Thursday, August 29, 2013

Easy Apple Tart

This is a weeknight kind of pie.  An "I am so tired I can hardly peel these apples and can't bear the thought of rolling out pie crust" kind of pie.  The kind of pie you toss together when you forgot you were supposed to bring dessert or the kind of pie you make when your husband unexpectedly makes a wonderful supper and you need something sweet to go with it.

Easy Apple Tart

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed*
  • 2-4 tart apples (I had the good fortune of being gifted a couple of buckets of small homegrown apples so I had to use 4, probably 2-3 would suffice if using giant store-bought apples)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel and slice apples.  Toss together with lemon juice, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Unroll sheet of puff pastry onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
Arrange apple slices on the puff pastry, leaving an inch all the way around.  Fold up the edges.

Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees after 15 minutes.  Enjoy, possibly with some ice cream.

*I hadn't even thawed my puff pastry the first time I made this, I just put it near my oven as it was preheating and it thawed out in about 15 minutes.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Trail Food-No-Bake Energy Bars

Dave and I like to be a bit outdoorsy.  We like to climb and even hike a bit.  Well, he loves to climb and it's slowly growing on me.  Usually, to get to a climb, there is a hike.  And you have to carry all of your gear.  And it's uphill.  Then we climb something.  And three (or less) pitches in I get whiny and weepy and all "I can't do this, climbing is total bulls*** DAVID."  Dave has learned that it is this point in our travels that I need to eat some food.  Like now.

On top of South Six Shooter, after a minor freak out (or two)

Typically, he shoves a Stinger in my mouth and like magic, all is well in the world.  For this backpacking trip, there was development of an energy bar to try and stave off the meanness.  This is not your standard granola bar.  These babies weigh in at about 450 calories and about 9 grams of protein apiece, so they are meant for days when you are working your tail off (also they make a nice breakfast).

They are nut free to accommodate friends with nut allergies and general nut dislike.  They are sweetened with honey and pure maple syrup for cohesiveness and no refined sugar.  There is no butter so they won't spoil out on the trail.  They taste like dessert and will keep you going.

The ingredient list is long but substitutions can be made.  For me, each ingredient was specifically chosen.  These were not the first bars I whipped up (just ask Dave, he has had to try many crummy granola bars in pursuit of "the one")

It seems like there is a lot of steps, but the food processor does most of the work.  There is no baking involved but these babies do seem to benefit from a little time in the freezer, they seem to stick together better and al the flavors meld nicely.

No-Bake Energy Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds 
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ 
  • 1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
  • 18 pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (if you only have Mrs. Butterworth, make it 1/2 cup honey and skip the syrup)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or dried cherries, raisins, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (mini is important, they stick in the bars better)

Put oats in the bowl of your food processor and pulse until powdered (like flour).  Pour into a large mixing bowl.  Next, put sunflower seeds and 2 tablespoons oil into the bowl of food processor and pulse until you have made sunflower seed butter.  Pour into mixing bowl with oats.  Put dates and 1 tablespoon oil into bowl of food processor, pulse until you have made a smooth paste.  Dump into mixing bowl.  Next , to the mixing bowl, add in flaxseed meal, wheat germ, and crisp rice cereal.  Mix all to combine.  

In a microwave safe bowl, pour in honey and maple syrup.  Microwave for about 30-40 seconds.  This makes everything a little more liquidy.  Pour into granola mixture.  Stir to combine.  Finally, mix in dried cranberries and chocolate chips.  

Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.  Dump granola bar mixture into the bowl.  Press firmly and evenly into the pan.  I usually just use the palm of my hand, but a clean drinking glass also works.  Allow to sit for an hour or two.  Cut bars to desired size, wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze or eat immediately.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Makes My Life Easier-Bring A "Fix it Kit" When Traveling With Cake

It took a long time, but I have finally gotten smart.  When traveling a distance with a decorated cake or cupcakes, I have started bringing a little fix it kit with me.  Now that I seem to be the designated "cake maker" in my family I always end up traveling a minimum of 30 minutes with my cake or cupcakes.  I have learned some tricks for how to travel better, but sometimes (usually) something will get goobered and I will be mad.

Enter, the fix it kit.  In a plastic bin, I toss all of my piping bags with the tips that I used on the cake plus an offset spatula and some toothpicks don't hurt.  If there are flowers on the cake, a flower nail and wax paper too.  Then, when I get to the location, I can touch up anything that went awry.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Trail Food-Backpack Chicken and Drop Dumplings

So...I signed myself up for a 5 day, 4 night backpacking trip to the the Wind River range in Wyoming in September...yeah.  Kinda nervous, but super excited.  Anyway, obviously we have to eat on this trip.  For any overnight backpacking/climbing trips Dave and I have done in the past, it has just been Ramen noodles or Backpacker's pantry.  The other couple going with us have been backpacking quite a bit and they like to cook on the trail.  Which is awesome...because I love eating, especially good food.

We have been working out food options for the last couple of months and these chicken and dumplings are a riff on the chicken and flat dumplings my mom makes every winter.  The recipe requires that you only carry dry ingredients and just add water out on the trail. It makes quite a bit of food, is hearty, and best of all, tastes like something you would eat at home.

This recipe works fine on a backpacker's camp stove and would certainly work well if you were car camping and had an awesome mega camp stove so even if you aren't crazy ambitious enough to carry all your stuff on your back for 5 days, you can still enjoy killer chicken and dumplings.  Or heck, make 'em at home, from the comfort of your air conditioned house and eat them on your couch.  Still tasty.

A word of advice from our friends who backpack: write the recipe in Sharpie on outside of the quart zip bag that you have your dumpling mix in.  That way you will remember the recipe and don't have to carry any extra paperwork.

Backpack Chicken and Drop Dumplings

serves 2  hungry people

3 small chicken bullion cubes (1 cup bullion cubes)
8-12 ounces chicken in a pouch
1 1/2 quarts water
In your pot, dump in bullion cubes and water.  Bring to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, make dumplings.

2 cups baking mix (like Bisquick)
1/3 cup powdered non fat milk
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons dried chives or rosemary (optional)
pepper to taste

At home, in a quart sized zip bag, combine baking mix, milk, and herbs.

On the trail, add water and close the bag.  Massage bag until ingredients are combined.

Once broth is boiling, add in the chicken.  Bring back to a boil.  Cut the corner off of your bag and squeeze quarter sized dollops of dumpling dough into the boiling water.  Boil for 10-12 minutes.  The flour from the dumplings with thicken the soup.  Season with black pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Super Easy Iced Coffee

I got this fantastic recipe from my friend who has given birth to two babies and is expecting her third. She also babysits a couple of toddlers on the side like it's no big deal.  She is, what I would consider, an expert on how to caffeinate yourself quickly and efficiently.  I was surprised how much this tastes like an iced coffee from a coffee shop, it had taken virtually zero effort on my part.

The best part, is this recipe is totally customizable with good results.  Don't drink cow's milk, cool, switch it out with soy or coconut.  I make it all the time with decaf Via packets and no cream.  Sometimes I need a little more boost so I add more coffee.  The trick is the three ice cubes.  Any more and the coffee can get too watery.  Less than that and it takes too long to chill the milk.

Super Easy Iced Coffee from Jenni Keller

3 teaspoons instant coffee or 1-2 Starbucks Via packets
1-3 teaspoons sugar
1/1/2 cups milk
cream (optional)
3 ice cubes

In a container with a lid that seals, combine instant coffee, sugar, and enough water to make everything wet (1-2 tablespoons).  Seal container and shake vigorously for 30 seconds or until foamy.  In a drinking glass, toss in 3 ice cubes and 3/4 full with milk.  Dump the coffee mixture into the milk.  Add cream if desired.  Stir to combine.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Savory Sunday: Aunt Connie's Black Bean Salsa

There are three things about this salsa that makes it the perfect summer potluck dish.  One: a mix of fresh summer ingredients plus pantry staples means it won't break the bank to make.  Two: this recipe makes a boatload of salsa.  Seriously, crack out your biggest mixing bowl.  Three: it gets better with time in the fridge, meaning it is better if you make it the day or two before.  No need to scramble the morning of your party and the leftovers are amazing.

Now, as you can see, this salsa is chunky.  Meaning, get a chip that is sturdy.  Or be like my relatives, who thought it was a salad and just eat it with a spoon.  Also good.

Also, don't be inclined to leave out the avocado, it adds creaminess that you don't expect.  Unless you are allergic to avocado.  Then totally leave it out.

Aunt Connie's Black Bean Salsa 

5 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 avocados, diced
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
2 cans black beans
1 can corn
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 packet Good Seasons Italian Seasoning

Combine tomatoes avocados, green onions, black beans, and corn in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together olive oil, vinegar, and Italian seasoning.  Pour over vegetables.  Stir to combine.  For best flavor, allow to sit overnight.  Serve with chips or just eat with a spoon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Makes My LIfe Easier-Growing Lettuce in a Pot

So, I have a problem with salad greens.  I tend to buy them and then don't get them eaten in time and they waste away in the back of the fridge.  I also have planted them directly into my garden only to have them devoured by the bunnies in about two minutes.


Enter, the pot on the deck.  This year, I just tossed some seeds into a big pot filled with store bought soil on the deck and then pretty much ignored it.  We had a fairly rainy spring, so in a couple of weeks, we had mixed greens for salad.  Plants in pots need more watering than ground plants, so if it hasn't rained in a couple days, I do have to water my greens.  And what is awesome about these greens, when you cut them down, they grow right back.  

Solved both of my problems with one fell swoop.  No more bunnies and no more rotting lettuce in the crisper.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Savory Sunday-Sunflower Seed Butter

Everybody has things in this life they are willing to do themselves and things they pay for.  Me, I prefer to cut my own grass, make special birthday cakes, and trim my cat's toe nails myself.  However, there is no way I am interested in cutting my own hair or changing the oil on my car.

Nut butter has always fallen into the category of "items I pay for".  And pretty much, I am a straight up regular peanut butter kind of gal.  But, when I needed some sunflower seed butter and couldn't bear a trip to the store, I sorted it out myself.  And it was super easy.  If you have a food processor.  Which I have two.

If not, buy your buttters.

Sunflower Seed Butter

1 cup salted, roasted sunflower seeds (Watching your salt? Buy roasted, unsalted seeds).
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a food processor, combine sunflower seeds and olive oil.  Pulse to combine.  At first it's going to be crumbly, keep processing and eventually it will become more smooth.  The sunflower seed butter never gets as smooth as traditional peanut butter.  Embrace the texture, it's worth it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

How to De-Pit an Avocado

I learned this handy-dandy trick somewhere along the path and it has made getting the pit out of the avocado so much easier.

Split avocado lengthwise and pull apart.

With a sharp knife, confidently thwack the pit right in the middle. (I say confidently because if you half ass your thwack, it won't work)

Lift up on the knife and the pit should slide right out of the avocado.

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