It's hard to get into the autumn spirit and the fall cooking of casseroles, roasts and ooey-gooey goodness when the temperatures refuse to dip below 80 degrees. Yes, we are at the end of October and it will be 80 or more today. Yesterday we broke a record when we hit 83. This is Colorado. The end of October, people. We are usually baking warm things, digging out flannel sheets, pre-heating our cars and debating whether the kids' Halloween costumes will fit over a winter coat, or whether Under Armor will be sufficient. We are NOT looking for grilling recipes because it's too hot in the kitchen.
I did manage to get stuff canned - Peach Butter, Crab apple Butter, Crab apple Sauce, froze cabbage for soups and stews, froze green beans, cooked down pumpkins and will be making a small batch of marinara sauce later. I hit up Pinterest for all that and this week's menu.
I had seen these Italian Sloppy Joes on Pioneer Woman's show - a Saturday morning ritual - and pinned the recipe. I subbed one pound of Italian sausage for the ground beef. This was a total hit with the family. Perfect for whenever the weather cools down, at some point. Put the browned meat and other ingredients in a slow cooker for a serve-yourself night.
My sister-in-law brought me 13 pounds of crab apples. I made this Vanilla Cinnamon Crab Apple Butter, but that only used up four pounds. I was gonna need more recipes. However, I started with this fruit butter. I was attracted to the lack of strong spices typically found in fruit butters. Tasting it proved it was gonna be good - light cinnamon and you totally got the vanilla. It was a bit thick - crab apples have a lot of pectin - so I could have probably thinned it a bit before processing them, but it's apple butter, so thick isn't as big a deal. If you want, save the water from cooking down the crab apples to thin it to your liking.
I needed a big batch recipe to use up the remaining nine pounds of crab apples. Enter Crab apple Sauce! I read in a different recipe to just de-stem and cut the blossom ends off, which sounded pretty good to me, I was running it through a food mill anyway - if you were using a food processor, you'd want to cut the cores out. I ended up adding 2 1/2 cups of sugar, which made it lightly sweet, but with the tart of the crab apples coming through. The nine pounds produced 3 1/2 quarts of sauce. I kept the water from cooking down the apples to thin the sauce, given my experience with the crab apple butter thicken up. The recipe offers a crab apple jelly option with the remaining water - maybe next year.
I love potatoes. And if they are fried in some manner, all the better. They were a pregnancy craving I had with all the kids. So when I found this Taco Tater Tot Hot Dish, I had to make it. I only used a pound of ground beef; turkey would be good, too. I used this taco seasoning (generally 1 1/2 tablespoons to a pound of ground meat.) I opted to use my glazed 10" cast iron skillet to make it a one-dish meal; it worked perfectly. I had a 32 oz. bag of tater tots, but they wouldn't all fit; I wanted to keep it to a single layer. It was warm and filling, and that crunch of the potatoes on top was perfect.
Cookies are pretty much a staple in the house because of school lunches. These Cowboy Cookies were really good. A buttery crunch, and the chewy of the oatmeal - I used thick rolled oats. The recipe made 10 dozen, which was way too much. I cut the recipe in half and it still made six dozen.
Another night of various kids' activities led me to Slow Cooker Greek Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki. I used chicken thighs instead of breasts, because they hold up better in the slow cooker. The chicken was moist and flavorful. I chopped it and put it back in the sauce since people were eating at different times. The Tzatziki sauce made a lot - I could halve it and still had plenty. I also made my own Pita Bread and it was awesome. Super soft and chewy. I didn't cut pockets into it; the Girlie did, though, with success. I opted to just wrap mine. If I chose the wrap option again, I would roll them thinner and larger than the called for 6". If you are cutting pockets, prepare as directed, and cut with a sharp, serrated knife with a pointed tip will do the trick.
It's always grilling season here, but not always because it's too hot to cook inside. I made this Hoisin Glazed Grilled Chicken on just such a day. The sauce was quick to pull together and full soy, ginger flavor. The sauce would actually be quite good on skewers with pineapple and red peppers. I served it with rice, seasoned with Chinese Five Spice.
My gas oven and I are still not getting along. My hope that we will eventually do so is waning. Despite my inability to consistently turn out baked goods, I made this Pumpkin Earthquake Cake. I mean, it's fall, even if the temperatures don't show it, so bring out the pumpkin. I know it was the oven that somehow caused the results I got, but aside from that, it was a moist, flavorful cake. The results muddled the cream cheese ribbon running through the cake, but the cake disappeared nonetheless.
My slow cooker is getting a work out. This Slow Cooker Enchilada Quinoa was for a night of hockey evaluations and the boys at a church youth function. I made my go-to Enchilada Sauce, and doubled the recipe. It was good, well spiced, warm and flavorful. I could have sworn the recipe called for Mexican flavored chicken, but when I was putting it together there is no chicken in the recipe. I don't know. . .but I'd already tossed two cups of rotisserie chicken with taco seasoning, so in it went. My quinoa was a mix of quinoa and other ancient grains, but that didn't seem to matter. I thought, looking at it, it was going to be soupy, but it thickened up. We topped it with avocado, sour cream and cilantro. Leftovers would probably be good in a tortilla or over chips and cheese.
We finished the week with Oven Roasted Autumn Medley. I opted to use Chicken and Apple sausages, instead of turkey, and I used six of them, instead of two, then roasted as directed. It was an easy dish with lots of that fall flavor from the herbs and the sausage, even my 8 y.o. chowed it down. If I'd been thinking, it would have been good with an herbed roll.
Time to roll on tonight's dishes.