Dinner Menu: Food for a Fall Evening

JeffW sends along some garlic bread. ETA: JeffreyW posted recipe in the comments

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple. Use the soup recipe as a starter and add whatever inspires you to supe it up (hee-hee, see what I did there?). I like the ease of frozen vegetables, but use fresh if you’re so inclined. Squash is a nice addition, put it in when you are simmering the meat, it will need the extra cooking time. Turnips, parsnips, maybe some barley. Go crazy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef Vegetable Soup
  2. Hearty Bread
  3. Pumpkin Apple Butter

Beef Vegetable Soup

  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat, small cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tsp crushed rosemary
  • 1 tsp crushed basil
  • ½ tsp dry dill
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp fennel seed (opt)
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables

large saucepan

Heat oil in saucepan, add onions and sauté, add beef and brown. Add water, spices and potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook 20-25 minutes, until beef is tender. Add vegetables and simmer 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Apple Butter

  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz apple sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves


Add all ingredients to saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and let cook down for 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Store in the refrigerator. Serve on bread.

Shopping List:

  • Hearty Bread
  • 1 lb chuck or stew meat
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables
  • 15 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 8 oz applesauce
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Also: ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, bay leaf, rosemary, basil, dry dill, olive oil crushed garlic, fennel seed

Apple Butter Anyone? Updated.

This is how I spent my weekend.  How’d you spend yours?  Do anything fun?

(Updated.  See final tally at end of post)

Adventures in Apple Butter

It all started with a tree:

A tree filled with crab apples.  And a desire to see them not go to waste.  It took me 20 minutes to pick a 5 gallon bucket full.  I grabbed a few green apples from a neighboring tree to top it off.

Then it was home to wash them.  And wash them and wash them.

I washed 4 sinks full and washed them each three times, culling the bad ones each time.  A couple of things about crab apples:

  1. Bad ones float right to the top.
  2. Black spots always go all the way through the apple – took me about 10 to figure this out – so you can’t cut out the bad stuff.
  3. They seem to suffer from blossom rot, if the stems pulled out they had blossom rot and were rotten throughout.
  4. Unlike the green apples next to them, I saw no evidence of worms or bugs in any apple.  Whew!

Once I figured this out, culling them was pretty quick.  But the thing you need to know is that no matter how much you cull a few bad ones are going to slip through.  Just the nature of their size.  So if that is going to make you queasy, cooking with crab apples probably isn’t for you.

I used three tools for the apple butter and without them I don’t think I would have gone to the trouble.  I cooked them (basically steamed them) in my pressure cooker, I pureed them in my Vita-Mix and I cooked the apple butter down in my slow-cooker.  I can’t imagine the amount of work it would have taken without these.

Next step was to pressure cook them.  Whole: peels, seeds, stems and all.   I added about 1 cup of water and the steamer tray to my pressure cooker and then I cooked them for 25 minutes.  Which is probably a bit long, but that made sure they were good and mushy before the blending stage.

After cooling each batch a bit, I ran them through the Vita-Mix – peels, stems, seeds and all.  Keep in mind the seeds are minuscule  and the stems are smaller than grape stems and cooked tender.  To puree this in a hand puree’er would be to lose much of  the texture and flavors of the whole crab apples. You’d also lose a good portion of your tiny apples.

After running it through the Vita-Mix, I added about 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tbsp of pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg) for each 6 cups of puree.

This is the smooth mixture from the blender, before cooking down in slow-cooker

Then the mixture was added to the slow-cooker, filled to about 2 inches from the top.  Set the slow-cooker on low and use a wooden spoon to prop the lid open to let the steam escape. Because what you want is for the mixture to cook down by half and caramelize.    This takes 8-12 hours.  After the first batch, when the sides browned a little too much, I stirred the next batches every hour or so to keep it from burning.  After it cooked down and was the consistency I was looking for, I did it all over again.

As you can see, there is still a lot to do.  I am cooking the next batch of apples as I put this blog post together.  I only jarred two pints – these are not canned and will need to be refrigerated – one to use here and one to take to work tomorrow.  The rest I plan to can tomorrow night when all the butter is cooked.  I’m planning on both pints and 1/2 pints, most of which I will give away.  I still don’t have a good idea how much this is going to make, but I’ll wager 6 additional pints and 6  half pints.  I’ll update you when it’s all done.  Oh, and by the way, it tastes amazing.  And all weekend long my house smelled like fall.

UPDATED:  Final tally was 12 pints and 12 half pints.  I canned all but 3 pints and 4 half pints which were given away immediately to friends and neighbors with instructions to keep refrigerated.  I never expected it to make so much.

Apple Butter Pork Loin

This is a new recipe for me and I loved the way it turned out.  The combination of pork, apple and spices was so good and this recipe is really easy.  It’s based on this recipe from Allrecipes.com, but I changed it up a little bit.  This recipe can be cut back to serve less people with very little trouble.

Apple Butter Pork Loin Roast

1 10 lb pork loin roast

7 apples – peeled and cored – sprinkled with cinnamon sugar if desired

4 cups of apple cider (32 oz)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of apple butter (16 oz)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar (6 0z)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg

20 whole cloves – optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put your pork roast in a roasting pan and season to taste with salt and pepper and stud with cloves if you’re using them.  Pour in the apple cider, making sure that  the bottom of the pan is covered.  Place your apples in the pan around the roast.  I used 4 Granny Smith and 3 Pink Lady apples, the Granny Smiths melted into apple sauce in the juice, the Pink Ladies stayed intact, but were very soft and sweet.

Cover tightly with foil and roast for 1 1/2 hours.

Mix the apple butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg in a small bowl while the roast is in the oven.

Remove the roast from the oven, uncover and slather the apple butter mix  over the roast, re-cover with the foil and return to oven and continue to roast for at least another 1 1/2 hours.  Uncover the roast and return to oven for 30 minutes until the apple butter glaze starts to dry out a bit.  Remove from oven and let sit and rest for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve with juice/sauce from the pan.

I found the cooking time after you add the apple butter glaze to be pretty forgiving.  There’s so much moisture in the pan that you can leave it cooking for a really long time without drying it out as long as the foil is on it.  I like to cook my pork until it’s falling apart, so I cooked mine for almost 2 1/2 hours before I pulled the foil off.  If you like your pork more firm, stick with the shorter time but cook until it is at least 190 degrees internal temp on a meat thermometer.

I served this with twice baked potatoes made with sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and bacon, steamed asparagus drizzle with garlic-olive oil and classic ceasar salad.

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Squash and Apple Soup

The farm stand was overrun with apples and a variety of squash when I went there this weekend.  That means it is time to dig out this recipe.  Serve with fresh bread.

Squash & Apple Soup

  • 1 large, fresh butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp oil (keeps butter from burning)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large Macintosh apples, cored & chopped
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 cups water (reserved from boiling squash)
  • 3 tsp vegetable bouillon (opt)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon + additional for garnish
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 cup whole milk (or cream)
  • 4 oz sour cream
  • salt & pepper to taste

large saucepan, blender

In saucepan, cover butternut squash with water and cook until tender. Drain, reserve liquid and set aside. In saucepan, add oil and butter, sauté onion and apples until tender. Add cider, water, bouillon, cinnamon & cloves. Simmer for 5 minutes. In a blender or food processor begin to blend squash. Add apple mixture, blend until smooth, add milk and additional water if needed. Transfer back to saucepan, let simmer for additional 5 minutes until heated through. Serve with dollop of sour cream, and additional cinnamon.

Whole Grain Stout Mustard

This is the start of what may become a continuing series.  I’ve been enjoying various whole grain or “stone ground” mustards, you may have spotted some of them on various sammiches I’ve pictured here and elsewhere.  It’s not a thing that I thought about before but I have been seeing mentions here and there of making your own condiments-relishes, ketchup, pickles of many varieties.  I saw a recipe for a mustard made with dark (stout) beer and decided to give it a go. _DSC2503 [1024x768]

I’ve lost the link to the recipe so I’ll reproduce it here:

12 oz stout beer

1-1/2 c black mustard seeds (whole)

1 c red wine vinegar

1 T kosher salt

1 t ground back pepper

1/4 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground cloves

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1/4 t ground allspice

Combine all the above in a stainless or other inert bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours.  Dump it all after the soaking into a food processor or blender and pulse until the seeds are coarsely ground and the mixture thickens.  Ready for use immediately or store in refrigerator for six months.


Making Chili Oil

I was reading through my usual blogs and news orgs this morning and got to Ezra Klein at the WaPo.  The usual wonky stuff, but he is a sorta foodie so he has links to recipes and such like.  A link I followed led to the food guy at the NT Times in a video on how to make hot pepper infused oil.  Piqued my interest because 1) I like chili oil and 2) chili oil is expensive.  I din’t have all the stuff on hand that he mentions in the video, but I did have the basic stuff.  I used some slices of ginger, and tossed in a few allspice berries, a few cloves, a sprinkle of coriander and cinnamon.  And the red pepper flakes, and the szechuan peppercorns.  Fun was had.

Warm the oil (I used peanut oil.) over a low flame, you don’t want it to get too hot or the peppers will burn.  230-240 degrees is about tops.  Conversely, too cool and the flavors won’t infuse.  Anyway, warm the oil and dump in the peppers and the other spices, then let the oil return to heat.  Shut off the burner and set the pot aside to let it steep.  Longer is better although you can use it right away.  Strain the solids and maybe filter the oil through cheesecloth.  I did but it isn’t required.

Have fun!

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Spent nearly all the day long on this.  It’s been fun, the smell is wonderful, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be doing this again.  Kroger has Heinz ketchup arrayed by the yard.  This is good, and we used Splenda instead of sugar, and there aren’t any preservatives and yada yada yada.  I reduced 4 apples, 3 onions, 5 cups of Splenda, 1 quart of apple cider vinegar, and 8-10 pounds of tomatoes to make 3 cups of ketchup.  My 12 quart sauce pot was over half full of juice and apples and onions and spices.  I did lose some solids when I forced the ketchup through a sieve twice.  Maybe a cup, and left some more on the sides of pots when I downsized during the sieving.

3 cups.

Used this recipe times four.

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Thursday Night Menu: Ethiopian Edition

This may not be to everyone’s liking, but I thought we needed to shake things up a bit. A friend used to take me to an Ethiopian restaurant occasionally and I enjoyed it. When it came time to create one of the International Menus I do weekly, Ethiopian came to mind. I tried to look for a recipe that would translate well to a family dinner situation (i.e. the kids’ first words wouldn’t be “I don’t like this”). This is what I came up with. The original recipe was 5-alarm, I toned it down quite a bit. But if spicy foods don’t scare you, start with the original amount of spices and then add more in the same proportions (if you add ¼ tsp extra of cardamom, you’ll want to double all the other spices as well – start small and work your way up).

Next up, I’m hoping you can help me. I’m looking for a recipe – for a tomato, pine nut sauce – I guess it is probably a pesto, but I always think of those as basil-based and this one was tomato-based. Served with toasted ravioli. I’m sure it had basil in it, but not as much as in a basil pesto. I could spend time experimenting in the kitchen, but honestly I’m not in the mood; I’d rather try one that you have already made and deemed delicious. So thanks in advance for any ideas.

On the board tonight:

  1. Sik Sik Wat
  2. Egg Noodles
  3. Green Beans w/yellow pepper butter
  4. Melon slices

Sik Sik Wat (Spicy beef stew)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp paprika*
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup dry red wine (non-alcoholic ok)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 lb round steak, thin cut


Stir together all ingredients, except beef, in Slow-Cooker, add beef and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (follow manufacturer’s directions), until beef is tender and falls apart.  Serve over egg noodles.

*a word about paprika. There is your basic McCormick’s paprika in a can and then there is really good paprika, usually packaged in small amounts. It has a deep smoky flavor that will make you wonder why you ever used anything else. Try and find that kind of paprika.

Green Beans w/ Yellow Pepper Butter

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ yellow sweet pepper, seeded & shredded
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 oz chopped cashews
  • 16 oz fresh green beans, trimmed & cut
  • ½ yellow pepper, seeded, cut into thin strips
  • salt & pepper to taste

saucepan and steamer

Melt butter in saucepan, add shredded pepper and cook for 5 minutes, add lemon juice & cashews, stir for 1 minute, remove & set aside. Add steamer to saucepan, add beans & just enough water to reach bottom of the steamer. Steam beans for 5 minutes, add strips of pepper and cook until beans are tender-crisp, additional 5-7 minutes. Remove steamer and drain water from saucepan. Add all ingredients into saucepan and heat 1 minute, tossing to coat with butter mixture. Serve immediately.

The menu serves 4

Shopping List:

  • 10-12 oz wide egg noodles
  • 1 or 2 favorite melons
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp paprika*
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 lb round steak, thin cut
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 4 oz chopped cashews
  • 16 oz fresh green beans

Also: olive oil, crushed garlic, butter, red wine, salt, pepper, lemon juice