Homemade Applesauce (no sugar added)

20140120-140146.jpgOn my trip to the farmer’s market this weekend, I saw a stand with baskets and baskets of gorgeous apples. As I work to eat healthier snacks, I knew that making my homemade applesauce again would give me an easy, healthy, packable snack option. And the best thing about farmer’s markets is that you can talk with the vendors about the practices behind their produce. I was thrilled to find that this seller’s apples are low spray, so much so that I didn’t react to the slice of apple she gave me to taste! Because I react to some spray or pesticide used on apples, I haven’t tasted a fresh apple in about 8 years! (I’ve never had a problem when they’re cooked.) It was truly a glorious moment! Anyway, I’m getting off track! I was able to collect quite a few of those pretty beauties and take them home for some delicious, nutritious applesauce.

It’s important to remember when you’re selecting apples for your applesauce- don’t just get the ones you like to snack on. When I could eat fresh apples, I loved the sweet-tartness of Pink Lady apples. However, when I make applesauce, I want it to be sweeter, and found Pink Lady applesauce wanted sugar. In order to make this as healthy and naturally delicious as possible, select naturally sweeter apples like Fuji or Gala. No added sweetener necessary!

You can peel your apples if you prefer an even, smooth applesauce, or leave the peel on for easier prep, added nutrients, and a little texture. Enjoy this applesauce with yogurt, granola, as a healthy substitute for butter in baking, or packed in small Tupperware bowls for breakfast or snacks throughout the week!

Homemade Applesauce

  • Servings: about 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

6 c. cubed apples (I used a mixture of Fuji and Honeycrisp)
1 1/2 c. water
1 tbl. lemon juice
1 tbl. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

In a large pot, add your chopped apples, water, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When the apples have come to a boil, place a lid on the pot and reduce heat to medium low. Cook the apples for 25-30 minutes.

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When the apples are soft, add the cinnamon and ground cloves. Stir to coat evenly and let the apples cool a bit before blending.

In two batches, add the apple mixture to your blender and blend until you have reached the desired consistency. Add water if desired to reach the thickness that you prefer.

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Serve and enjoy, or store for later deliciousness! Keep in mind, applesauce freezes really well!

How do you like to enjoy applesauce?

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How to Cook Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is an inexpensive, delicious, vitamin-filled winter vegetable, best enjoyed roasted (as many other winter veggies). However, this vegetable may seem a bit intimidating to tackle if it is bought whole. But this should never keep you from enjoying its goodness!

Below are step-by-step instructions with pictures to peel, cut, and roast butternut squash. Soon to come, a recipe featuring roasted butternut squash!

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Peel your butternut squash with a peeler or paring knife. Cut off the top and bottom and cut the whole squash in half.

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      2. With a metal spoon, scrape out the stringy insides and seeds in the bulb part of the squash.

butternut coll      3. Place the flat side of the squash down on your cutting board and cut slices or “rings” about 3/4″ across. Then cut your slices into square chunks.

Note: I only used half the squash to make about 5 servings. If you are making it for a large group, use the whole squash. Otherwise, lightly spray a baking sheet, lay the squash cubes in a single layer on it, and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen, store them in a Ziplock bag in the freezer.

20140107-221024.jpg     4. In a large bowl, add the butternut squash cubes, 1 1/2 tbl. olive oil, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, and 1-2 tbl. brown sugar. Add any additional seasonings you like (fresh thyme, paprika, cinnamon, and sage are all great to try with butternut squash. Not necessarily all at once though!) and stir to coat. Spread in an even layer on a foil covered baking sheet.

20140107-221032.jpg     5. Roast at 425 degrees for approximately 25-35 minutes.

Enjoy as a delicious side, and stay tuned for butternut squash featured in curry!butternut r

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gorgonzola & a Balsamic Reduction

20140107-183652.jpgLike almost every kid, I detested Brussels sprouts growing up. They were like baby heads of steamed cabbage that seemed to turn to mush as soon as I put them in my mouth. Gross! But working for a restaurant in college I discovered that Brussels sprouts actually can be delicious!

The key is to cut them up into smaller pieces and roast them. Cutting them up exposes the layers of leaves inside so they can get brown and crunchy and absolutely delicious. Even if you’ve never liked Brussels sprouts before, I urge you to give these a try! The marriage of balsamic vinegar and creamy Gorgonzola with these is surprisingly perfect.

How do you like to make Brussels sprouts?

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gorgonzola & a Balsamic Reduction

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 lb. of Brussels sprouts
2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 tbl. Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the bottoms off of your Brussels sprouts and peel off the outer 2-3 leaves. Chop each one into quarters. (Smaller ones can be cut just in half.) Rinse them gently and dry thoroughly.

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In a bowl, mix the chopped Brussels sprouts, olive oil, sea salt, and ground pepper until evenly coated. Spread evenly over a foil covered baking sheet.

20140107-183618.jpgPlace in the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until as deliciously browned as you want them. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool slightly. To serve, place in a bowl, drizzle with balsamic reduction (directions below), and sprinkle on the Gorgonzola cheese.

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Balsamic Reduction

On medium heat, boil 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar until it is reduced to 1/4 of the original amount, about 1 tablespoon.

Enjoy!

Homemade Dinner Rolls

rolls crDinner rolls are a family-get-together tradition in my family. My mom is always asked to make them whenever our family gets together for holidays. I always looked at those fluffy, rarely enjoyed rolls reverently, and wished I could have them more often. Well last night I asked myself, “Why should I not try to make my own dinner rolls?” So I did! And when I tried them, I fell in love. So soft and warm and buttery, just the way they should be. And I loved them all the more because I was the one who put in work to make them.

You’ll love how easy these dinner rolls are. They’re so simple that after only two times making them, I have the ingredients and steps memorized. The most time required is for the dough to rise twice, and even so, they’re ready in about an hour and a half. Even though I just got a KitchenAid mixer (yay!), I didn’t even break it out for these. All you need is a big bowl and a spoon. I hope you like these as much as I do!

Homemade Dinner Rolls

  • Servings: 15 large rolls
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 package yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water
3 tbl. granulated sugar
2 tbl. vegetable oil
1 tsp. sea salt
4 c. King Arthur flour

In a large bowl, stir the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Let it sit for about five minutes, or until the yeast mixture is creamy and has tiny bubbles on its surface. Add the vegetable oil, salt, and two cups of the flour. Mix well with your spoon. Add in another cup of flour and stir until just combined. Add your final cup of flour and mix gently until thoroughly combined. Your dough should be elastic-y and coming off the sides of your bowl.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead about 4-6 times. Oil the surface of a clean bowl, pat your dough into a ball, and place the dough ball into your oiled bowl. Cover with a dish towel and place it in a warm area to rise for 20-30 minutes.

Once your dough has about doubled in size, tear off a piece and form it into a roll shape. Do this by tucking the ends under until you have a smooth ball of dough. Place the roll into a buttered glass 9×13 baking dish. Continue until you have used all of your dough. (The size of your dough ball call vary depending on how large you want your finished rolls to be, but keep in mind- these will rise one more time, so don’t make them to actual desired size.) Cover the baking dish with your dish towel and place in a warm area to rise for another 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Once the rolls have risen the second time, bake in your preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. (Baking time will depend on the size of your rolls, so keep an eye on them.) Brush the tops with butter and serve.

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As you can see, I didn’t get to take a picture before they were attacked… Enjoy! 20131231-195741.jpg

Parmesan Rosemary Biscuits

bisThese rich, fluffy, flaky biscuits were the perfect accompaniment to my StrictlyDelicious Pot Roast, and are great on winter mornings with a hot beverage. These are so easy that I can make them with for a quick breakfast on the weekend or to accompany any dinner on a time-crunched weeknight. I will make biscuits using no other recipe! I hope you enjoy this variation, and want to add it to your comfort food recipe bin!

I don’t know about you, but I like my biscuits a little on the sweeter side. It usually makes them different from the biscuits made by others, and I think the sweetness is always a great complement for each of the savory dishes or sweet hot drinks that I pair the biscuits with! But I know not everyone is like me, so the recipe below includes options for you to modify the sugar to your tastes.

Parmesan Rosemary Biscuits

  • Servings: 14 biscuits
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 c. King Arthur flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda + 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar (or 3 tsp. baking powder)
1 tbs. – 1/4 c. sugar (according to your tastes)
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped if desired
1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 c. butter, softened (To soften butter, let it sit at room temperature. Do NOT use the microwave, as you do not want your butter melted!)
3/4 c. cream (for less rich biscuits, use milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk together all dry ingredients, including the rosemary and parmesan cheese. Then cut in the butter with your whisk until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Make a well in the center of your mix and pour in the cream/milk. Mix gently with your hands until just combined.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead only a few times (3-4), just until the dough comes together. Gentle kneading is what creates the buttery layers in your biscuits, so do not overknead! Roll your dough out on your surface to about 1/2″ thick. Use a pastry cutter (or like me- a crystal mug dipped in flour) about 3″ in diameter to cut biscuit rounds from your dough. Place them into a 9×13 glass baking dish.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until the biscuits have turned a pretty golden brown. While not required, waiting about ten minutes after removing them from the oven will decrease the likelihood that the biscuits will fall apart when you remove them from the baking dish!

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These need no butter, so just place on a plate or napkin and enjoy!

What are some of your favorite variations on a standard biscuit recipe? What do you like to pair your biscuits with?

Roasted Beets with Feta and Crispy Skin Chicken

20131209-210519.jpgWithout fail, every time I starts getting cold, I start craving roasted vegetables. I don’t know what it is about the chilly air, but every time I need to start wrapping myself in scarves, I crave the salty, sweet, slightly nutty, delicious flavors of roasted vegetables. So obviously, the gorgeous crop of roasted beets at the grocery store sucked me in like a moth to the flame.

Last night I opted to try these gorgeous beets (that I can’t for the life of me remember what they are called!) I beg you, don’t balk at beets if you’ve had them before and never liked them. I didn’t like beets before I had them roasted, and now, I’m addicted. You’ve got to try them this way!

Roasted Beets with Feta

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 small beets, stems removed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. thyme
2 tbsp. feta cheese
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Wash beets well and place them in a large pot covered with water. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until skin can slide off with little pressure. Place cooked beets in cold water to cool down, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Once your beets have cooled, peel off the skin and root pieces. (Aren’t these so pretty?? Ombre before cut, and this beautiful marbling on the inside! I love beets.)

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Cut beets into cubes. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme to coat. Spread on a foil covered baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to get a little crispy.

Serve, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Enjoy your chilly night!

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I paired these beautiful beets with some skillet crispy skin chicken (my favorite way to have chicken). To make, follow these directions.

Skillet Crispy Skin Chicken

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 chicken thighs
1 tbsp. olive oil.
1 tbsp. butter
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Add butter and olive oil to the skillet and heat on medium high heat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

As always when cooking meat, dry chicken thoroughly on paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. When the oil in the pan is very hot and the butter is bubbling (but not brown), add the chicken thighs to the skillet, skin side down. Cook without moving until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Flip chicken with tongs and cook for about 3 additional minutes on the other side.

Pop your skillet in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Your skin should be crispy, like this, and there should be no red juices running from the meat. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest in the skillet for about ten minutes before cutting or serving.

Mmm, cracking skin + tender meat = sweet indulgence!

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage, Balsamic, Brown Butter Parm Sauce

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Unfortunately, learning I’m allergic to white potatoes does not make my love of gnocchi disappear! Fortunately, sweet potatoes are another story and NOT on my list of illegal food. (I will find ways to eat delicious foods legally!)

So tonight, wrapped up in fuzzy sweaters and socks against Richmond’s first “winter storm” of the season, I have decided to embark upon the path of sweet, decadent comfort food.

Makes 6 servings (If cooking for one like me, the extra gnocchi can be frozen and saved for later. And the sauce is easy to cut down for smaller servings.)

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 cooked sweet potatoes (I used 3 small ones)
1 egg
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 c. King Arthur flour, plus more for kneading

Peel cooked sweet potatoes and put them in a mixing bowl. Blend with the mixer until the sweet potatoes are pureed. Add the egg, and then the salt, pepper, and flour. Mix until combined. Put dough onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough until it comes together well and is not sticky.

Fill a medium sized pot halfway with water and set on medium high heat to boil. Divide the dough into four equally sized sections. Roll each section into a long rope, about 1/2″ thick. Cut the coil into pieces about one inch long and press all around with a fork. (This will help the gnocchi hold your sauce later!)

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Drop gnocchi into the boiling water. You will have to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Gnocchi is done when it rises to the surface. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked gnocchi and place in a bowl. (NoteIf you are making this dish for less than six people, the gnocchi freezes well, so you only need to cook as much as you need. To make the frozen gnocchi later, simply drop, unthawed, into boiling water and cook as normal.)

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Sage, Brown Butter Parmesan Sauce

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

8 tbs. butter
6-8 leaves of fresh sage, chopped (plus additional leaves if desired for garnishing)
3 tsp. King Arthur flour
6 tsp. organic balsamic vinegar
3/4 c. milk
6 tbs. parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. (If you will be garnishing your dish with fried sage leaves, go ahead and fry them in the butter now. When you are done frying your leaves, add the chopped sage and stir continuously. When your butter begins turning a light brown color and starts smelling nutty and delicious, turn off the heat. Add the flour and stir into the browned butter.

Add the balsamic vinegar and milk to your roux (butter/flour mixture), stirring gently and consistently until combined. At the last minute, add the parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Add the gnocchi to the sauce pan and stir until all pieces are fully covered in sauce and reheated. Serve, garnish with fried sage leaves if desired, and enjoy!

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