Apple Pancakes

Seriously, who doesn't aspire to be like the Smitten Kitchen? Consistently beautiful photographs, delicious recipes, and story-like blog posts all make this one of my favorite food blogs. I went to Smitten Kitchen determined to make something for make breakfast on Sunday morning. I also had one requirement, it had to contain apples; I hate to waste my freshly picked apples. The apple pancakes stood out to me simply because they were easy and I had all the ingredients. Pancakes, beside my all time favorite eggs benedict, are my favorite breakfast food. Blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes are two of my favorite versions, separately of course (although together I bet it would be delicious!).

Ingredients & Directions:
(from Smitten Kitchen)

2 Eggs
1 1/2 C Milk
2 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 C Sugar
3 Apples, peeled and coarsely grated (I used a grater, but may use a food processor next time for speed)
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
Vegetable oil, for frying
Confectioner’s Sugar, for dusting

Mix the eggs with the milk in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Combine the wet and the dry ingredients and stir in the apples and cinnamon. Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet over low to medium heat. Drop large spoonful of batter into the pan and flatten it out a little (otherwise, you might have trouble getting them to cook in the center) and cook until golden brown underneath. Flip the pancakes and cook them for an additional two or three minutes.

The original recipe uses a cast iron pan and that is one kitchen item I am putting on my Christmas list. I am dying to make corn bread in a cast iron pan, just one of those things that I have always wanted to do. I should really compile my mental list of things I want to try cooking on paper. Do other people do that?

I dusted the pancakes with confectioner's sugar and a little more cinnamon, before a drizzled a little maple syrup over them.


Squash Cream Sauce

I love making different types of sauces for pasta and with it being fall I wanted to make something fall-like. I had a butternut squash in the refrigerator and decided I would use that, but wasn't sure what to do. I went to the trusty internet and googled squash sauce. I found a recipe that I have adapted here, but I will be revisiting this recipe and making the whole thing, not just the sauce. Check it out!

Ingredients & Directions:
(recipe adapted from here)

1 but­ter­nut squash
2 T but­ter
1 Onion, chopped
salt and pep­per to taste
1 C heavy cream
1/2 C grated parme­san cheese
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C apple juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half length­wise and remove seeds. Place on a greased cookie sheet cut side down and roast for about 45 minutes or until tender. Set the squash aside to cool. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion, salt, and pep­per and saut√© until onions are translucent. Once squash has cooled, pure√© in a blender with cream. Add the squash & cream mix­ture to shal­lots along with apple juice, cinnamon, and parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, sim­mer­ing for 10 min­utes. Makes roughly 3 cups of sauce, depend­ing on the size of your squash.

I think this sauce would be great with some fresh made pasta, but I was not in the mood to make any, nor did I have any fresh pasta in the house.


Apple Tart

I had so many apples left over from apple picking that I needed to start cooking them and the best way (and my favorite way) I know how is in pies, cakes, or tarts. I now feel like I have been making apple pies and apple tarts every day for a week now, but I could never tire of eating them, so it's all worth it.

Ingredients & Directions:

1 Pre-Made Pie Crust, thawed
3 Apples (your choice), peeled, cored, sliced thin
2 T butter, melted
3 T Cinnamon Sugar
1/4 cup raspberry jam, melted (or use whatever you have at home)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a pie pan (which is what I did here). Arrange apples in pie crust, overlapping apple slices and leaving border clear. Brush apples with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush melted jam over apples. Bake tart until golden, about 8 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I waited until the pie had only five minutes left before I started melting the raspberry jam. Once it was melted I set it aside in a dish to cool a little. I used the pastry brush the apply the jam and then returned it to the oven to finish cooking.

This tart was easy & delicious. I am really interested in trying it with different jams to see what I like the best. I think blueberry or apricot may be next!


Stepping Out of My Kitchen: Russell Orchard in Ipswich, MA

I have been going to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, Massachusetts for many years now. I started going here with my family to pick apples, get pumpkins, check out the farm animals, and most importantly get fresh apple cider doughnuts. One of my favorite things about this farm is the short hayride out to the middle of the orchard; I love seeing all the rows of apples beforehand so I know which rows look the best.

Picking apples with my family is always one of my favorite things to do in the fall and it's a great family tradition.

Here is a gratuitous picture of me in the orchard.

The bags they provide for $15.00 a peck fit so many apples (it is $13. Monday through Friday) . Obviously, it's a lot more expensive to get apple here than in the grocery store, but for the experience alone, it's worth it.

This year we started out picking apples, moved on to the farm animals, and then went inside to get the apple cider doughnuts. You have to walk around inside the barn/store. There are wine tastings from their winery, which I hear is delicious, but I didn't get to sample. They also have a small ice cream stand and I sampled their delicious pumpkin ice cream. I really wanted to try the apple pie ice cream too, but felt too greedy asking for more free samples.

Then we went over to where they make the apple cider doughnuts. I love standing there watching the delicious dough drop into the hot oil and go through the entire process. My favorite part of the process is eating the fresh doughnuts of course. Thinking about the smell alone makes me crave them. Of course I had to bring a dozen home with me...What? They are small and I shared one or two.

They also have a great selection of pumpkins and mums to choose from. We got a few and will be carving them soon!

The biggest pig on the farm is called Big Boy and he weighs close to 1000 lbs. I remember some years ago there used to be an even bigger pig (see below), or at least I thought it seemed bigger, on the farm, named Inga.

Here are a few of the apple cider doughnuts that lasted only minutes after this photo was taken.


Pumpkin Banana Bread

Once the fall starts cooking with pumpkin becomes almost like an obsession. You will see in the next few weeks some of my favorite pumpkin desserts & more. I love the rich taste pumpkin adds to things like bread and creme brulee (two of my favorite pumpkin dishes) The pumpkin creme brulee is always part of my Thanksgiving Day dessert menu, so stayed tuned for that. I will be attempting to make a pumpkin creme sauce for a simple pasta dish. I am always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to use pumpkin, so if you see anything let me know. I love a challenge when it comes to cooking. Susie, from We Are Not Martha, recently took a class at Stonewall Kitchen and made pot pies in a pumpkin which looks like so much fun; i might even try making those.

Ingredients & Directions:

2 Mashed Ripe Bananas
1 C Pumpkin Puree
2 T Canola Oil
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
2 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
2/3 C Sugar
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan and set aside. Combine mashed bananas, pumpkin, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, add remaining ingredients. Add the dry ingredients in about 3 parts. Beat the batter after each addition until smooth. Sprinkle cinnamon & sugar mix into bottom of greased pan. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until toothpick placed in center comes out clean.

I made my own cinnamon & sugar mix, since I didn't have the pre-made kind. Just mix 1 tsp of cinnamon for each 1/8 C of sugar or just eyeball it and taste it.

One of the fun things about baking bread for me is using different loaf pans. The one that I used here, with leaves and pumpkins, is great for the fall. It is still available at Williams Sonoma. I also love making mini loaves of bread which are perfect to bring to work for breakfast, a mid morning treat, or even an after school snack.


Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

Ingredients & Directions:
(adapted from Martha Stewart)

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1/3 C Butter, softened
1/3 C Creamy Peanut Butter
1/2 C Sugar
1/4 C Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 3/4 C Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 1/4 C Milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 standard muffin pan cups with foil baking cups. Beat butter and peanut butter in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth; beat in sugars until mixed. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 full. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched and toothpicks inserted in centers come out clean. Remove cupcakes to racks to cool. Once completely cool, remove from foil baking cups.

I was snacking on a few (ok many) Reese's peanut butter cups and had already planned on spending the rainy Saturday baking. So, when I finally decided I wanted to make cupcakes I had the inspiration in my stomach. I've made peanut butter cupcakes before, but never the delicious combination of peanut butter & chocolate. I was going to change that today. Here is my attempt at recreating Reese's peanut butter cups in cupcake form. Try them and let me know what you think.

Chocolate Ganache

8 oz Chocolate Chips
1 C Heavy Cream

Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going to be sure it's emulsified.

Once the ganache is cooled a little, dip the cupcakes covering the tops. Set back on the wire rack until the ganache is set and then eat.

I think the next time I make these I might dip the entire cupcake in chocolate, but other than that these were really tasty and satisfied my craving for peanut butter cups.