better late than never

Last weekend I took a little road trip up to my Aunt and Uncle's cabin in Wisconsin. It was so nice to get out of the city and spend a little time in front of the fire catching up. We took a hike around the lake, played with the twinkies (my cousin's 1 year old twins), and made a trip to the Apple Barn. While it's a little late in the season for picking apples, they still have a ton in the barn. The great thing about apples is that they're available year round. Even though I didn't get to pick any from a tree this year, I still felt like I should share this recipe with you. 

When I was a kid, my cousin Lindsay and I used to go to her Grandmother's house for play dates. Although she wasn't my biological grandmother, Grandma Boyd was always like a second grandma to me. I have random memories of her house, but one of my strongest memories is her homemade apple sauce. She'd always have a batch made for us. It was the best applesauce I've ever had. Slightly chunky with a hint of cinnamon, this apple sauce had a deep brown color and packed a rich apple flavor. I wasn't able to get her recipe but I'm pretty sure I nailed it. 

The secret to my applesauce is roasting the apples instead of cooking them on the stove. It caramelizes the apples while they cook and adds a deep, rich flavor and color. You don't even need any sugar, it's naturally sweet and perfectly balanced on it's own. One bite took me right back to Grandma Boyd's house. I hope you enjoy this easy applesauce recipe!

roasted applesauce
yields 4 c. 

5 fiji apples
5 gala apples
¼ c. apple cider
½ t. cinnamon
¼ t. ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375º F. Cut apples into about ¼ inch chunks with the skin on. Place in a glass baking dish or whatever roasting pan you have on hand. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt over the apples and place in the oven for about 30 minutes. Once the apples have softened up a bit, add in your apple cider and continue roasting for another 30 minutes. 

When the apples are brown, soft and juicy, they're done! Pulse them in the food processor or with an emersion blender if you have one. I like mine a little chunky but you can puree it to your preferred texture. Eat it hot or place it in the refrigerator and let it chill for a few hours. 

improv style:
you can use whatever apples you like and any combination. some bake better than others though. i recommend the following apples: ida, gala, fiji, macintosh, honey crisp, and holiday. they bake nicely and semi-hold their shape meaning you'll get a great consistency/texture out of your applesauce when you blend it up. you want to avoid apples with a grainy texture like golden delicious. you could even do half apples half pears. also, you can adjust the amount of cinnamon or nutmeg. i'm not the biggest fan of cinnamon so i use a tiny bit to bring out a depth of flavor. you can definitely add more. you could substitute cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice or leave it out completely. if you don't have apple cider you could use apple juice, lemon juice, water, or even another juice like cranberry or grape. you don't have to leave the skin on the apple but after you blend it up you don't even notice it. it's a lazy cheat that ends up benefitting you by giving you all the great fiber from the skin. if it's not sweet enough for you, add some brown sugar or honey to the mixture. although i would leave this to the end because it's naturally sweet as is.

if you don't have a blender or emersion blender, you could try mashing the apples with a potato masher or fork. you could also put it in a food processor or use egg beaters to blend it up. you don't have to roast the apples but i feel like it brings out another level of flavor. you could easily do this on a stove top and add in the liquid before cooking.

this is great on it's own but it would be good on top of pork chops or served with your holiday latkes if you're into that sort of thing.


everything is better stuffed

A month ago one of my best friends from college got married. And while I could go on and on with friendship, love and sappiness talk, I'll spare you and get right to the good stuff. At her rehearsal dinner, the catering company made these fabulous stuffed acorn squash. I've had acorn squash stuffed before. Heck, I make a wild rice and sausage stuffed one that's pretty tasty. BUT, this squash was stuffed with quinoa and it was amazing. I've tried quinoa once before and it was a HUGE flop. It ended up a mushy ball and I avoided it until recently. If you've had a similar experience, give it another try. I'm glad I did!

Not familiar with quinoa? It's a grain... think of it as an alternate to rice, couscous or bulgar if you've had that. It's not scary and it's pretty easy to find in almost every grocery store. Plus it's packed with protein and magnesium. 

I'm not exactly sure what was in the stuffed squash at my friends rehearsal dinner but the version I've come up with is really tasty. The squash is creamy and sweet and the quinoa stuffing is crunchy, earthy, and hearty. This is a hearty dish on it's own but it would be a killer side with any meal too. It would make a great side for Thanksgiving if you're looking to do something a little different. It's a really fun presentation too. Each person gets their own individual squash bowl. 2 weeks until turkey day... are you ready?

mushroom + leek quinoa stuffed acorn squash
yields 4 servings


4 T. olive oil
1 leek chopped
1 c. mushrooms chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
3 c. spinach leaves
1 ½ c. cooked quinoa
2 T. toasted slivered almonds
½ t. truffle oil
2 acorn squash (halved, seeds removed)
salt + pepper

Preheat oven to 350º F. Follow the directions on the box of quinoa and cook accordingly. You can use chicken, beef or veggie stock instead of water to add extra flavor if you like. 

In a medium saute pan, add olive oil (enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan). Once the pan is hot, add in your chopped leeks and mushrooms. Cook until wilted and slightly browned. Add in your garlic and spinach. Meanwhile, in a small pan, toast your slivered almonds over medium heat. Once spinach is wilted, add in your almonds, truffle oil, and salt + pepper to taste. Once quinoa is cooked, toss your mixture with the grains and you're ready to place in your squash. 

Place stuffing into the center of each squash and drizzle with a little extra olive oil over the top. Bake in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes until squash is softened and the top of the stuffing is golden brown. 

improv style:
this is the kind of recipe where you look in your fridge and you see what you have. leek can be substituted for onions, shallots, green onions. not a fan of mushrooms? leave it out and add in your favorite veggie instead. i like the crunch that the almonds give to the dish but you could leave them out or add in your favorite nut. spinach could be substituted for kale or chard or your favorite leafy green or herb. the addition of cheese would be more than welcome. a creamy goat or feta would be fantastic but you could use any type you like. 

now the truffle oil... here's the thing about truffle oil - it's STRONG. a little goes a long way. you can use white or black truffle oil. if you don't have any on hand, you can leave it out or you could use another flavored oil. i feel like the truffle oil adds depth to the mushrooms already in the dish but it can easily be left out and still taste great. another substitution that goes in a completely different direction would be a squeeze of lemon. it would add a brightness to the stuffing. 

you could do this in a butternut squash or any kind of squash or pumpkin for that matter. the only one i wouldn't recommend is spaghetti because the texture would just be, well, weird. the final substitution i'll offer is by putting your favorite thanksgiving stuffing in the squash. it's a fun presentation and everyone gets their own individual portion of stuffing. think cornbread, sausage, oyster, wild rice... whatever your family's favorite is. this would go perfect with your thanksgiving turkey!