Slow Cooker Apple & Almond Oatmeal

While I am excited about this warmer weather, I am a little sad about saying goodbye to winter vegetables and fruits. This is the first year that I have really started enjoying brussels sprouts (particularly, roasted), but I have also enjoyed experimenting with apples and not just in baking. I first made this oatmeal the night before what was going to be a snowstorm. I threw all these ingredients in the slow cooker just before going to sleep, and when I woke up in the morning, the house smelled just like an apple pie! With the winter wonderland that was outside, and the great smell inside, this was the perfect start to a snowy, cozy weekend. But besides a lazy weekend, this is also a great everyday breakfast because it hardly takes any active preparation time, and is very high in protein and filling. If you want less sugar, you can do so by taking out the brown sugar, and adding a little bit of honey to your serving at the end. And if you want to make it more decadent, you can add some toasted pecans or glazed pecans to your bowl.

Since these oats cook for a long time, you should only use steel-cut oats, as old-fashioned or rolled oats will not hold up their texture when cooked for a long time. This recipe results in 4-6 servings, depending on your portion size.

Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups almond milk (you can substitute regular milk as well)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large apple diced (preferably Granny Smith), and extra for topping (if desired)
  • Glazed or toasted pecans, for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to the slow cooker – oats, almond milk, water, apples, raisins, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. Stir to combine well.
  2. Cook on low for 5-7 hours depending on your cooker.
  3. Serve and allow to cool. If desired, add toppings of your choice.

Apple Brandy Bread Pudding

One of my favorite desserts to make over the holidays is bread pudding. It is a great way to use up old bread because the drier that a bread is, the more it will soak up the custard. You also do not have to be extremely precise unlike other desserts – you can easily use more or less bread or custard depending on your preferences. You can also pretty much go any route with it – sweet or savory. And if it’s the holidays, I think having a brandy/whiskey/rum/bourbon sauce to go along with it is essential!

I have made a bananas foster bread pudding with a vanilla rum sauce in the past, so I decided to go with a different one this time. While looking for recipes over the holidays, I fell in love with Food and Wine’s Yearly Compilations that have the recipes from every month together in one place. Though I subscribe to Bon Appetit, I have to confess that the amount of advertising in that magazine really detracts from the recipes, and having a yearly compilation means that I get a giant cooking magazine, with just recipes and no ads. I finally ended up settling on this apple bread pudding from  Food & Wine’s website. You can alter the level of sweetness in this recipe depending on your taste – I personally like a little less sugar, letting the sweetness of the apples and raisins complement the warming flavors of cinnamon and brandy. My two main tips  for bread puddings are – 1) you should cut the crust off the bread, and then cut the bread into cubes and leave it out to dry overnight. Then it’ll be sure to absorb more of the custard, 2) if you are using raisins or fruit, you can infuse them with the brandy (or whatever else the recipe calls for), to ensure that the raisins soften a little bit, get more plump, and get more flavor.

Apple Brandy Bread Pudding

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 pound brioche, cut into 1-inch pieces without the crust
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup Calvados or other brandy (I used Calvados)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in brandy
  • Whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. If you did not leave the bread to dry out overnight, spread the brioche on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly golden and dry. If you did, you can skip this step.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter; reserve 2 tablespoons of the melted butter in a small bowl. Add the apples and 1/4 cup of the sugar to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are golden and softened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon. Remove from the heat and add the Calvados. Return the skillet to the heat and cook until the sauce is syrupy, about 1 minute. Apple Brandy Bread Pudding
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the custard (save the vanilla bean for another use). Add the brioche, raisins, and apples and toss until evenly coated. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the brioche to absorb the custard.
  5. Brush an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the reserved melted butter. Add the bread pudding and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted butter on top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Let the bread pudding cool slightly, then serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche

 

Apple Yogurt Cake

Butter. There is no word that better encapsulates baking during the holiday season  and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has contradicting feelings – wanting dessert ever so often, but not wanting to feel so full all the time. This cake does precisely that – captures all the holiday flavors and tastes of apples, cinnamon and nutmeg without the heaviness that comes with a butter-ful sinful dessert. Instead, this cake uses whole-milk yogurt. This gives it both a great texture, plus gets more moist the longer it is stored in the fridge. The only change that I would make is that the recipe called for freshly ground nutmeg and I didn’t have any, so I ended up using ground nutmeg instead. There’s something about freshly ground nutmeg that just can’t be found in its already ground version and I’ve decided that from now on I’m always going to have fresh nutmeg on hand that I can always grate it and use in my baking. Since this recipe is big enough for two 8-inch cakes, I ended up taking one of the cakes to a potluck and the other one for a birthday in our office 🙂

I used Granny Smith apples, since they are one of my favorite apples for baking. In case you’re ever confused about what kind of apples to use for different kinds of baking or cooking projects, check out this helpful chart!

apple yogurt cake_opt

Recipe adapted from Faith Durand’s The Kitchn. Makes enough for a 13 x 9 inch cake pan, or two 8 x 8 inch cakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk yogurt, well-stirred
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 small tart apples, such as Granny Smith, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan or two 8 x 8 inch pans with baking spray or olive oil.
  2. Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Peel and core the apples, and chop into chunks about 1/2-inch across. You should end up with 3 1/2 to 4 cups of apples. Stir the chopped apple into the liquid ingredients.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon right into the liquids and stir just until no lumps remain. In a small separate bowl, mix the remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon with the brown sugar and butter.
  4. Pour half of the batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the batter with half of the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture, dropping it on the batter in small lumps. Spread the rest of the batter over top, and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-brown sugar.
  5. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, covering with foil at the end if the top is browning. When a tester comes out clean, transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
  6. This keeps very well for several days in the fridge (I just stored it in the freezer), and it gets even moister as it sits, due to the apples.

What are your favorite light holiday desserts?

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel Glaze

I’m watching beef ice-cream being made on Iron Chef America (Battle Ground Meat between Bobby Flay and Viet Pham) right now and I think I might be scarred for life. Before I get put off from desserts and ice-creams entirely, I decided to just post this quickly. Nothing spells warm and winter like apples and caramel. I know most people wouldn’t think that way when they’ve just made their new year’s resolutions and are on a healthy-eating streak. But this dessert can be easily cut into small squares, so portion control is really easy.

After this summer got over, and I realized that my neighborhood Italian grocery store stopped selling fresh dulce de leche gelato, I was constantly on the lookout for incorporating some form of caramel into my desserts. I made this for Christmas, but really, I can have it throughout the fall and winter.

atart5

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

INGREDIENTS

Tart base

  • 14-ounce package puff pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
  • 3 large or 4 medium apples (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small bits

Salted caramel glaze

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted, but then ease up on the sea salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt (or half as much table salt)
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat your oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Ideally you would use a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan. A smaller pan will make a thicker tart (and you might need fewer apples). In a larger pan, you can still fit a 10×15-inch tart.
  2. Lightly flour your counter and lay out your pastry. Flour the top and gently roll it until it fits inside your baking sheet, and transfer it there.
  3. Peel the apples and cut them in half top-to-bottom. Remove the cores and stems. Slice the apples halves crosswise as thinly as you can with a knife. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, fan the apples around the tart in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles — each apple should overlap the one before so that only about 3/4-inch of the previous apple will be visible — until you reach the middle. Sprinkle the apples evenly with the first two tablespoons of sugar then dot with the first two tablespoons butter.

    Lay out the apple slices on the dought in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles

    Lay out the apple slices on the dought in slightly overlapping concentric rectangles

  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the edges of the tart are brown and the edges of the apples begin to take on some color. If you sliced your apples by hand and they were on the thicker side, you might need a little more baking time to cook them through. The apples should feel soft, but dry to the touch. If you puffed pastry bubbles dramatically in any place during the baking time, simply poke it with a knife or skewer so that it deflates.
  5. Meanwhile, about 10 minutes into the baking time, make your glaze. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt your last 1/4 cup sugar; this will take about 5-10 minutes. Cook the liquefied sugar to a nice copper color, another minute or two. Off the heat, add the sea salt and butter and stir until the butter melts and is incorporated. Add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until you have a lovely, bronzed caramel syrup, just another minute, two, tops. Set aside until needed. You may need to briefly rewarm it to thin the caramel before brushing it over the tart.

    Making the salted caramel glaze

    Making the salted caramel glaze

  6. After the tart has baked, transfer it to a cooling rack, but leave the oven on. Using very short, gentle strokes, and brushing in the direction that the apples fan to mess up their design as little as possible, brush the entire tart, including the exposed pastry, with the salted caramel glaze.

    With a pastry brush, put the salted caramel glaze on to the baked apples

    With a pastry brush, put the salted caramel glaze on to the baked apples

  7. Return the apple tart to the oven for approximately 10 more minutes, until the caramel glaze bubbles. Let tart cool complete before cutting into 12 squares. Serve plain, or if you’re in a decadent mood, with some ice-cream and leftover caramel glaze.

    Warm from the oven! Cup up into squares and serve with ice-cream!

    Warm from the oven! Cup up into squares and serve with ice-cream!

Apple Cider Muffins

What does the smell of apple and cinnamon baking say? Fall is here! Given that I had a bunch of Jonagold Apples still left (excellent for baking, just like Golden Delicious), as well as some apple cider, I decided to combine the two to make some great fall muffins. Within 2 minutes of putting these in the heaven, the house smelled liked heaven. Plus, they don’t use a lot of sugar, so they’re not that sweet, making them great morning muffins. The only thing I regret is not putting some streusel topping, but let’s face it – these muffins are small explosion of flavors even without it!

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Apple Muffins. Gives 18 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup  unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (I used vanilla)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup apple cider
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (to fill 1.5-2 cups). I used Jonagold apples, which are a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious – the latter is particularly great for baking.

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups or line with paper cups and set aside.
  • Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the yogurt, milk and apple cider.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks

  • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for around 15-20 minutes,  or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

A friend and I had been talking of making lemon ricotta pancakes since a while now and last weekend after much procrastination, we finally did.  I would have probably not made this of my own accord since I’ve always been a traditionalist with pancakes (read: chocolate chips and bananas). But the fresh slightly tart taste of lemon, combined with ricotta and a sweet syrup makes for an excellent fluffy pancake! We had these with sauteed Jonagold Apples (Jonagold is of the sweet variety) which perfectly balanced out the tartness of the lemons. And a recipe with just 5 ingredients? Win!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes – Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/3 cups ricotta
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Melted butter for brushing the pan

Directions:
1. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest.

2. Add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined.

3. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Lemon ricotta pancakes – flip them over as soon as they start to brown

4. Heat a griddle over moderately heat. Pour 1/4th cup batter into the pan and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes as they are cooked to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 150°F oven.

Decadent brunch – Lemon ricotta pancakes with sauteed apples and maple syrup, crepes with dulce de leche. Om nom nom.

Want to have the taste of apple pie as one of your brunch toppings? Try these sauteed apples. Or this decadent dulce de leche.

And if you really love this lemon-ricotta combination, try these lemon ricotta cookies by Giada De Laurentiis

Crepes with Sauteed Apples

What could be better than getting the taste of an apple pie in your morning meal? I personally find it tiring to make apple pie since it takes so long. But this dish takes the filling of apple pie and puts it inside crepes, making the perfect meal for the fall and the holiday season!

Making basic crepes (this recipe produces 6 crepes that are not very sweet since my filling is sweet. If your filling isn’t sweet, put a tablespoon of sugar in, or more, depending on how the batter tastes)

Ingredients

For the crepes: (Adapted from allrecipes)

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup and 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • Butter, for the pan

For the sauteed apples:

  • 3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used Jonagold – for a more tart variety, use more sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • fresh lemon juice to taste

Directions

For the crepes:

1. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl until the batter is smooth and runny

2. Heat an 8 inch skillet over medium-high heat and melt butter. Pour 1/4 cup of crepe batter into pan, tilting to completely coat the surface of the pan. Cook 2 to 5 minutes, turning once, until golden. Repeat with remaining batter. Remember, the first crepe will always be substandard, but they keep getting better as you keep making more on the same pan!

Can I store crepes?

Yes, you can store crepes in the refrigerator for a few days and in the freezer for up till a month. Just line a parchment paper between each crepe. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.

What other things can I add to this recipe?

Make changes to this recipe by adding peanut butter/sugar/cinnamon. Just make sure that the batter is always smooth and runny by adding more milk.

For sauteeing apples:

Sauteeing apples in sugar, butter, cinnamon and lemon juice

1. In a large heavy skillet saute the apples in the butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until they are softened

2. Sprinkle them with the sugar and the cinnamon, and cook them over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and keep the mixture warm

Finally, fill the crepes with some of the warm sauteed apples. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy your French brunch!