Warm and Cozy Cinnamon Baked Apples

baked cinnamon apples

The only thing better than biting into a crisp fresh apple is digging into warm, spiced baked apples which are not only delicious but relatively healthy. Baked apples make a great stand alone treat as well as a fantastic topping for ice cream, french toast, pancakes, waffles, toast or even chicken! They are also incredibly yummy stirred into vanilla yogurt, it makes for the perfect filling breakfast. I like to make a big batch of these apples and then keep them in the fridge so I have them on hand all week for my breakfast and snacks.

This recipe is great because nothing really needs to be exact. Feel free to add a little more cinnamon and spice or if you like your apples more “syrupy“, add a little more liquid or even a dash of maple syrup for flavor and stickiness. There really is no way to mess this recipe up so get comfortable playing around with the ingredients and flavor profile.

One quick trick to speed up the prep time is to use an Apple Corer and Slicer which makes the job so much easier. I feel that the apple slices are a little on the thick side so I like to halve them however, you can bake them “as is” just be sure to increase the cooking time. Serve the apples warm right out of the oven, at room temperature or even cold. They will keep for a few day if placed in a tightly sealed container in the fridge. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
  • 2-3 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar or granulated sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 5 large baking apples peeled, cored and sliced to medium thickness (Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc)
  • 3-4 tbs water or apple cider

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter. Set aside.

Mix together the brown sugar, vanilla (or granulated) sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss the apples slices in the mixture and coat evenly.

Place the apples into the baking dish and add the water or cider to the baking dish. Dot the apples with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until apples are tender but not mushy.

Autumn Spiced Apples

cinnamon apples

Spiced apples are absolutely one of my most favorite things in the whole world. They are warm, delicious, cozy and remind me of everything autumn which in my opinion is the best time of the year! This is one of those recipes where being accurate and measuring is completely unnecessary, I like to fly by the seat of my pants with this one. I add a “little bit of this” and a “little bit of that” until I stumble upon the perfect amount of spice and flavor. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spices and apples, you simply cannot go wrong here. Since this is such an easy recipe to master, try letting your kids in the kitchen with you so they can give it a whirl themselves!

My favorite apples to use when I am making this recipe is a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. The Granny Smith apples add just the right amount of tartness to balance the sweetness and they hold up well when cooking. Honeycrisp apples are the perfect blend of sweet and tart and work really well in cooking as well but are also excellent apples to grab and eat raw. When making spiced cooked apples you can slice them up in nice big wedges or dice them up as I did above. To get nice, even pieces and speed up the cooking process I used my Vidalia Chop Wizard . It’s a great little gadget to quickly chop and dice veggies and fruit and it’s worth the small investment especially for those who aren’t comfortable with their knife skills.

I love to top my pancakes with a huge scoop of warm spiced apples, drizzle them with a little Apple Butter Syrup and then top it off with a nice dusting of confectioners sugar. It is the perfect Sunday morning treat especially on those cool, crisp fall days. They are also delicious stirred into yogurt or as a topping on your vanilla ice cream. Serve alongside pork, top your chicken, spread on toast or even eat them straight! They are so delicious no matter how you eat them and they are the perfect accompaniment to many dishes. Turn on your creativity and whip up a batch today. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 apples, any combination of varieties
  • 1-2 tbs unsalted butter
  • splash of apple cider OR apple juice
  • few sprinkles of granulated sugar
  • few pinches of ground cinnamon, apple pie spice, baking spice, nutmeg OR other spice
  • dash of pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Wash, peel and core the apples then slice or dice them up. In a small saucepan set over medium heat melt the butter. Add the apples, cider or juice, sugar, spices and vanilla extract. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are tender but not falling apart. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve warm or store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Kitchen Must Have – Sur La Table “Dizzy Dog” Cutter

dizzy dog

Stay with me here because I know this sounds like a silly and useless kitchen gadget but believe me when I tell, this just took my hot dog to the next level of perfection! I love my grilled dogs nice and charred, the darker they are cooked the better in my opinion. I love the crispy skin and slight crunch when you bite into them. The problem is, the inside of the hot dog remains the same no matter how long you grill the outside. Until now.

The Dizzy Dog® cutter cuts a spiral into each hot dog that when grilled, expands and allows the heat to get into the dog and cook it as evenly as the outside. Not only you do end up with a delicious charred skin but now the inside is perfectly cooked as well. Trust me when I say, they are absolute heaven! Even my kids, who don’t like hot dogs at all, eat these because they love the way they are cooked. And let’s be honest here, who doesn’t love a fun spiraled hot dog to boot? The other nice thing about the spiral design is that you can get condiments into all of the nooks and crannies and you can even stuff the spiral with yummy things like cheese or bacon. Mmmmmm.

“Spiralizing” the dogs only takes a few seconds each. You just pop them into the plastic cylinder and spin the cutter mechanism, it couldn’t be any easier. Even cleanup is a cinch, just toss it in the dishwasher when you’re all done. I highly recommend this nifty little gadget, I don’t think you will be disappointed. If you’re interested in getting one for yourself, just click here to be linked to the Sur La Table website. Act quickly before they are all gone for the season! Normally priced at $9.95 they are on sale for only $4.99! They would make a great stocking stuffer for the grill master in your life. Enjoy!

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

oatmeal

A delicious, warm bowl of oatmeal is a great and hearty way to start your day but the ingredients that are in those instant packets aren’t always the best. Instead of grabbing a commercially prepared packet of oatmeal, grab a jar of your own homemade version! It’s super easy to prep and you can control the amount of sugar you use as well as choose your favorite add-ins. If you’re concerned about your sugar intake you can use less sugar or even replace it altogether with stevia, the Truvia® brand is my favorite.

For the batch pictured above, I used brown sugar, cinnamon and reduced sugar Craisins® however, you can change up the spices and use any other add-in you would like. Try out dried fruits, chocolate chips, or even chopped nuts. You can store your individual serving size oatmeal in cute Mason jars or small resealable bags. Make a few batches at a time, it only takes minutes to pull together and you’ll have a delicious breakfast ready to go each morning. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or 1-minute oats
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs packed brown sugar
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 tbs mix-ins, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions

To prepare – Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in a small resealable bag or Mason jar. Makes 1 serving.

To cook – Empty the oatmeal into a small bowl or cook right in the Mason jar. Add 2/3 cup boiling water and stir. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir again and serve hot.

Italian Tomato Sauce

Sauce

I am often asked for my recipe for tomato sauce which I always struggle with because when it comes to sauce, I don’t follow a recipe. When I first started making sauce over 20 years ago I asked my mom for her “recipe” and she gave me a bunch of vague measurements and ingredients to throw together and then…..”VOILA!!”………sauce! So I’ll now pass along my list of vague measurements and ingredients to throw together and hopefully you’ll end up with a delicious pot of sauce as well.

Really good, flavorful sauce develops in time so if you can, let it cook for hours on the stovetop. The longer, the better! If you can’t be home all day to babysit it, use your Crock-Pot! I’ll usually brown the sauce and onions first and then add everything to the Crock-Pot to cook. You can put the meat and onions in raw however, I don’t think you get the same depth of flavor as when you brown them first so I recommend not skipping this step. Taste your sauce periodically and adjust your seasonings as it cooks because there is nothing worse than bland tomato sauce. My favorite way to taste the sauce, and I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, is to have a piece of “gravy bread“. Dip a slice of folded white bread in the sauce and enjoy! So yummy!!!…………….and very hard to eat just one slice!!

Try adding some red wine, make it with meat or without, let your meatballs cook in the sauce or don’t. There really is no one way to make sauce and depending on my mood and what’s in the house, my sauce will turn out a little different each time. My favorite way to make it though is with sausage meat and red wine. Cooking the onions and garlic in the sausage fat really adds so much flavor to the finished product as does a good, rich red wine. It’s also a great way to deglaze your pan! Fresh basil is the perfect finishing touch!

Use this “recipe” as a guide and don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients or adjust the amounts to suit your own tastes. Part of being a good cook is learning to become intuitive in the kitchen, following a recipe is great (and I do it often) but learning to cook using what you know about flavors and ingredients is a skill worth developing. Sauce is the perfect thing to practice on because most sins are easily correctable. So tap into your inner Italian and get cooking!!

Ingredients

  • 1 – 1.5 lbs sweet or hot Italian sausage with fennel, casings removed OR 1 – 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4-6 garlic gloves, smashed then minced
  • Red wine, about 1/4 – 1/3 of the bottle
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tbs dried parsley
  • drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
  • handful of fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons

Instructions

In a large pot set over medium heat cook the sausage/ground beef until nicely browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions to the fat and cook until slightly softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Pour in the wine and scrape up any browned meat bits and onion stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Add the meat back into the pot along with the crushed tomatoes, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and parsley. Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil over the top. Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for at least 2 hours, longer if possible.

In the last few minutes before serving, toss in a nice handful of fresh basil and stir.

**Tip – I like to freeze cleaned fresh basil leaves in a Ziploc bag so that I always have fresh basil on hand. When you need some for a recipe just grab a frozen handful and crumble it right into your dish**

Kitchen Must Have – Cast Iron Pots/Pans

cast iron pots and pans

Cast iron pots and pans have so many benefits and are a wonderful (and inexpensive) addition to any kitchen. They are naturally nonstick, virtually indestructible, easy to clean, and they hold the heat very well. If properly taken care of, cast iron can last for generations. Once you get the hang of using them I have no doubt they will become some of your most favorite pieces, I absolutely love mine.

The two most common kinds of cast iron that you can purchase are seasoned cast iron and enamel coated cast iron. The seasoned cast iron pans are coated in oil and then heated to a specific temperature in order to create a naturally nonstick cooking surface. The enameled cast iron pans are offered in an array of vibrant, beautiful colors. These colors are created by a process in which a glass particulate called “frit” is applied to the cookware, the cookware is then fired in extreme temperatures where the frit transforms into a smooth porcelain. This process bonds the porcelain to the cast iron creating a very smooth nonstick cooking surface.

Both options are excellent choices and offer certain benefits however, in my opinion I think that the seasoned cast iron pans have a slight edge. For acidic foods I always prefer to use my enameled cast iron but for all of my other cooking and baking, I always grab my seasoned cast iron pots and pans. For starters, they are far more inexpensive than their enameled counterpart. Enameled cast iron pots and pans can run you hundreds of dollars, especially if you invest in some of the big name brands such as Le Creuset or Staub. The seasoned cast iron is also more durable, over time you might find that the enameled cast iron chips or stains. Lastly, I find that with repeated use, the seasoned cast iron actually has a better nonstick surface. The one drawback to the seasoned cast iron, which can easily be avoided, is that it can (and will) rust if not taken care of properly. The good news is though, even if you end up with a little rust on your cast iron it’s something that is correctable.

I highly recommend taking a look into the Lodge Cast Iron  line of pots and pans.  They are very affordable, excellent quality, and they even offer a line of enameled cast iron pots and pans that are far less money and of equal quality as the more expensive name brands. I usually purchase my Lodge products on Amazon as they almost always offer the best price. Below is one of my most favorite and useful pieces, their 12″ frying pan. It’s such a great and versatile piece, you can make everything from eggs to chicken to apple crisps in it. If you own even just one piece of cast iron in your kitchen, this should be the one!

 Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet – 12 Inch Classic Cast Iron Frying Pan with Assist Handle (Made in USA)

For those that are new to cooking with and caring for cast iron check out this great video below from the Tasty YouTube channel. It offers some great advice and will get you off on the right foot with cast iron. So many people think cooking with cast iron is hard and requires a lot of work but this video will show you just how easy it really is. Once you go cast iron, you’ll never want to go back. Enjoy!