apple dumplings with cider sauce

Apple Dumplings (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
America’s Test Kitchen says: Use a melon baller or a metal teaspoon measure to core the apples. We like to serve the dumplings warm with vanilla ice cream and Cider Sauce (see Cider Sauce recipe below). Other sweet, moderately firm apples, such as Braeburns or Galas, can be used in this recipe.

The Cake Baker says: Use frozen puff pastry to make this dessert quick, easy, and less fuss. I prefer cranberries to raisins so I made that substitution. I had left over cinnamon sugar and butter-cranberry mixture because I didn’t cut down the recipe. But I had another use for them as you’ll see in the cider sauce below.

Servings: 2
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 frozen puff pastry squares
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons dried cranberry raisins, chopped (can use raisins)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preparation

  1. Prep Apples. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. In second bowl, combine butter, cranberry raisins, and 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar mixture. Peel apple and halve through equator. Remove core and pack butter mixture into each apple half.
  2. Assemble Dumplings. On lightly floured surface, roll each dough square approximately 4 inches by 4 inches. Working one at a time, lightly brush edges of dough square with egg white and place apple, cut-side up, in center of each square. Gather dough one corner at a time on top of apple, crimping edges to seal. Using paring knife, poke a small vent hole in top of each dumpling.
  3. Finish Apples. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange dumplings on prepared baking sheet, brush tops with egg white, and sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon each of the remaining cinnamon sugar. Bake until dough is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve with Cider Sauce.

Cider Sauce (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)
America’s Test Kitchen says: To make this sauce up to 2 days in advance, reduce the cider mixture until it measures 1½ cups, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, return mixture to simmer and whisk in butter and lemon juice after the heat is turned off.

The Cake Baker says: I left out the cup of sugar in the apple cider reduction. It was tart and slightly sweet because of the cranberries.

Servings: about 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
  • about 1/2 cup butter-cranberry mixture in cinnamon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

Preparation
In a small saucepan, bring to a boil cider and water  plus what’s left of the cinnamon sugar.  Simmer in saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until thickened and reduced to 1½ cups, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, whisk in the remaining butter-cranberry mixture from the apple dumplings then add the lemon or lime juice. Drizzle warm over dumplings to serve. A scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt is recommended!

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plum-berry galette

Plum-Berry Galette

I hate to waste food! Don’t you? So I made these mini-galettes because I had some  fruit that nobody wanted to eat and I couldn’t throw it away. This recipe is a combination of two recipes, one from Swerve magazine and the other from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook.  I liked the Swerve because the crust is made from frozen puff pastry and was therefore easy to make. The Martha Stewart recipe I liked for the sweetness. 

6 frozen puff pastry squares, thawed
all purpose flour for dusting
1 plum, seeded and chopped into large chunks
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
dash of salt
1 large  egg white
1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven 375˚F. Prepare a large baking tray and line it with a silicone mat or a sheet of parchment paper.

Put fruit in a medium bowl.  In a measuring cup, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add to the fruit and toss gently. Set aside.

On a well floured board, roll out each dough square until it is about 4″ square. Mound the fruit in the middle of the pastry. There should be a border of about 2 inches. Fold up the edges and make pleats. It doesn’t have to be neat; it should look rustic. Pick up the “packet” and place it on the prepared baking tray. If it is too hard to pick up with your fingers, use a large spatula.

Brush the pastry edges with a mixture of egg white and milk.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and flaky. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Slide the galettes off the mat/parchment onto the cooling rack to cool completely.

pasta al pomodoro crudo

 

I found this recipe on a blog but for the life of me, I can’t remember whose. I usually make a note but I forgot to do it this time. It’s real simple; the tomatoes and seasonings aren’t cooked at all. They get warmed up by the pasta. I’ve changed it a bit because I like my pasta dry unless the pasta sauce is thick.  However, I found that with the addition of salt, the tomatoes “spring water” as we say in Jamaica. So, to keep the tomatoes from making juice, I would salt the tomatoes before mixing them with the seasoning to leach out the water. Draining them on paper towels afterwards helps too. And I added the mozzarella cheese. It melts so beautifully in the heat of the pasta into delicious stringy bits that cling to the pasta. This is definitely quick and easy, and it’s going to be part of my week-night dinner menus from now on!

Pasta al Pomodoro Crudo

  • 4 medium to large tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped (about 6 cups)
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and put through a garlic press (use more or less according to taste)
  • 1 cup chopped basil
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pasta, such as angel  hair, spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, or other thin types of pasta
  • 1/4-1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese, grated  (I used Parmesan and Romano, and I recommend it)

In a large bowl sprinkle salt on tomato pieces and toss. Put tomatoes on paper-towel lined tray and let it drain 15 minutes.

Put drained tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley, and oil in a food processor and pulse until combined. The mixture should be chunky.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.

Cook 1 lb  pasta in salted water. Cook according to package directions until al dente.  Drain well and divide pasta into four bowls. Put mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup of sauce over each bowl of pasta and toss thoroughly.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Cook’s note: Add chopped turkey pastrami or prosciutto to the pasta, if desired.

P.S. Robin Jean Marie wrote to say that her recipe is the basis for this one! See Spaghetti with Raw Tomato Sauce at Bringing Europe Home. Thanks, Robin!

leek potato soup

I’ve been so busy lately, too busy to blog. What sacrilege. But I’ve a good excuse;  I’m writing a final paper for my summer reading teacher course. I was very ambitious and started a new course at the same time I started a new job. The course is almost over and I can breathe easier now that summer academy is over. So I whipped up this soup from a recipe courtesy of Irene Phaksuwan. I love my new soup bowl! I bought it in Chinatown because I needed some deep Chinese soup bowls to replace the shallow soup plates that I have. You have to dig into a soup, if you’re Chinese because Chinese soups are hearty and full of noodles, meat, and vegetables; we don’t skim soups delicately with a spoon. This Leek Potato Soup is hearty–and it’s all vegetarian.

Leek Potato Soup

Ingredients
2 leeks, washed, and outer leaves removed, chopped into 1 inch lengths
2 1/2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup celery, chopped with leaves
3 small carrots, scraped and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Head the oil in a large dutch pot over medium heat. Put leeks, potatoes, celery, carrots and garlic in the oil and stir-fry until tender about 3 minutes. Add the broth, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Cook 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

If you wish, thicken the soup. Spoon half the vegetables into the work bowl of a food processor and process until the vegetables are the consistency of thick soup. Return processed vegetables to the soup. Serve hot with a salad on the side or a hot crusty whole grain bread.

pressed tofu with garlic mint sauce

After all my dietary sins this week, I atoned for it with this meal. I felt quite virtuous about it, too; a good Catholic enjoys doing penance. The tofu was quite tasty–slightly lemon-y, mint-y, and garlic-y.  It’s a tad redder than it should be because I got over-enthusiastic with the paprika. Nevertheless,  I enjoyed the garlic mint sauce, but I would ramp up the flavors, as I have noted in the recipe. I like to follow a recipe exactly the first time I try it, but I was a bit alarmed by the directions in the original. It said to press the tofu  while it was cooking by weighting it down with another skillet and a large can of tomatoes. My top skillet got hot and I worried about heating an unopened can of tomatoes. It’s far safer to press the tofu before cooking, so I’ve given directions how to do this.

Pressed Tofu with Garlic Mint Sauce

Ingredients:

2 packs firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch slices
4-6 cloves garlic
1 1/2 -2 teaspoons salt
1/4 – 1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
lemon zest from 1 lemon
3 tbs lemon juice (half a lemon)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or dish, make the marinade. First, mash garlic and salt together into a paste. Combine with mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, paprika, and 1/2 cup vegetable broth and mix. Set aside.

2. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels and place tofu in a single layer on top. Cover the tofu with more paper towels. Place another large rimmed baking sheet on top of the paper towels. Weight down the baking sheet with canned goods or books or both. Let sit for 20 minutes until tofu slices are flattened and the paper towels are soaked.

3. Place tofu slices into marinade, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

4. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Heat skillet on medium.  Gently shake tofu slices to shake off excess marinade, and place them in the pan to brown, about 4 minutes per side. You may need to do this in batches. Save the marinade.

5. After you remove the last batch of tofu, add the reserved marinade and the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Simmer until the sauce is reduced by one third. Pour garlic-mint sauce over the tofu slices. Serve with hot rice and eat Chinese-style with chopsticks!

a simple tomato sauce with penne

I hate to waste food. I had  grape tomatoes that we never ate because we got tired of salads, and half a package of penne languishing in the cupboard. Then I got inspired by a recipe I saw on Skinnytaste and came up with my own version of pasta with fresh tomato sauce.  It all came together in one skillet. It wasn’t bad!

Simple Tomato Sauce with Penne
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2  pounds grape tomatoes, halved (3 cups)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt and fresh pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil plus
Chopped parsley and scallion to garnish, optional

4.5 oz. pasta, e.g. penne
1 cup mozzarella cheese or Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions
In a large nonstick pan, heat the oil on medium high heat. Sauté the garlic, onion, and peppers until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer 15 minutes. Uncover the pan and add the chopped basil. Cover and cook 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside. Spoon pasta into a bowl, add 1/4 cup of cheese and a cupful of tomato sauce. Toss. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and scallion, if desired.

warm pasta salad with corn and zucchini

Last year,  I bought a coupon on Amazon Local for a home-cooked Italian meal with Sandra Catena, The Feisty Italian. She came to our old apartment to teach us how to cook the meal. One of the simplest and most delicious courses was the pasta, dressed simply with cubes of mozzarella cheese. The cheese melted in the heat of the spaghetti–a quick and easy version of mac and cheese!  I remembered that when I made this dish. This is a great one dish meatless meal–and it cooked up in about half an hour. To save time, I skipped the fresh corn and used frozen. The oil I didn’t use to fry the zucchini I used to flavor the pasta. Then I dressed it up with mozzarella cheese, a delicious lesson learned from Sandra.

Warm Pasta Salad with Corn and Zucchini (adapted from Skinnytaste.com)

Ingredients
2-4 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups sliced zucchini (2 medium zucchini sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (3 ears of corn)
1/2 cup red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red or yellow sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
8 oz uncooked pasta
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
1/3 cup “black Italian olives” (I used kalamata)
1/2 to 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
8 basil leaves, chopped
Cooking spray
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain cooked pasta and set aside.

Spray cooking spray in a large skillet and heat it over medium high heat. You will need to cook the zucchini in two batches. Place the zucchini rounds in a single layer in the skillet. Cook 5 minutes on one side until roasted, then turn and cook again for 5 more minutes. Remove zucchini and set aside. Spray the pan again and put in another layer of zucchini rounds. Repeat.

Remove zucchini and add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add the onion, peppers, and corn. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add the pan-fried zucchini, pasta, pepper flakes, vinegar, olives, cheese, and basil. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of olive oil. Add salt to taste. Toss. Spoon onto plates and sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top.

southwestern cheese panini

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and cook. According to the website, one panini sandwich serving contains 330 calories. I imagine that if you use cooking spray instead of oil, the calories may be even less–how much, I don’t know, but hey, every little bit counts! What I also liked about it was that it was flavorful without having to use additional salt. I recommend serving it with a salad, such as strawberries, baby spinach, dried cranberries, and almonds.

Southwestern Cheese Panini
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or Pepper Jack cheese
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (or a combination of onion, scallion, and chopped cilantro)
1/4-1/2 cup prepared salsa, drained of excess liquid, if chunky salsa
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapeño pepper, (optional)
8 slices whole-wheat bread or multi-grain bread
2 teaspoons canola oil or cooking spray

Preparation

  1. Have four 15-ounce cans and a medium skillet (not nonstick) ready by the stove.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cheese, zucchini, carrot, onion, salsa, jalapeño (if using). Put one slice of bread on the work surface. Scoop about 1/2 cup of the zucchini mixture on the bread. Top with another slice of bread. Cook’s Note: I used Pepper Jack cheese and multi-grain bread which I think add more flavor and texture to the panini.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon oil, if using, or spray a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray, over medium heat.  Place the panini in the non-stick skillet. Weigh it down with the medium skillet with the 4 cans. Cook until golden, about 2 minutes. Remove the top skillet with the cans. Reduce the heat to medium low and flip the panini. Replace the top skillet. Cook until the second side is golden, 1-3 minutes more. Repeat with another teaspoon oil, if using, and another panini.

crunchy vegetable slaw

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I didn’t like the green bean casserole recipe I tried in the Carb Conscious Vegetarian cookbook. Why blanche the green beans to set the bright green color then bake the heck out of it for 50 minutes until the poor things are mushy and olive drab? Sam, my nurse practitioner at Columbia Health, recommended the books of Robin Robertson because I told him I like to cook and eat healthy meals. I also love to try out new cookbooks. This recipe is one I adapted from  Carb Conscious. I liked it. It was slightly pungent because of the raw broccoli and cabbage, and I loved the sweet crisp taste of the bell pepper in it. The dressing was bland so I dressed it up with some red pepper flakes, and it was slightly sour, so I added a little stevia.

Crunchy vegetable slaw

2 cups peeled, shredded broccoli stems (about 3 medium stems)
2 cups shredded red cabbage (about 1/4 of a large head)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into thin slivers
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or lemon juice), (juice of 1 large lime)
red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste (celery salt in the original recipe)
1/2 packet of stevia, about 1/4 teaspoon, optional

Shred the broccoli stems in a food processor.

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cabbage, pepper, and cilantro. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and stevia, if using.  Pour olive oil mixture over the broccoli mixture. Toss. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves 4

Per serving: 169 calories, 14g fat, 3g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 0mg cholesterol, 123mg sodium.