Apple Hand Pies | Holiday Recipes: Desserts for Non-Bakers

As an Italian, the sweet table at holidays rivals that of our dinner table. I come from a family of bakers and not just average bakers, great bakers. Pie making, pastry wielding bakers. Bakers that make me feel incompetent with a whisk and mixer. In case you haven’t caught on, I’m not a baker. Sure...I can whip out a muffin or two, brownies and easy one-bowl creations. But I hate to measure and I certainly don’t have the patience for butter to soften. Have you noticed that any recipe I’ve shared that uses butter in baking, it’s always melted? Simply put, I don’t have the patience for baking. When I need to make desserts, I want them to be easy and brainless. That’s what inspired me to come up with a few recipes for other people like me this holiday season who are not born bakers and would rather whip up a pot of Coq au Vin than measure out perfectly portioned cupcakes. Starting with these scrumptious Apple Hand Pies that take a shortcut for the hard part…

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National Apple Day! Jumbo Apple Cinnamon Muffins | Apple Season Recipes

Happy National Apple Day! I got back from a two-week east coast trip this week and it’s been a whirlwind getting back into a regular routine. Organizing my planner last night, I realized that I have only two free weekends as of right now through the end of the year. Goodbye sleeping in, productive hours of writing, movie nights, delightful Sunday night dinners, and freedom. The last few months of the year are always the craziest as many of you can probably relate to as well. I can’t help but love them anyway. The 31 Nights of Halloween is on the TV every night like clockwork lately...I’m regretting that Sweeney Todd movie night. I just bought a bunch of pumpkins for the front porch too. ..

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Turkey + Apple Melts | Apple Season Recipes

There are certain foods that are quintessentially comforting. Soup, ice cream, cereal...sandwiches. They tend to multiply as we get older and our palates crave more flavors and textures but the foods we grow up with as kids tend to stick with us forever. Sandwiches came in many different forms while I was growing up. Peanut butter and jelly for snack time...cut in triangles, of course. Grilled cheese with tomato soup on brisk afternoons. Egg sandwiches for a great breakfast during high school and later college. Turkey sandwiches for school lunches with Hellman’s Mayo...not Miracle Whip. I could go on for days…

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Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal | Apple Season Recipes

Another of the many reasons to love fall? Apple season! I’m here to interrupt your regular Sunday morning to share an oatmeal recipe that will have you ready to jump head first into the season...and maybe even the week. Oatmeal is one of those things people either love or hate. I happen to LOVE oatmeal and even find myself craving it at times. It’s so comforting and actually keeps you full for a while. Now that the weather is cooling and mornings are brisk, a piping hot bowl of oatmeal is just what we all need. When I was a kid, I loved making the apple cinnamon instant oatmeal or the maple brown sugar. This recipe is inspired by those instant oatmeal days.

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Oh Gussie | Cookbooks By Lovely Ladies

Hey spring, where are you? This winter loving girl is ready for a warm up yet all we seem to get is rainy days and cold temps. It seems a little unfair since we’re in April now, don’t you think? Anyway, I have another cookbook written by a lovely lady to share with you today. A while back, I heard a song on the radio that I instantly fell in love with, “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. It was country through-and-through and their harmonization was on point. This band turned into one of my favorites in country music. Little Big Town just seems like a down to earth, approachable group of people. Little did I know, almost ten years later one of their members would release a cookbook!

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Kimberly Schlapman released Oh Gussie! back in 2015, 10 years after “Boondocks” hit radios. It’s a compilation of recipes divided into five sections: Family, Friends, Music, Home, & Away. The recipes in each chapter represent some kind of memory or tradition. For example, the chicken and dumpling recipe below was passed down by Kimberly’s mama and tweaked by her for a little personal twist. The apple cake is also in the family chapter and was inspired by a lady who taught her Daddy in school and was also a substitute teacher when she was a student. Finally, the fruit and cheese kabobs are in the music chapter and represent a tradition that Little Big Town has before every performance - squeezing a little honey into their mouths before going on stage. In case music and/or honey aren’t things you’re super interested in, honey is supposed to do wonders for the throat, and in effect, the vocal cords. The drizzle of honey-vanilla over the kabobs represents that tradition.

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I love a great cookbook but I love when the cookbook has some sort of story or memory attached to it. Oh Gussie! is all that and more. Each recipe has a little story or reason for why Kimberly included it. It allows you to get to know her through food, and what a treat! I always say that food is so much more than a necessity for our bodies. Food feeds our soul, it feeds our memories. It comforts us when we’re upset, it brings us joy when we’re celebrating. Food is an easy way to find common ground with another human being. So if you love Southern cooking or great food, Oh Gussie! is exactly what you’re looking for.

The Menu:
Fruit & Cheese Kabobs
Kimberly’s Chicken & Dumplings
Fresh Apple Glazed Cake

I used a whole vanilla bean for the first time to make the Fruit & Cheese Kabobs, well, I used half of one. This is a simple appetizer that can substitute a traditional fruit and cheese board if you want something a little more approachable. Fruit, cheese and mint leaves spear onto a skewer getting a drizzle of honey mixed with fresh vanilla. Next time I make these, I’ll leave the honey-vanilla mixture in a little bowl on the side for people to drizzle with a spoon if they’d like. I’m not a fan of honey by itself, and the vanilla was a very powerful flavor. The combination was almost too sweet for me. I’d eat that fruit and cheese kabob any day though. Who doesn’t love muenster cheese and nectarines?!

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With this weird transitioning weather, comforting dishes are still appropriate. Kimberly’s Chicken & Dumplings was one of those perfect comfort meals. If you’re willing to put in the work that this dish takes, the reward is incredible. Creamy chicken soup is made even more hearty with homemade dumplings. It was a dish that fed the soul as much as it fed the stomach. My whole family enjoyed this recipe and it was even better for leftovers the next day. The catch? It does take time and patience. I will not play that down. The soup needs to cook first which doesn’t take much time but afterwards, the chicken needs shredding and the dumpling dough needs kneading. Afterwards, the dumplings need to cook. Once you factor in labor, the amount of time the pot takes to boil, the time everything takes to cook through...this is a good 1.5 hour - 2 hour prep. I was not prepared for that when I originally made this recipe. We didn’t eat until 7pm and we had family coming over for a party at 7:30pm. Let’s just say, everyone enjoyed the soup but I got some nasty looks.

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Finally, the Fresh Apple Glazed Cake may be one of my favorite recipes out of Oh Gussie!. It’s a really light, moist cake (don’t try and determine the nutritional facts though...yikes!). It’s a pretty simple apple cake that bakes in a bundt pan. After it’s done baking, a bunch of holes get poked into the cake before three-quarters of the glaze gets poured all over. This allows the glaze to seep into the cake making it even more moist and decadent. After it sets for about 30 minutes, the cake flips and the remaining glaze gets drizzled all over. I don’t want to know how many calories and how much fat is in this recipe but I’d like to think it’s somewhat healthy since there are apples! Regardless, it’s a fantastic dessert any time of the year.

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Do you have Oh Gussie! by Kimberly Schlapman? How about Eat Like a Gilmore by Kristi Carlson that I featured a few weeks ago? She’s working on her second Gilmore Girls inspired cookbook! If you haven’t heard the news, get out of the rock you’ve been hiding under and check it out! I’m so excited, I can’t even tell you.

National Apple Day! Baked Apples a la Mode

Happy National Apple Day! Food holidays are so much fun because it gives me an excuse to play around in the kitchen where I normally wouldn’t. Apple season is one of the best. There is an obscene amount of them to go around, especially in the north, they’re inexpensive and they are SO versatile. Apples can be used for sweet or savory and nothing beats raw apple slices dipped in peanut butter for an easy snack. We’re going sweet today with an easy dessert recipe that will use up any extra apples lying around the kitchen. It’s very simple featuring baked apples, a streusel topping and vanilla ice cream to finish with perfection.

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Isn’t that just apple crisp, you ask? Not really. It’s the same idea except apple crisp cooks the filling in the oven and the topping is more cakey. This recipe cooks the apples about 90% of the way on the stove and the topping is more of a crumble than anything. It’s much more deconstructed which leaves plenty of room for error and personalization. For example, you can make one large dish of this and serve up a spoonful in bowls if you’re having company over. Or, you can do as I did and bake it in individual ramekins. If you don’t have individual ramekins and you want them, I got mine from Homegoods for $4 each. They’re made in Italy and the perfect size for desserts, pot pies, individual Shepherd’s pies and more. They’ve become my best friend.

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So how does this come together? Easy. Before you get to the apples, mix together the topping. You want it to chill a bit before baking so that it’s nice and buttery. Dice up or slice a few apples. I peel the skin off but you can leave it on as well. Mix it together with some sugar, spice and everything nice before bringing to a simmer on the stove. You want the mixture to get nice and syrupy, the apples to get soft but not so soft that they’re about to turn into applesauce. It might sound complicated but I promise, you’ll be able to tell while you’re cooking. When the apples are ready, spoon into your ramekins or baking dish, top with the crumble and bake. You want to serve this warm so that the vanilla ice cream melts a little bit on top. It cuts the sweetness of the apples and crumble so that the dish is balanced in flavor. It’s decadent and delicious with all the perfect fall flavors.

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Baked Apples a la Mode
6-8 Apples, peeled, cored and sliced
½ cup Brown Sugar
¼ cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
¼ tsp. Nutmeg
⅛ tsp. Ground Cloves
2 tbsp. Butter
¼ tsp. Lemon Zest
1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream

For the Crumble:
1 cup Flour
1 cup Old-Fashioned Oats
2 sticks of Butter, cold and cubed
1 cup Granulated Sugar
¾ cup Brown Sugar
½ tsp. Cinnamon

1 - Prepare the apple crumble. Mix together the flour and oats. With a fork or pastry cutter, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a crumbly mixture. It’s ok if you have large chunks of butter in there. The result will be amazing. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon, mix until just combined. Place in the fridge or freezer for 25-30 minutes.

2 - Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, mix together the apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg ground cloves, butter and lemon zest. Cook over low-medium heat until the apples have released their juices and created a syrupy consistency and the apples have softened slightly.

3 - Spoon the apples evenly into each ramekin or into a round baking dish. Top with the crumble and bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 15-20 minutes for individual ramekins and 25-30 minutes for a round baking dish. Top with ice cream and serve.

Want more apple? Check out our recipe for Mini Apple Cinnamon Loaves, Apple Cinnamon Galette, Jack o’Lantern Apple Hand Pies or if you just want a classic Apple Crisp, we have a recipe for that too! Want a few savory options? Try our Potato Pancakes with Homemade Applesauce or Butternut Squash & Apple Soup.

French Cooking Friday: Croquant Ratatouille & Double The Desserts!

When dinner fits into a large bowl, you know it’s a good one. Today’s main dish from A Kitchen In France boasts a meaty and veggie filled meal perfect for chilly spring days. Slow Cooked Lamb with Croquant Ratatouille is one of those recipes that make the entire house smell incredible all day. It even lingers into the next day making everyone who enters your home hungry and jealous of your professional cooking abilities. The other two dishes we have for you today are desserts. One, a simple fruit and wine combination that is pure culinary sophistication. The other, simple and elegant yet delicious. Take a look and dig in!

MAIN: Slow Cooked Lamb with Croquant Ratatouille
The slow cooked lamb starts on the stove and finishes for a few hours in the oven. It bakes low and slow all day in a broth that has onions, garlic, carrots, herbs and celery. Instead of lamb, I used a pork roast because it was already in the freezer. It turns out a little milder in flavor and less gamey but still delicious. The pork roast (depending on its size) doesn’t need as much time to cook so as you’re checking on it every two hours, be careful not to let it over cook. You’ll end up with a dry, stringy piece of meat.

The Croquant Ratatouille is a delicious mixture of vegetables sauteed on the stove. The vegetables cook in two batches before coming together so everything cooks even. It takes hardly any time to bring this together. The chopping gets a little tedious since the vegetables need to be diced rather than chopped but it’s well worth it. Instead of plating this as a side, I used the Croquant Ratatouille as a bed for the slow cooked pork and spooned some of the liquid from the roast all over the top. It’s such a comforting dish and the leftovers are equally delicious.

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DESSERT #1: Pears a la Medocaine
If you’re not a baker and prefer desserts that are almost impossible to mess up, this one is for you. Start by making the red wine syrup. A few ingredients come together on the stove to a boil. The pears soak for a few minutes before everything gets transferred to a bowl. The pears refrigerate for about 24 hours and your dessert is ready. No cooking, no baking. Just a little boiling and stirring before calling it a day. I used red pears for this treat. I find them a little sweeter than green pears which works well with the dry red wine. A few things to note: make sure the pear is still slightly firm otherwise it will be hard to manage and start to disintegrate in the wine syrup. Second, choose a wine that you’d enjoy drinking. If you don’t like the wine itself, you won’t enjoy the dessert.

DESSERT #2: Apple Tart with Orange Flower Water
For those of you like me who are not particularly confident in their baking abilities, I introduce you to the apple tart. Tart dough is not as temperamental as pie dough making it much easier to throw together. The filling is also simple. Homemade apple sauce and sliced apples layer together for the simplest fruit dessert you’ll ever make. It’s also such an elegant presentation. It’s a great option to bring to parties or serve guests when you don’t want to go overboard.

Catch up on our French Cooking Series HERE. In case you’re new or haven’t had a chance to read about our journey cooking through A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorrisson, read our very first post HERE

Celebrating Apple Day! Mini Apple Cinnamon Loaves Recipe

Happy National Apple Day! Bushels of these babies are all over the place and in all kinds of colors as well. They're probably used the most out of any other fruit in baking. The apple pie itself is considered an American staple! I don't have an apple pie recipe for you today but you can check out our recipe for an Apple Cinnamon Galette or you can stick around and try this recipe for Mini Apple Cinnamon Loaves. These delightful treats are easy to make and worth the effort, not that you need much because they're so simple.

In full disclosure, I had one aunt tell me that these weren't sweet enough. I'll admit, I held back on the sugar but in all fairness I didn't want these to be super sweet. If you prefer your quick breads to be sweeter, simply double the sugar measurement and you should be set. Another suggestion would be to add a glaze. I think a vanilla glaze would be delicious or maybe a brown sugar glaze. I used to be intimidated by glazes but they've since turned into my favorite final touch. I'm not a frosting person, I kind of hate it so a glaze is the perfect solution.

Dice the apples fairly small. I'm not super consistent with the size but if you really like a uniform end result, I would recommend making sure they're as similar in size as you can get them. The milk, butter and applesauce ensure these are very moist loaves one thing you don't have to worry about is dry mouth. Michael's sells mini loaf containers that you can bake in the oven which are great for gifts. If you can't find these, using a mini loaf pan will work just as well. Whatever you decide to use, make sure you grease it well. I prefer greasing with butter because it doesn't change the flavor or leave a residue but cooking spray or oil should work just fine as well.

1 1/4 cups Flour
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/5 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 cup Applesauce
1/4 cup Milk
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Butter, melted
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 cup Apples, peeled and diced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan or baskets with butter or cooking spary.

2. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. 

3. In another bowl, whisk together applesauce, milk, eggs, butter and vanilla until well-combined. Add in apples. 

4. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until fully combined. The batter might be slightly lumpy which is ok. It will also be on the thin side which might be alarming but don't worry. They will turn out just fine. Pour the batter about 1/2-1/3 of the way full in the loaf pan or baskets. Bake 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a rack.