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Homemade Apple-Pear Sauce

This recipe was originally going to be an apple crisp.  It's been one of these weeks, however, when nothing has gone quite as planned.  After several days of neglect, the lovely gala apples on my kitchen counter had begun to look a bit homely.  Since the apples were turning to mush, I decided to just go with it and make applesauce instead.  Spying some equally neglected Asian plums, I threw them into the mix as well.

The result was a simple, wholesome delight.

Now that we are in the throws of apple season, I encourage insist that you make your applesauce.  It's quick, easy and super versatile.  You can use any kind of apple (or a mixture) andt can adjust the seasoning and sweetness to your own preferences.  Best of all, picking your own apples and making apple sauce makes a great memory!

The recipe below can be easily doubled.  It will keep about a week in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.

Chunky -- just the way I like it!  Feel free to mash it up more or run it through a food mill to get a smoother sauce.

Homemade Apple-Pear Sauce

You'll need...
3 pounds total of apples and pears  (I used about 2 pounds of apples and 1 pound of pears)
1/2 cup of water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of salt
sugar, to taste (I used about 2 Tbsp)
cinnamon, to taste (optional) -- I used just a few shakes

Peel, core and roughly chop the apples and pears – sprinkling with the lemon juice as you go, to avoid browning.

Add the water and apples/pears to a large pot on the stove.  Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat and then simmer for 10-20 minutes, until the apples/pears are soft.   (If you're using only apples, the time may be closer to only 10 minutes.  I found that the pears took longer to soften -- depending on how ripe they are.)

Once the apples and pears are soft, add the salt, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir to allow the sugar to dissolve and then mash the apples/pears, using a potato masher.  I like my applesauce a little chunky, so I didn't mash them too much.

Taste the sauce and add more sugar and/or cinnamon if you think it needs it.

That's it! So easy.

Now that I've picked apples and  made applesauce I feel like fall has officially arrived.  Let the leaf color changing begin!


Tofu Meatballs

I fully recognize that, by posting anything with "tofu" in the title, I may send my readers (all 6 of you!) running for the hills.  I am a vegetarian, though, and much of what I cook does center around this versatile protein.  If you're still reading at this point, I promise that these "meat" balls are well worth a try!  The pesto (from last week's post) is the secret ingredient that takes these balls from simply a source of protein to a tasty standout.

I first started making these tofu balls about a year ago.  Disgusted by the lack of decent "meatless" meatballs, I decided to try and make my own.  Back in my meat-eating days, meatballs were one of my favorite things to cook (and eat).  I realized I could use many of the same ingredients (minus the meat, of course) and come up with my own tasty vegetarian version of a meatball.  After all, once you put garlic, cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs into just about anything, the result is usually pretty amazing.

The first several versions of my tofu balls were good, but last week I managed to make them delicious.  Tofu?  Delicious?!  Oh yes!

It happened sort of by accident.  It was one of those days when I was trying to clean out the refrigerator and pantry to use up all my ingredients that were about to bite the dust.  As it so happened, "leftover frenzy" gave way to a masterpiece.

Unfortunately, when I sat down to write this post, I couldn't find my notes.  (Normally when I cook something for the blog I keep notes as I cook so I can tell you exactly what I used and how I used it.)  It's entirely possible that I didn't even write any notes for this meal, since I didn't expect the result to be so yummy.  

Alas, here is my best recollection of this surprise winner of a meal.  The measurements are approximate and my best guess of what I actually included. Maybe, despite all of my ambiguity, you'll create your own meatless masterpiece!


My Favorite Two Quick & Easy Sauces

It's the beginning of a new school year, so I'm working really long hours and getting home feeling a bit bedraggled.  If I manage to cook anything at all right now, it's got to be quick and easy.  That's where my food processor comes in.

If you couldn't already tell, my food processor is the one kitchen gadget that I couldn't live without.  It is such a time saver and allows me to quickly whip up many of my favorite meals, including these two sauces: Basil Pesto and my "Ready in a Blitz" Roasted Tomato Sauce.


I love, love, love pesto.  Each time I eat it, I'm reminded of a trip I took with my mom to the Liguria region of Italy (the region where pesto originated).  We were hiking through the beautiful "Cinque Terre" and ate pesto with fresh pasta at least once each day. We also ate lots of Nutella, but that's for a different post...

Pesto ("Genovese Pesto") is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and olive oil.  A hard cheese (like Parmesan) is also usually incorporated.  I pretty much stick to these ingredients, but one time a couple of years ago I was out of pine nuts. The only nut I had available was a bag of pecans in the freezer. So, I shrugged and tossed them in.  The result was so surprisingly good that I've used pecans in my pesto ever since.  

Pesto is one of those sauces that I've made so many times that I no longer need to measure anything.  I just toss in the amount that looks "right".  For those of you who need measurements, I've tried my best to include precise amounts below.  Feel free to make adjustments that match your tastes:

You'll need...
1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts, walnuts or pecans!)
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 cloves of garlic (plus or minus a clove, based on your taste)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

Add all the ingredients (minus the oil) to the food processor.  Turn on the processor and stream in the olive oil while it pulses.  Process until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Now, spoon over some pasta and pretend you're in Italy.  Buon Appetito!

Ready in a Blitz Roasted Tomato Sauce

I love the taste of roasted vegetables.  Roasting vegetables brings out a rich depth of flavor, caramelizing them and making them just plain really, really good.  Tomatoes and garlic are two of my favorites to roast.  If you decide to make this, hurry before the last of the summer tomatoes escape.  

I love this recipe for a work day because I can get home, prep the veggies in about 5 minutes and put them in the oven to roast.  Then, I can use the next 20 minutes or so to prep the rest of the dinner or set the table or just kick back and enjoy a glass of wine.   Before I know it...ding...the veggies are done and all I have to do is slide them into the food processor.  I simply pulse 5 seconds and...dinner's ready!

You'll need...
tomatoes (any amount)
onion (about 1/2 a small onion per 3 medium tomatoes)
garlic (to taste -- I like a 3 or 4 cloves per 3 medium tomatoes)

(+ any other veggies you have on hand that you think would be yummy.  I think carrots or shallots or red pepper would be nice.)

olive oil, for drizzling
salt + pepper, to taste
fresh or dried herbs (I usually use thyme and/or basil)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Slice the tomatoes in half or quarters and place them on a sheet pan, covered in parchment.  Slice the onion into large chunks (roughly the size of the tomatoes) and place on the pan, with the garlic.  Drizzle olive oil over all the veggies and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Place the veggies into the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, until browned and slightly caramelized. You may need to pull the garlic out early so it doesn't burn.

(Near the end of the roasting process, cook your pasta so it will be ready in time.)

Once roasted, slide all the veggies into a food processor, add herbs and pulse until a smooth sauce.  

That's it. Really!


Spinach Salad with Warmed Goat Cheese


One fall, a couple of years ago, Ryan and I attended a weekend conference near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.   The event was for a great cause, but by late Saturday afternoon I had reached my fill of meetings, brain storming sessions, and bad hotel catering.  I convinced Ryan that we should skip the last workshop and steal away to nearby Charles Town to see what we could find.

Such a cute little onion!  I was all out of shallots, so I used this little guy in the dressing. 
That evening was pure serendipity.  Thanks to our little side trip, we discovered Dish, a bistro that had just opened a few weeks before.  The menu was filled with simple "comfort" foods with a modern, healthy twist and everything was made from local, seasonal ingredients. In other words, right up our alley.  Everything we tried was so good.   We liked it so much that we skipped our morning events and returned for breakfast the next day. 

One of our favorite parts of the meal was a spinach salad with warmed, crusted goat cheese. So simple and yet it was to die for.  I may be a vegetarian, but I do not usually say this about salads. Ever.  When we arrived home after the weekend, I was determined to recreate this leafy morsel.   

Dental floss is a quick way to slice the cheese without "squashing" it with the weight of a knife

I think I've come pretty close.  This is such a great salad because it's so easy, very quick to put together and truly satisfying.  It's a wonderful blend of complementary textures and flavors -- creamy with crunchy, savory with sweet.

Because it's so quick and easy to make, the salad is the perfect week day meal.  The dressing makes enough for 2 dinner-sized salads and I usually have enough to make a salad for my lunch the next day.  When I pack the salad for lunch, I simply crumble fresh goat cheese over the top.  This is a lighter, even easier way to prepare the dish-- and it's just as delicious.

I don't normally add candied pecan topping to the salad, but it's been a tough week.  I decided to treat myself after a long, hard day!