Pressure Makes it Better Applesauce

or steaming your way to homemade applesauce is a breeze...

I have three great loves in my kitchen that may not make the list in yours - my slow cooker, my pressure cooker, and my home canners (both hot water and pressure versions).  I have found on many occasions that to my surprise even the first two of these are not common tools in many of my friends' kitchens. I can understand the canners not making the cut, not everyone is as into home canning and preserving as me, and most did not grow up with the process as I did.  But the first two tools have long been essential to food prep in my life, even before I considered the process to be actual "cooking."  Now, I find that lately the slow cooker, or crockpot, is getting some new found love as a rising trend and I certainly do my best to encourage it here on my blog when I can, but the pressure cooker is still being largely neglected in the every day culinary world of home kitchens.  I, for one, would like to stand on my soap box for a minute or two shouting its praises.. (this would be far more impressive in person so I'll just let you imagine me up there passionately rambling on for another few minutes about its glories)   

Ok, now where were we?  Right, applesauce.  (don't look at me like that, I was going to get around to it eventually...)  Applesauce is surprisingly easy to make, though doing it with the stove top method it can take somewhat of a  time commitment.  The results are delicious, trust me on this, but we don't always have that much time to dedicate to it when we have apples ripening on the counter top.  So I suggest pulling out that trustworthy old pressure cooker and whipping it up in 30 min or less round trip.  A big time saver here, aside from the obvious cook time, is that you do not need to peel the apples - the pressure cooking process breaks them down enough to blend them into the mix.  This gives the resulting applesauce a lovely rosy hue.  If you do not like that particular color for your sauce you are welcome to peel the apples in advance, but I find it to be a nice change.

12 lg to med apples 
¾ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
dash of nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon

Hardware: pressure cooker

1. Core the apples and cut into large slices

2. Add the apples to pressure cooker with the water.  Cover securely and bring to pressure according to manufacturer guidelines.  

3. Leave the apples to cook for 5 min then turn off heat and allow to cool down naturally

4. Use a stick (i.e. immersion) blender to puree the apples, they will mash easily with a potato masher but the blender dissolves the peels better.

5. Stir in sugar, vanilla, and spices until dissolved.  Adjust to taste.

If you are interested in delving into the world of pressure cookers even further, I highly recommend checking out Hip Pressure Cooking's website.  They have a good amount of resources and recipes to help you out along the way.


Oven Roasted Cauliflower

or toss and roast your way to vegetable delight

Cauliflower and I do not get along so well.  We aren't exactly friends.  More like acquaintances.  I started to build the bridge to acceptance with my Cauliflower and Potato Soup a year ago today, and now on the anniversary of that initial gesture I am taking another step forward and facing it head on.  This recipe really lets the cauliflower shine in its own right.  It is cheap and easy, so there isn't a large financial or time commitment to fear in giving it a try.  Personally the rosemary and Parmesan cheese really sold it for me, but you can't discount the impact of the lemon juice on the process.  Whether you are a long time fan of this pale vegetable or just coming to terms with its potential, like myself, I suggest giving this recipe a try.  You never know, you may add a new veggie to the welcome list at your table...

½ bunch cauliflower
4 tbsp vegetable oil (or olive oil)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced or crushed garlic
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
Salt & Pepper
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Hardware: baking dish (large enough to form a single layer with the cauliflower)
Preheat oven to 400 F

1. Chop cauliflower into small florets and toss with vegetable oil in the baking dish.

2. Add lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Toss again to incorporate the flavors throughout. Shake the dish gently to create a natural, single layer (you don't want any over crowding or unwanted touching going on to ruin the mood).

3. Bake for 20 min, the edges of the cauliflower should start to turn golden.  Stir and then top with parmesan cheese, because cheese makes everything better, and return the dish to the oven for 5 min.


Cannoli Cream Dip (A Tasty Kitchen Treat)

or a big bowl of cream cheese heaven

This is a slightly adapted recipe, the original recipe can be found here: http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/appetizers-and-snacks/cannoli-dip/

The recipe is delicious, easily gluten free, and not one I can call mine.  As long as you give credit where credit is due over at Tasty Kitchen I encourage you to try it for yourself.  I made it a bit sweeter, a touch creamer, but essentially the same.  This is an incredibly easy dip to make for desserts or snacks at parties, or just because you happen to have a box of graham crackers laying around begging for a dip (though I really just use them as a spoon...).  This is easy enough to make just for yourself, but you may want to portion it out in that case or you'll find yourself wondering who snuck in and ate it all when you weren't looking.

I almost always have cream cheese in the fridge, and most of the other ingredients in the pantry, so this tends to be a very cheap thing for me to make as well.  I think the addition of heavy cream helps make this more scoop-able and reducing the chocolate chips helps to balance the increase I made in confectioner's sugar.  You could always make this in a stand mixer and that would be even faster, you may even get a more "whipped" effect which would be nice, but I have not tried it yet.

Here is how it goes:

8 oz cream cheese (I prefer reduced fat, it can't hurt and it softens faster)
1 stick of butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1-2 tbsp heavy cream (or milk)

1. Very important - soften the cream cheese and butter.  This can be done by leaving them out over night or softening in the microwave.  If you skip this essential step, it will use a lot more arm power to mix and take a bit longer to make.  My arms prefer if I soften the ingredients first but if you want to be hard core knock yourself out....

2. In a medium sized bowl combine the cram cheese and butter until you have an even consistency throughout.  Add the vanilla extract and 1 tbsp heavy cream and stir well.

3. Add in the confectioner's sugar and blend.  If you want it to be a little smoother, add another tablespoon of heavy cream and blend well.

4. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.  Serve with graham crackers or vanilla wafers.  Refrigerate leftovers, if you happen to have any.