What’s Cooking Wednesday: Homemade Applesauce

Today’s recipe is so simple I hesitate to even call it a recipe: 2 ingredients & a little time are all it takes to make delicious homemade applesauce.

My parents have 6 apples trees, so growing up we had an abundant supply of apples and fresh applesauce was frequently on the menu in the fall and winter.

Applesauce is a great way to use some apples that may be a little past their prime – ones that are bruised or starting to wrinkle. You probably won’t see anything like that in the apples you buy at the store, but at an orchard you can probably buy what they call “seconds.”

Seconds are apples that are less than perfect visually – maybe not be ones you want to slice & eat fresh, but they are good for cooking & baking…including homemade applesauce! Of course you could use the better looking apples, too. You will just pay a little more for them because they’re pretty.

Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium apples
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Peel and chop your apples using your preferred method. I just use a knife for a small number – but you could use a fancy crank peeler or even chop your apples in a food processor.
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of water in a medium sauce pan
  3. Add your chopped apples & cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until apples chunks are soft (my small batch of 5 apples took about 30 minutes, a larger batch would take longer).
  4. Remove from heat & mash with a potato masher. You can also run it through a blender for smoother applesauce. I like mine “rustic” & slightly chunky.
  5. Serve warm or cold. Add cinnamon if desired. You could also add sugar, but I think the fruit is sweet enough all by itself.
  6. Store in the refrigerator. Can also be frozen for later.

5 apples = about 1 cup of applesauce

Tips:

  • Apple Varieties: sweet varieties like Yellow Delicious, Jonathon’s & Galas make good applesauce. I would avoid some of the tarter varieties like Red Delicious & Granny Smith.
  • You can really use as many apples as you want, just use a bigger pan. You will only need 1/4 cup of water even for a large batch. The water just keeps the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan until they start to cook down and release some juices.

The Friday Five: Pumpkins!

soybeans, landscape

Looking for the perfect pumpkin for your front step? Or maybe some mums to fill out your fall flower bed? Central Illinois has plenty to offer!

pumpkinsAfter all, when it comes to pumpkins – Illinois is the cream of the crop! Illinois farmers grow 80-85% of the world’s supply of processing pumpkins (used to make canned pumpkin puree & pie filling) and the majority of those are grown right here in the central part of the state.

Check out a few upcoming opportunities to visit the country, experience a little taste of agriculture and maybe pick up a pumpkin:

  1.  Explore local farm history with the 2015 McLean County Barn Tour Sat., Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring interesting barns, antique farm equipment and more. The self-guided tour and begins at the Chenoa United Methodist Church and is sponsored by McLean County Barn Keepers.
  2. Rader Family Farms opens this weekend (Sept. 12). Located just west of Normal (look for the pumpkin topped silo), Rader’s offers plenty of pumpkins, a corn maze, kid-friendly activities, food & special events throughout the season.
  3. Also this weekend, you can head south for the Route 10 Farm Crawl Sun., Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities at Mariah’s Mums & More, Timberview Alpaca FarmWagon Wheel Pumpkin Farm near Clinton, Illinois.
  4. For more pumpkin treats and festival fun, head to the Pumpkin Capital of the World for the Morton Pumpkin Festival Sept. 16-19, 2015. Sample the savory and the sweet with everything from pumpkin chili to pumpkin donuts & ice cream.
  5. And if apples are what you’re after, check out Country Mist Apple Farm near Heyworth, Curtis Orchard near Champaign or Tanner’s Orchard north of Peoria.

Just remember when you venture out into the country, watch out for farm equipment! Harvest is just beginning for corn & soybeans, so be alert for slow moving vehicles on the roads. Slow down, pass with caution & be safe!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate Fall?

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Fall is here! At least if the return of all things pumpkin and pumpkin flavor are any indication.

Yes, I know technically fall doesn’t start until the Autumnal Equinox on Sept. 23, but if the Starbucks pumpkin latte is your benchmark – it made its 2015 nationwide debut yesterday (Sept. 8).

And pumpkin is kind of a big deal around here in central Illinois. Did you know we grow more pumpkins than any other state? In fact, 80-85% of the world’s supply of processing pumpkins (used to make canned pumpkin puree & pie filling) are grown by Illinois farmers. Plus pumpkin pie is now the official state pie.

So in honor of this ‘local’ ingredient, try these Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies. Kind of like a pumpkin snickerdoodle, cinnamon chips and a combination of spices make this cookies a tasty fall treat and the perfect complement for some apply cider…or milk if you prefer.

 

Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips
  • Topping: 2 tsp. cinnamon & 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 1 or 2 cookie sheets.
  2. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and spices in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream butter with granulated and brown sugars. Add egg and whisk until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir in vanilla and pumpkin puree.
  5. Gradually add dry ingredients and stir as you go until just combined. Stir in cinnamon chips.
  6. Mix sugar and cinnamon topping in small bowl. With lightly floured hands, roll teaspoonfuls of dough into a ball and then roll in topping to coat.
  7. Place about two inches apart on cookie sheets. Flatten the balls with your hand or a flat bottomed glass (these cookies don’t really spread so flatten them to the size you want your final cookie).
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until edges just start to brown. Remove from oven & leave on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Enjoy!

Adapted from “Pumpkin Cookies Recipe” by Two Peas & Their Pod. See the original recipe here.

What’s your favorite pumpkin flavored food?

The Friday Five: Bacon & Eggs & Breakfast

soybean field, landscape

Bacon lovers rejoice! The object of your meat affection could be about to get even better. If you want a side of eggs with your bacon, however; it might cost you a little bit more – at least for the time being.

Here’s look at those stories plus a few other breakfast related tidbits fresh picked for this week’s Friday Five:

  1. What’s shakin’ bacon? Researchers at Kansas State University are looking at ways to improve the bacon flavor we love to savor and improve the shelf life of this marvelous meat treat, as reported by Feedstuffs newspaper. By the way, tomorrow is International Bacon Day. So fry up a few strips to celebrate!
  2. Are you scrambling to adjust your breakfast menu since eggs are more expensive? It’s the lingering effects of a deadly flu virus that devastated a large number of chickens (don’t worry it’s not a virus that humans can get). But you may be dishing out more per dozen for awhile, especially after the big breakfast announcement that hit the news this week, as CBS News reports.
  3. Like cheddar cheese on your eggs? Find out what makes cheddar cheese orange in this post from a Michigan dairy farmer on the Food Dialogues website.
  4. How about some fruit salad on the side? Be sure to thank plant breeders for your selection, as today’s fruit varieties are thanks to their efforts over hundreds of years. Check out this fun quiz to test your skills at matching modern fruits (and a few vegetables) with their plant ancestors.
  5. Like milk on your cereal? Share the love. For every share of this ‘Strength in Numbers’ image on with #milkdrive during the month of September the Great American Milk Drive will donate one gallon of milk to Feeding America food banks. Click here to share on Facebook or Twitter.

What’s your favorite breakfast food?

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Zucchini Muffins (in a bag)

Zucchini Muffins

Check out these zucchini muffins for a quick & easy breakfast treat. The secret ‘ingredient’ in this recipe: a plastic bag. …which means super simple clean up & it’s great for cooking with kids!

Zucchini Muffins (in a bag)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 gallon resealable plastic bag

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Crack eggs in bag. Seal and squish to break yolks.
  3. Add sugar. Seal and squish together to mix.
  4. Add oil and vanilla. Reseal bag and shake/squish until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Reseal bag and shake/squish until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Add zucchini. Reseal bag and squish together until thoroughly mixed.
  7. Grease or place paper liners in a muffin tin.
  8. Snip the tip off of one corner of the bag with scissors. Gently squeeze the bag to fill the muffin tin. Fill each one about 2/3 full.
  9. Back for 20 mins until a toothpick comes out clean.
  10. Throw away the bag & enjoy an easy clean up 🙂

Yield: 12-15 muffins

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