Slow-Cooker Spiced Apple Butter

Extra apples? This easy slow-cooker apple butter requires minimal stirring and fuss – and makes the house smell wonderful while it bubbles away.

Easy apple butter
Blame it on baking ADD, but when I spied a few empty jam jars piled next to the basket of homegrown apples, my thoughts quickly turned from classic apple pies and apple frangipane tarts to jars of thick, slow-simmered, spiced apple butter. Since the slow-cooker does most of the work, I was back to baking in no time while the scent of slow-cooked apples wafted through the house.


Slow-Cooker Spiced Apple Butter

  • Servings: Two half-pint jars
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Extra apples? This easy slow-cooker apple butter requires minimal stirring and fuss - and makes the house smell wonderful while it bubbles away.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. apples
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Peel, core and dice apples. Place in a slow cooker on low. Cover apples with sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, Chinese 5-spice, and salt.
  2. Let simmer on low for 10-12 hours, stirring every hour or so, until very dark and very thick. Spoon in jars and refrigerate. Keeps for 3 weeks. Freeze for 6 months.


Apple Butter

Blame it on this sight.

 

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Nectarine Coffee Cake

Fresh summer fruit keeps this Nectarine Coffee Cake moist. Try substituting the nectarines for other seasonal fruit like cherries or pears.

Coffee cake with fresh nectarines
The nectarine tree in the front yard is pregnant with fruit. The firm, juicy orbs are days away from their peak ripeness.  The bounty came late this year. The heavy clusters already snapping a large branch, an annual occurrence.  I should cull them in March, but I feel guilty not giving each one the chance to ripen.  A few sun-soaked fruit are ready to burst.  This weekend, I plucked two of these soft, round globes of goodness and consumed them sun-warmed and straight from the tree – juice dripping unabashedly down my chin. A handful more made it into this moist nectarine coffee cake.


Nectarine Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 6-8 Servings
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Fresh summer nectarines keep this cake moist. Try substituting the nectarines for other seasonal fruit like cherries or pears.


Ingredients

    Cake
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ¼ lbs. nectarines, cut into ½ inch wedges
  • Topping
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9” springform pan. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until combined. Stir in flour (batter with be thick).
  2. Spread batter in prepared pan. Press nectarine wedges halfway into batter in concentric circles, spacing slightly apart. Combine remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle over nectarines. Bake until cake is golden and tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Release pan sides. Cool for 10 minutes.
  3. Warm apricot jam in microwave 30 seconds. Sieve jam and brush over coffee cake. Serve warm or room temperature.

Adapted from Cinnamon-Sugar Plum Cake

Quiche with hash brown crust

This Quiche with Hash Brown Crust is a flavorful and savory addition to any brunch buffet and a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies. And, it’s gluten-free.

Quiche with potato crust
With a record high of 114 degrees today, I’ve decided to forgo my late-morning walk and midday backyard gardening. With the air-conditioning cranked on high, I’m retreating to my kitchen instead. My friends think I’m crazy to bake on a scorcher like today, but as long as I keep the A/C to oven temp ratio just so, it becomes a normal baking day just like any other – and the ideal opportunity to whip up something special like this brunch classic – with a hash brown twist.


Quiche with hash brown crust

  • Servings: One 9” Quiche
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A flavorful savory addition to any brunch buffet and a great way to use up leftover meat and veggies; Also tasty for dinner with a lightly dressed salad.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen shredded hash browns, thawed and blotted dry with paper towels
  • 4 Tablespoons melted butter
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 cup meat such as bacon, ham, or chicken (I used sweet Italian sausage)
  • 1 ½ cups vegetables, thawed if frozen (I used frozen artichoke hearts and spinach)
  • 1 cup cheese, divided (I used mozzarella)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1 (rounded) Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a bowl, toss hash browns, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Press in the bottom and up the sides of a 9” pie plate to form a crust. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crust begins to turn golden brown and crisp along the edges. Remove from oven and gently press on crust to compact slightly (I use the bottom of a glass or measuring cup). Let cool for 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pan, sauté meat until beginning to brown. Add vegetables and sauté until all moisture has evaporated and meat is cooked through. Let cool for 5 minutes and then arrange on top of crust. Cover with half the cheese.
  3. In a bowl, beat eggs with half-and-half. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over meat and vegetables.
  4. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue baking for 10-15 minutes until top is set and egg mixture is slightly wet when pierced with a sharp knife (egg will continue to cook). Cool 5 minutes, slice and serve plain, with tomato sauce or guacamole.

Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese

This Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese elevates a humble vegetable to new heights.

A blow of crunchy Celery Salad

Sometimes, I can’t help but equate my never-ending search for the perfect Bed and Breakfast purchase to online dating.  I start out searching for geographic desirability (location is key), then I’ll notice a photo that sparks my interest,  maybe smile a bit when reading the “bio” – ocean views,  fireplaces, large owner’s quarters, commercial kitchen – only to be disappointed when faced with the reality.    I found another Inn for sale this week in an ideal location along the Mendocino coast, only to be told by my broker that, according to the financials, it’s most likely a “lifestyle B&B” (read:  not making significant income).  This is the equivalent in the online dating world to “still lives with his mother.”  Sigh.

Enough daydreaming for today, Julie.  Back to the monotonous suburban daily grind that is slowing sucking away my soul – and the safe harbor of happiness called my kitchen.   This is another recipe from Joshua McFadden’s cookbook, Six Seasons.  I love that he takes humble, quotidian vegetables, like carrots and, in this case, celery, and gives them a starring role like in this crunchy celery-centric salad.


Celery Salad with Dates, Almonds and Bleu Cheese

A crisp, refreshing salad that pairs well with cold poached salmon or cold roast chicken.


Ingredients

  • 8-10 celery stalks (depending on size), leaves reserved, tough fibers peeled off, sliced on an angle, ¼ inch thick
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • ½ cup roughly chopped toasted almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. mild blue cheese, crumbled
  • 4 Tablespoons Good quality olive oil

Directions

  1. Soak sliced celery pieces in a bowl of ice water for about 20 minutes to heighten crispness. Strain, pat dry, and place in a dry bowl (I dried out the same bowl).
  2. Add the celery leaves, dates, almonds, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss together. Season well with salt and black pepper. Adjust seasoning, if needed. At the blue cheese and olive oil. Toss gently and adjust seasoning again, adding more olive oil, lemon juice, salt or pepper as needed.
  3. Let chill for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

On a side note,  I was pleased to find my Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts featured on the Shari’s Berries site this week. Thanks for the shout out!

Carrot, Olive and Date Salad

Carrot Salad on Creme fraiche

I’m never going to eat like an Ascetic.  I will never “eat to live.”  I like the flavors too much, the textures, the history and culture imbued within a recipe, the miraculous synergy in combining disparate ingredients.  I’m in love with food magic.

I’ve started up with a personal trainer again.  A VEGAN personal trainer.  She blanched when I confessed to my culinary vices, my food blog, my ability to eat an entire pie on a long, lazy Sunday.

She has her work cut out.  I’ve decided to help a bit – just a bit – by adding a few veggie-rich meals to my unmistakably carb-heavy diet.  I need help – creative vegetable combining is not my forte (yet).  Give me flour, sugar and butter and I’ll whip you up something crave-worthy.  Give me a head of cabbage and I’ll probably make coleslaw.

That’s where my most recent purchase comes in – Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.  If this first recipe is any indication, I’m. In. Love.

Carrots, Olives and Dates? Who would have guessed – absolute food magic.


Carrot, Olive and Date Salad

I wish I could claim this as my own creation, but alas, it's not. This is a slightly adapted version of Joshua McFadden's recipe and so much more than the sum of its parts.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rainbow carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • ½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper or Urfa Chili
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Nicoise or other nice black olives
  • ⅓ cup roughly chopped pitted Castelvetrano or other nice green olives
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons white Modena Vinegar (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ cup lightly packed roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup crème fraiche
  • Shaved Parmesan

Directions

  1. If the carrots are large, split them lengthwise. Cut them on a sharp angle so you have angled ¼-inch thick carrot pieces. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, combine a bit of olive oil, ½ cup water, Aleppo pepper, salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add the carrots. Cook, uncovered, until the carrots are just crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Drain carrots and cool slightly.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine olives, dates and carrots. Toss with vinegar. Taste and adjust with salt, black pepper, Aleppo pepper and vinegar until the flavor is super vibrant (you know you’ve hit it when you says “oh wow!”). Add parsley and a splash of good quality olive oil and toss again.
  3. On a large platter, smear crème fraiche in a round, flat, circle. Pile salad on top, leaving a bit of crème visible. Garnish with shaved parmesan and a grind or two of black pepper.