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

An apple a day over and over again

Did you know October is National Apple Month?

Apples are wonderful. You can cook with them, bake with them, sauté ’em, use them a garnish, eat straight off the tree and make yummy drinks with them.

I am all about the apples. They are my favorite fruit, so to celebrate them, I will one apple dish for every day of National Apple Month.

Here’s what I’ve made so far:

Day 1 — PEANUT BUTTER, APPLE AND GRANOLA WRAP

  • 2 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1 large apple, cut into small pieces
  • ¼ cup granola

Spread peanut butter on tortillas.

Add apples and sprinkle granola.

Tightly roll tortilla and attach toothpick (optional).

Recipe courtesy of “What Are You Doing For Lunch?” by Mona Meighan (This is a very cool cookbook. It breaks down the nutritional value of each recipe, plus estimates what you save making one of these recipes instead of going out for lunch.)

Day 2 — SAUSAGE AND APPLE STUFFING

  • 2 sticks plus 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (14 to 16-ounce) bags of your favorite dried cornbread stuffing mix
  • 1 pound pork sausage (not links)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 medium apples, cored,  sliced
  • 2 to 3 cups homemade giblet      stock or low sodium canned chicken broth

In a large pot melt 2 sticks butter in water. When melted add dry cornbread stuffing stirring to incorporate liquid, set aside.

In a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat melt 1 tablespoon butter and add sausage. With a wooden spoon break up sausage and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer sausage to paper towels to drain. In the same pan melt remaining butter and sauté onions with the garlic, celery, thyme, and sage until onions are translucent and celery is crisp tender. Add walnuts and sauté for 1 minute. Add apples and sauté for one minute more. Remove from heat.

Combine cornbread stuffing with sautéed ingredients and stuff turkey. Roast turkey as usual, or fill a 10 by 15 by 2 inch pan with the stuffing, moisten with the giblet stock, and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven, covered with foil for 1/2 hour. Remove foil and bake until top is lightly browned, about 15 minutes more.

Source: Food Network Kitchens (www.foodnetwork.com)

Day 3 — INSTANT ENERGY FRUIT CUP

  • ½ apple
  • ½ pear
  • ½ cup red, seedless grapes (I used green grapes)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Sliced kiwi
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Cut apple and pear into bite-sized chunks and place in a bowl. Add grapes, along with honey and lemon juice. Throw in sliced kiwi or pomegranate seeds, if you have them.

Toss, and voila: a 5-minute fruit cup, loaded with juiciness and fiber.

Source: 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get Everything You Want in Life by Cindi Leive and the Editors of Glamour (Hyperion; April 5, 2011)

So far in this challenge, I have:

  • Used six apples
  • Burned one arm (I look like I have one of those barbed-wire tattoos on my forearm)
  • Used the honey sent to be my by July Foodie Pen Pal
  • Learned how to navigate my kitchen when it is filled with two bookshelves, one entertainment center and a couch. (We had our carpets cleaned, so we had to clear the living room, but I still needed to make an apple recipe, hence the easy fruit cup. I have my kitchen back, though, so tonight I am tackling apple butter and applesauce!)

Yo, yo, yo

I was on TV this morning to talk about Tony Hawk’s upcoming visit.

(Oh yeah, I interviewed Tony Hawk last week. Easily one of the highlights of my career.)

Seconds before my segment, there was a story about an increase in yogurt sales, with the reporter saying people like to go-to convenience of yogurt for meals and the price.

I always have containers of yogurt in the fridge (Yoplait’s Cherry Vanilla is my favorite!) and sometimes I eat yogurt for breakfast, but I still find myself hungry an hour later. Adding granola to the yogurt helps stave off those hunger pains, but we all know granola is not as healthy as we all like to pretend.

So I turned to Google for help.

My search for “yogurt toppings” turned up a lot of frozen yogurt toppings, but I did find a few suggestions that could work:

  • Fresh strawberries, raspberries, peaches and fig add fiber and Vitamin C.
  • Baked pears.
  • Rolled oats (again, extra fiber).
  • Bran cereal (any kind).
  • Almonds or walnuts.

Have more suggestions for me? I’ll take ’em!

You say tomato, I say tomato

I bought a container of grape tomatoes a few days ago. I didn’t have a plan when I bought them. They were on sale, they looked good and I’m trying to develop a taste for tomatoes, so into the grocery cart they went.

Because I’m going out of town this weekend, it was now or never for the grape tomatoes. I whipped up this salad and had a nice lunch.

ORZO SALAD WITH TOMATOES, FETA AND DILL

  • 1 pound orzo
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Cook the orzo according to the package directions; drain and run under cold water to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, onion, dill, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add the orzo and toss well. Gently fold in the feta.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Recipe courtesy of The Good Neighbor Cookbook

It doesn’t have to be difficult

Sometimes I think we make life too hard.

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. I take on too many responsibilities, berate myself when something isn’t perfect and often think I can do more.

I have resolved this year to focus more on what I have done instead of what I’ve yet to do. For instance, I have been running for more than a year now, but have yet to complete a race longer than a 5K. Rather than dwell on that, I am going to be proud of the 5Ks I have run and the fact that I am out the door at a quarter to 6 most mornings to put in two miles before my family is awake.

Sometimes we need to pat ourselves on the back. I don’t know when it became wrong to do so. We tell our kids and friends and family ‘Good job’ all the time. Why can’t we tell ourselves the same thing?

This was going through my head Friday afternoon. Both my husband and I were writing from home and he asked if I wanted to grab lunch. We are planning a great vacation for this summer, so saving money is a top priority. I told him I’d make something instead and, an hour later, I had.

(Confession: Lunch took me 20 minutes to make. I got distracted watching old So You Think You Cand Dance videos on YouTube. Season 2 people — that was the best year! Also, why didn’t someone tell me Ivan was an all-star on Season 8? I would have watched!)

Anyway, lunch. It was a quick meal. It was a simple meal. And it was a good meal.

Cooking doesn’t have to be hard. I’ve spent six hours on a dish, I’ve spent 15 minutes on others. Some meals will be more impressive. Some days will be better. It’s OK. That’s life. We have our ups and downs, our good days and our bad. This year, put your energy in finding the good and don’t be afraid to take short cuts when you can. Difficult doesn’t always mean better.

CHICKEN AND PASTA, SUPER EASY STYLE

  • One pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Seasoning of your choice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Box pasta mix (I used Pasta Roni)

Trim fat from the chicken and cut into bits-sized pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and season with favorite seasonings. I used Mrs. Dash Original Recipe. Let sit for five minutes.

Make pasta according to instructions. Rice also works, if you prefer.

Cook chicken in a skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently. You could go hotter, but I find that chicken gets tougher the higher the heat you use to cook it.

Toss finished chicken with pasta or rice, and serve.

Soup, there it is!

Have you seen Justin Timberlake’s cup-o-soup Saturday Night Live skit? So funny! Whenever I make soup, or eat soup, it pops in my head. Sometimes I hum the tunes. Sometimes I sing them out loud. I have been known to break into a dance upon occasion.

Soup has power.

It was exactly what my husband and I needed yesterday after a couple of hours shovelling our driveway and sidewalks after Mother Nature dumped 14 inches of snow Tuesday/early Wednesday. To top it off, our snowblower wouldn’t work, even after I hiked the six blocks to the nearest gas station for gas. Luckily, we have a super cool neighbor who lent us his snowblower. I made him and his family chocolate chip cookie bars as a thanks.

His kids now love me.

Classic grilled cheese on French bread and tomato soup for lunch, turkey meatball soup (recipe posted later) and homemade biscuits for dinner.

Tastes just like chicken

There’s a book I read a lot when I was younger, Invisible Lissa. It’s about an elementary school girl (I think she was in 5th grade) going through one of those rough patches with her classmates, when she’s on the outside looking in.

The school’s resident mean girl, Debra, has it out for Lissa and makes thing worse by creating her super-secret club, FUNCHY. While every girl in 5th grade is dying to be a member, Lissa tries to hide her wish to join by focusing on a school project and hanging out in the library during lunchtime. (Side note: We were never allowed to just hang out in the school library in elementary school. We visited during specific times during the week and that was it. Same thing in middle school. It wasn’t even open early or late for students who wanted to study. Was my school district just mean or is that the norm?)

Lissa is eventually asked to join FUNCHY, when her BFF blackmails Debra to include Lissa.

Ah, friendship.

It turns out FUNCHY stands for Fun Lunches. All club members gather together to share food and talk.

The reason FUNCHY is on my mind was because I had time this morning to make my lunch to take to work today — chicken salad. My favorite. It would have been a hit with the FUNCHY crowd.

CHICKEN SALAD

  • Chicken, cooked and cubed
  • Mayonnaise
  • Curry
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red and green grapes
  • Slivered almonds

This  isn’t a specific recipe. I eyeball everything until I get the consistency I want. I usually make enough for a few days worth of lunches (and some late-night snacking, shh!). To do this, I use two cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I dice them into small cubes and set aside.

Add mayonnaise in a large bowl, about 1/4 of a cup. You can always add more. Stir in curry powder (about a teaspoon), a dash of salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the mix. If it looks to dry, go ahead and add more mayonnaise. Take a taste. If you want more seasonings, go ahead.

Slice red and green grapes in half and add to chicken mix. I usually toss in a cup’s worth.

Throw in a handful for slivered almonds for texture. Mix everything together and enjoy! This tastes great on bread or spread on crackers. You can even eat it plain. 

Oh, and if you want to know how Invisible Lissa ends, she calls Debra out on the stupidity of the club and, one by one, the other girls agree and walk away. Debra isn’t happy and the ‘remain true to yourself’ lesson prevails yet again.