Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cheddar and Italian Cracker Snacks

Cheddar and Italian Cracker Snacks


Who remembers these? Way back in the 80's we were all making ranch flavored pretzel snacks and oyster cracker snacks for the holidays. Nothing new at all, but for this version I've changed up the flavor in a very delicious and slightly healthier way.

In lieu of the usual amount of oil and packet of ranch dressing, I've used a packet of Italian dressing and a new and wonderful find, Cabot Cheddar Shake! Powdered Premium Cheddar Cheese. Wow, is this stuff ever good and addictive.

We, of course, tried it first on popcorn and it took everything we had not to make bowl after bowl after bowl. After that I shook it on potato wedges before baking and fell in love with that, as well. Then the kids reminded me of the ranch cracker snacks and I got to thinking (not always a safe bet) and decided cheddar and Italian seasoning would be awesome. I was right.

These are so easy to make and use far less oil than the traditional version and I have two methods for making them. One is the usual oil and seasoning packet and the other is a lighter option using fat-free Italian dressing. Try both and see what you think. Either way, we like to bake ours until they begin to brown for added flavor.

Cheddar and Italian Cracker Snacks
Makes 10 cups
Hands-On Time: 5 minutes
Ready In: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

20 to 24 ounces oyster crackers (usually sold in bags of 10 to 12 ounces)
1 packet dry Italian dressing seasoning mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup Cabot Cheddar Shake! Powdered Premium Cheddar Cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

1. Place crackers in a large bowl and pour oil over all. Reach in with your hands (or use a spoon) and mix them up well until all are coated.
2. Sprinkle the Italian seasoning over the crackers and again mix up well until all crackers are lightly coated with seasoning.
3. Sprinkle powdered cheese over crackers and mix well.
4. Spread onto a baking sheet or two so you have an even layer of crackers.
5. Bake for 15 minutes and stir once. Bake for another 15 minutes until beginning to brown lightly.
6. Remove from oven, stir and cool completely. You can add another two tablespoons or so of cheese at this time if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

*You can use 1/3 cup of fat-free Italian dressing in place of oil and Italian seasoning for a lighter version.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Butternut Squash, Potato and Cheddar Mash


In my family we have mashed potato lovers and butternut squash lovers, and those who love both. This dual mash with sharp cheddar is so good you'll want to make it for more than just holidays. It's savory-sweet with a tang from sour cream and cheddar that just puts it over the top on flavor. Serve with your favorite protein and a heaping serving of green veggies.

Butternut Squash, Potato and Cheddar Mash
Serves 8

2 pounds potatoes - peeled, cubed and cooked until tender
2 pounds butternut squash - peeled, seeded and roasted until soft
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 stick butter
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups finely shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

1. Drain potatoes well and combine with cooked squash in a large pot. Add butter and once it melts, mash well.
2. Add milk, sour cream, salt and pepper and mix with a hand mixer until smooth and fluffy.
3. Fold in cheese, mound in a serving dish, sprinkle with extra cheese and serve immediately.

*To cook butternut squash, peel and seed and cut into 1-inch chunks. Lay on a roasting pan and sprinkle with olive oil. Roast at 450 degrees F for 20 - 25 minutes or until soft and just beginning to caramelize.


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Kids Quest at Sands Bethlehem Review and Giveaway

We have a winner! With each comment given a number in the order in which they were received, the random number generator gave me #2, which is Bobbie Butz! Congratulations to our winner and thanks to all who entered.



*Please note: This Giveaway is lightning fast! It will end on Thursday, December 4th at 11:59 PM EST so the winner will have time to use the Kids Quest Certificate. See instructions below.

All Smiles at Kids Quest!

I don't know about the rest of the parenting world, but for me the biggest obstacle in going out on dates has been childcare. There are many qualified sitters out there, but with the amount of children we have it's not always easy to get a sitter who's willing to deal with them.

Now that most of them are older and we really only need a sitter for two, that presents its own challenge. Sometimes the older kids are willing to babysit and sometimes they have things going on that keep them from being able to.

Kids Quest is the perfect solution for date nights. It's convenient, the kids are well taken care of, and most of all, they don't see it as having a sitter, but more like having their own night out and it's close to the same cost of an in-home sitter.

Last night we took advantage of the services at Kids Quest and dropped off the 10 and 8 year-old kids. I had registered ahead of time online (very easy!) and so all my information was already there. I signed the kids in, they were tagged front and back with labels that matched a bar coded label put on my own ID. 

The kids removed there shoes (this is a socks-only play area) and off they went. They looked a little apprehensive at first, but by the time I got back for them just under two hours later the first thing Lara said was, "I want to live here!" She had been painting a picture and was up to her elbows in paint - so it's a good idea to send along an old shirt or smock should the kids decide to do crafts.

Ian spent most of his time watching a movie and playing video games and the two of them had their own "dinner" from the Quest Cafe and when I picked them up I paid for their meals and stay. It was a very simple procedure and they were thrilled to be there and having fun while the rest of us went upstairs to Emeril's Italian Table for dinner.

Here is all you need to know about Kids Quest at Sands Bethlehem:
Kids Quest is now officially open to drop-off your children at our exciting new center. You can then enjoy any of the casino property amenities or shop at the Outlets at Sands. 
Play Time For Kids- Free Time For You!
Kids Quest is designed to be a place where kids are physically and mentally engaged with age-appropriate play-events, helping them grow happily! Parents love Kids Quest because they can entrust their children to our care with complete confidence-allowing parents to use their free time to better handle busy schedules, cope with frenetic lifestyles, or just take a break and relax and re-energize. 
Kids Quest Drop In Process
Like Kids Quest-Sands Bethlehem on Facebook
Hours:
Monday-Thursday 10AM-11PM
Friday 10AM-1AM
Saturday 10AM-1AM
Sunday 10AM-11PM

As for Emeril's Italian Table, this time was just as good as the last visit. Our servers were attentive and professional and the food was excellent. We took 4 of the 7 kids with us and they all said they wanted to go back sometime soon.

This time we sampled the Classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, Linguine Alfredo, Shrimp Scampi and Angel Hair Pasta, Homemade Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan and the Eberly Farms Chicken Plate. Wow. Not only is the food consistently delicious, it doesn't seem to matter what you order, it's always perfection.


The Eberly Farms Chicken Plate - this was fantastic!

Shrimp Scampi with Angel Hair Pasta
Homemade Lasagna

The Eberly Farms Chicken Plate was mine and I was in food heaven after one bite of the brussels sprouts with pancetta. They were creamy and smoky and paired so well with the saffron risotto. The chicken was flavorful and there wasn't one dry bite to the entire breast. 

We're planning to go for Christmas Eve dinner, as well and I can't wait to try something new and wonderful! Now, here is YOUR chance to visit Emeril's Italian Table and make use of the services at Kids Quest, as well. 

**Simply leave a comment here and you're entered to win! Remember, this contest ends on Thursday, December 4th at 11:59 PM so enter SOON!**

Here is what you will receive, and let me tell you, the Sands goodies are so fun to have - the umbrella is quality and smart looking, the water bottle has a unique design and the kids absolutely love the puzzle box.


1 Emeril's Italian Table $75 Gift Certificate (expires 7/31/15)
2 Kids Quest Certificates (expires 12/30/14)
1 Sands Bethlehem Umbrella
1 Sands Bethlehem Puzzle Box
1 Sands Bethlehem Eco Water Bottle

*Please note: I was given gift certificates directly from Sands Bethlehem specifically for the purpose of reviewing Kids Quest and the restaurant and I was more than happy to oblige. Please note that the benefit of having my kids time at Kids Quest and my meal paid for does not in any way influence my review. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Candy Acorns

PB and Chocolate Candy Acorns
Candy Acorns

Two favorite flavors, peanut butter and chocolate, combine in these adorable little acorn-shaped candies. They are a perfect complement to any autumn holiday table and fun for everyone when paired with real or artificial oak tree leaves.

The amount of powdered sugar you need will depend on the humidity in the room and the texture of the peanut butter you use.


Candy Acorns

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields 48 candies

Ingredients:

3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Directions:

1. Blend together well, butter, peanut butter and extract. Add powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until a stiff and smooth dough forms. Refrigerate briefly (5 minutes) if dough is too soft.
2. Divide dough into 48 elongated balls and roll each between your hands, pinching at one end, to form an acorn.
3. Set pointed side up on a parchment or waxed paper lined cookie sheet. Once all acorns are formed, refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up candies.
4. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or 1 to 2 minutes in a microwave, until smooth.
5. Dip each acorn, smooth top-side down, into chocolate. Twist lightly and pull gently to form the acorn cap and stem. Set back on the cookie sheet, sides down this time, and refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Cooking with Kids

Check out this awesome infographic from Cabot Cheese with all sorts of tips about cooking with kids. This is something I do often, and with Thanksgiving just around the corner you can garner help from the littles in your house and they will surely appreciate the meal more than they would if they didn't pitch in. It's an excellent way to teach them so many things at one time. Give this a look! (Click to View Larger)

Cooking With Kids Infographic
Presented By Cabot Cheese



Mini Cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls
Mini Cheese Balls

If cheese balls are the hit of the party, mini cheese balls are an even bigger hit. Do you know why they're better? Coatings. Yep, when it comes to cheese balls, I like equal parts coating and cheese, but with a big cheese ball, you can't get that. Once that outer crunchiness and extra pop of flavor is gone, it's all cheese. These minis solve that problem and they're cute to boot!

Bacon Coated Mini Cheese Balls
Oh, yes you can. Bacon coated mini cheese balls.


These are perfect for a holiday cheese and cracker plate and my kids also like these for after school snacks. They each like different coatings, so I mix it up for them. Use your imagination and see how many coatings you can come up with.

Mini Cheese Balls
Mini Cheese Balls


Mini Cheese Balls

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 40 minutes
Yield: Makes 36 cheese balls

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon paprika (I like smoked paprika for this)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped nuts, small seeds, chopped herbs, crumbled cooked bacon, etc. optional

Directions:

1. Soften cream cheese at room temperature.
2. Blend with shredded cheese and seasonings until well combined.
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, covered, until firm enough to roll.
4. Roll into 36 balls (about 1-inch in diameter) and roll each ball in chopped nuts, seeds, herbs or bacon if desired.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce

Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce
Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce

Sweet potato pie is a staple in the deep South, differing from pumpkin pie by mere spices. Quick to make and paired with a sweet Praline Sauce, it's just the right dessert for any Cajun meal or holiday table. It's also the best alternative to pumpkin pie, so if you have pumpkin pie haters at your feast this year, give this one a try.


Sweet Potato Pie with Praline Sauce

Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours
Serves: 8

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes - about 1 pound
1 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 9-inch pie shell, baked

Directions:

1. Prick sweet potatoes and bake in a 450 degree F oven for 50 minutes or until soft. Cool and remove skins.
2. Combine potatoes with cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Pour into baked pie shell and bake in a 375 degree F oven for 50 minutes, or until center of pie is set.
4. Cool completely and serve topped with Praline Sauce.


Pralines (said like PRAW-leen if you're from the South) are the most commonly found and popular candy in New Orleans. There are candy shops devoted to the confection. This heavenly rich sauce has all the flavor of a true praline and is perfect drizzled atop vanilla ice cream, cake or Sweet Potato Pie.

Praline Sauce

Hands-On Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Serves: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.


Directions:

1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine butter and brown sugar over medium-high heat. Stir until thick and sugar begins to dissolve.
2. Add evaporated milk and stir well. Heat untli bubbling. Continue to cook and stir for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and add pecans and vanilla. Stir well and let cool for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened before serving.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Tortilla Española

 Tortilla Española


Tortilla Española is a traditional Spanish dish served at many local restaurants and bars in Spain. Served hot or cold it's delicious either way. The oil may seem excessive, but is necessary for the true flavor of the tortilla. Honestly, don't freak out about it, you'll be blissfully unaware after your first bite!

Tortilla Española


Tortilla Española
Printable Recipe
Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 45 minutes
Yield: 12 as an appetizer, 6 as a meal

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold Potatoes or other waxy potato, peeled, quartered and sliced thinly
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 whole eggs
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over low heat, add the potatoes, onions and salt and cook, turning often, for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender but not browned.
2. Drain potatoes in a colander over a bowl. Drain as much oil as possible and reserve 2 tablespoons of the cooking oil.
3. Beat eggs well and add paprika, salt and pepper. Pour hot potatoes into eggs and stir well.
4. Put the 2 tablespoons of oil back into the same skillet and pour in the potatoes and eggs.
5. Turn heat to medium and cook until eggs are nearly set on top, 5-7 minutes.
6. Put a large plate facedown over the skillet and invert the tortilla.
7. Slide the tortilla back into the skillet, uncooked side down, and cook for another 3 minutes.
8. Slide tortilla onto a plate and cool for several minutes before cutting.


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Sausage Gravy and Bacon Biscuit Wedges

Sausage Gravy and Bacon Biscuit Wedges
Sausage Gravy and Bacon Biscuit Wedges
That's right ... heart attack on a plate. Now, I don't mean to cause anyone harm or ruin your health, but we don't eat this way every day. I think saving something like this for once in a while is just fine. After all, my grandma lived to 97 on this type of food and a happy heart.

All kidding aside, if you're going to eat something bad for you, do it right, just don't do it often. This recipe calls for real butter, real sausage, real bacon and real milk - and I don't mean the skim kind. If you really need to you can go for turkey sausage and turkey bacon, just please don't use margarine for those biscuits, they really won't taste the same.

Cut butter into small cubes - about 1/2" each and add to flour, baking powder and salt mixture.


Add crumbled bacon - about 8 slices will yield 1/2 cup.


The best way to get the butter into the flour mixture is to rub it in with your hands. You can use a fork or pastry cutter, but you won't be able to feel if there are larger lumps of butter left. 


Once the milk is added and the dough comes together it needs to be kneaded. About 5 folds and turns should do it; the less you handle the dough, the more tender it will be. When the bacon bits pop out of the dough (they will!)  make sure you push them back in there, you don't want to lose any of it. 


Roll or press dough into an 8-inch circle - even if it doesn't look like a circle when you're done.


Score and then cut dough into 8 even wedges.


Put wedges on a greased pan or use silicone as above. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 - 21 minutes.


Baked and risen bacon biscuit wedges. Let cool briefly before splitting. 


Cook sausage until no longer pink. Add flour and stir well until no dry flour is visible. Add milk slowly, 2 cups first then stir until it starts to thicken. Add remaining milk one cup at a time until thickened as desired.


Add as much black pepper as you like - we like 2 teaspoons for our double batch.



Around here we double the recipe and each person gets 2 biscuits and a bucketful of gravy.

Sausage Gravy and Bacon Biscuit Wedges
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

For the Bacon Biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup bacon crumbles - about 4 slices
1 cup milk or buttermilk


Directions:

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Cut in butter and bacon until mixture resembles large crumbs.
3. Add milk half a cup at a time until a soft dough forms.
4. Knead dough about 5 turns and folds - less is better.
5. Form into an 8-inch disc and cut into 8 even wedges.
6. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 15-21 minutes or until risen and lightly browned.

For the Sausage Gravy

Ingredients:

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

1. Cook sausage in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan until no longer pink.
2. Add flour and stir well until no dry areas are left.
3. Add milk, 1 cup at first, and stir until it begins to thicken.
4. Add remaining milk a cup at a time until the gravy is the consistency you like.
5. Taste for seasoning and add salt if you like.
6. Add pepper and stir well. Serve over bacon biscuits cut in half lengthwise.



Monday, October 27, 2014

Meyer Lemon Cake with Chocolate Filling and Lemon Glaze

Meyer Lemon Cake
Meyer Lemon Cake with Chocolate Filling and Lemon Glaze

Yes, I baked again. I feel as though I bake very often - it's what the kids like - but I DO make savory dishes ... I promise. I couldn't help but make this cake. I came across Meyer lemons at Wegmans the other day (so early in the season!) and had to buy them; they're so difficult to find here. Once I had them I honestly had no clue what I was going to do with them.

Then came work. A very dear woman who was working with us for about half a year left us to go home to Florida this week and another worker made her a lemon cake as a sweet send-off. Now, the worker who made it was raised on boxed cake mix and quite honestly doesn't have much time at home to make anything from scratch, so she did her very best, and sweetest, and whipped up that cake for our friend. I then knew what I would be doing with those lemons - making a cake the way I was raised ... from scratch.

The kids were interested in the smooth-skinned specimens and all wanted to try this slightly sweeter lemon. They all liked it and milled about the kitchen as I made the cakes. Once they were baked and cooled and I was making the chocolate filling they were even more interested and the only question on their lips at the sight of the smooth chocolate icing was, "Is that for dessert after dinner?" Though I was done by 1 in the afternoon I had to crush their little hopes and tell them that it was indeed not going to be consumed until later in the day. Poor dears.

Here's the recipe in all its lemony-chocolaty loveliness. Please do let me know if you've made it so we can swap notes.

Meyer Lemon Cake with Chocolate Filling and Lemon Glaze
Beautiful, light and delicious cake!

Meyer Lemon Cake with Chocolate Filling and Lemon Glaze
Makes 1 cake

Ingredients:

3 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon grated Meyer lemon zest
2 sticks unsalted butter cut into cubes
4 1/2  cups cake flour
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
8 large egg whites

Chocolate Filling*
Lemon Glaze**

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 10-inch round cake pans.
2. In a large mixing bowl pour in sugar and add lemon zest. Work zest into sugar well until fragrant. Add butter and beat until fluffy. Set aside.
3. In another smaller bowl combine flour, salt and baking powder.
4. In a third bowl combine egg whites and buttermilk.
5. Add flour and buttermilk mixture to sugar and butter a little at a time until well combined. This makes a thick batter.
6. Pour evenly into both cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pans.
7. Cover bottom layer with chocolate on the top only. Add second layer and pour glaze over the top. Serve at once.

Notes: Meyer lemons are very hard to zest - I removed the skin and scraped the pith before mincing with a knife. When using zest, always rub it together with the sugar for the very best fragrance and flavor.


*Chocolate Filling:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 Tablespoons butter
1 - 2 cups confectioner's sugar
Milk as needed

Melt together chips and butter. Add in confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup at a time until smooth and spreadable. Add milk if needed to thin as you go.


**Lemon Glaze:

3 cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
Milk as needed

Combine sugar and juice. Stir well and add milk as needed to thin into a drizzling consistency.




Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Apple Cakey Pie Thing Gooey Goodness

Apple Cakey Pie Thing Gooey Goodness

A couple weeks ago I came across a cake on a site (thanks to Mark Boxshus, A.K.A. Boscoe the Cookie Doctor) and thought it looked awesome, but there was no way it would work. I also thought it would be awesome with a topping like the one we use for Nana's Apple Cake.







I had no idea how this monster of a thing would turn out so I tried it. I tweaked it here and there and made it several times before I was happy with it. Just the photos alone on Facebook and Instagram stirred people.

When I posted to Instagram I called it: "Apple cakey pie thing gooey goodness" and SoVeryDomestic remarked, "That should really be the official name." So, I obliged and here we are. 




The first time I made it several of the kids said it was the best apple pie they ever had. It's not quite a pie, though, so we called it "pie cake". The inside seems to be almost not fully done, but it is - we struggled to find the right words for the consistency and realized it's almost like the texture you get when you let ice cram melt on your crumb-topped pie. It's really wonderful.



Apple Cakey Pie Thing Gooey Goodness

Apple Cakey Pie Thing Gooey Goodness
Serves 10-12
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

Crust and topping:

2 sticks butter (1 cup) cut into small pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Filling:

12 small or 8 large Granny Smith apples - peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake:

1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1. Combine crust and topping ingredients: Stir together flour, sugar and cinnamon - rub into butter until crumbly. Set aside 1/3 of this and press the rest into a 10-inch springform pan. Cover the bottom and press part way up the sides - about 1/2 an inch up.

2. Combine apples and brown sugar with cinnamon. Toss well to coat. Pour into crust. This should come up to the top and possibly slightly over.

3. Stir together cake ingredients: Melt butter and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add milk and egg and blend well. Stir in flour and baking powder. Pour over top of apples and tap to help it cover over the apples well.

4. Crumble the rest of the topping across the cake and set on a baking sheet.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until browned on top and bubbly at the edge.

6. Let cool well (about an hour) and run a knife around the edge. Slice now if you wish or remove ring and cut into 10-12 pieces.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Apple Season

Bag of Apples
Apples from friends are the best!

It's no surprise to anyone I know that fall is my favorite time of year. There are so many reasons why, but one of the biggest is that it's prime time for apples. I have my favorites there, as well; Granny Smith or Pink Lady for eating, and a mix of Granny Smith and Macintosh for baking and cooking. Just this month I was introduced to SweeTango apples and fell in love with those, too.

I also get into the kitchen more in autumn, with apples ripe for the picking, pumpkins abound and meats being smoked for preserving ... it just makes me want to cook - and eat! This year (and at least one year past) I had a friend who picked apples from another friend's tree and dropped off what felt like about 40 pounds of apples. It was one packed bag. One look in that bag and I knew I'd be in the kitchen for days creating wonderful things.


Processing Apples
Processing apples for applesauce.

The first thing we did was process a bunch for applesauce  - I think we ended up with a gallon! It's so easy, just peel, core and chop, add a little water, sugar and cinnamon to taste and cook until mushy. I run mine through a food mill, but you can also put them in a food processor and pulse until it's the consistency you like. Mine doesn't last so long here, so I simply refrigerate until it's eaten up. You can surely can it and here are some great directions for that: Canning Applesauce.


Making Applesauce
Apples ready to cook into applesauce.

The next thing I did was process apples for pie filling, which is then put in the freezer to use at a later date. With a 60 hour work week and 7 kids, I need all the time I can get and freezing foods helps me so much in that department.

Freezer Pie Filling
Apple Pie Filling ready for the freezer.

This is very simple. Start with your favorite pie apple - I like Granny Smith or a mixture of Granny Smith and Macintosh - about 5 or 6 large apples will make an 8-inch pie. I used 15 - 20 medium apples and had enough for 3 pies. These apples were tart, so I added a little more sugar than usual to them, some cinnamon and a bit of flour to help thicken as they bake and also to help soak up some of the juices that are inevitable from thawing frozen apples. I tossed every thing with my hands and then divided it into labeled bags (label them before you fill them to make that step easier) - about 3 cups of filling per bag. Into the freezer they went and when I need one I'll remove it ahead of time and let thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Voila!

Freezer Apple Pie Filling
Thawed filling in pie crust.


You can cook this and cool before freezing or cook once thawed (see directions). You can also thaw and dump into crusts and bake! I've found just about any way works. This is perfect for nights when I really want a pie but don't want to do all that peeling. You can also make pie dough ahead of time, shape into discs and freeze as well until you need it!

Apple Pie Filling for the Freezer
Makes 1 pie

Ingredients:

5 or 6 large apples such as Granny Smith or a mixture of apples
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar as needed for sweetness
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice - optional

Directions:

1. Label a gallon-size freezer bag for Apple Pie Filling and date. Set aside.
2. Peel and core apples and sliced to desired thickness - we like thin apples here.
3. Place slices in a large bowl and add sugar, cinnamon, flour and lemon juice if using - mix with hands until well combined.
4. Pour into a freezer bag and remove excess air. Freeze and use within 6 months.
5. You can also cook the filling at this time and freeze once cooled.
6. Once thawed, cook the filling until apples are tender and sauce is thickened. Cool, add to pie crusts and bake as usual.