Apple Pie with Crumb topping

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Apple Pie with Crumb topping

It’s snowing here in New England. You know what that means? An early trip to the grocery store.  I beat the crowds (it’s a sport here) and planned my baking day as I wandered. By noon I had already made giant blueberry muffins and an apple pie. APPLE PIE! Nothing makes the house smell so delightful. Such comfort food! I prefer an apple pie with crumb topping. More cinnamon and sugar for the win!! I have no magical pie crust recipe. I’m just not good at making pie crust…..butter? Crisco? Ugh. So, you can use your own recipe or cheat like me and buy a crust. Yup. I’ll say a few Hail Marys for my soul, but the crust is the just vessel of sweet cinnamon and cooked apples into my mouth. I’m not embarrassed. (Maybe just a little). I do make a great crust for apple galette that does not work well as a pie.

The secret to the crumb topping is to make it before you peel the apples and then let it sit in the fridge to harden. This technique makes it easier to sprinkle over the ready-for-oven pie.

5 Granny Smith apples

1 tablespoon all-purpose King Arthur flour, any brand will do

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Crumb Topping:

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup cold butter

1-9 inch Pyrex pie plate

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare the topping by mixing flour, sugar and cinnamon is large bowl. Add cold butter that’s been cut up in small pieces. I like to use a pastry cutter, but you can use a food processor, a fork or even your hands. Make sure it is all mixed. Place in fridge to harden a bit.

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Peel your apples. I like to do them in one spiral piece. It’s just something I like to do. There is more than one way to peel an apple. Next you will need to core your apples. If you don’t have an apple corer, just slice around the core. I cut the apples in half and then make 6 slices from each half. If the apple slices are too thick, the pie will take too long to cook. Just a helpful hint. When I was coring my apples, I pushed a core through my finger. It got stuck. I panicked. Then I realized this isn’t like the wrought iron rails on my parents front steps that I got my head stuck in….I mean my friend’s head…..I could eat my way out of this. How often can you say that?

Once peeled and sliced, I put the apples in a big bowl. If you don’t have a bowl big enough, you can use a clean pot. If you don’t have a pot big enough, just do half the apples at a time. I put a tablespoon of flour in with the apples to help thicken the juices. You don’t have to. I use about ½ cup of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon in the apples. I like to toss them using a knife. It’s tradition. You can use your impeccably clean hands instead. Then taste an apple. Very important. If the apples need more sugar or cinnamon, now’s the time to add them. I read on the internet that the French don’t use cinnamon in apple desserts. If it’s on the internet it must be true! Oui?

Now the apples are ready for the pie shell. I crimped along the top of the crust with my fingers. Not artfully, may I add. You can press it down with a fork. There’s lots of ways to prepare your crust. Most people like to just dump the apples in the pie crust. I like to place the curved back of the apples along my pie crust. I systematically place the apples around the pie crust, in several layers. This may sound excessive, but it helps prevent the pie from collapsing after you bake it. The center of the pie should have more apples than the side, like a mound. If there is any of the cinnamon/flour mixture, sprinkle it over the top of the apples.

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Now it’s time for the crumb topping. Place your pie plate on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. You can also use aluminum foil. The topping will fall off and burn. You don’t want to clean that off your baking sheet! Sprinkle the crumb topping all over your pie. Have a taste or two! This recipe makes too much topping for the pie. I just haven’t done the math to reduce it. If you have any pie crust scraps, you can sprinkle this mixture over them and bake. It’s a treat for the kiddos! My mother used to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over her pie scraps. It made us all so happy.

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Bake your pie at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Check your pie by putting a sharp knife into a cooked apple. If it goes in easily, the pie is done. If not, then cook for another 5-10 minutes. Another sign of doneness is bubbling juices in the pie. That makes my heart happy. Let pie cool before serving. You can have it plain, with vanilla ice cream or even whipped cream. Enjoy!

 

Turkey in the morning, turkey in the evening, turkey at supper time….

 

If you are reading this, you have survived 2016 successfully! Good for you. Did you make an resolutions? Didn’t think so. Every Sunday I get deep and introspective. I thought today would be even more so, but it was not. I am glad to see 2016 go, but nervous about 2017. I don’t think we should put pressure on the new year. It’s up to us to be successful and happy. Is it about choosing a small safe world or taking risk and chance in a big scary world? Meh. I’d rather think about cooking food for the ones that I love.

I found this Turkey Chili recipe in the Washington Post. This is a Sarah Moulton recipe. She was the host of one of the Food Network’s first shows. I loved watching her awkward knife skills, being a lefty. Every time I say “impeccably clean hands” I think of her. What? You don’t use that phrase? You should! It reminds me to keep washing my hands to avoid cross-contamination. She was a great teacher, and I learned many things from her. She’s moved on from the Food Network to PBS and is still cooking and writing about cooking.

I’ve adapted the recipe a little. Her recipe is here.

Turkey Chili

1 cup finely chopped onion

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for brushing tortillas

1 tbsp. minced garlic

2 pounds ground turkey or chicken

1 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper

½ tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste

Four (or more) 6” corn tortillas

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken stock (store-bought works well)

2  15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1   5-oz. can of chopped green chilies

2/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

2 tbsp. lime juice

¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 375 degrees

Combine the onion and oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat to high; add the ground turkey or chicken, the chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper (to taste) and the ½ teaspoon of salt; cook for about 6 minutes, breaking up the meat, or until it is no longer pink.

Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium, then add the flour; cook for 3 minutes, stirring. Pour in the broth, stirring. I would put 2 cups of chicken stock in at first. I like my soup thick. If you want the soup thinner you can add more stock. Once the mixture starts bubbling, stir in the beans and green chilies. I like to mash one of the cans of beans. It helps thicken the soup. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the sour cream, lime juice (to taste) and season lightly with salt. Stir in about ½ cup of cheese and stir until melted. You can either add the rest now, or sprinkle it on top of your bowl.

Taste the soup. I found that I had to put a little more cumin and chili powder, as well as salt in it. It’s better to add, since you cannot take out spices once they are added.

Now for my favorite part of the soup, the tortilla toppings! On a parchment paper lined baking sheet, place tortillas in a single layer. Brush vegetable oil on the tortillas. Sprinkle salt over them. Put in the oven, on the middle rack for about 15 minutes You want the tortillas to crisp up and brown lightly. Watch them so they don’t burn. Your home will smell wonderful. Take them out of the oven to cool. If you have a rolling pin, you can crush the tortillas with it, making them into coarse crumbs or tear them into small chunks. I prefer the chunks. Of course.

Add the tortillas to the pan and let the soup bubble around them for 2 minutes. Spoon into bowl. Sniff and smell. Lower spoon into bowl, lift to mouth. Smile. It’s delicious!

NOTE: I like to make this soup the day before I plan on serving it. The flavors develop more when you wait. You can, of course, serve it immediately. Your leftovers will be fantastic!

 

You don’t like fish? I make you tuna!

Italian-Americans celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. I don’t love fish. I especially dislike salmon. Tuna, on the other hand, is my favorite. I like to make Creamy Tuna Noodle Cazuela for a celebration or a weeknight meal. Splurge and buy the imported canned tuna from Spain or Italy. The jarred piquillo peppers add a twist from the traditional tuna casserole. This dish is something special.

1 lb. farfalle  (bow-tie) pasta

6 tsp. unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups whole milk, or 2% or even half-n-half (warmed)

1 ½ cups frozen baby peas

¾ cup piquillo peppers (6 ounces) Roasted red peppers can be substituted

½ cup Parmesan cheese ( or more!)

2 6-ounce cans of white tuna in oil, drained and flaked

salt and pepper

1 cup panko

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the farfalle pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and cook over high heat, stirring, until the onions are softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Cook the sauce over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. In case you were wondering, this is called a béchamel sauce. Fancy!

Once thickened, add the farfalle pasta, frozen baby peas, sliced piquillo peppers, Parmesan cheese and tuna. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a large baking dish, or individual gratin dishes.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter. Add the panko and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the panko over the casserole and bake for about 20 minutes or until bubbling. Serve immediately.

Note: You can play around with the proportions. The original recipe is here. I like more tuna, so I added an additional can. I increased a few other things, especially the panko topping. Yum!

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Dreamy, creamy winter soup

 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

 

Soups are a wonderful way of staying warm during the winter months. A bowl of piping hot soup nourishes the body and soul. This soup also happens to be nutritious! There is no cream. Creamy cannellini beans are used to give this soup a velvety texture. The beans also provide fiber and protein. You can make this soup in about 45 minutes including chopping and simmering. It also doesn’t make so much soup that you are eating it forever.

 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 large head of broccoli, florets and tender parts of stems, chopped

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

15 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup milk

1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon powdered mustard

½ tsp. salt

 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until tender, but not browned. Add the broccoli, broth and beans. Increase the heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. You can test the broccoli by piercing it with a sharp knife. If it cuts into broccoli easily, it’s done!

If you are using a blender, let the soup cool for 15 minutes. Make sure you puree the soup in small batches. The hot ingredients in a blender can cause pressure to build up and the lid to explode off the blender. I used an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan.

Heat soup in pan until gently bubbling. Lower the heat and stir in milk, ¾ cup of cheese, powdered mustard, and ½ tsp. salt. Cook until warmed through.

Taste and add more salt if needed. Garnish the soup bowls with the remaining cheese. Serve hot.

Here’s the original recipe from Ellie Krieger.

I still smell like onions….all in the name of Beef and Vegetable Soup.

 

 

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It’s dark; it’s cold; it’s soup season. Nothing like taking away a bone chilling cold with a steamy bowl of soup. I would prefer you consider my “recipe” as more of a guide. You can play around with it without many problems. You may need to add a little more of this or that, but it will be more delicious and nutritious than ANYTHING out of a can. I’ve played around with my mother’s recipe and a few I’ve found online. It’s not rocket science. As always, read my “recipe” through. I offer some nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout and, hopefully, a little humor……

You’re going to need a big pot unless you are going to reduce the “recipe.” I found I kept adding vegetables and wished I had used a larger pot. Keep in mind, the veggies do reduce as they cook. When you chop your vegetables remember they are going on a soup spoon. You don’t want to finely dice them or they will disappear when they are cooked. A nice rough chop is good. You’re not on Food Network, so don’t worry about the detail. It will still taste good if all you onions are not chopped the same exact size. Really! Pull out all the vegetables you want to put in your soup before you start cooking. You could easily forget things like, ahem, my friend did. I cut up my onions, carrots and celery and put them in cereal bowls. You don’t need fancy bowls to hold chopped vegetables. Save your money and buy a good knife! Find your bay leaves, salt, pepper…whatever, and have them in sight. Have a spoon large enough to stir your soup. In her youth, my friend may have had to use a teaspoon to stir her soup. You should also know how you’re going to store it. Do you have one large or several small containers? Mason jars of soup made a lovely gift for someone you hold dear. You also need to plan on time to let the soup cool before you refrigerate it. It’s good to plan ahead. If you have room, you can refrigerate it in your cooled, lidded pot.

Beef and Vegetable Soup

2 tsp. olive oil

2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, cut into ½ inch cubes

3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

2 large onions, rough chopped

3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped

2 stocks celery, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 or 3 large potatoes, peeled and cut

1 small green cabbage or 1/2 large cabbage, chopped

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup frozen peas

2  15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (not petite diced)

1 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, rinsed

6 cups beef stock

salt and pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your pan. When it shimmers, it’s ready! Add the cut beef. You can use “stew meat” that’s sold already cut. I prefer to buy a chuck roast and cut it. You know what you’re getting when you cut it yourself. Either way, your soup will be fabulous. I like to brown the meat in batches so it doesn’t steam. When it browns, the bits in your pot will add lots of flavor. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper as it browns. Cook the beef so it’s no longer pink on the outside. It will continue to cook in the soup.

Add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. I like to add a teaspoon of salt to help sweat the vegetables. Stir in the tomato paste.  I like to add the garlic after the holy trinity of cooking is soft. Garlic can get bitter if it’s cooked too long. Stir the garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the bay leaves, beef broth (or water), tomatoes (with juice), chopped cabbage, and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. I made my own beef stock. It was my first time and it was delicious and nutritious, but it does take a lot of time. You can use water. Don’t use canned beef stock. It’s mainly salt. You may need to add more seasoning to water, but it’s a healthier option than canned broth, especially 6 cups of it. Remember, you are working this hard to eat healthier, not because you want your ankles to swell or smell like onions!

Simmer the beef and vegetable soup until the vegetables are tender. Plan about 45 minutes or so. Stir in the corn and peas. Simmer until soft. At this point you can add any leftover vegetables you have like cooked green beans, broccoli….whatever! If you want to add uncooked vegetables, add them at the first simmer, go right ahead. Add leeks, parsnip, sweet potatoes….whatever you like. Just make sure there is enough liquid in the pot to cook them.  If you have a spare parmesan rind, add that to the pot when it’s simmering. Magical!

This soups keeps beautifully. I think it tastes better the next day. You can keep adding to this soup for a few days, to make it last. My grandmothers could feed an army with very little, using this technique.

I like to make a roux to give it a little color and to thicken the soup. A roux is a technique using even amounts of flour and fat. I use a small pan and melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When it’s melted, add 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir, stir, stir. It will slowly darken and become thick like sand at low tide. It develops a nutty flavor as it cooks. Don’t walk away as it can quickly burn! Once it has darkened a little, you can stir it into your simmering soup. When you think it’s all mixed, stir it again! I may double the amount of roux next time for 6 cups of liquid, to thickened it more.  I like my roux to be dark, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be “blonde.” Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes so the roux cooks into the soup.

You are DONE!  Season to taste with salt and pepper when you serve.  To complete this meal, serve the soup with bread and butter. It’s hearty and filling for these cold, dark winter months.

Enjoy!

 

Note: You can reduce the volume of liquids, beef and vegetables if you are cooking for a few. Make sure you don’t reduce it so much that you don’t have leftovers. Leftovers are your lunch time reward!

 

 

 

 

Oh yay! Thanksgiving is here!

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Thanksgiving is here and you are in a panic! I can see it in your eyes…hear it in your breathing. You’ve got your kids coming home from college, in-laws staying for days, friends “stopping by.” Not only do you have to prepare a FEAST on Thursday, but there are the meals before and after that need to be planned. Oh, you didn’t think of that? Lucky for you, I have a few recipes that are easy. You can use disguised poultry for some of these meals. Don’t worry that you’re having turkey on Thursday. If you make my Tortellini sausage soup, you can use turkey or chicken sausage. Don’t tell anyone. Serve with some hot rolls (store-bought this time) and everyone will be happy! You can make this today and serve it tonight or tomorrow as your guests roll in. A hot pot on the stove makes a happy guest.

Another crowd pleaser, with disguised poultry, is my chicken enchiladas. Make it in the morning and serve it later. Buy the rotisserie chicken in the grocery store. No one will be the wiser. You have enough to do this week. This meal is quick and delicious. It can be mild or as spicy as you’d like. If anyone asks what’s in it, change the subject! “Look, is that snow?” or “I see deer in the yard!”

You’re tired and ready to collapse. You can prep a nice breakfast the night before if you make my breakfast souffle. A little bit of work at night makes for an easy breakfast in the morning. If you want to get fancy, buy some challah bread and make French Toast. You can make it and keep it warm in the oven while people wake up and stroll to the table. See, it’s easy! Check your syrup supply. Buy the bacon too!

Let me give you a few words of advice. ASK FOR HELP. I should listen to myself. You don’t have to do everything perfectly or yourself. If people ask if they can bring something, repeat after me, “Yes!” Do your best, not Martha Stewart’s best.  The holidays are about being with your family or friends, the people you care about. Everything else falls in place. Relax. Laugh. Eat. Create your own traditions.

Make a schedule of what needs to be done and when. While one thing cooks, another is prepared. Planning makes it easy.

One more thing, check your toilet paper stash. Oh, and coffee. Make sure you have enough coffee. You will make it through this week and have many happy memories-unless you run out of toilet paper!!

The holi-daze are here whether you like it or not. It won’t be long before you are suffering from frugal fatigue or host-traumatic stress disorder or making silly resolutions you will not keep. Enjoy the small moments.

Happy Thanksgiving…..breathe!!

Cakey Cornbread for the soul…..

This cornbread is not a Southern cornbread. There. I said it. It’s sweet, cake-like, and moist. Add a pat of butter to a just-out-of-the-oven slice, and you will find happiness. I smile thinking about this. The recipe is simple and needs nothing more than a bowl and whisk. I use a cast-iron pan but these can be poured into muffin tins to make corn muffins. Muffins take less time to bake and freeze well. Wintry days are made for baking and enjoying the fruits of your labor by a roaring fire.

My “friend” has made this recipe. She once accidentally  used twice the amount of butter. Another time she forgot the vegetable oil. Both times it was still delicious. Obviously, it’s best if you follow the recipe. My “friend” sometimes hurries in the kitchen. So silly!

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. baking powder

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup melted butter cooled slightly

Heat oven to 350 degrees. If using a  9″ cast-iron pan, lightly oil it and place in the oven to heat. If you’re making muffins, you can skip this step. Put papers in the muffin tin or grease them generously. I use oversized muffin tins. These tins make 6 muffins, a regular 12 muffin pan works also.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder.  You can reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and oil. Don’t add the melted butter. Not yet!

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the melted butter and stir just until mixed.

Remove the cast-iron pan from oven. Place it on the stove. Careful. It’s very hot! Pour batter into hot pan and bake for 1 hour. I set the timer for 45 minutes and start checking for doneness.  If you are making muffins, depending on the size, they will take 20 -30 minutes. I always set the timer for 5 minutes less and start checking with a knife or toothpick. They should come out clean. The cornbread should also be slightly browned on top.

Sit back. Make a cup of tea, open your newspaper, and enjoy a slice of warm cornbread with sweet butter. You will forget your worries!

Enjoy!

Here’s the original recipe from East Coast Grill in Cambridge.