Apple Crisp a Great Fall Dessert

Stayman Winesap apples.

One of our favorite apples in the fall and winter is the Stayman Winesap.  It's very good for baking, and I was happy to get a bag of these at the Farmer's Market on Monday.   Here's a simple recipe that can be made in about an hour--20 minutes prep time and 40 minutes cooking time. This is modified from a recipe from

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats (not the Quick Cook ones)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 cups apples--peeled, cored and chopped
1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8-inch square pan with butter.
2.  In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, flour, nutmeg, cardamom and butter.
Mix until crumbly.  Place half of the crumb mixture in pan.  Spread apples over the mixture.  Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and top with remaining crumb mixture.
3.  Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Serves 8

Place half of crumb mixture in bottom of pan.
Spread apples over crumb mixture.

Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples.

Top with the remaining crumb mixture.

This is an easy and delicious fall dessert. 

Delicious Roasted Delicata Squash

The thin skin of this squash gets crisp when roasted, a nice contrast to the creamy, sweet flesh (No need to peel.)
I discovered a new winter squash at the Sur la Table cooking class the other night.  We prepared a roasted Delicata squash with shaved Parmesan and honey.  I was familiar with Acorn squash and Butternut squash, but Delicata is new to me.  I came home with the recipe and a determination to shop around and find a Delicata squash.  They were available at Harris-Teeter.  I prepared this as a side dish for dinner the other night.  It was well-received.

Serves four.

2 Delicata squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons of honey*
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped (I used dried thyme.)**
1 teaspoon sage, chopped (I used dried sage.)
3 ounces Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, trim the ends and cut squash in half lengthwise.  With a spoon scoop out the seeds and discard.  Cut each half crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces and add to a medium bowl.  Toss squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Spread squash onto a parchment lined (I used a silicone mat) rimmed baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Roast squash, stirring once or twice, until fork tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Transfer squash to a medium bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the honey and herbs until warmed through and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Pour warmed honey over squash and toss to coat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Transfer glazed squash to a bowl or serving platter and shave Parmesan cheese over the squash and serve.

* I learned a trick for accurately measuring honey without the honey sticking to the inside of the measuring spoon.   Smear the inside of the measuring spoon with cooking oil thinly and evenly.  Or you can use a cooking oil spray canister to spray the inside of the spoon. Pour the desired amount of honey in the measuring spoon.  The thin layer of oil prevents the honey from sticking to the spoon and you will accurately obtain the amount of honey called for in the recipe. 
** We used fresh thyme and sage in class, and it was much better than the dried that I used, but I didn't have fresh herbs.

"Let us Know if you Cut Yourself or Burn Yourself": My First Cooking Class

Last week I was one of nine women attending a cooking class at Sur la Table in North Hills.  As a somewhat novice cook, I was eager to learn to make the four featured recipes* and perhaps learn some new techniques.  As the chefs were giving us preliminary instructions, one of them said: " the knives are very sharp and the stoves are very hot so be sure and let us know if you cut or burn yourself."  I thought, oh boy, but I am happy to say nobody did either.  It was a fun and informative evening. 

We worked in groups of three at our individual stations in a beautiful modern kitchen at the rear of the store.  The class was beautifully organized, and everyone had an opportunity to make a contribution to each of the four recipes. 
Chef Cordell in the kitchen.
Chef Steve led us in the preparation of the pumpkin ice cream.

Pumpkin ice cream was the first recipe we tackled.  That was done early so that the mixture could be put into the freezer and would be ready for dessert.
Our sugar and spices and pumpkin puree all ready for making the ice cream.

Celebrating Fall Flavors with Chef Cordell McGary.
 Preparing the Savory Mushroom and Gruyere Bread Pudding gave everyone an opportunity to chop (using the knife properly) leeks, mushrooms, and spinach.  And to shred or grate cheese.  The puddings were set aside and later baked in the main oven. 
Here I am spreading the bread pudding into the casserole dish. (Photo by Assunta.)
 I learned a new term as we were browning the chicken for the Cider-Braised Chicken with Bacon and Apples.  The brown bits that collect in the bottom of a pan are "fond" (French for bottom pronounced fahn.  I knew the term deglazing when a liquid is added to the fond to loosen it from the pan to create a sauce.

Deglazing the fond.  (Photo from the internet to illustrate deglazing.)
Finally we prepared an interesting side dish using a winter squash new to me, Delicata squash.  It is a colorful little squash with a thin skin that gets crisp when roasted, making a nice contrast to the creamy, sweet flesh.    
Assunta preparing the Delicata squash.

At the end of the class all the dishes were ready and we had a delicious meal.

The three dishes we prepared ready to eat. 

The pumpkin ice cream was creamy and flavorful. 

My friend Assunta and I enjoyed the help of Chef Tie who is the newest Chef at Sur la Table, and she is a barrel of fun too.
Assunta (on left) and Chef Tie.

What did I learn in my first cooking class:  the term "fond" as it applies to cooking, a new kind of squash, Delicata, and most of all I learned what fun it is to take a cooking class.  I've already signed up for another one. 

*I will be making some of these recipes in the future so stay tuned. 

Crackling Corn Bread for Rufus

A hot slice of crackling corn bread with melted butter. 
I remember as a kid my father loved Crackling Corn Bread.  There is something about this time of year that reminds me of how one of our neighbors,when they butchered a pig, would always bring a "mess" of cracklings* to my mama so she could make Crackling Corn Bread.  I asked Rufus, one of Dan's caretakers, if he had ever eaten CCB.  He said he loved it but hadn't eaten any in a long time.  I decided to make some for Rufus (and to see if I liked it now that I am an adult---I didn't like it as a child). **
How to Cook Everything (except Crackling Corn Bread).

I found a recipe with some difficulty.  I checked out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, but there was no mention of Crackling Corn Bread.  His recipe for Bacon Corn Bread was the closest thing.  But I did find the following recipe online.  And I did find pork cracklings at the Nahunta Pork Center at the Raleigh Farmer's Market. 

1 c yellow cornmeal
1 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c milk
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 c vegetable oil 
1  c cracklings or fried pork skins (rinds)

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES F. Grease a 9 skillet and put in oven. Mix dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and set aside. 
Dry Ingredients.

Then in another bowl beat together the wet ingredients, milk, eggs, vegetable oil until blended. 
Mix wet ingredients.
 Then pour into the dry mixture, and stir until it is combined.
Mix wet and dry ingredients.

 Stir in the cracklings; mix but do not beat. 
Add the cracklings.

Pour into prepared skillet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown.
Ready for oven.
Nice and brown, out of the oven.
Have a bite.
* Cracklings are the by-product of the rendering of lard. 
NOTE: If cracklings are not readily available, use fried pork rinds (skins) usually found in the snack food section.
**Nope, still don't like it. 

How We Use Our Homemade Tzatziki Sauce

A tomato sandwich with Tzatziki.

What is Tzatziki sauce?  It's a delicious Greek sauce made of yogurt, cucumber, garlic and other herbs and spices.  For my last blog I made Tzatziki sauce, and I promised to show you how we at the Palmer-Livingstone household use this.
A bowl of homemade Tzatziki.

I actually made this batch to use as a side for lamb shoulder chops that I was planning for dinner.  It is traditionally used with lamb, but it is good on other meats as well.  But I had a lot of sauce left over to use in other ways.  (The sauce will last about a week in the fridge.)
Lamb chops with a side of Tzatziki sauce.

It's the last of the tomato season here, and I made tomato sandwiches using Tzatziki sauce in place of mayo.  We usually use mayo, but I thought using Tzatziki would be a different take, and the sandwiches were great.
Tzatziki used in place of mayo in this tomato sandwich.

When I wanted a healthy snack, I used the sauce as a dip for carrots and celery sticks.
Tzatziki as a dip. 

I thought why not Tzatziki deviled eggs.  A nice change.
Tzatziki deviled eggs.

Tzatziki sauce is versatile and can be used in many different ways to please your palate.  

Homemade Tzatziki

Homemade Tzatziki.
Whenever we go to a Greek Restaurant for dinner, I always order a side of Tzatziki and use it on whatever I am eating.  I love this sauce.  I particularly like it with lamb.  The other day I was planning on having lamb steaks for dinner and I thought I would make my own Tzatziki sauce.  I did a bit of research to learn just what ingredients are usually included, and then I came up with my own recipe based on what we like.

1 English cucumber (the one that is sold in a plastic wrap) minced and drained
1 17 ounce container of Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage brand)
Fage Greek yogurt.
2 tablespoons of minced fresh dill (We like a lot of dill.)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice (I used frozen because I had no fresh lemons)
Frozen Minute Maid lemon juice.
1 teaspoon of minced garlic (I used already minced from a jar.)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
(I did not use salt because we like to restrict our use of salt, but you could salt to your taste.)

I removed the seeds from the cucumber and grated it finely by hand using a box grater.  Do not peel the cucumber.  English cucumbers have fewer seeds and have a milder taste than other cucumbers.
English cucumber with seeds removed.

Because the grated cucumber will retain water, place it in a fine strainer and press with a paper towel to remove most of the liquid.  Set aside.
Squeezing the liquid from the grated cucumber.
 To the yogurt add the dill, lemon juice, garlic and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.
Adding the dill, lemon juice, garlic and pepper.

Add the minced cucumber and mix until well blended.

Adding the minced cucumber that has been drained.

A bowl of homemade Tzatziki. 
Place in the refrigerate.  This will keep for about a week.  We use it as a sauce on all kinds of meat, in place of mayo when making a tomato sandwich, or as a snack spread on crackers or chips.  In another blog I will show how we use this batch of homemade Tzatziki.

Cranberry/Apple Cake to Welcome Fall

Cranberry/Apple Cake.
Cranberries and apples remind me that fall has arrived, and to welcome it I made Barefoot Contessa's cranberry/apple cake.  The tartness of the cranberries, apples, and orange zest provides a nice contrast to the sweetness of the brown sugar .  A touch of sour cream in the topping adds yet another flavor to this cake. 


12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed, (pick over to remove stems) (I used a 10 oz frozen package.)
1 Granny Smith apple peeled and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 large or extra large eggs
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted this.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

Peel and dice one Granny Smith apple.

Add orange zest to diced apples and cranberries. 

Add brown sugar, orange juice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the fruit and set aside.

Spread the fruit mixture into a 10 inch glass pie plate.

In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment beat eggs at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add 1 cup sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat until just combined.  On low speed slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour this batter over the fruit mixture in the pie plate, spreading evenly.

Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the batter.  

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Out of oven. 

Ready to eat with a dollop of whipped cream.

 This would be a great dessert for Thanksgiving.