Friday, October 28, 2016

Food for Thought

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. 

We've had some busy nights this past couple weeks, so I needed some fast, filling stuff.  Monterrey Chicken Skillet was a good option for the different evening schedules the kids had, meaning it kept on the stove well and reheated well for those late arrivals.  This has lots of great flavor and the Ro-Tel packs a punch - if it's too much, use regular canned tomatoes and add a bit of taco seasoning.

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.

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