Cinnamon Applesauce

Put your hand up if you, like me, get absolutely crazed during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  I’m currently preparing for houseguests (my lovely mother-in-law and her sister are visiting for Christmas 2.0 this coming weekend), which means I’m cleaning and organizing like a maniac.  Part of my organizing frenzy is the always fun “clean out the fridge and try not to scream” game.  Now, I generally keep a pretty clean fridge and we don’t have things that sit in there for months (except condiments, mmmmm, condiments).  But I find it doesn’t matter how clean you keep the fridge, or how disciplined you are about not buying more food than you can realistically eat… it still gets scary in there.

One element of this round of “clean out the fridge and try not to scream” involved me finding a creative use for a bag of apples that were aging gracelessly in my crisper drawer.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I have this compulsion when it comes to apples.  They’re available year-round and I frequently toss them in my cart without stopping to think about whether I need more or not.  At the moment, though, I’m on a citrus kick (it happens around this time every year) and I’ve been ignoring apples in favor of tangerines, clementines and grapefruits.  So the last batch of apples I had bought were still sitting in my crisper, getting younger by the day (not).  What to do, what to do?  I didn’t really feel like baking with them, and I have an idea percolating for a fun muffin that doesn’t involve apples anyway, so baked goods were out.  But I had another trick up my sleeve – applesauce!  It’s one of my go-to recipes for using extra apples; it’s easy, healthy and delish.  Sweetened with a kiss of maple syrup and flavored with a generous helping of cinnamon, this applesauce will take tired apples from your crisper and turn them into a healthy treat that will definitely not last long in your fridge.

Cinnamon Applesauce

4 pounds apples, peeled and large-diced
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 generous teaspoon cinnamon

  • Pile apple pieces into a Le Creuset (3 1/2 quart capacity or larger) or other heavy pot and begin cooking on high, tossing frequently.  When apples are beginning to warm and a few have acquired golden crusts, turn the heat down to medium-low.
  • Add maple syrup and cinnamon and stir thoroughly to combine.
  • Place lid on pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for two hours.
  • Remove lid and stir.  Continue cooking on medium-low until apples are extremely soft and falling apart.  Mash with a fork (or potato masher) to achieve desired consistency.
  • Try to let it cool before you dive in, or you’ll burn your tongue!

Source: Covered In Flour

Maple-Date Banana Bread

Happy Thanksgiving!  Do you have your stretchy pants ready?  Marshmallows for the sweet potatoes?  Tofurkey roast defrosting?  Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course you do.  After all, Thanksgiving dinner is the meal we’ve all been preparing for all month, isn’t it?  You don’t need me to tell you what to have for dinner tonight.  But… have you considered Thanksgiving breakfast?  I mean, that is, if you’re not fasting in preparation for the big meal.  If you’re looking for some last-minute easy but festive breakfast to fuel you up for the Turkey Trot or the parade-watching… well, look no further, friends.  I have one.  This is a simple, but moist and delicious, banana bread.  It’s literally ready in two shakes of a turkey’s tail.  And it’s basically fat-free and sweetened with nothing but maple syrup and fruit.  So there ya go, you can feel good about indulging in a slice of this bad boy.

See you at the Turkey Trot!

Maple-Date Banana Bread

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose or white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 cup diced dates
2 medium-large bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt).  Set aside.
  • In small mixing bowl, beat together applesauce and maple syrup until combined.  Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in chopped dates, mashed banana, and vanilla extract, one ingredient at a time.
  • When wet ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add to dry ingredients and fold together until just combined.  Transfer to loaf pan and bake for between 1 and 1 1/4 hours.  Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out almost clean (there will probably be a little bit of banana stuck to it; don’t worry about that).  Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving (if you can!).

Source: Loosely adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson (Amazon link for convenience only; I am not an affiliate).

Sweet Potato Biscuits

I don’t really know anything about horse racing.  I grew up not far from Saratoga Springs, NY, and we used to go to the track from time to time during racing season.  I never won anything.  (My refined technique of picking the prettiest horse never worked.  I wonder why?)  These days, I am one of the millions of people who only tune into the racing world on Derby Day, or for the Belmont if there is a chance that a horse might win the Triple Crown.  I know who Calvin Borel is, but he’s the only jockey I can name.  It’s safe to say that horse racing is not my sport – although I do love the hats, the roses and the green grass at Churchill Downs.  But if you want to hear me talk intelligently about a sport, ask me about ice hockey, not horse racing.

One thing I do know about, though, is baking.  Different people may disagree on what is necessary for Derby Day.  Some can’t do without Derby Pie; some think the day is incomplete without spiced pecans.  (I think we’d all agree on Mint Juleps, though.)  I personally must have sweet potato biscuits.  You can make these all year ’round, although I think they would also do very nicely for a Southern Thanksgiving celebration.  But I need them on Derby Day.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter)
1 can sweet potatoes in syrup
1/2 cup soymilk (or buttermilk)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the Earth Balance (it must be cold) and “cut it in” using a pastry cutter or two knives.  Work the Earth Balance until the pieces are the size of small peas.  Set aside.
  • Drain the canned sweet potatoes, but not too enthusiastically.  (A little syrup left really adds to the flavor!)  Mash with a fork.  Mix in the soymilk and stir until the soymilk and sweet potatoes are smooth.  Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with hands until dough comes together in a rough/sticky ball.
  • Roll dough or simply pat it into a disk of about 1 inch height.  (It’s so soft that you don’t really need a rolling pin unless, say, you have a lavender silicone French rolling pin that is super cute and you love to use it…)  Using a round biscuit cutter or a small glass (I went with a cordial glass I had lying around, because I actually don’t have a biscuit cutter) cut rounds and place on a silicone- or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Pat the dough scraps back into another disk and continue cutting biscuits and reshaping dough until all the dough is used up.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly and serve with…

Maple Butter

1/2 cup Earth Balance, softened or spreadable
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup

  • Using a fork, mix the Earth Balance vigorously with the maple syrup until they form a whipped consistency.  Serve in a cute bowl alongside the biscuits.

Source: Adapted from TheKitchn

Psst!  I have a secret for you – these biscuits and the maple “butter” are completely vegan!  You can always make them non-vegan by using butter instead of Earth Balance and buttermilk instead of soymilk, but I really encourage you to try the vegan version.  No one will ever guess that they are vegan – and they will be amazed when you tell them.

Maple Roasted Chicken


Apologies for the lack of updates recently!  It’s been extremely hectic around here for the last week or so, and I haven’t done all that much cooking.  How about I make it up to you with some chicken?  (Isn’t chicken the best way to make up?  I think so.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?)  For the longest time, I shied away from making roast chicken.  It seemed to be very complicated – it’s not – and I didn’t think that hubby and I could finish a whole one – we can’t, but I was forgetting about the magic of leftovers.  This is a particularly autumnal way to eat roast chicken, with a sweet and smoky maple glaze ,and it’s especially good with some caramelized roasted squash and sweet potatoes on the side.

For this recipe, I decided to try a new technique, which I read about in good old Cook’s Illustrated.  Basically, the toughest (pardon the pun) thing about achieving perfect roast chicken is that the breast often cooks to the consistency of an old shoe before the legs and thighs have actually cooked through.  To remedy this, the folks over at America’s Test Kitchen suggested the ingenious method of starting the chicken roasting breast-side-down, to give the dark meat a chance at the high heat, then turning the chicken over to finish cooking breast-side-up for that crispy skin effect.  I’d never tried this before and my roast chickens generally come out fine, but I wanted something outstanding this time, since my hungry sister-in-law, the lovely Emma, was going to be eating this chicken after a long, rainy drive from the Deep(ish) South.  Well, I’ve got to hand the ATK team some credit – this method definitely worked.  The chicken breasts were by far the moistest (is that a word?) I have made, and the dark meat was perfectly done as well.  ATK?  More like A+TK!  Sorry, I had to do that.

Here, have some chicken.  It’ll help, I promise.  Chicken cures all bad jokes.


Maple Roasted Chicken

1 small to medium sized roaster chicken
olive oil, salt and pepper
maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove the organs from inside the chicken.  (Side note: Anyone seen the Thanksgiving episode of the first season of “Dharma and Greg”?  “Awww, look, his mom packed him a lunch!”  Honk if you find that line hilarious too.)
  • Rinse the chicken well and pat dry.  Season the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper.  Place upside down on a foil-lined baking sheet, which you have prepared by spraying it with cooking spray ahead of time.  (Don’t skip this step or the chicken will be VERY difficult to dislodge from the pan in 30 minutes.  As the Pioneer Woman would say, don’t be like me.)  Season the bottom of the chicken with salt and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  • Roast breast-side-down for 30 minutes, then remove pan from the oven and, using two pairs of kitchen tongs or two large forks and some brute force, flip the chicken over to breast-side-up.  Drizzle with a little olive oil, season generously with salt and pour maple syrup over the top.  Don’t skimp – get it into all the nooks and crannies, using a pastry brush if you need to.  The key to this chicken is a really caramelized maple flavor, so now is not the time to be stingy.  Finish the chicken off with some freshly ground black pepper.  If desired, now is a good time to insert a digital meat thermometer into the area between the leg and the breast – this is the coolest part of the chicken, so when it’s done you will know the rest is done.
  • Return the chicken to the oven and roast another 45 minutes.  About 20 minutes in, give the chicken a quick basting with some more maple syrup, then continue to roast.  Keep an eye on your meat thermometer, of course, but 45 minutes should just about do it.  If you don’t have a digital meat thermometer, after 45 minutes insert a standard meat thermometer and check the temperature.  When the thermometer reaches about 165 degrees, take the chicken out of the oven and tent with foil.  It will continue to cook.  (Alternatively, to tell when the chicken is done, pierce the thigh with a small knife.  When the juices run clear, the chicken is done.)
  • Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes, longer if desired.  This will give the juices a chance to redistribute so they stay in the meat and don’t run out all over your cutting board.  Gross!  After the chicken has rested, carve and serve!


Source: Covered In Flour

Yield: Serves 6-8 with sides.

Wine Notes: In honor of my birthday (yes, I’m still in my twenties, thank you for asking) we corked a bottle of Hillsborough “Opal” from Hillsborough, VA.  “Opal” is a blend of Petit Manseng and Chardonnay (my beloved Chardonnay, so misunderstood – just like me!) and is a lovely medium-bodied white.  It’s a perfect wine for fall, not only because Opal happens to be October’s birthstone, but because its creamy mouthfeel and delicate flavor create a perfect complement to fall’s hearty vegetable pastas and roasted or baised meats.  Happy Birthday to me!