Friday, October 28, 2011

A plug for Homemade Applesauce - and a bit of Zucchini Advice

I think the smell of cooking apples is the epitome of fall. I spent this week making applesauce - pretty easy and VERY yummy. (And a great, cheap first food for babies. My kids' first solid food experiences involved hefty amounts of instant oatmeal mixed with homemade applesauce.)
Apples are plentiful in the fall. Even if you don't own an apple tree, chances are you know someone who does, and is willing to share if you pick. Craigslist and the classifieds are also good places to look. Many people will offer apples for free to those who will come pick.
Applesauce can be made a variety of ways and with a variety of flavors. I keep it simple - no spices, maybe a bit of sugar if needed; it can always be spiced later.
Making applesauce doesn't require any major equipment at all - just peel, core, cook the apples, mash them and freeze.
I bottle my sauce. Since I make it in quantity, I use a Victorio strainer. It is an ingenious pioneer contraption. I quarter the apples, cook them, and them run them through the strainer, and the strainer pushes sauce through a sieve while sending the peels, seeds and stems out another side. I lucked out and found an ancient one at a second hand store for a couple of dollars. They can also be bought (see Amazon) for a bit of an investment (but worth it if you make a lot). No peeling or coring!
 Applesauce can then be spiced or sweetened if you choose, put in jars and processed in a water bath canner.
Some good instructions and pictures of the whole process can be found here.

And now for a zucchini tidbit: I learned the hard way that zucchini peels should not be frozen. If you want to grate and freeze zucchini for use in breads and soups all year, PEEL it first. Zucchini and yellow summer squash freeze well for year-round use. Just peel, grate, and freeze in ziploc bags of a cup or two. I left the peels on one year, and they NEVER soften. We had zucchini bread with horribly hard crunchy peels. I also tried it in quiche - and ruined the quiche. Of course, maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know this. I mentioned my experience once in a group of women, and got "the look" from all of them, which meant, "You're kidding that you didn't know that, right?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perfect Fall Days and Perfect Pot Pie

Yesterday was a perfect day. I spent most of the day in the kitchen making apple pie and a delicious apple, onion, sausage, sweet potato pot pie. I turned on some good music, the kids helped me, and we had the day to cut, peel, mix, and savor the good smells. The weather was cool and gray - perfect for a cozy day of baking.
While homemade crusts and pies are pretty labor-intensive, and I don't feel like spending every day in the kitchen, it was invigorating to be relaxed and at home and domestic.
I am so glad I am able to be at home to experience days like yesterday. They make me happy to be alive, be a mom, and know how to cook from scratch. Plus, I got compliments from my husband and kids all evening. Should I get mercenary and mention that the whole wonderful day of baking cost around $5? Yay for homemaking! Yay for being a mom! Yay for ovens and rolling pins and fall days!
And here's the most delicious pot pie you will ever taste:
Turkey, Onion, and Apple Pot Pie
Recipe from Sunset Magazine

·                                 2  onions (1 lb. total)
·                                 2  Golden Delicious apples (1 lb. total)
·                                 1  or 2 yams (1 lb. total)
·                                 1  tablespoon  butter or margarine
·                                 1 1/2  pounds  ground turkey or turkey sausage patties
·                                 2  teaspoons  dried rubbed sage
·                                 1 1/3  cups  fat-skimmed chicken broth
·                                 2/3  cup  apple juice
·                                 3  tablespoons  cornstarch
·                                 Salt and pepper
·                                 1  tablespoon  whipping cream or beaten egg
·                                 pastry for a nine inch pie
Peel onions and thinly slice crosswise. Peel and core apples; thinly slice crosswise. Peel yams; cut in half lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise. Melt butter in a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat. Crumble turkey into pan; stir often until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  Add onions, apples, yams, sage, and; cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Uncover, turn heat to high, and stir often until liquid is evaporated and onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix broth, juice, and cornstarch. Add to turkey mixture and stir until it boils and thickens. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes. Spoon mixture into a shallow, round 1 1/2- to 2-quart casserole or a 10-inch pie pan that holds at least 6 cups.  On a lightly floured board, roll pastry  into a round about 2 inches wider than the diameter of the casserole or pie pan. Center pastry over filling; trim edges to overhang rim about 1 inch. Fold overhang under pastry flush with rim. Flute pastry firmly against casserole or pan rim and slash top decoratively. If desired, reroll pastry scraps, cut into decorative shapes, and lay on top of pie. Set pie on a foil-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Brush top with cream. Bake in a 375° regular or convection oven until pastry is well browned and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. If crust rim darkens excessively before center browns, fold foil from sheet up to cover rim loosely. Spoon pastry and filling from casserole to serve. Yields 6-8 servings.

Notes: I add a bottom crust as well. I also omit the caraway seeds. This pie is a little work, but SO worth it!