Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oh Autumn. You are entrancing.

Autumn. I just love you. Leaves of all colors, crisp air, the return of gourds in all manner of colors, shapes and textures. <sigh>

This past weekend, I made three very Autumn inspired dishes to share with friends, and I'm just going to say it: I am a cooking/baking genius. Ok, not really, but dayum - tasty eats y'all. 

We hadn't hung out with our besties in quite a while, due to crazy schedules, so chose to do so Saturday night. It ended up to be a most fortuitous scheduling because Saturday was also the day the brought their new puppy home!!!!! 

B&K had a doggie for 15 wonderful years, who we just adored. A pup of surpassing beauty (really, he was gorgeous), character, personality, and joy and his passing, well, it sucked donkey balls. I still think about Tundra, a lot actually, and sometimes still tear up. He was such an amazing fur friend. 

Clearly, his passing was way more deeply felt by his mom and dad, and they knew they'd find a new fur friend to hang out with them and started putting toes back into the waters in late summer. 

Enter Mesa. She is a shepherd / Norwegian Elk Hound mix and 4-6 months old. Vet can't pinpoint because some ASSHAT dumped her and at least one litter mate in the woods at some point after her birth. What.A.Dick.Move. Anyhoo, she's hit the jackpot this lil pup has. 

But so have they, because so far, she is calm, snuggly, sweet, and very clever, and she has already brightened up their lives, their home, and their faces, which as their long-time friends, makes me really happy. 

Brig & I yakked about menu for dinner, and since I knew they'd be wanting puppy time, offered to bring two things, and they would grill the chicken & steam broccoli. Then came up with an awesome idea for dessert and decided to make it too. (Normally, we get spoiled because they do all the cooking, so I loved doing more!).

I had a pound of locally grown brussel sprouts that I mainly quartered, after removing the harder parts of stems and some of the outer leaves. Tossed them in about 1 T of olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Since Spouse detests brussel sprouts (which means his Brother-From-Another-Mother, Kurt, probably does too), I put the sprouts in a foil packet in case Kurt wanted to throw it on the grill but mainly to cut down on the smell, which Spouse finds so offensive. #Boys

So in this instance, not so much a genius, just a gal with awesome taste in veg. 

Second dish, Brig loves maple syrup. I'm pretty sure I could make a cake from cow pats and so long as they was a shit-ton of maple syrup on and in it, she might just try it - that's how much she loves maple syrup. While I know she's so happy I'm not living in The 'Shire anymore, part of her is secretly sad because I don't have as quick access to Vermont Maple Syrup as I did before - that's how much she loves maple syrup. 

Spouse found a recipe for Maple Butternut Squash, so decided to give that a whirl. Freaking easy and delicious. I could have added a bit more syrup, to be honest, so I will add a skosh more next time. But SkinnyTaste, thank you for the recipe!!

Third dish, and truly the most deserving of my <self-appointed> baking genius moniker: Apple Graham Crumble

Here's how it went: had 6 gorgeous organic gala apples and was worried they'd rot before I got to them. Realized I had graham crackers in the pantry. Googled "apples + graham crackers". Found this Food Network recipe. Realized I had everything in the house. BOOM!

It was disgustingly easy to make, smelled heavenly baking and wuff. Tasty doesn't begin to describe it. B&K and Spouse had vanilla ice cream on top of theirs; I refrained, but even without the creaminess, it was awesome. 

6 apples, cored and diced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 of a lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar [I used demerara sugar]
1/2 cup ground graham crackers or flour [I used one package from the Honey Maid box]
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick of butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
2. Combine the apples, lemon juice, cinnamon, ground nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar in a 9" x 12" baking dish.
3. In a small bowl, mix the ground graham cracker crumbs (or flour), brown sugar, and butter with the tines of a fork, until small, even sized crumbles form.
4. Sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly on top of the apples. 
5. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. 
6. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, if you can stand it. 
7. Serve with vanilla ice cream, or ice cream of your favorite Autumnal choice. 

Jen's Hacks
- I used demerara sugar with the apples
- I didn't actually measure the graham cracker amount - just ground up one whole packet but seemed to work well. Used 7/8 of it all. 
- I added 1/4 teaspoon of ginger powder to the apple spices as well. 

Since I was going to put it together at B&K's house, I made the dish like this:
- Cored and chopped the apples and tossed the small pieces in the lemon juice, then put them in a large container to keep in the frig until ready to assemble.
- Mixed the cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ginger powder and demerara sugar together and put into a clean, dry spice jar for traveling.
- Ground up the graham crackers until fine, and added the brown sugar, then put the topping into a baggie to take with me.
- Took the 1/2 cup of butter and just made small dollops, which I put on top of the crumb mixture instead of working it into the crumbs & sugar mix. Seemed to be just fine. 
- Brig suggested adding a sprinkle of quick oats on the top too, so we did that. Added a great texture and flavor!

Assembling was super easy from there and way better to make fresh. 

I thought of a couple of things I'd try next times, like maybe add in some real vanilla extract/bean paste or drizzle maple syrup over it next time. Or honey. I mean, there's a ton of interesting things one could do. Add nuts. Dried fruit. My tummy just growled. 

The thing I love about cooking and baking is, if you are willing to expend the time and ingredients, the most amazing dishes are usually the ones where you just grab stuff and make a dish out of it. 

Have you had a recent cooking or baking adventure?
How'd it turn out?


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