Keeping things simple in a not so simple world

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my favorite applesauce

I’m a huge fan of applesauce.  Many people no longer eat applesauce as adults, but I think you are missing out.  I love having a small bowl with my dinner…it is a bit of dessert and happiness all in one bowl.

I also use applesauce to bake.  But this recipe is not about that.  When I want applesauce for baking, I use my food mill.  Simply peel apples, quarter, boil in a small amount of water and then run through the mill – seeds and all.  The sauce is smooth and thin.

No, this is not that recipe.  This recipe actually starts in early October when we do our annual trip to an apple orchard with friends (and then an afternoon of food and fun in Princeton.)  Like most kids, mine get super enthusiastic about picking apples and we usually end up spending much more money than our friends or what is budgeted on apples.  Think: seventy-five dollars worth of apples.

Most years, we can barely make it through half the apples before I need to make sauce out of the soft apples.  This year, I only made two quart-sized jars.  My little girl loves her fruit!

The orchard we go to in Lawrenceville has a specific variety of apple that we love.  It is called Styman Winesap and is great for pretty much any which way you like apples – sauce, pies, plain eating, you name it.  But we also pick up a fair number of Granny Smiths because I love nothing better than a tart apple.

This recipe is both Granny Smiths and Winesaps.  It is tart with just a hint of sweetness.  It is rich with dark brown sugar and good Vietnamese cinnamon.  It is chunky, but with the perfect size chunks.  I do hope you will give it a try.


8 medium to large sized Granny Smith apples
6 medium to small sized Styman Winesap apples (substitute: golden delicious)
dark brown sugar

Peel the apples, remove stems and cut into large quarters.
Fill a very large stock pot (8-10 quart) with a cup and half of water.
Place the apples in the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil until apples are soft. This DOES NOT TAKE LONG! So keep an eye on them. If they boil too long, you will have mush!

Don’t drain, instead, use a spoon to transfer apples to a large mixing bowl. Don’t worry if you get a bit of the water in the bowl, just try not to have too much.

Add cinnamon to taste and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar. Using a potato masher, mash the apples until you get bite-sized pieces of apples. Yes, there will also be some completely mashed apples too.

Feel free to can the finish product or place in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to eight months.


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So you know those Trader Joe’s crackers – the raisin and rosemary ones – that cost a fortune for a teeny tiny box…well, I’ve found a homemade version.  It is based on a recipe from the Kitchn and is quite amazing. I’ve adapted the recipe to our gluten-free eating and reduced the sugar from the recipe, as well as a cup of other tweaks.

The recipe is easy and it is very simple to always have some on hand. I usually double or triple the recipe. The mini-loafs are frozen before slicing into crackers and baked again – so you can have the loafs ready in a pinch.

1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dry rosemary)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cranberries in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a towel. Let sit until ready to add to the recipe.

Mix together the rest of the ingredients and then add cranberries, mixing thoroughly.

Scoop the dough into greased mini-loaf pans and bake until just lightly golden. Watch them carefully. The original recipe says to bake until golden brown, but I find that when I go to make the crackers they get too dark.
Let the mini-loafs cool and then place in a freezer proof container or baggies and freeze until ready to make the crackers.

When ready to make crackers:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Remove the mini-loafs from freezer but do not thaw.
Slice the loafs while still frozen. It makes is simpler to slice even, thin slices that don’t mush into nothing.
Place the crackers on an non-greased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown and crispy, flipping at least once to make sure the crackers are browned on each side.

Let the crackers cool before eating.

Crackers can be kept in an air-tight container for at least a week – if you don’t eat them all.

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our new favorite soup

There a number of things I look for in a meal – the right veggie to meat ratio (more veggies), the time it takes to cook, how it TASTES, and now that I have a child with a food texture issue who is also a bit picky (trust me, he really is not that picky compared to most children, but it seems that way because the rest of us eat pretty much everything) I look for a recipe to not include the elements he doesn’t like, unless they can be hidden.

Well, I found stumbled upon a version of the recipe below and it dawned on me that it meets all of the criteria. It was so EASY! It had BACON! I could hide the SQUASH! And it had a LOT OF VEGGIES!

I do hope you try this, it was so fantastic. We ate it for dinner, snack time, breakfast, lunch and still had a little leftover for lunch a second day later. It was filling but didn’t leave us uncomfortable (all those veggies!) It was a party in my mouth. I really loved the way the textures and tastes worked so well together.

Of course, you could easily make it vegan or at least vegetarian, but we really do love bacon around here.

autumn harvest soup

1 butternut or other squash, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)
4-4.5 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 package bacon
3 cans pinto beans
1 cup kale, shredded
1 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red peppers, finely chopped
1 cup corn kernels
1.5 cup kale or collard greens, sliced

Note: The bacon needs to get nice and crispy, then chopped finely. I did this in the oven and used some other bacon drippings reserved previously to saute my onion and garlic in. You could also fry up your bacon first and then use the left over drippings.

If you chopped everything ahead of time, the whole process goes real quick!

Heat 1 tablespoon oil (or drippings) in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion. When onion is just starting to brown, add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Add the squash, celery, and carrots, stirring to coat with the oil and then add 4 cups broth and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer until the squash is soft.
Remove the thyme sprigs.
Using a hand blender (food processor or regular blender work too!) puree the veggies.
Add in the beans, corn, peppers, and kale, mixing thoroughly and bring to a low boil. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add a bit more broth.
Mix in the bacon and serve.

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keeping it different

Usually, around mid-winter, we start to get stuck for recipes that are new and different. We want to stick to the season – not buy produce out of season.

Out of these doldrums, came this recipe. Now we use this recipe all winter to spike the taste buds.

Thai Roast Chicken and Veggies

1 chicken for roasting
sweet potatoes
red onions
red chili peppers (if you like spice)
5 tablespoons coconut milk
3 limes
1 green chili, minced
1 inch piece chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves
peanut oil (or very mild olive oil)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons of softened butter with salt (take it easy if the butter is salted), pepper and some chopped cilantro.
Gently lift the skin of your chicken and spread this butter between the meat and skin of the chicken, focusing primarily on the breast of the chicken to keep it moist.
Squeeze 2 limes over the skin, placing the squeezed limes in the cavity of the chicken. Sprinkle the skin with salt and pepper.
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes in large chunks and the beets into wedges. Quarter the onion.
Place the veggies, with the chili peppers if using, in the bottom of your roasting pan and cover them with peanut oil, tossing them gently.
In a small bowl, combine minced garlic, ginger, minced green chili, chopped cilantro, 5 tablespoons coconut milk, 2 tablespoons oil, the zest of 1 lime and a small touch of brown sugar or agave to sweeten. Mix well. Spoon the paste over the veggies.
Place a roasting stand in your pan and place the chicken on the stand.
Put roasting pan in the oven.
Cook for 2 hours, stirring the veggies every 20 minutes or so to keep from sticking to the pan.
When chicken is cooked through, carve and serve.

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a new kind of potato salad

I have to admit, I love potatoes, but I hate the American version. Too much mayonnaise, too much mustard, pickles – no thank you!

So I’ve decided to share a “new kind” of potato salad. Of course, one of the simplest ways to mix up your potato salad is to simply use several different types of potatoes. If you live in an area that still has a farmer’s market or maybe you live by a store that carries several different types, try some of the various heirloom varieties.

Mustard-kale potato salad
Any Kale will work with this recipe, but I recommend lacinto as it is thicker and easier to shred. Not to mention, has a great bitter taste that blends really well with the mustard.

8-10 small potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
5-8 lacinto kale stems, shredded
lemon juice
chives, chopped
1 tablespoons high quality mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
garlic powder
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil potatoes until just tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice through balsamic vinegar. Pour dressing over the kale and massage the kale with your hands. (This is the best way to coat any type of kale with dressing.)
Add kale and dressing mixture to potatoes and mix thoroughly. Place in fridge for 3 hours or over night.