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APPLE CUSTARD DESSERT

APPLE CUSTARD DESSERT

We kept buying apples at the weekly farmers market. I’d put them in the vegetable crisper and forget to use them, then wonder why there was no room in there.  My husband was hinting for apple pie but was also moaning about all the butter and sugar being consumed (by him) this time of year.

I don’t think this is terribly original – someone out there has probably done the same thing – but it’s what I came up with one day while driving and trying to think of some way to turn a few apples into a dessert without much butter or sugar. The name isn’t quite right; it’s a custard but is also a more-fruit-less-bread bread pudding.

I used some dollar-a-pound organic apples (forgotten what kind) and some seed bread from Costco, but any bread could be used. If it’s fresh, toast it to dry it out. 2% milk is what I had but any kind (including non-milks like soy or coconut) would work.

I used an 11-inch wide, 2-inch-deep-dish pie pan for this and measurements are based on that.  YMMV.

 APPLE CUSTARD DESSERT

  • about 6 slices bread, dried out or toasted
  • 3 large or 4 smallish apples, cut small
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or more, depending on how sweet you like desserts (can substitute real maple syrup, demarara or raw sugar, or regular granulated)
  • sprinkle of salt
  • 1 generous teaspoon spices (your choice – cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice)
  • 3-1/2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup almonds

Toast the almonds in a dry frying pan. When they smell nutty and have a few little dark spots, remove from the pan. Let cool, chop roughly and set aside.

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Tear half the bread into pieces and fit into the bottom of pie plate.

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Melt the butter in wide frying pan and add the apples and salt.  Cook the apples over medium-high heat, stirring now and then, until they soften a bit and release some juice, maybe 10 minutes.

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Add the sugar and spices and keep cooking and stirring until the sugar and juices condense into a syrup. Turn the heat off. Scrape the apples and syrup over the bread in the pie plate. Let cool a few minutes.

Pour the milk into the same frying pan and scrape pan with a spatula to get the syrupy bits left behind. Beat the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the milk (which will have warmed up) into the eggs; immediately beat the milk into the eggs to temper them and keep them from scrambling.

Pour the milk-egg mixture over the apples. Tear up the remaining slices of bread and fit over the top, pushing the bread into the milk. Top with the chopped almonds.

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Let this sit about 30 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the custard mixture, then bake at 375F until set, about 35 minutes. Use an instant-read thermometer; it should read 145F or above when placed in the center. There might be a tiny amount of milk visible on top; that’s OK. Remove from oven and let cool.

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Serve hot, warm, or cold with caramel or butterscotch sauce, sharp Cheddar cheese, ice cream, sour cream, or heavy cream. This slices well when it’s cold. Store in refrigerator.

 

 

 

SKIP THE MARSHMALLOWS AND MAKE THIS INSTEAD

SKIP THE MARSHMALLOWS AND MAKE THIS INSTEAD

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Photo by Abby Cook on Unsplash

Should you be a subscriber to the New York Times, you can check out the food section and in particular an article with a lengthy video of food writer Alison Roman  cooking Thanksgiving dinner in her “very small kitchen.”

[I think the NYT gives you some free views but I don’t know how many or if it extends to long videos.]

I was kind of prepared to hate her and everything she said because that was how I was feeling that day, but actually I liked the video and the recipes. (Though I don’t understand her hostility toward pumpkin pie or soft food.) That night I made her recipe for Spicy Caramelized Squash with Lemon.

Reader: it was good. Really good. I took some liberties with the recipe and it was still fantastic, and I don’t say that about squash too often.

I had a Honeynut squash, which looks like a cute miniature butternut squash. (She used a Kuri and said this method could be used with any orange vegetable.)

Using a chef’s knife – and one is practically required for this, or a cleaver – I cut the squash into half and then into wedges (about 12 total, but I didn’t keep a strict accounting). Scraped out the seeds and strings and threw them out, though I have read you don’t need to do this – the strings will kind of cook into nothingness and the seeds roast on their own. Your call.

I laid the wedges out on a cookie sheet and drizzled them with olive oil, then with real maple syrup.  It doesn’t take much – just enough olive oil to keep them from sticking and about half as much maple syrup as olive oil. (I would NOT suggest using  Diet Mrs. Buttersworth. If you don’t have real maple syrup, use a real product like honey.)

She called for hot smoked paprika, which I don’t have. Instead, I sprinkled the squash with regular smoked paprika and then cayenne – judiciously – and then salt. (It occurred to me later that chipotle powder would have been a good substitute for hot smoked paprika.)

Stuck the pan in the oven which was at (I think) 350 and roasted them until they were tender – maybe 30 minutes? 40? Took the squash out, squeezed a little lemon wedge over, served them as is (Roman calls for hazelnuts sprinkled on top, which would have been good but I didn’t see them as necessary.)

They weren’t just good, they were amazing, as in we-ate-the-skin amazing.  Spicy, sweet-sticky, and salty.  So if you are looking for something to replace that Godawful marshmallow-topped sweet potato thing this Thanksgiving – I suggest this instead.

 

MUSHROOM-BACON SOUP

MUSHROOM-BACON SOUP

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Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

A blackout seemed as good a time as any to make soup. My husband had been strongly hinting that he would like some mushroom soup (this after a really good mushroom-miso soup at a restaurant). No miso here but it’s delicious.

MUSHROOM-BACON SOUP

  • 2 or 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 pound white or Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup vegetable, mushroom, or chicken broth
  • water as needed
  • canned condensed milk or half and half or cream to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch cayenne
  • optional, but pretty: 1 tablespoon each minced red bell pepper and carrot
  • also optional: a shot of Madeira or sherry

Wipe down the mushrooms or very briefly rinse and pat dry.  Remove the stems from all mushrooms and chop them along with the caps, but set two of the caps aside.

Saute the bacon in a 3-quart pot, When the fat begins to render, add the onions and chopped mushrooms, and cook and stir over medium heat until onions & mushrooms are tender, perhaps 10-15 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over mushrooms; cook and stir occasionally another five minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour. Scrape the bottom of the pan occasionally to keep flour from scorching.

Add the broth and 2 cups water. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. If soup is too thick, add more water. When as thick as you like, stir in about 1/3 cup canned milk, the nutmeg and cayenne, and salt & pepper to taste (and, if using, the red bell pepper and carrot).  If using the Madeira or sherry, add about 1 tablespoon at a time, tasting before adding more.

Slice the remaining mushroom caps thinly and add to the soup. Let simmer another five minutes.

 

LIME & HONEY SALAD DRESSING

LIME & HONEY SALAD DRESSING

Bottom line: we had a lot of limes. We had salad that needed dressing. Ergo: lime-honey salad dressing. And fat-free!

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Photo by Ikram Ullah on Unsplash

LIME-HONEY SALAD DRESSING

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 1 lime, but sometimes they’re dry little suckers, so have another one on hand just in case)
  • 2 tablespoons honey, more or less
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds or anise seeds, crushed
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard (I used Plochman’s)

Whip together with a fork. That’s it.

This is good on delicate greens like Boston lettuce, but if you up the mustard factor, it’ll be strong enough for arugula or beet greens.

P.S. If you are so inclined, you could blend in a tablespoon of mayonnaise. I liked that the one time I did it, but thought it diluted the lime taste a bit. Your call.

LASAGNA

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LASAGNA

Everyone in the world makes lasagna and everyone thinks theirs is the best, and they’re all correct. Lasagna is what you get when you help someone move (unless you get spaghetti). Lasagna shows up at potlucks, showers, weddings, buffets, holidays, birthdays, and funerals. There’s no occasion in which lasagna is wrong.

I have made lasagna for a million years with all kinds of variations: spinach, sweet potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, chicken, meatballs. It was all good and always went over well.

And then I had some really good lasagna at my friend Cheryl’s, good enough that I thought everything I know about lasagna is wrong. She generously shared her recipe. I have somewhat adapted it here – she uses stewed tomatoes and a can of tomato soup – but not by much.

It took me a while to figure out what made Cheryl’s lasagna so good and so different: she doesn’t use onions. I put onions in everything, but omitting them here gave the other flavors much more prominence.

I’m putting this here not because I expect anyone to abandon their favorite recipe, but so I can remember what I did.

CHERYL’S LASAGNA

  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef (I used Humboldt grass-fed beef)
  • 3/4 pound Italian sausage (I used house-made from Beeler’s Pork from Eureka Natural Foods)
  • 1 32-ounce jar of best-quality pasta sauce (I used Tomaso’s garlic and basil)
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • a lot of fresh chopped garlic (i.e. at least 8-10 cloves)
  • 7-ounce can chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon each rosemary and basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed (or anise seed)
  • 3 bay leaves

Brown the beef and pork and then drain the fat (of which there will be lots). Add all the other ingredients, rinse the tomato can and sauce jar out with water and add the water too, and let simmer a couple of hours. Add more water if necessary.

When ready to make the lasagna, layer the sauce with uncooked lasagna noodles (use the regular noodles – those no-cook noodles are unnecessary), 2 or more cups low-fat cottage cheese, 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, ending with a top layer  of Parmesan.  You want this pretty juicy. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Take the foil off and bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. If covered with foil, this will stay hot at least 45 minutes.

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Photo by Mak on Unsplash

 

GREEN CHILI CHICKEN

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GREEN CHILI CHICKEN

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Right away I will say this is NOT my recipe. It came from the back of a package of Foster Farms chicken, circa 1982. I remember my mother making it and it was just wonderful.

Search for it now – ha! It isn’t on the Foster Farms website any more. Only a couple of blogs posted the recipe, and I thank them for preserving it.  I made it last night and again – just wonderful. I did make a couple of teeny adaptations but other than that, it’s the same old recipe. Putting it here so I can easily find it again.

GREEN CHILI CHICKEN

  • 1 chicken, either left whole or cut up, or about 4 1/2 pounds chicken parts (I prefer thighs)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 4-ounce can chopped peeled green chilis (like Ortega brand)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with a little water to make a slurry
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine)

Mix the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, paprika, and salt; rub the chicken all over with it and set aside 30 minutes or as long as overnight (in the refrigerator).

Heat oil in skillet. Brown the chicken lightly in the oil, turning as necessary (do not crowd the pan). Remove chicken to flameproof baking dish (i.e. one that can also go on a stovetop burner) as they’re browned.  Yes, go ahead and brown that whole chicken on each side if that’s what you’re using.

When all the chicken is in the baking dish, pour about 1 cup water into that still-hot skillet and scrape up all the delicious browned bits from the bottom. Pour that water into the baking dish along with the garlic, onions, chicken broth, and can of chilis (undrained). Cover and bake in 350 oven about 1 hour 15 minutes, until chicken is done (whole chicken will take longer). Turn the oven temp down if the liquid is boiling.

Remove chicken to deep platter and keep warm.

Bring the liquid in the baking dish to a boil on the stove and, stirring constantly, slowly add the cornstarch slurry, a little at a time until it’s as thick as you like. Taste for salt. Remove baking dish from stove. Stir in sour cream. Pour sauce over chicken and served with steamed rice or polenta.

Lamb and Grapes

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Lamb and Grapes

So I was grocery shopping and saw bags of grapes on sale. You know the bags – they have perforations and zip-lock tops, and are always crammed with as many grapes as can possibly be stuffed in, sort of like college students and phone booths (and if that doesn’t date me, I don’t know what will). I took about 2/3 of the grapes out of one bag and distributed them through the remaining bags on the shelf, and still came away with far more grapes that I really wanted. I like grapes but… not THAT much.

Got home, washed the grapes (the perforated bags are useful for that), put them in a nifty grape-leaf-shaped bowl, and we went to work eating them. By the end of the third day there were remaining about 48759 grapes, give or take a few. They were starting to think about becoming raisins. What to do?

It just so happened I also had a package of lamb chops. I’ve been making fresh mint sauce for lamb but I thought the grapes might make a sort of agrodolce sauce.  Lamb and grapes ought to be natural together due to both being staples in Greece, Italy, and France.

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Sauces and preparations with  grapes are referred to as Veronique – i.e. poulet Veronique, trout Veronique, but those use white (green) grapes and also often a hefty amount of cream. I didn’t know what using red grapes without cream would be called so I am calling it

Lamb Chops Red Veronica

  • 5 or 6 lamb chops
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups stemmed seedless red grapes
  • spring of fresh rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • vinegar (I used balsamic) and sugar/honey to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Season the lamb with salt and pepper on both sides, and let come to room temperature. When ready to cook, brown the chops on both sides and continue cooking until rare or medium-rare (if you cook them well-done, you’re a monster). Set aside to keep warm (on a heatproof platter in a warm oven is good).

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Saute the garlic in the pan drippings for a few moments, stirring and scraping up the browned bits to prevent sticking and browning.

Then throw in the grapes and the rosemary.

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Stir frequently and cook over medium heat until the grapes finally give in and are squishable. Mash them a bit to create the sauce. Taste the sauce and add vinegar and/or sugar/honey to make it sweet-sour, plus salt and pepper as needed.

Pour over the chops. Here I had them on a platter with leftover mashed potatoes formed into patties and browned.

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The same preparation would be good with pork chops, chicken, turkey, duck, venison, rabbit, or just about any game. This would also work with chopped apricots or peaches.

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