I’ve been busier with work the past couple weeks, which is good, but it also means more time away from my food blog (and I’m pretty bummed I missed the Recipe Redux for this month!) I usually spend about 2-3 hours creating a post, sometimes more, depending on the topic, photos, and the ease or difficulty of writing it.

Here is a recipe that I recently experimented with, and it’s all thanks to an Apple and Fennel salad I came across at Wegman’s. It was tart, vinegary, and sweetened with a sprinkle of golden raisins. I loved the combination of flavors and thought this would be great to serve alongside the richer Thanksgiving dishes (and it did!) But instead of ordering a couple pounds of this delicious stuff, I thought I’d come up with my own version of this tart n’ tangy palate-cleansing dish.

Simple is Best – All you need is six ingredients, super easy!

Tasty and Tart – Comparing several recipes for apple fennel salad showed me variations with the dressing. There were several recipes that used mainly olive oil and lemon, but I wanted something tarty. Apple cider vinegar was the way to go, and using frozen concentrated apple juice was an easy shortcut. Whole grain mustard was added for flavor as well as texture.

Is Thin Really In? – I came across this easy tip from The Purple Foodie in their version of an Apple Fennel Salad: “Cut everything thinly – the finer the cut, the better the chances of all elements of the salad coming together in a single bite, maximising flavour.” Wegman’s Apple Fennel Salad had thicker slices of apple, about 1/32 of an apple, and it still tasted great with the plump raisins and tart dressing, but I opted for thin slices.

Refreshing and tart. If you ever had pickled green mango, this might taste something like it.

Apple Fennel Salad with Raisins

The apples and fennel can be sliced the night before, just keep them in a ziploc bag–along with the raisins–until you’re ready to pour on the vinaigrette.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 3-4)
1 pound fennel bulbs (2 bulbs)
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup frozen concentratred apple juice
2 tablespoons stone ground Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice apples into quarters, remove seeds. Slice thinly and place in a large mixing bowl. Thinly slice fennel crosswise and add to apples. Stir in raisins, set aside.

In a separate bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, combine apple cider vinegar, frozen apple juice, and stone ground mustard with a wire whisk. Put apple mixture in a gallon-sized ziploc bag, pour in vinaigrette and seal tightly, removing as much air without smashing apple mixture.

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, turning ziploc bag after a half hour or so to ensure vinaigrette gets distributed evenly. (NOTE: as a precaution, lay the ziploc bag flat in a baking dish, just in case it leaks.)

Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with fennel leaves. Guests may season their own serving with salt & pepper. Serves 12-14.

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Spooky Snacks and Healthy Halloween Treats
Happy WIAW, and HAPPY HALLOWE’EN! Wish I could share some of my Hallowe’en decorating and planned festivities, but I have none! It’ll be a pretty quiet evening with pizza, wine, and whatever scary flick’s on the tube. ;)

My featured recipe is a side dish that’s great to accompany roasted meats, a main veggie course, and tastes great hot or cold. But before we get to that, here are some dishes from the past few week, in no particular order:

Sunday brunch was a pretty nice spread. Maura at My Healthy ‘Ohana had a great idea for 100 calorie egg cups, which came out fantastic:

Bacon and onion quiche and turkey egg cup with fresh fruit (egg cup recipe from Maura at My Healthy ‘Ohana.)

Lunch on Tuesday was quick and easy. I was baking gluten-free versions of  pumpkin brownies and chocolate brownies in the morning and sampled enough pieces to make me say, “Enough!” For lunch I craved veggies:

I love celery, and I love peanut butter!

No salad, just some celery sticks followed by salty potato chips and an apple. :)

Dinner last Monday was rosemary chicken with red cabbage and apples:

Mix plate: rosemary chicken, apfel rotkohl and steak fries. Where else can you get this eclectic mix of flavors but at home?

I recently experimented with red cabbage to make a German dish called Apfel Rotkohl (red cabbage and apples.) After looking at a few recipes I saw one from epicurious.com that sounded pretty good. I did make a few changes, like increasing the vinegar and sugar and adding apples and currants, and the end result was pretty good! Feel free to start with less sugar or vinegar, depending on whether you like it sweet, vinegary, or nice and mild.

Braised Red Cabbage and Apples, makes 6 servings
modified from original recipe at epicurious.com

Ingredients:

1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (do NOT substitute cumin, totally different taste!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup apple juice (or shred 2 med apples with box grater, squeeze juice & save apple pulp for baking)
2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup amber agave nectar or white sugar
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
2 large Granny Smith apples, chopped into 1″ chunks
1/4 – 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (I like a strong vinegar taste, so start with 1/4 cup if you prefer it mild)
1/3 cup currants or raisins

Directions;
In a heavy pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee for 1 minute. Add allspice, caraway seeds, salt, apple juice, and cabbage. Stir well. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 10 minutes add apples, raisins, and agave or sugar. Stir then cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until apples are tender.

Uncover pot, stir in half of apple cider vinegar. Cook until liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. If you want a definite vinegar taste, add remaining apple cider vinegar, stir. Serves 6.

Are you having a quiet Hallowe’en? What was your favorite Hallowe’en costume? This can be your own costume, or your dog’s, your children’s, something you saw on the street…here’s what I was last year:

For Hallowe’en last year I was super buff!

Have a great Hallowe’en, everybody!

Two comfort foods in one: grilled cheese and mashed (cauliflower and) potatoes

This afternoon my husband seemed to have a minor case of the blues. My way of cheering him up is usually with a nice shoulder rub (not like rubbing a pork shoulder with spices, but actually massaging his shoulders!) or with some kind of comfort food. The fridge was mostly filled with veggies, but we still had some turkey, cheese, and even some purple cauliflower I was going to use for some cauliflower-potato mash. So, sandwich night, it is!

My grilled cheese sandwiches usually have the same thing: cheese, turkey, mushrooms, and slices of fresh apple. Today I added some bacon (another meat source in the fridge!) and piled it with some cauliflower-potato mash topped with more cheese. It’s an easy-prep meal that is filling, comforting, and still has a serving of healthy greens. The apple slices cut through the salty savory flavors of the turkey and bacon. The mushrooms and cheese add more flavor and melty goodness, and the cauliflower mash is light but still creamy enough to give this open-faced sandwich a special “comfort food” quality that’s perfect for a last-minute midweek dinner. Enjoy!

 
Open-Faced Grilled Cheese Sammies for Two
These sandwiches will fill you up, but the cauliflower mash won’t fill you out!

2 slices bacon, excess fat trimmed and cut in half crosswise
4-6 white or crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 slices deli turkey
unsalted butter
4 slices bread
cheese (such as Gouda, Jarlsgerg or Chevre) enough for each piece of bread plus extra for topping
1 apple, quartered, then sliced into 5-6 thin pieces
2 cups cauliflower mashed potatoes (1 cup cooked potato and 3 cups cooked cauliflower mashed with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 cup nonfat yogurt, and 1 tablespoon tahini (optional))
mixed salad greens

directions:
Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add bacon and cook for 2 minutes, moving around the pan to distribute the fat. Flip over bacon, move to the side. Add sliced mushrooms, sautee for 2 minutes.

Put 2 slices of turkey together and add to pan, do the same with remaining slices, pushing mushrooms around to make room. Heat for 1 minute. Flip over turkey slices, pile on 1/4 of mushrooms and 1 slice of bacon on each 2 pieces of  turkey, heat for 1 minute more. Carefully transfer turkey slices with mushrooms and bacon onto plate, set aside.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan. Add 4 slices of bread, top with cheese slices. After about a minute, add turkey slices with mushrooms and bacon to each slice of bread. Heat for 1-2 minutes more or until the underside of bread is browned. Transfer to a plate, set aside.

In the same frying pan, melt 1 teaspoon of butter. Spoon 1/2 cup of cauliflower mash or mashed potatoes into pan, forming a mound (this will not hold together, but don’t worry.) Heat 1 1/2 minutes, carefully flip over, don’t worry if it spreads out a little. Top with a thin slice of cheese (or dab some goat cheese like I did for mine) and heat for another minute. Add one scoop of cauliflower mash to each bread slice topped with turkey & toppings. Serve on a bed of salad greens.

The fresh ginger, sweet dates and tart cherries weren't enough to forgive the mealy texture of this Macintosh.

My sister and brother-in-law were coming over as our first official guests for dinner in our new old home. Knowing he wasn’t a big chocolate fan, I decided to make an apple dessert that wasn’t too difficult but still looked impressive. This would be my first attempt at baked apples, and the recipe was pretty easy to follow, so nothing could go wrong, right? Wrong!

I stuffed my hollowed-out apples with a delicious ginger-spiked fruit & nut filling, baked them at the allotted time, plated them, took a few pictures, then sat down to sample my creation.

Ugh…this apple didn’t taste so good. And didn’t look so good, either! The texture was incredibly mealy, and I was sorely disappointed (I was too distracted by the mealy apple to take pictures, but if you can envision a mushy but dry looking concoction then yes, that was the innards of my baked apples.)

“What kind of apples did you use?” my brother-in-law asked. “Macintosh,” I said. “Ohhh, well there you go. You should’ve used Granny Smith.”

Yes, I am not experienced with apples. After moving to New York I hadn’t realized how many varieties of apples were available, it was incredibly overwhelming. I had to resort to reading the little cards that labeled each variety. “Tart crisp, great for snacking.” “Sweet, like a pear.” “Great snack for kids.” In the end, I selected a bag of Macintosh apples because I’ve never tried them and they were only 89 cents a pound. And also because of the computer brand. :) Well, I like them fine raw. And I added some chopped apple to Ranting Chef’s Cinnamon Roll Cake recipe, which came out great. But as a baked apple? I don’t know what went wrong.

Sigh…well, next time I try to make baked apples I’ll take by brother-in-law’s suggestion and go with Granny Smiths. But first, I’ll test it on my husband before serving it to guests.