Supper In a Bread Loaf

In which I do not make Beef Wellington

There are days where making supper is just hard.  I am crap at following recipes (before this).  I am a reforming bad meal planner and never seemed to have the right combination of ingredients in the house to make the meal that I really wanted.  I’d have to scour cookbooks and the internet in order to find something that I was in the mood for using the ingredients I had on hand.  If you don’t already realize it, this is a very bad, time consuming way to go about meal prepping and planning.  It can result in creative and tasty dishes, but ends up being very frustrating.  It seems much easier to just do take out than have to go through that stress every night.  It also doesn’t help when you ask the family what they want to eat and either no one has an idea or everyone has different ideas.  Making these decisions after a long day of making other far more important decisions is hard.  It’s a lot of pressure.  Making the decision to go through all of these recipes and make them all has taken a lot of pressure off.  I still don’t always have the right ingredients, but meal planning is significantly easier.  DSCN2433Supper in a bread loaf.  This recipe is the poor man’s version of Beef Wellington.  It is because of this recipe that I had frozen bread dough in the house for the French Apple Coffee Cake.  Had my house already been clean, my children all in school, etc, I might have taken extra bread dough and made beautiful decorations for this.  I might’ve egg washed it, made gorgeous cuts to make this into a work of art, but instead, I just did the most basic version of this dish.  Well, sort of.  The directions say “season to taste.”  For those of you that know me well, you know that my brain automatically shot in infinite directions.  “Oh, this could be good seasoned with taco seasoning.”  “Ooooohh, what about using my Krakow Nights seasoning?”  “I have some fresh herbs in the garden, but I think those might be the wrong choice.”  I settled on adding a bunch of Fox Point Seasoning.  I thought it would add flavor, but keep it true to the original intention of the dish.  I guess it worked. The kids inhaled the meal.  John took leftovers to work and was asked about it.  He said it was good reheated.  DSCN2439In order for busy people to make this dish in time for supper, there is some pre-planning that needs to happen.  The night before, get the bread dough out of the freezer and put it into the fridge.  It will start the thawing process.  When you get up in the morning, move the bread dough into a container on the counter and cover it with plastic wrap. (Speaking of plastic wrap, John told me that due to some environmental concerns, plastic wrap no longer has the coating on it that allows it to stick to anything, it now only sticks to itself.) Leave this on your counter until it’s time to actually make supper.  For this purpose, an overly lengthy rising time is not going to affect your end product enough that you will notice.  It may even allow some of the bread dough flavors to develop a little more.

 

 

 

If you cook extra ground beef, throw it in your freezer for something else.  It’s much easier to do dinner in a hurry when at least part of it is already cooked. DSCN2443Substitute chicken, turkey, pork, or whatever for the meat.  For a vegetarian version, use mushrooms, cooked lentils, or eggplant as your filling, add some sauteed greens.

This is one of those unapologetic dishes that is basic and filling.  It’s open to all sorts of interpretation.  Open up your fridge, your pantry, and your spice cabinet, get creative.  If you have a great version of this dish, please feel free to let me know about it. Supper In a Bread Loaf

Apple Butter Cake with Caramel Icing

It’s part of your American Heritage

I have this friend that has become quite the cook since I first started talking to him.  He takes trips to Italy and Morocco to learn about cuisine and comes home and replicates it in his kitchen.  He started baking bread a few years back and makes gorgeous loaves.  When the Great British Baking Show started being aired and he mentioned watching it, I knew it was a matter of time before he started to foray into cakes.  I think he made a game pie before he made his first cake.  I got pictures from him every step of the way.

I had a conversation with my neighbor the other day about baking cakes from scratch.  We usually talk with a fence between us.  It reminds me of the show Home Improvement.  We discussed how people just don’t make a lot of cakes from scratch any more, “But it’s not that hard” one of us said.  “And the cake is so much better.”  “You know everything that goes into it and it really doesn’t take that long.”  When I made this cake, I knew that we had to take her a piece.

This is not one of the sort of cakes you see on the Great British Baking Show, it’s not a delicate Angel Food cake full of air.  With every bite of this cake, you can taste your American heritage.  It’s a cake that just feels like it was developed on the prairies.  Something that, could they have afforded it, Ma Ingalls would’ve made for Pa, Laura, Mary, Carrie, and Grace for a special occasion.  Definitely something Laura would’ve made in her later years in Missouri. DSCN2864For this cake, I used my homemade apple butter.  If you don’t have homemade, just use whatever sort of apple butter you like or have access to.  (Apple butter is super easy in the crockpot, though, so you may want to try).

 

The Apple Butter cake is a butter cake.  There are a few types of cakes, and knowing which type of cake yours is can help determine what method to use while making it, even when just given a list of ingredients.  I used a 9×13 pan.

Ok, so after the cake was made and cooling on the counter, I knew it needed frosting.  But deciding which frosting is always a challenge.  I baked a jam cake in July and tempered the sweetness with some cream cheese frosting, but that didn’t seem right for this.  I dug around in the cookbook I made of my great-grandma’s recipes to find something suitable.  Caramel icing seemed perfect.  Making the caramel icing was not quite as easy as making the cake.  First of all, there is a HUGE typo in the recipe.  I verified on the original card to be sure.  Softball stage is 225, not 325.  I didn’t make the error, but felt necessary to call it out just in case.  Don’t skip the cooling down stage. And remember that frosting should take about 7 minutes to get really creamy and wonderful (it’s why there is a thing called 7 minute frosting).

 

I topped mine with pecans because I like a little crunch.  Leave them off if you don’t like them

DSCN2868No one complained about eating this cake for dessert 3 days in a row and they were a little sad there was none left on the 4th day.

Apple Butter Cake

Caramel Frosting

1 cup white sugar
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB butter

Combine sugar (white and brown), salt and milk, cook until syrup forms a soft ball (325° F) in cold water.  Remove from heat, add butter, and let cool.  Beat until cool and good spreading consistency.

Apple Walnut Cookies

It’s the time of the year for the Festive Fall Bucket List.  The time of the year when moms like me start to cringe about all of those moms that have more time, energy, and money who enthusiastically put on their mom uniforms and with their PSL (that’s code for Pumpkin Spice Latte) in one hand and their camera or phone in the other hand, pack their kids into their perfectly clean vans or SUVs and head out to do ALL the fall things.  Every weekend is a corn maze, an apple orchard, or a pumpkin patch.  There are hikes in the woods to collect leaves to make the perfect wreath for the front door.  And then there is me.  I love fall, I really do.  I manage to get the kids out to a corn maze or a pumpkin patch or an orchard once before Halloween.  We usually meet my brother’s family and do something apple and pumpkin-y.  (We need to do something more corn or pumpkin-y this year, though, I don’t need/want more apples.)  But I don’t have time to spend every weekend that way.  Planned fun isn’t always fun anyway. Sometimes it’s those spontaneous moments, the random stops, and even the car trip there that are the most fun moments.  DSCN2813As I was raking apples from under the trees the other day, I realized that I am very much in the ant portion of my life.  You know the fable of the ant and the grasshopper? The ants spend all summer (and probably fall) collecting food and storing it away while the grasshopper spent all summer playing in the grass and doing silly things.  When winter hit, the ants had food, the grasshopper had none, the ants invited the grasshopper in to share what they had. This is where I could start to lecture about enabling grasshoppers, but I’ll refrain.  My point is that I am very aware that this is the part of my life where I need to be putting in the time and effort.  And I’m good with that.

 

When I was growing up, we used to go to the Bayfield Apple Fest.  I remember watching the apple peeling contest one year.  When I peel apples now, I think of that.  I try to see if I can get the peel off in one single ribbon.  When I dawdle, I try to make it as long and thin as possible.  I’m in a contest with no one but myself, but I compete anyway.

I peeled and chopped my way through 3 apples before I had enough to make these cookies.  I had spotted this recipe a while back and wasn’t sure I’d ever get around to making it this year, but I’d had enough of making applesauce for a while and was ready for something different.  It was time to have some cookies in the house again because it had been a while. After they were completed, I nearly cursed myself for waiting so long.  I tucked 2 dozen into the freezer for later consumption.DSCN2827These cookies are autumnal and amazing.  They are soft and spicy and sweet.  I thought that the large amount of clove may be overwhelming and slightly numbing, but it wasn’t. The cinnamon was warm and perfect. I used some orange salt that I made last year instead of regular salt.  This is the sort of cookie you want with you on fall adventures. If you want a healthier cookie, this is one that could stand up to the addition of whole wheat flour without detracting from the overall texture of the cookie.  Substitute another nut if you don’t like walnuts.  However, mom suggested toasting the walnuts for a few minutes before adding them and I think it made a big difference.  If you are like my kids and don’t like raisins, I think you could leave them out without affecting the quality of the cookie. These cookies would be excellent dipped in a brown butter frosting.

Because there are no real instructions on how to make these, as with most cookies, sift the dry ingredients together.  Beat the fat and the sugar, add the eggs.  Alternate additions of the dry ingredients and the milk.  Fold in the apples, raisins, and walnuts at the end.  I found that in my oven 11-14 minutes at 400 wasn’t quite right.  I had better success with 14 minutes at 375.

Apple Walnut Cookies

French Apple Coffee Cake

In which I explain child development to a child

I came home to tears and explanations.

I had gotten up early that morning and prepped French Apple Coffee Cake while I drank my first cup of coffee. I got it baking while I got my shower and got ready to go.   As I was leaving, I told the kids to go ahead and eat as much as they wanted from one of the coffee cakes (the recipe makes 2) and to leave the other because I still needed to get some photos.  They agreed and I left the house for my job interview feeling a little confident and a little smug because I had accomplished so much already.

DSCN2755It must’ve helped because I think the interview went really well.  But when I got home and opened the door I was met with two children.  One of whom was crying, the other of whom was trying to explain.

“She’s crying because she wanted a WHOLE coffee cake to herself and I told her ‘No’.”

 

I picked up my crying daughter and put my hand on my son and walked into the kitchen.  One of the coffee cakes was completely gone except a small pile of apples in the bottom of the pan.  The other, as I had requested, was untouched.DSCN2758“So…you liked the coffee cake?”

“It was delicious, but…” and he launched into another tirade about how his sister is selfish and doesn’t understand things.  I listened and tried to patiently explain AGAIN how it’s all developmental and has nothing to do with anything other than how little kids are.

 

After I got pictures of the other coffee cake, it sat until the next morning so that John could have some for breakfast.  It didn’t even take 24 hours for both coffee cakes to be eaten.

I have no idea why this coffee cake is considered French.  Can someone explain?

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I made a small substitute in the recipe.  I ran out of butter so I replaced the butter in the icing recipe with cream cheese.  I recommend you do this also.  The slight bite of the cream cheese works well with the tartness of the apples.  From the quick devouring of the cake, I think everyone else agrees.  French Apple Coffee Cake

Mama’s Apple Pecan Pie

In which I bake a pie.

Nicholas requested an Apple Pecan pie for his birthday.  At first it was a pumpkin, apple, pecan pie, or pumpkin pecan.  I started suspecting him of just throwing things out there to see what he could get away with asking.  Finally he settled on Apple Pecan.  He had also requested chicken pot pie as an entree.  That kid loves pie so much we call him 3.14.  (not really).

He also loves his birthday.  He starts getting excited about a month before.  He counts down and after we get through Caroline’s birthday, he is nearly intolerable until his is over.  I use the opportunity to relay his birth story to him.  The day before I start out with “x number of years ago, I woke up at 6 AM and was sure that I was having a baby that day.  I knew it could be a while so I went into work about 45 minutes away from home.”  Around 10 AM, I tell him that my friends at work convinced me to go to the hospital.  Throughout the day I update him on what was happening.  I tell him about making dinner (black bean and corn pasta salad) and going to watch the Elvis impersonator up the street.  I tell him how we went and hung out with some of our friends, during all of which I was contracting.  I tell him how at around 10 PM we finally got to the hospital and then relay all of the events up to the emergency C-section the next morning (so much for my knowing that he was going to be born the morning before) and my first impressions of him. He loves the story almost as much as he loves pie.DSCN2726To make this pie I used a pie crust leftover from when I made Shrimp and Olive Pie.  The recipe said the No-Fail Pie crust was good in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so planning ahead (or laziness in not making another pie during that time period) meant I had pie crust ready to go.  The apples on the trees were ripe, so that was taken care of.  I assembled the pie without any problems.  It’s easy.  However, I did have a bit of a problem when it came to baking the pie.  The recipe says to bake until a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean.  That never happened.

I had just enough time to bake the pie for the recommended amount of time before our friends came over and we went to an escape room.  But the pie was still unset in the middle.  I turned the oven off and figured that the heat may continue to cook the pie without burning it and that perhaps when we got home, it would be done.  I tested it when we got home, but the knife didn’t come out clean.  I restarted the oven, put foil around the crust so it wouldn’t burn, and baked it longer.  The middle of the pie looked set, but the knife still had stuff on it when I stuck it into the pie.

I didn’t have time or ingredients to make another pie and I didn’t want to ruin Nick’s birthday, so I evaluated the entire situation and came to the conclusion that the pie was actually done, the eggs were cooked, it was fine.  The knife was never going to come out clean, despite the pie being done.  The crust was darker than I would’ve liked, the edges were more caramelized than I would’ve liked, but whipped cream hides a multitude of sins.  DSCN2729This pie was incredible.  It had all of the richness of pecan pie with a slightly oozy texture.  The tartness of the apples cut through it just enough.  The leftovers would have easily been gobbled up, but Nicholas wanted to share a slice with his dad.  I don’t exactly understand how the mix-up happened, but his dad ended up with close to half a pie which he declared to be fantastic.

This recipe is one to hang onto.  Mama's Apple Pecan Pie

Apple Marmalade

In which I refrain from making the obvious comparison between apples and oranges.

The air is getting cooler, the nights are getting longer, I don’t automatically reach for shorts to put on when I wake up.  Occasionally in the evening I will put on a sweatshirt.  The air conditioning is off, the windows are open.  Labor Day is rapidly approaching and with it the new school year.  Pumpkin spice is appearing in stores and in coffee shops, but I prefer the smell of apples to pumpkins, which is good because I have apples like you wouldn’t believe.

I spent time today raking up some of the apples from under the trees.  I have the blisters to prove it.  Before the weather cleared enough to do that, I roped John into helping me process some of the bounty from the day before.

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I am obsessing over Great-grandma’s apple recipes right now, so you get to be along for the ride.

First up is Apple Marmalade.  I know there are some anglophiles out there that will scold me for calling something that isn’t just peel “marmalade”, but it does have peel in it. I think in the overall categorization of fruit spreads, this is probably really a jam.  The way I have been taught is just juice=jelly, fruit chunks or puree=jam, whole fruit=preserves, peel=marmalade, and nuts and dried fruit with fresh fruit=conserves.  Feel free to correct me.

I have no idea what kind of apples are on my trees.  The “good” has apples that are slightly rosy and have a soft glow.  They remind me of a MacIntosh, but aren’t that red and aren’t that flat.  They are crisp and slightly sweet.  The “bad” tree has apples that are streaky and red-green.  The apples are crisp and tart.  They make your salivary glands clench in a good way.

 

And “good” is good because it has more fruit on it than the “bad” tree.  You should understand that when I say that the bad tree has less fruit, it still has more apples on it than I have ever possessed at one time in my entire life.  In less than an hour using only the stepladder, I was able to fill a laundry basket and a bin full of apples mostly off the “bad” tree.

 

DSCN2735

Back to marmalade.  This marmalade smells like Christmas and tastes like sunshine.  I sent some home with a friend and she reported it gone almost immediately.  I spread some on zucchini bread.  It was delicious.

I chose to use blood oranges when I made mine since the type of orange was not specified.  It might have been a slightly defiant choice.  I do that.  I just thought that the red pulp would be pretty.  It is.  The red flecks in the orange spread make it look spicy.

It also occurred to me when I was reading the recipe that it said to seed the oranges.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve eaten an orange I had to seed.  This led to a conversation with my mom about the advent of navel oranges.  And how our grocery stores rarely carry any type of orange or orange-like fruit that have seeds.  I’m sure this has greater significance and says many more things than I’m willing to go into here, but food for thought…(see that pun?)

 

 

DSCN2740And just because it’s probably in everyone’s best interest, please adhere to the proper guidelines when preserving your food.  If you go to open a jar of this and it seems off, throw it out.  From what I’ve heard, botulism isn’t that much fun.

 

 

 

 

Apple Marmalade

 

Sweet and Sour Bean Combo vs 4 Bean Salad

In which I make 2 bean dishes.

It’s time for the ultimate showdown.  The world holds its collective breath and waits while the final verdict is determined.  In the battle of the beans, who will come out on top?  A bean dish served warm with a cooked sweet and sour sauce, or is it a dish served cold (like revenge) with a simple shaken dressing?

It may be surprising to learn that I don’t actually remember eating bean salad until last summer.  I’ve seen it on potluck tables my entire life.  Who in the Midwest hasn’t?  Usually nestled in there between some cheesy potato casserole and a layered Jell-O salad.  The thing is, bean salad of any variety does not look that interesting.  The colors are kind of clashy.  It kind of has that look of a 70’s kitchen.  It just doesn’t look like it would actually taste good.  And everyone knows that we eat with our eyes first.

Ok, so these two recipes have a lot of similar ingredients.  Both use kidney, wax, and green beans.  The Sweet and Sour Bean combo allows for fresh.  The 4 bean salad calls for cans.  This is not major.  Either could be switched out for the other (except good luck finding fresh kidney beans).

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The cooked dressing in the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo calls for using the liquid from the beans.  Do NOT use the liquid from the can of kidney beans.  It does nothing for the texture of the sauce.

 

The 4 Bean Salad, as you will notice when you look at the recipe calls for 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of green beans, and 1 can of wax beans.  There is no fourth bean unless you are counting that it’s being served to a human bean…We discussed options for 4th bean. You could use both dark and light kidney beans or throw some edamame in there.  Garbanzo might be ok.  I think I’d veer away from canned lima, but frozen/thawed might be ok.  And realistically, it was probably supposed to be called 3 Bean Salad, but people get moving too fast and write things down without thinking and then never bothered to change it.

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The overall flavor of the cold 4 Bean Salad was much better than the hot Sweet and Sour Bean Combo.  The only thing we liked about the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo was the kidney beans.  This is not good.  You should not make food where you only appreciate one ingredient of the finished dish.  We tried it again the next day to see if the flavor was improved.  It wasn’t.

Make the 4 Bean Salad.  Add another bean if you like.  I might think about reducing the sugar and using fresh beans.  This salad is light and refreshing.  It’s a compliment to whatever meat you are serving, but can also be used as an ingredient in a larger salad.

 

Make sure the onion is sliced thinly and you may even consider cutting it into half moons instead of rings.  It all depends on how much you like large pieces of onion.  If you are using olive oil instead of another type, you may end up with chunks of cold oil in your salad.  This is perfectly normal. As the temperature rises, the chunks will melt back into oil.  If you prefer, you can pretend it’s oil “caviar” and you have performed some feat of molecular gastronomy.

4 Bean SaladSweet and Sour Green Bean Combo