Archive for the ‘Apples’ Category

Little appetizers

There is rarely a time when, if one is put in front of me, I will turn down a savory bite of something served on a cracker. Whether it’s cheese and fruit or creamy dips or thinly sliced cold cuts, if I lived alone and chose to appease only my deepest food-desires, I might never lift a fork to a plate of un-crackered food again.

Tray of tasty treats

These little bites grew out of a fortuitous collection of ingredients I happened to have on hand after returning home in January. A last hoorah of apples from the fall, a couple packs of crackers I didn’t use at my food-filled Christmas party, and a precious gift of maple cheddar from some dear friends who live in Wisconsin.

The stars of the show

Apple & cheddar cheese are a match made in heaven. The pairing of a sharp, creamy bit of cheese against a sweet, juicy apple would be delicious enough, all on their own, on these crisp little crackers. And I won’t lie, I’ve eaten my fair share of little bites just like that. But these little bites are more than that. The apple and cheddar are chopped into tiny little wedges and cubes with a tangy, punchy dressing.

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I told you on Thursday, when I posted this Ginger Apple Chutney, that I would have a recipe utilizing it that would blow your dang socks off. This, my friends, is it.

I must be honest: until about one year ago, I never so much as ordered potstickers or Chinese dumplings as take-out. I thought they looked, frankly, kind of gross. So sad and pekid compared to the seemingly superior fried wontons farther down the menu.

Oh, how times have changed.

Suddenly, I’ve become obsessed with these tiny pouches of savory filling. I order them whenever I find them on a menu and often abandon any pretense of planning to order an entree, simply doubling up on potstickers. As someone who loves ravioli, finger food, and anything dippable, I really can’t say why it took me 25 years to see the salty, potsticker-y light.

And what better way to truly embrace the potsticker than to make them from scratch? Having found this fantastic recipe for filling, I also wanted to try my hand at making homemade wonton/potsticker wrappers. That’s just sort of what I do here.

While it is a bit time-consuming and I totally understand if you want to buy yours from the store, I urge you to try it at least once from scratch, especially if you have a pasta crank. These homemade wrappers are soft, not at all rubbery, and can be made in any size that you want (though I found a 3-inch diameter to be absolutely perfect).

Like most doughs, homemade wonton wrappers start with a sifter full of flour, some warm water, and a fork.

Once the dough is mixed, barely pliable due to its low moisture content, it needs to sit for a while. Just cover the bowl with a damp cloth so the little moisture that IS in this dough doesn’t escape.

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Ginger has never really been something I’ve thought about very much. Occasionally, my dad would add some ground ginger to stir fry, or I’d use some in fall desserts. But the farmers near Durham have been showcasing mounds of baby ginger at their tables for the last few weeks, and my curiosity about this knobby little root grew with each table I passed.

And with fortuitous timing, I came across this recipe for ginger apple chutney. Combined with apples & onions, also plentiful at local markets, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to buy a chunk of ginger. The recipe wasn’t written as one for canning, but I suspected the acid content would be high enough for canning and checked with a deft canning blogger to be sure.

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ATTENTION STORES EVERYWHERE:

I love Christmas, I really do. But I’m not ready for it. Not for candy canes and glittery pine cones and red ribbons on the ends of the aisle. I’m not ready for the ghost and goblin decor to be heaped haphazardly on a clearance rack by the checkout while pine boughs and Santa hats flood in from the back room. It’s Halloween this week, thank you very much, it’s Thanksgiving in a month, and there are several beautiful weeks of autumn between now and then.

And for you big-budget stores, I’m really not ready for jingle bells and dancing elves to adorn your circulars & commercials.

So in defiance of the ever-earlier Christmas season, I offer these treats that scream “Halloween!” loudly enough to drown out the dancing elves, at least for the next few days.

I speak, of course, of caramel apples. It’s no wonder this treat is a classic: a tart, crisp apple enrobed in a sheen of chewy honey caramel is one of the greatest joys of fall. These apples are Pink Ladies, my favorite variety, and they hail from this year’s annual apple-picking trip, which has become a cornerstone of every fall for me (my little blog is named after it!)

Photo from Monica B.

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Apple cider. It is,without question, my favorite thing to drink. I’m rather fond of apple cider cold and unpasteurized, straight from an orchard, but I also believe that apple cider is truly at its best served warm, in a cozy little mug, for a soothing drink on cool nights in the fall and winter. From early October to New Years Eve, I need only the tiniest hint of a social gathering to bust out the crock pot and a half gallon of cider and am forlorn when parties I attend elsewhere don’t feature this essential holiday beverage.

The singular challenge I face with my affection for spiced hot cider? Unless I am hosting a party, I simply need one mugful. I’ve tried various packets of instant cider mix, but I usually find them far too sweet and not apple-y enough for my tastes. And the Caramel Apple Spice from Starbucks? Tasty, but not good for the wallet. And again with the too sweet.

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So.

Remember the apples?

I brought home about 45 pounds of them and have hardly mentioned them since?

Yeah, those apples.

I’ll be honest, my favorite way to eat apples is whole and raw, so I don’t actually use them in many “recipes”. But I decided this year that, in order to ensure none went to waste, I would cook some down to make something I could use as a breakfast, a snack, a side, or a gift: applesauce!

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The time has come:

For apples!

After a few weeks of rather slim pickings of fruit at the farmers market, I’m happy to say I am now set for months, with a fridge full of the fresh, juicy apples. For breakfasts, for lunches, for sauce, for pie, for crisp, for… everything!

Obtaining these apples is so much more fun than the grocery store, or even my other pick-your-own adventures. Rather than making an early morning solo march into a strawberry field or a blueberry patch, I worked a drive to a Maryland apple orchard into my whirlwind trip to DC to visit friends.

And it’s actually becoming a bit of a tradition. For three years running, anywhere from two to four of us have made our way out to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, Maryland for apple picking.

And we could not have asked for a more perfect day! Blue skies, pleasant sunshine, and a cool autumn breeze set the scene as we arrived.

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