When Friends Give You Apples….Make Fall Desserts

My friend gave me a bag full of her beautiful apples right off her tree.  It doesn’t get any better than that.  Except a week later she gave me another bag and I can’t believe these are even bigger and juicier.  The first bag I made this super easy apple crisp.  Crisps are so easy and with so few ingredients I just made it up as I went along. I went to a friends’ and shared with lots of moms and kids. It was a hit and I was asked for the recipe.  Oops!  My own kids didn’t have any crisp. And my daughter didn’t get to help.   So when the second bag of apples came around my daughter and I made another crisp to share with my kids and followed a real recipe so I could share with everyone.  Although I cooked according to directions for 40 minutes and the apples turned to sauce.  I think 25 – 30 minutes for firmer apples.

Another great option for fall apples is an Apple Gallett.  Easier than a pie as the crust is tasty but more rustic and doesn’t require all the fuss of a pie pan, fluting, etc.  I still have some apples left so I’ll make this next.


Apple Crisp

6 -8tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (such as Granny Smith)

2 -3 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup flour (can use whole wheat)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

Toss apples with lemon juice, sugar, and spices; turn into an 8×8″ baking pan that has been lightly coated with no-stick cooking spray

Cut together flour, brown sugar, and butter until crumbly; sprinkle evenly over apples.

Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes until apples are tender; serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Galette

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1/4 lb.) plus 2 tablespoons cold butter

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1/2 cup walnuts

2 pounds tart apples (3 to 5), such as Pink Lady or Granny Smith

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large egg, beaten to blend with 1 tablespoon water

In a food processor or large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Cut 1/2 cup butter into pieces and add to flour mixture; pulse motor, cut in with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. With motor running (or stirring with a fork after each addition), add egg yolk and 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time; process or stir just until mixture comes together in a ball. Form dough into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm but still pliable, about 1 hour

Meanwhile, spread walnuts in a baking pan and bake in a 375° oven until barely golden under skins, 6 to 8 minutes (leave oven on). Coarsely chop nuts.

Peel and core apples; cut each into eight wedges. In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. When it’s foamy, add apples and stir often until slightly softened and brown at edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar and nutmeg over fruit and stir until liquid is syrupy and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Stir in walnuts. Remove from heat.

Unwrap dough. On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll into a round about 15 inches in diameter. Line a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet with cooking parchment and carefully transfer dough round to sheet (edges will hang over sheet)

Pour apple mixture onto center of pastry, mounding wedges in a circle about 8 inches wide and 2 inches high. Gently fold edges of dough over apples, pleating as you go, leaving an opening about 4 inches wide in the center. Brush pastry all over with beaten egg.

Bake in 375° oven until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced, 40 to 45 minutes (35 to 40 in a convection oven). Transfer galette (with parchment, if using) to a wire rack to cool. Transfer to a large plate, gently pulling parchment from under tart. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

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Vegan for Fun – Cookbook Review and Coconut Curry Recipe

America may not, at least I didn’t,  know German celebrity chef and cookbook author Attila Hildmann.  He’s big in Europe and started the vegan trend with his bestsellers, Vegan for Fun and Vegan for Fit.  We, Americans will know him shortly as his books have now been translated and published in English.  Attila lost his father to a sudden heart attack due to malnutrition.   Attila was motivated and converted to a vegan diet and lost 77 lbs.  His book Vegan for Fun, Modern Vegetarian Cuisine shares his favorite recipes which shows his passion for health and fitness and also for taste.  In addition to his story and over 200 tasty vegetarian and vegan recipes, he gives great tips about vegetable substitutions, stocking a pantry, getting motivated to change your diet, how to shop at the grocery store and kitchen tools to make your life easier.

 

I’m always looking for more vegetarian ideas and this book is inspiring with lovely photographs as well.  There are many simple, tasty recipes for everything from sandwiches and pastas to salads and desserts.  Many do not even require having to buy added vegan ingredients, which I like.  I’ve also found these recipes are easy to convert for all diets and tastes.  I made the Vegetable Coconut Curry (recipe below) vegan for myself and daughter but also added chicken for my husband and son.   My daughter who usually thinks curries are too spicy, loved this one.  We also enjoyed the Spaghetti Bolannaise both as written with tofu and also with ground turkey.  The only drawback is this cookbook seems geared for a single or couple.  You have to check the servings andy sizes if you’re making for a family or larger group.  I make sure I double the ingredients on many of these recipes to feed my four.  My kids are looking forward to trying some of Attila’s desserts next.  Chocolate croissants anyone?

Vegetable Coconut Curry with Basmati Rice (pg 112. Vegan for Fun)

INGREDIENTS for 2 servings

¾ cup Basmati rice (150 g)

Sea salt

1 carrot1

1 ½ cups sugar snap peas (150 g)

1 red chili pepper

1 cup mung bean sprouts (80 g)

3 tablespoons canola oil

1–2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 onion

1 garlic clove

¹  ³–½ inch fresh ginger (1 cm)

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup coconut milk (250 mL)

1 teaspoon agave syrup

1/4 bunch cilantro

PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes

Cook the Basmati rice according to the package instructions in lightly salted water. In the meantime, peel the carrot and cut into thin matchsticks. Wash the sugar snap peas and blanch in well-salted boiling water. Wash the chili pepper, remove the seeds, and cut into thin rings. Wash the mung bean sprouts and allow to drain. Heat 2 tablespoons canola oil in a skillet or wok and sauté the vegetables over high heat for 3 minutes. Add the soy sauce and remove from heat. For the sauce, peel and finely chop the onion, garlic, and ginger. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a skil let; sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger with the curry powder for 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and agave syrup. Cook for 2 more minutes and season with sea salt. Wash the cilantro, shake dry, finely chop the leaves, and fold into the rice. Arrange the rice on plates with the vegetables and sauce and serve.

 

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Coconut Water Taste Test – Fresh and Fun, or Canned?

My kids love to open coconuts.  Last year (see post) it was on their list of top 5 summer activities.  However we  never seem to actually eat or drink much of it.  This time was different.  Because of all the coconut waters and juices on the market we decided to do a taste comparison.  Does the coconut milk from the actual coconut taste like the kind in the can?  We also needed to learn the difference between coconut milk, coconut juice and coconut water.

 

Coconut milk is easy.  It’s the stuff you cook with.  Think Indian food.  It’s the liquid and meat that comes from the brown coconut.  It’s pulverized and put in a can.  It can be light fat or full fat.  More of the solids and fats move to the top of the can so depending on your recipe you may spoon the creme off the top, use just the milky liquid or use it all.

 

But what’s the difference between coconut juice and coconut water?  Both coconut water and juice is the clear liquid in young green coconuts.  Seems the difference is the marketing.  The juice may have other additives (although I bought one that didn’t) and the water does not.  They may sometimes have pulp at the bottom of the can/bottle.

 

My kids were split on what they like.  No surprise there.  My daughter didn’t like that the juice from the actual coconut was still cloudy after straining.  My son thought is tasted more like coconut and the canned tasted like vanilla.  I, to liked the stuff right out of the coconut, but best after being refrigerated.  However everyone agreed it was lots more fun to break open the actual coconut vs opening a can.

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Six Part Plant Fest – Kids Eat Veggie “Burritos”

Did you know there are six parts to an edible plant and they all have different health benefits?  Neither did I.  I went to a great event at my kids’ elementary school where the garden teacher discussed the parts of the plant, their use, and how we eat all parts by having the kids make salad burritos.  I thought they looked more like lettuce cups, but hey I was there to prep, serve and learn.  In case you’re wondering the six parts and their uses are:

1. Seeds – essential for reproduction.  Makes new plants.

2. Stems – part that carries leaves.

3. Roots – underground structure to hold the plant and soaks up water.

4. Leaves – offshoot of the stem, here “food” is made for plant.

5. Flowers – colored and usually scented.  Attracts insects.

6. Fruit – product that follows the flower.  Holds and protects the seeds.

Makes sense.  But I never really realized how we eat different and multiple parts of produce.  It was a tasty visual to understand the plant parts.  And many of the offerings came right from the school garden.  All the plant parts were chopped and grouped together so kids knew wheat they were eating.  The leaves started the burrito wrapper with big leaves of romaine.  At the stems table there was celery and green onion.  At the flower table there were nasturtiums petals to eat as well as broccoli tops.  The seeds were popular with an array of sunflower and pumpkin seeds.  The fruit was a variety of berries and sugar snap peas.  For roots there were carrots and radishes.  There were even sauces to choose and flavor your creation.  Kids realized too that on the same plant we can sometimes eat multiple parts.  This is helpful in thinking how to serve, prep and cook these parts as well for a diet in a variety of color, taste and vitamins.

The kids (and a few of us helpers) had a great time.  The only downside was there was only one to a customer.  Feeding 600+ students doesn’t lend itself to second helpings as many of the kids were hoping.  We make a lot of burritos and lettuce cups at home and this just gives me more ideas for using all the plant for a variety of textures and flavors.

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Brussels…Love ’em? Hate ’em? Try them!

I find that many people are divided about their likes and dislikes with food.  Texture is a big deal.  Some prefer more or less spice.  But one food seems to really divide people and that’s brussels sprouts.  People seem to love them, hate them or won’t try them.  This is definitely a case of depends on how you prepare them.  No one likes anything cooked to bitter mush, which is what some people remember them tasting like as a kid.  They are overcooked or boiled and lifeless.

I’ve shared a favorite brussels sprouts recipe before for brussel leaves.  However you don;t always have time to peel.  This year I’ve been making a quick roasted brussels sprouts recipes that are enticing people not ask for an actually try (and enjoy) brussels sprouts.

First there was a “feast” at my son’s school.  This was very cute as each child brought in a favorite recipe to share with the class.  They each got up and told why they brought the dish, when they usually eat the dish and if there was any significance to their family.  They are next making a poster with the written recipe with a photo of them with their dish.  Recipes had to be approved by the teacher first because otherwise we would have all been eating our favorite family desserts only.  My son asked me to make stuffed grape leaves and while I loved the suggestion I was short on time.  Next he asked for brussels sprouts.  I loved this idea because I am always asking people to try them.  And in the class there were a few kids (and adults) who tried them for the first time.  Especially cooking for babies, getting to be there for a first bite is so fun.  It’s still fun for me if it isn’t babies.

The sprouts were eaten, with the exception of about 5 pieces, and my daughter polished those off in the car on the way home from school.  We had a potluck for my son’s tae kwon do that night and wasn’t sure what to bring.  It’s always a lot of pizza and desserts.  We decided to head to the store for more brussels sprouts and I made them again for that night.  It is not even the holiday yet and I made two batches in one day.  I thought my kids would be burned out on these, but my daughter asked yesterday, “Can you make brussels sprouts for Christmas?”  Sure I will.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Choose small firm compact heads with tight fitting leaves that are bright green in color for the freshest taste.

1 lb. brussels sprouts

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon rosemary sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Trim bottoms of brussels sprouts, but keep leaves intact.  Cut each sprout in half lengthwise.  Place sprouts in a plastic bag or bowl with oil and toss to coat.  Place sprouts on baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, turning halfway through.  Bake until outside leaves begin to brown and crisp, and inside is fork tender.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve warm.

 

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We Adopted a Turkey! Hooray for Martha!

This is a conflicted time for our family.  My daughter being a vegetarian and my sister and brother in law, the vegans, don’t want to think about turkeys being slaughtered for Thanksgiving.  My parents will have a turkey.  How the bird gets cooked and carved is for the carnivores in the family only.  In an effort to off-set the killing of many turkeys our family has decided to help save one.  Really it’s about donating money to help care for a turkey that has been rescued from a factory farm.  There are many such animals at Farm Sanctuary, a rescue in New York, Northern and Southern California.   A visit to the sanctuary in Los Angeles led to my daughter’s vegetarianism a few years back.  Where she learned “Animals are Friends, No Food”.

So my daughter choose this adorable turkey, named Martha to adopt.  When I told my family about the adoption campaign at the dinner table (we were eating something vegetarian) both my kids were excited.  My son, the carnivore, said he’d even pay the $30 fee.  My daughter was let down at first when she realized adopting the turkey meant in name only and it wasn’t coming to live with us as a pet.  Next, she had to think about putting her own money in to contribute to Martha’s care, which I said was the deal.  However she came around and there was a $5 per child share with mom and dad picking up the last $20.  It seemed fair.  My daughter was so excited that she called and told her grandmother who adopted another turkey, Minerva while they were on the phone together.  I wish my daughter would use those sales skills when it’s time to fundraise for her school.  She hasn’t put it together that her grandma rescued Minerva but will be buying another bird, a dead one to eat.

We’ll see what happens…..That’s what makes holidays interesting.

 

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Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries – I Heart Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook

Sometimes I heart Trader Joe’s and sometime I do not.  This week I was not happy as TJ’s discontinued my kids’ favorite spicy spinach pizzas.  These were pizza bread rounds with a spicy cooked spinach on top.  They were great to dress up with cheese or wrap around veggies or just toast and eat plain for a quick lunch or snack.  Well they’re gone and I’m bitter.

However I do heart their vegetarian cookbook.  This is great for quick meals using their products.  Everything from breakfast items such as Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes (made quick by using their precut pineapple), to creating hearty dinners including a Classic Pot Pie (using their artisian puff pastry).  The recipes use Trader Joe’s products as short cuts however you can use your own ingredients just as well.  Not only are the ingredients bent towards a plant based vegetarian and vegan items but also are touted as budget conscious.  Who doesn’t heart that?

My family’s new favorite side dish is the Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries.  Next time I’ll try some different herbs such as sage and rosemary salt.  They were good in a quick aioli I whipped up using Veganaise, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil.  They could also be dipped in tomato sauce, pesto or catsup.

 

Herbed Garlic Polenta Fries

(page 46 from I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook)

1, 18 ounce log Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta (find near pasta)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Prepare the polenta slices by cutting into 1/4 inch discs, then strips (about 3 – 4 strips per disc).  In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, garlic powder and oregano to combine.  *Gently toss the polenta with the olive oil mixture and spread in an even layer on the prepared pan.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake until slightly browned and crispy on the edges, 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Serve the fries warm with aioli.

Makes 4 servings.

*I found it easier to lay out polenta strips and use a brush to coat the oil and herbs.

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Earth Week Wrap Up

There were so many fun events and activities during Earth Week last week.  And if you didn’t do anything special and green, no worries.  It’s one of those things you can and should do on a daily basis, not just once per year.  Here’s a few photos from last week’s activities with my children.  There was an adorable labybug release.  Where the kids released over 30,000 ladybugs to help the school garden.  There was also an adorable sing-a-long with nature inspired songs. The culmination of the garden celebration was a garden fair with games, prizes, eco friendly face painting, bake sale, apple bobbing and more.

 

We skipped meat for the week and I made a yummy, fresh Watercress, Edamame and Fennel Salad.    I found the recipe while grocery shopping.  It was right on the cover of Delicious Living  magazine (recipe).  I’ll share this one with my vegan sister too.  But you could also add grilled shrimp or chicken to make an easy summer meal.

 

 

( If you’re wondering about that last photo above, my son came home from digging in the school garden and found a burdock root. It could have been, but it was just too woody to eat.  He was hoping to add it to our salad but he wanted a photo with his prizes anyway.)

 

 

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Take Me Out To the Ballgame – Kettle Corn Recipe

 

 

 

 

To celebrate my son getting his braces off and because we were headed to the San Francisco Giants game the next night, I decided to make Kettle Corn.  My son was very excited by the idea as he’s been very good about not having popcorn for the past 13 months during braces (at least as far as I know).  This also meant if I brought the kettle corn hopefully my kids wouldn’t ask for things like Cracker Jack’s and other ballpark food.  (We were packing peanuts too).

 

 

Kettle corn is easy enough and I’ve made it dozens of time.  It’s something that I think of making quickly too because I always have the ingredients.  Except I didn’t realize my popcorn was old.  Nor did I know what happens if the kernals are old.  Well now I can tell you, they don’t pop up nice and fluffy – they kind of half popped and burned.  Yucky and smelly.  I checked my popcorn bag and the date was almost a year previous.  Oops!  Luckily I had enough time to go to the store and buy new kernals before the game.  It was a hit with our family as well as some friends.  (The Giants won too!)

Kettle Corn (adapted from Petit Appetit Eat, Drink and Be Merry)

Kettle corn is a perfect mix of salt, sugar, and crunch that kids and adults find addictive. Be careful and patient when popping on the stove, as moving the lid may cause hot popcorn to escape. Have children listen from a safe distance.

Makes about 7 (1-cup) servings

½ cup organic popcorn

¼ cup grapeseed oil

3 tablespoons evaporated cane juice

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Pop the kernels using a large 10-inch, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid or a popcorn maker. If using the pot, coat the bottom of the pot with oil and heat over medium heat. Drop in 1 kernel of corn. Wait until it pops then add the remaining kernels. Sprinkle the sugar over the kernels. Cover and shake pan. Continue to shake pan until all the corn has popped, being careful not to burn, about 3 minutes. (You may want to slightly lift lid every minute or two, so steam can escape.)

Place the popped popcorn in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the salt. Toss gently to combine.  Serve immediately or keep up to 2 days in an airtight container.

 

 

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Spring is in the Soup

While shopping at Whole Foods yesterday I picked up their free magazine, Delicious Living and leafed through for some needed inspiration for dinner that night.  Yes, there it was a lovely green soup.  Yum!  Plus I only needed a few ingredients.

It was super tasty.  My son, who doesn’t eat zucchini ate two bowls.  By the way when the family asked what was in the soup, I answered “spring!”

(Next time I make it I’m going to reduce the water for a bit more texture.  For a richer soup you could substitute half milk for the water.)

Zucchini Soup with Mint from Delicious Living

This is a perfect appetizer—the last spoonful leaves you wanting more. Adding the herbs at the end protects enzymes and phytonutrients, and intensifies the soup’s flavor. For variation, substitute ¼ cup packed fresh basil for the mint and chives.

Serves 8

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 medium zucchini, diced (about 4 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Directions

  1. Place olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften. Add zucchini and garlic; continue stirring until vegetables soften. Add water and bouillon cubes; stir well. When mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  2. Transfer to a blender and add 3 tablespoons chives and the mint. Process until smooth. Return to pot, add pepper, and reheat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately, sprinkled with chives.
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