31 October 2010

Fall fever: Apple Butter Crumb Cake/tastes like home

Well jeez, it would seem that everywhere I look, left and right, people are all over the autumnal spice flavors. It must be in the air. I've been craving perfect apple butter. At the standard chain grocery, I could only find name-brand HFCS-laced crap. Luckily I snagged some Knudsen's apple butter at the co-op, and it was pretty good.

I've been kind of homesick recently. There are plenty of times where I just wish for a second I could look out my window and see the gorgeous rolling green hills of Pennsylvania's Valley and Ridge. My mom has been going through a lot, and I just want to be there for her, to hug her. And you ask, how does this relate to your apple butter craving? Well, apple butter is one of those quintessential Pennsylvania Dutch foods, and I was born and raised in good old south-central PA. Given I am a vegetarian, I only feel nostalgic for the sweet items, like whoopie pies, shoo-fly pie, fastnachts, and pretzels. Delicious.

When I make the pilgrimage back to PA Dutch country, there are a few places I always want to visit. When I think of fall, I think of apples. When I think of apples, I immediately think of Brown's Orchards. Seriously, they have real apple cider, yummy hot and cold, and also as a slushie!! Amazing!! They had a barrel of smaller apples by the door so kids that came with their parents could have a free apple for visiting the store. Cute and nutritious, no? I lamented my need for apple butter, and my sister answered my call: She shipped me not one, but TWO jars of apple butter from Brown's! Oh, the delight to have it in my custody, and to share a bit of my childhood with my husband. It will tide me over until my next visit with the fam.

So I needed to use the goods, to display their flavor. I grew up having it on toast, as my great-grandmother showed me, but there had to be another way. I recalled this wonderful crumble I'd found. It is tasty, and you can throw it together very quickly. My substitution: apple butter instead of jam, and it is perfect. The author wrote that she found there was too much crumble topping so she froze it, but really people, when can you have too much crumble topping?? As the picky-eater child that I was, I always took the piece of crisp with more crisp than fresh fruit. So by all means, if you prefer less, maybe halve the crumble recipe, but me and the huzz both agree the full recipe yields maximum deliciousness. I found myself wanting to add more spices to the crumble, but don't! You want the dominant flavor to be the apple butter, right? Trust me, you do.

26 October 2010

Quinoa... casserole? bake? gratin?

Who loves quinoa? I do!! I love it so much I tried to grow it in my garden. Probably could have harvested it, but I let my garden go, umm, free range shall we say?, so I couldn't bear to be seen in my garden for fear of neighbors tsk-tsking. That's what I get for having it in the front yard; everyone can see my neglect.

I digress (not unusual). So yes, quinoa, one of the few grain-like food that is a complete protein, which is mighty convenient for my vegetarian self. So it isn't actually a grain, but a seed, just like real-deal wild rice.

I can't remember the first thing I made with quinoa; it may even be this dish. My husband and I probably just keeping making it to revive our argument over how to classify it in terms of warm-savory-food-baked-in-a-dish. Anyways, I got this recipe from Recipes for Health from the New York Times. The recently revamped it and called for squash instead of spinach (tricksy!). I personally like it with spinach, red pepper, and apple. I also prefer a few other additions other than sage from the spice rack: parsley, thyme, and some red pepper flakes. Gruyere is awesome, but I am cheap and I go for gruyere-like cheese, such as comte.

Next stop: quinoa in a sweet dish instead of a savory one. Any suggestions?

21 October 2010

More soup!: Jalapeno Corn Chowder

The following recipe is one of those oldies-but-goodies I mentioned. It is quite the crowd pleaser. Perhaps the biggest compliment was last Christmas when I made this for my mom at home and she downed three bowls because it was so good. I was so hell-bent on making it that I brought along my immersion blender in my checked luggage. Hey, if it is December, I can't go very many days without it!

There are many variations that you can try with this. The recipe is pretty low on spices, so you can ramp it up however you'd like. A little chipotle in adobo sauce is quite good now and then, or plain with bay leaf and S&P, or oodles of cilantro and Sriracha sauce. You could make it vegan or gluten-free, and it'd still be awesome. I'm notoriously bad at leaving things mildly spiced. When I made it for my mom, I held back as her palate is much more delicate than mine. She knows me too well -- she refused to buy red pepper flakes for me for fear I'd burn her tongue with them!

The cookbook for this is one of my favorites. None of the recipes have disappointed me. Well, the Chilled Avocado Soup totally sucked, but that was my fault on insisting when our avocados were totally unripe. Ew.

Here you go!

Corn Chowder
(adapted from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. coarsely chopped onion
1 carrot, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (red is best, but green is fine too)
1 jalapeno, diced (I keep the seeds in)
1 celery stalk, diced (leaves too!)
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
3 c. vegetarian stock
2 c. frozen corn
2 yukon gold potatoes, 1/2 inch dice
1 c. milk
S&P to taste
shredded cheddar for garnish
red pepper flakes for garnish

1. Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the vegetable stock, corn, and potato. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the milk and blend soup to desired consistency.
4. Garnish with shredded cheddar.

To class up your soup experience, serve it with some freshly made crusty bread, and some vino. Last time we had it with this crazy Dry Pinot Noir Rose (I know, what?!), which was tasty and quite unique in color.

20 October 2010

Pumpkin Posole

It is now fall; therefore, I will posting a lot about soup. Let me explain: I LOVE SOUP. As soon as there was a chill in the air and I could stand to cook warm things again (begone, smoothies for dinner!), I was on it.

This one is a new experiment. We have some time-tested faves, but more on those later. I once had the pleasure to try some much more authentic posole that a friend made, and have since wanted to try it myself. While hunting for a good-looking recipe, I came across one on the internet that was just too unique to pass up. I made a few substitutions to make it vegetarian-friendly, but the concept did not disappoint. I'm not sure it can really be called a posole, but more likely a-stew-that-includes-hominy-so-there.

Here's the recipe, with my additions and substitutions:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 14 oz. can of black beans
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup carrot (cut up into ~1/4 inch disks)
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/2 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 can of chopped green chiles (by all means, if you have real roasted ones, now is the time to use them!!)
  • 1 14 oz. can of pumpkin
  • 1 3/4 cups low-salt veggie broth
  • 1 14 oz. can hominy
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro (the toothpaste tube kind)
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (the toothpaste tube kind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Heat oil in large saucepan at medium-high heat.
2. Add onion, cook until crisp-tender (~4 minutes).
3. Add carrot, celery, bell pepper, cook until crisp-tender, another ~4 minutes.
4. Stir in pumpkin, black beans, green chiles, broth, hominy, yogurt, cilantro, parsley, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and nutmeg.
5. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until flavors are blended. (I like to gauge done-ness by the texture of the carrots)