Friday, September 30, 2016

Canadian Thanksgiving is just around the corner and nothing Trumps the Apple in the Food Versaility debate!

Did You Know? The apples from the very first McIntosh Apple tree—grown here in my own neck of the woods in the Ottawa Valley about 200 years ago—took a major bite out of the apple market in the early 1900s. Rumour has it, John McIntosh, the son of Scottish immigrants discovered an overgrown orchard on his property near Ottawa and transplanted 20 of the healthiest seedlings to new ground. Only one tree survived and the apples from this singleton drew the praises from his admiring neighbours. With a stubborn entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to capitalize on his find, McIntosh learned how to successfully duplicate the apple of his eye. At first, apple growers did not want to grow the “Mac” because it was susceptible to pests and disease. By the early 1900’s, however, as spraying techniques were more widely used, the little McIntosh became more virulent and very popular among apple growers and consumers alike.

I grew up eating oodles of Cortland apples from my Aunt Bunny’s apple orchard in the south end of Ottawa. Stacks of bushel baskets filled with apples—covered with heavy woolen blankets—lined the inner back wall of our garage from the Fall through the Winter. Apple crisp, apple pie, apple sauce and apples-in-the-raw became the go-to desserts for lunch and dinner for our large family. To this day, I love biting into a fresh apple and savouring my childhood memories of crisp, sunny days in early October at my Aunt’s orchard. Why not liven up your thanksgiving dinner with a few of the following apple-inspired recipes!

Apple Stuffing for Turkey or Pork Tenderloin
8 to 10 cups stale bread cubes (see my breadmaker posts to make your own bread!)
*NOTE: if you prefer a dry stuffing, you may toast the cubes in the oven first. Toast at 400F until golden brown.

½ cup butter
2 onions, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup apple, peeled and chopped (Granny Smith or very firm tart apple)
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
½ to 1 cup chicken broth

Place bread cubes (Toasted or untoasted) in a large bowl and set aside.

Melt butter in a large fry pan. When butter is melted and looking a bit frothy, add onions and celery and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add apple and seasonings and mix well. Let cool. Stir into bread cubes in the large bowl and mix well. Add broth a little at a time to make a lightly moist stuffing. It should be moist but not packed.

Tip: To make stuffing the removal of the stuffing from the cooked turkey just a little easier, I the sew a little cheesecloth pouch and place it inside the turkey cavity. Then spoon the stuffing into the pouch inside the turkey and tie shut. When the turkey is cooked, simply pull the bag out of the turkey. Voila, no worries of errant stuffing lurking in the turkey cavity!

Baking the stuffing in a separate dish?
If you will be baking the stuffing in separate dish and not in the turkey cavity, you may also wish to add a beaten egg after you add the bread cubes to the cooked mixture. This will make it a little more moist. Suit yourself! If baking in a separate dish, butter or grease a shallow baking dish and spread stuffing evenly in the dish.  Bake at 350F for about 25-35 minutes . When a light crust has formed on the top of the stuffing, it is heated through and ready to serve.

Adding a chopped chizoro sausage to the mixture gives the stuffing a bit more zip!

Apple Cream Sauce for Pork Roast or Turkey
This is a terrific sauce to accompany a pork roast or turkey.

2 tbsp butter
2 very tart, firm apples – peeled, then quartered and sliced very thinly
1 medium sized Vidalia or mild onion, finely diced 
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup whipping cream
1 tbsp grainy mustard or Dijon mustard
1 tsp cornstarch

Once the roast is cooked, skim off the fat from the pan juices. Note: At this point, you may set aside the pan juices and refrigerate (or freeze) to make the sauce at another time.
To make the sauce after cooking the roast, you may transfer the juices to a frypan (be sure to scrape in all the brown bits)  OR you may leave the pan juices in roasting pan and place the pan over a burner to make the sauce. Add the butter to the pan juices and melt over medium heat. Fry the apples and onion and stir often, for about 6 minutes. Add cider or juice and bring to a boil. Be sure to scrape in the brown bits for extra flavour! Stir in broth, cream and mustard. Boil gently and stir frequently until reduced by 50%--about 9 minutes.

Stir 1 tsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp cold water or place them together in a small lidded jar and shake vigorously to mix, as if you are James Bond making a martini for Ms Ticklefinger. Whisk mixture into sauce and whisk frequently until thickened.

NOTE; This sauce may also be tossed with pasta and served with sliced, cooked sausage and grated sharp cheddar for a tasty elegant dinner for two!  Light the candles and talk about the Apple Crisp Cheesecake you made the night before...see recipe below.

Maple, Apple and Stilton Cheese Salad

(The beauty of this recipe is the quick assembly. Many of the ingredients can be prepared in large batches and refrigerated in sealed Ziploc bags of Ziploc plastic boxes for quick salad preparation any night of the week)  

For the dressing and apples:
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
3-4 firm, tart apples, cored, quartered and thinly sliced

Mix together maple syrup with balsamic vinegar in a plastic container (Ziploc Box) just big enough to hold 3-4 sliced pears. Core and thinly slice 3-4 firm apples and place in the maple syrup mixture in the container (Ziploc boxes work well.). Seal lid well. Turn and shake the container 4-5 times to coat the apples.  Set aside. These can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, if necessary. The juice from the apples mixes with the syrup and balsamic vinegar and makes a very sweet dressing to be drizzled (later) over the greens.
For the salad:
Thinly slice:
3-4 dried figs
½ of a red or some other colourful  pepper.

Crumble 1/3 cup Stilton cheese and set aside.

¼ cup sugared pecans* (buy at the Bulk barn or make yourself with the recipe below)
2-3 handfuls of mixed greens

On a large platter, place handfuls of organic greens. Sprinkle sliced figs and red pepper slices over top. Drizzle about 1/3 of the apple mixture juice over top. Place 8-10 apple slices on top. Sprinkle Stilton cheese over top. Finish by sprinkling 1/3 cup of the cooled sugared pecans or walnuts over top. Do not toss this salad—serve in this layered arrangement.

*Spicy-Sugared pecans/walnuts recipe
2 tbsp butter
2 cups pecans or walnuts
1/8 tsp EACH: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
2 tbsp sugar.

Stir nuts in melted butter in fry pan. Heat 3-4 minutes on medium heat and until heated and very light brown. Remove from heat. Mix spices and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over nuts and stir well. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminium foil. Place nuts in an even layer and toast at 300F for 10-12 min, stirring at 3 min intervals until brown. Note: These burn easily so watch them carefully.

Apple Crisp Cheesecake
Note: Make this cake the night before you plan to serve it. It is best served after it has firmed up a little more with a good chilling in the refrigerator overnight!  

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup one minute or quick cooking oats
1/3 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
2/3 cup butter, melted
Combine all of the above ingredients. Press into the bottom and up sides (1 ½ inches) of a 10 inch spring form pan. Chill

¼ cup one minute or quick cooking oats
¼ cup brown sugar, packed well
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
Combine all of the above ingredients until crumbly and set aside.

3 pkgs of 250 g cream cheese blocks
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
¾ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
4 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
2 apples, sliced
Beat cream cheese, brown sugar and sour cream (or yogurt) in a large bowl with an electric mixer on MEDIUM. Beat for two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add spices. Pour into chilled crust. Place apples evenly over filling. Sprinkle topping overtop.

Bake at 325F for 65-70 minutes or just until the centre is softest. Run a knife around the edge of cake to loosen the cake from the pan, then allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack. Chill overnight in the fridge for best results. Serves 16.

No Fail Spicy Topless Apple Tart
Use McIntosh, Cortland, or Northern Spy apples.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
¾ cup cool butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 tbsp water

6 cups (7-8 medium sized apples) peeled, coarsely grated apples (no need to core!)
2 cups white sugar
¼ cup white flour
1 tsp cinnamon
icing sugar

Pastry: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in egg yolks with water; stir into flour mixture to form a soft dough. Using fingertips, spread dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of 11” flan pan or fluted glass dish, patting gently.

Filling: Combine all ingredients except icing sugar. Spread mixture evenly over pastry. (After filling the pastry, make a tin foil ring to place over the edges of the pastry to protect it from burning.) Bake at 375 F oven until apples are tender or about 45 minutes. Be sure to turn and check after 20 min and place the foil ring on the pastry edge if necessary to prevent burning. Let cool. Sift icing sugar over top.  Serve with frozen yogurt or ice cream.

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