It’s Apple Time!

applesSo, friends, it’s been a while. I wanted to come back with something amazing—great and new and pretty. At first, I thought a play on a Girl Scout cookie in a cupcake would be perfect; it wasn’t. And then, I thought, “Apples, how can I go wrong with apples?” Fun fact, it is not as hard as I thought to go wrong with apples.

So, instead of coming back with something awesome, I am coming back with a list of kitchen mistakes, because it is time to come back.

I moved recently. Not only to a new apartment, but also to a new city, in a new state, several hundred miles away. The biggest issue with the move has been the kitchen. In all fairness, it is not the worst kitchen ever. It is mostly functional, even if the cabinets I store my baking things are inconvenient and awkward. But, there is still that period of warming up—it is not necessarily the kitchen that is handicapped (as much as I would like to blame it) and I don’t think it is me, but we just aren’t working together. And so, my delectables turned out not been quite as intended.

Some examples:

Samoa Cupcakes: I couldn’t make the sugar caramelize so, instead of the caramel-coconut topping I had intended, I wound up with a  sugar-butter-bourbon-coconut topping on my attempted samoa cupcakes. And, the browned butter cupcakes underneath this topping were slightly too egg-y and not solid enough.

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(There are no pictures of the final product; I was too disappointed with the final product to take any at the time.)

applemuffinsApple muffins: These were made with too much liquid makes for very sticky muffins that don’t come out of the paper. Also, a lesson in how baking soda and baking powder can affect the outcome of your muffins!

Apple Pie Pockets: These were definitely the best attempt. We shall call these a work in progress. The first batch was burnt and had too little filling to crust. The second batch worked out in the filling to crust ratio, but just need to look more appetizing, and possibly need a slightly less crumble-y crust.

applesandroundsSo, what how did it go wrong? Let me count the ways:

Cupcakes: Caramel is really, really hard to make, especially without the candy thermometer. I have no idea what Deb from Smitten Kitchen meant when she said it was not that hard. I have attempted this salted caramel stuff three or four times and have only been successful once. Caramel and I have some beef (not literally, but, you know).

I attempted to make the caramel three times the night I made these cupcakes. The first time I burnt it (my bad). The second time, the sugar just wouldn’t caramelize. The third time, I attempted this Bourbon Caramel Sauce, except that it still didn’t turn brown.

So, I thought, lets add some bourbon like she did and see if it will change colors (didn’t work quite as well as I hoped). The end result: some not so pretty, but very delicious, adult Samoa cupcakes.

If I attempt again and it works, I will let you all know.

Muffins: I haven’t quite figured out the ratio of liquid to dry yet. I was worried about my muffins being too dry and sticky so I added more milk. Turns out, not such a great plan, they were a little too wet.  Also, if you forget baking soda, not only do they not rise, they also don’t brown. Weird, right!?! I have to Google that!

Apple Pie Pockets: These were clearly the most successful and, as I picked a bushel of apples, will probably be perfected. (Be on the watch for this!) So, seriously, genius idea, an individualized apple pie, how can you go wrong?

Answer: not enough filling to crust. Burning them also doesn’t help. So, when the crescent shape proved to be faulty, I moved on to disks. Much better ratio (and, not burnt). But they also didn’t brown. Maybe I just need some sugar on top? Perhaps, I should cut slits like you do on regular pie? It is time to go back to the laboratory!! (i.e. my kitchen).

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So, here it is. I am back. Nothing is perfect, and that is a-okay. Things are delicious, and at some point I will master the pretty presentation.

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Quinoa Salad

IMG_2317I started making this recipe this summer when a friend of mine introduced it to me. All sorts of tasty (and healthy) dishes come out of her/her mother’s kitchen and this is no exception.

It was perfect for the summer because, after cooking, it was a high-protein salad that I enjoyed making and eating, and it tasted great chilled. Problem was, it had become such a big part of my weekly meal planning (I would make some to bring into work a couple times per week for lunch) that it was hard to give up when winter came and all I wanted was warm, comfort food to keep me going until spring.

Some foods that are meant to be cold, just don’t work as a hot dish; this is not one of them. It was perfect for winter, or for your overly-air conditioned office, because it tastes just as great warmed up! And that makes me happy because I can eat it all year long.IMG_2268

So, whether your winter is hanging on or melting away, here is a salad for you.

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 Cup cashews
  • 1/4 Cup almond slices
  • 1/2 Cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4- 1 Cup broth
  • 1 apple (I use Granny Smith because I like how tart it is and the acid keeps it browns slower than other varieties)
  • 1/2 lemon or about 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/3 Cup Crasins
  • Olive oil (about a Tbs)
  • Salt and PepperIMG_2228

Quinoa Salad

Preheat oven to 325º. Spread cashews and almond slices (you could really use any nuts you like, I just happen to enjoy these two) on a baking sheet and toast 10-15 minutes, rotating them every 3-5 minutes, until golden brown. When done, set aside.

While nuts are toasting, take your rinsed quinoa and put it into a medium sized sauce pot. Turn heat to medium-high and toast slightly (you can skip this step, a lot of recipes say you should toast quinoa to bring out flavor, I just think it helps it cook faster), about 3 minutes. Add 3/4 of your cup of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until all water has evaporated. If, when the water is mostly gone, the tendril-like ring has not detached from the quinoa, add the extra 1/4 cup of broth (or more if necessary) until quinoa is tender and tendrils have detached. When done, set aside to cool slightly.

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Chop your apple into 1/2 inch (or whatever size you think is bite appropriate) chunks and place in baggie with lemon juice, shake to coat. This will help your apple from browning as well as providing a nice, fresh flavor.

In medium to large size bowl, combine nuts, quinoa, apple, crasins and a drizzle of olive oil (this is just to keep everything moist and help it stay together, less is more), salt and pepper to taste.

Variations on a theme: try a handful of spinach sauteed with a dash of ground nutmeg or 1/2 cup sweet corn.

This is by far my favorite way to eat quinoa, although I have had some very tasty recipes try to take its place. How do you like your quinoa?

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