Apple Pie Roses

apple pie roses
So I saw this really fun video circulating on Facebook a few weeks ago and like everyone else, it gave me the confidence to try it out myself! These little roses are so much fun to make and they are so beautiful! I thought they’d make an excellent special occasion type dessert. I did the recipe exactly like the video said and I was pleased with the process but not really the results. I mean, they’re okay, but they are definitely prettier than they are tasty. And I honestly think that’s the point. It was a super fun and easy “cooking craft” to do with Olive and so I’ll give it points for that because not every baking recipe is truly kid-accessible. But I decided to alter the recipe to be as delicious as it is beautiful. Here’s a couple problems the original recipe has:

1. The bake time is long and the thin apple slices burn on top, so we cover them during part of baking.
2.They stick like dadgum superglue to the muffin pan and get ripped apart when you take them out, therefore…
3. I fixed that by removing them from the pan while they were still super hot, but…
4. There’s the problem with eating super-baked tiny shreds of apple peel. It gives it that rose look, however…
5. The apple peel feels like tough strings in your mouth. Not really two adjectives you want for your baked goods.
6. The apples snap in half from the original recipe, so I fixed that by soaking them in hot lemon water instead of cold.
7. They just fall flat, taste-wise, so I added a bit of scrumptiousness into the filling along with the apple slices by adding cinnamon roll type flavors.
8. Also, I’m a pie crust junkie, so I switched to pie crust instead of puff pastry and it was indeed more delicious, but…
9. The falling apartness was magnified with the pie crust, so you fix that once and for all by…
10. Using greased muffin liners to bake these babies in. Voila. Most of the problems solved.

So my suggestion for the final round of 100% deliciousness is to peel the apples. How to fix the “but they don’t look like a rose, anymore!” problem? Add a couple drops of red food coloring to the warm water while the apples soak, OR pomegranate or cranberry juice and BOOM! Red roses. I didn’t do this for my final pics because everyone in my house was getting rather sick of eating these tiny apple roses, BUT I did color some apple slices in pomegranate juice and they were BEAUTIFUL. So I’ll try them like that again and make a special Christmas rose wreath edition of this recipe for those who care. Which I think might be 5 people, total. In any case, I present to you:
apple roses Apple Rose

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Cheesy Broccoli Rice from Scratch

broccoli rice casserole
This was undoubtedly a comfort food for many of you growing up, as it was for me.  Creamy and cheesy with just a hint of something green, but mostly rice and cheese.  So all in all, the perfect vegetable dish. 😉 My mom made it a lot and sometimes I crave it but I’ve never made it myself.

A lot of recipes you see online call for cans of stuff, velveeta and things that just don’t seem like…food.  Now, I’m not saying that the from-scratch version is any better for you, BUT it has all real ingredients and gives you a good feeling and that’s what makes the indulgence worth it.  I decided one day I would make this dish and since I don’t keep any cream-of-whatever on hand, I made a simple bechemel (white gravy base) and added in lots of extra sharp cheddar.  Each ingredient cooked separately in chicken stock to give lots of added flavor and the results were fabulous!

We still have lots of snow on the ground and the roads are hard to travel, so warm, cheesy dishes are the perfect meal to stay inside and enjoy.  Be warm and well fed! 🙂

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole

 

Cheesy Broccoli Rice

  • 1 head broccoli, chopped small
  • 2 cups chicken broth (although vegetable broth would enable the entire
  • dish to be vegetarian)
  • 1 cup white rice
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 TBS unsalted butter
  • 4 TBS flour
  • 1 cup whole milk (plus more to adjust consistency)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • breadcrumbs and extra cheese for topping (I used crushed Ritz crackers)

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a large, deep skillet, bring the broth to a boil and throw in the broccoli.  Steam it with a lid covering until the broccoli is starting to get tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl.  Add the rice to the broth and cook until tender (about 15-20 minutes).  Dump rice into the bowl with the broccoli (it’s okay if there’s a little extra liquid).

Wipe the skillet clean and melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour until it’s all coated and bubbling, but not turning brown.  Whisk in the milk and let it come back up to a boil, adding more splashes of milk to maintain a gravy-like consistency.  I’m sorry I don’t have exact amounts, but it’s really an add enough until it looks right kinda thing.  Stir in the cheddar and whisk until melted.  Add more milk if it seems too thick.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper until it tastes right and then stir in the broccoli and rice.  Top with breadcrumbs and extra cheese and melt in the oven until bubbling.

Mushroom Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed mushrooms
I haven’t posted in a while.  Honestly, I have more literal time lately to post, but less mental space.  Ever feel that way?  This baby is crowding my brain and I’m still cooking all the time, but honestly, I’m cooking a bunch of repeats or things I don’t find particularly photo-worthy, so I just haven’t been shooting my food lately!  I did make this fabulous little side dish last week and we all agreed that it was better than the main dish (which I can’t remember – case in point).  So I’m sharing it with you!  I took little baby portobello mushrooms and tossed the stems in a food processor along with a bunch of other like-minded ingredients to form a great filling for stuffed mushrooms!  The kid tried “one happy bite” and that’s all we ask these days.  She has her comfort foods and right now, mushrooms isn’t one of them!  But that’s okay…I keep in mind that what kids observe, they’ll eventually imitate.  And she definitely observes people who enjoy pretty much every food on the map.  Trust the system, trust the system…

mushroom stuffed mushrooms

 

Mushroom Stuffed Mushrooms

12-15 baby portobello mushrooms, stems removed and reserved
1 ounce extra sharp white cheddar, grated
1 egg
1 tsp garlic oil or olive oil
1 garlic clove
4 tbs breadcrumbs
2 strips cooked bacon with drippings
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tbs dijon mustard
a splash of chicken stock

Wipe the mushrooms with a paper towel and set in a greased baking dish, side by side.  Dump the stems of the mushrooms and all the other ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Adjust seasoning with salt or pepper and extra chicken stock if it’s too thick.  The consistency for mine was like a pate or bean dip.  Top the mushrooms with the filling and pile it high.  Top with extra shredded cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and puffed up slightly.  Enjoy!

 

Cheesy Cauliflower and Rice Bake

Cheesy Cauliflower & Rice Bake
I always look for interesting sides to put with lunch and dinner every day.  It has been a challenge for me as the typical American cook to think of vegetables as a main component to meals.  For most of us, vegetables are exactly as we call them – a side dish (a side thought!) and we obligingly scrounge a bag of vegetables from the freezer to make our meals “complete” when we very rarely enjoy those components and most of them, if we are honest, get put in a leftover container and saved until we no longer have guilt about throwing them away.

Maybe this is just me.  I’ve wanted and tried this year to think of vegetables as the main component and meats and carbs as a side dish.  To balance the plate in the opposite direction.  This. Is. Hard.  I will be the first to admit that I know how to cook meats, starches and carbs MUCH better than I know how to cook a vegetable.  But I’m trying!  And I’ve looked to cuisines that tend to focus on vegetables as main dishes for inspiration.  Indian cuisine is wonderful for this approach, but even I tire of the cumin/cardamom/curry combination of flavors pretty quick.  There needs to be a balance to the approach of getting more vegetables on your dinner plate, and so for me, I’m taking winter as a wonderful excuse to make some slightly more indulgent and comforting vegetable dishes to get me in the habit of seeing them as the star of the show, instead of a side act.

Speaking of winter: I am in love with a new cookbook.  Well, I suppose it isn’t exactly new, but it’s new to me, and it’s called Homemade Winter by Yvette Van Boven.  I absolutely love when a cookbook has recipes listed by seasonal availability.  This cookbook is ALL about winter – sure, winter in Holland, but STILL!  Most winter vegetables in this hemisphere are available and relatively fresh no matter where you reside, and so this cookbook has introduced me to a season of cooking that has previously been nothing but soups and stews and squash.  Goodness, how many times can I eat squash?!

Enter: cauliflower and rice baked with swiss into a creamy but not-too-heavy dish.  I made this yesterday for our lunch and it was the main component.  In her cookbook, Yvette calls it a risotto, but I didn’t have arborio rice and so I made it with what I had – plain ol’ white, short-grain rice – and it worked beautifully.  I love a recipe that is accessible and works, no matter what you have on hand.  A lot of home cooks don’t have arborio in the pantry, yet most people have regular white rice!  The only splurge for this dish was some good Comte cheese, but I believe it could be just as flavorful with nearly any cheese you have in the fridge.

We loved it – it was warm, filling and satisfying as a main dish and perfect for a freezing day like today.  In fact, I turned the leftovers into cauliflower rice fritters today for lunch and served them along side a white bean soup I will blog about very soon, and it was an awesome lunch!  Hope you all stay warm, today and have an extra cup of coffee with me!

Cauliflower & Rice Bake

Cheesy Cauliflower Rice Bake
serves 6-8 as a side or 4-6 as a main

1 small head cauliflower
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup shredded cheese such as Comte, Emmentaler or Gruyere – would work with any hard cheese, though
1 cup of white, short-grain rice
2 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup panko or plain bread crumbs
drizzle of olive oil

Boil the cauliflower for 10 minutes until tender.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Heat the oil in a large skillet (12″ at least). Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute more, then add the rice and stir to combine.  Saute all this for another 2 minutes or so.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in the cauliflower and cheese and cover the skillet with a lid and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until all liquid has absorbed.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before uncovering.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs and drizzle the top with olive oil and bake until the breadcrumbs are toasted, or just stick it under the broiler for 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls with lots of cracked pepper!