Monday, October 17, 2011

Dried Apples

Over the weekend we visited Lattin's Family Farm & Cider Mill, where we picked pumpkins, talked to the goats, ate freshly made caramel corn and bought apples.  Today I attempted to make apple crisp, but something went awry with the crust and I'm going to have to re-make it.  It still turned out pretty yummy, but any excuse to make apple crisp in the fall is fine by me!  

Anyway, I got a little peel-happy with the apples and over estimated how many I would need for that recipe.  So I dug out the food dehydrator that I bought from Walmart for less than $30 at least 7 years ago. I remember this because I bought it with my husband (who was my fiance then), and it was prior to him deploying to Iraq. The dehydrator got some serious mileage during that deployment.


This is how my grandmother always dried her apples, and that is how I've continued to do them as well.
With just cinnamon and sugar. 


I put all the apples in a bowl, sprinkle them with as much (or little) sugar and cinnamon as I want, then toss them until they're somewhat evenly coated.


There's really no science as to how I arrange these on the tray. I just liked this pattern, it looks nice.
What you don't see in this picture, I actually went back through and dusted the slices with a little bit more cinnamon.

And several hours later (I totally lost track, but I would ballpark it around 5 hours).

See, drying food is easy.  And cheap. And you probably won't be able to keep your kids out of it.
But it's all good, just don't remind them that it's healthy.

-Shasta



Ritzy Chicken

This recipe is fail proof and super delicious. The trick to this baked chicken is using Ritz crackers instead of bread crumbs, giving it the fried flavor without having to fry it.

3 Boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 package/tube of Ritz crackers
Garlic Powder
Pepper
Grated Parmesan (optional)
1 or 2 eggs
3 Tbs butter
Honey (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 and grease the bottom of a shallow baking dish.

Finely crush all the Ritz, add in as much garlic powder and pepper as you prefer (I give them both a few good shakes). Also note that I didn't add salt, after trying this recipe a few times I found that the salt from the crackers is really enough for our taste.

Beat your egg(s), then give your chicken a good dip. Once it's nice and slimy, coat it in the Ritz mixture, then place in a shallow baking dish. This is when I like to add Parmesan cheese, I just sprinkle the tops of the chicken with a little dusting. 

Cut up a few tablespoons of butter and place around the chicken.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until done. 

When you serve it up, drizzle it with a little honey and you'll love the sweet & salty flavor. 

Hope you enjoy!

-Shasta

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Crock Pot Cooking: Chocolate Lava Cake




First off I'm super excited to announce that my camera should be ready to pick up tomorrow! It's been two long, painful months without it. Our little point+shoot just isn't cutting it in the kitchen, not that I claim to be a food photographer by any means, but it sure is easier when you have the option of interchangeable lenses!

Anyway on to the chocolate!

This recipe probably falls within my top 10 Pinterest finds. It's super easy to make and is absolutely delicious. And I owe this great find to Holly from Life as a Lofthouse.  Her blog is chock full of wonderful recipes, so go check her out and be sure to like her blog on Facebook as well. Oh and here's the link to her original post of the recipe: Crock Pot Chocolate Lava Cake.

So here's what you start out with:

Flour, cocoa powder, butter, baking soda, brown sugar, salt, milk and boiling water - 
(which was on the stove when I took this picture).

Take all your dry ingredients and mix them together in a large bowl. Then add in milk, melted butter and vanilla. Mix well then spread  the batter over the bottom of a large crock pot.You may think the crock pot is too big, but trust me - it rises. A lot.  By the time this was done cooking, it was right at the rim.

Once it's in the crock pot, mix together brown sugar & cocoa powder and sprinkle it over the top of the batter (do not stir in).  Then pour boiling water on top - and do NOT stir. Just let it work it's magic. 
Cover your crock pot and let it cook for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours on high.

Once it's done cooking, and has had time to cool a bit (20ish minutes), go ahead and give yourself a good heaping. And trust me, as good as your kitchen is going to smell by this point, you're going to want to gorge on this stuff.



Cake batter:

2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Cups Flour
6 Tbs. Cocoa Powder
4 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Milk
4 Tbs Melted Butter
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract 

Topping:

1 1/2 Cups Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder
3 Cups Boiling Water

For the cake: mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt). Then add in the wet ingredients and stir until it's mixed. Then pour the batter into a large crock pot.

For the topping: mix the brown sugar and cocoa powder and sprinkle it over the batter. Then pour in the boiling water. Remember - don't stir! Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When it looks done, remove the lid and let it rest for 20+ minutes. The lava part is going to be super hot!

Enjoy the cake!

-Shasta





Sunday, October 2, 2011

Experimenting with Baked Beans


Tonight I made an attempt at making baked beans - the lazy way. Using a can of Bush's Baked Beans, adding a few extra ingredients (and bacon), and letting it cook in the crock pot.  This was my first attempt at this, and it definitely needs some tweaking, but it has some great potential!

Here's what I started with: Worcestershire sauce, Rice Vinegar (mistake #1), pre-cooked bacon, S+P, light brown sugar, onion, Bush's Baked Beans, ketchup and mustard.

Because I was using pre-made baked beans, I was a little reluctant to add too much to the mix. Next time I think I can totally skip the brown sugar, use cider vinegar instead of rice vinegar (for kick factor), and use more onion. My husband isn't exactly a fan of onions, so I tend to go easy - he doesn't seem to mind when it's onion flavored as long as there's no bits of onion in each bite.

In the crock pot is:

1 large can of baked beans
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs ketchup
1 tbs mustard
About a 1/4 cup chopped onion
Salt & Pepper (few good dashes)
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
2-3 tsp rice vinegar

Mix well

Then I tossed a bunch of pre-cooked bacon on top.
However, next time I think I might cook it up first and crumble it in - along with adding a few strips in the pot.
This way the bacon flavor would really seep in more - and we like that. And if you're the type of person who prefers to use the real deal and not the pre-cooked stuff - I'm sure that would taste even better, but I'm lazy.

So here's the finished product. It pretty must tasted like regular Bush's Baked Beans with a hint of something + bacon, and the occasional piece of onion. Like I said, this recipe has room for lots of potential, it just wasn't achieved tonight. 

And on a side note, if you plan on making beans & dogs, go the New England route and add a side of brown bread. You know, the stuff that comes in the can. Yes, canned bread is delicious. I usually warm it up in the microwave (wrapped in papertowel) for 2 minutes. Then slice it up with string, because a knife will just moosh it all up. Then slap a little butter on there and enjoy. 

See how complete the meal looks with brown bread in the picture?
Yeah - it's a thing of beauty. ;)

-Shasta








Iced Pumpkin Cookies


These cookies are so good, I'm almost ashamed at how fast they disappeared from the cookie jar.  I originally found the recipe on Allrecipes.com a few years ago and they've become a fall tradition.

They're super easy to make, and apart from the canned pumpkin, I usually have all these ingredients in my pantry - which rocks, because I never know what I want to make ahead of time, until suddenly I'm craving it.

You can find the full recipe here on All Recipes, but in the mean time, here's a few extra pictures in case you were still on the fence about making them. :)


The icing is what really makes this cookie. So if you're thinking about holding back, just give in and make it.
The icing holds in a lot of moisture, and without it the cookie would most likely be super dry.


Enjoy!
-Shasta