Skillet Apple Crisp

My husband loves a good apple crisp – especially when it is baked with a ton of cinnamon.  There are even times when I have doubled the cinnamon in the recipe and I still catch him sprinkling just a little more on top of the golden crust.  For me, it is all about the apples, and the more caramelized, the better.

The other month Cook’s Illustrated experimented with a Skillet Apple Crisp – one that was made in a pan on the stove, then finished off in the oven.  I read the ingredients, and knew that I could not go wrong with this recipe – the combination of the brown sugar and oatmeal would make a fantastic topping, and starting it on the stove would definitely give it a caramelized flavor.

Boy was this recipe fantastic – the apples were so tender and golden, and the topping baked right in – there was plenty for every bite.  This was definitely the best apple crisp I have ever made.  I highly recommend this recipe (which I have adapted slightly below to allow for more cinnamon).  I suggest putting it into the oven as soon as you sit down for dinner.  Once dinner is over, you will have the best apple crisp, warm enough to melt the ice-cream you serve it with, that you have ever tasted.

Ingredients

Topping

  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup pecans, chopped fine (optional)
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled outs (see note)
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

  • 3 pounds Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preparation

Make the topping:  Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine flour, pecans, oats, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl.  Stir in butter until mixture is thoroughly moistened and crumbly.  Set aside while preparing the fruit filling.

Make the filling:  Toss the apples, granulated sugar, and cinnamon (if using) together in a large bowl;  set aside.  Bring cider to a simmer in a 12-inch oven-safe skillet over medium heat; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes.  Transfer reduced cider to a bowl or liquid measuring cup; stir in lemon juice and set aside.

Heat butter in a now empty skillet over medium heat.  When foaming subsides, add apple mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until apples begin to soften and become translucent, 12 to 14 minutes.  (Do not fully cook apples.)  Remove pan from heat and gently stir in cider mixture until apples are coated.

Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit, breaking up any large chunks.  Place skillet on baking sheet and bake until fruit is tender and topping is deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack until warm, at least 15 minutes, and serve.

Note:  If your skillet is not oven-safe, prepare the recipe and transfer the cooked apples into a 13×9 inch baking dish.  Top the filling as directed and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  Do not use Granny Smith apples for this recipe, but you could use other apples such as Honey Crisp or Braeburn.  While rolled oats are preferable in the topping, quick oats may be substituted.  Serve the apple crisp warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream – or just by itself.

Serves 6-8

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Skillet Apple Crisp

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Chocolate “Digger” Cupcakes

 

Months ago my younger daughter’s school was having a charity auction.  Her teacher whom I like very much, sent a mail out to all the parents in the classroom asking for donations.  Since I just couldn’t say no to her, I agreed to donate 2 dozen cupcakes for a child’s birthday.  I sent her a couple of links from my blog with ideas – and made a couple of stipulations that it would have to be an agreed upon date, and that the person would need to pick them up at my house.  I thought I had covered all my bases.

 A nice woman purchased the cupcakes, and even though the date she suggested was not ideal (the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the week before my younger daughter’s birthday), I agreed to it.  The stress started when she told me the theme.  She had a son, and he loves “diggers” or “dump trucks.”  That would be the theme for the party – so anything I could do to work that into the cupcakes would be great.  Diggers?  Dump trucks?  Those are not in my vocabulary.  I have girls.  They are girly girls.  They love pink and purple, and the words diggers or dump trucks are not topics of conversation at our house.

 Well, I love a good challenge – and so there it was – staring at me in the face.  I had almost given up trying to figure out what to do, when she sent me some links from Etsy – where someone had made some fondant dump trucks.  I thought about doing that, but since I haven’t worked with fondant before, I decided to go the chocolate route.  I went to my favorite cake/candy decorating store and bought a mold of dump trucks, and my older daughter and I spent the afternoon making them.  It was a multi-step process, but when my husband came in to check on us, he was blown away.  They looked fantastic.  I couldn’t believe it, but I had actually pulled it off.  I ended up making some very simple chocolate cupcakes from Cooking Light, and my favorite marshmallow frosting to hold the chocolates into place – but really it was all about the dump trucks.

 They were a huge hit – and the woman that purchased them asked if I would take orders from some of her friends at the party.  I laughed and was flattered, but I will stick to my day job for now…

Ingredients

  • 1  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 6  tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2  cup  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  low-fat buttermilk
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cupcakes, place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in vanilla extract.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 18 cupcakes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Chocolate Cupcakes

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Banana Snacking Cake

Do you ever get tired of making banana bread with your overripe bananas?  I actually don’t – my family loves my mother’s banana bread recipe, I can always count on each and every one of them to fully enjoy it when I pop one in the oven.  But, I can never say no to a snack cake.  There is something just so appealing to a cake that asking you to eat it as a snack – instead of dessert.  It is like you are getting permission to have a few desserts during the day.  So, when I was flipping through my Cooking Light magazine, and found this recipe, I could not help but run out to the store and get some bananas to hide until they were too brown to eat.

So, first you must look at the ingredients for this cake.  This is probably one of the healthiest cakes I have ever made, but you would hardly know it.  There is very little sugar in this cake, therefore, it is extremely important that you make sure the bananas are VERY overripe.  I am talking black skins – spots are just not going to cut it.  The riper the banana, the higher the sugar content, and that natural sugar is what you need to make this cake sweet enough.  This cake stayed moist for a couple of days, and the whole family loved it.  We cut it into 16 pieces, and at about 100 calories a piece, this cake was spectacular.

Ingredients

  • 6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/3  cup  sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  plain low-fat yogurt
  • 3/4  cup  mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)
  • 1/4  cup  canola oil
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of flour mixture.

Combine yogurt, banana, oil, vanilla, and egg in a small bowl; stir until well blended. Add yogurt mixture to the flour mixture in large bowl, stirring just until moist.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan 10 minutes on wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Banana Snacking Cake

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Mac and Cheese with Shallot Breadcrumb Topping

Mac-n-cheese, these three words make my two children so happy, especially when it comes from a box with powdered cheese.  I have to admit, that powdered cheese is not half bad, but it never compares to homemade mac-n-cheese for me…which I hope my children will say someday as well.

When I was young, I lived for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese - there was nothing better.  When I would visit my grandmother at the beach, she would let us have it for lunch every day – it was like a dream come true.  Since I rarely shop anywhere besides Trader Joes and Whole Foods, my kids have grown up with Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese.  A few years ago when we were up at Whistler, they asked for Mac-n-cheese for dinner – so I went to the store, and they only had Kraft.  I actually didn’t think they would like it – boy was I wrong, they were in love – they loved it so much they asked if I could buy some and bring it home with us.  I told them that I didn’t think the border police would allow it – and that it was just something that would have to enjoy when in Canada.  Oh the things we tell our children…

I am always trying to get them to see the light though – and will try any Mac-n-Cheese recipe I see, just to get them to branch out a bit – and eat some real cheese.  I found this recipe in Bon Appetit – and it was a huge hit – even the shallot topping which I was sure my younger daughter would protest.  She said that was her favorite part.  I adapted it heavily below to fit my kids style, but it was still made from real cheese.  This is definitely a keeper.

Ingredients

Breadcrumb topping:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs

Mac and cheese:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups (packed) coarsely grated extrasharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 3 cups (packed) coarsely grated Fontina cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
  • 8 cups cooked pasta
  • Chopped fresh Italian parsley (optional)

Preparation

For breadcrumb topping:
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots; sauté 5 minutes. Mix in breadcrumbs. Cool.

For mac and cheese:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add flour; stir 1 minute (do not brown). Gradually whisk in milk and bring to simmer. Cook until sauce thickens, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk 2 cups cheddar, 2 cups Fontina, and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano into sauce. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in pasta; remove from heat. Mix 1 cup cheddar, 1 cup Fontina, and 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano in small bowl. Layer half of pasta mixture, then cheese mixture in baking dish; repeat. Sprinkle with breadcrumb topping. Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until topping is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Top with chopped parsley(optional).

For a printer-frieldn version of this recipe, please click here:  Mac and Cheese with Shallot Breadcrumb Topping

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Soft and Chewy Vanilla Cookies with Milk Chocolate Filling

I haven’t had a chance to make a lot of cookies this holiday season – the time keeps flying by, and I am struggling to keep up.  I finally decided though it was time, I had to make some cookies, and I actually had an occasion to bring them to, which forced me into it.  I wanted to find something simple that wouldn’t take very long, but that would look impressive. 

My mother who was visiting brought with her the Fine Cooking holiday issue – filled with wonderful cookies, bars, muffins, etc… and there so many incredible looking sweets, I had to go with one of their recipes.  Of course, I had to change it up just a little bit.  There were some delicious sandwich cookies filled with jam, but I had some incredible milk chocolate from the farmer’s market that was calling me from the pantry.  That was it – make the cookies, and instead of filling them with jam, I would fill them with the chocolate.  Boy were these a hit.  The cookies were very soft, and went perfectly with the delicate milk chocolate filling.  They were like a decadent yet sophisticated party in your mouth. 

I’m sure you can fill these cookies with whatever you have around – caramel, chocolate, jam, apple butters, etc…  Experiment, and have fun – but most of all, save some time to enjoy them.

Ingredients

  • 6-3/4 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 jar of milk chocolate

Preparation

Position the oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder until well blended. In another medium bowl, beat the butter on medium-high speed with an electric mixer (a hand-held works well) until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla bean seeds or extract and continue beating until well combined, about 2 min. Add the eggs and beat until well blended, about 1 min. longer. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds.

Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop or two tablespoons, arrange heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough in mounds about 3 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake two sheets at a time, swapping the sheets’ positions half way through baking, until the edges are golden brown, 10 to 14  min.

Set the sheets on racks and let cool for 5 min. before transferring the cookies to the racks to cool completely. Using cooled cookie sheets, bake the remaining cookie dough.

If the cookies don’t come out perfectly round, take a round biscuit cutter just smaller than the cookie and trim them up.  Once they are cooled, you can take a teaspoon of filling and carefully spread the back of one cookie.  Place another on top.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Soft and Chewy Vanilla Cookies with Milk Chocolate Filling

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Apple Upside-Down Cake

I am in big trouble because it is only the beginning of December, and already I am exhausted.  I got through Thanksgiving, my younger daughter’s birthday, Chanukah, and I am realizing that I still haven’t posted all of the apple recipes I tried.  Sorry, eventually I will get to all of them – of course only the good ones.  So yes, even though it is almost winter, I am still posting my apple antics. 

Here is another one from Cooking Light, that was delicious.  The cake was ridiculously tender and delicious, while the top had a nice caramelized flavor.  This cake held up extremely well overnight also – we had it the next day, and it wasn’t soggy at all.  I know you are all probably on your cookies and holiday treats – but if you need a break from that, this is a great recipe – quick and easy, and looks beautiful.

Ingredients

Topping:

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4  cup  sugar
  • 1/4  cup  water
  • 3  cups  (1/4-inch-thick) slices peeled Rome apples (about 2 large)
  • 1/4  cup  chopped walnuts

Cake:

  • 5.3  ounces  cake flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 2/3  cup  sugar
  • 3  tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 2  large egg yolks
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/2  cup  1% low-fat milk
  • 3  large egg whites

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.

To prepare topping, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; cook until sugar dissolves, stirring gently as needed to dissolve sugar evenly (about 3 minutes). Continue cooking for 4 minutes or until golden (do not stir). Immediately pour into prepared cake pan, tipping quickly to coat bottom of pan. Arrange apple slices in concentric circles in pan over the warm caramel. Sprinkle with nuts; set aside.

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir with a whisk.

Combine 2/3 cup sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and vanilla to sugar mixture; beat until combined. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl. Beat egg whites with mixer at high-speed until stiff peaks form using clean, dry beaters. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Spread batter over apples. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack in pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges of cake with a knife; invert cake onto a serving plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Apple Upside-Down Cake

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Bacon and Egg Muffins

As I have mentioned before, most of my friends do not cook – and although all of my friends like to eat, I have very few that are obsessed with food like me, or that I would consider a “foodie.”  Most of my friends find it humourous that I want to talk about food and restaurants all the time .  Other friends are just happy that I love to cook, and definitely benefit from the endless baked goods that come from my kitchen.

Last year my older daughter had a secret crush on a boy in her class.  I say it is secret, because she didn’t talk about it – but it was obvious to me.  One day she asked if I could become friends with his mother so that I could invite her over to our house, and his son could come too.  Ok, that was how I figured out about the crush…  I don’t have a lot of free time in my life to socialize, but over the course of the school year, I realized that we actually did have a lot in common – specifically food.  On the occasion I would make it to school to pick my daughter up, it was so great to talk to someone about food and restaurants while  waiting for the bell to ring.

A few months ago she told me about these muffins she made – and she said I had to make them for the blog.  When someone like that gives me a tip, I listen.  She said they were delicious, and looked outrageous – and she was right.  I made these for dinner one night, and they were a big hit – the tender muffin with big chunks of salty bacon – and that egg in the center, delicious!!  They are super easy, but read the directions carefully.  Thanks for the great recipe and for sharing my love for food!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cooked crisp and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 7 large eggs
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 6 jumbo muffin tins (or 1-cup ramekins) with non-stick spray and set aside.

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, bacon, chives and cheese in a large bowl.  Combine the milk and one egg in a small bowl, and add to the dry ingredients, along with the melted butter.  Fold the ingredients together gently until no dry spots remain.

Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each of the muffin tins.  Using a soft spatula, spread the batter up the sides of the tins a bit, leaving a depression in the middle of the batter.  Crack an egg into the center of each cup, and divide the remaining batter between the cups, making sure you cover the yolkIt’s easiest if you work with small dollops of batter.  When you cover the yolk, it will spread out when it bakes.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until the visible egg white is set and the muffins are just barely beginning to crack.  (They won’t be very brown.)  Cool 5 minutes, then run a small knife around the edges of each muffin to release.  Serve hot.

Makes 6 muffins.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Bacon and Egg Muffins

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Apple Kuchen

So I have a confession to make, I have been a little obsessed with baking with apples this fall – not just a little, a lot – and this is one of the recipes that is definitely worth sharing.  For some reason I found myself with tons of apples in the fruit basket, more than one family could ever eat in a week – so I started looking for recipes to try, and this was the first one I found in my Cooking Light magazine.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I had never made an Apple Kuchen before – but I love cream cheese, so I knew it couldn’t be bad.  The real test though was to see if my husband and older daughter would overcome their fear of cream cheese – and embrace the dessert.  That’s exactly what happened – they loved it.  Ok, I didn’t actually tell them that the recipe called for cream cheese – but did they really have to know?  The cake was moist and tender, yet creamy – and the apples on top were soft and delicious.  If you have some apples left over – this is the perfect easy dessert for you to make – and it even tastes fantastic the next day.

Ingredients

  • 3  Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  cup  sugar, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  cup  butter, softened and divided
  • 3  ounces  cream cheese, softened
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 2/3  cup  nonfat buttermilk
  • 1/2  cup  chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4  cup  apricot preserves
  • 2  teaspoons  apple juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine apples and juice; toss. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss to combine.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a bowl, stirring well. Place remaining 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and cheese in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating well. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined. Stir in walnuts.

Scrape batter into a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange apples over batter. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; brush over apples. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until set.

Combine preserves and juice; microwave at HIGH for 30 seconds or until melted, stirring once. Brush apricot mixture over apples; cool. Cut into 15 squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Apple Kuchen

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