Tag Archives: Spices

Apple Butter

I’ve been wanting to make apple butter since last fall and knew when I saw the Rome Beauties at the market the other day, now was the time.  I don’t often see Romes here, but when I do, I think of all the lovely things I might cook, because they’re the perfect apple to cook with.  Their somewhat mild flavor intensifies richly with cooking.

Why apple butter?  Why not apple pie, or apple cobbler, baked apples, a pandowdy, buckle, or slump?

Outside of apple butter being another thing I can check off my “Made it Myself” list which threatens my sanity from time to time, it’s a flavorful fat-free substitute for butter on my morning toast.  Once in the habit, you don’t miss the butter.  I like to stir it into oatmeal or hot Grape Nuts instead of milk and sugar, and it swirls nicely into a cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a sprinkle of granola.

When I started looking for a recipe, I was surprised to find most were loaded with sugar — sometimes as much as four cups.  I found one that contains far less and you can make it in the slow cooker like I did, or on the stove in far less time.

Make it on a chilly day when you want the whole house to smell sweet and spicy.  You’ll have the people you love wanting to know what you’re cooking.

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Pastry Ring with Dark Chocolate and Cardamom

Chocolate Almond Filled Pastry Ring

One of the techniques I’ve shied away from has been making puff pastry.  Although I can be fairly tenacious, when I feel like I’ve worked diligently on something and it doesn’t turn out, I’m not willing to jump back to the task to get it right.  Let me adjust that — when it comes to something that isn’t important in the grander scheme of things, that is.  Making puff pastry would fit into that category.  If you’re a pro at making puff pastry, then you’re most likely thinking, “What a quitter.  It’s not that challenging…” and I would agree temporarily, but being the contrary person I am by nature, I’d come back with, “Yes, but when’s the last time you tore down a fence in your pajamas on the spur of a Monday morning moment while enjoying your first cup of coffee?”  And then I’d go inside and start a not quite puff pastry dough, but yeasted laminated dough all the same.

I think what annoys me most about my failings as a cook is the waste.  Yes, I absolutely learn something in the process of failing and know it to be an extremely important aspect of learning, but it’s the time invested when I’ve put off doing something else.  It’s the waste of product if it’s not eaten, and therefore, a waste of money as well.

Sounds grand, doesn’t it?  It’s really because I don’t like having my butt kicked by a recipe.

A good strategy after a colossal failure is to break down the task.  Perhaps begin again with something similar, but not quite as involved.  After success once, give it another go and pat yourself on the back.  Bask in the glow of your accomplishment and then instead of tackling the dreaded initial failure again, try another recipe, again similar, but a bit more involved.  Practice developing patience with copious amounts of deep breathing.   Think about those turns and all that butter nestled between those layers.  Still not quite puff pastry, but getting close.

So very close.  And some chocolate never hurts in the process, right?

I’ll get there.  I will.  You wait.

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Pumpkin Pie Bars with Pepitas

Frozen Pumpkin Puree

If you’re someone who freezes food for later use, then you know there’s something to be said about how long food can be frozen and then used without sacrificing quality.  That would mean that the bones from last year’s something or other that are barely recognizable due to the accumulation of frost most likely need to be tossed.

But the two cups of fresh pumpkin I prepared last November, each carefully poured into its own bag, the air patiently pressed out, then frozen flat looked perfectly fine.  Bright in color, and not a hint of frost.  For about five seconds I imagined a whole new world of cooking up a storm of fresh items and then preparing them for the freezer.  And then I snapped out of it.

The food world on the Internet is aswirlin’ with pumpkin pies and mousse, and whoopie pies, soup, bread, and muffins, and since the idea of pumpkin pie is so yummy right now, but we wait until Thanksgiving to savor our first bite, I thought a compromise was in order.  I could have a somewhat pumpkin pie taste in a bar cookie.

Nice.  Very nice.  If you are someone who likes pumpkin pie but wishes there just wasn’t so much of that custard, then these are a lovely option.  Packing them up and sending them home with guests on Thanksgiving is quite a bit easier than sending pie slices, too!

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