Cinnamon Apple Bread

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We waited until one of the last possible weekends to find apples for picking and of course the orchard was offering a deal! We came home with a 1/2 peck of Empires and Crispins and a half bushel of random mixed apples. The bushel made 12 quarts of apple sauce, which are sitting happy and pretty in our freezer, but eating a 1/2 peck is tough!

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It’s about time to use up all of those apples. This apple bread creates only one loaf, which uses only one apple. I baked the bread yesterday and only 1/8 of it remains (it’s hunting season, so baked goods do not last!) I also used a good chunk of apples to make apple crisp for the freezer – a very good use for extra apples!

I used maple sugar as the only sweetener, but a half and half mixture of white and brown sugar could be substituted.

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Cinnamon Apple Bread

1 stick butter – softened

1 cup maple sugar (or 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup a.p. flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup milk

1 large apple, peeled and diced

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, cinnamon, and eggs. Beat until mixed. Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix until combined. Add milk and mix until smooth. The batter resembles more of a cake batter than bread (a little loose, which gives the bread a spongy texture!).

2. Butter and flour a bread pan. Add half the batter to the pan. Lay the apples on top of the batter. Pour remaining batter over the apples and tap pan until smooth. Bake for 50 minutes.

Turkey Stuffed Eggplant

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Cooking for one is tough! Ty has been out of town for what seems like forever (away during the weeks, here on weekends)… he literally proposed, then left. A sign?? Hope not!

The filling will easily fill 2 medium eggplants, which will feed 4, but I packed the extra filling away to use later. It was flavorful and filling yet light and healthy. If you make this, I hope you have someone other than a sleepy dog to share your company with.

Turkey Stuffed Eggplant

2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise

1 lb ground turkey

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic

4 roma tomatoes (or a small can) diced

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp each, fresh basil, parsley, and oregano

evoo

fresh Parmesan

1. Preheat over to 400°F. Slice eggplants lengthwise and remove seeded sections (pulp). Keep about 1/2 of the pulp and finely dice. Drizzle a little olive oil inside each half of eggplant and sprinkle with s&p. Place cut side down and cook in oven for 10 minutes. Flip each over and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove.

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2. In a large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp evoo and garlic. Add any eggplant pulp. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add onions and pepper. Saute until onions start to soften. Add turkey and herbs until cooked through, then add diced tomatoes and cook until warm.

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3. Lower oven temp to 375°F. Scoop turkey mixture into the eggplant halves and top with fresh Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes.

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Grilled chicken quinoa with roasted corn, peppers, and pine nuts

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I’m back! Well… hopefully for more than one post a year! Woo wee has it been a year!! Long story short, I completed my first year teaching chemistry, I started a Master’s program, our garden is now over 3000 square feet, and I am now engaged to the maple syrup man 🙂

Putting the busy aside… Not much is being produced in the garden as of yet. We are drowning in sugar snap peas, lettuce, and herbs, but are close to harvesting onions, beans, and tomatoes! I love watching the cabbage fold over and the squash plants blossom – it is just too beautiful! After spending 5+ hours weeding today (we were away for a week and the weeds decided to hold my veggies hostage), a light, yet filling dinner was needed. Enter the filling AND light quinoa! I roasted corn that I froze last year in a 400°F oven with a little evoo and s&p for 15 minutes. I used pre-roasted peppers, grilled chicken thighs, fresh basil, and straight-from-Russia pine nuts. Trust me when I say that a small bowl of this is filling.

Chicken Quinoa and Pine Nuts

3-4 grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)

1 cup quinoa cooked according to package

1 1/2 cups roasted corn (or 2 roasted ears)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 small onion, finely diced

1 pepper, roasted and chopped

bunch of fresh basil, chopped (approx 10 leaves)

crumbled goat cheese

evoo and S&P

The recipe is as easy at is sounds. Cook the quinoa, chicken, and corn (and peppers if using fresh).

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Saute onions over medium heat in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Once translucent, add pine nuts until slightly browned.

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Toss all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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Bacon Bourbon Jam

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Ty subscribed me to Martha’s ‘Living’ for my birthday last year – a magazine I am only slightly addicted to. He flipped open a random page to see a recipe for ‘Bacon Jam’, slammed the magazine on the table with his finger on the page and declared “YOU are making this for Thanksgiving.” (Emphasis on the YOU).

What turned out to be a surprisingly easy recipe was a hit! Served with some toasted bread and a slice of nicely aged cheddar, not much was left in the jar at the end of the evening.

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Bacon Bourbon Jam

1 1/2 pounds thick-cut smoked bacon (I used hickory smoked – yum)

2 cups shallots, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 cup bourbon

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup cooking sherry

1/3 cup light-brown sugar

1. Slice bacon crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Cook in a deep skillet or large pan over medium heat until browned. Work in batches. Remove fat from pan between each batch. Retain one tablespoon of bacon fat and do not scrape all the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Drain bacon on paper towels.

2. To the pan with 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Add shallots and garlic. Saute until soft and translucent – approximately 5 minutes. To the shallots, add chili powder, mustard, and ginger. Saute for a few additional minutes.

3. Add bourbon and maple syrup to the mixture. Increase heat to high and stir until boiling. Add sherry, brown sugar, and bacon and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let the mixture simmer until well-thickened and reduced – about 10 minutes.

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4. When reduced, transfer jam to a food processor and pulse a few times to break up to the bacon into small pieces. Toss in a jar and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks. Serve at room temp with a toasted baguette and aged cheddar cheese.

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So much to be thankful for this year…. 

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

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Our winter squashes and pumpkins did incredibly well this year. I ended up with 4 nice sized sugar pumpkins (a few cinderella pumpkins), and plenty of squashes.

While rumor has it that canned pumpkin does not have too much of a taste difference than fresh pumpkin, the benefit of not eating out of cans far outweighs the little bit of effort needed to process a pumpkin. In fact, it is so simple, I think that last can of pumpkin in my cupboard may become a donation. Personally, I think the taste is better- it tastes fresh, not canned! Duh.

Three pumpkins yielded over 16 cups of puree. I packaged 7 ‘can sized’ servings for freezing and some extra to make a batch of pumpkin dark chocolate chip cookies. I can’t wait to make pumpkin soup, muffins, bread, etc…. any pumpkin suggestions?

Pumpkin Puree

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Rinse the outside of two to three sugar pumpkins and pat dry. Remove stem, cut in half and scoop out the guts (yes, that is what I call them). Be sure to save the seeds to roast later (I just tried Worcestershire sauce on the seeds – great idea!).

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When the pumpkins are cleaned out, cut each half into thirds and lay them flesh side up on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes until the flesh is soft. Let cool.

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Remove the flesh from the skin and process in a food processor/blender until desired smoothness is achieved. Freeze in baggies or use right away! 1 can of pumpkin is a wee less than 2 cups.

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S’mores in a cookie!

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A dark-chocolate chocolate chip cookie with crushed graham crackers and marshmallows. Need I say more? What a good way to enjoy a camp-night treat as a little snack!

S’mores Cookies

1.5 cups AP flour

1 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup dark chocolate chips

mini marshmallows

1 Hersey candy bar, chopped

1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, crumbs, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the sugars, butter, and vanilla until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients while mixing, until a sticky batter is formed. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Form 1.5 inch sized balls of dough and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9 minutes. Remove and push 2-3 marshmallows in each cookie along with a small piece of Hershey bar. Return to the oven and bake for another minute or until cooked. Let cool on a baking rack.

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Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

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We have lettuce ready! This is the first year we have ever had lettuce (and radishes, and carrots, and beets). I guess our soil is finally happy 🙂 Composted manure must do the trick!

Mango’s were on sale a little local market, so I bought a few, but tossed them in the fridge and forgot about them. When I grabbed one today, it was perfectly ripe. After a little searching, I noticed that mango and avocado make quite the pair. Along with a slightly sweet cider vinaigrette, a trio of fresh picked lettuce, mango, and avocado, makes this salad a perfect pre-dinner treat on a triple-H day. For those of you non-New Englander’s, triple-H means Hazy, Hot, and Humid!

Butter Lettuce, Avocado, and Mango Salad

A bunch of butter lettuce – cleaned and torn into bite size pieces

1 ripe mango, diced

1 ripe avocado, diced

1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced

feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp maple syrup (honey would work too!)

freshly ground pepper (just a dash or two)

1. Split the salad ingredients between 3-4 salad bowls. Sprinkle with some feta.

2. In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well, taste. Adjust for sweetness by adding more vinegar or syrup. Drizzle on salad. Enjoy!

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Grilled Vegetable and Italian Sausage Pasta Toss

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I wasn’t sure what to call this dish. It’s a mish-mash of vegetables we have in the house, grilled, tossed with some pasta, and enjoyed either warm or cold. I’d call it a pasta salad, but I always correlate pasta salad with raw veggies on a hot summer day. Enter the ‘pasta toss’. A while back my Mom made a grilled veggie salad with Israeli Couscous and a balsamic dressing. I guess after eating that, I realized how good/easy it is to grill a plethora of vegetables and toss it with pasta.

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Although it is not yet summer in Vermont (not even close… it snowed two days ago!), it was 54 degrees today and sunny, so it felt pretty warm! It’s also been insanely windy, so our grill took yet another ride off the porch and rolled about on the ground. I hauled it back up, put all the grates back in, hooked up the propane, and somehow, it lit! The $80 grill that could! So, with a cutting board full of vegetables and a pot of pasta on the stove, dinner was prepped and ready in about 20 minutes.

Italian Sausage and Vegetable Pasta

1 lb sweet or spicy italian sausage

1 lb pasta (bow ties, ziti, rotini, etc.)

1 bell pepper, cut into large chunks

1 zucchini, cut in half

3-4 carrots, peeled

1 onion, cut in half with skin removed

1/3 lb asparagus, trimmed

any other grill-able vegetable (I added 3 stalks celery)

1/4 cup + evoo

s & p

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 splash balsamic vinegar

parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Cook pasta. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat grill on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Grill sausage links for about 5 minutes per side, or until charred lightly. Move to upper rack.

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3. Lightly brush vegetables with olive oil and generously salt and pepper all pieces. Lower the grill heat to medium/medium-low and place vegetables on lower rack. Grill for about 5-7 minutes, if starting to char, rotate and continue grilling until lightly charred on all sides (this is like a tetris game… if you have small grill, all pieces need to fit without falling through!). Remove vegetables and sausage when cooked.

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4. When the vegetables and sausage are cooled enough to handle, chop into bite-size chunks. Add to the pasta. Give a good ‘glug’ of evoo, about a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and a dash of balsamic. Toss. Season with salt and pepper (fresh basil would be delish!). Serve either warm or cooled.

IMG_1464p.s.- You can substitute about anything you want in this dish. Instead of sausage, how about grilled chicken? You could grill up some broccoli or cauliflower, or add some corn or frozen peas… play with it!

Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw

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It’s been almost a month since I have posted and WOW have I missed all of you… my readers!! I have also really, really, really, really (really x 10^28) missed having the time or energy to cook or craft.

To fill you in. I am an officially licensed grades 7-12 science teacher!! With the culmination of my teaching program, which included hours upon hours of portfolio writing, and getting offered a long-term substitute job, I have been overwhelmed. I’ll also throw out there that we may be moving (yes, that’s right, after 5 months) because of unforeseen BS. I’ll leave it at that. My point is that between teaching over 120 sophomores/juniors chemistry and biology and getting up at 5am daily, life got a wee busy.

With such a drastic change, I realized that we were eating like crap. Not to mention Ty has been doing the maple-syrup-making-thing pretty much 24 hrs a day, which has left all meals up to me. So, finally getting caught up on grading and planning and looking at a week off, I thought of having something tasty, yet simple – fish tacos! Some frozen flounder and an easy spicy cole slaw all wrapped up in a flour tortilla was just what I needed. It reminded me that I actually can cook! I thought I forgot for a while there!

Spicy Cole Slaw

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 carrots, shredded

1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

1/3 cup mayo

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tsp celery seed

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp brown sugar

s & p

1. Mix all of the veggies in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the dressing until smooth. Combine with the veggies and toss until coated. Season to taste. Let sit for at least an hour (longer will soften the cabbage a little).

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Fish Tacos

1 lb frozen flounder (or other light, white fish)

1/2 cup flour

s & p

evoo

taco size flour tortillas (corn would be good too!)

1. Mix flour and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Coat each fillet of fish with the flour and drop into a hot pan with a good coating of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom – 3-4 tbsp).

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2. Let fish fry on one side until browned, approx. 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. This should be plenty for a thin fillet. Remove onto paper towels. Repeat until all fillets are cooked. You may find you need to add a little more olive oil to the pan.

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3. Add the fillets back to the pan and break into bite-sized pieces (the oil should be long soaked up!).

4. Arrange your tacos. Heat the tortilla a bit, add some fish, top with a good helping of cole slaw, and if desired, a dash of Sriracha or Cholula sauce! Enjoy a light and tasty meal!

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Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

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I finally learned how to stuff pork chops! Apparently, Ty had learned this at the restaurant he worked at a while back… he has neglected to show me all of his cooking skills. Weak, I tell ya! For some reason, I’ve wanted stuffed pork chops lately… just sounded good. So I started making the stuffing, then Ty stepped in to show me how. (fyi – there are a lot of pictures below)

This should work with both boneless and bone-in pork chops. They have to be thick cut; I’d say a minimum of an inch and a half. The recipe is good for two VERY stuffed chops, though it could probably stuff 4.

Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp butter

1.5 cups whole wheat bread crumbs

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 cup apple, finely diced

1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1/3 cup chicken broth

S & P

evoo

2-4 extra thick pork chops

1. Make the stuffing – In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onions until fragrant and soft. In a bowl combine bread crumbs (I lightly toasted 3 slices of whole wheat bread, then pulsed it in my food processor until small-ish crumbs were made), celery, apple, parsley, and a little pepper. When onions are soft, add to bread crumb mixture and stir. Slowly add chicken broth while stirring until moist. *this will be a crumbly mixture

2. Preheat oven to 350°F (use convection roast if possible). Prep your pork chops… using small pairing knife, make a small slit in the middle of side of the chop. Do not cut all the way open or in half!! Without moving the knife to make a bigger hole, angle it towards one end of the chop, then the other. Then using your finger, make the hole bigger. (This is confusing… hopefully the pictures will help!)

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make a slit using a pairing knife on either the non-fatty side (boneless) or non-bone side (on-bone)

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slide knife to either side trying not to make initial hole bigger

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create a cavity to stuff using your finger

3. Stuff little bits of stuffing into the chop until full. Like I mentioned, we fit almost all of the stuffing into two chops. They were huge and tasty! Season both sides of the chop with salt and pepper.

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stuffed vs unstuffed… see how there is just a small hole?

4. Heat about 1 tbsp of evoo to scalding (if you have an oven safe pan, use this). As it just starts to smoke, add the chops to sear for about 45 seconds. Flip, repeat. Using tongs, try to sear along the edges. Toss the pan in oven or move chops to an oven safe pan…. now, we have two options 1) If you have a convection oven, bake for about 25-30 minutes or 2) In a regular oven, cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 160°F when done. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

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the pork should be well seared before baking

We had the pork with parsley smashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash (from our garden!).

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And yes – Ty drinks his wine in a mason jar. Classy!