Two springs ago I planted parsnip seeds in the garden, hoping for a good harvest of parsnips in the autumn, but that first year was disappointing with only one pitiful parsnip to show for it. Not deterred, I tried again last spring, planting in a different location and found that the parsnips were much happier. They liked the extra warmth of the sunnier spot, the deeper soil, and extra compost we added to the bed, and they thrived. We had plenty to roast in the late autumn and plenty to test for overwintering in the bed. Yes, I learned that you can indeed leave parsnips in the ground during the winter and pull them out as you need them, just make sure you mark off where they are and keep them covered with a few inches of soil. They actually got sweeter with successive frosts….
Whether you are hosting a Super Bowl party or going to one, planning for some nibbles is on the to do list. Chips and crackers always make the list, and if you want something a little different while still keeping it easy, wonton crackers are definitely a go to party appetizer. They are simple to make, no messy frying because you bake them in the oven and they get nice and crispy in a flash, plus you can make them a day or two before the party….
Michael and I have pursued our dream of turning our back yard into an edible landscape for several years. We’ve replaced inedible bushes with blueberries, raspberries, and grape vines, and planted apple, cherry, plum, peach, fig, and pecan trees. But there are two trees I wish we could grow in our yard and can’t due to the cold winters: avocado and Meyer lemon. Last year I saw Meyer lemon trees in containers at Home Depot and I briefly thought I might try to grow one indoors, then I thought of the lime and calamondin orange trees I had tried growing indoors, both of which failed, and I had to walk away. Those were only $20 experiments, the Meyer lemon tree would have been a $69 experiment, a bit more of an investment, so I need to study a little more before attempting it….
When it comes to big holiday feasts, one oven just isn’t enough, and I always find myself trying to sort out the intricate timing of turkey, stuffing, rolls, and any roasted or baked vegetables. I sit down with recipes and a schedule and plan it all out. If the turkey is done too early, it sits and gets cold and loses that wonderful fresh-from-the-oven juiciness while waiting for the rest of the dishes to finish.
We’re doing a special Thanksgiving edition of The Kids Cook Monday, because what better time to get the whole family in the kitchen than for one of the most festive meals of the year? There are several parts of the traditional Thanksgiving meal that the kids can help with, and one of our boys’ favorites is the cranberry sauce. It’s also a great make-ahead dish, so you can have it ready in the refrigerator up to three days before….
Life always seems to get a little crazy around this time of year. We get caught up in school events, hockey, work, finishing up the summer garden and prepping for winter, but no matter how busy we get, I always set aside time to make apple butter. Whether we use purchased apples or pick them ourselves, I look forward to doing this work every year. I use one of those hand slicers that cores the apple and makes eight wedges, and I toss the apples into the slow cooker as I slice. The boys are usually nearby, sneaking apple wedges whenever they can or asking if they can help sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon.
As the apples cook down and the aroma fills the house, it reminds me of autumns gone by and the smell of my mother’s fresh baked apple pie, the taste of my grandmother’s apple butter that they made in a large copper kettle over an open fire, the work that they put into the food that we all ate. Every time I make apple butter, I feel their presence, a connection to the past that streams through to the present and infuses my mind with good memories. In some small way, making apple butter pays homage to all the women in my family, a recognition of how hard they worked to take care of all of us.
I can call my mother and tell her about how we made apple butter again, and oh how I wish I could call my grandmother and tell her, too. She could talk at great length about how she prepared food, and I wish I could have one of those conversations with her. Because that is how I remember her; in the kitchen, making food for everyone.
After trying many different kinds of apples, I’ve settled on Galas for making apple butter. They are slightly sweet on their own, and so require less sugar, plus they cook down very nicely. I start a pot of these in the evening and finish it up the next afternoon.
SLOW COOKER APPLE BUTTER
Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger.
Makes 5 to 8 cups.
6-quart slow cooker
apple wedge slicer
immersion blender (or a jar blender)
16 medium to large Gala apples, unpeeled, cored, and cut into wedges (Might be slightly more or less, just enough to fill your slow cooker.)
2 cups (220 g) light brown sugar or raw sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (240 ml) apple cider
pinch of salt
1. Add enough apple slices to cover the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of brown sugar and some of the cinnamon over the slices. Repeat until you’ve used all of the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add a pinch of salt and pour the apple cider over the apples. Toss the apples with a wooden spoon.
2. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, or overnight. Remove the lid, mash the apples down with a potato masher, and stir to mix. Leave the lid off and continue cooking on low, mashing and stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced to about 1/3 and is thick. Turn off the slow cooker and allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
3. Use an immersion blender (or jar blender) to puree the cooled mixture until it’s very smooth. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 months or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You may also process jars using the boiling water method.
Use 1 cup maple syrup and 1 cup brown sugar to sweeten the apples.
Try this spice mix: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice.
If using a 4-quart slow cooker, adjust the number of apples (about 8 medium to large apples), and reduce the sugar to 1-1/2 cups.
More Apple Recipes
More Recipes With Apples From Around the Blogs
Now that Builder Guy is almost 9, we decided he was ready to learn some kitchen knife skills, something a little more advanced than spreading butter and jam. So I thought of some fruits and vegetables that he could learn on, things that weren’t too difficult and would allow him to easily handle it while learning to use the knife. Bananas and scallions were the first thing that came to mind, and then when I saw some okra in the grocery store I thought it would be perfect. When he saw the okra, Builder Guy was very interested and dove right in, and with a little help he managed to keep all his fingers intact.
That’s the shout I hear when the boys find cherries on the counter and eagerly pop them in their mouths and pull off the stems. They can’t resist the deep red fruits, and neither can I. Seeing their happy smiles with cherry juice all over their hands and faces is one of my favorite moments.
When the blueberries start to ripen on our bushes, the boys get excited and eagerly eat the fresh berries as we bring them inside. Occasionally I’m able to set some aside for cooking projects, but most of the time I have competition for their juicy goodness. This time I was able to whip up some easy blueberry butter, which the boys and Michael have enjoyed on toast and English muffins. I created this small-batch recipe for those times that I only have a little fruit and just want a jar or two, and it makes a nice little hostess gift. I use one cup of sugar with our berries and add a bit of cinnamon and lemon juice to round out the flavor. It’s easy to make and doesn’t require processing, just keep it in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or freeze it.
This recipe is for Grow Your Own, a blogging event that celebrates the dishes we create from foods we’ve grown, raised, foraged, or hunted ourselves. I’m a bit late with the announcement for this month, but I hope you’ll be able to join us, just send your post information to me at andreasrecipesgyo AT gmail DOT com by July 31. If you are new to the event, you can read more about the rules for participating at the Grow Your Own page.
Makes about 2 cups.
immersion blender or jar blender
glass jar or plastic freezer jar with lid
1 pound (454 g) fresh blueberries
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (175 g) granulated cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1. In the sauce pan, toss the blueberries with the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.
2. Blend the blueberries with an immersion blender or in a jar blender until very smooth.
3. Return the pureed blueberries to the sauce pan and add the sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the mixture is thick, about 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Remove from heat and cool completely and store in a jar in the refrigerator or freezer. Will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator and 3 to 4 months in the freezer.
More Recipes for Preserving the Harvest
More Blueberry Recipes From Around the Blogs
When summer rolls around and it’s time to start making jams and jellies again, I stock up on pectin. Many of the recipes I make call for regular pectin, which requires cooking the jam or jelly, but I also like instant pectin for no-cook jams. Skipping the cooking process keeps the wonderful fresh flavor of the fruit and also saves me time, something I can always use more of. Instant pectin is perfect for small batches of 6 jars or less, so it’s also great for those times when I don’t have enough fruit for a large batch. It’s available in 0.6 ounce envelopes for small batches and 4.7 ounce jars. The jar of pectin recommends making no more than 6 jars of jam at a time with the instant pectin as larger batches may not set correctly….
My first experience in an Asian grocery store was on the island of Saipan back in 1989. I was still new to the small island and its mix of cultures, and Asian ingredients were not part of my vocabulary, so browsing through a bewildering array of soy sauces left my head spinning and I couldn’t tell a Japanese shiro from a Chinese light. It all looked the same to my untrained eyes. So I bought the only brand I recognized, Kikkoman, in a rather large plastic jug and took it home. It took some time, but I slowly learned to appreciate the flavor of soy sauce, especially as part of the classic island sauce, finadene….
When it comes to savory breakfast casseroles and quiches, I’m not a fan of crust. Unlike my love of a good sweet pie crust, I want to just taste the fillings without anything surrounding it. And I like mine stuffed with plenty of vegetables, like this one. My sister shared this recipe with me last week, a healthy, low calorie breakfast casserole she makes once a week. The good thing about these kinds of casseroles, besides the flavor and the fact that it’s healthy, is that there are so many ways to vary the vegetables and have something different each time. This time I made it with spinach, some frozen bell peppers leftover from the summer garden, onions, and a couple chopped tomatoes, but you can add just about anything and it will still be good, and it’s easy to make gluten-free, too. For a weekend breakfast when you have more time, try sautéing fresh chard and using it instead of the spinach….
It’s time for another post for The Kids Cook Monday, our chance to show how children can help in the kitchen and make meals more of a family time. For more information on how to start cooking with your whole family, visit The Kids Cook Monday website.
This particular soup is easy, I mean really easy; a perfect soup for the kids to help make. We were very proud that Builder Guy, our 8-year-old son, made this almost completely by himself, and he was proud of his work, too….
Some kind of Mexican food is on our menu every week, whether it’s tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, soup, whatever. It’s a meal our boys always look forward to, especially if there’s guacamole, too. We always have beans on the side, black beans being our favorite. We spice them up with onion, garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle powder, and Mexican oregano and add some tomato sauce or prepared salsa for tomato flavor….
One of the side benefits of a good summer growing season is preserving the extras to bring out when there are huge mounds of snow on the ground and summer feels very far away. Last summer we lucked out and harvested lots of bell peppers in red, yellow, and green as well as quite a few poblano peppers. We used as many as we could through the autumn, then picked the last right before frost and froze several quart bags of sliced peppers to toss in soups and chili. We also saved leftover turkey during the holidays for the same purpose, so you could technically call this a freezer chili….
When our boys see Asian dishes on the menu, they tend to get excited. Builder Guy inevitably asks if we’re having Chinese dumplings with the meal, Top Gun requests Chinese chicken and broccoli whether it’s on the menu or not, and Monkey Boy says he just wants chicken (or a lollipop). Fortunately Monkey Boy generally comes around once we start eating, so we are progressing out of the annoying overly picky phase.
These chicken lettuce wraps are one of their favorites because they like the chicken and they like that it’s finger food. They are perfect for this week and the Chinese New Year celebration, and they make great party appetizers. I’ve doubled the original recipe from Helen Chen so we can have leftovers because the boys enjoy taking it to school and eating it for lunch with brown rice. They also like to help make it, though either Michael or I still take over on the stir-frying. As they grow older and learn more about kitchen safety we’ll give them more opportunities to get behind the wok….
One of my favorite childhood lunch memories was sitting down to a bowl of hot tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. It was simple, not fussy; canned soup and plain white sandwich bread with American cheese, but I grew up with the notion that this was the perfect lunch on a cold day….
Years ago I had my first taste of hot spiced wine at a friend’s apartment in Bogotá, Colombia, which we sipped while listening to Edith Piaf after a glorious dinner of beef tenderloin (lomo). Maria Consuela had spent time in the U.S. and Europe during her college years and liked to share her cultural experiences from all the places she had lived and visited. She befriended the new teachers at the school and introduced us to the beauty of a country that still to this day many people would fear to set foot in. I don’t know what she put in the wine that night, I only remember that it smelled and tasted fantastic….
While on a trip to Chile, Michael got to sample some of the local beverages, including the vaina and the pisco sour, and he came back with plans to make them for us. I’m a tad bit envious that he got to sample these at the source without me, so a home version will have to do until I get to venture off to Chile someday….
I can’t imagine the holidays without this hot cranberry apple cider. The aroma is wonderful and makes the house smell so festive, and it’s also easy to make and won’t keep you hovering over the pot when you’d rather celebrate time with family and friends.
As soon as Thanksgiving is over we start decorating for Christmas and baking cookies. For us Black Friday is more about decorating and baking than shopping as we’ve often finished our Christmas shopping by then. This year we had family visiting so the decorating and baking was put off, but we are catching up.
Two years ago a few baking bloggers got together to celebrate Christmas cookies by baking our way through a selection of Gourmet magazine’s favorite cookies from the last 40 years, and we repeated the event last year though my schedule didn’t permit me to participate. We’re back again and this time baking some of Saveur’s favorite international cookies. We have each chosen four cookies to bake, one for each week between now and Christmas and we hope you enjoy the cookies along with us….
That cold snap we had last week really messed with my internal calendar. Even though the wall calendar still said September, my body was thinking November and that set off all kinds of cravings for hot comfort food. I had curry on the brain because along with soup, it’s one of the first things I think of when cold weather sets in. The eggplant that I had bought to make stuffed eggplant was repurposed and instead found its way into a soothing pot of steaming curry with potatoes and chickpeas….
Oktoberfest in Munich began over the weekend, and we are a little sad that we couldn’t be there. Since this is the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest, the excitement and revelry must be at a high pitch, and of course it would have been a lot of fun to return for our 10th anniversary. We’re just happy to be together with our boys and we’re finding ways to celebrate at home. Last week I shared our recipe for cheese spaetzle, which goes so well with many types of German meats, and today I want to share our German style coleslaw, which has a white wine vinaigrette rather than a mayonnaise dressing. It’s really simple to make and you can serve it warm or chilled. The white wine vinaigrette is cooked to dissolve the sugar, then the sunflower oil is added just before pouring over the shredded cabbage. We play around with the texture of the cabbage, sometimes shredding it fine and other times going for a rough chop, and either way works….
Though Labor Day has passed, the heat remains here in Northern Virginia and we’re still enjoying outdoor cooking and our homegrown tomatoes, though we’ve hit a lull and possibly the end of the tomato season. We aren’t sure if it’s insects or just the extended heat wave, but the tomato plants aren’t looking good. Fortunately we had a bunch that came in all at once last week and the counters were drowning in tomatoes, so I used some of them in a small batch of spiced tomato jam and added pinot noir to give it a deeper and richer flavor. Though many tomato jams call for peeling the tomatoes, I prefer to skip that step and instead puree it all using an immersion blender. The texture comes out thick and the flavor gave a gourmet boost to our simple Labor Day grilled burgers with sautéed onions and peppers….