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Many Thoughts on Applesauce + A Very Short Recipe

November 26th, 2014 · Baking, Condiments, Ingredients, Quick and Easy

Apple Melange

I started preparing for winter this week. A puffy vest for was acquired, which I will now live in, and a new coat – an extra layer that I know I’ll be needing. Somehow, I’m never fully prepared for the weather.

I’ve been trying to make my way through several books that need to be finished before I can read new ones – Thrive by Ariana Huffington, I Am Malala, and a handful of others. I started Jo Nesbø’s The Bat but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. Fortunately it’s short, so I’m powering my way through it.

Tieks and the Japanese Maple

These leaves are now covered by a good layer of ice and sludge that have been accumulating today – what a difference a few days can make. I’m trying to prepare myself for a world of ice and salt and knocking the snow off of my car.

Late fall sky
Dried Wreaths
Fading flowers

The leaves were stunning this week. Hanging on. Visually, this is my favorite time of year. Emotionally, it’s a little bit of a roller coaster – bracing myself for the long cold winter. I’ve been trying to do a little more to prepare this year: getting someone to help us with a deep cleaning of the house, acquiring new heaters so that we don’t freeze when our old steam heat fails us. A few months ago I won a new blanket, massage gift certificate, and a light alarm from the Tart Cherry Marketing board, and they’ve been particularly useful this week! (Always enter contests if you like the prizes!)

Japanese Maple Tree
Single fall berry
Leaves of fall hanging on

Somehow there is new growth.

New Growth
Moss pushing through

And apples. Which of course I use to make applesauce when I can. It’s such a comforting food.

Empire Apple

Applesauce on the Stove

Pureeing Applesauce with an Immersion Blender

Applesauce, many thoughts.

Applesauce. It’s one of those things that takes no time at all – a half hour maybe? Makes your house immediately smell like the holidays, and provides you with comforting sustenance. It’s the most beautifully simple thing to make. You really only need apples and a little water, and you can make something perfectly good.

When I set about making applesauce, I usually make a small batch – 5 or 6 apples. You can make a huge batch, but I like to cook in a small pot, and change up my spice mixes. This allows you to make this recipe many times in order to try out what you like and what you don’t.

I like to use a blend of apples. I like my apples on the tart side. My favorite as a child was always the McIntosh. This batch had a few Empire apples, a few Macoun.

I take apples, and I peel them. I cut out the cores, and slice them. Sometimes I leave a little peel here and there, you don’t need to be perfect. You also don’t need to peel them. If you leave the peels on, your applesauce will become rosy.

You’ll want an acidic component – this can help the apples from browning, and also will provide the flavor with some snap. I’ll sprinkle my apples with the juice of a lemon. (But I don’t always remember, and it turns out okay without, too.)

In a heavy bottomed pot (you don’t want anything to burn), put your sliced apples. If you want a sweeter applesauce, you can put in some brown sugar, maple syrup, maple sugar. Just a few spoonfuls, don’t go overboard. If you are adding sweetener, I also like to add a pinch of salt.

Here I’ll choose my spices – if you don’t have many choices, go for cinnamon. You can put a little – maybe a teaspoon, to a few tablespoons, for a deeply spiced sauce. Sometimes I do a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Chai spices are good, too.

You’ll want a liquid to get things started. A cup or so of cider, apple juice, or water. You could also do wine! For this batch I did 3/4 cup of water, and about a quarter cup of honey mead!

Cook the apple liquid over medium heat, covered, making sure to stir every so often to let the apples soften. You can let it cook for longer, but make sure to turn the heat down to low. When I’m in a hurry, I’ll cook it for 30 minutes.

When the apples are cooked through and tender, mash with a fork for a chunky texture, or purée with an immersion blender for that smoother sauce.

Eat it warm, or cold. Store in the fridge, or in the freezer to preserve the bounty for longer. (Of course you can put it up, too, but I like doing that with a larger batch.)

Applesauce

Applesauce (the short recipe)
3 pounds assorted apples, peeled, cored, and slice
1/2 cup of liquid: apple juice, apple cider, water, or a combination
1/4 cup honey mead (totally optional)
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (or brown sugar)
2-3 teaspoons mixed spices (cinnamon, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg)

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy bottomed bot, and cook on medium heat, covered, stirring every so often for 30 – 60 minutes until apples are soft. Mash with a fork, or puree with an immersion blender.

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Porky dinner

November 25th, 2014 · Meat

Pork tenderloin brussels sprouts and sweet potato

I’ve officially started my winter training plan. Given that I don’t actually train during race season, I was surprised that I even had the initiative to consider a training plan as the weather is getting cold. This year I dabbled in triathlon and marathon running, but next year I’d like to do better! I’m sure I’m going to dread getting out in the cold (and will have to spend a good amount of training in the gym), but it always feels good to have a plan! I got in a great baseline workout on the trainer tonight, wearing a heartrate monitor for the first time in forever. After cycling 300 miles in September, I clearly haven’t spent enough time on the bike since. It was a serious sweat session.

I got home late, and was thankful that my meal planning had taken all the stress out of what I was going to eat – all I had to do was execute. In the pan went my pork tenderloin from my Walden Local Meat share, seasoned with salt, pepper, and allspice. I stuck a few sweet potatoes in the microwave, and when the pork was almost done, tossed some shredded Brussels sprouts into the pan to steam and soak up all the pan drippings.

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When words fail you.

November 24th, 2014 · Writing

Bakesale Betty Ginger Molasses Cookies

I made cookies. A small batch, just two for each of us, and froze the rest of the dough. Ginger Molasses, from a Bakesale Betty mix – thinking about Oakland, about Ferguson, about the country as a whole. It’s hard to read the news here tonight in America. The anger, fear, disappointment. The terror. This can happen to the people you love. To listen to my friends hurt to the core – voices being silenced because of the color of their skin. Nobody should see their child killed and then be denied a trial to seek justice. There’s not much else to say right now. Heading to bed hoping that people stay safe tonight.

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The Weekly Meal Plan

November 23rd, 2014 · Meal Planning

Rotisserie Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

I got back in the pool today. It’s been a while, my arms were feeling it. My strokes were terrible, and I was *very* slow. But I got in the pool today! I got in about 1500 yards, warm up, a 10×100 set, and a cool down – to test my baseline 100 meters before I dive headfirst into my winter training plan. Next summer my triathlons are going to get kicked up a notch!

The weekend was low key. A dinner party with old friends, some headway with Jo Nesbø’s ‘The Bat’ – the first in the Harry Hole series. Reading my way through two gorgeous new cookbooks: Aarti Parti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul, and Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond. There’s not much I like more in life than curling up on my couch with a mug of coffee and a new cookbook. Many bookmarks in each so far.

I picked up a few new products at Trader Joe’s worth mentioning – a honey trio sampler, the Sicilian single varietal extra virgin olive oil collection, uncured turkey cranberry apple sausagespumpkin pie mochi, and a jar of sambal matah, an Indonesian condiment with shallots, lemongrass, and peppers. I served it tonight with the chicken – that red shmear – and it was hot, punchy, and good! What can I say? I’m a sucker for new Trader Joe’s products (and by sucker I mean… they are almost always great.) Do you have any current Trader Joe’s favorites I can’t miss?

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Week of November 22nd

Thanksgiving week! Boy, am I looking forward to all of the eating. We’ll see if I manage to get a Turkey Trot in there, too. Things to use up in my kitchen: pretty much the same as last week – polenta, eggplant, onion, turkey cranberry sausage (cook for breakfasts), feta, goat cheese, eggs, sweet potatoes, cabbage, a whole mess of herbs, a little bit of applesauce, and bacon.

Saturday: a dinner party! We headed out to my friend Kevin’s house to have a little dinner party with him and his girlfriend, and another couple. I’ve known Kevin now for almost 18 years! It was all very civilized. We ate mushroom turnovers (yep, I brought Trader Joe’s to a dinner party), a garlicky kale salad, a winter fennel salad that I made, and butternut squash risotto. Dessert was apple crumble, coffee, and scotch.

Sunday: rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes I know that I’m going to need to eat more green vegetables, but I got in a massive fill at the party last night, and all I wanted was Whole Foods hot bar.

Monday: rotisserie chicken and christmas lima stew. When one has a rotisserie chicken for dinner, there are leftovers. Fortunately, I had a crockpot of christmas lima’s going in some broth this afternoon – a perfect vehicle for leftover chicken.

Tuesday: pork tenderloin, brussels sprouts, and sweet potato. These two sweet potatoes have been sitting in my house  for weeks, and I’ve set out some pork from my meat share to defrost in the fridge. I also have a dearth of bacon, so it might be pork on pork to jazz up this dinner.

Wednesday: egg night. At least I think that’s what’s going to happen. I try to make one night a week egg night, because it’s super easy, and also because I always have a few dozen eggs in the house that need eating.

Thursday: Thanksgiving Linner! We used to go to an antiseptic banquet hall for Thanksgiving every year, until a good part of the family staged a coup. Now we’ll be heading to my aunt’s house, and I know it’s going to be good.

Friday: out! Or more likely…a large pile of greens and some restorative broth.

What are you eating this week?

–– Sam

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Panforte

November 21st, 2014 · Ingredients, Local stores

Now that you’re hopefully gorging yourselves on Kringle, here’s another holiday treat worth going out on a hunt for – Panforte. I noticed that there were a stack of these when I stopped by Formaggio Kitchen this morning, but these are photos are from the one I ate last year (before I learned how to focus my lens, apparently,) and I’ll be picking up a new one in the next few days. The Panforte is similar to a fruitcake – a dense round of candied fruit and nuts that is heavily aromatic with warming spices.

I have a history of hiding food that is just too good to share – my mom and I famously rationed a jar of crunchy Biscoff spread  for months by hiding it in the lid of our couscoussière and eating it by the single spoonful – and this is one of those foods that you consider hoarding to yourself and not sharing with anyone. It’s worth sharing however, because even selfishly, you’ll make friends with this treat.

The Panforte di Siena from Formaggio comes with it’s own little powdered sugar packet. If you can’t find a round of this, you can make your own: I’ve had this recipe from David Lebovitz bookmarked for the past two years.

I’d say that this is too rich to eat more than a little slice at a time, but I’d be lying – it’s rich, certainly, but left to my own devices I could polish this thing off over the course of a long afternoon.

Other similar seasonal treats I’d like to try making:

Melissa Clark’s Moist and Boozy Fruit Cake

Laurie Colwin’s West Indian Black Cake

Do you have any favorite holiday spiced cakes?

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