Apple Sauce Four Ways

Apple Sauce 4 Ways!

Apple sauce, for me, falls into a food category where depending on your time, energy, interests and values, it is debatable whether or not it is worth making at home. Sure, purchasing the ingredients and making it from scratch may be cost effective sometimes, and you may feel some pride in knowing that you made it yourself, but you may also want to invest your time and energy elsewhere. There are many brands available now that feature just pureed apples and other fruit, and nothing else. Personally, I would usually prefer to spend the energy assembling, preparing and cleaning up various ingredients and appliances to make something I feel will be of better quality if I make it myself.

Having said all that, there are also lots of reasons homemade apple sauce comes in handy. We tend to purchase apples in bulk, and it is an easy way to use up those that are getting past their prime. If you like the convenience of store-bought apple sauce but dislike going through so much packaging in the form of pots and pouches, making your own might be worth the time. And finally, making your own allows you to put your personal spin on it, which is the primary reason I like to make anything.

Whatever your reasons are, if you are inclined to try it for yourself, it could not be easier: peel apples and cut into chunks, add whatever flavors you like, add water, simmer and puree. Here are a few variations that are popular at our house.

peeled_apples

Basic Apple Cinnamon

Peel five apples of your favorite type (I like Royal Gala), core and chop into large chunks. Add to a medium sauce pan along with one cinnamon stick and a couple of splashes of water (about 1/4 a cup). Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes. The apples are ready when they are soft enough to be speared with a fork.

Remove cinnamon stick. Transfer the cooled apples to a blender or food processor and puree to your desired consistency. If you like chunkier apple sauce, you could also pulse the mixture with an immersion blender or simply mash with a fork or potato masher.

This recipe yields about 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of sauce.

Apple Prune

Okay, so this one might not sound like the most appealing option. But I tend to think that prunes get a bit of a bad rep, as they are delicious in cakes in other baked goods, and they add a delicious sour tang to this apple sauce. And well…maybe you’re interested in getting some into your toddler or preschooler. :)

Using the above method for basic apple sauce, add about 20 dried pitted prunes to the sauce pan along with the apples and about 1/2 a cup of water. Simmer until the apples are soft and the prunes have plumped up, about 10 minutes. Let cool and puree using preferred method.

Note: It is a good idea to remove the cooked prunes and lightly mash with a fork before pureeing to ensure there are no residual pits still lurking inside.

Apple Cherry

Using the basic method, add about two cups of fresh or frozen cherries to the sauce pan with a 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, covered, until the fruit is softened (if using frozen cherries, this might take a few extra minutes. Let cool and puree using preferred method.

This version is particularly good with meat like pork or simply mixed with some plain Greek yogurt.

Apple Peach

Using the basic method, add about a cup of fresh or frozen sliced peaches (peeled) to the sauce pan with a 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, covered, until the fruit is softened (if using frozen peaches, this might take a few extra minutes. Let cool and puree using preferred method.

apple_sauce_pot

Notes:

  • As per usual, ingredient amounts are subject to your own preferences and can easily be tweaked.
  • Amounts of water will vary, as the apples and other fruit will release a lot of their own as they cook. It is best to start with a small amount of water, keep an eye on the fruit for a few minutes, and add more water if the mixture looks too dry. Especially with frozen fruit, you will likely find in most cases there is more than enough water being released and you do not need to add more.
  • If the fruit has finished cooking and you are concerned about the amount of water, drain some before pureeing.
  • I like smoother apple sauce , so I tend to puree it in a regular blender. However, an immersion blender works well right in the pot and will result in less cleanup.
  • Store apple sauce in a Mason jar or airtight container in the refrigerator up to a week.
  • Apple sauce also freezes very well. Place in a freezer-safe container and when ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Alternatively, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for several hours, then pop out the cubes and store in a freezer-safe bag or container.  The small cubes of apple sauce can be thawed as needed in the microwave for about 30 seconds at a time.

Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint and Balsamic Glaze

Waltermelon Feta Salad

I always look forward to this time of year when fresh watermelon, particularly the adorable mini seedless variety, are readily available, and I am usually more than happy to munch away on them exactly as they are, sliced or cubed.

However, as evidenced by this post, there are many other ways to enjoy this sweet, crunchy pink fruit. Last weekend, I was contemplating what type of salad to make when having a friend over for lunch, and spied half a watermelon leftover in the fridge. Since we also had some feta cheese, they both seemed like a great accompaniment to the spicy soup and toasted sandwiches I was serving.

There are a lot of variations out there on the watermelon and feta combo, and this one works really well in combining tastes and textures. With the sweet juiciness of the watermelon, salty feta, pop from the fresh mint and crunch of the pine nuts, it is already delicious, but the syrup-y balsamic glaze sends it over the top. This turned out to be my favorite part of the whole meal, and I made another big bowl of it the next day. Be warned that it is difficult to stop eating.  With a side of toasty garlic bread it would be a meal in itself!

Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint and Balsamic Glaze

Serves 4 generously

Salad Ingredients:

  • Half a mini seedless watermelon, or about 2 and a half cups, cubed
  • Approximately 1 and a half cups cubed feta cheese (or just broken into whatever size chunks you like)
  • Two sprigs of fresh mint, torn into small pieces or finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Freshly-ground black pepper, optional

Balsamic Glaze Ingredients:

  • Approximately 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (or other sweetener of your choice such as honey or brown sugar)

Salad Directions:

  • Mix watermelon cubes and feta cheese together gently, so as not to break up either ingredient – I used my hands for this.
  • Add the chopped mint, toasted pine nuts and pepper if using, and mix gently.
  • Just before serving, drizzle the balsamic glaze over the finished salad.
  • If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a whole piece or sprig of mint.

Directions for reducing balsamic vinegar to a glaze:

  • Measure out about three times as much vinegar as you would like to have of glaze. I used about 3/4 of a cup.
  • In a heavy-bottomed pot or sauce pan, whisk together your choice of sweetener with the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the mixture has reduced by about two thirds; this should take about 10 minutes. (See recipe notes for more details on time!) For a glaze that is easy to drizzle, you want to simmer until the mixture just coats the back of a spoon.
  • Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for several minutes. As it does, it will thicken quite a bit, so it’s a good idea to stop simmering before you reach the consistency you would like.
  • Drizzle over Watermelon Feta Salad, or anything else you desire.

withglaze

Notes:

  • As with any salad, ingredient amounts are approximate. Feel free to adjust to your own preferences.
  • I sometimes reduce the vinegar a little too much – past a certain point it will become too thick and sticky to drizzle, and will harden as it cools. If this happens, you can heat it gently in the microwave, about 10 seconds or so, and add some hot water a little at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. The glaze will last for a very long time in the refrigerator.
  • I’ve seen watermelon salads out there in internet-land where arugula was used as a base, and that would be an awesome addition if you wanted to round out the dish a little. (Plus, it would look even more beautiful!)

What is your favorite way to use watermelon?

A Summer Bucket List for 2015

tlb

In contemplating summer lately, I’ve been hoping to be a little more intentional about our activities over the next couple of months. Since my daughter is not in school yet, and the weather is still relatively chilly in these parts, our summer sometimes tends to blend into the rest of the year, and before I know it a good chunk of it has slipped by.

Last summer I created a small ‘bucket list’ of fun activities I’d like to see happen over the season, and it served as a reminder to try and include those things. It was fun both to anticipate them and see them checked off the list. This year I would also like to tackle a few of the items that I didn’t get to last year (I’m looking at you, grilled pizza).

We have some travel plans and visitors coming that will build in a little fun automatically, and below are a few other things that would be nice to do. Some are extensions of pastimes we already have and are easy to incorporate, while a few will require a bit of planning.

  • Visit the Farmer’s Market in our city at least once.
  • Take better advantage of local produce (in keeping with the first point!). At least twice, visit one of our great local farms when I need fresh veggies, rather than the supermarket.
  • Try out the new splash pad at one of our local parks.
  • Spend some time at the beach with the kiddo, check out the rocks and watch the waves.
  • Try our hand at flying a kite.
  • Go on a Lighthouse Picnic, which we haven’t done for a few years.
  • Check out a u-pick with the kiddo.
  • Go swimming at least once a week.
  • Take advantage of the deck and backyard and have some meals and snacks outside at home.
  • Take a picnic to the park.
  • Seek out opportunities for some summer activities around the city that might be nice to try out.
  • Learn to properly use our barbeque on my own. I never have. This has nothing to do with the grill being the domain of any one gender, and everything to do with my tendency to be a little accident prone.  So I’m going to very cautiously proceed on this one.
  • Try making pizza on the grill!
  • Host some barbeques with friends and family.

flowers_tlb

I’m going to try and make plans to see how many of these I can squeeze in, and will report back at the end of August to see how we did. The point of thinking about these activities ahead of time is not to try and check everything off a perfect list (although I do love me a good list), but to make time for some fun and relaxing activities that sometimes can get lost in the shuffle and routine.

What is on your summer bucket list?