Candied Ginger Applesauce

I’ve been on an applesauce kick lately. Making it (and, of course, eating it) is one of my simple pleasures. Plus, I love how it makes my kitchen smell. I’m basking in the scent of baked apples, cinnamon, and cardamon right now. Yum!

Stovetop applesauce is ridiculously easy and ridiculously quick to make. Since discovering those two facts, and also realizing I can choose what kind of apples to use and that I can control how much sugar (if any) and the mix of spices I add, I haven’t bought applesauce at the store. Prep time varies depending on your equipment. I broke my apple slicer and haven’t replaced it yet, so my prep time (about 25 minutes) was on the long end.

ginger_and_apples

You really can’t go wrong with ginger and apples.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 medium sized apples (or 3-4 pounds)
  • 3-4 strips of candied ginger or (for no added sugar) 3-4 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup dry Riesling
  • 1/2 cup water (you can omit the Riesling and use 1 cup water instead)
  • A splash of lemon juice
  • A punch of salt
  • Spices to taste (I use cinnamon and cardamon and start with about 1/4 of a teaspoon, taste as the sauce cooks and add more as needed)

    Instructions:


    1. Peel and core the apples and cut into 1/2 inch to 1 inch chunks
    2. Cut the ginger into tiny cubes (as small as you can make them)
    3. Mix wine, water, lemon juice, and salt
    4. Put apples and ginger into saucepan and add the liquid
    5. Sprinkle spices on top
    6. Heat until the liquid boils
    7. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the apples from cooking to the bottom of the pan and to break up the chunks. If needed, add additional water.
    8. The apples should break up during cooking, and stirring should be enough to make the sauce saucy, but if you like super smooth applesauce, let the sauce cool and then run through a blender.

    This recipe makes about 5 cups. This time around, I got 5 and a hair (for definitions of “a hair” ranging between a third and half of a cup; I may have eaten it without measuring). My plans for this batch of sauce is to take it into work for my afternoon snack so I don’t raid one of the many candy dishes in the office for a sweet pick-me-up.

    applesauce

    This is much better than a mini candy bar! (Right? Right.)

  • Photo 101 Day 1: Home

    I had so much fun with the Blogging 101 course here at WordPress that I decided to try the Photo 101 course. These days, I take all of my photos with my phone, since it’s the one thing I’m guaranteed to have on me at all times. Also these days, my photos are pretty split between my umpteenth moss/log/mushroom photo (sometimes, I even hit all three in one shot!), taunting wine and food photos that I immediately text to my friend who totally deserves each and every one (they’re all in retaliation to her taunting photos, I swear!), and some wine tasting and recipe photos for this blog. It would be nice to expand my horizons.

    The first prompt is home:

    Home is elusive. When we think about this word, we might picture different physical locations. And while home is often found on a map, it can also be less tangible: a loved one, a state of mind.

    Home, for me, is sanctuary. I’m quite introverted and guard my personal space fiercely, and rarely invite people into my home as a result. So for this prompt, I decided to push myself past my normal comfort levels and offer up a photo of the most intimate part of my home—my altar:
    altar_photo

    Recipe: Baked Apples with Honey Walnut Ricotta

    I always enjoy baked apples when I have them, but I rarely make them at home. That needs to change. They’re a quick and tasty dessert, and maybe it’s because I don’t make them too often, but they feel like a treat.

    baked apples with honey walnut ricotta filling

    Baked apples with honey walnut ricotta fresh out of the oven.

    And now they really feel like a treat. Over the weekend, I made some ricotta cheese, and then promptly made baked apples with a honey walnut ricotta filling. And once they came out of the oven, I promptly ate one. It was delicious, so let me share them with you!

    Ingredients:


    • 4 medium to largish baking apples.
    • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
    • 1/4 cup (uncrushed) walnuts
    • 2-4 tablespoons honey
    • Approximately 1 cup boiling water
    baked apple ingredients

    Apples + ricotta + walnuts + honey + oven magic = YUM!

    Instructions:


    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Wash and dry the apples. Use an apple corer or a paring knife to cut out the cores. Leave the bottom part (about 1/2 inch) of the apple intact. Scoop out the seeds and widen the filling hole to 1/2 to 1 inch depending on the size of your apples.
      baked_apples_cored
    3. Place the walnuts in a plastic bag and crush them a bit until they’re medium-sized chunks of walnuty goodness.
    4. In a small bowl, mix the ricotta, walnuts, and honey. I ended up using 2 tablespoons of pumpkin honey and 1 tablespoon of buckwheat honey. The buckwheat honey is dark and tastes a little like molasses, so I thought it would go well with the walnuts, but it is strong, so I wanted a gentler honey to offset it.
      baked_apples_filling
    5. Fill each apple with the honey walnut ricotta and place in a baking dish. If there’s an extra spoonful of the filling, well, it would be horrible to let it go to waste. Horrible. Eat and enjoy and promise (with your fingers crossed behind your back) to either buy bigger apples or widen the filling holes next time.
      baked_apples_filled
    6. Add the boiling water to the baking dish and 350°F for 35-45 minutes, or until the apples are tender.

    Enjoy with a glass of Riesling or a scoop of ice cream (or both)!

    Menu Planning: The Return

    It’s Thursday, so once again, I’m planning my menu for next week. I have the sneaking suspicion the Menu Planning Thursday blog post will become A Thing here. I’m pretty big on routines. And structure. And tasty food, so a dedicated meal planning evening puts me in a very happy place.

    This week’s menu planning adventure is set on easy mode thanks to Blogging 101. I found some great recipes on some great blogs, so I didn’t have to crack a cookbook to plan my meals and assemble my grocery list. Let me spread the yummy food with some link love.

    First up, my lunches to take to work: Crustless Mini Quiches with Caramelized Onions and Brie from Gen at Eat, Play, Clove.

    I’m of the opinion one cannot go wrong with cheese (especially Brie and other delightfully gooey soft cheeses), onions, and eggs. Because of MLK Day, next week is a short week at work, so I know we’re going to be busier than normal the remaining four days. These mini quiches will be the perfect comfort food to help keep me on an even keel. They’re also the perfect vehicle to use up my last few leaves of spinach from this week. Yum!

    I was looking through the Grubbecipes tag over at and came across this post from 2014. Here are the opening two paragraphs:

    The Malay word “Mee Rebus” is literally translated as boiled noodles in English, but it is hardly just any noodles as the name suggests.

    It actually is a dish comprising of yellow egg noodles submerged in thick, hearty, savoury and sometimes spicy gravy. It is then garnished with boiled eggs, fried tofu, taugeh (bean sprouts), fresh spring onions and cilantros as well as a handful of sliced up fresh green chillies. The dish goes well with fried chicken and bergedils, too!

    There are yummy photos in the post, too, but I was sold on the gravy description. It is cold and rainy here–perfect weather for thick, hearty gravy, so I knew I had to try it. I clicked through to Ann’s original recipe and was more determined to try it. When I saw that the rain that rolled in today is supposed to stay for a spell, well, that settled that. The only thing that might give me trouble is the galangal. My normal grocery store only carries ginger, but there are no shortage of Asian markets in my area, so I think I’ll take a different route home tomorrow and do my shopping at one of them.

    And finally, something that just popped up on my radar today: Italian Meatballs with Red Onion and Balsamic Sauce from Cooking up the Pantry. I’m planning to try my hand at making mozzarella cheese this weekend and wanted something Italianish to pair with it. It’s as if the universe directed me to Ros’s blog for a reason. 😉

    (I am also planning to try my hand at making ricotta cheese from the leftover mozzarella whey. If that goes as planned, I’ll be making baked apples stuffed with honey walnut ricotta for dessert. I’ll be sharing that recipe. Oh yes.)

    Acheesement Unlocked!

    I can now make cheese. Specially, I can make Paneer. I’ve yet to try anything else. Still, I’m pretty sure this is a dangerous life skill, because I love cheese.

    homemade paneer

    My impending doom is delicious.

    And now I can make it.

    It’s all My Cheese Shoppe’s fault. (OK, it’s my fault, because I’m the one who wants to try my hand at Palak Paneer.) Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, My Cheese Shoppe didn’t have a Paneer-like cheese when I went in this weekend. “Sorry,” the owner said, disappointed on my behalf. Then she perked up. “Oh! But I think we have a cheese making kit for paneer. Look on the shelf behind you.”

    There were a series of cute little DYI cheese kits from Urban Cheesecraft. And one of the kits was for Paneer and Queso Blanco.

    The cheese kit of doom

    This is all I need to make cheese all by myself. Have I mentioned I love cheese? I’m doomed.

    “You should give it a try,” she continued. “I think you’d really like it.”

    “And,” her assistant chimed in, “you have a ten dollar credit on your loyalty card.”

    (I love My Cheese Shoppe. I really do. I’d love it just as much even if they didn’t have a loyalty card, but they do, so I buy more cheese. And now cheese making kits. This may signal my delicious, cheesy doom.)

    I now have Paneer and a lovely bowl of whey to use in…something. I may end up freezing the rest until the next time I make a creamy soup.

    I also have a desire to make more. I think it would be fun to try my hand at a dessert cheese. And ricotta to use in lasagna. And more, but I’ll start with baby steps.

    adding salt to the curds

    The most satisfying baby step: adding salt and mixing it in.

    And this recipe is a fun baby step. It’s simple, easy to follow, and only a few minutes of work. I forgot to set my timer, but I think I spent 10-15 minutes heating the milk (and squeezing lemon juice for the curdling element) and adding the lemon juice to the foamy milk to get the separation going. Then I let it sit for 10 minutes. Scooping out the curds and stirring in the salt took no more than five minutes, and then I let it sit in the fridge for an hour. So, it takes a little bit of time, but not a huge investment, which means this particular cheese is something I can tackle on a whim. Well, almost on a whim. Despite my love of cheese, I’m not keen on milk, so it’s not a staple in my house. (This may be the thing that saves me from delicious, cheesy doom.)

    Wine Review: Airfield Estates 2013 Sangiovese

    One of my friends introduced me to Airfield Estates. We were wine tasting up in Woodinville and were fresh off a tasting of some nice reds when she turned to me and said, “I’m going to make you try some whites. Let’s go to Airfield.”

    Airfield Estate's 2013 Sangiovese

    You say “Sangiovese”. I say “GIMME!”

    I figured it was only fair since she’s more of a white wine fan. So we crossed the street and had a delightful tasting at Airfield. I’m more of a fan of red wines, but some of Airfield’s whites, especially their Riesling, rank up among my favorite wines. In fact, I joined their wine club on the strength of their whites.

    But Airfield also makes some darn good reds. And at their winter release party this past December, I had the pleasure of tasting their 2013 Sangiovese.

    I love Sangiovese. When I’m wine tasting, if someone is offering up a Sangiovese or mentions a red blend contains Sangiovese, I’m handing over my tickets or tokens and thrusting out my glass before they’ve finished saying, “Sangiovese.” (I’m classy like that.)

    Airfield’s 2013 Sangiovese is a fun, flirty wine. It smells like sweet cherries and has a bit of a gingery bite beneath the cherry notes when you taste it. I had it tonight with a tenderloin steak and candy brussel sprouts with fig balsamic, and oh my. I pretty much had the perfect meal with the perfect wine to complement it.

    a meal taunt

    I didn’t believe my coworker when she said brussel sprouts roasted in fig balsamic come out like candy. I was wrong. So very wrong.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know how often Airfield will offer up a Sangiovese. According to the winemaker’s notes on the bottle, Sangiovese is typically used as component in their blends, but “this vintage produced fruit of such high quality that it warranted being bottled as a stand-alone varietal.” I walked out of the release event with the three bottle maximum Airfield was imposing, and I’ll be honest, I don’t think I have the willpower to save them for extra special occasions.

    This weekend isn’t a special occasion, and I popped open a bottle because I knew it would go well with my dinner. So I suppose I’ll just have to look forward to the next high quality crop that warrants being bottled as a stand-alone varietal. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the bottles I have.

    Menu Planning

    Thursdays have become my meal planning days for the upcoming week. I go through phases where I’m really good at planning out my dinners and cooking ahead on the weekend so I have actual lunches to take into work instead of heating up a frozen meal or going out. (Or lucking into leftovers from a catered meeting. Sadly, it is not the season for such luck.)

    I’m trying to make this phase stick so I’m not going to the grocery store every other evening to pick up dinner fixings. I live near my favorite grocery store, and it’s right on my way home, so it’s no trouble to pop in, but I have more and more things I want to do with my evenings, so I need to be smarter about managing my time. Eliminating my mid-week grocery runs gives me an extra hour and a half to two hours per week. Lately, that’s been translating into more reading time. Oh, books, how I’ve missed reading more than one of you a month!

    And, as I’m rediscovering, it’s fun to sit down, look through recipes, and consider what I want to eat. I fell down on the menu planning last week and have been cobbling together a lot of chicken-based meals, since that’s what I had in the freezer. I am now in the position of being a little tired of chicken for dinner but also in need of more chicken stock, so I will roast a chicken this weekend and use the meat in my lunches next week. Thankfully, my brain equates lunch with work and doesn’t get bored with the same lunch over and over. I think I take comfort in the consistency of having the same thing each day. So lunch next week is taken care of: I’ll get some salad greens and cilantro, a few cucumbers and avocados, make a ginger soy dressing, and toss some roast chicken on top and chow down. I’m happy already. :3

    As for dinners, I want to try my hand at palak paneer. One of my go-to frozen meals (aka lazy lunch of choice) is Tandoor Chef’s Palak Paneer, and I’ve been wanting to try making it myself for awhile. I’m undecided if I’ll try my hand at making the cheese. Downtown Puyallup has a cute little cheese store, so I’ll chat up the folks there and see what they recommend.

    I also have some frozen tenderloin steaks thanks to a Christmas sale at my local grocery store. One of my coworkers mentioned that she had some brussel sprouts to use up, so her husband tossed them in the roasting pan with some fig balsamic vinegar when he made a pot roast the other day, and the brussel sprouts were the most amazing thing ever, so I’m thinking I have to try that with one of the tenderloins, because yum. That may even have to be dinner tomorrow night, seeing as how I’m tired of chicken.

    I’m also going to try a roasted winter vegetable medley. It will depend on what looks good at the store, but I’m thinking golden beets and butternut and/or acorn squash. I’m eyeing a couple of beet salad recipes, and I have some lemon-thyme chicken gravy in the freezer that I want to use up. If it doesn’t thaw well, I’ll toss it in the crockpot when I make chicken stock. (Is there anything more satisfying than making stock? I don’t know what’s so comforting about it, but I love it.)

    And finally, I want soup. The first few days of next week are looking cold and rainy, and I want soup. I have never made butternut squash soup, so this may be the winter to try it. On the other hand, I need to pick up some carrots for chicken stock, and last winter, one of my friends forwarded me a recipe for carrot ginger soup, and I never tried it. Why didn’t I try it? I think I need to fix that.

    I think I just talked myself into the carrot ginger soup. I do live in Western Washington, so it’s going to be cold and rainy and soup weather-y for a few more weeks. I can put butternut squash soup on the next menu plan.

    So now I’m off to make my grocery list. What delicious food are you all planning to enjoy in the next few days? (Yes, this is a shameless attempt to collect more recipes. :3)