Caramel Apples #1

caramel-apple-01

This past weekend after visiting my sister-in-law at UW Madison we stopped at the Elegant Farmer in hopes of apple picking but because of the rain from Hurricane Ike we couldn’t. Instead we stocked up on apples, pumpkins, breads, and cheeses from their farm stand.

Caramel apples have to be the easiest fall festive menu item I can think of.

Cooks Note: Best consumed the same day but they will last in the fridge up to 3 days.

Caramel Apples

6 Apples, rinsed and refrigerated (I prefer Gala)
6 Popsicle sticks
14 oz Caramels
1/4 c. water
2 c. Peanuts, chopped (optional)
6 over sized cupcake liner

 

Insert Popsicle sticks about halfway into cold apples. Keep in fridge until ready to dip.

Heat caramel and water in crock pot (this keeps the heat uniform and constant) to 180F. Meanwhile, chop nuts and reserve in bowl. Dip apples in caramel and twist by popsicle stick to remove excess. Then roll in chopped peanuts (if using) then place on parchment paper and let cool in the fridge. Once cooled place in cupcake liner.

 

Cranberry Margaritas

cranberry margaritas

 

I could give you all of the excuses as to why I have not been around (started a new job, launched a blog with my sisters, the holidays, etc) but I have done that before. Truth be told, this blog is for me. I use it like a digital cookbook that I am constantly referring back to for tried and true recipes that my family loves. So who cares if it is updated three times a week (like in the good old days) or once every three months.

But enough with the rambling, what brought me back you ask? These cranberry margaritas (i.e a recipe worth documenting). I hosted my annual cookie exchange party a couple weeks ago and used these as one of the signature cocktails and just fell for them. The perfect treat for the holidays.

Who knows, perhaps I will see you in a few days or maybe next year. Regardless, I promise I will return with a great new recipe. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (just in case).

cranberry margaritas with lime

Cranberry Margaritas

Servings: 4 margaritas

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion

1 tbsp kosher salt

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch each of cinnamon

2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

4 oz freshly squeezed orange juice

6 oz tequila

8 tbsp cranberry jam

Mix salt, sugar and cinnamon together on a small plate. Rub the rims of 4 Old Fashioned glasses with a lime wedge. Dip rims in salt mixture and fill glasses with ice.

For each cocktail, combine ½ ounce lime juice, 1 ounce orange juice, 1½ ounces tequila, and 2 tablespoons of cranberry jam in a cocktail shaker; fill with ice. Cover and shake until outside is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into prepared glass.

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

I love a hearty comforting meal on Sunday evenings to end the week in a relaxing manner and prepare you for the week ahead. When I saw the beautiful eggplants at the farmer’s market last week I knew I waned to make Eggplant Parmesan for dinner that weekend.

I researched a lot of recipes and ultimately created my own using the basic idea found in many recipes along with modifications to fit our preferences. I am not a fan of tomato sauce in large quantities so the idea of serving him a dish loaded with layers of it would not have won him over. And I liked the idea of adding a bit more veggies to the dish (in the form of spinach) and also keeping the portions clear on this indulgent dish. So the result was these Eggplant Parmesan Stacks which are 2 (and a few with 3) layers of fried eggplant, cheese and spinach topped with tomato sauce and more cheese baked until bubbly. I used a combination of regular and smoked mozzarella cheese for some added flavor and really love the combination. We served one stack per person over lemon pepper pappardelle. It may not be the prettiest dish but it sure was delicious!

eggplant-parmesan-stacks

Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Inspiration: Food Network
Yield: 6 stacks (4 servings)

  • 2 c breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/2 c flour, for dredging
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 c tomato sauce
  • 1 c fresh spinach
  • 1 c mozzarella, grated
  • 1 c smoked mozzarella, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease 9×13 baking pan.

Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a cast iron skillet. Meanwhile, place the bread crumbs, herbs, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. In two additional bowls place the beaten eggs and flour. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds. Dip in flour, egg wash and bread crumb mixture and place on a baking sheet until all slices of eggplant are covered.

Working in small batches add the eggplant slices to the oil and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Transfer them back to the baking sheet until all slices are cooked.

Arrange 6 slices of eggplant in the baking dish. Top each with cheese and spinach. Then add another piece of eggplant. Top with tomato sauce and remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Indian Chickpeas & Spinach in a Tomato Cream Sauce

indian chickpeas and spinach in a tomato cream sauce

 

When I was in college I had the opportunity to study abroad (twice) in London. Before going all I heard was how horrible British food was. To be honest I was a little nervous about what I was going to eat for 6 months. But come on what could be better than fish and chips, scones, biscuits (aka cookies), and bitter (aka beer) ?! The US has no idea how to make these items the way they do in the UK, yum…. But I digress. I have to admit that yes some of the food was a little… different. The breakfast is something I do not miss, baked beans is just not my style at 8:00am. But one type of food did reign supreme in my opinion, Indian food. This is something I had never tasted before and it might as well be England’s national cuisine because it is extremely prevalent as it was brought to the country through their colony of India. (what a good move bringing that to the mainland)

Now, years after my amazing experience in London, I stumbled across this recipe and fell in love again. It had enough heat to make it worth it but the spice does not over power the flavors of the tomato, spinach, and chickpeas. I served this with naan (the best bread ever) and rice. It was even better the next day as the flavors really marinated.

 

indian chickpeas and spinach in a tomato cream sauce

 

Indian Chickpeas and Spinach in a Tomato Cream Sauce

Adapted from Savory Safari
Yield: 4 side servings or 2-3 entrees

2 cans chickpeas, drained & rinsed
5 oz fresh spinach
1 ½ c. tomato sauce
1/3 c whipping cream, at room temperature
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp Asian chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp masala

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook 2-3 minutes. Add chickpeas and toast, stirring frequently, for another 2 minutes or so.

Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Stir in all remaining spices and check seasoning, adding more of your favorite spices if desired.

Whisk in cream and return to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently.

Begin adding spinach in batches. Once all spinach is added, turn the heat down very low and cover. Simmer 5 minutes covered, and hold warm until ready to serve.

I have also tried this in the slow cooker. I just put all ingredients in except the cream, cooked on high for 1-2 hours (until all ingredients were hot and flavors combined), added the cream and turned the heat to low and cooked for another 30 minutes or so.