Simple Crockpot Apple Butter

apple-buttah

Imagine the scent of apples and autumn. When Matthew and I made apple butter (twice!) over the past few weeks, our home smelled gloriously like fall, cinnamon, apples and allspice. After a visit to the Lincoln County Apple Festival, we found ourselves in possession of a peck of apples. With nearly 40 on our hands, we decided to try a recipe for crockpot apple butter. An old Methodist cookbook provided us with a fantastic recipe. (We only tweaked a few things – removing cloves, for instance.) It was simple enough: peel and chop the apples to fill the crockpot, cook, measure, add other ingredients and continue to cook. The total cooking time was over 12 hours, but using the crockpot made it easy. We only had to check it from time to time. When we were finally done with both batches, we had 6 full jars (half-pint-size) of apple butter. One batch we made with green apples – the other with red. Both resulted in delicious, smooth, spreadable, sweet apple butter. If you ever find yourself with a peck of apples, we encourage you to try this recipe, too. Don’t forget to share!

Crockpot Apple Butter

Ingredients
8 cups cooked apples (takes about 15 uncooked apples)
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice

Directions
1. Peel and chop enough apples to fill the crockpot. (We found we needed at least 15.)
2. Cook on high for several hours until the apples begin to cook into pieces.
3. Measure the cooked apples and put 8 cups back in the crockpot. Mix in all other ingredients and stir.
4. Cook on high until hot, then turn down to low and cook for 8-12 hours.
5. Remove the lid and cook just until the mixture is of spreading consistency.
6. Jar and enjoy! Apple butter is delectable on a bagel, croissant, biscuit, toast and more!

apple-buttah-2

 

Advertisements

Pasta Mama: Creative, Flavorful, Simple

IMG_1107

If I tell you I’m going to make you pasta and scrambled eggs for dinner, what’s your reaction? Does it sound more appetizing if I tell you I’m going to mix the eggs into the pasta? Maybe it further helps if I tell you several Asian pasta dishes include eggs that are scrambled in somehow?

Yeah, I didn’t think so. When I first heard about Pasta Mama seven or eight years ago on one of my favorite Food Network Shows “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” I turned up my nose, too. It didn’t exactly sound like a delicious meal. But I’ve always enjoyed trying new things that involve ingredients I enjoy, so I gave it a whirl, as Kevin McAllister said of a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner while grocery shopping in the 1990 movie Home Alone. And the Pasta Mama blew me away with its simplicity and flavor.

Some people aren’t big fans of marinara sauce, so they prefer an alfredo or other topping for their pasta. This offers another cheap, flavorful option with the eggs and spices, and if you already have spices and dry pasta in your kitchen or pantry, it won’t cost you much at all to make (also considering eggs are pretty cheap). And if you cook the eggs and pasta just right, it’s not too dry or too wet.

Pasta Mama at its best is a very simple and light dish, so don’t plan on feeling extremely full afterward. In fact, it’s a dish you might have as a small meal as part of a plan to eat more than three meals a day, or you might even try it for a simple and quick breakfast. You can use that leftover cooked, plain pasta to get a head start, but even if you have to cook your pasta first, this dish won’t take you more than a half hour to prepare.

The following recipe is a modified take on a suggestion from Food.com.

Ingredients

10 ounces dry pasta

3 eggs, beaten

2 minced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh grated parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

 

Directions

1. Cook your pasta in a pot until it has the softness/firmness you prefer. (If you already have leftover cooked pasta, just heat it enough to knock the chill off before you take the next step in the recipe.)

2. In a skillet on medium heat, saute all of your spices with the butter or oil.

3. After your spices have sauteed, add the pasta and water and stir together.

4. Pour in your already-beaten eggs and combine until the eggs fully cook and mix with the pasta.

5. While your dish is still in the skillet, sprinkle the parmesan cheese on top. You can, of course, add as much cheese as you want.

6. Plate and serve. As with anything, your yield depends on how much pasta you actually use, how much each diner eats and the age of your diners. If you feed this to kids, it will probably go farther with each individual eater.

IMG_1103

Molly’s Take: I wasn’t terribly afraid of the egg and pasta combo here, since I love Asian rice and noodles and those often include eggs of some kind. I also am a person who really can’t stand marinara sauce in most settings, so I was excited about the prospect of an alfredo alternative. The Pasta Mama delivered. Its simple flavor, perfectly seasoned with herbs and spices, was light and tasty. As Matthew said, it isn’t incredibly filling or heavy, but I could easily see adding some type of fish like salmon or shrimp to the dish. However, the Pasta Mama stands alone in its simplicity and flavorful taste. Definitely give it a try.

Matthew’s Take: Of course, I really love this dish, or I wouldn’t be sharing it with you. My favorite way to eat pasta has always been with some kind of tomato-based sauce and beef meatballs or a cheese-based sauce with chicken. This is a completely different dish and one I’ve never had in a restaurant. I’ve never seen it on a menu in a restaurant, despite seeing it recommended on a food show by a professional chef who ate it at a restaurant. Maybe it has a low profile because it would take most people by surprise. I know it did me. Other than not being heavy enough to fill me for a long period of time, Pasta Mama is surprisingly satisfying. The garlic butter and cheese help provide their own deal of flavor, but it’s the eggs that offer the most boost to the texture and taste. You may be skeptical, but I encourage you to give it a try. Creative cooking can be exciting because it can break our normal routine in the kitchen and at the table. And this is a way to be creative and make an economical meal in a half hour or less. I give it an A for taste and an A+ for both cost and ease.

Delightfully Simple Amish Oatmeal Pie

Some recipes are complicated. Others can fit entirely in an iPhone screenshot. My new favorite pie in the world is of the latter variety. An old-fashioned recipe from the Amish, it features oatmeal (the inexpensive type you buy in a round tube at the store) as its star player. The pie itself is reminiscent of pecan, but less gooey and sticky, perhaps because of the milk it includes. This makes the base of the pie a delicious mix between pecan-pie-gooey-goodness and custardy-smooth delight.

Without further ado, the Amish Oatmeal.

IMG_0374

Ingredients: 

3 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. butter, melted

2/3 cup oats

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk until combined.
  2. Pour into an unbaked pie shell (be sure to prick holes in the shell with a fork for ventilation).
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until the pie is cooked through. (My oven usually requires 55 minutes. But surprisingly, it usually doesn’t over-brown the edges.)
  4. Enjoy thoroughly.

IMG_0473

Matthew’s take: My tastebuds recognize two kinds of pies: fruit pies and non-fruit pies. This pie is, hands down, my favorite non-fruit pie, even ahead of pecan pie, chocolate pies, pumpkin and sweet potato pies, and all other custard pies that I love. It has the sweet filling, and the crackle and texture on top, of a pecan pie…without the nuts! Buying pecans costs more, and it adds an element (the nuts) that some people don’t prefer or can’t ingest due to allergies. The other great thing about this pie: it’s sweet without being way too sweet, which caters to people (like my mom and dad) who don’t like their desserts to be too rich and indulgent. This pie’s wonder will surprise you, and as soon as the final slice is gone, you’ll want to bake another.

Molly’s take: This pie is my new absolute favorite to make. No fussy, annoying, sticky pecan pie mess. (I have a love-hate relationship with baking pecan pies. Sometimes they’re great; other times, they won’t set up for what seems like hours. Then, you get a crispy crust and too-hard pecans on the top. But enough complaining.) The Amish Oatmeal Pie is easy, darn easy, and it has a melt-in-your-mouth taste that will scrumptiously satisfy your sweet tooth. Everyone who tries it is bound to like it. If they don’t, there’s somethin’ wrong with ’em!

“Eggs in a Nest” – a Simple, Creative Breakfast

IMG_4363

We see eggs cooked in an indeterminate number of ways. There’s scrambled. And there’s sunny side up. There’s poached, and there are omelettes. You can jazz them up Benedict style, cook them into a quiche or simply boil them.

But there’s always a new way to cook almost any type of food. When we visited the 1900 Inn on Montford Avenue in Asheville, N.C., for our honeymoon in January, we discovered “Eggs in a Nest.” Our innkeepers at the 1900 (which includes suites named for major literary figures, ours for F. Scott Fitzgerald) were great conversationalists who shared quite a bit about their backgrounds while we ate our three-course breakfasts. They shared their life’s travels from Minnesota (fitting since the Coen Brothers’ Fargo is one of my favorite movies) to a host of other major cities and then to North Carolina’s mountains and the bed-and-breakfast hospitality experience. They also shared about the interesting dishes they serve up at the inn.

IMG_4364

The “Eggs in a Nest” dish was one of our favorite main courses of our stay. And luckily for us, it’s a breakfast we can make at home and continue to enjoy.

Just as it sounds, you place an egg (whichever style you choose really, we prefer sunny side up) in a nest of potato sticks. That alone accomplishes the title of the dish. The rest is really up to you, your tastes and your desire for presentation.

IMG_4355

Here’s what you’ll need to enjoy your own “Eggs in a Nest.” And I might add that this is a great dish, because of its fun presentation and optional simplicity, for kids who are finicky about what they eat.

Ingredients (for 1 person’s serving)

1 egg, cooked in the style you desire

1/2 cup of potato sticks (any brand works)

Shredded cheese

Dash of salt and pepper, if desired

Other toppings as desired (we like diced tomato and a little bacon or sausage)

IMG_4354

Instructions

  1. Cook your egg. You can scramble it. You can make it small-omelette style. You can make it sunny side up. You can even boil it and chop or dice it however you like.IMG_4353
  2. We suggest using a shallow bowl with nicely tapered sides. A bowl with steep sides will make it hard to form your “nest” of potato sticks.
  3. Place your potato sticks around the outside of your bowl, leaving a spot in the middle for your eggs.
  4. When your egg is done, place it in the middle of your nest of potato sticks.
  5. Complete by sprinkling shredded cheese on top and adding any other desired toppings.IMG_4356

Matthew’s Take: I love dishes that are both creative and involve incredibly simple and inexpensive ingredients. This recipe is right on that target. When you make the eggs sunny side up, the yolk mixes with your potato sticks to create a delicious flavor. Kudos to the 1900 Inn for sharing this with Molly and me. We have already passed it along, and we hope to continue to share it. I give “Eggs in a Nest” an A+ for taste, an A+ for cost-effectiveness and an A+ for ease. If you like the ingredients, you’ve got to try this.

Molly’s Take: This is honestly one of my favorite breakfast meals. It’s cheap and easy, hearty and filling. I love the taste of the eggs mixed with the slightly salty potato sticks. It really is a meal you can make as simple or as fancy as you like – and it’s great for picky eaters, because it’s so adaptable. Definitely give it a try if you want a nice, hearty breakfast sometime!

IMG_4360

Family-Favorite Roasted Potatoes

image

Potatoes are full of possibilities. You can bake them or cut them and make fries, wedges or homemade chips. You can shred them and make hash browns or mash them and make homemade mashed potatoes.

Matthew’s favorite way to prepare potatoes is to roast them in a stovetop pan.

It’s also a favorite of Molly’s mom, who requests the potatoes at nearly every family gathering.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can follow all of the steps until you put the potatoes in the pan and then mash the potatoes, add milk or cream and butter and have delicious homemade mashed potatoes.

This recipe can incorporate your favorite potato, Idaho, red or otherwise, and you can also bake the potatoes in the oven, instead of cooking them in a pan.

Ingredients

3 cups of peeled potatoes

a dash of salt, pepper and/or garlic salt, depending on your taste

a dash of olive oil

Step one:

Cut your potatoes. The smaller the potatoes, the faster they will cook in all stages of this recipe.

Step two:image

Boil your potatoes in a pot on the stove until the potatoes are fork-tender. You can boil the potatoes in a microwave, but it will take much longer.

Step three:

Drain your potatoes in a colander or around your pot lid over a sink, being careful to keep your potatoes in the pot.

Step four:

Turn your burner to medium-high heat and put your potatoes in the pan on the stovetop. Cover your potatoes with a light coating of olive oil (or vegetable oil if that’s all you have). Top with a sprinkling of salt and pepper to your desired taste. Let your potatoes roast until you start to see sides browning, then take a spatula to mix the potatoes and move them to position them for browning on other sides.

imageStep five:

Reduce your heat to low and cover your pan with a lid to allow your potatoes to steam and thoroughly cook. You will get a slight browning on the potatoes while they are covered, too, but this part of the process is mostly to soften and moisten the potatoes after you’ve just browned them in the pan. The browning process can remove much of the moisture in the potatoes, and the roasting process with the lid on helps replace that moisture.

Step six:

Remove your potatoes from the pan. It’s not likely you’ll have much grease after roasting the potatoes. Enjoy!

Molly’s Take: We love this simple method of making roasted potatoes. They always come out hearty and flavorful and so versatile. One of my favorite things to do is have the potatoes for dinner with salmon or burgers or the like, then the next morning have them wrapped in a tortilla with cheese, your favorite breakfast meat, and maybe even a few onions. they’re delicious, inexpensive and a great addition to any meal. If you ever need a side dish that is filling, not bad for you, and tasty, these potatoes are your MVP. (Most Valuable Potatoes)

Matthew’s Take: Not only is this my favorite method of preparing potatoes, it’s my favorite way to eat potatoes. These go great with burgers, with salmon, with grilled chicken, with fried chicken tenders, with almost anything. If you cut the potatoes into small pieces, they’re a great breakfast potato, and they can even be used as leftovers in breakfast tacos or burritos. They pair great in a tortilla with eggs, bacon or sausage and cheese. These potatoes get an A+ for taste, an A+ for ease, an A for cost as a plain ole bag of potatoes isn’t usually expensive, and they get a B for presentation. You can jazz up the presentation by topping with a little light cheese or carefully ensuring you have the perfect browning on all sides. (You can do that by browning in the pan more than roasting with the lid on, but you may lose some of the moisture.) I hope you enjoy these potatoes as much as we do.

$5 S’mores Dip for the Family

What do you need to make this s’mores dip? Three ingredients and a cast iron pan. That’s it! This is by far one of the easiest desserts you can make. We found a similar dessert on Pinterest, but decided we wanted to make it even simpler by using regular marshmallows instead of cutting the giant marshmallows into smaller pieces. It just made sense! Here’s a look at your ingredients.

IMG_8051

OK, so s’mores are messy, right? And sometimes it’s hard to find a summer family dessert that everyone will like. But if everyone likes graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate? You’re set! Here’s how to make it:

Ingredients:

1 cup milk chocolate chips (about $2)

1/2 bag of marshmallows (97 cents at our local market)

1 box of graham crackers (about $1)

Instructions:

1. Take out your cast iron pan and pour the chocolate chips in the bottom as evenly as you can.

2. Cover the chocolate chips with about half a bag of marshmallows, or more if you want extra marshmallow on top. We found that leaving a little space between some of the marshmallows is fine, because they’ll expand and melt together.

IMG_8049IMG_8050

3. Cook in a preheated 450-degree oven for about 7 minutes. Don’t burn them! Just cook until the marshmallows are golden brown on top.

4. While that’s cooking, break your graham crackers into dippable pieces. (Usually into quarters.)

IMG_8054

5. Remove from oven, place the hot cast iron pan on a towel so it won’t burn the surface you put it on, and start dipping!

IMG_8053IMG_3336

Molly’s take: This dip is AMAZING. Five reasons you should try it: It’s easier than making actual s’mores, which take a lot of assembly. It’s less messy, because you’re not squishing out the chocolate and the marshmallow every time you take a bite. It’s super, dirt cheap – -all the ingredients can be purchased for just a few dollars! You don’t need to be a baker to do it–just pop in the oven for 7 minutes and you’re done. And, it’s an utter delight to your tastebuds. BONUS reason: It’s ultimately share-able and proven to bring a smile to people’s faces.

Matthew’s take: Anybody can make this dip. Bachelors. Families. Kids can even make it with adult supervision on the oven part, especially with how hot the cast iron pan gets. You could even make this dip by your fire while you’re out camping. As Molly said, this dip is better than the traditional s’mores because it’s less messy, easier to assemble and easier to eat. I give this dip a triple A+ for taste, presentation and cost. It simply doesn’t get much better than this.

Italian Savory Monkey Bread (aka Pizza Puffs)

Pizza Puffs

Home economics classes seem like a stereotypical female rite of passage in the 1950s. But in 1998, Matthew’s middle school home economics class was where he learned this recipe for “Pizza Puffs,” which he now affectionately refers to as Italian Savory Monkey Bread. It’s a delicious, incredibly simple and delightfully cheap way to make a homemade pizza of sorts without doing the work to mix even the simplest of crusts. Kudos to Matthew’s home-ec teacher Ginger Patterson for sharing this recipe, which is easy enough for a young teenager to make with minimal adult supervision.

Ingredients

1 can of eight biscuits

your favorite pizza sauce

shredded cheese

desired additional toppings (pepperoni, cooked hamburger meat, vegetables, etc.)

Step one:

Cut the biscuits into 4 pieces each and spread across the bottom of a thin casserole dish.

Step two:

Cover the biscuits with the desired amount of sauce, add additional toppings of your choice and cover generously with cheese.

Step three:

Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. (Your cooking time will vary based on your oven, the depth of toppings and how brown you want the biscuits and cheese.)

Step four:

Let cool and break apart pieces to serve. The recipe will serve 2-4 people, depending on how hungry you are.

Matthew’s take: This is one of the first recipes I learned to make on my own (other than stir-fry, which I started making about the same time by experimenting with grilled chicken, cheese and green peppers in a pan on the stovetop). It’s a delicious recipe that is mostly homemade, without any real cooking going into it. That should appeal to people who don’t like spending a lot of time and effort making dinner, while also appealing to people who don’t want to spend a lot of money buying ingredients for a meal. Quite possibly the best part is that, like a full traditional pizza, you can eat the leftovers cold or warm. These get an A+ for ease and cost, an A for taste and a B for presentation. Other than the browned cheese, there’s nothing fancy about how they look, but taste is what matters most of all to me.

Molly’s take: Despite my well-known dislike for pasta/pizza sauce, I’m glad Matthew took a chance on making these for us. They’re very easy to make, inexpensive and quite tasty! I personally loved having sausage and pepperoni on them. The more meats the better! But that’s how I usually feel about pizza anyway. This had a deep-dish pizza taste to me, which I liked, and a good combination of meat, cheese, sauce and bread. Overall, a delicious and easy meal for a family to make, since it can feed up to four people, or a couple like us, who can have it for leftovers on another day. Overall grade: A. 🙂

Easy Latticed Blueberry Pie (with canned or fresh berries)

cropped-10985520_10152749824228721_9021103644033373005_n1.jpg

Unlike most food blogs, we like to get down to the recipe asap. So here it is, with our comments below. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • Two prepared roll-out frozen pie crusts
  • 4 cups of blueberries (fresh or canned)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • A dash of ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten in a cup with 1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

  1. Spray or butter a pie pan. Lay and shape one roll-out pie shell into the pan. Take the other crust and cut it into strips for later.
  2. Preheat oven to 400.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the milk and flour, then brown sugar and cinnamon. Add blueberries (if canned, be sure to drain completely) and stir. Pour into bottom crust.
  4. Take the strips of dough and weave them into a lattice top on top of the pie. Pinch the edges to seal them together. Brush the crust lightly all over with the egg mixture and sprinkle it with brown sugar.
  5. Put the pie on a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and move pie to top rack. Cover the rim of the pie crust with foil to make sure it doesn’t get burnt. Continue to bake at 375 until crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. (This takes about 20 minutes.)
  6. Let the pie cool to set and thicken before serving, so the pieces will come out whole.
  7. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Molly’s take: I adapted this recipe from the original found on http://shewearsmanyhats.com/easy-blueberry-pie-recipe/. At first, it was way more complicated than I wanted for an easy pie. After making the pie, I realized it could be a lot simpler. The original recipe says instead of immediately baking the pie, you can also freeze it for up to two months in plastic wrap and a large plastic Ziplock freezer bag. I haven’t tried this, but it could be good to have on hand! All in all, the pie is delicious and my blueberry-loving husband couldn’t stop eating it. 🙂 Out of all the pies I’ve made, it was one of the easiest, even with the lattice on top.

Matthew’s take: A basic blueberry pie is one of my favorite desserts. It walks the line between decadent dessert you can top with ice cream and dessert that can pass for a breakfast option. This blueberry pie recipe is as good as any I’ve had, and we made it with canned berries. Making it with fresh berries in season would put the pie over the top. The lattice crust was a very nice touch, both for taste and for presentation. This is one of those recipes that could be replicated with other berries. If you like berry pies like I do, this one gets an A+ for presentation and an A for taste.