Spiced Apple Butter

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Yesterday, Shawn and I met up with some of our local blogger friends for brunch and apple picking at Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont. It was a beautiful day and we had a ton of fun, but I didn’t really like the way the farm was set up. Unlike other pick-your-own places I’ve been to where you weigh your apples and pay as you exit, Indian Ladder charges you for a bag as you go in — you can fill it as much or as little as you want, but either way it costs $14. I had only planned on buying 4-5 pounds of apples, but since I had to pay for them anyway I filled my bag almost to the top (I was really more interested in taking pictures than picking apples).

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Despite leaving some room in my bag, I ended up bringing home 17 pounds of apples! Since I knew I would never be able to eat that many apples before they went bad, I immediately made a big batch of apple butter, which is one of my favorite fall foods. If you’ve never had it, apple butter is a thick spread that’s made almost entirely of apples — it’s essentially applesauce that’s reduced down until it becomes spreadable (there’s no actual butter involved). The sugars in the apples caramelize and, when it’s seasoned with warm spices like cinnamon and ginger, it’s one of the most delicious things ever! Enjoy it on toast or biscuits, mixed into yogurt or oatmeal, or as a compliment to a cheese plate (it pairs especially well with sharp cheddar).

I use a lot less sugar in my recipe than others that I’ve seen (some of which use over twice the sugar I do!) because I don’t like it to be super sweet. Because of the reduced sugar, the apple butter shouldn’t be canned — it will keep for a while in the fridge though and it also freezes very well.

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Click through to read more and get the recipe for Spiced Apple Butter –>

Crab & Corn Chowder

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Is there anything as comforting as a big bowl of nourishing soup after a long day? Not in my book!

I like to make a giant pot of soup every week throughout the fall and winter. In addition to making a delicious dinner, there are always plenty of leftovers to bring for lunch the rest of the week. It’s also a great way to get a few extra servings of vegetables when it seems like there isn’t much in season. One of the first soups that I make every fall is crab and corn chowder. We look forward to it all summer! Sweet end-of-summer corn pairs perfectly with smokey poblano peppers and spicy Old Bay seasoning to make a deeply satisfying meal (especially when you serve it with cheddar & green onion biscuits).

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I usually buy 4-ounce cans of crab from the tuna fish aisle for this soup, but I recently discovered the Chicken of the Sea crabmeat that was in the refrigerator case near the seafood counter and I couldn’t be happier with it. A 16-ounce can costs me $8.99, which was cheaper than buying the smaller cans, and the can is jam-packed with big, sweet pieces of claw meat. I did find a few pieces of shell in my can though, so you’ll want to be sure to take a good look at it before adding it to the pot.

I’m always taken back by the price of the crab when I make this chowder, but the rest of the ingredients are super cheap and the cost per serving is a lot less than canned soup. And yes, I consider 1 serving of soup to be 1 can of soup — whoever decided there are 2.5 servings in those cans in nuts! ;)

Click through to read more and get the recipe for Crab and Corn Chowder –>

Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits

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The effect that adding a simple biscuit has on a meal is amazing. These cheddar and green onion biscuits were an afterthought, but they transformed my end-of-summer corn chowder from an easy weeknight dinner destined to be eaten on the couch in front of the television to a meal that we enjoyed as we lingered around the dining room table. Bursting with flavor from melted cheddar, green onions, and garlic, I couldn’t keep my hands off these biscuits! (Confession: I ate three.)

I don’t usually advocate using low-fat or fat-free cheese because it can have a strange rubbery texture, but in this case go right ahead and use it if you want (you’ll shave off about 10 calories and 1 gram fat by using reduced-fat). Because the cheese is mixed throughout the biscuit, you really can’t tell the difference. Just do me a favor and don’t buy the pre-shredded cheese in the bag: it’s coated in starch so that it doesn’t stick together and it just won’t melt right. Plus, it tastes funny. It’s well worth taking the extra minute to shred your own!  

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Click to get the recipe for Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits –>

Butternut Hash with Baked Eggs

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If you didn’t get your fill of local foods in my last post, you should check out this butternut hash that I made for All Over Albany’s Eat Local Challenge. Actually, you should probably go ahead and check it out anyway because it’s amazing! A little sweet, a little spicy, and little bitter… and baking the eggs right on top means you only have to dirty one pan. This is definitely a meal that you’ll want to add to your fall lineup! Click here to get the recipe.

Looking for more? You can also check out last year’s hash, which I based this off of. Instead of sausage, chard, and cider it has bacon and beer. Both versions are excellent, but I really like the inclusion of the greens in the updated recipe. Either way, you’re in for a treat!

Video Tour of the Troy Waterfront Market & Ricotta Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables

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One of the best things about living in upstate New York is that we’re surrounded by farms and have easy access to all sorts of awesome produce; locally raised, grass-fed meats; and artisan cheese. Most of our Farmers Markets stay open year-round, but the selection available in August and September is mind-boggling. This past weekend I headed out to the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market with two of my blogging friends, Cynthia and Rebecca. We were amazing at the amount of produce that was available! The summer crops were still going strong, but there were also plenty of apples, pumpkins, and other fall goodies to be had. It was the best of both worlds! The Troy Market is one of the bigger ones in the area, as well as one of my personal favorites. Cynthia had never been before and she was a little overwhelmed by it all!

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At the market, we were on a mission: I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter (ICBINB) had invited me to host a Farmers Market Tour, where we would buy some fresh ingredients and then bring them back to my house to turn into a healthy, delicious lunch. Earlier this summer I attended an event that was hosted by Unilever, and I was really surprised to find out how versatile ICBINB is. I always have a bottle of the spray in my fridge — iI like how easy it is to spritz on just a little bit, and it tastes great on grilled corn without adding any calories — but it never occurred to me to cook with it. Did you know that you can bake with it? Or that it comes in stick form? I certainly didn’t! At the event, I sampled a blueberry muffin that had been made with the sticks, and I was very impressed. So I was happy to host this event and have the opportunity to experiment with the product a little more.

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We had a blast shopping and cooking, and our lunch was fantastic — we even discussed making Farmers Market Lunches an excuse for regular get-togethers! We ended up getting a bunch of vegetables and garlic that we roasted with the ICBINB and tossed with homemade ricotta gnocchi and a “butter” and basil sauce. We also bought an olive focaccia at the market, which we served with more of the roasted garlic, heirloom tomatoes, and marinated mozzarella. After all that, we were almost (but not quite) too stuffed to taste the peach and raspberry crisp that we made for dessert!   

I was particularly impressed with how well the gnocchi fried in the ICBINB. Cynthia and I had been talking earlier about how we love the sounds of food sizzling while it cooks — the gnocchi had some great sizzle-action going on! You can even hear it in the video that we took!

I want to say thank you to I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter for giving me this opportunity to hang out and cook with my friends.

Click through to watch a video that we took of the market and while we were cooking and to get the recipe for the ricotta gnocchi with roasted vegetables and basil-”butter” sauce –>

Baked Orzo with Lamb

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This Greek-inspired Baked Orzo with Lamb may not be the most beautiful dish that I’ve ever served up, but when it comes to comfort food it can’t be beat. This stick-to-your-ribs meal reminds me of a cross between baked ziti and dirty ice: plump orzo is combined with a thick, chunky tomato sauce, spinach, feta, and deliciously seasoned ground lamb before its baked to perfection. Alongside a simple cucumber and tomato salad (chop and toss with red wine vinegar, sea salt, and fresh dill), this meal is the perfect way to transition to fall’s chilly evenings.

Ground lamb can be hard to find sometimes, but it’s worth seeking out for the rich flavor that it contributes to this dish. If you can’t find it – or don’t care for it – ground beef also works well. For a vegetarian version, you can also substitute chopped mushrooms. I also like to use an oven-safe cast iron pan (I’m obsessed with this pan) when I make this, because it prevents me from dirtying a second dish. If you don’t have a pan that can go in the oven, simply transfer the mixture to a baking pan before topping it with the asiago.

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Click to continue reading Baked Orzo with Lamb–>