Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A is for Apple!

Caramel Apples
Posted to by B.B.Grimm

Although apples grow all year round, September through November is considered the apple season, and with over 7000 varieties, there is an apple for every taste and every purpose imaginable.  Apples can be used in everything from beverages and desserts to savory dishes.  John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, spent 49 years of his life growing apples over as much of the country as he could.  His goal was to teach everyone to grow apples so that no one would ever go hungry.  He walked his way through Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois planting apple trees, creating orchards, teaching folks to cook with apples and giving away seeds, so others could plant trees and share the seeds as well.  Best grown in temperate climates, Washington State now grows over 50% of the nation's apples.  Apples have many healthful properties; growing up we heard the saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."  And as legend goes, Johnny Appleseed's first illness was the cause of his death at age 71!
This month we have been experimenting with apple recipes and we've made treats for kids and adults, beverages and delicious dinners, all featuring apples.  I'd like to share a few of our favorites with you today.

During the holidays we've always bought sparkling apple cider for the kids to enjoy and now we've been able to enjoy it homemade with a popular German recipe, posted on by a good friend of mine, NorthwestGal.  We've made this recipe with apple juice, fresh cider and even cranberry juice!  For our last football get together with our cousin, I made this Apple Pecan Torte.  It's very easy, despite the long list of ingredients and was a big hit with everyone.  And of course, it's not Halloween without a good caramel apple!  Enjoy!

Apple Ladybug Treats
Posted to by Sharon123

Apfelsaftschorle (Sparkling Apple Juice - Homemade)
posted by NorthwestGal

12 ounces frozen apple juice concentrate
36 ounces club soda (fill juice can 3 times)

Empty undiluted frozen apple juice into decorative pitcher or 2-quart serving carafe. Fill juice container with club soda (3 times) and pour into the pitcher; stir well.  Chill, and serve in fluted champagne glasses.

Apple Pecan Torte
My version, inspired by Apple Torte posted by dawnab

8 ounces butter, softened
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
1 eggs

2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I like Granny Smith)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Crust: cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and mix well.  Add the flour and blend until crumbly.  With flour-dusted fingers, press the mixture into the bottom and 3/4 up the sides of a 9- inch springform pan.
Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar together and then add the vanilla.  Add the eggs and beat well  Pour over the crust.
Topping: Toss the apple slices with the lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Arrange the coated apples on top of the cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the top with chopped pecans.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until center is set and the crust is lightly browned.  Cool on wire rack for 1 hour, then refrigerate several hours or until serving time.

Dinnertime Superhero!

Photo by Lorilyn Tenney (*Tink)

Any recipe that I can use in more than one way gets VIP status in my house. Some days just get away from me. You know the ones. I may wake up early; even get a little work done before the rest of the alarm clocks in the house go off. Then my teenager ignores his alarm and doesn't get up for school until five minutes before the bus will be showing up... six blocks away. Instead of rushing to get ready though, he moseys in to me and asks if he can borrow the car. As I think about his request, I realize I have a doctor appointment, a package to Fed-Ex and a toddler to drop off at preschool, not to mention everything I need to do at home. I begin my denial with an apologetic, "Oh. Honey, I have to..." and that's when he disappears from the doorway, leaving me to wonder, "Just how do I expect to get it all done?"

Recipes like lasagna, quiche, hamburgers or meatballs are excellent for putting together, freezing and then baking when you need them. And now, my friends, you too can cover up the fact that you didn't even think about dinner until the rest of the family was on their way home! Because who's going to believe that at the last minute you had time to make homemade dinner rolls or hamburger buns? Well, I will. But that's just between us.

It all started on a beautiful spring day in May of 2009. I had ground beef thawed and ready to transform into mini-meatloaves. It's rare for my family to argue with me about what I'm making for dinner. And considering some of the strange recipes I ask them to try, when they do oppose my standby recipe choice, I tend to listen. So meatloaf was out and Bryan suggested grilling hamburgers instead. I told him to fire up the grill before I realized we had no buns. I quickly ran to the computer and found this Taste of Home recipe for 40 Minute Hamburger Buns, posted to by Marie. Dinner was on the table in less than an hour, with homemade burgers and buns! I've been using this recipe ever since, for burgers, sloppy Joes, soups, hot dogs and shredded pork or beef sandwiches.

Not that these buns need any help, but I recently found a recipe posted to by Brenda. It's one she created at home, out of her love for the King Arthur brand Everything Bread and Bagel Topping. I whipped up a batch of 40 Minute rolls, using this topping, to accompany dinner. My family thought I was a genius! They could be right, but I'm not one to brag. Living up to its name, this Everything Topping is great on everything from loaves of white or wheat bread to bagels and rolls. Even for the beginning baker or yeast-o-phobic, these recipes can turn you into a dinnertime superhero!

40 Minute Hamburger Buns
Recipe posted by Marie, Photo by Lorilyn Tenney (*Tink)

Everything Topping - Bagels, Rolls, Bread
Recipe by Brenda., Photo by Lorilyn Tenney (*Tink)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Karen's Skillet Lasagna - A busy day life saver!

This is a milestone year for our family.  At the same time we are sharing Sophie's joy and excitement for preschool, we find ourselves struggling to get through Nick's senior year with our sanity intact.  I can multitask, sure, but the work involved in senior year is daunting.  Senior government projects and presentations, community service projects, photos, announcements and of course, the senior apparel.  Not only is it time consuming, but it's all adding up very quickly, and to be completely honest, I'm overwhelmed.  We've had four photo sessions.  One for each kid through the school and one for each through a portrait studio.  It might sound a bit overkill to have that many photos but I've lost some confidence in the photo studio that contracts with the schools. 
Nick's senior school pictures were taken when we went to the school for registration.  The students file into a classroom set up like a photo studio, while the parents wait outside.  I've obeyed this rule for the last 3 years, resisting the temptation to chase behind him, yelling out instructions on how to avoid a goofy smile.  But this year is his last, so I did just that.  I followed him in, telling him to smile, but not smile and at the last second I realize he's wearing a ridiculously oversize baseball cap, sideways.  "Get rid of that thing!" I shout. 
Last week the photos arrived and we all fell in love with his pose.  The best one yet (thanks to me), but there was just one little problem... the lighting.  He looked like he had two black eyes, in the hideously green stage of healing.  Add that to the green cast over his chin and around his mouth and he looked like the Incredible Hulk!  I couldn't send these photos out to his grandparents, unless maybe I had Nick autograph them all, "Lou Ferrigno" first.  The replacement package was just as bad as the first, so they were all returned and we had professional photos taken instead. 

With all this excitement, my fridge is bare.  I feel like I have no time and no energy to shop or cook.  If there was one thing I'd never want to admit, it's that I still like to eat the chili macaroni and lasagna flavors of Hamburger Helper once in a while.  They're convenient to have on hand and quick to make on busy nights.  But the preservatives and sodium content in the spice mixes have prompted me to find other alternatives.  One handy recipe we really enjoy  was created by an online friend, kzbhansen.   It's so easy and versatile that whenever I need a quick meal, I know I can whip this one up with whatever I have on hand.  I sometimes use green or red pepper in place of the mushrooms, broken lasagna noodles instead of the Mafalda (which I've never been able to find anyway), Mexican four-cheese blend instead of all cheddar and I always serve it with cottage cheese.  It tastes like lasagna without all the prep work.  If you miss the baked cheese layer, you can transfer the cooked meat and noodles to a casserole dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and then broil it for a few minutes, or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned. 

Karen's Skillet Lasagna

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups mafalda noodles (Mini Lasagna noodles)
1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (4  ounce) can sliced mushrooms, sliced
1 (26  ounce) can pasta sauce
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup cheddar cheese, Shredded

Brown beef and onion in 4 quart Dutch oven over medium heat until no longer pink, drain.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except for the cheese.  Heat until boiling, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered 10-12 minutes or until pasta is tender.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve.  Serves 4-6
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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License