how to deal with a bad apple

Ok, maybe not a bad apple, but ones sitting on your counter or in your fridge that won't be good for much longer. I always have the highest of intentions of eating all of the fruit I buy, but that seldom works out. This morning, we had four apples and two pears that were on the verge, so in an effort to try something new and not waste I made some apple sauce (with pear)... which was very good.

Apple (pear) Sauce
4 apples
2 pears
1 c. water
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 c. sugar

Chop apples and pears into small pieces and cook at a slow boil in a covered medium saucepan with water, cinnamon, and sugar until soft; once it's getting soft, if you find you have excess liquid, remove the cover to reduce the liquid until it's no longer runny. Use a masher to mash the sauce to a consistency you like.

Serve warm or cold - it's good either way! I topped it with a sprinkle of cinnamon, mostly because I thought it was pretty. :)

I was using sweeter apples (braeburn and ambrosia), so didn't need much sugar. If you're using a tart apple, you could add a little more sugar to make sure it's sweet enough. The pears were a nice touch, as you could taste them a little, but it was mostly apple-y goodness.

So, if you find yourself in the situation I often do where you'll be throwing out apples soon, I highly recommend this as a quick, tasty, less wasteful alternative.


'tis the season

... for cabbage. It seems this time of year, cabbage is a big deal. For those of you who are Irish, I'm going to take a wild guess that you had some recently, accompanied by corned beef. Because I've been hearing about it quite a bit and seeing it on the food network, I figured 'why not?'

I've eaten it before in coleslaw, cooked, and as sauerkraut but I've never cooked with it myself. And my experience with coleslaw has been opening a pre-shredded bag, adding store-bought dressing, and ta da! Yesterday, I bought a real head of cabbage and thought to myself 'now what?'

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't totally wow-ed, but it was good. It's a decent side dish, providing the other food is pretty flavorful/well-spiced. While a bit bland, the thing I liked was that it was light and fresh -- but warm on a cold day, because I wasn't in the mood for something overly heavy. So here goes:

Cooked Cabbage
1/2 of a medium head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
3/4 c. water
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 Tbsp butter
1/8 c. sunflower seeds
salt and pepper to taste

Steam cabbage until soft/tender, but not mushy over water and wine mixed. Once steamed, place cabbage in a bowl and stir in butter until melted. Add sunflower seeds, stirring until well-distributed. Salt and pepper to taste.

And there you have it - pretty quick and few ingredients. We served with turkey brats that were very yummy. There are lots of other ways to use cabbage, and I have half of a head left, so will need to use it tomorrow for something. If it's good, I'll let you know!


must love mushrooms

YYY I love mushrooms. YYY

Unfortunately for me, I think there are more mushroom-haters out there than mushroom-lovers, which makes it difficult when I want to make something with them in when cooking for others. I remember feeling so lucky that one of my college roommates was a mushroom-lover, too -- we could have them on our pizza! It's the small things.

It's interesting to me how many types there are -- and I'll be the first to admit I don't know much about them, besides that they taste good. When prepping for this weekend's cooking adventure, I was at Byerly's buying the ones I wanted. Did you know that 1 ounce of dried Morel mushrooms cost $19.99 at the store? Whoa. When you can get them for free in the woods (if, of course, you're lucky enough to find them)??? Needless to say, there are no Morels in today's dish.

I've had this at a couple of restaurants, but haven't ever made it -- I looked up a few recipes online and mixed them into what I wanted to try -- and came up with this:

Mushroom Risotto
5 c. chicken broth
1 c. dry white wine (i.e. chardonnay or sauvignon blanc)
1 c. chopped onions
3-4 cloves garlic
4 Tbsp. butter
2 c. aborio rice
3/4 - 1 c. mushrooms (mix of dried porcini / fresh crimini and shitake)
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of salt

Soak dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for 25 minutes. Save 1 c. of broth from this to use later.

Sautee all mushrooms in a bit of olive oil until soft; set aside.

Heat chicken broth, wine, and porcini mushroom broth in a medium saucepan (2.5 qt.) to a simmer - no need to boil. At the same time, using a large, heavy saucepan, add butter, chopped onions, garlic, and pinch of salt until onions are translucent -- do not brown. Add aborio rice to the butter mixture, stirring until the edges of the rice are translucent.

Using a ladle, add enough of the broth mixture to cover the rice and simmer until the rice soaks up all of the liquid. Once the rice has soaked up the broth, use the ladle to again add enough broth until the rice mixture is covered. Repeat until broth is gone and rice is soft and tender.

Add the mushrooms and Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese melts. Serve hot with a bit of Parmesan cheese on top.
A couple of notes:
  • You can use any mushrooms you want -- a friend of mine also recommended portabella. If you don't use dried porcini in the recipe, just replace the 1 c. of porcini broth with another cup of chicken broth.
  • Aborio rice is an Italian rice that is very starchy, which makes the risotto creamy -- no need to add additional cream. I'm not sure how this would work with regular rice, so make sure you use aborio.
  • Because garlic cloves come in different sizes, use what you're comfortable with. I used 2 large cloves and 2 small ones -- and that was plenty of garlic, but not too much for me.
  • Hate mushrooms? make this with asparagus, butternut squash, or something else!

Because it's a heavy dish, I served it with just a side of sweet potatoes cooked in a bit of olive oil. ... and it was a vegetarian meal -- I didn't miss the meat. It would also be good with steamed asparagus. Yum! If you need to have meat, though, I think it would go well with chicken.

Enjoy! As always, let me know if you have a recommendation for me to try.

a lost art? not anymore!

This was an especially busy week for me at work and I haven't been home much all week, so this weekend, I tried to find a balance between relaxing (read: being lazy) and productive -- and think I did ok! But I'm not ready for it to end in less than 12 hours. Are we ever? Anyway, I digress...

A few posts ago, I had said that writing letters - real ones, written on paper, with envelopes and stamps - seems to be a lost art . Remember those? After I wrote about it, I had high intentions of sending some real letters, determined to break the e-cycle just a bit... and then realized there was a pretty big flaw in my plan. Addresses. Or rather, the lack thereof. Because I didn't have an address book, I could write a note, but wouldn't have known where to send it. Oops.

Having identified the issue, I found resolution through the purchase of a physical address book, for which I have been made fun of by some of my techy friends, and have begun to fill it in! Thanks to those of you who have sent me your address! This weekend, I was finally able to sit down and write out a few small letters and they'll go out Monday. Maybe you'll get one! If you haven't sent me your address, feel free to e-mail it to brk1080@yahoo.com.

Heads up -- my next request is going to be for birthdays and anniversaries (including years if you're willing to give them). I've had a couple of people mention it, so will be happy to share when I get it put together. If you want to help me get a head start, send me an e-mail to brk1080@yahoo.com with your family's info. Or send me a letter!