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.

Easy Peasy Seasoned Rice

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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 Homemade Bruschetta

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There is nothing I love more in the summertime than fresh homemade bruschetta. It’s light, healthy, flavorful and goes great with so many different foods such as chicken, crusty crostini, fresh mozzarella and more! It’s also one of the easiest things to make and doesn’t require any hard and fast measurements. Everything is done to taste and you really cannot get this wrong, I promise!

The key to really good bruschetta is to start with fresh, perfectly ripe ingredients. You want to choose beautifully ripened, juicy, red tomatoes as well as crisp red onions and fresh, bright basil. The better the ingredients, the better the bruschetta! Once you have your veggies the only other ingredients you’ll need are Kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar. That’s it! Super simple, super delicious. If I have it on hand, I will sometimes stir in a few teaspoons of homemade pesto too!

I LOVE to eat bruschetta on top of a good, crusty crostini brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic. It is so good and flavorful and a great summer appetizer! I also love it on top of grilled chicken or on thick slices of fresh mozzarella. It’s even delicious tossed with a little fresh pasta and served chilled. Bruschetta is the perfect accompaniment to so many of your summer dishes, it’ll really brighten almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ripened tomatoes, any variety 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • few teaspoons of fresh pesto, optional

Instructions

Dice the fresh tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the diced red onion and torn basil. Add Kosher salt, ground black pepper, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

**Tip – The longer you let the bruschetta sit, the more the flavors will come together resulting in a more flavorful bite.**

“How-To” Cooking – Roasting (Vegetables)

Roasting is an excellent way to bring out an extra depth of flavor in most vegetables. The slight crisp to the edges that roasting gives also adds a nice textural component to the vegetable as well. Root vegetables such as potatoes and parsnips are traditional choices for roasting however, other vegetables such as brussel sprouts, broccoli, onions, and peppers are also excellent choices. The best thing about roasting is that it is super easy and requires very little effort.

To roast vegetables, first cut up the vegetables into bite sized chunks. Then toss them in a good olive oil until they are nicely coated and glossy. Season the vegetables liberally with Kosher salt and fresh black pepper and then spread them out on a cookie sheet leaving some space between the vegetables. Roast the vegetables at 425ºF until they pierce easily with a fork and there is some charred bits on the edges. The charred bits are what make the roasted vegetables taste so good therefore, don’t hesitate to roast the vegetables a little longer to get that char even though they might already be tender.

For more information on roasting, click here .

Homemade Mashed Potatoes

 

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I could eat homemade mashed potatoes allllllll day long. Seriously. They are awesome! Not to mention super easy to make and WAY better than any store bought or boxed version of mashed potatoes. To make mashed potatoes you can use any basic, high starch potato such as a Russet however, I think that Yukon Gold potatoes make the absolute best potatoes because they are so buttery and creamy. Trust me, use Yukon Golds and you’ll never go back to your old potato again!

There are a few key tips you should follow in order to get a good quality bowl of mashed potatoes:

  • Cut the potatoes into even sized pieces – Irregular cut potato chunks will result in uneven cooking, some pieces will be mushy while others will remain too firm
  • Start them in COLD water If you start the potatoes in hot water they will cook unevenly
  • Generously salt the water – The salt will be absorbed into the potatoes as the starch granules swell
  • Drain them well – Soaked, wet potatoes won’t make for a good final product
  • Add room temp or warmed ingredients – Cold ingredients won’t be absorbed as well and they will also cool down the potatoes 
  • Season them wellPotatoes that aren’t properly seasoned will taste bland and boring
  • Don’t overwork them – If you mix them too much or over beat them you will release all of the starch in the potatoes and the result will be gummy, gluey potatoes

Personally, I don’t scrimp when I make mashed potatoes. I go all out with a lot of butter, heavy cream, and loads of salt and pepper. If you’re looking for a lighter version you can always reduce the amount of butter as well as replace the heavy cream with half and half or milk. The potatoes won’t be as rich but they will still be good.

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 stick salted butter, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Place the cubed potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water, and add a small handful of salt to the pot.

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat down to medium high. Cook the potatoes until a knife can easily poke through them, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the potatoes well.

Using a ricer, squeeze the potatoes through into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the salt and pepper, all of the butter, and about half of the warmed heavy cream. On the lowest setting, mix the potatoes using the paddle attachment. Slowly drizzle in more heavy cream until your mashed potatoes reach the desired consistency. Be sure you don’t overwork the potatoes. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

**Tip** – If you prefer a more chunky mashed potato, skip the ricer and just use a potato masher to break up the potatoes. Also, if you don’t have a stand mixer, an electric mixer set to low will also work fine.

Variation – For garlic mashed potatoes add 1-2 heads of roasted garlic to the potatoes during mixing. Use 2 heads of garlic if you like a stronger garlic flavor.

To make the roasted garlic simply cut the top off of a head of garlic and remove as much of the papery skin as you can. Place the garlic heads in a tin foil “pouch” and drizzle them generously with a good olive oil. (I happen to LOVE the flavored oils from The Amazing Olive in Port Jefferson, NY) Sprinkle the garlic with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, seal the tin foil pouch, and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 40-45 minutes. 

When you remove the garlic from the oven, it should look nicely browned and roasted through. Let the garlic cool off for a few minutes and then very carefully lift one bulb at a time and squeeze from the bottom until all of the delicious roasted garlic is released. It should slide out VERY easily from its skin at this point. Give the roasted garlic a little stir to break everything up and then it’s ready to go! 

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Great Grandma’s Italian Potato Salad

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This potato salad is one that I grew up on as a child and has been handed down through the years from generation to generation. To this day, it’s still a staple at every, single family BBQ that we have.  In fact, it was one of those dishes that we looked forward to the most at mealtime. It wasn’t a BBQ without Great Grandma’s Italian Potato Salad on hand!

In keeping with tradition, I made this tonight as a side to my BBQ chicken breasts and as usual, it was a hit. Even my 4 year old son who happens to be a fairly picky eater (thought not as bad as my daughter) finally gave in and tried this for the first time. He LOVED it and devoured over 3 helpings of potato salad. It’s a very simple and basic recipe and unlike other potato salads it does not include mayo. Instead, it’s generously seasoned with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little oregano. This potato salad goes great with pretty much anything you can think to grill up. In particular, it’s the perfect side dish for burgers, hot dogs, and chicken but it’s even delicious all on its own. Enjoy!

Ingredients 

  • Yukon Gold potatoes, about 3-3.5 lbs
  • 1 dozen large eggs, hard boiled and sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil, to taste
  • salt, pepper, and oregano, to taste

Instructions 

Choose potatoes that are roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Gently scrub them under water to get all of the dirt off. Leave the skins on and place them in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Add about 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt to the water so that the potatoes absorb the flavor while cooking.

Bring the potatoes to a boil and then lower the heat to a rolling simmer. Cook the potatoes about 15-18 minutes, depending on their size. When a knife easily pierces through the potato, they are ready. Do not overcook them or you will have mashed potatoes instead of potato salad.

While the potatoes are cooking hard boil a dozen eggs. Cover the eggs with cold water, bring to a boil, then remove them from the heat, cover the pot and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Run them under cold water, peel, and slice.

Drain the potatoes and run them under cold water to cool them off. Slip the skins off of the potatoes, they should come off easily, and then cut into even sized chunks.

In a large bowl combine the potatoes and sliced eggs, season with salt, pepper, and oregano and then drizzle about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil into the bowl. Toss gently with your hands or a large spoon. Adjust the oil and seasonings to taste.

You can serve this warm or cold. If you chill the potato salad beforehand it may dry out a little in the fridge as the potatoes will continue to absorb the oil. If that happens, just drizzle in a little extra oil and give it a gentle toss before serving.

**NOTE** – You can use whatever potatoes you have on hand for this recipe, they will taste just as good in the salad. I happen to love Yukon Golds because they have a nice buttery flavor and creamy texture.

Also, you can adjust the ratio of potatoes to eggs to your liking. Sometimes I will add in a few extra eggs, you just have to adjust the seasonings and oil.