about 4 hours to cook in the slow cooker as opposed to only an hour in the oven. This would be perfect to start in the morning on a weekend day, go do whatever the day has in store, and then come home to for lunch. The smell is every bit as awesome as the oven version and so is the taste! The only difference is the topping. It doesn’t actually get crispy like it does in the oven. But that is really the only “down side” of using the slow cooker.

The ingredients are the same for the slow cooker version as they are for the oven version…

IMG_0373

I prefer to use a mixture of tart and sweet apples for crisp. The flavor of the end product is delightfully intriguing and you get the added bonus of not needing to use as much processed sugar because of the sweeter apples that are included. The apples I chose this time are Granny Smith and Galas. You have to make sure you choose nice, firm Gala apples for cooking or baking. Sometimes Galas can be mealy and those won’t hold their shape when cooked; they’ll just turn to mush. To find a firm Gala apple, give it a light flick. If the flick produces something akin to the sound you get when you bite into a crisp apple you’re in business. If the flick produces a sound akin to a dull “thump” then you have a soft and/or mealy apple that you don’t want to use.

Start by getting as big a bowl as you can manage and fill it about halfway with cold water- use a stockpot if you have to because you need ALOT of room for the apples. Add about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the water and you have acidulated water. This is perfect for keeping your apples from turning brown as you work with them. Now peel your apples and put them in the water. After you’re done peeling them all, core and slice them into 1/4 inch slices, taking one apple from the water at a time and returning the slices to the water. Set the apples aside and move on to the topping. Here is your new best friend when it comes to cutting butter in to flour in just about any recipe:

IMG_0376

Yep. A grater. Normally I would use a box grater, but as mine is packed this is what I use when I need a grater. Make sure your butter is frozen, then grate it using the larger holes. Be careful as you grate the butter- it’s a fat so it can get slippery. I use the wrapper to hold the butter for as long as I can as I grate it. Here is what you end up with:

IMG_0379

Little pieces that are SO much easier to work into flour with the cutter! Now you can mix the flour, part of the brown sugar, and the oats together, then put them into the bowl with the butter. Mix the whole lot with a fork to get the butter off the bottom of its bowl and then use a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut the butter into the flour. (If you’re using the knives, use butter knives and hold one in each hand so that it looks like you are trying to cut something on a plate, only with 2 knives instead of a fork and a knife. That is also the basic motion you’re going for- overlap the knives side-by-side in the middle and “cut” away from each other.) Cut the butter in until you get a crumbly texture with pieces the size of small peas. Like so…

IMG_0380

Once the topping is done, butter or grease the crock of a large slow cooker. I use butter because I’m trying to get away from cooking sprays & other nasty things. Use whatever you like. Now drain the apples in a colander, put them back in the big bowl, and add the rest of the sugar and the spices. Stir the apples & sugar together and then pour the mixture into the crock. Put the topping on and press down gently so that it’s slightly packed, thusly…

IMG_0388

Put the lid on and cook the apple crisp for about 4 hours. If you’d like, you can take the lid off for the last 20 minutes to firm up the topping a bit, but it’s not imperative. It will be tasty either way!

The result is awesome! So long as you don’t cook the crisp any longer than about 4 hours, the apples will have great texture and the flavor is wonderful. The only “problem” I have with this method is that you end up with a little bit of runny liquid in the final product. With the oven method the syrup or juice boils down into a nice thick pie-filling type thing. That can’t happen in the slow cooker. There isn’t a lot of it and if you stir the apple crisp up in the bowl you eat it out of you really don’t notice it. But if that’s a turnoff for you, you could just add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to the apples when you mix in the sugar & spices.

Like most other people, I like to serve my apple crisp with ice cream. But UNlike most other people, I like to serve mine with butter pecan ice cream. The flavor and richness it adds is almost obscene 😉

IMG_0391

Now that Autumn is officially here I am so excited to start eating the foods of the season- and this is the perfect way to start! Next week I will be bringing you another quintessential food of fall; pumpkin! But I promise you: this is NOT the typical pumpkin treat. This will take pumpkin pie to a whole new level- and make it perfectly acceptable to eat for breakfast! And no; it’s not yet ANOTHER muffin or bread recipe. Stay tuned!

The Recipe:

8 Large Apples ( a mix of tart and sweet), Peeled, Cored, and Sliced to 1/4″

1 t Cinnamon

1/8 t Nutmeg (don’t omit this just because it’s a tiny amount! It will add a wonderful flavor!)

1 C Brown Sugar, Divided

3/4 C Flour

3/4 C Old Fashioned Oats (NOT quick cooking)

1/2 C Butter, Frozen, Grated

The Method:

*Butter or spray the crock of a large slow cooker (mine is 6 quarts. Anything smaller than 4 or 5 quarts is too small).

*Combine the flour, oats, and 3/4 C of the brown sugar.

*Cut the butter into the flour mixture and set aside.

*In a large bowl, combine apples with the remaining brown sugar and the spices.

*Spread the apples evenly in the crock, followed by the topping.

*Pack the topping very slightly onto the apples.

*Cover with the lid and cook on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

*If desired, leave the lid off for the final 20 minutes of cooking to firm the topping up a bit.

*Garnish with ice cream (seriously- butter pecan is incredible with this!), whipped cream, or eat as is.