Monday, October 18, 2010

Baked Apples with Dried Fruit and Walnuts

I actually timed the making of this dish perfectly. Alabama had a strange heat wave that lasted almost a week. But the morning I woke up and saw that it was perfectly cool inside my apartment I knew it was time to make something warm and cozy. Baked apples sounded like the perfect thing. This is a little more complex than the butter and caramel candy version you made in elementary school (when you were studying Johnny Appleseed). I think you'll love it!

I found the recipe on Eating Well's Facebook page. They even knew how to sell it to me with the line "served with a dollop of vanilla yogurt". At that point, I knew I was in. It's also pretty easy if you keep a stocked pantry. My room mate had just made apple cider, so we had plenty in the fridge. I had everything else but the nuts and presserves. I couldn't find apricot presserves at the corner market ran by an Indian family (which means it's an interesting place to visit), but they had peach presserves. So I figured that was an easy substitution. I also used molasses instead of maple syrup (much cheaper and already in my pantry). Don't even think about using pancake syrup. I might have to come and slap you if I find out.

All I can say is that it's the perfect fall breakfast or dessert. And because it's dessert... I never feel the need to make just two servings! I ate it with yogurt for breakfast, but I think it would be good with oatmeal too!

Baked Apples with Dried Fruit and Walnuts
(Serves 6)

6 medium Golden Delicious apples
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup raisins, or dried cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, (optional)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a shallow 8-by-12-inch (or similar) baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Core apples all the way through with an apple corer, making a 1-inch-wide hole. Peel the upper third of each apple. Using a sharp paring knife, score the flesh about 1/4 inch deep around the circumference, more or less where the peeled and unpeeled areas meet. With the paring knife angled down, cut a shallow crater around the top of the hole to help hold the preserves that will go there. Set aside while you make the filling.

3. Place walnuts, raisins (or dried cranberries) and coconut (if using) in a food processor. Chop the mixture fairly well, but not too fine; you want it to remain somewhat textured. Add syrup, lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg; pulse several times to combine.

4. Place the apples in the prepared baking dish and gently press 1/4 cup filling into each cavity. Spoon a generous tablespoon of preserves onto the crater of each apple.

5. Combine cider and butter in a small saucepan; heat over low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Pour the liquid over and around the apples.

6. Cover the apples loosely with tented foil and bake on the center rack for 30 minutes. Remove foil and baste the apples well. Continue to bake, uncovered, for 20 to 35 minutes more (depending on the size of the apples), basting every 10 minutes, until the apples are tender throughout. The best way to test them is with a thin bamboo skewer; the slightest bit of resistance near the center is OK because they'll finish cooking as they cool. Let the apples cool right in the pan, basting periodically. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, with some of the pan juices spooned over each.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekly Menu | Week of October 18

This week I really tried to keep the menu simple and utilizing what I have at home. I have some eggplant that must be used up, so I am eating it Monday and using it in the sandwich on Friday. And I think I'll finally make a big batch of Lebanese Beans to freeze.

With things how they are, I can't promise I'll cook any of this. I might just end up roasting some veg and eating it with couscous every day.

Monday: Roasted Eggplant, Lebanese Beans, Potato and Olive Salad
Tuesday: Black Bean-Smothered Sweet Potatoes
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Winter Squash Soup
Friday: Grilled Vegetable and Feta Panini (or pita), Cucumber Salad
Saturday: Spaghetti with Fried Eggs, Leftovers
Sunday: Caramelized Onion and Tomato (Pita) Pizza, Leftovers

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food Waste Friday | Sometimes crap happens...

Well my lovely readers, it has been a rough week for Mandy. I spent some of it recuperating from my out of town work trip and most of it contemplating the purpose of life.

The stress of everything made me clean instead of cook (not necessarily a bad thing). So now I have a nice clean apartment, but didn't cook a thing. Literally. The week isn't over yet, so we'll see what happens. The most I can hope for is a cook and freeze marathon on Sunday to keep more stuff from going bad.

Needless to say, I have a lot of food waste.

1.5 lbs of catfish fillets
6 cups of lime cilantro slaw
1 small head of lettuce (I can't seem to make myself eat it! I love salad!!)
An egg (cracked open but never used)
Okra and Rice
1 Lemon

And probably some other things.

Just so you know, the blog may be a little slower the next couple of months as I recoup. But I do not plan to give up on the blog just yet. I want to at least cook for a complete year before I throw in the blogging towel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lamb Chops with Lebanese Green Beans

This was hands down the yummiest meal I have ever eaten at home. Dennis actually cooked the meat while I cooked everything else. The next best part.... the meal (if portioned out correctly) is under 500 calories! EatingWell never lets me down (examples here, here, here, and here)! I may actually have to subscripe to their magazine if they keep up with the great recipes.

This is not an every week meal, hell it's barely an every month meal. However, there is no reason not to treat yourself to a special meal every now and then. I was actually just browsing the EatingWell website for greenbean recipes. Lebanese beans are something Dennis and I have both enjoyed at festivals and restaurants, so I knew when I found the recipe it would be a winner. However, it was attached to a whole meal plan that consisted of lamb chops and whole grain pilaf. I made it all and we ate it all! It was so good! If you happened to have missed the Middle Eastern Food Festival here in Birmingham, AL - then you can relive it at home!

I actually called ahead to make sure Publix had lamb chops. I absolutely cut this recipe in half. I had no desire to spend $20+ on meat. V Richards also carried lamb chops, but I didn't care to know what they charged. If you don't like lamb or can't find it, steak would substitute nicely.

The lamb is actually simply seasoned, seared, and finished in the oven. A task I gave to Dennis. The green beans were quite easy to prepare and I know this will most likely be how I make green beans in the future. If you don't have fresh tomatoes, buy canned whole tomatoes and chop them up. I did thin out the beans with some broth (cause I don't think I put in quite enough tomatoes) and cooked them until they were soft. That's how Dennis and I prefer them, but if you like your beans firmer, then cook as desired.

I'll post the recipe for Whole Grain Pilaf another day!

Lamb Chops with Lebanese Green Beans
(Serves 4)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or 2 teaspoons dried, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
3 cups diced tomatoes, (4-5 medium)
1/3 cup water
12 ounces green beans, trimmed
8 lamb loin chops, trimmed (1 1/2-1 3/4 pounds total)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and light brown, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon fresh mint (or 1 teaspoon dried), cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and water and increase heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in green beans. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are tender, about 12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of lamb chops with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the lamb chops and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn them over and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into a chop registers 140°F for medium-rare, 6 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness.

4. Stir the remaining mint into the green bean mixture. Serve the lamb chops with the green beans.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekly Menu | Week of October 11

There were no updates this week because between my birthday and going out of town for work - there was no time for cooking. Dennis cooked me a wonderful lasagna for my birthday. Maybe one day he'll guest post for me!

Dennis also scored some VIP tickets to Break N Bread. I stuffed myself silly with really awesome food. Other than feeling like a total fat ass for the rest of the day, it really inspired me to find some great recipes to make at home. Next Special Occasion Dinner: Scallops! Stay tuned my darlings.

There is no delivery this week from Grow Alabama. This actually happened at a perfect time, because it will allow me to catch up and really use up some of my veggies. Right now I am overstocked with green beans, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Some of the green beans will be frozen and the rest will be eaten through out the week. Thankfully, potatoes and squash last a good long time in the pantry. So I am in no hurry to use those up.

I finally paid off my fines at the library, so now I am once again in research mode. I have got some great cookbooks checked out. Hopefully I can find some solid fall recipes that can easily be divided or frozen. I definitely have some recipes that I am excited about making in the next couple of weeks.

So here is the plan for the week....

Monday: Sidewalk Film Festival Volunteer Party at Rojo
Tuesday: Mediterranean Vegetable Casserole (from freezer) over Polenta
Wednesday: Lamb and Eggplant Ragu over Whole Wheat Pasta
Thursday: Pumpkin Carving & Chili with Friends (Bringing Baked Apple Oatmeal Pudding)
Friday: Vegetable Fried Rice with Cucumber Salad

Saturday: Apple Pancakes with molasses or honey
Leftovers for Lunch
Lebanese Beans, Whole Grain Pilaf, Hummus, Baba Ganouj, Pita Bread

Sunday: Potato & Artichoke Fritatta
Curried Squash Soup
Leftovers for Dinner

Friday, October 1, 2010

Food Waste Friday

For this Food Waste Friday I thought I would address the other side of Food Waste (besides the nastiness below). The one that doesn't include letting a peach rot on you counter.


Gluttony is a serious issue in the United States. We eat when we know we are full or not hungry at all. That's pure waste. The money spent on food we eat when we aren't hungry could have been saved for a great trip out of town or compounded on a good quality cheese. Instead we look for the cheapest we can find so we can get more food to snack on during reruns on TV. I was watching a small snippet of a weight loss TV show and it claimed that in the overweight community there are more obese people that just overweight people! This is truly amazing to me. I solely put the blame on large scale farming.

Modern Americans actually spend less of their income on food than they did 50 or so years ago. However, they eat about quadruple the amount of meat and cheese. We also have tons of cheap junk food readily available in cute colorful packaging that everyone loves to pop open (remember the Pringles commercials from the 90s).

I could go on, but the doom and gloom of it all you've heard a million times. Instead I am going to focus on what we can strive to do.

1. Eat in season: Preferably with produce from your local farms, but if that's not an option learn what vegetables are in season. Tip: I cook in season! So just about any of the produce I am currently writing about is good to go!

2. Eat just what you need: Cook and eat just what you need for one meal. This will eliminate the temptation for seconds or thirds when you aren't really hungry. Lucky for you, most of the recipes featured on this blog are either perfectly portions or can easily be scaled down!

3. Support Local Farms: In order to rebuild a food system that sustains our bodies health, we have got to quit contributing to large scale productions of food. Even if you can't afford to eat a complete local diet, find one way you can support a local farmer. Perhaps you buy local meat once or two a week/month. Or maybe you could buy farm fresh eggs. Heck, fall is a great time to support local farms by checking out pumpkin patches and apple orchards!

Ok really... here is my actual food waste. No so great!

One head of butter lettuce
2 tiny eggplants (they were each smaller than my fist)
1 single stalk of green onion
1/4 package of fresh basil (it wasn't so fresh anymore)
Leftover sushi
1 Tomato
leftover heavy whipping cream
Spoiled milk