Ohhhhh Fall baking!

There’s something just so cozy about Fall baking…apples, cinnamon, pumpkin…sigh.  It’s this Fall baking that makes a house (or in my case, an apartment), smell like a home!  (Cue, cheeeeez)!  Anyways, living in a small apartment with limited space and limited funds doesn’t stop me from enjoying some delightful seasonal treats, especially when my mom hooks me up with some home-grown apples!

And the search for an appropriate and doable recipe began.  If you recall, I have some pretty strict criteria for recipes I choose to prepare.  Now of course, this recipe isn’t required to involve corn and potatoes.  That would be weird.  So hows abouts we sub the corn and potatoes for apples and cinnamon?  Mmmmmkay?  Mmmmkay.

Betty Crocker came to my rescue yet again with her delightful (and doable and inexpensive) sounding Apple-Cinnamon cake.  Thinking back to my criteria, the recipe DEFINITELY sounded good, it involved apples and cinnamon, and with only 5 (FIVE!!) ingredients (4 of which I had in my cupboard), it would be quite affordable.  Score!  So I picked up the one and only ingredient I needed and set to work.

Now, I stuck pretty close to the recipe this time, with one major exception.  The recipe calls for canned apple pie filling, but I can SO do better than that.  So I made my own!  I followed the Mini Apple Crumble recipe for the filling.

Here are my lovely, home-grown apples, courtesy of my mom and dad!

I cooked up the apple pie filling, then let it cool for a bit before moving on with the rest of the recipe.  Good thing the filling had a disguise in it’s future, ’cause boiling it too hot makes it look a little bit funny and bubbly…so don’t boil it too hot!!  🙂

If we call apples ingredient #1, then here are ingredients #2-#5!  We have cinnamon, eggs, brown sugar and a spice cake mix.  Easy as pie!  …or cake…

Gooey, cinammon-y apple pie filling and eggs are mixed with the oh-so-simple spice cake mix.  Just a warning: it smells REALLY good.  And I think it’s okay to sample the batter…but don’t tell my mom I ate raw eggs! 😉

After the batter is all mixed up (and the beaters are safely put in the sink to remove temptation), simply pour half the mixture into a cake pan.

The reason you’re pouring only half of the batter into the pan right now is because you’ve got some cinnamon-sugar mixture to layer in there!  Just sprinkle about half of it on, then evenly pour in the rest of the batter.

And here’s the lovely cake all ready to go in the oven!  Go ahead and top the cake with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture.

If all goes well, you ought to have something resembling this!  Doesn’t it just look tasty?  And let me tell you about the smell…heavenly!  Seriously, it smelled like the quintessential grandma’s kitchen!

And look at those little clumps of sugary goodness…I had to restrain myself from just picking them off……

How cute!  The spice was perfect, and the amount of apples was just right.  Warm apple-cinnamon cake just can’t be beat!  Serve it up with some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or if you want to be like me, a glass of vanilla soy milk pairs quite nicely 🙂

Apple Cinnamon Cake

Adapted from Betty Crocker

The Goods

1 box spice cake mix

1 recipe apple pie filling (click for the link!), about 21 oz

3 eggs

3 tbsp brown sugar

desired amount of cinnamon (about 1 tsp)

The Plan

1. Heat oven to 350*; grease the bottom only of a 13×9 pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat cake mix, pie filling and eggs with a mixer on low for 2 minutes.  The batter will be thick.

3. Spread half of the batter in the pan; mix the sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle half of the mix over the batter in the pan.

4. Evenly spread the remaining batter in the pan, then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-sugar mix.

4. Bake 32-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool a bit, serve with whipped topping, ice cream or milk.

Well folks, I’m off to enjoy  the rest of my Sunday by watching Chopped and reading while sipping hot coco doing homework.  Hooray for college! 🙂  When I feel bogged down in homework and school shtuff, I read the verses taped to my wall and often linger on this one:

I am still confident of this:

I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;

Be strong, take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14

Take it for what you will 🙂

Have a blessed week!

Beth



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It’s Not a Party Until You Add the Pasta

Guys, I really like Fall.  That feeling of slowly transitioning from warm, carefree summery days to cool and crisp, autumnal evenings, all cozy-ed up with homework a book and a cup of hot coco…seriously.  And then you add to all of that loveliness the pumpkin and apple themed goodies, the GORGEOUS leaves, not to mention the anticipation of CHRISTMAS (!!!).  This time of year is truly special.

A few weeks ago, my roommate, Marisa, posted this note on our apartment bulletin board:

Holy smokes…we’re having a pasta party!!  And I don’t just mean a box-of-spaghetti-plus-sauce kind of pasta party.  I mean a from-scratch, flour-up-to-your-elbows, homemade-sauce kind of party.  Count me in!

Finally, after much anticipation…the blessed afternoon arrived!  What a perfect day – sunny, mild, a few clouds…that, combined with the amazing fall colors and fabulous company made for a most enjoyable drive to Marisa’s home.

Are you ready for an onslaught of photos?  Good!  ‘Cause that’s what your gonna get 🙂  More pictures, less words shall be the nature of this post.

The kitchen stood ready…

…and the table…BEAUTIFUL!

And here stands 5 roommates, ready, and completely unaware of how much work, and how much FUN is involved in making fresh, homemade pasta.

Let the fun begin!!

Gotta wash up!

Nikki set to work on the ravioli filling.

The dough is quite tough to mix…and this is why Mandi held the bowl down whilst Marisa mixed…and mixed and mixed!

When mixing utensils are no longer suitable…

Before anything, and I mean ANYTHING touches the dough, it must be floured.  Hands, surfaces, tools…ANYTHING!  Elizabeth did a rockin’ job making sure the flour reached every inch of that board!  And Mandi did excellent work kneading the dough after Marisa had her share of the fun 😀

Here’s a sneak peak of dessert….MMMMMM!

Our lovely hostess and executive chef!

Here’s the key step in the process…watch and be amazed!  (Click to enlarge the pictures)

The final(ish) product – ready for ravioli or noodle-making!

Ravioli, ready for a hot bath 🙂

Elizabeth and I made quite the dough-rolling team.

And here, we have our PRO ravioli making team!

Now it should come as no surprise to you that I forgot to take some photos that would have been quite nice to have…such as the final product!  But alas, in our great hunger and excitement to dive fork-first into the fruits of our labor, I completely forgot to take pictures of the actual meal until after….sooooo uh yeah.  You’ll get an idea 🙂


This kinda sorta gives you an idea of what the ravioli looked like…and if nothing else, you’ll know that they were thoroughly enjoyed!

Remember the sneak-peak of dessert?  Well…here it is in all it’s glory!  Let me tell you about this dessert.

Jocelyn, Marisa’s mom, makes the BEST chocolate pudding cake I’ve ever had (okay, maybe it’s the only chocolate pudding cake I’ve ever had, but there’s a VERY high standard set!)  Dense, gooey, with melty chocolate chips…and ‘lots of love 🙂  Top it with fresh whipped cream and raspberries and you’ve got it made (if you’re sitting at our table, that is).  Man-oh-man, this cake is amazing!

And there you have our pasta party in a nutshell!  After dinner, we were tired but satisfied and happy.  How can you not be happy after spending a lovely afternoon with dear friends creating delicious food?  I cannot give an answer.

What a blessed afternoon, celebrating the creation of food – good food – culminating with the joyful consumption of said food.  Thank you, Lord!

Have a great week!

Beth

Fall is for Soup

Dropping temperatures….

Wind and rain…


 

Falling leaves…(ignore the vibrant green grass…)

I think this all means that Fall has officially arrived!  And this means that soup season is in full force…woooooot! 🙂  So naturally, I poured, and I mean POURED over cook book after cook book, magazines, blogs, random recipe websites and whatever other resources I stumbled upon in search of a soup recipe.  “Why on earth would this be so hard?” you might ask.  “Why might you need to consult so many resources, you crazy foo’??!!”  Well…I have some very strict criteria.

  1. It must sound good (duh!)
  2. It must involve corn and potatoes (it’s a phase, okay?)
  3. It musn’t cost too much (and it would be preferable if I had a majority of the ingredients on hand)

Number 3 is probably the most limiting.  But never fear!  I found a delicious-sounding recipe, that with a few alterations, should work just great.  I showed the recipe to my roomie, Marisa, to see if she’d be interested in sharing (she agreed) and I set to work on gathering the ingredients!  Which delectable soup passed my nearly impossible criteria?  I made a variation of Parmesan-Corn Chowder, from the cook book More Healthy Homestyle Cooking by Evelyn Tribole.  She’s a Registered Dietician, and the co-author of the first book I read in an effort to learn about recovering from Anorexia.  The book is called Intuitive Eating, and I highly recommend it to anyone, weight struggles or not.

And before I get started…although the soup has parmesan in the name, I actually didn’t put any in the soup.  Refer to criteria number 3 🙂

Now, on to the food!

I began by cooking up a few chicken tenders on the stovetop, with definite plans to shred them upon their satisfactory doneness.

Next up…VEGGIES!  I really like veggies.  A lot.

There was quite a bit of choppin’ going on.  And a decent amount of crying, but don’t worry…I didn’t cut myself!!  I just have this thing with onions….

We don’t get along so well.  Not that I’m bitter or anything…

Anyways, after I dried my tears and wiped all the runny make-up off my face, I got back to work!  The time had arrived to get this baby cookin’…so bring out the chicken broth, I say!

I brought this to a boil and let it simmer for a while, until all the veggies had softened.  

While the veggies and broth simmered away, I shredded the chicken and prepared the other ingredients (frozen corn, cream corn, and cornstarch).  Missing from the photo on the right is the milk.  I didn’t want to detract from the corny-ness of the moment!  *ba-dum-CHA*!  Anyways……this is also a great time to do a little mid-cookin’ clean up!

Here we are with two kinds of corn and the chicken…just waiting on the creaminess!  (AKA…milk and cornstarch)

And here we go!  I just let it heat for a bit to warm up the milk and thicken and then……

DINNER TIME!!!!!!!!  This soup…creamy, salty, warm, filling, and the corn…the CORN!  I seriously adore corn.  Weird?  Maybe.  Do I care?  Not so much 😉  Basically, this soup = perfect fall meal.  I topped it with cheese and bacon bits, and rounded out the meal with a little salad and bread, but naturally, forgot to take a picture.  Someday I’ll learn 🙂

Parmesan-Corn Chowder

Adapted from More Healthy Homestyle Cooking

The Goods

2-3 chicken tenders, defrosted

2 cups fat-free chicken broth

2 potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 carrot (or 4-5 baby carrots) chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

A few twists of black pepper from the pepper grinder

3/4 cup frozen corn (or one ear, shucked)

1 can cream corn

2 cups 1% milk

2+ tablespoons cornstarch

shredded cheese and bacon bits for topping

The Plan

1. Place  chicken tenders in a frying pan sprayed with nonstick spray; cook, shred, then set aside (while the rest of the soup is cooking)

2. In a large pot, combine broth, potatoes, carrot(s), celery, onion, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.

3. Add the frozen corn, cream corn and shredded chicken to the soup.  Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the milk into the soup and corn mixture.  Allow to heat up.

4. In a cup, dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining milk, then add to the soup.  Cook and stir for another minute, or until thickened and bubbly.  Cook one more minute, adding more cornstarch dissolved in milk or water if you desire a thicker soup.

5. Serve it up and top with cheese, bacon bits, or whatever other toppings you might desire!

I definitely enjoyed this soup, and the cheese and bacon on top just, well…put it over the top!  Be prepared, though – it’s quite filling!  But I suppose that’s the point of eating…to be filled up?  Yes.

Have an excellent weekend!

Beth


 

Mini Apple Crumbles

Are ya’ll ready for a recipe?  Okay, good!  ‘Cause you’re gonna get one 😀

Sometimes, inspiration just strikes.  I wanted to make something with the apples my mom sent me (which grew on the trees in our back yard *tear*) but due to a dietary experiment, it needed to be wheat-free.  Hmmmm *cue jeopardy music*….INSPIRATION!  I could make a crust out of what I usually make a crumble topping out of (oats, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon) and put apple pie filling on top!  And I could make them mini size!  In muffin cups!  How CUTE!  So I found me a apple pie filling recipe and got busy.

I started with these lovely apples, the tart-er variety of the lovelies my mom sent.  They were small, and therefore a wee bit tough to peel, but TOTALLY worth the work…and the slice I took out of my thumb (but don’t worry, I didn’t get blood in anything!!)

All chopped up! But I promise, the red is from the apple skin, NOT from me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After chopping the apples (and not the rest of my fingers), I placed them in a meduium sized pot with sugar (I used brown sugar), water, salt, and cinnamon.  Oh, and don’t forget to preheat the oven!

And then, COOOOOOOK!!

 

 

 

While the apples are simmering, (being occasionally stirred), I got to work on the oat-crust.  It’s pretty simple – I just threw some oats (I chose quick-cooking), butter or margarine, cinnamon, brown sugar and a squeeze of honey in a bowl and mixed it up.  I ended up popping this in the microwave for a few seconds to make the butter more manageable.

Next, I tossed some muffin cups in a muffin pan, and pressed a small scoop of the oat mixture in the bottom of the cups.  Toss them in the oven for a few minutes while you finish the apple filling.

While the crusts are crisping a bit, I mixed up some cornstarch and water to put in the apple mixture.  This takes it from ho-hum soupyness to thick, gooey JOY!  I could have seriously just eaten the filling…but I exercised great self control and carried on!!

Ok, so maybe it doesn't look that great, but believe me...it tasted suuuper good!

After the filling is done, take out the cute little crusts, and fill ’em up!

 

 

 

Now, I was lucky enough to have leftover crust mix, so I decided to top the little crumbles to make them more pie like…weee!

And into the oven they go!

And then they come out!!!!

I opted to let them cool for a wee bit before digging in…they were toasty!  But I also decided to flex my food-artist muscles…which are weak…but you gotta start somewhere, no?

These were tasty…and the roomies sure liked them!  Give ’em a try – and feel free to play with the recipe – I think it’s quite adaptable.

Recipe for filling adapted from Betty Crocker:

5 cups apples, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)

1/4 cup water

1/8 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (if desired…I didn’t use it cause I didn’t have any!)

I added lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp water

 

Recipe for Crumble Crust/Topping

1 1/2 cups oats (I used quick cooking)

1/2 stick butter or margarine

1/4-1/3 cup packed brown sugar

A good sprinkling of cinnamon

A good squeeze of honey

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350*

2. Wash, peel and chop apples; combine in a pot with sugar, water, salt, and cinnamon (and nutmeg and lemon juice, if using).  Heat mixture to boiling; reduce to medium low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. While the apples are cooking, mix the oats, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and honey in a medium bowl.   (It’s okay to microwave this for a few seconds if the butter hasn’t come to room temperature).  Line the muffin pan, and press 1-ish tablespoons of the mixture in the bottom of each indentation.  You should have leftovers!  Bake these in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes.

4. When the apples have cooked for about 10 minutes, mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.  Add to apple mixture, cooking 1 minute, or until thickened.  Spoon into each muffin cup till almost full.

5. Top each with the remaining oat mixture.  Bake at 350* for 10-15 minutes.  But PLEASE watch them…they brown quickly!

Serve warm with ice cream and/or milk…but I highly recommend ice cream.

Obviously 🙂

Enjoy!

In other news, I picked up the new edition of Real Simple Magazine today!  Not only is it stunningly beautiful and choc-full of warm, homey decoration ideas and tasty looking Thanksgiving recipes, but it began with this quote:

“You say grace before meals.

All right.

But I say grace before the play and the opera,

And grace before the concert and pantomime,

And grace before I open a book,

And grace before sketching, painting,

Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;

And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

G. K. Chesterton, from an early notebook (mid-1890’s)

How beautiful.

Beth