Apple and Cheese Curd Scones

My sister came to visit last weekend from Minneapolis (key player in gathering of the 32.8 pounds of apples).  Just before she boarded her plane, she texted my husband and me that she was bringing a special surprise.

Of course, we should have responded that her visit was special enough and yada yada.  Which of course we didn’t do.  Almost in unison, Husband and I texted back: “Jucy Lucys!?!?”

These are the kind of people we are.  We assume that bringing a burger stuffed with hot, melty cheese  across state lines is perfectly normal.  My sister kindly noted that these probably wouldn’t be delicious by the time she arrived, but promised she was bringing something equally tasty.

Holy (bag of) cheese curds.  My sister knows me all too well.  We adapted a Smitten Kitchen recipe and made a (small) dent in our 32.8 pounds of apples.

IMG_4106Apple and Cheese Curd Scones

  • 3-4 tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks/slices
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar plus a bit for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • bag of Minnesota cheese curds…or about a cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs

**NOTE: We doubled the recipe (single recipe listed here)…which I don’t really recommend, unless you have a standing-bowl mixer or a very, very large food processor.  It made the dough sort of hard to manage.

  1. Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Placed peeled and chunked apples in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. . Let them cool completely but leave oven on.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix (you may need to get handsy here, as we did.  This dough can be sort of gloppy and wet.)
  4. Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it, sprinkle with more flour.  Use a rolling pin (you may want to actually cover the dough with saran wrap, to minimize stickiness) to roll the dough out.  Use a glass or circular cookie cutter to cut the dough into cookie-like scones.
  5. Transfer cookie/scones to a baking sheet ined with parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.
  6. Make your egg wash: beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  7. Bake scones at 375 for about 30 minutes. Devour.

IMG_4046The Verdict:

These scones/cookies/whatever they are…they’re amazing.  Amazing.  The dough, which seems so unpromising, turns into the perfect combination of savory, sweet, and just…carby goodness.  Good thing they’re so deliciously addictive: they get less flaky as the days wear on, so feel free to eat them all up, and quickly (we stored about six, unbaked, in the freezer.  SERIOUSLY looking forward to them.)

Apple Pie (with homemade, flaky crust)

This is what happens when it’s fall: you break out your tall, brown boots.  You buy that army green vest you’ve been eyeing at the Gap for a while, hoping maybe the Husband might just spring it on you but then you get the coupon in the mail, and oh, whoops, I’ve just conveniently bought it for myself.  You get overly excited about the fact that you can now turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and stick it to Pepco.

Also: you decide it’s time to go apple picking and bring home 32.8 pounds of apples.  That’s right.  32.8 pounds.  The nice lady only charged us for 32 pounds.  Probably because she felt badly for my husband, who had to carry them, and who definitely was the smart one asking “do we really need another apple?” while my sister, sister-in-law, and I announced that we had found the perfect addition.

We spent all of Sunday baking.  We made only a very small dent.  Expect more apples on the blog.

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Apple Pie

for the crust (this will make a top and bottom crust):

  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water

for the pie:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar, plus a pinch for dusting the top of the pie
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 5-6 tart apples (we’ve got more Pink Ladies than we will ever eat.  Let me know if you live in DC.  We will give them to you.)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (to thicken the filling)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into small bits
  • splash milk, in a bowl
  1. Make your pie crust.  In the container of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and butter and pulse until mixed through (about 10 seconds).  Place the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water, forming it into a ball (use more ice water if needed).  Divide the ball in half (one for the top, one for the bottom) and place in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.
  2. While the dough chills, peel, core, and slice your apples.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar and spices, and add the apples.  Add lemon juice and cornstarch and give the whole thing a good toss.
  3. Roll out both sets of dough.  Kitchen God Mark Bittman recommends rolling the dough out between two sheets of saran wrap, and I couldn’t agree more.  Makes the whole things less sticky, and less apt to stick to your rolling pin.  Roll it out until it fits to your pie plate, and then carefully place it in (helps to put the plate over the dough and then flip it over.)  Trim excess dough.
  4. Add the apples to the bottom of the plate and try to arrange them semi-neatly, so they cook relatively evenly.  Dot with the little bits of butter (confession: we forgot this step & it was fine.  There’s enough butter in the crust to go around.)  Add the top crust and crimp the sides together.
  5. Now’s the time to preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  6. Turning back to your pie, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar for some extra fun.  Make a few small slits in the top of the pie, to allow steam to escape.  Refrigerate until the oven is ready.
  7. Bake the pie on a cookie sheet (easier maneuverability) and cook at 450 for ten minutes.  Turn down the heat and bake for 40 minutes at 350.
  8. Make whipped cream/buy ice cream/rejoice.

IMG_4087The Verdict:

Is that an apple crisp you note in the picture?  Why yes, yes it is.  Expect more apples, as noted above.  (And, this pie recipe is the pie recipe to beat.  Thank you Mark Bittman.)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I officially became old about three or four Christmases ago, when I received an immersion blender.  When you open a carefully wrapped present and you’re excited to see Cuisinart peeking out at you, you know it’s all downhill from there.

On the positive side, if you own an immersion blender, you can make lots of delicious soups.  Which in my opinion, almost outweighs the fact that I now wear sneakers when I walk to work, knee braces when I run, and ear plugs when I go to the gym (that music is so LOUD!).

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1-2 pounds diced & cubed butternut squash
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • fresh sage (about 8-10 leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • about 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy or sour cream
  • optional toppings: scallions, sour cream, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  On a large baking pan, toss the squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for about 35-40 minutes.  Midway through the roasting, take the squash out and give them another quick toss before sticking them back in the oven.
  2. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and add the apple, onion and sage.  Cook these down gently, about 10 minutes.  Add a dash of apple cider vinegar and cook off before removing the mixture from the heat.
  3. When the squash is done roasting, add to the Dutch oven, pour the broth over the mixture and bring to a boil.  After it boils, reduce heat, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and blend using an immersion blender (or in a food processor or regular blender; just be careful to do it in batches).  Add the cream or sour cream and mix thoroughly.  Serve with your choice of topping – I love this with a little addition of sour cream.

Note: You can certainly make this healthier (and/or vegan) by swapping the butter for olive oil and using milk instead of cream or even coconut/almond/soy milk.  I’ll stick with the butter and cream, myself.

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The Verdict:

This soup has been a staple in our house for a while now and was inspired by my very first cookbook, which my mom bought for me before I ever owned a pot, much less an immersion blender, and way before I even thought to judge the people walking to work in sneakers, because they were just so OLD.  We’ve come full circle here.  Also, the Husband pronounced this particular version (there are so many!) the best he’s had.  That’s saying something – we’ve eaten this soup A LOT, so I’m bringing it to the party.

Recreating Germany (on a Plate)

Last night, I returned from a work-related trip to the Motherland.  While my family and I have spent a fair amount of time in Germany, especially growing up and to visit with my grandparents, this was my first trip to Berlin.  So, after two and a half days of full-day meetings, I was ready to eat my touristy way through the city.

German fare is not for the faint (or cholesterol-sensitive) heart.  Germans love pretzels and croissants for breakfast and huge plates of (fried) pork schnitzel and french fries for dinner.  For lunch, they might dig into a huge plate of spaetzle (for the non-acquainted, a soft, egg-based noodle), and wash it down with a massive mug of beer. They have a well established “coffee break” around 4pm, consisting of a strong cup of coffee or a steaming mug of hot chocolate, accompanied by cakes and cookies.  (Side note: during one meeting, our German hosts apologized for the “cake and cookie situation.”  I thought maybe they were apologizing for adding to our expanding waistlines.  Turns out, they thought the variety of cookies and cakes that had been served was sub-par.  I guess eight different types wasn’t enough?!) In between spaetzle and schnitzel, a Berliner might dig into a “currywurst” – a deep fried sausage topped with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder.  If you feel the need for some veggies, your plate may come with a side of cabbage.  Or maybe a couple of cucumbers with some mayonnaise.**

Obviously, after I got home from the airport last night, I just had to re-create some of this for the Husband.

Slow Cooked Pork with Spaetzle and Braised Red Cabbage

  • Our go-to slow cooker pork recipe and ingredients, minus the mozzarella and arugula
  • Spaetzle (or any egg noodle)
  • For the Cabbage:
    • 1 small head red cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 1 green apple, peeled and cut into thin slices
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1-2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 teaspoons salt
    • optional: a dash of caraway seeds
  1. In the morning, get the pork cooking.  Refer back to our go-to recipe, and only go through step two (putting all the ingredients in the crock pot and setting it on low for 8-9 hours).
  2. About an hour and a half before dinner time, get your cabbage going.  Immerse the cabbage (cored and sliced) in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Heat the butter in a large dutch oven over low heat.  Add onions and cook until golden.
  4. Drain the cabbage slices and then add to the pot, along with the sliced apple, the red wine vinegar, honey, salt and (if  you like) caraway seeds.
  5. Cover the pot and cook over medium-low heat for about 60-90 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.  Do not cook for too long – it will either turn to mush or turn bitter.
  6. About 15 minutes or so before serving, get water boiling for your spaetzle or egg noodles.
  7. Serve the spaetzle topped with pork and a side of cabbage.  Guten Appetit!
das schmeckt gut!
das schmeckt gut!

The Verdict:

Our pork (really, the Husband’s) is a go-to and there’s a reason why: it’s delicious.  Having spaetzle (especially fresh, which I carried on the plane back with me!) was a special treat, and took me right into my mom’s and grandmother’s kitchen.  This was true comfort cooking.  I’ve never made cabbage before, and to be honest, this recipe was maybe a touch sweet.  That being said, it provided the perfect tang and balance to the rest of our German meal!  The big bonus here: plenty of leftovers, which will serve us well this (short) Thanksgiving week.

** My description of standard German fare isn’t entirely fair, to be honest.  Germany – and especially Berlin – seems to be embracing the local and organic food scene a la Brooklyn 2009, with “healthy” cafes popping up everywhere.  I also saw a slew of vegetarian and even vegan restaurants, as well as restaurants from every culinary tradition one could imagine.  After all, Berlin is, at heart, an incredibly dynamic city with a very young and hip feel, even as it continues to sit at the heart of an incredible amount of history.**

Adventures in Baking: Apple Crisp

In the spirit of “mo’ money Movember,” I am trying to make sure we make good use of everything we have in our pantry before buying any new ingredients.  So when I found two sad, bruised, tired-looking apples that I bought before we left for our big trip, I decided to do the impossible: bake.

Most people don’t need a recipe to make an apple (or any kind of fruit) crisp.  And yet, since baking generally takes a lot more precision, I decided to turn to food guru Mark Bittman for his thoughts on the best apple crisp.  Spoiler: somehow I managed not to follow the recipe.

Apple Crisp

  • 6 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced (my two sad apples yielded about 3-4 cups, and I didn’t bother peeling them)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • dash salt
  • optional: shredded coconut, nuts
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the fruit with half the cinnamon, the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon brown sugar and spread the mixture in a 9-inch pan (I went with an 8-in round; I think that was slightly too small, and definitely too small if you have more than two apples.)
  2. Combine all the other ingredients (including the rest of the cinnamon and the sugar) in a food processor and pulse until the butter is incorporated (but not soft, just nice and mixed around).
  3. Spread the topping over the apples and bake 30-40 minutes, until the topping is browned.
  4. Serve with ice cream!
less crisp, more mush.  but still tasty!
less crisp, more mush. but still tasty!

The Verdict:

Welp, another baking not-quite-hit.  It started with my lack of apples, I think, compounded by my refusal to peel them.  Accordingly, I should have used more oatmeal, maybe a bit more flour, and less sugar…and then we may have had more of a crisp than a mush situation.  However, neither of us are complaining: it was still delish!  We’ll be trying this one again, with a few modifications.  Maybe next time with pears?