Apple Sauce: From Field to Plate

A few weeks back… ok so maybe about a month or so ago (I am very behind on my blog), my oldest daughter, Becky and I went apple picking. We had waited too long for my favorites: MacIntosh and Honeycrisp. They were no longer in the orchard, but there were plenty in the orchard store. However, we were determined to pick our own apples and make applesauce from them. We consulted with the fieldman about the best blend of apples for saucing and what our favorite apple flavors were (tart and sweet). A suggestion of Rome and Stayman was made, directions were given to the appropriate orchards, and off we went.

We picked to heart’s content and, satisfied with our haul of beautiful tasty apples (confirmed with a few “field samples”), we headed to our respective homes for the saucing.

Making applesauce has to be one of the easiest cooking experiences there is. As a matter of fact, I sort of remember it as being one of the first things we learned to cook in Home Ec in seventh grade, or was it in Girl Scouts? I don’t really remember… I do remember my Mom making applesauce at home, the wonderful aroma and the taste of fresh apples and applesauce, ummmmmmmm. And making applesauce has been a Christmas Eve tradition for my children and myself since our family was formed, so it isn’t something I am new to. Making more than one jarful was a new experience, but again, not too difficult. It is something you can do with your children and they can feel that they really participated in the process.

Recipe for Applesauce

  • Apples
  • Water

Phew, that took some time to write. You can use as many apples as you want, or as  few as two apples, to make your sauce. I used about 9 pounds (see the bowl) of my 15 pound haul and about 1/2 cup of water for the pot. The amount of water you need will depend on the number of apples and the type of apple(s) you are using. For four servings of applesauce, use four apples, work from there to determine the number of apples you want.

Wash you apples well. Then slice and core them. There is no need to peel them, the skins will add flavor and color to the sauce. However, if you don’t have a nifty Foley Food Mill and you don’t feel like mashing the suckers through a sieve, you can peel them. If you have one of those handy dandy apple-corer-slicer gizmos it makes this job a snap, and one that your wee-ones can help along with. If the wee-ones are helping, count on one sample taste from each apple when you are planning your amount of apples. If you don’t have an apple-corer-slicer and the wee-ones want to help, those handy dandy pumpkin carving safety knives with the orange handles work well for apple slicing.

Put your sliced and cored apples into a pot and add about a 1/4 cup of water (if you are using only two or three apples, use a small pot and 2 tablespoons of water). If you are making a big momma pot of applesauce for canning, add 1/2 cup of water.

Cook the apples over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning on the bottom of the pot (It’s a terrible mess to clean). When apples are really mushy and the kitchen smells heavenly, it is time to mash them into sauce.

If you peeled your apples, you can mash them by hand with a potato masher, puree them with a hand blender, toss them onto a blender or a food processor and process until the desired consistency. If you kept on the peels, place a food mill or large sieve over a large bowl or pot. Add a few spoonfuls of cooked apples and give the food mill a few whirls or mash the apples using the back of a spoon through the sieve. These are both great opportunities for the wee ones to pitch in and help – especially with the food mill, my 7 year old son loved doing this. Continue mashing, occasionally removing the skins, until all the apples are mashed.

If you will be eating the applesauce within a week, you can just store in the fridge. If you want to keep the sauce around longer, you can freeze it in containers or you can can it.

To can the applesauce, prepare your jars and lids by washing in hot soapy water. Place the lids and rings in a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer, simmer for at least 10 minutes. Place the jars in a large pot of water, covering the jars by 1-2 inches. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from water with tongs. Ladle in your hot applesauce leaving a quarter inch of space at the rim (if your applesauce cooled – reheat, carefully to avoid splatter and burns). Wipe up any spills, place on lids and finger tighten the rings. Put the jars into a pot of boiling water and process for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Check the lids to be sure they sealed (if you press on the lid and it gives, it hasn’t sealed, store in the fridge and use within the week).


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I’m back, with Pancakes!

My admiration for bloggers has risen in the past few weeks. I am not good at this blogging thing, I forget to take pictures of great recipes we try, compose wonderful blog posts on my morning walk which quickly evaporate from my mind after shuffling everyone out the door and dealing with the daily chores, and I just plain old procrastinate. However, I love to share recipes, tips, ideas etc and I want to share my true enthusiasm for Real Food, so I’m going to keep trying. Today’s post will pick up on my Breakfast theme from September.

We love pancakes. There is something homey and very comforting about setting into a hot, belly filling breakfast that is good for the body and good for the soul. Whole wheat pancakes have more substance and more flavor than their white flour relatives and they stick with you longer too. And made from scratch pancakes beat “from a mix” (or freezer) pancakes every time. Give ’em a try – it only takes an extra two minutes of prep time to measure the individual ingredients vs. measuring a mix. (Yes, I timed it once)

Whole Wheat Pancakes

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 T maple syrup (if you don’t like maple syrup, try honey)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk or regular milk
  • 4 T butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • oil or butter for cooking

Whisk eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until batter is just smooth with no lumps of flour remaining. Do not over do it!

Heat a large frying pan or stove top griddle over medium high heat, or heat an electric griddle to 350. It is ready when you flick a bit of water onto the surface and it sizzles off. Add a small amount of butter or oil if you do not have a non-stick surface or if you want a bit more buttery flavor. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto griddle for each pancake. Cook until bubbles form on the top and edges are set (about 2 minutes), then flip and cook another two minutes or until golden brown and set.

Enjoy with fresh fruit, preserves or real maple syrup!

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Morning Bliss: Yogurt Parfaits and Recipe for Maple Nut Granola

Mmmmmm, this is my favorite breakfast. Sweet fruit, crunchy granola and creamy yogurt. I love vanilla yogurt in my parfaits, I was spoiled by the combo at Prince Street Cafe! I tried to make my own with plain yogurt, but couldn’t achieve the right balance of vanilla to sweet using honey or maple syrup. I have therefore been hunting for a Real Food friendly vanilla yogurt for three weeks. This was harder than I thought, but I finally located one sweetened with fruit juice and a store clerk suggested that I try maple yogurt by Pequea Valley Farm. The maple yogurt is awesome and will join my vanilla in future parfaits maybe with apples and cinnamon…

To make the parfaits,  put 1/2 to 1 cup of fresh fruit in the bottom of a bowl, then sprinkle on 1/4 to 1/3 cup granola, top with your favorite yogurt and garnish with a tiny sprinkle of granola and some of the fruit.Maple Nut Granola

  • 4 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/4 c butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300. Combine first 7 ingredients. Drizzle in the syrup and butter and stir well. Spread mixture on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 300 for 10 minutes, stir well. Bake another 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to smell good – be careful not to burn. Cool completely. Store in plastic bags for up to one month or freeze up to 4 months.

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What’s for Breakfast? Recipe for Lemon Blueberry Bread

Ever since we started this little journey my husband has greeted me each morning with a cheery “What’s for breakfast”? He loves breakfast. It is his favorite meal of the day. The thing he likes most about eating Real Food – a real breakfast. Pre-Real Food, his favorite breakfast, known as Ron’s Power Breakfast, was two Pop Tarts, a 12 oz glass of orange juice, and a banana. Every day, except on Sunday when I would make a big breakfast.

In honor of my husband’s appreciation for the effort and his cheery morning greeting, I am dedicating this week’s blog entries to our recipes for breakfast. Please forgive my poor photography, I’m still learning how to photograph food…believe me this bread is awesome and very pretty!

Lemon Blueberry Bread

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Juice and zest of one organic lemon
  • 6 oz container of plain yogurt, preferably organic greek-style
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries, thawed

Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 4 x 8 or 5 x 9 loaf pan. (I used coconut oil to grease the pan)

Stir together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter until fluffy. With the mixer going, slowly drizzle in the honey. Scape down the sides to ensure that the honey is well incorporated with the butter. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Stir in vanilla.

Mix in half of the dry ingredients, then blend in the yogurt and lemon juice. Stir the lemon zest into the remaining dry ingredients, then blend into the batter. Fold in the blueberries.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean – about 45 – 50 minutes for the 5 x 9 pan and around 55 – 60 minutes for the 4 x 8 pan. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out.

Serve with softened cream cheese or honey butter, a side of fresh fruit and a glass of milk for a complete breakfast.

Honey Butter

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 T – 2 T honey (depends on how sweet you like it)

Cream butter with a mixer, drizzle in honey slowly and blend well. Serve softened. You can store any leftovers in fridge and soften before using.

* Lemon Blueberry Bread adapted from recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Poppy Seed Bread in Soup Makes the Meal by Ken Haedrich

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Join the Revolution this October!

Since beginning this journey to Real Food, I’ve been reading lots of blogs on the subject and the various definitions, research, creative ideas, etc that go along with this lifestyle/foodstyle. My favorite blogs (so far) are Lisa’s 100 Days of Real Food , Kristen Michaelis’ Food Renegade, Christina Le Beau’s Spoonfed: Raising Kids to Think About the Food They Eat, and Eating Real by Andrew Wilder. As a challenge to my family and friends, why don’t you consider taking a leap and joining the food revolution by picking one of the following challenges for this October:

  1. If you want to take a big leap, commit to eating no processed foods for a month at Andrew Wilder’s  October Unprocessed 2011
  2. If you aren’t up for a whole month of unprocessed foods, consider taking Lisa’s 10 Day Pledge
  3. If either of those looks intimidating, try incorporating smaller changes by following a few of Lisa’s  Minipledges for four weeks.
  4. Or just concentrate on one meal a day by making a commitment to Real Food Dinners and subscribing to The Fresh 20
  5. If you don’t think you can make a commitment to actual change, why not just make a commitment to read one of Micheal Pollan’s books, either: The Omnivores Dilemma , Food Rules, or In Defense of Food?
  6. If that’s too much reading, follow one (or more) of the blogs I posted above for the month of October.

If you decide to take the leap for any of them this October, let me know by making a comment to this post – I’d be happy to share tips and recipes beyond what you can find on the blog, though I’ll be offering them here as well. C’mon, you know you wanna be a rebel!

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About last night… a flavor”fall” meal

I love the flavors of fall, crisp apples, sweet grapes, savory pumpkins and squashes, rich spices and flavorful herbs!  We had a most delicious dinner last night, if I do say so myself… It was a combo of two classic fall favorites of ours – curried pumpkin soup and apple & grape salad, plus a yummy banana bread. Everything was Real friendly and very easy to make. The salad and soup come together quickly so they are a great busy weeknight option. The banana bread is easy to make, but requires sometime to bake.Curried Pumpkin Soup

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 t  curry powder (I use The Herb Shop Hot Curry blend from Central Market)
  • 4 cups pureed pumpkin (or, if you don’t have any in your freezer and are short on time for making it fresh, one 29 oz can of pure pumpkin puree -NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 4 cups chicken broth (I used an organic chicken broth with only 5 ingredients, no sugar. You can also use veggie broth, but most commercial organic veggie broth has sugar in it, so use your own if you can)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream (you can substitute light cream or half & half or even milk)
  • kosher salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large stock pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and saute 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, saute one more minute then sprinkle the curry over the onions & garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and heat through. Add broth. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes or, if you have the time, let simmer, covered, over low heat until a few minutes before dinner. The longer you simmer it, the more the flavors come out, I let mine simmer for an hour and a half. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking (I used 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper). Just before you serve, stir in cream, you can also be fancy with it and swirl a bit into each serving.

Apple & Grape Salad

  • 2 medium tart, crisp apples (I used Smoke House from Brook Lawn Farm Market) chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups seedless red grapes (or seeded grapes, cut in half to remove seeds)
  • 1 6 oz container of organic, fruit or maple syrup sweetened vanilla yogurt (I used Cascadian Farms)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve immediatley or cover and chill until ready to eat. ***To toast walnuts, I used the stove top method because I tend to forget and let them burn if they are in the oven. Heat a small non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add the walnuts, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir walnuts frequently to get even toasting and prevent burning. When you can smell their toasty essence they are done – maybe 5 minutes or so. Immediately remove them from the pan and allow to cool before adding to the salad.

Banana Bread

I used Lisa’s recipe for Whole Wheat Banana Bread at 100 Days of Real Food, adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients and using coconut oil in the batter and for greasing the pan. My pan was 4 x 8 and my baking time at 350 was 55 minutes.

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10 Day Pledge Wrap Up

I need a 10 Day Pledge that focuses on ending procrastination….

We did it! We finished the 10 Day Pledge last Monday (yes, over a week ago) and have decided that we will continue this new food-style for life, with some modifications to maintain sanity and a balanced budget.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Appreciate food. Not just the taste, but the effort that goes into growing, preparing and serving actual food.
  2. Be aware of what you are putting into your body and your family’s bodies. Although I have been a label reader for a looong time, the rule about 5 ingredients or less made me more aware of what was in those cans, boxes and bags, not just the calories, fat, protein, carbs and vitamins, but all of the “extra stuff”. Why is their corn syrup in my “pure” vanilla extract? What is BHT and where does come from, and why am I willing to put it in my body? What is the difference between xanthum gum and locust bean gum and why are they in there?
  3. Make friends with the folks who grow your food. Say hello, ask questions and support local families who feed you. You’ll find out lots of interesting things about food and how it’s grown and stored and sold. For instance, my baker hates to get up early in the morning so he doesn’t (hence the name Slow Rise Bakery). He bakes his bread at a decent hour so he can be awake for his kids after school. This means I don’t need to get to market at the crack of dawn to get his bread before it sells out. And the guys that plant and tend and harvest my veggies are very proud of the fruits of their labor and willing to discuss any topic about their produce you can think of.
  4. Play with your food. For example, I never would have thought to make my own tortillas but they are simple, and amusing to make. And they taste delicious, even if they look a little funny (hopefully experience will help with that a bit). Don’t be afraid to experiment or try something new or teach your little ones how to make oatmeal. I found a great cookbook for getting kids involved called The Whole Family Cookbook what a hoot!
  5. Con the doubters. I got my son to try a recipe for zucchini by calling it cheesy squares rather than zucchini squares. He ate 3. He “hates” zucchini. Enough said – be creative in your descriptions as well as your cooking.
  6. Be flexible. I pack my son a healthy real lunch everyday. I figure he is probably trading some items at school, but I am not going to stress on that. He knows what I am trying to do and why, but he’s 7 and sometimes 7 want to trade his homemade oatmeal bar for a rice krispie treat. And sometimes my 48 year old hubby wants a hot dog at the fair, or my 21 year old wants a frappacino, or I want a rice and bean burrito on a white flour tortilla at a college open house. I’m taking the advice of another real food blogger, Andrew Wilder: “Once a week, go ahead and cheat. Eat anything you want.  But make it special.  Look forward to it all week.  Savor the meal.  If you do, I’m pretty sure you’ll find those french fries are much more enjoyable.
  7. Real food costs real money. No doubt about it real food costs more. But I see this as a good thing because it makes you more careful in your choices and the quantities you are willing indulge in. It not only makes you careful, it makes you appreciate your food more. No more absent minded food abuse with a bag of chips or box of Oreos.
  8. Your body will be happier. It sounds hokey but it is really true. We all feel better. Hubby and 17 year old lost almost 5 pounds each, and didn’t go hungry or feel deprived. We ate well. Our bodies like this. Our bodies were made to process real food, not food-like substances. No tricks, lots of treats.

SO… go out and give this a try. If you aren’t ready for a full-out Pledge, try Lisa’s weekly mini pledges:

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