Homemade Chunky Applesauce

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I am a HUGE fan of apples and I love to eat them every which way from Sunday. Raw, sliced on a ham sandwich, cooked alongside pork or chicken, on top of a fall salad, in cakes and cookies and as good old-fashioned applesauce. Apples are such a delicious and versatile fruit, the possibilities for using them up are simply endless. This is my favorite recipe for homemade applesauce because it’s not only scrumptious but it’s SO easy to prepare, it practically makes itself! It’s so easy that even your kids can help you make it!

I love to use a variety of different apples so that I get a more complex and interesting flavor. Some of my favorites are Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Pink Lady , McIntosh, and Lemonade apples. Of course you can use just one variety but don’t be afraid to try out different combinations as well. Traditionally applesauce has a smooth consistency however, I really love to bite into and taste the fresh apples so I like to keep my applesauce chunky. A simple potato masher is perfect for making chunky applesauce as it allows you to control the consistency to your liking. If you prefer a smooth applesauce, simply run the cooked apples through a food mill or blend using an immersion blender or countertop blender.

Last note, feel free to adjust how much sugar you use in this recipe. You can increase, decrease or eliminate it entirely depending on the level of sweetness you prefer. You can also adjust the spices as well. I tend to go light on the ginger because it can be an overpowering, bold flavor but if you prefer to use more, go for it! You can even substitute the ginger for apple pie spice, baking spice or any other warm fall spices that you may have handy. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 12 medium-sized apples, any baking variety such as Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, McIntosh, etc.
  • 3 tbs apple cider or apple juice
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger

Instructions

Peel, core and dice the apples into large chunks.

Place the apples, cider, butter, brown sugar and spices into a large pot. Cover and simmer on low heat for 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender.

For a smooth applesauce – Blend using either a food mill, blender or immersion blender to desired consistency.

For a chunky texture – Use a handheld potato masher to mash the apples to desired consistency.

Whiskey Glazed Carrots

carrots

These are my favorite way to prepare carrots! It’s not only an easy recipe but also full of delicious flavor which makes these carrots a great side dish to almost any meal. They are perfect with a roast chicken, meatloaf or Thanksgiving dinner! This recipe comes from one of my favorite cooks, Ree Drummond who is better known as, “The Pioneer Woman“. Click here to link to her site.

The recipe calls for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey® but really any good whiskey will work well. My personal favorite is Tullamore Dew® which is also what I use in my out-of-this-world Whiskey BBQ Cocktail Meatballs . Also, when I am in a rush and don’t have time to peel a bunch of carrots, I have used the small baby carrots instead. Just grab a paring knife and dice them up into small, thick “pennies”.  For an extra kick of flavor, top the finished carrots with chopped chives. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles
  • 1/2 cup Jack Daniels® or other whiskey
  • 3/4 – 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • chopped chives, optional

Instructions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add carrots in two batches, cooking for 60-90 seconds each batch. Remove from skillet.

Pour in whiskey and allow to evaporate 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium and add remaining butter. Once the butter melts, sprinkle the brown sugar over the top. Stir together and then add the carrots to skillet. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes.

Remove lid and add salt and pepper. Continue cooking until carrots are done and glaze is thick, about 5 more minutes.

Pour onto a platter and serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped chives if desired.

 

Easy Peasy Seasoned Rice

kabob

Rice is a quick and easy side that goes well with almost every meal. I love it with grilled chicken and vegetables (as pictured above), tossed in hot soup or served with stir fries. The lovely thing about rice is that you can add in a plethora of spices and flavorings to amp up the flavor. For this recipe though, I like to keep it simple by substituting a good chicken stock (I like the Kitchen Basics® brand) for the water and sautéeing a little diced onion for flavor. I prefer chicken stock over chicken broth as it has a much deeper, richer flavor unlike broth which can be salty and watery. Add a little Kosher salt, ground black pepper and a handful of parsley to finish the rice off. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Uncle Ben’s Original Long Grain Rice, uncooked
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • small handful of fresh OR dried parsley

Instructions

In a large saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the rice and “toast” over the heat for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and add the Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat down to medium-low and cover. Simmer about 20 minutes or until most all of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove the rice from the heat and add parsley. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve hot.

Fresh Green Beans

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Fresh green beans are a summer staple in my house. They are quick and easy to make plus they are a lovely side dish to so many meals, especially a nice steak dinner. The great thing about green beans is that are very versatile so you can easily adjust the seasonings to suit your taste. You can swap out the garlic for shallots or even add both! You can replace the olive oil with butter or better yet, brown the butter first for an even nuttier, more complex flavor. Add in slivered toasted almonds or crumble up some crisp bacon into the beans. You can even try experimenting with different spices as well for a unique and flavorful spin. However you choose to prepare them they will be a delicious and healthy accompaniment to almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fresh green beans, ends removed
  • 1-2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced OR a spoonful of roasted garlic
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup water
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green beans and stir often. Sauté until they are glossy and bright green, about 6-7 minutes.

Add the garlic, salt and black pepper and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir continuously while cooking.

Pour the water into the pan and cover. Cook another 2-3 minutes until the beans are bright green and “crisp tender”.

Remove the beans from the heat, add in the red pepper and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Summer Tortellini Salad

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I love a really good tortellini salad. Not only are they flavorful and delicious but they are so easy to make as well. There is an Italian deli by me that makes a great tortellini salad but at $7/lb it’s a little pricey for my taste. Instead, I make my own which is just as yummy and way more wallet friendly. Plus, it feeds a crowd!

This is one of those recipes where you just need to eyeball everything and adjust to your liking. You really do not need to measure AT ALL which is why this recipe is a cinch to make. Plus, you can add in or take out anything you wish. Don’t love olives? Drop them! Like a lot of onion? Add more in! Prefer a drier salad? Use less oil! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this tortellini salad, just go with your gut and play around with the flavors until you’re happy with how it tastes.

I really love this salad as a side dish to my BBQ meals in the summer but it also makes an awesome light lunch as well. You can even throw in a little grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella and now you have an easy summer dinner or picnic lunch. You can serve it cold or at room temperature however, I prefer it somewhere in between. When the salad is too cold, you lose some of the flavor. Allowing it to sit at room temperature for just a bit before serving really allows all of the flavors to pop. Keep a little extra oil on hand as it tends to dry up just a bit in the fridge, add some oil and toss just before serving. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs cheese tortellini, cooked al dente and cooled
  • 1 can of large black olives, sliced thick
  • 1/2 lb Sicilian cracked olives, pits removed and roughly torn
  • Oil from the Sicilian cracked olives
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, sliced
  • Handful of fresh torn parsley
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

In a large bowl, add the cheese tortellini, black olives, Sicilian olives, red onion, red pepper and torn parsley. Drizzle the reserved oil from the Sicilian olives all over the salad. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and a healthy amount of ground black pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Adjust seasonings as needed and allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes prior to serving so that the flavors can come together. Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator.

**Tip – If you do not like Sicilian cracked olives, use plain extra virgin olive oil on the salad. Alternatively, you can also toss the salad with a homemade or store-bought vinaigrette or Italian dressing.**

 

Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread

cornbread

Buttery, tender cornbread is a delicious accompaniment to many dishes, especially BBQ, so when my daughter asked me to make her Crock-Pot Ribs with Homemade BBQ Sauce I decided to whip up a batch of cornbread as well. She was in heaven!

What I liked about this recipe from Serious Eats was the addition of brown butter which I think makes food so much more flavorful. Brown butter, also know as a beurre noisette, imparts a delicious nutty and complex flavor that elevates any dish, sweet or savory. Pay close attention when you brown butter, especially in a hot oven, because it can quickly go from nice and brown to burnt and inedible.

One last note, when I made the cornbread I did not have any sour cream in the house so I substituted with yogurt which is the closest in taste and tang to sour cream. Also, if you do not have any buttermilk on hand you can easily make your own with milk and a little lemon juice. Just add 1 tbs of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk, stir and let it sit and thicken for about 5-10 minutes. Use it just like you would a store-bought buttermilk. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 7 tbs unsalted butter, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup cultured buttermilk

Instructions

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 425°F. Place butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and heat until the butter is melted and well browned, 10- 12 minutes. Once browned, pour butter into a heatproof cup or bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon remaining in the skillet.

Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine eggs, sour cream, and buttermilk in a second bowl and whisk until well combines and smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the reserved brown butter. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until well combined.

Remove skillet from the oven and swirl to coat all surfaces with melted butter. Spoon batter into skillet, smooth top lightly and then transfer to oven. Bake until lightly golden brown on top and a wooden skewer inserted into cornbread comes out with no crumbs, about 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in skillet. Serve with extra butter at the table.

**Tip – Leftover cornbread can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.**

American Potato Salad

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I am SUPER PICKY about store-bought potato salads because they tend to be overly drenched in mayonnaise, too mushy or just completely flavorless. This recipe is hands down the BEST mayo based potato salad I’ve ever had and so easy to make that I’ll never buy store-bought again. EVER.

As with a few other recipes on my site, this one also comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook 10th Anniversary Edition: Every Recipe and Every Review From All Ten Seasons. If you have to add one cookbook to your collection let this be the one. I’ve made so many recipes from it and ALL of them have been “spot on“. For those who are a little hesitant in the kitchen, if offers really great tips, information and very clear step-by-step instructions. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed with this purchase.

This recipe calls for the use of Yukon Gold potatoes which are my absolute favorite potato, especially for mashed potatoes. They are a rich golden color with a buttery delicious flavor that is hands down superior to other varieties. While you can substitute in another potato such as a Red Bliss, I highly recommend sticking with the Yukon Gold, they are a standout.

Instead of using dill pickles, as suggested in the recipe, I went for Kosher Dills because I love the flavorful garlic kick they offer. You can opt to use any pickle you wish, for a sweeter flavor try baby gherkins. Using the pickle juice in this recipe gives the potatoes a nice tangy and lightly sweet taste as opposed to the harsh flavor of plain vinegar. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 large hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 3 tbs dill pickle juice plus 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
  • 1 tbs yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced

Instructions

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 tsp Kosher salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes. A sharp knife should easily pierce through the potato without causing it to crumble to pieces.

Drain the potatoes thoroughly then spread them out on a small rimmed baking sheet. Mix 2 tbs of pickle juice and mustard together in a small bowl. Drizzle the pickle juice mixture over the potatoes, gently toss to coat and refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1 tbs of pickle juice, chopped pickles, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt, black pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion and celery in a large bowl. Toss in the cooled potatoes, cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Gently stir in the chopped eggs just before serving.

**Tip – The potato salad can be kept for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. Also, if serving outside on a warm day place the salad bowl over ice to keep it cool and refrigerate soon after serving as the mayo and sour cream can spoil quickly in the heat.**

Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole

sweetpotato

Thanksgiving is only a week away so naturally I am beginning to daydream about all of the delicious food I’ll be gobbling up in just a few short days. One dish that is a staple at our Thanksgiving dinner is my Mom’s Sweet Potato Casserole. It’s hands down the BEST I’ve ever had! I don’t even like sweet potatoes but I could eat this yumminess all day long. The sweet pecan topping is really what makes this dish, it adds just the right amount of crunchy sweetness to the potatoes without being too overpowering. It’s perfect! Consider adding this side dish to your menu, I promise you’ll be the star of Thanksgiving if you serve this casserole at your next holiday feast!

Ingredients

For the sweet potatoes

  • 3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (from 2 lbs raw OR two 16oz cans)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the pecan topping

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine the mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and milk. Mix well. Spoon into a 2 qt. casserole dish.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, butter, and pecans until well mixed. Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through. Makes 8 servings.

**Tip – You can assemble the casserole in advance and bake later. The casserole can be refrigerated uncooked for up to 2 days. Increase the cooking time if baking the casserole directly from the refrigerator**

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Mac and Cheese

My husband is a macaroni and cheese fanatic, even more than our kids, so I am always on the hunt for great mac n’ cheese recipes for him. Honestly, if left to his own devices, he’d eat it every day, all day. When I came across this recipe for baked mac n’ cheese I knew I had to give it a whirl. I do have a tried and true recipe for both baked and stovetop macaroni and cheese but this one looked too good to pass up. Plus, it was SO quick and easy to pull together. This recipe absolutely did NOT disappoint. It was very rich and flavorful and the pasta was cooked to perfection in the sauce.

The original recipe is from The New York Times and it can be found right here . The only changes that I made to the original recipe was to use ricotta in place of cottage cheese and I substituted mini penne regate pasta for elbows. The great thing about this recipe is that you do NOT need to precook the pasta. You simply toss the dry, uncooked pasta with the milk sauce and cheese then bake. It doesn’t get much easier than that! During baking, I recommend placing a piece of aluminum foil underneath your pan, the macaroni and cheese bubbles up a lot during baking and it did drip a little in the oven. The aluminum foil will help to catch the mess and avoid any cheese from burning to the inside of your oven.

Because this is a baked macaroni and cheese it will not be as creamy or “soupy” as a stovetop version. If you prefer it a little more on the “wet” side, cut down on the cooking time by a few minutes so that the pasta doesn’t have time to absorb all of the cheese sauce. Also, feel free to play around with what cheese you use in this recipe. Cheddar cheese is a classic choice but other cheeses such as Asiago or American will also work nicely in most macaroni and cheese recipes. Be creative and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  •  Pinch cayenne
  •  Pinch grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Instructions

Heat oven to 375ºF and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tbs butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

In a blender, purée ricotta cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One Pot Garlic Parmesan Pasta

garlic pasta

This is a fantastic pasta to serve as a side dish or even as a main meal. The nice part is that it’s made in one pot and basically cooks itself. It doesn’t get much easier than that! To serve this as a main meal, simply add in some grilled chicken and steamed broccoli and you have a nice, quick dinner. To save even more time, use a rotisserie chicken instead of grilling your own.

I came across this recipe online at Damn Delicious blog, you can find the original recipe right here . I followed the recipe pretty much “as is” with only a few minor substitutions. Instead of chicken broth I used chicken stock which is more flavorful and rich and I used Pecorino Romano cheese in place of the Parmesan. Since it was the only side dish that I was serving alongside my Chicken Caprese , I doubled the recipe.

This pasta is best when it is served right away so that the sauce is silky and smooth. Once it stands, it tends to clump. If that happens, just return the pasta to the pot over medium low heat and stir in a little extra milk until the sauce loosens back up. Serve hot and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics brand)
  • 1 cup milk, more as needed
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 8 oz uncooked fettuccine or thin linguine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, milk, butter and fettuccine. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is cooked through, about 18-20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk as needed until desired consistency is reached.

Serve immediately, garnish with fresh parsley.