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recipe: homemade applesauce

22 Feb

One of the most satisfying snacks–or desserts–is a bowl of warm homemade applesauce. I’m not a fan of regular applesauce (you know, the kind that’s thin and very regular in its texture?). But I like a chunky, very cinnamon-heavy warm applesauce.

This is a very easy recipe, and if you have any canning know-how, you can preserve this and stick it in the pantry. My kids eat lots of applesauce, and I like knowing what’s in it. If you make a smaller batch, just keep it in the refrigerator. (Actually, there’s also no reason you couldn’t freeze it.)

If you want to make a large batch to can or freeze, buy a half-bushel of apples. Otherwise, use as many as you think you’ll eat in a few days–a few pounds is enough for a small batch. Obviously, you’ll get the best apples and prices in the fall, but I’m making this today so I thought I’d post it.

As for the best kinds of apple for this dish, it’s up to you. A tart apple will produce a tart sauce, unless you add sugar/honey; I like to mix in at least some sweeter apples instead of adding sugar. My favorites for sauce are Jonagolds, Romes, Galas, and Cortlands. Mix together whatever kinds you like! My only observation here is that Granny Smith, which I like for eating raw, is too tart for many people’s taste in applesauce.

Ingredients:
Apples (as many as you want)
Cinnamon (as much as you want)

Peel, core, and chop the apples. I don’t get too carried away with this–even quartering the apples is really enough.

Put the apples in a large pot. Cook over medium heat until the apples are soft enough to mash with a potato masher. Mash them until they reach the texture you like. If you like very smooth sauce, you could use a blender or food processor to puree them instead, but be careful pureeing hot food.

Add cinnamon to taste. I really like cinnamon, so I use a lot, but it’s entirely a matter of preference. If you do want to add some sugar or honey, this is the time; I find that it isn’t necessary at all.

If you want to can the applesauce, fill your canning jars and process them in a hot-water bath. My canning book recommends 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts, but I suggest that you consult the most recent recommendations to assure best food safety.

This sauce also makes an excellent filling for apple turnovers, if you’re feeling decadent. If you cooked slices of apple and didn’t mash them, you could use this process to make pie filling that would be a lot less sugary than most recipes.

recipe: delicious oatmeal

29 Sep

I’m not sure this really is a recipe–more of a general technique. I never had oatmeal as a kid; my family just didn’t eat it. So I never quite knew what it tasted like. As an adult, I never felt driven to try it until I had my first baby and had low milk supply: everyone kept telling me that oatmeal would help milk production! So I tried it, and after some experimentation I found that I could actually enjoy it made like this.

Biggest tip: use a really big bowl, or this is a mess in your microwave. You could also use the stove if you’re ambitious.

ingredients:
* old-fashioned oats (1 serving or 2, depending on your appetite–this leaves over pretty well for the next morning if you want to make 2 servings and just reheat)
* 3/4 cup or so of frozen berries (your choice)
* water
* maple syrup or honey
* cinnamon

Here’s what I do: I put the oats in my bowl and add the frozen berries. (No need to thaw them ahead.) Add enough water to moisten all of the oats–you don’t need as much as the package says because the berries will exude juice, but your oats should be well-moistened.

Put in the microwave and cook for several minutes, stirring every minute or so. The berries will thaw and the oats will cook up and thicken. Eventually you’ll have a nice, thick oatmeal, brightly colored with fruit and smelling pretty good! Sprinkle with cinnamon and, if desired, drizzle with maple syrup or honey. (It only takes a bit; maybe a teaspoon for a large bowl of oatmeal.)

Not exactly gourmet, but tasty and extremely good for you. You can bump up the nutrition by topping this with a handful of toasted nuts; if you toast them right before adding them, you’ll get a very satisfying sizzle when you dump them into the bowl.