On the fifth and sixth day of the Christmas Cookie Challenge …

I got tired of unwrapping candy and tried a new cookie.

Cookie #5

Baking with candy is great.

We never have candy in the house.

Unless it’s Halloween.

Or my birthday.

Or I had a rough day at work.

Or I need to bribe the kids.

Or we’re making popcorn (because we always add M&Ms to popcorn at my house).

OK, we have some type of candy in the house most of the time, but rarely to we have Hershey’s® Kisses because I have been known to grab “Just one” and wake up hours later surrounded by little piles of foil, reeking of chocolate and guilt.

But I had to make Peanut Butter Sealed with a Kiss as part of the cookie challenge, partly because that’s what Kristi always made when we had our Christmas baking day in St. Joseph, but also because I really wanted chocolate and baking chocolate wasn’t going to cut it.

(Side note: I let Emma try some unsweetened baking chocolate. She’s still mad at me. I probably shouldn’t have laughed that long.)

My kids continued their “We’re the best kids ever” campaign by taking on the task of unwrapping dozens of Hershey’s® Kisses – “testing” only a few the entire time.

They have a lot more restraint than I do.

PEANUT BUTTER SEALED WITH A KISSpeanut butter blossoms

½ cup peanut butter
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar, plus extra for rolling
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 9-ounce package of Hershey’s® Kisses, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream with peanut butter, butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together. Combine with the peanut butter mixture.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the extra white sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes, remove from the oven, and press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Return to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe courtesy of Family Fun’s Cookies for Christmas by Deanna F. Cook

Cookie #6

Baking Christmas cookies is a tradition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a new recipe to the mix. I try a new cookie recipe every year. Some recipes are awesome and are now part of my cookie rotation. Others were a one-time-only cookie, but that’s OK. Trying new things is how traditions begin.

This year I decided to try a savory cookie. I chose the following recipe with two colleagues in mind. As expected, they liked it.

CORNMEAL COOKIES with ROSEMARYCornmeal Cookies

¾ cup salted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Dried rosemary (optional)

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Mix in the vanilla.

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add them a third at a time to the butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and stick in the fridge until firm, about 1 hour.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured board to ¼-inch thick. Cut out cookies (any cookie cutter works; I went with a simple flower cookies cutter) and place them an inch apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle each top with a few pieces of rosemary, lightly pressing the herb to adhere.

Bake at 350 degrees until the edges start to turn golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. (Less if you use a small cookie cutter shape. I also did miniature Christmas trees and they were ready in about 8 to 10 minutes.)

You can add a citrus twist to these cookies in several ways:

Orange: Add the grated zest of one orange into the butter while mixing. The rosemary is optional. (I chose this option and the result is crisp, light cookie; perfect with tea.)

Lemon: Add the grated zest of ½ a lemon into the butter while mixing.

Lime: Add the grated zest of ½ a lime into the butter while mixing, and skip the rosemary garnish.

Recipe courtesy of The Cookiepedia: Mixing Baking, and Reinventing the Classics by Stacy Adimando

On the second, third and fourth day of Christmas, I …

Ran out of peanut butter.

Had it proven to me once again that my kids are awesome.

And secured my status as world’s best neighbor.

Here’s my wrap-up of the cookie challenge to date:

Cookie #2

When it comes to holiday cookies, everyone has a favorite.

My son loves Inside-Out Oreos. My daughter is all about sugar cookies. I can’t wait to go to my parents’ house and snack on sugar cookies from Larita’s Cakes ‘N More. Scott has a special place in his heart for chocolate-covered peanut butter Ritz Cracker cookies.

These are a simple cookie — just a peanut butter sandwich made out of Ritz Crackers and dipped in chocolate. They take no time to make, but one of the reasons he loves them is that they are the cookies his mom makes every Christmas.

Who can compete with that?

Luckily, she knows how much he loves them and made extras for Scott to take home after our Christmas celebration earlier this month. It’s too bad both kids like them, too, which is why I made more as part of The 12 Days of Christmas Cookies Challenge.

I’m hiding this batch.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED PEANUT BUTTER RITZ CRACKERSpeanut butter Ritz cookies

  • Ritz Crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Chocolate almond bark

Make peanut butter sandwiches with the Ritz Crackers and peanut butter.

Melt the chocolate almond bark according to the instructions on the packet.

Dip each sandwich in the chocolate until covered. Place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. When the cookie sheet is full, place it in the refrigerator so the cookie can harden.

Store in an air-tight container.

Recipe courtesy of my mother-in-law, Pennie

Cookie #3

We baked cookies for seven hours yesterday (hence the late blog post; by the time our kitchen was put back together last night, I was too sore to type).

We started around noon, rolling out the sugar cookie dough. (Emma’s recipe; not mine. We all know why.) We made good use of the cookies cutters, and then I left the house to grab lunch and hit the grocery store for the rest of our baking ingredients. When I left, there were four batches of cookies waiting to be baked, cookie cutters all over the counter and a kitchen table covered in flour. I was fine with the mess; it was going to be a messy day. But when I got home an hour later, everything was cleaned up and put away.

My kids did it.

Without asking.

Best. Kids. Ever.

Their hard work disappeared quickly, though, as we had a lot more cookies to make. Here’s the recipe we tackled for the third day of the cookie challenge:

PEPPERMINT TRUFFLE COOKIESpeppermint truffles

  • 8 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Peppermint Extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 36 milk chocolate kiss-shaped candies, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar, egg and peppermint extract. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gradually beat in flour on low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Press a chocolate candy into the center of each ball, forming dough around the candy to completely enclose it. Roll in remaining 1/2 cup sugar to coat. (We used colored sugar to make our truffles most festive.) Place 1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

Recipe courtesy of McCormick®

Cookie #4

After taking a picture of all the cookies we baked yesterday, the kids and I packed eight boxes of goodies to give to our neighbors, the mailman, the recycling crew and garbage collectors, and the UPS delivery guy.

Even with all those cookies we gave away, we still have a lot left – and even more cookies to bake before the challenge ends!

The following recipe is one of Emma’s favorites. I have several Christmas cookie cookbooks, each with its own variation for the candy cane cookie, but this one from spoonful.com is the easiest I’ve worked with. Twisting the dough to get the candy cane look takes practice – make the dough too thick and they bake into colorful lumps; too thin and they break apart during the twisting process. I pushed through, though, while Emma used her dough to make cookie snowmen.

Those baked into colorful blobs.

CANDY CANE TWISTScandy cane cookie

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon green food coloring

Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, cream the butter. Continue beating and gradually add the sugar.

Beat in the egg until evenly mixed, then add the vanilla extract, the peppermint extract, and the salt and blend well.

Use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour, one third at a time, until evenly mixed.

Divide the dough into thirds. Add the red food coloring to one third and the green food coloring to another, then knead the coloring into the dough. Flatten each third into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle, cover it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured surface, roll a pair of tablespoon-size pieces of contrasting colored dough into 8-inch-long ropes. Twist them together, pinch the ends, then bend the cookies into a candy cane shape. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet until set but not brown, about 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through. Cool the sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to continue cooling.

Recipe courtesy of www.spoonful.com

On the first day of Christmas, I took on a new food challenge

Today was a rough day – and not just for me. It seemed everyone on the features desk was putting out small fires, so when someone mentioned craving a cookie, I mentioned that I had considered taking on a 12 Days of Christmas Cookies challenge for Everybody Eats.

“That’s a great idea!”

“You should do it! And bring the cookies to work!”

I told them I’d have to start today if I was to do this.

“And the problem is?”

OK. It looks like I’m taking on a Christmas cookie challenge.

To be honest, I’ve had a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit this year. Our house is decorated and all my shopping is finished, but without any snow on the ground, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Maybe baking a different type of cookie for the next 12 days will help.

Or it will lead into my New Year’s Resolution – lose the cookie challenge weight.

Recipe No. 1 — Cherry Pecan Chews – was chosen because I knew I had everything I needed to make these cookies at home. Plus the red tint of the cookies just looks festive.

CHERRY PECAN CHEWScherry pecan chews

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
  • 1 cup toasted and finely chopped pecans

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and almond until fluffy. Beat in egg. Mix in cherries and pecans. Add flour mixture, mixing until well incorporated. Pat dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper, and chill for at least 1 hour, although overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray. Using a small cookie scoop, portion dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing cookies 2” apart. Bake for 11−12 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Allow cookies to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Recipe courtesy of The National Cherry Foundation at http://www.nationalcherries.com

The end of the apple challenge is so a-peel-ing!

Day 29: Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I learned something new last week. If you frost cupcakes with melted caramel, it will look cool at first, but the caramel will sink into the cupcake overnight if you leave the cupcakes in a container on the counter and not in the refrigerator.

I made these for a bake sale at work. They were among the items available for 50-cents off because they tasted good, but they weren’t pretty.

My poor, sad cupcakes.

CARAMEL APPLE CUPCAKES

  • 1 package spice or carrot cake mix (regular size)
  • 2 cups chopped peeled tart apples
  • 20 Caramels
  • 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

Prepare cake batter according to package directions; fold in apples.

Fill 12 greased or paper-lined jumbo muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, cook the caramels and milk over low heat until smooth. Spread over cupcakes. Sprinkle with pecans. Insert a wooden stick into the center of each cupcake.

Recipe courtesy of www.tasteofhome.com

Recipe 30: Apple Crisp

Setting: My kitchen last week.

Me: I’ve got apple crisp!

Scott: You saved the best for last?

Apple crisp is my husband’s favorite dessert (after pumpkin pie), so it seemed fitting to make it for him towards the end of the challenge as a thank you for putting up with all apple dishes and running out to buy me a gala apple when all I had on hand was golden delicious.

He’s a keeper.

APPLE CRISP

  • 4 medium tart cooking apples, sliced (4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with shortening.

Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients except cream until well mixed; sprinkle over apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm with cream.

Recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook by Betty Crocker (Betty Crocker; Nov. 15, 1998)

Day 31: Flat Apple Pie

I knew I wanted to end this challenge with an apple pie recipe, but not just any apple pie recipe. I used my newspaper column to ask readers to send me their favorite apple pie recipes. This is the one I chose.

FLAT APPLE PIE

Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose enriched flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Crisco, either butter flavor or plain (you can also do 3/4 cup Crisco and 3/4 cup lard)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

This is a moist crust and rolls well. Divide the dough in half, then lightly flour the rolling surface which needs to be at least as big as the pan. (Hint: Lightly flour, then place the pan over the surface and make some impressions of where the dough needs to ‘roll to’ before you place the dough on the surface.)

Once you have rolled the dough fairly thin, fold in thirds to move it to the jelly roll pan. Nestle into the pan. Fix any ‘breaks’ in the crust by wetting your finger, gluing edges together with the wet finger, and then tap with a floured finger. Cut this crust off at the top of the edge of the pan; there will be no hang-over edge on this portion.

Pie innards

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 7 cups sliced raw apples–a variety of at least 3 kinds works the best, core and peel them before slicing (I used Honeycrisp, Jonagold and Granny Smith)
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon red hots
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Mix the first three ingredients together. Sprinkle about ¼ of the mixture on the pie crust in the pan.

Mix the apples with the remaining mixture, then spread on the crust.  Sprinkle the red hots and the butter over the apples.

Roll out the last half of the crust, and folding into thirds, place onto the pie, unfold, and cut the crust to hang about 1 inch over the edge of the pan all the way around. Tuck this behind the other crust so that the first crust is ‘interior’ to the other, and crimp the edge, sealing it. Make several slashes on the top crust to let air escape while cooking. Sprinkle the crust with more sugar to help it brown, and bake 1 hour at 375 degrees.

When the pie is finished baking, you can drizzle some powdered sugar glaze on it, enjoy it with some ice cream or eat it plain.

Recipe courtesy of a reader

(H)apple-y Ever After

(It is getting hard to think of cutesy apple titles.)

I don’t know about you, but this weekend went FAST!

My daughter and I ran a 5K Friday afternoon, I took Em and some of her Girl Scout friends to a nature event Saturday morning, Emma had her Halloween party Saturday night, and I worked most of Sunday.

I need another weekend to recover from this one.

CHICKEN POTPIE WITH GREEN APPLES AND CHEDDAR BISCUITS

CHICKEN

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 large leeks, dark green leaves removed, washed thoroughly, light green and white parts chopped
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 large rotisserie chicken, shredded (5-6 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1/4 cup cream sherry
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

BISCUITS

  • 2 cups bleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen solid
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk, plus a few more teaspoons if necessary

To make the chicken filling, adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Microwave chicken broth and evaporated milk in a microwave-safe bowl until steamy, 3 to 4 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and apples and cook, stirring, until just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer leeks and apples, along with chicken, to a large bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat in the empty skillet. When foaming subsides, whisk in flour and sage and cook until golden, about 1 minute.

Whisk in hot milk mixture and simmer, stirring, until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Turn off heat, stir in sherry and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir sauce, along with parsley into chicken mixture. Taste and adjust seasonings. Pour mixture into a 13×9 inch baking dish or divide between 2 smaller baking dishes.

To make the biscuit topping, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cheddar with a fork in a medium bowl. Using a box grated, coarsely grate frozen butter into dry ingredients. Mix quickly with fingertips to evenly blend.

Mix buttermilk into dry ingredients with a fork until dough just comes together. Pinch dough with fingers into small, rough rounds and place over filling. Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve.

Recipe courtesy of Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers by Pam Anderson

A is for apple

I was talking to B about football this morning. Actually, he was talking to me about football and I was making appropriate “Uh-huh” and “Really?” comments.

I’ve told him I know nothing about football and don’t care to learn. He chooses to ignore that.

I finally got him off the subject when I asked if he’d had breakfast.

“No. We’re out of doughnuts. I’ll eat at lunch.”

B is a wonderful kid. Seriously, no complaints about him at all. Well, one. He’s stubborn. And one of the things he’s most stubborn about it being a picky eater. Once the kid decides he hates something, it will take an act of god to change his mind. Case in point: breakfast. He hates cereal. He refuses to eat in the kitchen if anyone is having cereal. He would rather skip a meal than force himself to eat cereal.

There’s no way he’ll survive college.

Being the great parent I can be at rare times, I made him pancakes. I wanted to knock out another apple recipe, so I made four plain pancakes for B, then punched up the batter to make fruit slice pancakes for the rest of us.

We just have to remember to buy doughnuts today.

FRUIT SLICE PANCAKES

  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 to 3 apple or pears, cored, sliced across into rounds approximately 1/8-inch thick

Beat baking mix, egg and milk until smooth.

Add pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and honey to batter and mix until blended.

Preheat Saladmaster 11-inch large skillet on medium heat (I don’t own one of these skillets, so I used a regular electric skillet and it worked fine). When several drops of water sprinkled on the pan skitter ad dissipate, spray skillet lightly with cooking spray.

Dip apple or pear slices into batter.

Cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drizzle with syrup and serve with fruit.

Recipe courtesy of Saladmaster Corporate

Yet another one-act play

Setting: My kitchen at 6:30 a.m. Friday. I’m sipping a coffee from a cup roughly the size of my head.

Scott: How did you sleep?

Me: Not good. I didn’t get to bed until 2 a.m.

Scott: Why?

Me: I think it was that Diet Mt. Dew I had at dinner. (It was my first Diet Dew in nearly a week.)

Scott just looked at me.

Me: And maybe I screwed up on my knitting and couldn’t go to sleep until I fixed it.

Scott: Thought so.

***************

I tried knitting for the first time Thursday night. 

I’m not good at it.

Everyone at yarn shop kept saying, “You’re doing fine” and “It will get easier.”

I got home around 10 p.m. Thursday and knitted another row of my future hat or scarf. It looked awful, so I took the whole thing apart. I didn’t want to admit to anyone at the store that I took it apart, so I pulled up a YouTube video on how to cast on, and started over.

Several times.

***************

Scott: You know what that’s called, right?

Me: Trying real hard?

Despite my lack of sleep Friday, I still managed to work half a day, go to a board meeting, cook dinner for a friend and make sour cream apple bars. I even mopped the kitchen floor.

I also knitted.

I’m still not good at it.

Day 19: Sour Cream Apple Bars

SOUR CREAM APPLE BARS

  • 1 cup Land O Lakes® butter, softened
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Filling

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 Land O Lakes® All-Natural Egg
  • 2 medium (2 cups) apples, unpeeled, shredded

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine butter and brown sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Add all remaining crust ingredients; continue beating until well mixed.

Press half of crust mixture onto bottom of ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine all filling ingredients in large bowl; mix well. Pour filling over hot, partially baked crust. Crumble remaining crust mixture over filling and press down lightly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until top is golden brown and center is set. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Store refrigerated.

Recipe courtesy of http://www.landolakes.com/

Day 20: Morning Glory Muffins

I slept in today. Because I woke up late — and had to run because I skipped my run on Friday — I had to forgo the apple pancakes I was planning to make and went with muffins instead. Muffins can be consumed at any time. Pancakes? Not so much.

Well, except for brinner.

MORNING GLORY MUFFINS

  • 2 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 2 cups finely carrots
  • 1 large crisp apple, such as Fuji, Gala, or Honey Crisp
  • ½ cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter 24 standard-size muffin cups or line them with cupcake liners.

Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk well to combine. Add the pineapple, carrots, apple, raisins, and nuts and stir to combine.

Place the eggs, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk to combine well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them almost to the brim.

Bake the muffins until they are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.

Place the muffin pan(s) on a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Let the muffins thaw in the refrigerator overnight and return to room temperature before serving.

Recipe courtesy of The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso

May the pork be with you

Scott was trying to talk B into eating tonight’s dinner (Apple recipe No. 18 — mustardy pork chops with apples and onions).

Scott: Pork comes from a pig. Do you know what else is made of pork? Hot dogs. Bacon. Ham. You love all of those things.

While B continues to play dumb — and stubborn — E starts crying.

Me: What’s wrong?

E: I don’t like to think about animals dying.

Note she’s the child who ate all of her dinner without complaint. I’ve learned not to point that out, though. I would hate to have to start cooking vegetarian meals, too.

Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

  • Olive oil
  • 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 1 apple peeled and slivered to same width as onion slices
  • 2 tablespoons mustard (Dijon or grainy)
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, apple juice or water

Add the oil to a large skillet that has a lid over medium-high heat. Brown the pork chops, about 4 minutes on each side. (They do not have to cook through.)

Remove them from the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Add a little more oil, if necessary, and then add the onion and apples and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until they have wilted.

Add the mustard, vinegar, and cider (or juice or water) to the pan, scraping any brown pork bits from the bottom and bring to a boil for about one minute. Add pork chops back in the pan, nestling them with the onions and apples; reduce to simmer. Cover and cook another 5 minutes, until chops have cooked through. If pan-sauce is liquidy, remove chops and boil sauce for another minute.

Recipe courtsey of Dinner: A Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table by Jenny Rosenstrach

She was the apple of his eye and he liked to sit down be cider

Three more days done, 14 to go!

My weekly apple plan is a little messed up because life got in the way, but I still think I can make it work if a switch a few recipes around.

Stupid life and it’s stupid need to come first at all times.

Day 15: Apple Cinnamon Rolls

I’m not someone who loves the edges of baked goods. I’d rather have the brownie in the middle of the pan than an edge piece. That weird pan I saw at the store that makes every brownie an edge piece? No, thank you.

(Look, Scott — a kitchen gadget I won’t buy! Aren’t you proud?)

Same with cinnamon rolls. If they are baked in a round pan, please give me the middle one. It’s the gooiest and the yummiest. There’s only one middle piece, though, so you know someone really loves you when they let you have it.

At least, that’s how it is at my house.

APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS

  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs

Filling

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup grated peeled apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, combine 2-1/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a saucepan, heat milk and butter to 120°-130°. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until crumbly; set aside. Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface; let rest for 10 minutes. Roll into a 12-in. square. Sprinkle crumb mixture to within 1/2 in. of edges; top with apple and pecans.

Roll up jelly-roll style; pinch seams to seal. Cut into nine slices. Place cut side up in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Uncover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Combine the glaze ingredients; drizzle over rolls. Serve warm.

Recipe courtesy of www.tasteofhome.com

Day 16: Chicken and Apple Curry Mayonnaise

(That’s really just a fancy way of saying chicken salad.)

Chicken salad is among my favorite go-to sandwiches. I tend to bake two or three chicken breasts weekly just so I have them on hand when I need to make a quick meal.

I love curry, too, so my chicken salad sandwich of choice is curry-flavored, but I usually use red grapes instead of apples. Not today!

CHICKEN AND APPLE CURRY MAYONNAISE

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless cooked chicken or turkey, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 2 red eating apples, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 3 tablespoons roasted, salted peanuts
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon medium or mild curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crisp lettuce leaves, to serve
  • Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Place all ingredients, except the salt, pepper, lettuce leaves and cilantro, in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Line a serving dish or individual serving dishes with the lettuce leaves and spoon in the curried chicken mixture. Garnish with the cilantro leaves.

Recipe courtesy of The Apple Cookbook: More Than Sixty Easy, Imaginative Recipes by Nicola Hill

Day 17: Apple Harvest Oatmeal

I keep a huge supply of Quaker Oats instant oatmeal in my desk drawer at work. It’s the perfect pick-me-up on days I have early morning assignments or I’m too busy to grab lunch. This recipe, however, puts those to shame. To shame!

APPLE HARVEST OATMEAL

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 crisp apple, such as Braeburn or Crispin, cored and diced, with skin on
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar, plus more for serving
  • 2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup ground or whole flaxseed, or a combination
  • ¼ cup dried apples, plus for dried apple rings for serving
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¾ cup 1 percent milk

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, and the apple and cook until lightly brown and soft, 2 minutes. Add cinnamon and sugar and cook until dissolved. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the oats, wheat germ, flax, dried apples and raisins. Stir constantly for 2 minutes until oats are cooked and dried is slightly plumped.

Divide into 4 bowls, sprinkle each bowl with more brown sugar, a drizzle of milk and a dried apple ring.

Recipe courtesy of www.foodnetwork.com

Apple recipe No. 11 — The day I learned a lesson

Here’s something you need to know.

I test every recipe that runs with my weekly column. I figure if readers take the time to read my column, I should include a recipe I have tried at home and can stand behind if there are any questions.

My column is published Thursdays. The deadline is Monday. I usually test the recipe over the weekend, write a rough draft on Sunday and give it a final read the next day before passing it on to my editor.

I did not, unfortunately, have time to make the Apple Cake with Butter Sauce recipe that ran with my column last weel.  Making an apple recipe everyday messed up my schedule. I figured I’d make it Wednesday night, take a picture and no one would ever know the difference when the story (and my post) went live on Thursday.

So around 10 p.m. Wednesday night, I start baking. I soon realized I left a line out of the recipe: Pour into a greased Bundt pan.

I was too late to catch the mistake in the newspaper (the feature section prints early) but I was able to change the online version. I freaked out for a bit, then told myself it would be OK. I’d write a correction for Friday’s newspaper. Those who wanted to make the recipe would call me to check on what kind of pan to use.

Taking a deep breath, I began to mix the cake batter when I had my second freak out moment of the night.

I don’t own a Bundt pan.

That came as quite a shock to my husband, who is convinced I own every cooking and baking tool in the world. He asked if I needed one. I stupidly said, “Nah, I’ll use something else. It will be fine.”

Lesson learned. When a recipe SPECIFICALLY calls for a Bundt pan, use a Bundt pan.

My first attempt was baked in a 9-by-9 cake pan. It burned.

My second was baked in a mini loaf pan. It didn’t burn, but it was a mushy mess that didn’t smell the best.

I went to bed around midnight, pretty bummed. I wasn’t going to attempt the recipe again. Maybe it wasn’t the pan. Maybe it was the recipe. Maybe it was me. It wasn’t supposed going to happen – move on.

Then I got an e-mail from a reader Thursday mornin.

“Can you tell me what size pan to use for today’s recipe?”

I received a phone call with the same question. A few hours later, another e-mail arrived.

I told everyone to use a Bundt pan. I wanted to tell them more, but I didn’t know anything else. That’s when I realized I had to make the cake.

Again.

I purchased a Bundt pan, bought more flour and more apples, and went back to the kitchen. I watched a YouTube video on the proper way to grease a Bundt pan and the best way to fill it. I took a before photo of my cake and held my breath as it was baking.

I think I left it in a few minutes too long, as I forgot to set the timer, but it looked OK coming out of the oven. I let it cool, flipped it on to a plate and it looked like a Bundt cake. I made the butter sauce, drizzled it over the top and had a piece before making my family’s dinner.

I spent eight hours, $21.97 (on a new Bundt pan), and peeled 18 Granny Smith apples to make one apple cake with butter sauce. I hope any of you who decide to try this recipe have better luck with it on your first try than I did.

Just be sure to use a Bundt pan.

APPLE CAKE SERVED WITH BUTTER SAUCE

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 Granny Smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • Butter Sauce (see below)

Cream together butter and sugar. Add the egg. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Mix well. Add the apples.

Pour into greased bundt pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

For the butter sauce, combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup half and half, ½ cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar. Cook until it boils, then add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Serve the butter warm over apple cake.

Recipe courtesy of The Original Recipes of Bushnell’s Turtle by Ed and Sherri Zastrow