Sunday, September 22, 2013

Apple Prune Crisp

Prunes? I know. Stick with me on this. It's delicious. And quick. You chop up some apples- leaving the skins on!- mix with a few other ingredients, and before you know it, the house smells amazing and you're pulling a soul satisfying, autumn dessert from the oven. Serve it with ice cream, whipped cream or leave it plain. I even had some for breakfast topped with a little yogurt. It lasts for a few days and the topping stays nice and crunchy. I love making fruit desserts like this one for my family- loaded with great stuff from the apples, prunes, oats and nuts.

Apple Prune Crisp

*Note: This recipe calls for chopped nuts. I try to keep a big bag of chopped, toasted nuts in my freezer at all times since it's one of those steps I really don't like doing. Chop up a few cups of your favorite baking nut- I use pecans, mostly- and toast them for 8-10 mins at 350 degrees. Cool them down and stash them in a Ziploc Freezer bag. No need to thaw them, toss them right in. Come holiday time, you'll be so glad you did this. Also, in my opinion, toasting your nuts first makes every recipe taste better- especially pecan pie- but that's a different post. And, if the prunes truly bother you, leave them out. It's my own addition. I've officially become one of "those moms", trying to up my family's fiber count every chance I get. This is an easy one since they melt right into the apples.


For the topping:
1/2 cup flour 
1/2 cup rolled oats 
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup sugar 
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the filling:
1/2 cup coarsely chopped prunes 
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, depending on the tartness of the apples 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
7 medium apples 

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, optional


Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Generously butter a 2-quart, 2-inch deep baking dish.

To make the topping: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

To make the filling: Quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter into 3 or 4 chunks. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the prunes, cinnamon, and sugar.

Scrape the mixture into the buttered baking dish and spread it evenly. Distribute the crumbly topping evenly over the apples. Bake for 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours, until the topping is crisp and browned and the juices are bubbling and thickened. (If your apples were a little dry, you may not see any juices until the very end of the baking time.) Serve warm or cold with the topping of your choice.

recipe source: modified from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts by Alice Medrich

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


I like to think of these as miracle carrots, as they survived months of being trampled by a toddler. Jack was very proud of his harvest, though, the carrots themselves were pretty bitter and not all that good. I chopped them up and added them to a great Veggie Beef Soup that I will share with you soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sweet and Sour Chicken

We have fallen in love with this sweet and sour chicken. It's like your favorite takeout but so much better and without all the grease. I served it with brown rice and broccoli. I was hesitant when I saw all the sugar in the recipe, but when Jack gobbled up his broccoli that I had topped with a little sauce- I was sold.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

*Be sure to start this recipe well before dinner time. After you saute up the chicken pieces, it all bakes in the oven for an hour. I thought this would result in dried out, chewy chicken but I was all wrong about that. A few things could easily be done ahead that would make this come together faster, and I plan on experimenting with finishing it all off in the slow cooker. I'll update the post if it's a success.   


For the Chicken: 
 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
 1/4 cup vegetable oil 

For the Sauce: 
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. While the oil is heating, cut the chicken into bite-size 1-inch pieces. Season well with salt and pepper. Place the cornstarch in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Add the chicken to the bag, carefully seal, and toss to coat. Whisk the eggs together in a shallow pie plate. Dip half of the the cornstarch-coated chicken pieces into the beaten egg and place them carefully in a single layer in the hot skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes until golden brown, then flip each piece over to cook the other side. Make sure you get some good color on the pieces but don't be concerned with cooking them all the way through. Place in a single layer in a large baking dish and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.
  3. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a medium bowl and pour over the chicken in the baking dish. Bake for one hour, uncovered, turning the chicken once or twice while cooking to coat evenly with sauce. Serve over hot, steamed rice.

recipe source: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Gwyneth Paltrow's Healthy Blueberry Muffins

I guess it depends on your definition of "healthy" as to whether or not you agree with GP on these muffins, but regardless, they're good.  She uses spelt flour (which I never have on hand) but all-purpose is a perfectly fine substitute if you don't have gluten issues. She also tries to avoid refined white sugar so she sweetens them up with some agave and maple syrup. The maple syrup makes them taste like blueberry pancake muffins. They come from her cookbook, My Father's Daughter where she tells wonderful stories about her father, Bruce, who died a few years back from cancer, along with her struggles with getting her children to eat well. I can't say I agree with all of her opinions, and if you were to stock your pantry with the items she suggests it would cost a small fortune, but it's still one of my favorite cookbooks. I should also add that her mom, Blythe Danner, has her own recipe for blueberry muffins included in the book (much more traditional with butter and eggs) that Gwyneth regularly requested while pregnant. Why on earth didn't I write about those instead? Just try these. Then we'll talk.  

Gwyneth Paltrow's Healthy Blueberry Muffins

*Note: These are also egg-free, dairy-free and vegan. If you're into that sort of thing.


1/2 cup vegetable oil 
1/2 cup soymilk  
1/2 cup pure maple syrup 
1/4 cup light agave nectar 
1 teaspoon vanilla  
1 cup white spelt flour  (I used all-purpose)
1 cup whole spelt flour (I used whole-wheat)  
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt  
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries


Heat oven to 375°. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Whisk oil, soymilk, maple syrup and agave in a bowl. Combine flours, baking powder and salt in another bowl. Carefully stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Do NOT overmix. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until muffins are golden brown and a knife comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

recipe source: slightly modified from My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Creamy Garlic Alfredo Sauce

I made this last week on one of those nights when dinner barely made it to the table. It was a minimal effort operation and we were all shocked by the results. This alfredo sauce may not be authentic, but it's absolutely delicious. In a halfhearted attempt to add some nutrients, I paired it with some simple steamed veggies . Next time I think I'll add some steamed, chopped broccoli right to the sauce.

Fast & Easy Creamy Garlic Alfredo Sauce


2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut cubes
1 cup milk
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt


In a medium pot or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly- don't let the garlic burn. Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It may look curdled, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it should come together to form a smooth, creamy paste. If your cream cheese wasn't completely softened this might take a bit longer. Add the milk gradually, about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly until each addition is incorporated fully into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Stir until the cheese is melted and cook 1-2 minutes more. Serve immediately over hot, cooked noodles.

recipe source: Sweet Pea Chef