Every year, when Thanksgiving would roll around, I would try a new stuffing recipe to serve with our turkey. I tried making chestnut stuffing, cornbread stuffing, caramelized onion stuffing, ciabatta stuffing, cranberry nut stuffing, sundried tomato stuffing, you name it. The kids never liked any of them! Then came the year when I finally gave up and said, “I’m not making stuffing this year.” Strangely enough, everyone went up in arms when they heard that. So at the last minute, I sent Old Goat to the grocery to buy some Stove Top “instant” stuffing. Well wouldn’t you know it, for the first time in years, there wasn’t a lick of leftover stuffing in the bowl!
Well I’m nothing if not a quick learner. Stove Top was the key! Since then, I’ve made Stove Top stuffing every year. I just doctor it up with a few ingredients to make it fancier and no one ever guesses that the stuffing wasn’t made from scratch. The empty bowl each Thanksgiving is a testament to how yummy this stuffing is. And my big smile is the testament to how easy it was to actually make.
The amount of stuffing you make depends on how many people you’re having over for dinner. I usually make 6 boxes for our family shindig, but we have a large family. I’ll post the ingredients for one box of stuffing and you can just multiply it as you need to.
EASY SAUSAGE APPLE STUFFING
1 box (6 oz.) Stove Top stuffing
½ lb. bulk sausage
¼ medium onion, diced
½ stalk celery, sliced
½ – 1 apple, peeled and cut in cubes
Prepare stuffing according to package directions in a large pot.
In a skillet, brown sausage with onion and celery.
Stir in the apple and continue to cook until apple is beginning to soften but isn’t mushy. You can use a half to a whole apple, depending on how much you want.
Drain and discard any grease rendered by the sausage.
Pour sausage mixture into the pot with the prepared stuffing.
A friend of mine shared a video with me that he had seen on YouTube for a cinnamon swirl apple pie where they showed you how to make this swirly pie crust. The pie looked like it was topped with flat little cinnamon rolls. So unusual!
Anyway, I had some apples I needed to use up so I decided to make a Caramel Apple Pie for dessert tonight, but I thought why not try using that fun technique for the top crust of my pie? I didn’t bother doing it for the bottom crust since no one would see that anyway. It turned out really cute! It made you feel like you couldn’t wait to take a bite out of the pie! I’m going to post the instructions here for making the cinnamon swirl top crust, but if you don’t want to go through the trouble, feel free to make this recipe with a plain crust on top.
I like to use 2 or 3 varieties of apples whenever I make an apple pie. I always start with 3 Granny Smiths for their tart flavor and firm flesh – perfect for baking. Then I add in some sweet varieties. I always add 3 Honeycrisp apples when Honeycrisps are in season because they’re sweet and juicy and have a firm flesh that doesn’t break down too much when baked. Then I include 2 Braeburns, or Galas, or Fujis, or Jonathans, any of which are great for baking because they’re sweet and hold their shape well throughout cooking.I find that the combination of tart and sweet adds a complexity of flavor that’s delicious in this American comfort food classic.
I’ve had this recipe a long time. I don’t remember where I got it from but I believe there are several variations of it floating around out there. What first caught my attention with this dessert was that it called for a can of Mountain Dew! How weird is that? Since then, I’ve made it with 7-Up, Cherry 7-Up, and Sprite, both regular and diet. They all work fine.
This recipe is really easy to make. The hardest part is wrapping the little apple wedges in crescent roll dough and it’s not so much that it’s hard, as that it takes a bit of time, but these apple dumplings are sooo good that it’s well worth it. Don’t worry about stretching, pulling or ripping the crescent roll dough. Just patch and pinch it back together. It’s really forgiving and will bake up just fine. You really need to give this recipe a try. My kids love it and everytime I take it anywhere, this dessert is the first one to get wiped out!
COUNTRY APPLE DUMPLINGS
2 large apples, peeled and cored
2 (10-oz.) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (12-oz.) can Mountain Dew
vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
Cut each apple into 8 wedges and set aside.
Separate the crescent roll dough into triangles.
Wrap each apple wedge in a crescent roll triangle. I just stretch and pinch the dough as I need to in order to completely encase the apple wedge.
Place dumplings in the baking dish trying not to let them touch each other.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
While dumplings are baking, melt butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla together in a small saucepan.
Pull dumplings out of oven and flip each one over so browned side is down.
Pour melted butter mixture over the dumplings.
Next pour Mountain Dew over the dumplings.
Return to oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Every Halloween, I make a big crockpot of Spiced Tea so that the kids have something hot to drink when they come in from the cold after trick-or-treating around the neighborhood. I’ve been making it for years. I used to make it from scratch with tea bags, fresh orange juice, fresh lemon juice, and some other ingredients. Then I learned how to make spiced tea using orange drink mix and powderedinstant tea. Super quick and easy! The kids loved it so I started doing it that way ever since because it made it one less thing on the Halloween menu to worry about. You could actually make the spiced tea mix way ahead of time and just stir it with water in your crockpot on the day you’re serving it. It’ll keep forever stored in an airtight container.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I stumbled on a post on marthastewart.com on how to make shrunken apple heads and thought how perfect would it be to float shrunken heads in my spiced tea this Halloween? I asked my daughter, Bashful, to carve the spooky faces for me and she did an awesome job, don’t you think? I was in a bit of a hurry so I skipped the part where you bake the heads and I also left out the clove eyes. Did I say I was in a hurry? We just floated the heads in the tea directly after carving and I think they looked great!
(Makes a little over 2 cups mix)
1⅓ cups orange drink mix (like Tang)
⅓ cup instant tea (like Lipton or Nestea)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
Combine orange drink mix, instant tea, sugar, and spices together.
Store in tightly covered jar.
Stir desired amount into boiling water and serve hot. I put it in a crockpot so it stays warm.
Use ½ cup mix for every quart of boiling water. Add more or less mix till it tastes to your liking.
For a single serving, measure 1 tsp. of mix into a cup of hot water, adding more or less to your taste.
To Make Shrunken Apple Heads:
4 large Granny Smith apples
1 cup lemon juice
½ tbsp. coarse salt
16 whole cloves, optional
Preheat oven to 250ºF.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together lemon juice and salt; set aside.
Peel and core apples; then cut each in half.
With a sharp paring knife, carve a face on the rounded side of each apple half.
Place apples in lemon mixture for one minute; transfer to paper towels to drain.
Arrange apples face-side up on prepared baking sheet.
Bake until apples are dry and begin to brown around the edges, about 90 minutes.
Remove apples from baking sheet and, if desired, press cloves into the “eye sockets.”
NOTE: If you’re putting the shrunken heads in spiced tea, you can skip soaking them in the lemon-salt mixture and baking them. Just float them in your pot of spiced tea right after carving. Put them face down for the first half hour or so, then flip them face up.
It’s apple season and Apple Hill is open! Apple Hill is a favorite spot for families to visit in California. Located in El Dorado County about an hour away from Sacramento, the area is comprised of fruit orchards, tree farms, bakeries, breweries, wineries, and restaurants. Visitors can pick their own apples or buy them, along with other fresh fruits and vegetables, from the various country stores that abound. The best apple cider I’ve ever had comes from Apple Hill. You can also buy all kinds of fresh-made pies and pastries. Walking into a bakery at Apple Hill smells like walking into your grandmother’s kitchen. The scents of baking wafting through the air immediately start your mouth watering. There are also several very good restaurants where you can stop to have a bite to eat. A visit to Apple Hill is always a fun time guaranteed. Don’t forget to bring a cooler to cart your frozen pies and goodies home!
Last weekend we brought home a sack of apples. Looking at the ton of apples littering the kitchen counter, I thought to myself, “Well, looks an apple cake is in order.” This apple cake recipe is very easy to make and like its name says, turns out a super moist cake. You can use your favorite baking apple or try a combination of different kinds of apples. The cake is oh-so-yummy! Give it a whirl and you’ll see what I mean.
SUPER MOIST APPLE WALNUT CAKE
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsps. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup sugar, for topping
1 tsp. cinnamon, for topping
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar.
Add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating until fluffy.
Beat the flour mixture into the batter until just blended.
Fold in the apples and walnuts.
Pour into prepared baking dish and spread evenly with a spatula.
In a small bowl, make the topping by combining the ¼ cup sugar and 1 tsp. cinnamon.
Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar evenly over top of cake.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
I love Fine Cooking magazine. I’d only been married a few years when the magazine first came out and I bought my first issue. Oh the recipes….. the photos!….. I was instantly hooked! I subscribed to it right away and asked for a subscription renewal every year at Christmas. It was the best Christmas gift ever. Then they came out with their magazine archive on DVD-ROM. Every recipe from the first issue to the present all on one disc. How practical is that? Of course, you still need to subscribe every year after that to keep your archive up-to-date, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s so worth it when you consider the yearly cost of a paper subscription, the ease of searching for recipes on the computer as opposed to flipping through pages of issues, and the fact that the discs take up so much less storage space.
Anyway, I had some butternut squash and it was such a chilly night that I thought it would be a good time to serve a nice, warm, hearty soup for dinner. The recipe for this soup was published in an issue of Fine Cooking from 2005. Their description of it – “smoky bacon, herby sage, and sweet apple give this squash soup layers of flavor” – sounded just like what I was looking for so I thought I would give it a try. It was yummy. I served it with a green salad on the side and it made for a simple yet filling meal. Oh, the recipe is also paleo-friendly which my brother-in-law will appreciate since he’s following a paleo diet right now. I’m going to have to make it for him one of these days.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH APPLE & BACON
(Serves 6 to 7)
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips
2½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice (about 6 cups)
1 small Granny Smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice
1½ tbsps. finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth
In a large stockpot over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Increase heat to medium high; add the squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned.
Stir in the apple, sage, salt and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes more.
Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pot.
Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft.
Remove from the heat and let cool a little.
Add about half the bacon back into the soup and puree, using an immersion blender. (You could also use a stand blender and puree the soup in batches.)
Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Bring the soup back up to a simmer.
Spoon soup into bowls and garnish each serving with remaining bacon.