September 29, 2011

Apple Pie Soup

Yea!!! Apples are here. We took the kids apple picking up in Ellijay (Georgia's apple capital) and had another wonderful time. We go to R & A Orchards owned by Richard and Ann, who still drive the tractor and hand out the picking bags. They are a caring couple who's kids and grandkids can be found out in the orchard working with them. I love seeing a family business succeed, so I'm happy to support them.
Their apples are priced very reasonably and taste waaay better than store bought. We picked two pecks and bought another peck that was filled with seconds (smaller apples I used for apple sauce, apple butter, and apple muffins). Can you tell we REALLY like apples around our house? I had trouble getting the kids to let me cook with them because they just wanted to eat them straight out. My husband loves them best like this.

Apple Pie Soup is a recipe worth the small effort. It's delicious! It comes from a combination of a recipe I learned at the Whole Foods Cooking School, where I volunteer, and a recipe out of the Palmetto Palate Cookbook. Both of those recipes serve this as a chilled soup but I really like it warm. When it's warm it reminds me of apple pie...delicious! Serve it however you like, no matter, you and your kids are going to love this one.


Apple Pie Soup

12 apples, peeled and sliced or chopped
3 c apple juice or cider
3/4 c sugar
1 cinnamon stick (or you can use 1 tbsp ground cinnamon)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp vanilla
2 c half and half

Cook apples with juice, sugar, cinnamon and ginger in pot. Bring it to a boil with the lid on, then turn down the heat and remove the lid, let it simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally and break up the apples as they get mushy. Take out the cinnamon stick if you used it and add the vanilla extract. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender (my personal favorite kitchen tool). Where you go from here is your choice. Put back in your pot or chill in fridge. If you want to serve this warm, you add the half and half slowly bringing the soup back up to a warm temperature. If cold wait until the base is well chilled and then when you are ready to serve, add the half and half and mix well. Serve in bowls with a few slices of apple and some cinnamon sprinkled over the top as a garnish.


I finally broke down and got an apple peeler this year and now all I'm thinking is, "what took me so long"? These things are great! It makes fast work of getting an apple peeled, cored and sliced and the kids can even do it with me.


September 13, 2011

Chocolate Acorn Treats

Ohhh, fall is just around the corner and I really can't wait. I LOVE fall. I love being outside, camping, playing, walking, anything. I love using the sunroof on the van and having the kids shriek, "close the windows!!" because it's so windy back there. There is something about a fall day that makes me feel Alive with a capital A. I cannot imagine living in a climate without all four seasons, if only to appreciate spring and fall when they come. When we went on our honeymoon in Alaska, nine short years ago, we went in September for two weeks. Those two weeks were the sum total of Alaska's fall season. Two short little weeks!! I'm so glad our's lasts a little longer here in the south. Fall is glorious! 
When I saw these adorable treats in Family Fun magazine (can you tell I really love this magazine?), I knew I had to make them. They are sooooo cute and perfectly autumnal. They were seriously easy. The kids did them without my help. They ended up with a little extra icing in strange places, like the shoulder of a tee shirt and inside an ear, but they had a great time and they were so immensely proud when we served them to friends.

If you need a little fall in your life, you must make these. Here's what you need:
  • Hershey's chocolate kisses (you must buy Hershey's since purchasing those products benefits the Hershey School which we learned all about when we went to Hershey Park and toured the town)
  • mini Nilla wafers (do not buy generic, they are not small enough, this I learned the hard way)
  • thin pretzel sticks
  • icing (really this should be chocolate brown, but I was lazy and already had leftover white) 

Unwrap twice as many kisses as you'll need because invariably someone will come along and pop several into their mouth before you realize what is happening. You'll only need a few pretzel sticks, so you can use the rest for enjoying with homemade hummus.

Put a tiny bit of icing, store bought is just fine, just buy chocolate or at least a cream color. The brown blends in so much better that it really won't matter how much icing the kids slather on, unlike my white icing, which shows up when it oozed out. My kids went a little nutty with the icing. I had to get that in :)

Stick the flat side of the kiss to the underside of the vanilla mini wafer.

Put a dab of icing on the top of the cookie and break a tiny bit of pretzel stick off. Put the pretzel in the icing. These need to set up for an hour or so. You can speed up the process by putting them in the fridge, but it might make your cookies a little soft (and the kiss really hard).

You can assembly line them if you want to make bunches. Assign each kid a job and you can make massive amounts for teacher gifts, preschool snack, grandparents day, Thanksgiving dinner. You could set up a table to entertain the kids during Thanksgiving and put the supplies for chocolate acorns and the gumdrop turkeys.

Tell the kids they can play a little trick on the grown ups and have them put some real acorns collected from the yard on the table with the chocolate acorns and see if the adults notice. Everyone will get a kick out of that!


September 7, 2011

Chocolate Rosemary Pie

I love rosemary and I love chocolate. I never thought to put the two together, but this pie proves you can. I've only used rosemary in savory cooking, so this was a walk on on the wild side for me and may be for you. It turned out delicious! I loved the creamy- meltyness of the pie with the cripsy crust (actually I think anything in a pie shell is wonderful - stay tuned for a end of summer zucchini pie recipe).
I will warn you when you serve this, tell people the name of the pie otherwise they will give you funny looks when they bite into what they suppose is just chocolate pie. I know, because this happened to me at a homeschool moms get together. That mild, almost piney flavor makes it's way slowly through the chocolate, but it's there. I suggest putting a spring of rosemary on the top of the pie. All you need is a small slice of this so it goes a long way. It's especially good with a glass of milk or a cup of bold coffee.

Rosemary Chocolate Pie
frozen pie crust
2 c good quality chopped chocolate (I prefer dark)
12 oz evaporated milk
2 large eggs
3 springs of fresh rosemary (or you could sub mint leaves)
whipped cream for garnish

Prebake pie crust according to directions, be sure to prick the bottom so it doesn't raise up. Cool.

In saucepan, put milk and eggs, whisking together over medium heat. Stir in rosemary. Heat for 8-10 minutes occaisionaly stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat, remove the rosemary and slowly add in the chocolate. Stir into the chocolate is melted and completely smooth. Pour into the crust and refrigerate until firm (at least a couple of hours). Serve with whipped cream and a rosemary sprig. :)

September 5, 2011

Sweet Potatoes are....Wait for It...Potatoes

Happy Labor Day! Here are some of the fruits, well vegetables, of my labor this summer. I've never grown sweet potatoes and they were surprisingly easy. That is, once I figured out where to find them!
Lest you think I know a lot about gardening, let me prove you wrong. I had one of those really stupid moments and my friend Sandy was there to witness me, in all my moronic glory. She and I were out for dinner one night and I was talking about my sweet potato vines. I relayed how healthy and vigorous the vines were, but every flower just seemed to fade out without producing any veggies! I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. She looked at me incredulously, as if I had suddenly grown two heads. She very quietly asked me if I looked under ground (I'm sure inside her head she added, "you idiot"). Slowly the light bulb came on...of course...sweet potatoes are POTATOES!! They grow under ground because they are a root vegetable, it says so right there in the name. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I knew this fact, but not ever having grown them and having all my OTHER veggies above ground, I lost sight of this very important bit of information.
Sure enough, I went home and looked at the ground around my vines, instead of gazing at the green plants. It was practically exploding with potatoes. How could I have missed this??!! I carefully dig them up and was rewarded with some "big 'ol whoppers" as my three year old says. They are monstrous! As a thank you to my dear friend for not rapping me on the head in the middle of dinner, I gave her some sweet potatoes straight out of the ground, dirt and all. :)



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