Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cinnamon Applesauce

Fall is here! And so is my new blog look. I have been doing a lot of behind the scenes work lately, so here's to a new season and a "new and improved" blog. Today I have a simple but delicious recipe for you for applesauce. My husband and I made our annual trek to Linvilla Orchards and gathered up as many apples as we could carry (well, actually twice as much as that since our apple wagon tipped over onto the concrete and we had to start over.) I love apples on their own, and in pies and crisps of course. But this year I wanted something new. I've made this applesauce a few times with my own tweaks that I'll share with you, and I think you'll agree that it really tastes just like apple pie, without the crust calories or fat (a bonus really, since I'd eat this whether it was good for me or not). You can even put a little whipped cream on it like I do -- especially when it's still warm.

Here it is:

Cinnamon Applesauce

10 Apples, a variety of kinds that you like (I used macoun, red delicious and golden delicious), peeled, and chopped into 1-inchish cubes
1 cup water
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
lemon juice (if desired)

Get a big sauce pot and throw in the apples. Add the water, the brown sugar, and the vanilla, and stir it up so the brown sugar is well blended throughout. Turn the heat on to high, but leave the cover off, and stir occasionally while you are waiting for it to boil. Once it has begun to boil, turn the heat down to medium low, and put the cover on. Keep it on for 20-25 minutes, and by then the apples should be soft (like you could mash them with a fork if you wanted to... or you could actually do this with one piece just to be sure). Then take the cover off, and crank the heat to high, letting all the water boil off. You might not want to leave this alone for too long, or the apples could get scorched (yep, happened here). It doesn't take long. Turn off the pot and remove from heat once the water is gone.

Once this is done, you can go for the super easy route, or the hands on route. I take the apples, put them in the food processor, and grind them up to the consistency I want (not more than 7 seconds with the blade on). Some people like it more chunky, in which case, just pulse it until you see what you like. If you don't have a food processor, that's ok! Just mash them with a fork, or a potato masher, or whatever you have on hand.

Put the mashed apples in a big bowl, and stir in the cinnamon and nutmeg, and a squeeze of lemon juice if you like that. Stir to incorporate, and you're all done! Just let it cool (it will be very very hot and I would not recommend eating it for at least an hour--by then it will be warm). Let it reach room temperature before putting it into the fridge to chill all the way. It will keep for 3 days in the fridge, but honestly, it probably won't last that long, because it is so delicious! But the good news is, you can always make it again pretty easily.

Happy fall everyone!

Friday, July 22, 2011


Hello everyone! I know you are probably upset with me for not posting frequently enough, and I apologize. I promise some yummy summer dishes coming soon. In the meantime, I thought I would enlighten you with some tea knowledge. Though right now it is 102 degrees out, on many not-so-sweltering summer days I like to go to tea with my mom, or anyone else who is willing. I love tea in all seasons. But whenever I go out and order a pot of tea I end up feeling really irritated because the tea thrown in the pot which makes it over-brew and taste bad after a few minutes. This happens so frequently (even in tea specialty places) that I got up the guts to ask Harold McGee about it in the New York Times.

Here's the exchange:

I was wondering why restaurants seem to think it is a good idea to leave tea leaves/bags in their tea for long periods of time after brewing is finished. I was taught that the tea should be removed from the water after its optimal brewing time (four to five minutes usually) so that the tea doesn’t get overly strong and bitter. This preserves the taste of tea, and doesn’t ruin what’s left in the pot for the second cup. However, almost every time I go to a restaurant and order a pot, the leaves are dumped in there, or the bag is solidly wound around the lid so I can’t get it out, which means I get one really good cup, and the rest I can’t even drink. Why is this the norm? Am I just in the wrong?


You’re right, the longer you leave tea leaves in the tea after optimal brewing, the more bitter and tannic it gets. What you describe is unfortunately common brewing malpractice.

YES! I knew it! So please, don't do this to yourself at home; I promise a much tastier tea for you! Maybe restaurants will soon follow our lead.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie, Simplified

Well, promises, promises. I know I promised I'd post more this year... and now it's been over two months! I guess I underestimated this working full time and going to school thing. Oh well. But I am still cooking! And finally, I remembered to take some pictures of what I made.

Today it's a variation on chicken pot pie. Usually, making chicken pot pie is the biggest hassle in the world. You have to make the crusts, then you have to make the roux that binds everything together... not only is it a lot of time, but it's a lot of butter and other stuff that's not that great for you. So, to lighten it up and make it a weeknight dish, I make chicken cobbler. I got the base recipe from Mark Bittman at the New York Times. I basically vary the ingredients depending on what I have available for veggies and proteins, and so far it's worked with everything. I especially like parsnips in it!

Chicken Cobbler

For contents:

A few tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, chopped into longer strips (see The Great Pasta Dish (Jan '10) for cutting tips)
2 cups quartered button mushrooms
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp of dried rosemary (or one fresh sprig
4-5 diced red bliss potatoes
2 medium carrots, cut into coins
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For topping:

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk (Note: I never have buttermilk, and it is unnecessary to buy it for this recipe. Just warm a little milk in the microwave so it gets lukewarm. Then add a teaspoon of vinegar, stir it and wait five minutes. It will get chunky, and that's what you want.)

The trick to this recipe is just fortitude! It may look strange at certain points, but trust yourself! (And check with the pictures, too, if that helps.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Take a deep skillet (a lot of ingredients are going in there) and put a few tablespoons of olive oil in; set heat on medium. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Then add mushrooms and cook until liquid has released and evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add chicken broth and rosemary; bring to a boil, and let bubble for a minute or two, then add carrots, potatoes, and chicken and reduce heat so it simmers. This is the part where it looks wrong, but is actually right. (See photo below)I always wonder if the chicken will ever get cooked like that, but it does.

Cook until carrots are almost tender and chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper, then add peas and cook for about 30 seconds until the peas turn a bright green. Then just take a little of the broth (a few tablespoons), and whisk it with the cornstarch in a separate dish. Cornstarch is a thickener, and it stands in for the roux that usually is made. (This is also what ooblek is made of, if anyone cares to know). This is what will make your ingredients come together into a cobbler instead of a soup, which is what they probably look like now. Take that mixture of cornstarch and water, and add it back into your skillet. Mix it around for a few seconds until you can see it start to thicken, like so:

Then put the contents of the skillet into a casserole dish, and let it sit while you make the topping.

Put flour in a food processor with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add butter and process until mixture resembles small balls; don't grind it into thin air! The point is that the butter needs to be distributed throughout the mixture, but not disintegrated. Then,transfer mixture to a bowl and mix in "buttermilk" and egg until it just comes together; it should be sticky, and look pretty gross, like so:

In fact, when I looked back at these pictures, I said to myself, ew, what is that a picture of!? And then I remembered. So don't worry, it will come out delicious. Drop spoonfuls of the goopy batter on top of vegetables and chicken and smooth with a knife, covering as much surface area as possible but leaving a few gaps for steam to escape. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden on top and bubbly underneath. Scoop out into bowls (better this way, so it doesn't run all over your plate) and you're ready to eat!

This is a great dish for those April Shower days, (or April Snow days like my hometown is getting tomorrow), and it's super flexible, so you can add your own personal touch to it, depending on what veggies you like.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Simple Salmon

Hello everyone. Sorry it has been so long since I've posted. Things have been a little crazy around here between the holidays and unexpected hospital visits, the blog was put on the back burner (hardy har). But today marks the start of a new year for the Honest Chef; I hope to keep up with my posts.

My husband and I have decided that this year we are going to have vegetarian one night a week, and fish another night of the week, so I had to pull out some new recipes. Fish is something that I used to hate making; I actually once caused my best friend to choke on a piece of fish because I encrusted it in about an inch of Montreal Chicken Seasoning (don't even ask why I'd be using chicken seasoning on fish). But I learned that fish doesn't really need much to make its flavor come out. The recipe I'm about to show you is super simple, and very tasty. My mom would cook this a few times a month when I was growing up and I always loved it; especially the part where she would open the foil pouch and unleash the delicious aroma. The clean up is also super easy since you can just toss the foil in the trash! It's a great weeknight dish, and you can do this with a lot of different fish (if you prefer swordfish that works, as well as other thick fish; don't try a thin white fish though).

Simple Salmon in Foil

1 large filet of salmon, or several smaller cuts of the filet
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp of dill (dried) [if you want to use fresh, use about half of that)
Juice of half a lemon
1 1/2-2 Tbsp of olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
(reserve the other half of the lemon for serving)
1 large sheet of tin foil

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the garlic, dill lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper in a small bowel (use a whisk to incorporate everything well). Take a cookie sheet and put your large sheet of tin foil on top of it. Spray the foil with Pam, or drizzle some olive oil in the center, and lay the salmon skin side down on it. Pour the oil/garlic/dill/lemon mixture you previously made over the top, and spread around the entire top of the fish.

You want to let it sit in this marinade for at least five minutes, so that the fish can soak up some of the flavor. (I usually start making the rice or other side dish while it is sitting). After 5 minutes, wrap up the foil over the salmon, leaving a little space between the top of the foil and the salmon, so it has room to steam and breathe (see below).

Place the sheet into the oven in on the middle rack. The time it takes to cook your salmon has to do with the thickness of it. Typically it will take about 15-20 minutes to cook the filet, but there is a simple way to test if the fish is done... by checking on it with the fork test. When fish is done, it will "flake easily with a fork." I have seen this phrase a thousand times in cookbooks, and it seems confusing. It's actually not though. Open the fish up, and take a fork to the thickest part of the fish. Poke it in, and turn the fork; if it flakes up and the color is even, it's ready!

You'll want to check it first at about 10 minutes, then every five minutes afterward to make sure that it doesn't overcook, which can be less than tasty. Once you're satisfied with the doneness, just open up the foil, cut with a knife into portions, and serve!

I hope you try this at home so you can see how easy, and how delicious fish can be. And with such a quick clean up, maybe it will become your own resolution to eat more fish!